Albrecht III. (Bayern)

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Albrecht III rejects the Bohemian royal crown, print after the history painting by Johann Georg Hiltensperger (c. 1825) in the Hofgarten arcades in Munich

Albrecht III the Pious (* 27. March 1401 in Wolfratshausen; † 29. February 1460 in Munich) from the House of Wittelsbach was Duke of Bavaria-Munich. His name is connected with the affair of Agnes Bernauer; for the further time his promotion of the arts and the church, but also the expulsion of the Jews became formative.

Early years


Albrecht was the son of Duke Ernst of Bavaria-Munich with Elisabetta Visconti. He was born at the castle near Wolfratshausen, where his parents resided for years during the troubles in Munich. For a time Albrecht was raised by his aunt, Queen Sophie of Bohemia in Prague, learning Czech and studying at the university there. He fought in the Bavarian War in 1422 at the Battle of Alling, in which his father saved his life.

Duke Albrecht at the Battle of Alling, depicted at the 2019 Agnes Bernauer Festival

Agnes Bernauer Affair

The division of Bavaria-Straubing 1429

As administrator of his father he lived 1433-1435 mainly in the Munich part of the Straubinger Ländchen. Between 1431 and 1440, however, Albrecht also had the “Pluedenburg” near Munich developed into his country residence. This extension was perhaps prompted by Albrecht’s relationship (who was known as a “lover of delicate women”) with Agnes Bernauer

Since the duke’s son Albrecht took part in a tournament in Augsburg in February 1428, it is often assumed that he met Agnes on this occasion and shortly afterwards took her to live with him in Munich.[1] A Munich tax list dated 1428 already mentions a pernawin as a member of his court, who is probably Agnes Bernauer. By the summer of 1432 at the latest, Agnes Bernauer was a permanent fixture at the Munich court. She led the arrest of the robber baron Münnhauser, who had fled to the Alte Veste, and aroused the wrath of Countess Palatine Beatrix, Albrecht’s sister, by her self-confident appearance.[2] It is possible that Agnes and Albrecht were already married at this time, but no concrete evidence of a marriage exists

Duke Ernst saw in this relationship, which was not in keeping with his status, a danger to the succession. He had Agnes Bernauer arrested and drowned in the Danube near Straubing on 12 October 1435, while Albrecht was hunting with his relative Henry XVI of Bavaria-Landshut. Together with Louis VII of Bavaria-Ingolstadt, Albrecht then initially planned military steps against his father.

However, after reconciling with his father, Albrecht married Duchess Anna of Brunswick-Grubenhagen as early as 1436, with whom he then had ten children, and became co-regent. Their joint confessor was the monastic reformer and spiritual writer Johannes Rothuet from Indersdorf, who had also helped to calm the relationship between son and father, which had been disturbed by the execution of Agnes Bernauer, and thus to prevent a civil war in the duchy.[3]

Duke of Bavaria-Munich

Territorial policy

After the death of his father, Albrecht became Duke of Bavaria-Munich in 1438. Until 1441, his youthful cousin Adolf was co-heir to the duchy, but he soon died, which subsequently led to an inheritance dispute between Albrecht and Bavaria-Landshut.

After the death of King Albrecht II in 1439, the Kingdom of Bohemia continued to be divided into two parties: The Roman or Austrian Party led by Ulrich II of Rosenberg and the Calixtine National Party led by Hynek Ptáček of Pirkstein. In 1440 a Diet at Prague unanimously elected the Bavarian duke as the new king. However, he ultimately rejected the Bohemian royal crown thus offered to Albrecht due to the difficult circumstances and with regard to King Albrecht’s son Ladislaus Postumus, who was born after him.[4] Later, he compared himself with George of Podiebrad and reached an agreement together with his sons.

Politically, Albrecht, apart from a nationwide campaign against robber barons in 1444 and 1445, developed little other activity. In 1444 he joined forces with the Electoral Palatinate, Palatinate-Neumarkt and the Bishop of Regensburg, and in 1445 again with the Electoral Palatinate and Württemberg to form a regional peace. For example, Albrecht had the notorious robber baron Paul Zenger tracked down in his lair in Neuhaus near Cham and ordered 50 knights in Straubing to have their heads cut off. Albrecht also stood against the cities and the estates, especially in the new district of Straubing, where greater freedoms had previously applied due to the constant absence of the former dukes in Holland and due to the “Ottonische Handfeste” of 1311

After the extinction of the Bavarian-Ingolstadt line in 1447, he left the inheritance to the Landshut Duke Henry XVI without too much resistance, despite a hereditary agreement with Louis VIII of Bavaria-Ingolstadt already reached in 1439. Albrecht was also put on the defensive by recourse to old Landshut claims, resulting from claims to half of the inheritance of Duke Adolf, his cousin who died in 1441. In the Treaty of Erdingen of 16 December 1450, almost the entire Duchy of Ingolstadt went to Henry’s son Louis IX, and Albrecht was able to secure only small parts of the inheritance: Lichtenberg, Baierbrunn and the court of Swabia remained with Bavaria-Munich as Ingolstadt pledges. Deggendorf also reverted to Albrecht as a Landshut pledge.

