Between Sacrum and Profanum. The Case of Irmingarde and Otto of Hammerstein
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Sources from the early eleventh century paid considerable attention to a lengthy debate concerning the validity of the marriage of Irmingarde (probably from Lower Lorraine) and Otto of Hammerstein from the Frankonian-Rheinland line of the Conradines (from 1018 to 1027). Due to the spouses' relationship the marriage was questioned by the archbishops of Mainz: Erkanbald (1011-1021) and Aribon (1021-1031) as well as Emperor Henry II. The case deserves our special attention considering that it casts light on family problems and personal ordeals which sources of the epoch revealed extremely rarely, especially as regards the non-dynastic groups. The other reasons lie in spiritual force and the will power to maintain the marriage, evidenced particularly by Irmingarde, who did not resign from effective appeals to the papal See, the involvement of supreme factors (the above mentioned archbishops and Henry II together with Conrad II and Pope Benedict VIII (d. 1024), as well as an example of the pro-reform strivings of the Church, unrealised in this particular case, towards controlling and rendering more rigorous the matrimonial practices of feudal society by means of an extremely expansive delineation of canon-law obstacles for marriages. This tendency, vividly opposing the vital interests and practice of the higher rungs of society, could, contrary to the intentions of the Church, lead to abuses, i .e. the possibility of biased annulments of a given marriage by proving even distant proximity of blood, frequently unknown at the time of contracting the union. The determined stand taken by Henry II calls for a closer explanation, since apart from practical-political reasons (the intention to eliminate the Conradine opposition and seize the vast states of Otto of Hammerstein), it involved also consistent support for the pro-reform currents within the Church, support for the archbishops of Mainz, and the conviction, which permeated his whole reign, about the special responsibility of the monarch for the religious-moral aspects of social life. Finally, the attitude represented by Pope Benedict VIII illustrates the otherwise scarce and limited opportunities for the Apostolic See to exert direct impact upon the German Church and society by ignoring the powerful metropolitan bishops of the Rheinland.
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