‘Matilda of Ringelheim’, by Michal Harris-Edwards

From the Editor: Late in the day as Michal is on retreat, here’s a piece about St Matilda of Ringelheim by the Newman’s biographer-in-residence!

Today we celebrate the Feast of Matilda of Ringelheim, who was a 10th century saint and Queen of East Francia (roughly modern-day Germany).She was born in around 892, though her exact birthday is unknown. Her father was Dietrich of Ringelheim, a Saxon Count, and her mother was Reinhild, who was probably a princess of Danish and Frisian ancestry. Her sister, Frederuna, later married Charles III, King of West Francia (roughly modern day France). She was raised at Herford Abbey, by Mathilde, her grandmother.

In 909, she married Henry, Duke of Saxony, who was a member of the Ottonian Dynasty, as his first marriage to Hatheburg of Merseburg was dissolved. Matilda and Henry had 5 children. In 919, he became the King of East Francia. As Queen, she was noted for her strong sense of justice. She was also influencial in the expansion and establishment of women’s monasteries.In 929, she got her dowry, which consisted of many towns, like Quedlinburg. It was here where after the death of her husband in 936, she built Quedlinburg Abbey to memorialise him. She led this abbey for years to come. This became a place of cultural importance for centuries, and today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. She founded many other convents over the years, the final one being in Nordhausen in 961.Her son, Otto, succeeded his father as King of East Francia. He quarrelled with Matilda over the properties from her dowry.

She was exiled for some time, but the situation seems to have been resolved in 946 with help from Otto’s wife, Queen Eadgyth (an Anglo-Saxon princess), who acted as a diplomat between the two parties. In 961, Otto became the King of Italy and the following year he restored the Holy Roman Empire. For this reason, Matilda is the ancestor of many royal dynasties all over Europe. In 966, she named her granddaughter, also Matilda, the new Abbess of Quedlinburg Abbey.Saint Matilda died in 968. She tried to place her properties under papal protection, but they ended up going to her granddaughter-in-law, Theophanu, a niece of a Byzantine Emperor and wife of Otto II, Holy Roman Emperor. She is buried beside her husband in Quedlinburg Abbey.

Matilda helped cement Christianity in the German region, laying the foundation for more developments in Germany, as well as the Christianisation of Eastern Europe.

St Matilda of Ringelheim, pray for us!

Michal Harris-Edwards, BA Philosophy, Politics and Economics, Oriel