This is a fast-paced and colorful exploration of the life of Matilda of Canossa (c. 1046–1115), the woman who loved a pope and was loved by him, successfully defied the Holy Roman Emperor, and changed the map of Europe. A new kind of history, this biography also carries the flavor of present-day Italy. Matilda of Canossa, the “Great Countess,” was a remarkable woman. Her personal power was so extraordinary that even centuries after her death she became the first woman to be interred in St. Peter’s Basilica. She is best remembered for her role in the conflict between the papacy and the Holy Roman emperor, the climax of which took place at her castle of Canossa. This unique biography is also a journal of the author’s travels through contemporary Tuscany as she explores the palaces where Matilda held court, the blood-stained plains on which her soldiers battled, the churches and cathedrals she endowed, and the fortified aeries where she sought refuge. Readers will be swept along on this engrossing journey retracing the steps of a courageous and brilliant woman.
Michèle K. Spike is a lawyer and historian who has lived in Florence since 1989. She has collaborated with her husband, John Spike, on numerous books on Italian painters, including Mattia Preti and Caravaggio.