January, 1077 A.D. Forgiveness of Canossa

In the midst of the Investiture controversy and during a particularly harsh winter, Emperor Henry IV and his army reached the castle of Canossa where Matilda had offered asylum to Gregory VII, in order to obtain from the Pope the revocation of the excommunication imposed on him and the reinstatement of his full powers. For three days he stood barefoot in the snow, just outside of the castle’s walls and only covered by light woollen clothes. This episode has been known down in history as the ‘Forgiveness of Canossa’. Matilde of Tuscany was the mediator and guarantor of this ‘spectacular ceremony’. Another woman stands out among the ones who were assisting at this episode: Bertha of Savoy (1051 – 1087), wife of Henry IV. 150 years earlier, in 930, Adalberto Atto, ancestor of Matilde, had hosted in the castle walls the queen Adelaide, persecuted by Berengario, future empress of Europe.