Conrad III, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire

Conrad III, c.1093–1152, German king (1138–52), son of Frederick, duke of Swabia, and Agnes, daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV; first of the Hohenstaufen dynasty. He joined his brother Frederick, who had been defeated in the imperial election of 1125 by Lothair of Saxony (Holy Roman Emperor Lothair II), in rebelling against Lothair. Set up as antiking to Lothair in 1127, he went to Italy (1128) and, despite excommunication by Pope Honorius II, was crowned king at Milan. He subsequently failed to make any progress as king and submitted to Lothair in 1135. After Lothair's death he was elected king by the nobles and ecclesiastics who were afraid to increase the power of Lothair's son-in-law, Henry the Proud of Bavaria. Conrad deprived Henry of his duchies, giving Saxony to Albert the Bear and Bavaria to Leopold of Austria. A civil war broke out and was continued after Henry's death by his brother Guelph (or Welf) and the Saxons, who supported Henry's young son Henry the Lion. From this strife emerged the opposing parties of the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, representing the Hohenstaufen. A short-lived truce was made in 1142. At Christmas, 1146, Conrad was induced by St. Bernard of Clairvaux to join in the Second Crusade (see Crusades) with Louis VII of France. He left in 1147, took part in the unsuccessful siege of Damascus, and returned in 1149. Conrad was never crowned by the pope, and therefore was not confirmed as Holy Roman emperor. His ambitions for the imperial crown and against Roger II of Sicily were thwarted by Guelph, who was subsidized by Roger, and by Henry the Lion, who claimed the duchy of Bavaria. Conrad was succeeded by his nephew, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: German History: Biographies