Note: Not much is known about Saint Emma of Regensburg. The following text tells more about her family than about her personally, but by reading it one gains an understanding of some the personal crosses she bore during her lifetime.
Saint Emma and her family
Ludwig II, also known as “The German” was born around 805. In as early as 817 he was designated King of Bavaria. In 825 he took office in Regensburg. With pride and preference he referred to himself as King of Bavaria, which he loved and favored as he considered Bavaria to be his homeland. He celebrated all high feasts almost exclusively in Regensburg, where he had a chapel built in honor of Our Lady, known today as “Alte Kapelle” [Old Chapel]. And up there on the estate of the Crown and in the Bavarian imperial palaces he spent parts of the year. Aventin describes his personality as follows: “He was physically and mentally strong and had a natural goodness; a strong and distinguished figure; his eyes gleamed, even glowed; a clear, manly voice. Whether he spoke or was silent, his face was so calm that it drove away sadness, if a person only looked at him. With his extraordinary majestic beauty, he had the appearance of an emperor. He was most patient in bearing trouble and pain and he avoided all idleness, lack of effort, sensualism, excess, pride and arrogance as one would avoid pestilence. He was good with weapons. He decided with intelligence in civil as well as spiritual matters.
He was consistent in his consideration of the mighty deeds of the old princes. In God’s house, he was focused and attentive. Not only did he listen to the holy songs, he also heeded them in his faithful temperament. In Frankfurt he had the destroyed churches rebuilt, expanded and adorned. He was very generous toward the poor. When he had several decaying churches in Regensburg and Frankfurt dismantled — in an effort to rebuild and expand them — treasures of gold were found. He distributed these to the needy. From his royal treasury he sent money to support Christians in Africa and Asia, who had asked for his help. He was incredibly smart in matters of avoiding enemy attacks or of finding out about the intentions of the commanders. He applied the law with great fervor. He examined legal arguments very diligently. He absolutely hated greed and bribery involving judges and he punished them severely. No man who cheated him, went away unpunished. He placed in charge over the provinces only to those men who did not love money. Nobody was able to gain his favor through false reverence or by means of gifts. Only few men ever even dared to try to pursue a government or church position by improper means, money or lust for power. He never again entrusted anyone again with a public office, who had been found guilty of gaining a position by improper means, whether through a hunger for power or through gifts, or pressure. He used to say, “While the fox may change his coat, he will not change his mindset. Such men would always be more aware of the danger than the mercy they had been shown and would never be true servants of their office.” He showed particular concern for suits of armor. He preferred those to be made of iron rather than gold. He forbade particularly his soldiers the wearing of gold and silk. If he saw one of his solders clad in silk or gold, he would say to him: “Listen, you fool of mortals! Isn’t it sufficient for you to find your own end? Do you also wish to hand over your belongings to the enemies and enrich them, so that they can fight us even longer and can oppose us even more easily?” He decreed that the wearing of foreign clothing be forbidden. He was strict in handling the laws on expenditures. His patriarchal frugality in regard to food and clothing was rivaled by his extreme thriftiness and temperance. He generally did not consume meat or similar foods.
Unfortunately, he repeatedly used his weapons against his own father. However, he repented of this crime under tears. He was granted the grace to see the soul of his father in purgatory more than 30 years after his father’s death. In Latin language, he was spoken to as follows: “I solemnly urge you in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ and in His threefold Majesty, that you may free me from these pains, so that I shall one day reach Eternal Life.” By means of prayers, which he said himself and ordered to be said in churches and monasteries, he came to the aid of his father’s soul.
This man was the prince to whom Emma, daughter of the mighty Bavarian Count Welf and his wife Eigilwich, a noble Saxon woman gave her hand in marriage in 827. Emma, like her sister, Judith who was the second wife of Ludwig “The Pious” was extremely beautiful and, what is worth even more, virtuous. The marriage was celebrated in Franconia, however, the exact city or imperial region is unknown. The first fruit of this marriage was a daughter, Hildegard, born in 828. Six more children followed: three sons and three daughters (Karlmann, Ludwig, Karl, Irmengard, Gisla and Berta).
