Matilde of Canossa, also known as Matilda of Tuscany or -in German- Mathilde von Tuszien, lived at the turn of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Born into a powerful italian feudal family, Matilde was countess, duchess, marquise and queen. This figure of enormous importance was a great supporter of the papacy in the investiture controversy and broke a centuries-old tradition that saw women segregated in lower ranks than men, by dominating all the Italic territories in the north side of the Papal States.
During her childhood Matilde suffered severe losses: her father, betrayed by a vassal when she was only six years old, her brother Federico and her sister Beatrice poisoned shortly after. At age of 10 Matilda of Canossa was taken hostage by King Henry III with the mother and lived a year in Germany. In 1701 the Grand Duchess lost her only daughter, Beatrice, to whom is dedicated to the monastery of Frassinoro. Because of this loss, Matilde was accused by the family of Lotharingia to bring the “evil eye” and she went back to her mother’s house in Canossa; when her husband Godfrey the Hunchback returned to reclaim her, Matilde showed rigid and inflexible and it will be this resolute attitude to make her well known as a strong and determined woman.
Despite the difficulties and tragedies, Mathilde von Tuszien became at the age of 30 the only undisputed sovereign of all lands ranging from Corneto (now Tarquinia) to Lake Garda. Among her possessions, Matilde di Canossa had a vast territory between the Lombardy, Emilia, Romagna and Tuscany with the center of Apennine area, which is not far from our Inn.
In 1079, in defiance of the Emperor Henry IV (excommunicated by the Pope), Matilde decided to support Gregory VI and donated him all her domains, on which the sovereign still boasted several rights. The following year, with the excommunication of the Pope, Henry IV deposed and banished Matilde empire, but it was not long before the Grancontessa could defeat the imperial army at the Battle of Sorbara of 1084. After a second marriage never consummated and broken just a couple of days after the wedding, Matilde still had to fight long with the emperor to defend her lands.
It was only in 1111, with the successor to the throne Henry V, that Matilde gave in to the will of the emperor and was crowned Imperial Vicar and Vice Queen of Italy.
The constitution of several churches is attributed to Matilde of Canossa, including Santa Maria Assunta of Bologna and San Martino in Forlì. She died in 1115 and although the lands and her prestigious titles, the Grancontessa of Canossa lived in a period littered with battles, excommunications and intrigue. It was on these occasions that Matilde demonstrate the tenacity and willpower that still characterize her figure and that make it so fascinating even today.
In addition, her boundless faith in the Church allowed her to be both powerful and appreciated by the people.