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Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor

Henry II of Germany (972 - 13 July 1024), the fifth and last ruler of the Saxon or Ottonian dynasty, succeeded his cousin the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III after the latter's death in 1002.

Some sources give Henry's date of birth as 6 May 973. He was the son of Henry the Quarrelsome of Bavaria, whom he succeeded as Duke of Bavaria in 995.

Rivals such as Eckhard of Meissen and Duke Herman of Swabia strongly contested Henry's election (7 June 1002 in Mainz), and only on 14 February 1014 did Pope Benedict VIII actually crown him emperor. Until then he ruled as king of the Lombards, a secondary title of the Emperor following a tradition begun under the Carolingians.

Henry spent the early part of his reign fighting in Bohemia, where he drove back the forces of Boleslaus I, duke of Poland and eventually secured Boleslaus's allegiance to the Empire. After 1014 Henry focused much of his attention on Italy, the scene of unrest and rebellion against both Pope and Emperor. Having restored order there, Henry continued to consolidate his rule throughout the Empire.

Henry's most significant contributions as emperor come in the realm of Church-State relations and Church administration within the Empire. He took part in church synods, most notably the Synod of Pavia, and his support of the bishops against the regular clergy helped to ensure their allegiance to the Emperor.

Henry also founded the diocese of Bamberg in 1007. Henry's interest in the Church had as much to do with piety as with political savvy. He and his wife, Cunigunde of Luxembourg, had no children, reportedly because they had taken a mutual vow of chastity. The Church canonized both Henry (1146) and Cunigunde (1200) after their deaths.

Preceded by:
Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor
List of German Kings and Emperors Succeeded by:
Conrad II, Holy Roman Emperor