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Ottheinrich von der Pfalz, Gemälde von Barthel Beham, 1535; Foto: Wikipedia, gemeinfrei
Builder, art collector, Protestant

Ottheinrich von der Pfalz

Prince-Elector Ottheinrich von der Pfalz (1502–1559) was an ideal Renaissance prince, creating important architectural structures and acting as a patron of the arts. He converted to the evangelical faith early on and ultimately introduced the Lutheran Reformation during his rule.

Coat of arms of Duke Ottheinrich and Duke Philipp of Bavaria. Image: Wikipedia, public

Ottheinrich initially ruled from Pfalz-Neuburg.

Who was Ottheinrich?

Ottheinrich von Bayern was the son of Ruprecht der Tugendhafte (Rupert the Good) and Elisabeth von Bayern-Landshut, a grandson of Prince-Elector Philipp von der Pfalz. In 1522, together with his brother, he assumed rule of the newly founded principality of Pfalz-Neuburg, which he later ruled alone. Not until 1556, after the death of his uncle and previous guardian, Friedrich II von der Pfalz, did Ottheinrich finally assume rule as Prince-Elector Palatine, a seat he then held until his death in 1559.

Ottheinrich Building at Heidelberg Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Günther Bayerl

Building was a passion.

Why is Ottheinrich so famous?

Already in the early years of his rule in Neuenburg, Ottheinrich began expanding his castle into a Renaissance palace, thereby acquiring great debt. His creation, the Ottheinrich Building, which also bears his name, can still be admired in Heidelberg today. Ottheinrich was also a great patron and lover of the arts: He commissioned or purchased prominent works of fine art, painting, music and book art. His library, the Bibliotheca Palatina, is still considered one of the most important libraries of its time.

What were Ottheinrich's interests?

In the early years, Ottheinrich concentrated primarily on his structures and their decor, such as the Neuburg Palace, which also boasted a pleasure garden and a menagerie with exotic animals. In 1546, when he was forced into exile and fled to Heidelberg, he began collecting books and sheet music, coins and medals. He was interested in "antiquarian" books and was able to bring manuscripts from various monasteries, such as Lorsch Monastery, to Heidelberg. He had his books re-bound according to his own ideas.

Portrait of Andreas Osiander, 1544. Image: Wikipedia, public

Andreas Osiander introduced the prince-elector to the Protestant faith.

A proponent of the Reformation?

In 1542, Ottheinrich, influenced by theologian Andreas Osiander, converted to evangelical faith. Via a decree, he implemented the Protestant faith into his principality, Pfalz-Neuburg. This was part of the reason why his principality was temporarily occupied by imperial troops during the Schmalkaldic War and why Ottheinrich had to flee in exile to Heidelberg. After coming into power in Heidelberg in 1556, he also implemented the Lutheran faith in the Electoral Palatinate. However, he was unable to complete his reform, due to his early death.

A Lutheran Electoral Palatinate?

Ottheinrich first introduced Johannes Brenz's Württemberg Church Order to the Electoral Palatinate. As suitable workforces for the reorientation of the church and university were lacking in his own state, experts were brought in from outside. This formed the basis for the various doctrines of German Protestantism in the Electoral Palatinate, which became noticeable after Ottheinrich's death in the form of conflict. His successor, Friedrich III, gave growing support to the reformed faith. He implemented the "Heidelberg Catechism," which the Palatinate followed, but which prompted the Lutherans to leave the state.

Rundporträt, auch Tondo genannt, Ottheinrichs in einem Stuckrelief im Schloss in Heidelberg; Foto: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Andrea Rachele
Titel des Heidelberger Katechismus von 1563; Foto: Wikipedia, gemeinfrei
Figur Friedrichs III. an der Fassade des Friedrichsbaus; Foto: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Julia Haseloff

Prince-Electors Ottheinrich and Friedrich III were extremely important figures for the religious affiliations of the Electoral Palatinate.

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