- Not to be confused with Canosa in southern Italy.
Canossa (Province of Reggio Emilia) is a comune and castle town in Emilia-Romagna, famous as the site where Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV did penance in 1077, standing three days bare-headed in the snow, in order to reverse his excommunication by Pope Gregory VII. The Walk to Canossa is sometimes used as a symbol of the changing relationship between the medieval Church and State.
Canossa has a population of 3,376, and borders the comuni of Casina, Castelnovo ne' Monti, Neviano degli Arduini (PR), San Polo d'Enza, Traversetolo (PR), Vetto, and Vezzano sul Crostolo. The town was formerly known as Ciano d'Enza, while Canossa was the name of only the castle, now in ruins, once belonging to Matilda of Tuscany, and nearby hamlet, which lie some 8 kms (about 5 m.) east of the town. In 1992, however, the municipalty and town were renamed Canossa after the most renowned few acres of its territory.
Adelaide of Italy, in the 10th century the daughter, daughter-in-law, and widow in turn of three kings, was hard pressed by a local nobleman, Berengar of Ivrea, who declared himself king of Italy, abducted Adelaide, and tried to legitimize his reign by forcing Adelaide to marry his son Adalbert; but she escaped to Canossa. From the rocca of Canossa she called for German intervention. Canossa was inherited by Matilda of Tuscany, the principal Italian supporter of Pope Gregory VII, in 1052. Matilda invited Pope Gregory VII to take refuge in Canossa Castle in 1076/77 during the dispute with Henry IV, the Holy Roman Emperor. In the end their joint fears proved groundless when Henry appeared in the guise of a penitent and begged for forgiveness and reinstatement in the church. After three days of waiting at the castle gates, Henry was admitted and forgiven. Matilda died in 1115 in Mantuan territory.
The fortress was destroyed by invaders from Reggio Emilia in 1256. The church of San Apollonio, within the castle walls and contemporary with the castle, was also destroyed. Only the christening font remains, preserved in the Naborre Campanini national museum next to the remains of the wall.
Perched spectacularly on top of the white cliffs of the Apennines, the castle is a ruin today. Because of its historical importance more than 30,000 tourists come here each year, especially from Germany.
Saint Magdalen of Canossa is an Italian saint of the early 19th century, who founded the Institute of the Daughters of Charity and in whose name Canossian schools have been established in many countries.
- This event is described in greater detail in the article Walk to Canossa.