Poppo of the Otokars

Feverishly aiming at increasing the authority and power of his Church, Poppo thus had lots of enmities in Venice and Grado, which caused very different assessments on his behaviour and activity by historians and chroniclers. Nonetheless in the singular climate of his age he was deemed a great patriarch just because he was an illustrious warrior and statesman and a powerful, ecclesiastical and temporal, prince.

A younger son of count Ozi of the noble family of Otokars of Styria, and Irenburga, Poppo grew in Bavaria, where he got his education. A source of the time describes him as a man of Bavarian origin, of noble lineage, rich in power, but even richer in wisdom, learned in all sciences, but remarkably expert of other disciplines, too. Upon the patriarch John’s [Giovanni] death, occurred 19 June 1019, Poppo’s appointment to the see of Aquileia was discussed and probably decided by Henry II at the diet of Strasburg, held in September of that same year. After becoming patriarch of Aquileia (1019-1042), Poppo was one of the most prominent prelates of the early Middle Ages and his reconstruction of the monumental basilica that still keeps his name made history, as well as the successful consolidation of his vast ecclesiastic possession: in his twenty-three years’ government with an extraordinary energy he did his best for the full acknowledgment of the rights of his see over the opponent see of Grado and for the re-launching of Aquileia that had been neglected for long time. A convinced supporter of the imperial politicy, he was personally familiar to Henry II of Saxony (973-1024), to Conrad II the Salian of the house of Franconia (990 ca.-1039) and his son Henry III (1017-1056), who all largely favoured him. He was also particularly able to have his own loyalty to the emperor repaid by the latter with rich donations and privileges in favour of the patriarchate of Aquileia; with the emperor’s support he could assert his authority against patriarch Ursus of Grado, too, and thus he created the premises for the patriarchal State in Friuli which was to have more durable outlines only in 1077. A little time after his appointment, in April 1020, by emperor Henry II he had the confirmation of such a wide and general right of immunity for the Church of Aquileia that none of his predecessors could have ever boasted. He was also one of the first Italian bishops to obtain the right to mint coins by Conrad II.

For further information see the entry Ottocari (degli) Poppone, patriarca d’Aquileia written by Giuseppe Cuscito in Nuovo Liruti. Dizionario biografico dei Friulani, 1, Il Medioevo, edited by C. Scalon, Udine, Forum, 2006, 617-625.

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