Ellie Wood Keith Genealogy

Berengar I, Holy Roman Emperor 915-924

Berengar I, Holy Roman Emperor 915-924

Male 845 - 924  (79 years)

Personal Information    |    Media    |    Sources    |    All    |    PDF

  • Name Berengar I  
    Suffix Holy Roman Emperor 915-924 
    Born 840/845 
    Gender Male 
    History Berengar I was the margrave of Friuli from 874 until no earlier than 890 and no later than 896, king of Italy (as Berengar I) from 887 (with interruption) until his death, and Holy Roman Emperor from 915 until his death. His family were called the Unruochings after his grandfather Unruoch, count of Ternois.

    He was born between 840 and 845, probably at Cividale del Friuli in north-eastern Italy, the son of Eberhard I, margrave of Friuli, and Gisla de France, daughter of Emperor Louis I \'the Pious\' and his second wife Judith. He was thus of Carolingian extraction on his mother\'s side. Sometime during his margraviate, he married Bertila of Spoleto, daughter of Suppo II, duke of Spoleto, count of Camerino, thus securing an alliance with the powerful Supponid family. She would later rule alongside him as a _consors,_ a title specifically denoting her informal power and influence, as opposed to a mere _coniunx_ (wife). Their daughter Gisela would have progeny.

    Berengar rose to become one of the most influential laymen in the empire of Charles VI \'the Fat\' before he was elected to replace Charles in Italy after the latter\'s deposition. His long reign of 36 years saw him opposed by no less than seven other claimants to the Italian throne. Though he is sometimes seen as a \'national\' king in Italian histories, he was in fact of Frankish birth. His reign is usually characterised as \'troubled\' because of the many competitors for the crown and because of the arrival of Magyar raiders in Western Europe. He was the last emperor before Otto I \'the Great\' was crowned in 962, after a 38-year interregnum.

    When his older brother Unruoch III died in 874, Berengar succeeded him in the march of Friuli. With this he obtained a key position in the Carolingian empire, as the march bordered the Croats and other Slavs who were a constant threat to the Italian peninsula. He was a territorial magnate with lordships over several counties in north-eastern Italy. He was an important channel for the men of Friuli to get access to the emperor and for the emperor to exercise authority in Friuli. He even had a large degree of influence on the Church of Friuli. In 884-885 Berengar intervened with the emperor on behalf of Haimo, bishop of Belluno.

    Emperor Ludwig II, who was also king of Italy, died in 875 after coming to terms with Ludwig II \'the German\', king of the East Franks, whereby the German monarch\'s eldest son Karlomann would succeed in Italy. Ludwig the German\'s half-brother Charles \'the Bald\' of West Francia invaded the peninsula and had himself crowned king and emperor. Ludwig \'the German\' sent first Karl III \'the Fat\', his youngest son, and then Karlomann himself, with armies containing Italian magnates led by Berengar, to possess the Italian kingdom. This was not successful until the death of Charles \'the Bald\' in 877. The proximity of Berengar\'s march to Bavaria, which Karlomann already ruled under his father, may explain their cooperation.

    In 883 Guido, duke of Spoleto, was accused of treason at an imperial synod held at Nonantula late in May. He returned to the duchy of Spoleto and made an alliance with the Saracens. The emperor, then Karl III \'the Fat\', sent Berengar with an army to deprive him of Spoleto. Berengar was successful before an epidemic of disease, which ravaged all Italy, affecting the emperor and his entourage as well as Berengar\'s army, forced him to retire.

    In 886 Liutward, bishop of Vercelli, took Berengar\'s sister from the nunnery of S. Salvatore at Brescia in order to marry her to a relative of his; whether or not by force or by the consent of the convent and Karl \'the Fat\', her relative, is uncertain. Berengar and Liutward had a feud that year, and Berengar attacked Vercelli and plundered the bishop\'s goods. Berengar\'s actions are explicable if his sister was abducted by the bishop, but if the bishop\'s actions were justified, then Berengar appears as the initiator of the feud. Whatever the case, bishop and margrave were reconciled shortly before Liutward was dismissed from court in 887.

    By his brief war with Liutward, Berengar had lost the favour of his cousin, Emperor Karl. Berengar came to the emperor\'s assembly at Waiblingen in early May 887. He made peace with the emperor and compensated for the actions of the previous year by dispensing substantial gifts. In June or July Berengar was again at the emperor\'s side at Kirchen, when Louis of Provence (the later Louis III, king of Lower-Bourgogne and Italy) was adopted as the emperor\'s son. It is sometimes alleged that Berengar was pining to be declared Karl\'s heir and that he may in fact have been so named in Italy, where he was acclaimed (or made himself) king immediately after Karl\'s deposition by the nobles of East Francia in November 887. On the other hand, his presence may merely have been necessary to confirm Karl\'s illegitimate son Bernhard as his heir, a plan which failed when the pope refused to attend, and then to confirm Louis instead.