Queen Emma raised her children “in great care in faith and virtue and, in particular, in the fear of the Lord. They learned to respect men and women dedicated to God as trustworthy people and friends of God and they obeyed the bishops and all servants of Holy Mother Church as they would their father.” In 833 her husband had exchanged the Obermünster (high cathedral) in Regensburg against the one at Mondsee with Bishop Baturich of Regensburg. When he gave the cathedral into Emma’s care, she expanded it and enriched it with many gifts. In addition, she herself would enjoy giving generous alms. As a lasting remembrance of this faithful and charitable Queen, it is said that every year at the anniversary of the Queen’s death, the young maidens dedicated to God would distribute meat and bread in bare feet in the high cathedral, because even Queen Emma did this charitable service in her bare feet. In late 874 she was afflicted with a nerve stroke and repented of the small mistakes in her faithful life on an extended sickbed. She died on January 31, 876 and was buried in Regensburg. Today there are differing opinions whether her grave is found in the high cathedral or in Saint Emmeram Basilica. King Ludwig, “the German,” survived his wife by a mere seven months, whose virtue was acclaimed by her own and successive generations. On August 28 he died in Frankfurt am Main and was buried in the monastic church at Lorch in the Upper Rhine region, where Duke Tasssilo, the founder of the monastery at Frauenchiemsee, had also been laid to rest.
Hildegard, the oldest daughter of Ludwig The German and Queen Emma, initially served as Abbess of the small convent for nuns in Münsterschwarzach in the Würzburg region. Her Aunt Theodorada, a daughter of Charlemagne and Queen Fastrada, had given this cloister to her for the duration of her life, so that the Church in Würzburg would become its owner after her death. However, her father decided on a more splendid position for her. He himself gifted this Court as well as the Uri land and Albis Forest to the small monastery dedicated to Saints Felix and Regula on the Zurich Maierhof. This extravagant design would allow for the Foundation to become a suitable place for the daughters of the best families to congregate, who were dedicated to God. He transferred this enriched foundation to his daughter, Hildegard, by means of an official Certificate. For only a few years, Hildegard was the Abbess of this Zurich Monastery, which soon had more than twenty members. She had asked and her father had granted to her convent the beautiful Court at Tham near Lake Zug. She had begun construction of a beautiful church for her abbey, when she died on December 23, 856 at the youthful age of a mere 28 years.
Karlmann, the oldest son of Ludwig The German and Queen Emma, looked just like his father and was the preferred child in the love of his mother. Even at a young age, his father had declared him to be his co-regent and he had been given the largest portion of the royal estate when it had been divided. As early as 861 he married a daughter of Margrave Ernst, whose name is not known to us. At a very young age he participated in the battles of his father against his uncle, Lothar. He gained great acclaim in the Moravian Wars and earned a reputation for highest valor. “The beauty of his body was extraordinary and his manliness also astounding. However, it was equaled by his kind spirit. To his people, he appeared mild; to his enemies terrifying; in conversation genial, adorned with humility.” In ruling over his kingdom he showed a tremendous amount of effort and showed himself to be a ruler not lacking in anything befitting royalty. He was well educated in the sciences, followed time-honored customs, was just, peace loving and devoted to the Christian faith.
In Bavaria, besides Altötting, a particular beneficiary of his royal generosity was the foundation at Kremsmünster. Unfortunately, Karlmann reigned only for one year in good health after the death of his father; he continued to give his name to the actions of the administration from his sickbed for another two years. For the last year, he merely kept his royal name. “The end of his life, similar to that of his mother’s, was a consequence of paralysis, the onset of which occurred in Italy in the Fall of 877. This illness had robbed him of his speech for more than one year.” In 879 he passed his reign completely on to his brother, Ludwig. After that, he lived almost unnoticed at his court in Ötting, his favorite dwelling place. He died in 880, likely on September 22 and was buried in Altötting, which he had reconstructed and dedicated to Our Most Blessed Mother.
Ludwig, the second son of Ludwig the German and his wife Emma, was smart and clever. He resembled his father physically as well as in his intelligence and imagination. His wife was Luitgard, a daughter of Count Luitolf, a Saxon. Since he had taken over the full inheritance from his brother, Karlmann, in the Fall of 879 and already accepted the homage of the entire people, another official Act of taking over the reign after Karlmann’s death was not necessary.
The short period of his reign of only five years was, however, sufficient to secure for him an honorable memory. As early as 881 he fell ill in a manner which appeared to hinder his strength. From that time on, he could no longer accomplish anything of significance. After that, he lay ill for some time and then died on January 20, 882 in his most beloved estate at Frankfurt. He was buried next to his father in Lorch Monastery. For this specific purpose he had a special chapel built, which is known as “the colorful chapel” (Bunte Kapelle).
