Rainald of Dassel

Rainald of Dassel (c. 1120 14 August 1167 near Rome) was archbishop of Cologne from 1159 to 1167 and archchancellor of Italy. He was preceded as archbishop by Friedrich II of Berg and succeeded by Philip I von Heinsberg.

Rainald von Dassel Memorial in Hildesheim, Lower Saxony, Germany

A younger son of a rich Saxon count, Reinold I, Count of Dassel, and destined as such to be an ecclesiastic, he was sent to the cathedral school at Hildesheim in 1146, where he started working as subdeacon. At a later date he probably went to Paris. As early as 1130 he is said to have had a high reputation for classical learning, and to have been a member of the cathedral chapter of Hildesheim. According to documentary evidence he was provost in 1148, and in 1154 received the provostship of Petersberg at Goslar and of St. Moritz at Hildesheim. Soon after 1154 he was also provost of the cathedral chapter at Münster but declined the See of Hildesheim where he was a provost as well. He ordered the first stone bridge above the river Innerste to be built in Hildesheim.

In 1148, he attended the Council of Rheims where he opposed a canon concerned with clerical dress.[1]

As a member of the embassy sent by Frederick I in 1153 to Pope Eugene III at Rome he first revealed his political ability, and in 1156 the emperor appointed him chancellor of the empire. The Diet of Besançon (October 1157) left no doubt as to the drift of his policy. He inaugurated a German policy which insisted upon the rights and the power of the German kings, the strengthening of the Catholic Church in the German Empire, the lordship of Italy, and the humiliation of the papacy. Full of life, at times rough and blunt and again careful and calculating, Rainald, who, in spite of his ecclesiastical dignities, knew how to wield the sword, henceforth influenced the policy of his imperial masters.

Though he did not wish to separate Germany entirely from Rome and still held the medieval respect for the Church, his temperament carried Barbarossa much further than the latter desired, or then was advantageous in the circumstances. When Frederick finally submitted, it was Rainald who prevented him from making concessions which might have proved of advantage. The struggle with the curia began at the Diet of Besançon, where Rainald vigorously rejected the use of the word beneficium, which might mean fief as well as benefit. In the expression used, that the pope would have been glad to grant the emperor even greater beneficia (or benefits), it was thought that the old desire of the curia for the mastery of the world was to be found.

In 1158 Rainald undertook a diplomatic journey into Italy to prepare the way for the emperor. In 1159 he was appointed Archbishop of Cologne in absence, and during the schism between Pope Alexander III and Antipope Victor IV supported the imperial pope. In 1160 he was the ambassador of the emperor to the courts of the French and English kings, whom he endeavoured to win to the side of the antipope, but he did not succeed.

In January 1159 the imperial envoy Rainald entered the city of Milan, which had been peacefully conquered in 1158, and he was expelled and almost murdered by the inhabitants. Then the emperor Barbarossa began the second siege of Milan, which would end with the destruction of the city in 1162. Rainald was also employed in diplomatic negotiations with Genoa, Pisa, and Louis VII; these, however, failed.

In this period Rainald was notably the patron of the Archpoet.

In 1163 Alexander III excommunicated Rainald, who had loudly proclaimed in these negotiations the right of the emperor to dispose of the papal see. Basing his action on the Roncalian decrees issued at the Diet of Roncaglia, near Piacenza, in 1158, Rainald was once more successfully employed in Italy in the affairs of the emperor. When Victor IV died, Rainald, of his own volition and without waiting for the consent of the emperor, elected at Lucca a new antipope, Paschal III. Frederick would hardly have continued the schism. Rainald knew this and therefore wished to force the emperor to continue the struggle for imperial supremacy. In 1164 he was again in Germany, and brought the bones of the Three Magi with him back to Cologne as loot from Milan and as a gift of emperor Frederick Barbarossa; today they are still in the Cologne cathedral. In the meantime the number of the adherents against the lawful pope increased in Germany. Rainald won the consent of the King of England to common ecclesiastico-political action in behalf of Paschal and once more took up arms in defence of his one ambition, which he hoped the proposed canonization of Charlemagne at Aachen in 1165 would advance. In 1167 he was again in Italy, actively engaged in preparing the way for the emperor. Together with Christian I of Buch, archbishop of Mainz, and under Rainald's guidance an army won a victory over a much larger force of Roman troops at the Battle of Monte Porzio on 29 May 1167. His death was likely of malaria; he was buried in the Lady Chapel of the Cathedral at Cologne.


  1. Haring, Nicholas (1966). "Notes on the Council and the Consistory of Rheims (1148)". Mediaeval Studies. XXVIII: 39–59.
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Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Frederick II
Archbishop of Cologne
Succeeded by
Philip I
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