The Case of Eupraxia of Kyiv

Eupraxia of Kyiv was born circa 1070 as the daughter of Vsevolod I, Prince of Kyiv and his wife, Anna. As with many women from the medieval eastern European Kingdom of Rus’, there is very little information about her, despite the fact that she married a Holy Roman Emperor. There is just one surviving primary source from this period, known in English as the Russian Primary Chronicle, and it mostly mentions any woman in passing. Three women stand out: Olga of Kyiv, Ianka Vsevolodovna and Eupraxia. Eupraxia is mentioned just twice; firstly, in 1106, it mentions that she took the veil, and secondly, in 1109, it mentions that she has died on 10 July and was laid to rest in the Crypt Monastery by the southern portal.

Luckily, she appears in Latin sources for medieval Europe. The Annalista Saxo from 1082 mentions her marrying Henry III, “the Long” of Stade, Margrave of the Saxon Nordmark. That source also mentions that she is known “in our language” as Adelheid, and “she arrived in this country with much pomp, with camels burdened with previous clothes and stones, and also with countless riches.” Her husband died not long after their wedding, and Eupraxia, now a childless widow, was turned away from Stade.

She is recorded by the chronicler Ekkehard as marrying the recently widowed Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV. “The Emperor celebrated, in Cologne, his wedding, taking to wife the widow of Margrave Udo (Henry III), the daughter of the King of Rus’.” Their marriage provided a link between the German Empire and Rus’, now allied against Poland, trapped in the middle. It was not a happy marriage, and it is recorded in 1094 in the Annalista Saxo that they have separated. This may have just been the tip of the iceberg. Bernold of St. Blasien notes that Eupraxia escaped from the guards that her husband had set on her and managed to find safety with Duke Welf and Countess Mathilda of Tuscany, who also happened to be Henry IV’s opponents. He also records that she was mistreated by her husband. Even more dramatically, Bernold of St. Blasien records Eupraxia’s own account,

In this synod Queen Praxedis (Eupraxia), who had long been separated from Henry, complained to the lord pope and to the holy synod about her husband and the unheard-of filthy acts of fornication that she had suffered from her husband. The lord pope, together with the holy synod received her complaint most mercifully because he was quite certain that she herself had not committed such foul offences but had endured them unwillingly.

Eupraxia returned home to Rus’ in 1097, and several sources record that she entered a nunnery in 1106. It is not known why she waited to enter the nunnery, although it has been suggested that she waited for Henry IV, her “earthly husband”, to pass away before becoming a bride of Christ.

She died in 1109 and was buried in the Kievan Caves Monastery (mentioned above as the Crypt Monastery) and, at the time was the only woman to have her chapel there. She then fades from the pages of history, only to remain in a few sentences.1

  1. C. Raffensperger, ‘The Missing Russian Women: The Case of Evpraksia Vsevolodovna,’ in Writing Medieval Women’s Lives (ed. Goldy, Livingstone) (2012)

About Moniek Bloks 2765 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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