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the great) (912-973. German king and emperor. A member of the Saxon dynasty, he succeeded his father, Henry I, in 936. By emphasizing his position as head of the Christians in Germany, Otto revived Charlemagne's alliance of church and state. He reasserted the old Carolingian rights over the appointment and control of ecclesiastical lords, established new bishoprics in frontier districts to support missionary activities, and patronized to a limited extent the cultural and scholarly endeavors of the church. Otto's policy was that of giving political power to the church in order to counterbalance the secular lords.
In foreign affairs he kept France weak and divided, defeated the Magyars at the Lechfeld in 955, pursued a Germanization policy east of the Elbe River, and extended his control over Italy. His coronation by John XII in 962 marked the foundation of the, a union of the Roman imperial title with the German kingship which included only Germany and part of Italy. Although the Ottonian empire was based on an alliance of church and state, the two partners' interests were by no means identical. Otto's action in deposing and replacing the unpopular John set a clear precedent for imperial control of the papacy.