Hermann I, Landgrave of Thuringia (1190-1217), famous as a patron of medieval German poets. He was the second son of Ludwig surnamed der Eiserne (the iron one) and of Judith, sister of the Emperor Frederick I. Together with his brother Ludwig, he warred against Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony, who had been put under the ban of the empire. The brothers were defeated and taken prisoners in the battle of Weissensee (1180) but released the following year. Ludwig had been made Count Palatine of Saxony as a reward for his services to the emperor, but he transferred the dignity to Hermann, who now took up his residence at Neuenburg on the Unstrut (at present Freiburg), which he exchanged for the Wartburg castle near Eisenach, when in 1190 on the death of Ludwig he became Landgrave of Thuringia. He successfully maintained his possessions against the ambitious designs of Henry VI. In 1197 he took part in a crusade, but returned on the news of Henry’s decease. In the wars between the rival kings, Philip of Swabia and Otto of Brunswick (1198-1208), he played a conspicuous, but not very glorious, part, changing sides more than once for material advantage. As a consequence his dominions suffered fearfully, being repeatedly overrun and devastated by the armies of the rival factions. When Otto was excommunicated by Pope Innocent III, a number of German princes, among them Hermann, assembled at Nuremberg, in 1211, and chose in his place Frederick of Hohenstaufen, King of Sicily. In the struggle that ensued Thuringia was again invaded by Otto, and Hermann was reduced to great distress, from which he was saved only by the timely arrival of Frederick, the newly elected emperor, at the news of which Otto turned back. Henceforth he remained loyal to Frederick, though he was always regarded with distrust. He died at Gotha, April 25, 1217, and was buried at Reinhardsbrunn. Hermann was twice married, his second wife being Sophia, daughter of Duke Otto of Bavaria. His oldest son Ludwig, who succeeded him, was the husband of St. Elizabeth.
The liberality of the art-loving landgrave made the Thuringian Court the meeting-place of poets from all parts of Germany. Heinrich von Veldeke, Walther von der Vogelweide, and Wolfram von Eschenbach were among those who enjoyed the landgrave’s hospitality. Wolfram wrote his “Willehalm”, and Herbort von Fritzlar his “Liet von Troye”, at Hermann’s suggestion. That this generosity was not always discriminating, and hence was liable to be abused, is attested by Walther as well as Wolfram. “If a cart-load of wine”, exclaims the former, “should cost a thousand pounds, he [Hermann] would nevertheless not allow any knight’s goblet to be empty.” The famous poetic contest, which is said to have occurred at the Wartburg in 1207, and which is the subject of a poem of the thirteenth century, of unknown authorship, is purely legendary.
ARTHUR F. J. REMY