Saint Matilda of Ringelheim, Queen of Germany

Heinricus rex and Methildis regina, Chronica St. Pantaleonis, 12th century (source)

Heinricus rex and Methildis regina, Chronica St. Pantaleonis, 12th century (source)

Matilda of Ringelheim, Saint Maltida, was born around 895 in the Duchy of Saxony. She was the daughter of Westphalian count Dietrich and Reinhild. As a girl, she went to the convent at Herford where her grandmother, also named Maltida, was abbess. She was beautiful and virtuous and she soon attracted attention. In 909, she married Henry the Fowler, son of Duke Otto I of Saxony. Henry succeeded his father as Duke of Saxony and was elected King of Germany in 919. They had five children live to adulthood, including Otto who would succeed his father and in 962 become Holy Roman Emperor.

When Henry died in 936, Matilda and her son Otto established Quedlinbury Abbey. (Later, her granddaughter, another Matilda, would become abbess.) Matilda was devoted to prayer and almsgiving. In addition to the convent at Quedlinbury, she established several others. This became a point of contention at court where Otto and his brother Henry were quarreling. The father, King Otto, had wanted his son Otto to succeed him, while Matilda favored the younger son Henry. About three years after his brother had been crowned, Henry tried unsuccessfully to claim power. He eventually submitted and reconciled with Otto and was made Duke of Bavaria.

After their reconciliation, both Otto and Henry accused Matilda of weakening the royal treasury with her lavish charitable gifts. She relinquished the possessions her husband had given her and retired to Enger. Later, when things weren’t going as well for the brothers, Matilda was called back to court, possibly at the urging of Otto’s wife Ædgyth of England and they begged her forgiveness.

Matilda supported and built many churches, but the primary ones were at Quedlinburg, Nordhausen, Engern, and Pöhlde. She died on March 14, 968 at Quedlinburg and was buried beside her husband. She was venerated immediately after her death.

Find out what else happened on March 14 in Women’s History.

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