Cultural policy

Albrecht’s councillors included the learned councillor, diplomat, physician and well-known writer and translator Johannes Hartlieb from 1440 until his death. Albrecht also included Thomas Pirckheimer in the ducal council. In addition, he gathered numerous artists at his court, which was to shape Munich court life for centuries from then on. The first blossoming of Munich panel painting around Gabriel Angler and other masters such as Peter Polaner the Younger, Conrad Sachs and Ulrich Neunhauser also occurred during Albrecht’s reign, as did literary translations and the promotion of the literary works of Hans Schiltberger and Michael Behaim, but also the appointment of musicians such as Konrad Paumann.

Religious policy

With the authorization of the Council of Basel, he, together with Nicholas of Cusa, pursued an active monastic reform that strengthened the sovereignty. In 1455 Albrecht founded a Benedictine monastery on the Holy Mountain at Andechs. He was considered extremely religious, which earned him his nickname the Pious, and had the Bavarian monasteries reformed. Under the influence of his uncle Johannes Grünwalder, the last antipope, Felix V, was temporarily recognized by Albrecht

As early as 1442, the Jews had been expelled throughout the duchy by Albrecht, and the Landshut Duke Ludwig then followed this example in 1450 and expelled the Jewish communities completely from his domain. Albrecht’s great-grandson Albrecht V also later forbade Jews to live in the reunited duchy from December 1551 and confirmed this in 1553.[5] It was not until 250 years later that Jewish settlement was again permitted.

Death and succession

Albrecht succumbed to gout, his longstanding ailment, in 1460 and he was buried in the monastery church at Andechs. On the day of his death, 29 February, his second eldest son Ernst also died in Straubing at the age of only 22. Before his death, Albrecht had decreed that only the two eldest sons should ever rule. This soon led to serious conflicts among his numerous sons, until in 1506 his son Albrecht IV finally enacted a primogeniture law.


Albrecht’s union with the Augsburg barber’s daughter Agnes Bernauer († 1435) produced no children.[6] On 6 November 1436 he married in Munich Duchess Anna (1420-1474), daughter of Duke Erich I of Brunswick-Grubenhagen-Einbeck and his wife Elisabeth of Brunswick-Göttingen. Ten children were born of the marriage:

  • John IV. (1437–1463);
  • Ernst (1438-1460);
  • Siegmund (1439-1501);
  • Albrecht (1440-1445);
  • Margaret (1442-1479) ⚭ 1463 Margrave Frederick I of Mantua from the House of Gonzaga (1441-1484);
  • Elisabeth (1443-1484) ⚭ 1460 Elector Ernst I of Saxony (1441-1486);
  • Albrecht IV. (1447-1508) ⚭ Archduchess Kunigunde of Austria (1465-1520);
  • Christopher (1449-1493);
  • Wolfgang (1451-1514);
  • Barbara (1454-1472), Poor Clare in the monastery of Sankt Jakob am Anger, Munich; according to contemporary tradition, she died in the call of sanctity.


