Richeza of Lotharingia (also called Richenza and Rixa; b. ca. 995/1000 - d. Saalfeld, 21 March 1063), was a German noblewoman by birth member of the Ezzonen dynasty and by marriage Queen of Poland. Married to Mieszko II Lambert, King of Poland, commonly referred to as Mieszko II in Poland. After she returned to Germany following the deposition of her husband in 1031, she became later a nun and today is reverenced as Blessed Richeza of Lotharingia.
Through her three known children, she became in the direct ancestress of the eastern rulers of the Piast, Rurikid and Árpád dynasties. Four of her Árpád descendants were Saints: Elisabeth, Landgravine of Thuringia, Kinga, Duchess of Kraków and Princess Margaret of Hungary, Irene of Hungary, Saint of Eastern Orthodox Church, and one was Beatificated like her: Jolanta Helena, Duchess of Greater Poland.
She was the daughter of Ezzo (also called Ehrenfried), Count Palatine of Lotharingia by his wife Mathilde, daughter of Emperor Otto II. She was probably the eldest of the ten children born during the marriage of her parents. Through her mother, Richeza was a niece of Emperor Otto III (who was instrumental to her betrothal), Adelheid I, Abbess of Quedlinburg and Sophia I, Abbess of Gandersheim.
Probably already in 1000 during the Congress of Gniezno, was made an agreement between Bolesław I the Brave and Emperor Otto III. Among the usual political talks, was decided to close ties through a marriage. Due to the childlessness of Otto III, the seven daughters of his sister Mathilde (the only of Otto II's daughters who married and produced children), were the only potential brides for Mieszko, Bolesław I's son and heir; the oldest of Otto III's nieces, Richeza, was the chosen one. However, the unexpected death of Otto III in 1002 and the reorientation of the Holy Roman Empire politics by his successor Henry II, the wedding is delayed until 1012, when Bolesław I demanded the wedding and sent his son to Germany with gifts to his bride's family, who at that time quarreled with Henry II for Mathilde's dowry.
The Emperor took the opportunity of made a settlement with the Ezzonen family and in Merseburg he negotiated a temporary peace with Poland. The marriage between Mieszko and Richeza took place in Merseburg, probably during the Pentecost festivities. Among the presents, were Emperor Henry II and Bolesław I.
After the final peace agreement between the Holy Roman Empire and Poland, who was signed in 1018 in Bautzen, Richeza and Mieszko maintain close contacts with the German court. In 1021 they participated in the consecration over part of the Bamberg Cathedral.
Bolesław I the Brave died on 17 June 1025. Six months later, on Christmas Day, Mieszko II Lambert and Richeza were crowned King and Queen of Poland by the Archbishop of Gniezno, Hipolit, in the Gniezno Cathedral.
The reign of Mieszko II Lambert, however, was short-lived: in 1031, the invasion of both German and Kievan troops against Poland forced him to escape to Bohemia, where he was imprisoned and castrated by orders of Duke Oldrich. Mieszko II's half-brother Bezprym took the government of Poland and began a cruel persecution against the followers of the former King.
The Brauweiler Chronicle indicated that soon after the escape of her husband, Richeza and her children fled to Germany with the Polish royal crown and regalia, who was given to Emperor Conrad II and since them, she played an important role in mediating a peace between Poland and the Holy Roman Empire. However, modern historians believed that this facts are not credibles.
Richeza and Mieszko II never reunited again; according to some sources, they were either officially divorced or only separated. After Bezprym was murdered in 1032, Mieszko II was released from captivity and returned to Poland, but was forced to divided the country into three parts: between him, his brother Otto and their cousin Dytryk. One year later (1033), after Otto was killed and Dytryk expelled from the country, Mieszko II finally reunited all Poland under his domain. However, his sole rule lasted only one year: between 10/11 July 1034, Mieszko II died suddenly, probably killed at consecuence of a conspiracy.
