Hildegard of the Vinzgau

Hildegard of the Vinzgau

Hildegard from Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum
Spouse(s) Charlemagne
Noble family Udalriching dynasty
Father Gerold of Kraichgau
Mother Emma of Alemannia
Born 758
Died 30 April 783(783-04-30)
Buried Abbey of Saint-Arnould, Metz

Hildegard (ca. 758[1] 30 April 783 at Thionville,[2] Moselle), was the second[3] wife of Charlemagne and mother of Louis the Pious. About her life was found little information, because, like all women of Charlemagne, she became important only from a political background, recording her parentage, wedding, death and her role as a mother.[4]


She was the daughter of the Germanic Count Gerold of Kraichgau (founder of the Udalriching family) and his wife Emma, in turn daughter of Duke Nebe (Hnabi) of Alemannia and Hereswintha vom Bodensee (of Lake Constance).[5] Hildegard's father had extensive possessions in the dominion of Charlemagne's younger brother Carloman, so this union was of significant importance for Charlemagne, because he could strengthen its position in the east of the Rhine and also could bind the Alemannian nobility to his side.[6]


It's unknown if Charlemagne planned his marriage before the sudden death of Carloman or was just a part of the purposeful incorporation of his younger brother's Kingdom, in detriment of the claims of his nephews.[7] In any event, the wedding between Charlemagne and Hildegard took place at Aix-la-Chapelle certainly before 30 April 771, after the repudiation of the Lombardian princess Desiderata, Charlemagne's previous wife.

As no exact date of birth of Hildegard was recorded, was assumed that at the time of her wedding she could be between 12 and 14 years old. A marriage at this age is not unusual for that time, since the age of marriage was set at puberty. In Roman law, which was very well received by the Church, the minimum age for marriage for girls of 12 years has been established.[8]

An intense physical relationship between the spouses was demonstrated by the fact that, during her 12 years of marriage, Hildegard had 8 pregnancies (including one set of twins) and remarkably chronicles never mentioned either miscarriages or stillbirths. She accompanied Charlemagne on many of his militar campaigns: she gave birth her second child and first daughter, Adelaide, during the siege of Pavia, capital of the Kingdom of the Lombards (September 773/June 774), but she died during the return journey to France. In 778, Hildegard accompanied her husband as far as Aquitaine, where she gave birth the twins Louis and Lothair.[9] In 780/781 she traveled with Charlemagne and four of their children to Rome, where the sons Louis and Carloman (renamed Pepin after his baptism by Pope Adrian I) were appointed sub-kings of Aquitaine and Italy, respectively. This contributed to the strengthening of the alliance between the Carolingians and the Papacy.[10] Because of her frequent pregnancies, can be presumed that Hildegard accompanied her husband on further campaigns, at least temporarily.

Hildegard died on 30 April 783, according to Paul the Deacon, from the after effects of her last childbirth.[11] She was buried on 1 May in the Abbey of Saint-Arnould in Metz. Following the wishes of Charlemagne, in her grave were burn candles and daily prayers must be said for her soul.[12]

Interaction with the Church and Donations

Hildegard made several donations to the monasteries of St. Denis and St. Martin of Tours.[13] She was a friend of Saint Leoba, who reportedly lived some time with her at court. She intervened in Hildegard's religious education and also offered her spiritual advice.[14] Together with her husband she commissioned the Godescalc Evangelistary,[15] where for the first time she was explicitly mentioned as Queen -also of the Lombards- through the joint signature of documents with her husband.[16]

Hildegard enjoyed in her own lifetime from a high reputation, as was demonstrated in her obituary wrote by Paul the Deacon.[17] However, these compliments are to be regarded with some skepticism. In her Epitaph were included phrases that may have been introduced to flatter Charlemagne: for example, the reference to the fact that Hildegard was the epitome of beauty, wisdom and virtue. This were common words used by medieval writers to their rulers.[18] Pope Adrian I, in a letter to Charlemagne, expressed his condolences over the untimely death of Hildegard.

Hildegard used her position as Queen consort to obtain for her siblings several territorial and monetary benefits; as far was known, she was the only of Charlemagne's wives or concubines who managed to obtain for a relative an office after her marriage.[14] In addition, was also assumed that she, like other medieval queens, held several roles, such as ruling the court or being the representative (or regent) of the sovereign during his absence. This could mean that she was in close contact with all the government decision of her husband.[19]

Together with her husband, she was the main benefactress of the Monastery of Kempten (founded in 752), who received financial and political support. From Italy they brought after the conquest of the Kingdom of the Lombards in 773/774 the relics of the Roman martyrs Saints Gordianus and Epimachus to Kempten, whom, along with the Virgin Mary, are the patrons of the monastery.

