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Bertha of Sulzbach

Byzantine empress of german descent
The basics
Date of birth Sulzbach-Rosenberg, Amberg-Sulzbach, Upper Palatinate, Bavaria
Date of death 1159 Constantinople
Spouse: Manuel I Komnenos
Children: Maria Komnene
Father: Berengar II of Sulzbach
Sister(s): Gertrude of Sulzbach Matilda of Sulzbach
Mother: Adelheid of Wolfratshausen
Brother(s): Gebhard III Count of Sulzbach
Authority VIAF id
The details

Bertha of Sulzbach (1110s – August 29, 1159) was a Byzantine Empress by marriage to Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Comnenus.


She was born in Sulzbach, a daughter of Berengar II, Count of Sulzbach (c. 1080 – 3 December 1125) and his second spouse Adelheid of Wolfratshausen. He was one of the rulers who signed the Concordat of Worms (23 September 1122). In August, 1125, Berengar is mentioned in documents of Lothair III, King of the Romans. The death of Berengar is mentioned four months later.


Emissaries of the Byzantine emperor John II Comnenus arrived in Germany, seeking an alliance against Roger II of Sicily. To seal the alliance, the emissaries requested that Conrad send a princess of his family to be married to the emperor's son, Manuel. Instead, Conrad selected his sister-in-law, Bertha, and sent her to Greece escorted by Emicho von Leiningen, the Bishop of Würzburg.

By the time Bertha arrived at the Imperial court in Constantinople, the emperor John was dead, and his son Manuel was now the reigning emperor. Manuel delayed marrying her for three years, until shortly after Epiphany 1146, at which point she became empress and was renamed "Irene" (Εἰρήνη), a common name for foreign-born princesses. As an introduction for her to the Hellenic culture she was marrying into, John Tzetzes wrote his Allegories on the Iliad.

Bertha-Irene was noted for shunning the frivolity of the luxurious Byzantine court; Basil of Ochrid, the archbishop of Thessalonica, praised her for her modesty and piety, and Nicetas Choniates (53sq.) noted that she did not wear face-paint. The patriarch of Constantinople, Cosmas II Atticus, who had been accused of heresy, allegedly cursed Bertha-Irene's womb in 1147 to prevent her bearing a son.

Bertha-Irene died in Constantinople in 1159. Her husband Manuel was described as "roaring like a lion" in grief at her death, despite his infidelities during her lifetime. He remarried, in 1161, to Maria of Antioch.


She and Manuel had two daughters:

  1. Maria Comnena (1152–1182), who married Renier of Montferrat.
  2. Anna Comnena (1154–1158).


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