Leopold III


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duke of Austria. Born at Gars (Lower Austria) of the Babenberger family and educated by Altmann, bishop of Passau, he inherited the dukedom in 1095 and ruled it for the next forty years. Called the ‘Good’, he acquired a reputation for zeal for religion and the paternal care of his people. He also actively helped the First Crusade.

In the Investiture controversy, then past its most critical years, he initially supported the Concordat of Worms (1122) but later followed the emperor Henry V. whose widowed daughter he married. Together they had a large family, reputedly eighteen children. Two of the six surviving sons became famous, one as Archbishop Conrad of Salzburg and the other as a historian, Otto of Freising. In 1125, on the death of Henry, Leopold wisely renounced all claim to be German emperor.

Leopold founded or reformed several monasteries of different Orders, including Melk and Klosterneuburg, where he was buried. Although this became a place of cult and pilgrimage, historians are not uncritically favourable to him. It is said that he laid the foundations of Austria's greatness, but also of its ecclesiastical provincialism. He was canonized in 1485 and has been the patron of Austria since 1663: his feast, on 15 November, is a national holiday. Artists represent him with a crown and the model of a church.

Bibl. SS., vii. 1340–3; N.C.E., viii. 663. Life by V. O. Ludwig (1936); S. Winermayr (ed.), Sankt Leopold (1936); F. Rohrig and G. Stangler, Der heilige Leopold (1985).

Subjects: Christianity.

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