Hildegard was extensively mentioned in Kempten as one of the founders; her bust graced the pin crest and some coins of the later Imperial Abbey. In the late Middle Ages it was alleged that Hildegard was buried in Kempten, as well as her son Louis the Pious; there was built the called Hildegard Chapel (Hildegardkapelle), who quickly became in a place of pilgrimage and were several miracles are reported. This explains that the Queen was revered as a saint in the Allgäu and always presented with an aureola. In the 17th century the building of another Hildegard Chapel at the Fürstäbtliche of Kempten was projected, but this was abandoned after the secularization.

Even in modern times, the memory of Hildegard and her importance in the urban development at Kempten is still very noticeable: The central square in front of St. Lorenz Basilica was named the Hildegard Square (Hildegardplatz) in her honor. In 1862 was erected in the square the Neo-Gothic Hildegard fountain (Hildegardsbrunnen), who was closed in the 1950s. At the facade of the local Landhaus, appeared her idealized portrait painted by Franz Weiß. Also, in 1874 was founded the originally exclusive for girl Hildegardis-Gymnasium Kempten Lyceum. At the Lindau Road, close to the school, was also located another Hildegard Fountain. On the facades of some houses were shown the image of the Queen, and on the edge of Kempten forest was located the Hildegard Oak (Hildegardseiche) for several years until was replaced by a new plantation. Until the 1950s, many girls born in Kempten were named after Hildegard.


Although Charlemagne already had an older son (Pepin the Hunchback) from his first union with Himiltrude, he was never considered an heir by his father. In his will of 806 (the called Divisio Regnorum), he divided his domains between the three surviving sons of Hildegard. Because her son Louis the Pious succeeded Charlemagne as Emperor, Hildegard is often called "mother of Kings and Emperors".


Epitaphium Hildegardis reginae

Latin English
[1] Aurea quae fulvis rutilant elementa figuris,

Quam clara extiterint membra sepulta docent.
Hic regina iacet regi praecelsa potenti
Hildegard Karolo quae bene nupta fuit.
[5] Quae tantum clarae transcendit stirpis alumnos,
Quantum, quo genita est, Indica gemma solum.
Huic tam clara fuit florentis gratia formae,
Qua nec in occiduo pulchrior ulla foret.
Cuius haut tenerum possint aequare decorem
[10] Sardonix Pario, lilia mixta rosis.
Attamen hanc speciem superabant lumina cordis,
Simplicitasque animae interiorque decor.
Tu mitis, sapiens, solers, iocunda fuisti,
Dapsilis et cunctis condecorata bonis.
[15] Sed quid plura feram cum non sit grandior ulla
Laus tibi, quain tanto complacuisse viro?
Cumque vir armipotens sceptris iunxisset avitis
Cigniferumque Padum Romuleumque Tybrim,
Tu sola inventa es, fueris quae digna tenere
[20] Multiplicis regni aurea sceptra manu.
Alter ab undecimo iam te susceperat annus,
Cum vos mellifluus consotiavit amor
Alter ab undecimo rursum te sustulit annus,
Heu genitrix regum, heu decus atque dolor!
[25] Te Francus, Suevus, Germanus et ipse Britannus.
Cumque Getis duris plangit Hibera cohors.
Accola te Ligeris, te deflet et Itala tellus,
Ipsaque morte tua anxia Roma gemit.
Movisti ad fletus et fortia corda virorum,
[30] Et lacrimae clipeos inter et arma cadunt.
Heu, quantis sapiens et firmum robore semper
Ussisti flammis pectus herile viri.
Solatur cunctos spes haec sed certa dolentes,
Pro dignis factis quod sacra regna tenes.
[35] Iesum nunc precibus, Arnulfe, exores eorum
Participem fieri hanc, pater alme, tuis

Here lies Hildegard,
once Charles happy wife,
by her charm,
but even more by the merits of her heart
the other women surpassed.
[15 - 35]
Her greatest fame, however, is the pleasure
of such a man, as Karl is
. To have attracted
you was worthy Queen of alone
. To be so powerful empire
now complain all nations their death
and even defiant warrior
can the tears to not included.
pain consumes the heart of her husband.
Only one consolation is left all,
that they will find their reward in heaven.

Note: translated from the German translation recorded in Karl Neff: Critical and explanatory edition of the poems of Paul the Deacon in: Sources and Studies on Latin Philology of the Middle Ages, Ludwig Traube, 3rd volume, 4th book, Munich 1908 (ed.)


