Henry the Lion – a name which is connected to the city history like the beer. But who was this guy? And was he really so important for Munich? Follow the Munich Greeters back to the beginning of Munich.
The history tells us that Henry the Lion was the founder of Munich. He destroyed a bridge, owned by the prince-bishop of Freising near what today is the borough “Oberföhring” in 1158 and then redirected the salt trade route over his own bridge next to Munich. The traders had to give then bridge crossing taxes to Duke Heinrich. This made the prince-bishop of Freising upset and he called on Emperor Frederick Barbarossa where he complained vehemently about the loss of his bridge and his taxes. Barbarossa decided that Henry the Lion could keep the trade route and tax income, but has to give one-third of the income to the prince-bishop of Freising. Everyone was happy and Munich grew from a small settlement to a quite wealthy medieval town.
This is what most tourist guides tell. Usually, the history about the founding of Munich stops here.
But there is more to tell about Henry the Lion and Munich.
Henry, who was from northern Germany (Brunswick) was the cousin of emperor Frederick Barbarossa and helped him in 1155 to get Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (now you will see the decision of Barbarossa from another angle). After that, Frederick supported Henry and made him Duke of Bavaria (17.09.1156). Henry was known to be a guy that was always looking for a way to spread his territory and increase his income. So no wonder that only two years after he was newly appointed Duke of Bavaria, he tried to make money out of, generating bridge-taxes. But this history shouldn’t end well. Emperor Frederick Barbarossa had some problems with italian regions, especially Milan and with the pope. Therefore he sent troops to defeat these revolting municipalities. As he did not have enough troops, he asked his good friend Henry the Lion and other loyal dukes. And they sent troops to Italy to support the emperor’s war.
But from 1167 on, many military leaders and dukes died in Italy. Some of them did not have a heir, so the emperor got their countries and gave them to other, “new” dukes. This also happened to a county of a relative of Henry the Lion. The history behind this would be a bit too long for a blog, so all you need to know is, that Henry got really upset and from 1175 on refused to help Barbarossa in Italy. This led to some lost battles and Barbarossa was forced to sign peace treaties. The emperor was extremely furious about disloyal Henry and degraded him to a “normal aristocrat”. Henry lost Bavaria and his homeland Saxony. Barbarossa gave Bavaria to Otto von Wittelsbach (the Wittelsbach family should then rule Bavaria until 1918 – 738 years). Henry went into exile in southern England. When he tried to get back in 1185, he was again sent into exile to England, where he joined Richard I (Richard the Lionheart).
You see. Henry the Lion was not necessarily a nice guy. Some historians also say he did not give a rip about Munich and Bavaria. He isn’t even buried in Munich, but in his hometown Brunswick. In Munich he only left the history and you can find a statue of him quite hidden on the “Alte Rathaus” (old town hall). The statue of Henry looks down “Tal”-street to “Isartor”, where his bridge was.