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Otto I, also known as Otto the Great, was emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, reigning as German king from 936 until his death in 973. The oldest son of Henry I the Fowler and Matilda of Ringelheim, Otto was "the first of the Germans to be called the emperor of Italy".

Otto inherited the Duchy of Saxony and the kingship of the Germans upon his father's death in 936. He continued his father's work to unify all German tribes into a single kingdom and greatly expanded the king's powers at the expense of the aristocracy. Through strategic marriages and personal appointments, Otto installed members of his own family to the kingdom's most important duchies. This reduced the various dukes, who had previously been co-equals with the king, into royal subjects under his authority. Otto transformed the Roman Catholic Church in Germany to strengthen the royal office and subjected its clergy to his personal control.

After putting down a brief civil war among the rebellious duchies, Otto defeated the Magyars at the Battle of Lechfeld in 955, thus ending the Hungarian invasions of Western Europe. The victory against the pagan Magyars earned Otto the reputation as a savior of Christendom and secured his hold over the kingdom. By 961, Otto had conquered the Kingdom of Italy and extended his realm's borders to the north, east, and south. In control of much of central and southern Europe, the patronage of Otto and his immediate successors caused a limited cultural renaissance of the arts and architecture. Following the example of Charlemagne's coronation as "Emperor of the Romans" in 800, Otto was crowned Emperor in 962 by Pope John XII in Rome.

Otto's later years were marked by conflicts with the Papacy and struggles to stabilize his rule over Italy. Reigning from Rome, Otto sought to improve relations with the Byzantine Empire, which opposed his claim to emperorship and his realm's further expansion to the south. To resolve this conflict, the Byzantine princess Theophanu married his son, Otto II, in April 972. Otto finally returned to Germany in August 972 and died of natural causes in 973. Otto II succeeded him as Emperor.


Panel #62
Otto the Great (912 - 973)
Holy Roman Emperor
King of Italy
King of Germany

Reign 2 July 936 – 7 May 973

King of Kings - by Lewis Lavoie