    Berengar was the only one of the _reguli_ (petty kings) to appear in the aftermath of Karl\'s deposition other than Arnulf von Kärnten, his deposer, who was made king before the emperor\'s death. Charter evidence begins Berengar\'s reign at Pavia between 26 December 887 and 2 January 888, though this has been disputed. Berengar was not the undisputed leading magnate in Italy at the time, but he may have made an agreement with his former rival Guido of Spoleto whereby Guido would have West Francia and he Italy on the emperor\'s death. Both Guido and Berengar were related to the Carolingians in the female line. They represented different factions in Italian politics: Berengar pro-German and Guido pro-French.

    Guido, who had failed in his bid to take the West Frankish throne, returned to Italy in the summer of 888 to gather an army from among the Spoletans and Lombards and to oppose Berengar. This he did, but the battle they fought near Brescia in the autumn was a slight victory for Berengar, though his forces were so diminished that he sued for peace nevertheless. The truce was to last until 6 January 889.

    After the truce with Guido was signed, Arnulf von Kärnten endeavoured to invade Italy through Friuli. In order to prevent a war, Berengar sent dignitaries ahead to meet Arnulf. He himself then had a meeting, sometime between early November and Christmas, at Trent. He was allowed to keep Italy as Arnulf\'s vassal, but the _curtes_ of Navus and Sagus were taken from him. Arnulf allowed his army to return to Germany, but he himself celebrated Christmas in Friuli, at Karnberg.

    Early in 889, their truce having expired, Guido defeated Berengar at the Battle of the Trebbia and made himself sole king in Italy, though Berengar maintained his authority in Friuli. Though Guido had been supported by Pope Stephen V since before the death of Charles \'the Fat\', he was now abandoned by the pope, who turned to Arnulf. He, for his part, remained a staunch partisan of Berengar and had it even suggested that he was creating a Carolingian alliance between himself and Louis of Provence, Charles III of France, and Berengar against Guido and Rudolf I, king of (Upper) Bourgogne.

    In 893 Arnulf sent his illegitimate son Zwentibold, king of Lorraine, into Italy. He met up with Berengar and together they cornered Guido at Pavia, but did not press their advantage (it is believed that Guido bribed them off). In 894 Arnulf and Berengar defeated Guido at Bergamo and took control of Pavia and Milan. Berengar was with Arnulf\'s army that invaded Italy in 896. However he left the army while it was sojourning in the march of Tuscany and returned to Lombardy. A rumour spread that Berengar had turned against the king and had brought Adalbert \'the Rich\', margrave of Ivrea, with him. Its truth or falsehood cannot be ascertained, but Berengar was removed from Friuli and replaced by Waltfred, Berengar\'s former supporter and \'highest counsellor\', but he soon died. The falling out between Berengar and Arnulf, who was crowned Emperor in Rome by Pope Formosus, has been likened to that between Berengar II and Otto I more than half a century later.

    Arnulf left Italy in the charge of his young son Ratold, who soon crossed Lake Como to Germany, leaving Italy in the control of Berengar, who made a pact with Lambert, Guido\'s son and successor. According to the _Gesta Berengarii Imperatoris,_ the two kings met at Pavia in October and November and agreed to divide the kingdom. Berengar receiving the eastern half between the Adda and the Po, \'as if by hereditary right\' according to the _Annales Fuldenses._ Bergamo was to be shared between them. This was a confirmation of the status quo of 889. It was this partitioning which caused the later chronicler Liutprand of Cremona (c.922-972) to remark that the Italians always suffered under two monarchs. As surety for the accord, Lambert pledged to marry Gisela, Berengar\'s daughter.

    The peace did not last long. Berengar advanced on Pavia, but was defeated by Lambert at Borgo San Donnino and taken prisoner. Nonetheless Lambert died within days, on 15 October 898. Days later Berengar had secured Pavia and become sole ruler. It was during this period that the Magyars made their first attacks on Western Europe. They first invaded Italy in 899. This first invasion may have been unprovoked, but some historians have suspected that the Magyars were either called in by Arnulf or by Berengar himself as allies. Berengar gathered a large army to meet them and refused their request for an armistice. However his army was surprised and routed near the Brenta River in the Battle of the Brenta (24 September 899).