  1. It isn't recorded an exact date of her birth, because at that time the Queens consorts are important when they became part of the ruling family and previously they were barely mentioned in the chronicles. See Achim Thomas Hack: Alter, Krankheit, Tod und Herrschaft im frühen Mittelalter, (= Monographien zur Geschichte des Mittelalters 56), Stuttgart 2009, p. 42.
  2. Reinhard Barth: Karl der Große, Munich 2000, p. 97.
  3. As described by historians such as Pierre Riché (The Carolingians, p.86.), Lewis Thorpe (Two Lives of Charlemagne, p.216) and others. Other historians list Himiltrude, described by Einhard as a concubine, as Charlemagne's first wife, and reorder his subsequent wives; accordingly Hildegard is sometimes numbered as his third wife. See Dieter Hägemann (Karl der Große. Herrscher des Abendlands, Ullstein 2003, p. 82f.), Collins (Charlemagne, p. 40.).
  4. Ingrid Heidrich: Von Plectrud zu Hildegard. Beobachtungen zum Besitzrecht adliger Frauen im Frankenreich des 7. und 8. Jahrhunderts und zur politischen Rolle der Frauen, in: Rheinische Vierteljahresblätter 52 (1988), p. 10.
  5. Reinhard Barth: Karl der Große, Munich 2000, pp. 97-98.
  6. Matthias Becher: Karl der Große, München 1999, p. 108.
  7. Martina Hartmann: Die Königin im frühen Mittelalter, Stuttgart 2009, p. 97.
  8. Achim Thomas Hack: Alter, Krankheit, Tod und Herrschaft im frühen Mittelalter, (= Monographien zur Geschichte des Mittelalters 56), Stuttgart 2009, p. 51.
  9. Martina Hartmann: Die Königin im frühen Mittelalter, Stuttgart 2009, p. 100.
  10. Wilfried Hartmann: Karl der Große, Stuttgart 2010, pp. 50-51.
  11. Pauli Gesta Episcop. Mettensium, Monumenta Germaniæ Historica Scriptorum II, p. 267.
  12. Klaus Schreiner: "Hildegardis regina". Wirklichkeit und Legende einer karolingischen Herrscherin, in: Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 57 (1975), p. 10.
  13. Klaus Schreiner: "Hildegardis regina". Wirklichkeit und Legende einer karolingischen Herrscherin, in: Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 57 (1975), p. 8.
  14. 1 2 Rosamond McKitterick: Karl der Grosse, Darmstadt 2008, p. 91.
  15. Klaus Schreiner: "Hildegardis regina". Wirklichkeit und Legende einer karolingischen Herrscherin, in: Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 57 (1975), pp. 9-10.
  16. 1 2 Silvia Konecny: Die Frauen des karolingischen Königshauses. Die politische Bedeutung der Ehe und die Stellung der Frau in der fränkischen Herrscherfamilie vom 7. bis zum 10. Jahrhundert, Vienna 1976, p. 65.
  17. Klaus Schreiner: "Hildegardis regina". Wirklichkeit und Legende einer karolingischen Herrscherin, in: Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 57 (1975), pp. 4-5. The "Epitaphium Hildegardis reginae" is printed in MGH poat. lat. aevi Carolini I, pp. 58-59. Cf. Franz Bittner: Studien zum Herrscherlob in der mittelalterlichen Dichtung, Dissertation Würzburg 1962, pp. 43-44.
  18. Klaus Schreiner: "Hildegardis regina". Wirklichkeit und Legende einer karolingischen Herrscherin, in: Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 57 (1975), pp. 4-5.
  19. Matthias Becher: Karl der Große, Munich 1999, p. 111.
  20. Scholz, B. W. with Rogers, B. (2000) Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard's Histories (University of Michigan Press) (RFA) 811, p. 94.
  21. 1 2 3 4 5 Pauli Gesta Episcop. Mettensium, Monumenta Germaniæ Historica Scriptorum II, p. 265.
  22. Wilfried Hartmann: Karl der Große, Stuttgart 2010, p. 50.
  23. Christian Settipani: La préhistoire des Capétiens 481-987, 1ère partie, Mérovingiens, Carolingiens et Robertiens, Villeneuve d'Ascq 1993, p. 203.
  24. Pauli Diaconi Carmina, XXIII Epitaphium Adeleidis filia Karoli regis quæ in Italia nata est, MGH Poetæ Latini ævi Carolini I, p. 59.
  25. RFA 810, p. 91.
  26. Einhardi Vita Karoli Imperator 18, 'Monumenta Germaniæ Historica Scriptorum II, p. 453.
  27. Angilberti (Homeri) Carmina, I, MGH Poetæ Latini ævi Carolini I, pp. 359-60.
  28. RFA 787, p. 64.
  29. Pauli Diaconi Carmina, XXXIX Epitaphium Chlodarii pueri regis, MGH Poetæ Latini ævi Carolini I, p. 71.
  30. Wilfried Hartmann: Karl der Große, p. 50.
  31. RFA 781, p. 59.
  32. Pauli Diaconi Carmina, XXIV Epitaphium Hildegardis filiæ cuius supra, MGH Poetæ Latini ævi Carolini I, p. 59.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hildegard of the Vinzgau.
Hildegard of the Vinzgau
Udalriching dynasty
Born: 758 Died: 783
Preceded by
Desiderata and Gerberge
Queen of the Franks
Succeeded by


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