Richeza's son Casimir was at that time at the court of his maternal uncle Hermann II, Archbishop of Köln. Only in 1037 the young prince returned to Poland in order to recover his rights over the throne; apparently Richeza also returned with him, although this fact is disputed among historians. Soon after, a Barons rebellion, which coupled with the so-called "Pagan Reaction" of the commoners forced both Casimir and Richeza to flee to Germany again. The Queen never returned to Poland.
The definitely return of Richeza to Germany forced a redistribution of his father's inheritance, because at the previous arrangement wasn't contemplated that Richeza would need a place to live. Richeza received Saalfeld, a possession that didn't belong to the Lower Rhine area in which the Ezzonen dynasty tried to build a coherent dominion. Richeza still called herself Queen of Poland, a privilege that was given to her by the Emperor. In Saalfeld Richeza led the Polish opposition which supported her son Casimir, who in 1039, with the help of Conrad II, finally obtain the Polish throne. During the years 1040-1047 Richeza lived in the Klotten state in Moselle.
On 7 September 1047 Richeza's brother Otto, the last male representative of the Ezzonen dynasty who remained laic died, and with him, the territorial and political objectives of his family. Richeza now inherited large parts of the Ezzonen possessions.
Otto's death seems to have Richeza very touched; apparently, they were very close (Otto named his only daughter after her). At his funeral in Brauweiler, according to Bruno of Toul (later Pope Leo IX), she put her fine jewelry on the altar and declared that she devote the rest of her life as a nun and to preserved the memory of the Ezzonen dynasty. Another goal was probably to secure the remaining Ezzonen rights.
By a charter dated on 17 July 1051 is noted that Richeza participated in the reorganization of the Ezzonen properties. She, her sister Theophanu, Abbess of Essen, and her brother, Hermann II, Archbishop of Köln, transferred the Abbey of Brauweiler to the Archdiocese of Köln. This originated a dispute with the Emperor, as this transfer had already been done under the reign of Ezzo. This was successfully challenged by Ezzo's surviving children. The reason for the transfer was likely that the future wasn't secured to the descendants of the Ezzonen: From Ezzo's ten children only Richeza and Otto had children. None of these children was in a position of exercised a real power over the Ezzonen inheritance. The transfer to the diocese, headed by Hermann II with one of the younger Ezzonen, ensured the cohesion of the property. In 1054 in connection with some donations to the Abbey of Brauweiler, Richeza expressed her desire to be buried there beside her mother. This reorganization, which apparently emanated from the fact that Hermann II would survive his siblings failed, because he died in 1056. The Archbishop of Köln, Anno II, trying to increase the power of his diocese at the expense of the Ezzonen.
Richeza responded to Anno II's ambitions with the formal renunciation of her possessions in Brauweiler to the monastery of Moselle, while reserving the lifelong use of the lands. Brauweiler was the center of Ezzonen memory and should be assured regardless of the powerful economic position of the family. Then Richeza went to Saalfeld, where she met similar arrangements in favor of the Diocese of Würzburg. Anno II protested against these regulations unsuccessfully. At the end Richeza only maintain her direct rule over the towns of Saalfeld and Coburg, but retained the right to use until her death seven other locations in the Rhineland with their additional incomes, and 100 silver pounds per year by the Archdiocese of Köln. Richeza died on 21 March 1063 in Saalfeld.
Richeza was buried in Köln's church of St. Maria ad Gradus and not, as she had wished, in Brauweiler. This was prompted by Archbishop Anno II, who appealed to an oral agreement with Richeza. The Klotten estate donated the Richeza's funeral arrangements to St. Maria ad Gradus, whose relationship with Richeza, Hermann II and Anno II is unclear. Maybe St. Maria ad Gradus was an unfinished work of Richeza's brother and completed by Anno II, who wanted to secured part of the Ezzonen patrimony in this way. The Brauweiler Abbey claimed the validy of the 1051 charter and demanded that Klotten given to them the remains of the Polish Queen.
