Marriage Certificate of the Empress Theophano

Dowry Certificate 6 Urk 11 - Niedersächsisches Staatsarchiv (Wolfenbüttel, Germany)

Alternate Titles:

Theophanu-Urkunde, Hochzeitsurkunde der Kaiserin Theophanu

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Theophanu-Urkunde
Hochzeitsurkunde der Kaiserin Theophanu

Type
Extent / Format

1 rotolus (composed of three parts) / 144.5 x 39.5 cm

Origin
Date
972
Style
Genre
Language
Patron

Emperor Otto II and his wife Theophano

Former owners

Gandersheim Abbey

Short description

The marriage certificate of the Empress Theophanu on the occasion of her marriage to the Roman-German Emperor Otto II in the year 972 constitutes an exceptional and unique document of the Ottonian era. The historical significance of the marriage certificate as an example of the connection of the Byzantine Empire with the occidental empire is indisputable. Nevertheless, its detailed artistic design and exceptionally valuable materials make the marriage certificate of Theophano a valuable relic of the Ottonian era.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Marriage Certificate of the Empress Theophano

The marriage certificate of the Empress Theophanu on the occasion of her marriage to the Roman-German Emperor Otto II in the year 972 constitutes an exceptional and unique document of the Ottonian era. The historical significance of the certificate as an example of the connection of the Byzantine Empire with the occidental empire is indisputable. Nevertheless, its detailed artistic design and exceptionally valuable materials make the certificate of Theophano a valuable relic of the Ottonian era.

A Marriage as a Political Event

In April 972 Pope John XIII married Otto II, the son of Emperor Otto I, and Theophano, the Byzantine princess, in St. Peter’s in Rome. With this above-all political act, a conflict between the Byzantine Empire in the East and the Carolingian Roman-German Empire in the West was diplomatically ended, which had existed since the imperial coronation of Charlemagne in the year 800. Each had raised a claim to the imperial title in the succession of the Roman Empire. The title for the Ottonian emperorship was to be made legitimate through the marriage between the two parties. On these grounds, Emperor Otto I married his seventeen-year-old son and co-emperor to the twelve-year-old niece of the Byzantine Emperor John I Tzimiskes, Theophano. The marriage certificate documents this event and its consequential legitimation and furthermore structured the privileges due to the future empress. She was awarded the privilege to rule alongside her spouse and was additionally appointed the income and benefice due to her, including provinces and palaces in Italy, the Netherlands, and Germany. In the Gandersheim Abbey, which was strongly linked to the Empress Theophano personally, the certificate was stored and rediscovered in 1700. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz, among others, already recognized the historical significance of the document early on.

Excessive Finery with Weighty Contents

The certificate is housed today in the Lower Saxon State Archive in Wolfenbüttel. The scroll on purple vellum is composed of three pieces stuck together and has an impressive format of 144.5 x 39.5 cm. The outer appearance of the very historically significant document gives an indication of its contents. Large circular medallions emboss the face of the certificate, which point to ornamental Byzantine patterns, some from expensive silk. In the purple circular area one finds the finest depictions of various animals, arranged in fighting pairs respectively. Among them one find depictions of lions, dear, or horses. The surfaces between the medallions are colored with indigo, an additional substance of exceptional value. Artistic ornaments adorn these spaces. The whole document is framed by a circumferential golden decorative band with additional fine ornaments and even with small half-figure depictions of Christ, Mary, John the Baptist, and the Evangelists in the upper margin. The text of the marriage certificate is applied in Gold ink and the most beautiful script against the exuberant background. All of this splendor together with the very historically significant content of the marriage certificate of Theophano one of the most unique documents of (art) history.

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