Matilda of Ringelheim (c. 892 – 14 March 968[1]), also known as Saint Matilda, was a Saxon noblewoman. Due to her marriage to Henry I in 909, she became the first Ottonian queen.[2] Her eldest son, Otto I, restored the Holy Roman Empire in 962.[3] Matilda founded several spiritual institutions and women's convents. She was considered to be extremely pious, righteous and charitable. Matilda's two hagiographical biographies and The Deeds of the Saxons serve as authoritative sources about her life and work.


King Henry and Matilda, detail from the Chronica sancti Pantaleonis, 12th century
Bornc. 892
Enger, Saxony, East Francia
Died14 March 968
Quedlinburg, Saxony, Holy Roman Empire
Venerated inEastern Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church
Canonizedafter 968
Major shrineQuedlinburg Abbey, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany
Feast14 March

Early life and dynastic connections


Matilda was born in around 892. She was a daughter of Reinhild and Dietrich. He was count of the Duchy of Saxony in the Kingdom of Germany, formed fifty years earlier after the Treaty of Verdun. Fighting against Charlemagne at that time had been the Saxon duke Widukind, from whom Dietrich was descended.

It was in Herford Abbey, in the Duchy of Saxony, that Matilda was raised by her grandmother (also called Matilda). She had three sisters; Amalrada, Bia and Fridarun. Fridarun was to go on to marry Charles III, king of West Francia. Matilda also had a brother, Beuve, who would eventually become Beuve II, Bishop of Châlons-sur-Marne.[1] Matilda was to have a niece called Fridarun, whose marriage to Count Wichmann the Elder meant there was an alliance between the House of Billung and the Ottonian family. This expanded their possessions to the west.[4]

Marriage to Henry I


When Matilda was seventeen, in 909, she married Henry, at the time Duke of Saxony. He subsequently became king of East Francia. Henry's first marriage to Hatheburg of Merseburg had been annulled [5][2][6]

Some twenty years later, in 929, Matilda received her dowry, which Henry gave her in the so-called Hausordnung. This dowry consisted amounted to land in Quedlinburg, Pöhlde, Nordhausen, Grona (near Göttingen) and Duderstadt.[1]

As queen, Matilda took an interest in women's monasteries. Her influence on the king's reign is said to have been her strong sense of justice.[7]



Matilda bore the king five children:

Life as a widow


After Henry's death 936 in Memleben, he was buried in Quedlinburg. It was here that Queen Matilda founded a convent in the same year.[9] She lived there during the following years and took care of the family's legacy. Thus, Quedlinburg Abbey became not only the most important centre of prayer in the kingdom, but also a place to commemorate its famous dead.[10]

As with other convents in the kingdom, Quedlinburg became a place for the education of noble families' daughters. Some would become Abbesses, securing a family's influence. One such was Matilda's own granddaughter, Matilda. She was the daughter of the above-mentioned Otto I and Adelheid of Burgundy. It was to this granddaughter that the queen, in 966, after 30 years' leadership, passed on responsibility for the convent. This Matilda thus became the first abbess of the convent in Quedlinburg.[11]

With her other resources, Queen Matilda founded more convents, one of them in Enger in 947.[12] Her last foundation was in 961, the convent of Nordhausen.[13]

Over the years 936–946, Matilda's handling of her dowry, King Henry I's gift before he died, was disputed by her son Otto I. He claimed his mother's possessions. Eventually this led to her fleeing into exile. Otto's wife, Queen Eadgyth, is said to have brought about a reconciliation: Matilda was to leave her wealth, and furthermore Otto was to be forgiven for his actions.[14]

The above feud remains controversial to this day: to protect her legacy in the lead up to her death early in 968, Matilda acquired for all monasteries in eastern Saxony papal privileges.[15] These were over-ridden, however, after her death when Matilda's dowry passed to Theophanu, the wife of Otto II.[16]



Queen Matilda died in the convent of Quedlinburg on 14 March 968, after a long illness.[17] She was buried in Quedlinburg Abbey, next to her late husband.[18] Throughout her life, Matilda had been dedicated to charity and her ecclesiastical foundations – as attested repeatedly in two hagiographies.[19][page needed] A commemorative plaque can be found in the Walhalla memorial near Regensburg, Germany.[20]



Matilda is the patron of the St. Mathilde church in Laatzen (Germany), the St. Mathilde church in Quedlinburg (Germany), the Melkite church in Aleppo (Syria), and the Mathilden-Hospital in Herford (Germany). Her feast day is 14 March.

See also





  1. ^ a b c Althoff 1990.
  2. ^ a b c Beumann 1969.
  3. ^ a b Althoff 1999.
  4. ^ Rieckenberg & Freytag 1955.
  5. ^ Previously a nun, Hatheburg's marriage was annulled in 909 because the Catholic Church deemed that her vows as a nun had not been broken, though she had borne Henry's son Thankmar. His legitimacy was jeopardised by this annulment.
  6. ^ Althoff 2018, p. 11.
  7. ^ Althoff 2018, p. 17.
  8. ^ Oediger 1955.
  9. ^ Ehlers 1998, p. 259.
  10. ^ Althoff 1984, pp. 169–179.
  11. ^ Müller-Wiegand 2003, p. 98.
  12. ^ "Wiki:enger [Westfalenhöfe – Kreis Herford]".
  13. ^ Althoff 2018, p. 27.
  14. ^ Müller-Wiegand 2003, p. 124.
  15. ^ Althoff 1993, p. 263.
  16. ^ Althoff 2018, p. 43.
  17. ^ Althoff 1993, p. 261.
  18. ^ Ehlers 1998, p. 257.
  19. ^ Schütte 1994.
  20. ^ "Walhalla: Gedenktafeln und Stützfiguren". Retrieved 17 February 2020.



Further reading

  • Sean Gilsdorf: Queenship and Sanctity The Lives of Mathilda and The Epitaph of Adelheid, Washington, D.C., 2004.

Matilda of Ringelheim
Born: c. 894/97 Died: 968
Royal titles
Preceded by Duchess consort of Saxony
Succeeded by
Preceded by German Queen