Adelaide of Susa

Adelaide of Susa

Adelaide of Susa
Spouse(s) Herman IV, Duke of Swabia
Henry of Montferrat
Otto of Savoy
Noble family Arduinici
Father Ulric Manfred II of Turin
Mother Bertha of Milan
Born c.1014/1020
Died 19 December 1091(1091-12-19)
Buried Parochial church of Canischio (uncertain)

Adelaide of Susa or Adelaide of Turin (also Adelheid, Adelais, or Adeline; c.1014/1020 19 December 1091)[1] was the Marchioness of Turin from 1034 to her death. She was the last of the Arduinici.


Early life

Born in Turin to Ulric Manfred II and Bertha around 1014/1020, Adelaide's early life is not well known.[2] Adelaide had two younger sisters, Immilla and Bertha. She may also have had a brother, whose name is not known, who predeceased her father.[3] Thus, on Ulric Manfred's death (in December 1033 or 1034), the great margraviate was divided between his three daughters, though the greatest part by far went to Adelaide.[4] She received the property in the counties of Turin, especially in the Susa Valley, Auriate, and Asti. Adelaide also inherited property, but probably not comital authority, in Albenga, Alba, Bredulo and Ventimiglia.[5] It is likely that Adelaide's mother, Bertha, briefly acted as regent for Adelaide after Ulric Manfred's death.


Since the margravial title primarily had a military purpose at the time, it was thus was not considered suitable for a woman. Emperor Conrad II therefore arranged a marriage between Adelaide and his stepson, Herman IV, in January 1037. Herman was then invested as margrave of Turin.[6] Herman died of the plague while fighting for Conrad II at Naples in July 1038.

Adelaide remarried in order to secure her vast march. Probably in 1041, and certainly before 19 January 1042, Adelaide married Henry, Marquess of Montferrat.[7] Henry died c.1045 and left Adelaide a widow for the second time. Immediately, a third marriage was undertaken, this time to Otto of Savoy (1046).[2] With Otto she had three sons, Peter I, Amadeus II, and Otto. The couple also had two daughters, Bertha, who married Henry IV of Germany, and Adelaide, who married Rudolf of Rheinfelden (who later opposed Henry as King of Germany).

Widowhood and rule

After the death of her husband Otto, c.1057/60, Adelaide ruled the march of Turin and the county of Savoy alongside her sons, Peter and Amadeus.

It is sometimes said that Adelaide abandoned Turin as a capital and began to reside permanently at Susa. This is incorrect. Adelaide is documented far more frequently at the margravial palace in Turin than anywhere else.[8]

In 1070 Adelaide captured and burned the city of Asti, which had rebelled against her.[9]

Relationship with empire

In 1069 Henry IV tried to repudiate Adelaide's daughter, Bertha,[10] which caused Adelaide's relationship with the imperial family to cool. However, through the intervention of Bertha, Henry received Adelaide's support when he came to Italy to submit to Pope Gregory VII and Matilda of Tuscany at Canossa. In return for allowing him to travel through her lands, Henry gave Bugey to Adelaide.[11] Adelaide and her son Amadeus then accompanied Henry IV and Bertha to Canossa, where Adelaide acted as an oath-helper, alongside Matilda and Albert Azzo II, Margrave of Milan, among others.[12] Bishop Benzo of Alba sent several letters to Adelaide between 1080 and 1082, encouraging her to support Henry IV in the Italian wars which formed part of the Investiture Controversy.[13] Adelaide's dealings with Henry IV became closer after this. She offered to mediate between him and Matilda and Tuscany, and may even have joined him on campaign.[14]

Relationship with the church

Adelaide made many donations to monasteries in the march of Turin. In 1064 she founded the monastery of Santa Maria at Pinerolo.[15]

Adelaide received letters from many of the leading churchmen of the day, including Pope Alexander II, Peter Damian, and Pope Gregory VII.[13] These letters indicate that Adelaide sometimes supported Gregorian reform, but that at other times she did not. Peter Damian (writing in 1064) and Gregory VII (writing in 1073), relied upon Adelaide to enforce clerical celibacy and protect the monasteries of Fruttuaria and San Michele della Chiusa. By contrast, Alexander II (writing c.1066/7) reproached Adelaide for her dealings with Guido da Velate the simoniac Archbishop of Milan.


Adelaide died in December 1091.[16] According to a later legend, she was buried in the parochial church of Canischio (Canisculum), a small village on the Cuorgnè in the Valle dell'Orco, where she had supposedly been living incognito for twenty-two years before her death.[17] The noted medieval historian Charles William Previté-Orton calls this story "absurd".[18] In the cathedral of Susa, in a niche in the wall, there is a statue of walnut wood, beneath a bronze veneer, representing Adelaide, genuflecting in prayer. Above it can be read the inscription: Questa è Adelaide, cui l'istessa Roma Cole, e primo d'Ausonia onor la noma.

Family and children

Because of a late Austrian source, Adelaide and Herman IV, Duke of Swabia are sometimes mistakenly said to have had children together.[19] This was not the case. Herman was on campaign for much of his short marriage to Adelaide and he died without heirs.[20] Nor did Adelaide have children with her second husband, Henry.

Adelaide and Otto of Savoy had five children:


Adelaide is a featured figure on Judy Chicago's installation piece The Dinner Party, being represented as one of the 999 names on the Heritage Floor.[23][24]

See also


  1. Previte-Orton, p250 note7; 19 December~Bernold, 25 December~Necrol. S. Solutoris etc. Turin
  2. 1 2 Dunbar, Agnes Baillie Cunninghame (1904). A Dictionary of Saintly Women. Bell.
  3. Previté-Orton, Early History, pp. 154, 187
  4. Sergi, I confini del potere, p. 81
  5. On the property inherited by Adelaide, see Previté-Orton, Early History, pp. 154f., 188, 208, 217 and 231f.
  6. Hellmann, Grafen, p. 13
  7. Merlone, 'Prosopografia aleramica,' p. 580.
  8. Sergi, 'I poli del potere'.
  9. Previté-Orton, Early History, pp. 228f.
  10. Previté-Orton, Early History, pp. 232f.
  11. Previté-Orton, Early History, pp. 237f.
  12. Hellmann, Grafen, pp. 24f
  13. 1 2 For English translations of these letters, see Epistolae: Medieval Women's Latin Letters
  14. Previté-Orton, Early History, pp. 248f.
  15. Previté-Orton, Early History, p. 162
  16. Previté-Orton, Early History, p. 250.
  17. Chronicon Abbatiae Fructuariensis, in G. Calligaris, ed., Un’antica cronaca piemontese inedita (Turin, 1889), pp. 132f.
  18. Previté-Orton, Early History, pp. 250-251.
  19. On this see E. Hlawitschka, 'Zur Abstammung Richwaras, der Gemahlin Herzog Bertholds I. von Zähringen,' Zeitschrift für die Geschichte des Oberrheins, 154 (2006), 1–20
  20. Schwennicke, Europäische Stammtafeln, I.1, table 84
  21. 1 2 3 Previte-Orton, p.231.
  22. Otto is sometimes said to be Bishop Otto III of Asti (r.c.1080-c.1088), but this identification is uncertain. See L. Vergano, Storia di Asti, part I. (Asti, 1951)
  23. Chicago, 121.
  24. "Adelaide of Susa". Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Adelaide of Susa. Brooklyn Museum. 2007. Retrieved 15 December 2011.


External links

Adelaide of Susa
Born: c.1014/1020 Died: 19 December 1091
Preceded by
Ulric Manfred II
Marchioness of Turin and Susa
Succeeded by
Otto I
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