  • Helga Czerny: Der Tod der bayerischen Herzöge im Spätmittelalter und in der frühen Neuzeit 1347-1579. Vorbereitungen – Sterben – Trauerfeierlichkeiten – Grablegen – Memoria (= Schriftenreihe zur bayerischen Landesgeschichte. Band 146). C.H. Beck, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-406-10742-7, pp. 197-206 (also dissertation, University of Munich 2004).
  • Bernhard Glasauer: Herzog Heinrich XVI. (1393-1450) der Reiche von Bayern-Landshut. Territorial politics between dynasty and empire (= Münchner Beiträge zur Geschichtswissenschaft. Band 5). Herbert Utz Verlag, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-8316-0899-7 (also dissertation, University of Munich 2009).
  • Georg A. Gut: Albrecht III, Duke in Bavaria, husband of Agnes Bernauer. The life of the duke and the events in Munich and Bavaria. Self-published, Munich 1993.
  • Karl Theodor von Heigel: AlbrechtIII, Duke of Bavaria-Munich. In: General German Biography (ADB). Vol. 1, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1875, pp. 231-233.
  • Renate Kremer: Die Auseinandersetzungen um das Herzogtum Bayern-Ingolstadt 1438-1450 (= Schriftenreihe zur bayerischen Landesgeschichte. Band 113). C.H. Beck, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-406-10694-3 (also dissertation, Mannheim 1989).
  • Gerda Maria Lucha: Kanzleischriftgut, Kanzlei, Rat und Regierungssystem unter Herzog Albrecht III. von Bayern-München (1438-1460). Lang, Frankfurt am Main u. a. 1993, ISBN 3-631-43942-3 (also dissertation, Munich 1990).
  • Rupert Mittermüller: Albert the Third, Duke of Munich-Straubing. 2 parts, Thomann, Landshut 1867-1869(digital copy of the 1st part).
  • Hans Rall:Albrecht III, the benevolent (the pious). In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 1, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1953, ISBN 3-428-00182-6, p. 156 f. (Digitalisat).
  • Max Spindler, Andreas Kraus (eds.): Das Alte Bayern. The territorial state from the end of the 12th century to the end of the 18th century. (= Handbook of Bavarian History. Volume II). 2. Edition. C.H. Beck, Munich 1988, ISBN 3-406-32320-0.

Web links


  1. On the origin of the Bernauerin:
    • Discussion of Kaspar Bernauer in Marita Panzer: Agnes Bernauer. The Murdered ‘Duchess’. Pustet, Regensburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-7917-2045-6, pp. 11-15.
    • For the Fastnach tournament, see the chronicle of Hektor Mülich 1348-1487. In: Die Chroniken der schwäbischen Städte. Augsburg. Volume 3. Vandenhoeck& Ruprecht, Göttingen 1965, p. 70. Quoted Huber: Agnes Bernauer im Spiegel der Quellen, Chronisten, Historiker und Literaten vom 15. bis zum 20. Jahrhundert. A source and reading book. Attenkofer, Straubing 1999, ISBN 3-931091-45-7, p. 13.
    • Claudia Märtl, referring to the scanty evidence for an origin in Augsburg, assumes that Agnes attracted Albrecht’s attention as a maid at the Munich court. See Claudia Märtl: Straubing. The Execution of Agnes Bernauer 1435. in: Alois Schmid, Katharina Weigand (eds.): Schauplätze der Geschichte in Bayern. C. H. Beck, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-406-50957-6, pp. 149-164, here : P. 154. Panzer, Agnes Bernauer, pp. 36-37 and p. 170, note 32, rejects this assumption.

  2. To Agnes Bernauer in Munich:
    • Munich City Archives, Tax Office No. 584, fol. 42 r (after Marita Panzer, Agnes Bernauer, pp. 36-37).
    • Stadtarchiv München, Kammerrechnung Stadt München 1431/32, fol. 50 v (after Alfons Huber, Agnes Bernauer im Spiegel der Quellen, p. 13). Cf. Panzer, Agnes Bernauer, pp. 38-39.
    • Stadtarchiv München, Kammerrechnung Stadt München 1431/32, fol. 51 r (after Alfons Huber, Agnes Bernauer im Spiegel der Quellen, p. 15). Cf. Panzer, Agnes Bernauer, p. 41.

  3. Bernhard Dietrich Haage: A previously unpublished letter of Johannes von Indersdorf. Everyday School Life in the Middle Ages. In: Fachprosaforschung – Grenzüberschreitungen. Vol. 10, 2014, pp. 81-88, here: S. 82.
  4. In addition Walter Ziegler: Die Wittelsbacher und der böhmische Königsthron. In: Alois Schmid, Hermann Rumschöttel (eds.): Wittelsbacher-Studien. Festgabe für Herzog Franz von Bayern zum 80. Geburtstag (= Schriftenreihe zur bayerischen Landesgeschichte. Band 166). C.H. Beck, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-406-10781-8, pp. 201-229, esp. 208-211.
  5. The dark side. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung. 17. May 2010.
  6. The children of Sibilla Neufarer and Albert vom Hof, who are mentioned again and again as children, cannot be from Agnes Bernauer: Sibilla probably had Albrecht III as her father, but married for the second time in 1444 and already had a son at that time; Albert vom Hof was an illegitimate son of Albrecht IV, who was not born until 1447. Cf. in detail Marita Panzer: Agnes Bernauer. Regensburg 2007, pp. 52-56.
Predecessor Office Successor
Ernst Duke of Bavaria-Munich
John IV.