Matilda, 1046–1115, countess of Tuscany, called the Great Countess; supporter of Pope Gregory VII in the papal conflict with the Holy Roman emperors. Ruling over Tuscany and parts of Emilia-Romagna and Umbria, she controlled the most powerful feudal state in central Italy. It was at her castle at Canossa that Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV humiliated himself before Pope Gregory VII in 1077. Soon afterward Matilda made a donation (renewed in 1102) of her lands to the Holy See; she retained them as fiefs from the papacy. Her first husband having died in 1076, she married (1089) Duke Welf V of Bavaria. After the expedition (1110–11) of Holy Roman Emperor Henry V to Italy, Matilda willed her lands to him on her death. He seized them in 1116. The dispute over the ownership of Matilda's lands played a large part in the conflicts between the popes and the emperors, particularly the Hohenstaufen. The cities of Tuscany emerged as independent communes from the struggle; the other lands left by Matilda eventually fell under papal rule.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Italian History: Biographies