Upon Ludwig’s death, his entire kingdom went to his youngest son, Karl, who had been born in 839 and was nicknamed “The Corpulent.” Karl, who was the least of his brothers in spiritual gifts, is said to have been quite tall. He apparently also had a docile character, a characteristic which did not make him very suitable for ruling such a vast kingdom; accordingly his rule over Franconia is viewed as very unfortunate. At the age of 23, he led Richardis home to become his wife, the daughter of a rich Alsatian Count, Erchanger. In 877, after 25 years of marriage, she separated from him and retired to a monastery founded by her in Aldlau, where she died among claims of sainthood. Three years before his death, Karl had a vision of purgatory and saw there, among other kings and princes, his father, who had died eight years earlier. The Scripture passage fulfilled itself with Karl: “The son, whom God loves, he chastises.” Karl was deposed as emperor and had to beg his nephew, Emperor Arnulf, for his livelihood. He was given several estates in Alemannia. He bore this difficult shift in circumstances and his deepest humiliation with greatest patience; in this he saw God’s Mercy which was punishing him for his sins, and he thanked God for it. However, Our Lord did not leave him hanging on this crucifix of humiliation. In November 887 he had been deposed of the throne and on January 6 of the following year, 888, he died in Neidingen on the Danube River. He is buried in Reichenau. The people honored him as a saint and martyr.
Among the daughters of Ludwig the German and Queen Emma, “Gisla” (also referred to as Gisela) is named. However, she appears to have died as a child. Berta (Bertana), on the other hand, succeeded her sister Hildegard in the administration of Münsterschwarzach, for which she owed to the Bishop of Würzburg an annual amount of ten shilling payable at Palm Sunday. And after Hildegard had finished her career so prematurely, Berta took her place in Zurich as well. At the request of her mother, Queen Emma, she too received a Letter of Protection from her father, which would exempt the monastery from being ruled by the Counts. Berta completed construction of the church, which had been started, to the finest. Her accomplishment, of which only small portions remain to date in the current “Frauenmünster” (Church in Honor of Our Lady) in Zurich, is counted among the most magnificent buildings of that time period. Ratpert, a monk at Saint Gallen, describes the grandeur of the church in one of his poems. He praises the double row of beautiful columns, adorned with imagery, high and polished, the colors which are coordinated by hands of artists and decorate the windows and the ceiling, and the walls displaying silver, ore and gold everywhere. August 11, the day of the Initial Blessing of the Church, was combined with the festive transfer of the remains of Saints Felix and Regula and became a feast day for the entire area which was observed for several centuries to follow.
Berta acquired for her Abbey a rich endowment in the blessed area of Alsace. In addition, the possessions of her Abbey increased quickly thanks to other donations. In 869 she was called by King Lothar II to mediate in a dispute between him and both her parents. On this occasion, Lothar calls her Berta dilectissima patrui nostri gloriosi regis filia. (Most beloved daughter of our Uncle, the glorious King.) She was held in equally high esteem by her brother, Ludwig, who endowed her with possessions in Alsace as well pro amore dilectissimae sororis (for love of his most beloved sister) Abbess Berta died only seven months after her father on March 26, 877.
The seventh child is Irmengard, who is discussed further in the following chapter. (NOTE: Irmengard was abbess at Buchau and then later at Frauencheimsee where her father built a monastery. Irmengard died July 16, 866 at the age of 34.)
The place of birth of any of the seven royal children is unknown. Since however, the inscription on Irmengard’s grave names specifically “Francia” (the old Franconia), Bavaria (Bojoaria) can under no circumstances be given as the place of birth for the child favored by God. But where exactly within the boundaries of the large Franconia her bassinette may have stood, whether in Frankfurt or in Aachen or somewhere in Aquitania, this is totally unknown. Ludwig the German is said to have predestined his daughter to monastic life, in an effort to avoid that her hand be given as part of the ambitious plans of the great lords. Dümmler even says he insisted she take this path. We, however, absolutely do not believe that she was in need of any pressure to move toward a spiritual state of life, since the faithful education of the royal children by their mother most certainly consisted of a rich soil on which decisions toward a more fulfilled lifestyle could come to fruition. At any rate, their lives in the monastery are plenty of proof that the daughters faithfully fulfilled the wishes of their father. By the way, Ratpert of Saint Gallen saw fit to emphasize in the beautiful inscription on the grave of Abbess Hildegard that she offered her soul to God completely of her own accord: Mentem sponte suam voverat illa Deo.
Source: Blessed Irmengard of Chiemsee, Virgin of the Order of Saint Benedict, Chapter I, Family, Ludwig “The German” and his wife, Irmengard’s siblings.
According to sources researched by M. Walburga Baumann, O.S.B.
Munich, 1922. Publisher: J. Pfeiffer (D. Hafner)
Translated from the German by Margret Setcavage