[Flower logo of the Medieval History Course]Otto III (890-1002)

Otto III (890-1002) and the secular government
Though he lived to be only twenty-two, Otto III (890-1002) had a grand vision of recreating the power of the secular government above that of the spiritual. As king, he secured the election of his twenty-three-year-old cousin as the first German pope (Pope Gregory V), and he was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by this pope in 996. Otto having returned with his army ti Italy, at last capturing Rome the following year. He ordered the torture and execution of Crescentius, deposed the antipope,and restored Gregory V to the papal throne. He also made Rome his residence and the empire's administrative heart. Upon Gregory's death in 999, Otto effected the installment of Sylvester II, a former tutor sympathetic to Otto's vision of himself as a theoratic emperor.

The scence illustrated in this northern European Renaissance painting is from an account by the twelfth-century historian Godfrey of Viterbo. A count of Otto's court, accused of adultery with the empress, is executed in the left-hand panel (not shown here). In the panel shown, Otto, distrusting the empress, forces her to undergo trial by fire. She hold a piece of red-hot metal that has been heated in the burning embers at her feet. Since she is burned, the test "proves" her guilt, and she is burned at the stake (top of the panel).

Dierik(Dirk) Bouts.justice of Emperor Otto III. Right panel.1470-1475. Oil on panel.12'11" X 6'7 1/2"(393.7 X 201.9cm). Muse'es Royaux Des Beaux-Arts,brussels.