No one who studies the Holy Roman Empire of the twelfth century is able to ignore Henry the Lion (c. 1130-1195). The Welf was the Duke of Saxony as well as Bavaria, and, only second to the Emperor, the most powerful ruler of the Empire. His nickname is already mentioned in contemporaneous sources.
He was ambitious, efficient, and ruthless. His neighbors in Saxony, the Slavs, as well as Emperor Frederick I. Barbarossa, knew this all too well. He additionally had a healthy dose of self-confidence. This is for example illustrated by the copy of a lion monument in front of his castle Dankwarderode in Braunschweig.
This monument, erected around 1170, is worth mentioning not only for its size - art historians consider it to be the eldest preserved full-scale statue in medieval Europe north of the Alps. The sculpture underlined Henry's claim to power. The material used, bronze, emphasized the monument's extraordinary rank.
Yet, the bronze lion could not protect the great man from a deep fall. After Barbarossa had settled his affairs in Italy, he set his eye on Henry. Around 1180, the Duke was ostracized and sent into exile to his father-in-law, King Henry II of England.
His faithful follower, Bernhard II of Lippe, is supposed to have visited him there, after he had fallen into disgrace as well. In the end, Barbarossa forgave both.
The Lion nevertheless went into exile anew. Bernhard began a new career, first as a Cistercian monk, subsequently as abbot in Dünamunde, and finally as bishop of Semigallia in Livonia.
Translation: Erik Eising (M.A.)