Archbishop of Mainz (1161-1165 and 1183-1200), archbishop of Salzburg (1177-1183), and papal legate on the Crusade of Emperor Henry VI (1197-1198).
Conrad was born around the year 1130, the son of Otto V, count of Wittelsbach. He was educated in the cathedral school of Salzburg and then either at Paris or Bologna. In 1161 he was elected archbishop of Mainz with the support of Frederick I Barbarossa, Holy Roman Emperor, but was deposed after he decided to support Pope Alexander III rather than the rival imperialist candidate. After spending the intervening years in Alexander’s service with the rank of cardinal priest (1165) and cardinal bishop (1166), he was made archbishop of Salzburg after peace was concluded between pope and emperor in the Treaty of Venice (1177). He was restored to the see of Mainz after the death of the archbishop who had replaced him there, Christian of Buch; he was also named as papal legate for Germany.
Conrad took the cross in 1195 and was enthusiastic in recruiting for the forthcoming crusade of Frederick I’s son, Emperor Henry VI. He was particularly keen that the crusade should leave at Christmas 1196, the departure date fixed at the diet of Gelnhausen after an initial postponement from Christmas 1195. To this end he was instrumental in persuading the German princes to elect the emperor’s son Frederick (II) as king of Germany, so that the succession would be secured before the departure of the crusade.
Conrad left Germany in January 1197 and reached Rome by the end of the month. There he held discussions with Pope Celestine III, and was probably named as legate to the crusade on this occasion. After a meeting with Emperor Henry VI, he set sail (probably from Bari or Brindisi) in April; however, as the majority of the crusaders had still not arrived at the southern Italian ports, those who accompanied Conrad comprised only an advance contingent. This force, carried on some thirty vessels, arrived in Palestine in May.
After the arrival of the main army under Conrad of Quer- furt, bishop of Hildesheim, Conrad of Mainz sailed with the fleet via Tyre (mod. Soûr, Lebanon) as far as Beirut. While the rest of the crusade forces marched inland to besiege the castle of Toron, Conrad left the army to travel to the court of Leon II, prince of Cilicia, on whom he was to bestow a royal crown in recognition of Leon’s acceptance of imperial overlordship. This mission had originally been meant to be carried out by Conrad of Querfurt, whose authority as imperial chancellor, however, ceased on the death of Henry VI (28 September 1197). As the pope had already given Conrad of Mainz the task of concluding negotiations regarding the union of the Latin and Armenian churches, it seems that in the confused situation following the emperor’s death, the leaders of the crusade decided that it would be best for the papal legate to carry out both missions. On 6 January 1198 Conrad crowned Leon as king of Cilicia (numbered as Leon I) in a magnificent ceremony at Tarsos (mod. Tarsus, Turkey), acting as representative of both pope and emperor.
Conrad was back in Palestine by March, when he was present at the foundation of the Teutonic Order in Acre (mod. ‘Akko, Israel). He remained in the Holy Land longer than most of the other participants of the crusade of 1197-1198, not returning to the West until the summer of 1199. After the proclamation of another crusade by the new pope, Innocent III, Conrad again took the cross, with the evident intention of taking part in what became the Fourth Crusade (1202-1204). He died on 25 October 1200 while preparations for the expedition were still in progress.