The dispute was only ended in 1090 when the current Archbishop of Köln, Hermann III, ruled in favor of the monastery of Brauweiler. However, Richeza's grave remained in St. Maria ad Gradus until 1816, when was transferred to the Köln Cathedral. Her grave was placed in the chapel dedicated to St. John the Baptist in a classic wooden sarcophagus. Besides the coffin, hang two medieval portraits of Richeza and Anno II, who dated from the medieval grave in St. Maria ad Gradus.
Her grave was opened multiple times after the transfer to the Köln Cathedral. In 1959 was the last opening and were showed her bones. According to witnesses, Richeza had a small and graceful stature; her collarbone showed traces of a fracture, may have been caused by falling from a horse. The skull was brownish and skinless, his head wrapped up in his face in substance, and the skull was also a golden dome with a cross grid pattern. Because the skull was praying on a red cushion, was made an exhibition of the late Queen. Richeza's relics are located since then in St. Nicholas church in Brauweiler and since 2002 in the Klotter parish church.
The most important of Richeza's foundations was the re-building of the Abbey of Brauweiler. Her parents had founded Brauweiler, but the original church was modestly furnished, a fact who was incompatible with the territorial objectives of the Ezzonen dynasty. After the death of his brother Otto, Richeza decided that Brauweiler became in the center of Ezzonen memory. This purpose wasn't enough of the original building so Richeza built a new Abbey, which is substantially conserved until today. When the construction began was planned a three-aisled pillared basilica with projecting transept to the east apse across a crypt. The aisles were groined vaults with flat ceilings in the central nave. Inside, the nave had five Pfeilerjoche, each of which was half as large as the square crossing. In all the Abbey could see the cross-vaulted ceiling (for example in the aisles, pillars or the crypy) which can be found in many Ezzonen buildings. The crypt was consecrate on 11 December 1051. The consecration of the rest of the construction was on 30 October 1063, seven months after Richeza's death.
The building has distinct references to the Church of St. Maria im Kapitol in Köln, founded by Richeza's sister Ida. Both crypts are laid out identically, the two bays in Brauweiler, however, was shorter. Also in the upper church, there are clear implications. Also, Brauweiler is reduced as a copy of the Köln Cathedral, probably thanks to the influence of Richeza's brother Hermann II, who in 1040 consecrated the Abbey of Stablo (Stavelot).
Richeza planned to made Brauweiler as the Ezzonen family crypt, so in 1051 she placed there the remains of her sister Adelaide, Abbess of Nivelles, and in 1054 transferred the remains of her father from Augsburg to be buried next to her sister.
The Gospel Book of Queen Richeza (today is in possession of the Hessische Landes-und Darmstadt University), comes from St. Maria ad Gradus, where Richeza (due to large donations of land) had a reserved space in the central nave occupied, normally occupied by the Donors. Whether this was done at the behest of Anno II, or whether it may have made by Richeza, isn't clarified. An indication of the latter thesis, however, is the Gospel Book. The manuscript is in the format of 18 x 13.5 cms is made from 153 pages at the pergamin style. In 150 of the 152 pages of the book the prayer is recorded, which suggests a high-born owner. The following pages contain entries about the Ezzonen memorial. Among these, in addition to Richeza were named Anno II and her parents. The entries can be count with drawns like the Codex style recognized around 1100. The Codex itself is built around 1040, probably in Maasland, and incomplete in its ornamentation: the Evangelists Mark and Luke are complete drawned, but only in a preliminary sketch. The evangelist Matthew wasn't draw. Possibly can be more precisely from the condition of the Codex date: After 1047, when Richeza assumed her clerical vows, she had no need for a personal representative signature. Whether they remained in their possession and was used together with other relics of Anno II from her estate for St. Maria ad Gradus, or already has been donated to her brother, is unknown.
Richeza of LotharingiaBorn: ca. 995/1000 21 March
Oda of Meissen
|Queen consort of Poland¹
Maria Dobroniega of Kiev
|Notes and references|
|1. After her husband's restoration in 1032, she tecnically was demoted to the title of Duchess of Poland, but she never used this title and continue to styled herself as Queen.|