Berthold of Andechs-Merania

A lively cultural circulation did apparently characterize Berthold’s patriarchy. The extensive policy accomplished by the patriarch, friend to Frederick II, in his relations with Venice and inland, from the March of Treviso to Verona, to the bordering countries of German culture is above all reflected, as it seems, in contemporary painting.

Berthold was born around the year 1180 in one of the most powerful families of the Empire, the youngest son of Berthold IV count of Andechs, marquis of Istria and duke of Merania († 1204). Chosen for an ecclesiastical career, after being provost of Bamberg, in 1205 he followed his sister Gertrude, who married Andrew Arpad in Hungary, and in 1207, despite his young age and his lack of spiritual and cultural preparation, he became archbishop of Kalocsa. In 1213, the influence of Berthold and the house of Andechs-Merania in the political life of the kingdom of Hungary caused the reaction of the magnates who dared a plot ending up with the murder of Gertrude and the escape of the young bishop. In 1217, in the retinue of the duke of Austria, he arrived in Friuli. Here, after the death of old patriarch Wolfger [Folchero] (1218), he succeeded in being elected patriarch and obtaining the confirmation by pope Honorius III. Indeed the pontifex thought that Berthold could be the most suitable person to contrast the number of impending threats over the patriarchate of Aquileia. His relation to Frederick II, among whose counsellors he was the one whose advice was more taken, strengthened his political and diplomatic role. In 1230 his mediation was essential when pope and emperor subscribed the peace of San Germano. Berthold’s frankly Ghibelline policy allowed the patriarch to hold Ezzelino da Romano at bay, since the latter openly aspired to extend his influence at the expense of the Friulian theocratic state. Nonetheless the heavy military expenses, the Ghibelline crisis and, above all, the fear for an excommunication that could thwart all his works induced Berthold to reconsider his political position and in 1245, while taking part in the council of Lyon, to his allies’ and enemies’ surprise he passed to the Guelph party. This epochal turning in the politics of the Patriarchate let Friuli definitely open to the Italian actuality, much more dynamical, but also more unpredictable in the developments to come than the German world, which had so far been the reference point for the local ruling classes. Berthold died on 23 May 1251 and was buried in the basilica of Aquileia. During Berthold’s patriarchy the Friulian parliament was established and thanks to the achievement of an enterprising urban bourgeoisie Udine started its development, which would very soon lead the new town to surpass Cividale, still directed to the old aristocratic transalpine world.

For further information see the entry Andechs-Merania (di) Bertoldo, patriarca d’Aquileia written by Massimo Dissaderi and Paolo Casadio in Nuovo Liruti. Dizionario biografico dei Friulani, 1, II Medioevo, edited by C. Scalon, Udine, Forum, 2006, 109-119.

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