    This defeat handicapped Berengar and caused the nobility to question his ability to protect Italy. As a result they supported another candidate for the throne, Louis of Provence, another maternal relative of the Carolingians. In 900 Louis marched into Italy and defeated Berengar; the following year he was crowned Emperor by Pope Benedict IV. In 902, however, Berengar struck back and defeated Louis, making him promise never to return to Italy. When he broke his oath by invading the peninsula again in 905, Berengar defeated him at Verona, captured him and ordered him to be blinded on 21 July. Louis returned to Provence and ruled for another twenty years as Louis \'the Blind\'. Berengar thereby cemented his position as king and ruled undisputed, except for a brief spell, until 922. As king, Berengar made his seat at Verona, which he heavily fortified. During the years when Louis posed a threat to Berengar\'s kingship, his wife Bertila, who was a niece of the former empress Ingelberga, widow of Emperor Ludwig II and Louis\' grandmother, played an important part in the legitimisation of Berengar\'s rule.

    In 904 Bergamo was subjected to a long siege by the Magyars. After the siege Berengar granted the bishop of the city its walls and the right to rebuild them with the help of the citizens and the refugees fleeing the Magyars. The bishop attained all the rights of a count in the city.

    In January 915 Pope John X tried to forge an alliance between Berengar and the local Italian rulers in hopes that he could face the Saracen threat in southern Italy. Berengar was unable to send troops, but after the great Battle of the Garigliano, a victory over the Saracens, John crowned Berengar as Emperor in Rome (in December 915). Berengar, however, returned swiftly to the north were Friuli was still threatened by the Magyars.

    In his later years his wife Bertila was charged with infidelity, a charge not uncommon against wives of declining kings of that period. She was poisoned. He had remarried a lady named Anna by December 915. By then Berengar\'s elder daughter Bertha was abbess of San Salvatore in Brescia, where her aunt had once been a nun. In that year, the following year, and in 917, Berengar endowed her monastery with three privileges to build or man fortifications. His younger daughter Gisela had married Adalbert \'the Rich\', margrave of Ivrea, about 900, but this failed to spark an alliance with the Anscarids. She was dead by 913, when Adalbert remarried. Adalbert was one of Berengar\'s earliest internal enemies after the defeat of Louis of Provence. He called on Hugo of Arles between 917 and 920 to take the Iron Crown. Hugo did invade Italy with his brother Boso, margrave of Tuscany, and advanced as far as Pavia, where Berengar starved him into submission but allowed him to pass out of Italy freely.

    Dissatisfied with the emperor, who had ceased his policy of grants and family alliances in favour of paying Magyar mercenaries, several Italian nobles - led by Adalbert and many of the bishops - invited Rudolf II, king of Upper Burgundy, to take the Italian throne in 921. Moreover his own grandson, Berengar II of Ivrea, rose up against him, incited by Rudolf. Berengar retreated to Verona and had to watch sidelined as the Magyars pillaged the country. John, bishop of Pavia, surrendered his city to Rudolf in 922 and it was sacked by the Magyars in 924. On 29 July 923 the forces of Rudolf II, Adalbert and Berengar II of Ivrea met those of Berengar and defeated him in the Battle of Fiorenzuola, near Piacenza. The battle was decisive and Berengar was de facto dethroned and replaced by Rudolf. Berengar was soon after murdered at Verona by one of his own men on 7 April 924, possibly at Rudolf\'s instigation. He left no sons, only his remaining daughter Bertha, and an anonymous epic poem, the _Gesta Berengarii Imperatoris,_ about the many happenings of his troublesome reign.

    Sources
    [S00160] Caroli Magni Progenies, Neustadt an der Aisch, 1977 , Rösch, Siegfried.
    97   [1
    Died 7 Apr, 924 
    Person ID I1463  Ellie Wood Keith
    Last Modified 5 Feb 2018 

    Father Saint Eberhard I (Evvrardus, Everard), Margrave of Friaul,   b. Abt 815,   d. 16 Dec, 866  (Age ~ 51 years) 
    Relationship putative 
    Mother Gisla, de France,   b. 819,   d. Aft 1 Aug 874  (Age 55 years) 
    Relationship putative 
    Married Abt 836 
    Family ID F879  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 1 Bertila, of Spoleto,   b. Abt 860,   d. Bef Dec, 915  (Age ~ 55 years) 
    Children 
    +1. Gisela, of Fraul,   b. 880/885,   d. 13 Jun, 910  (Age 25 years)  [putative]
    Last Modified 1 Feb 2018 
    Family ID F877  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 2 Bertila, of Spoleto,   b. Abt 860,   d. Bef Dec, 915  (Age ~ 55 years) 
    Married Abt 880 
    Children 
    +1. Gisela, of Fraul,   b. 880/885,   d. 13 Jun, 910  (Age 25 years)
    Last Modified 2 Feb 2018 
    Family ID F878  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Photos
    Beringar I, Holy Roman Emperor
    Beringar I, Holy Roman Emperor

  • Sources 
    1. [S64] Genealogics, Leo Van de Pas, http://www.genealogics.org/getperson.php?personID=I00036190&tree=LEO.