John, Margrave of Brandenburg-Kulmbach

John, Margrave of Brandenburg-Kulmbach

John, nicknamed the Alchemist ( _de. Johann der Alchimist; 1406 – 16 November 1464), was a Margrave of Brandenburg-Kulmbach and served as the peace-loving Margrave of Brandenburg after the abdication of his father, Frederick I, the first member of the House of Hohenzollern to rule Brandenburg.


John was the eldest son of Frederick I, Margrave of Brandenburg (1371-1440) and Elisabeth of Bavaria-Landshut (1383-1442), daughter of Frederick, Duke of Bavaria, and his second wife Magdalena Visconti of Milan.

After marrying Barbara of Saxe-Wittenberg (1405-1465), daughter of Rudolf III, Duke of Saxe-Wittenberg, John hoped to eventually succeed to Saxe-Wittenberg once its line of Ascanian dukes died out. When this happened in November 1422, however, Emperor Sigismund was on poorer terms with the Hohenzollerns and was only willing to compensate John with a money payment.

John began participating in governmental affairs in Brandenburg in 1424. Frustrated by disputes with the feudal nobility, Frederick I retired to his castle at Cadolzburg in Franconia in 1425, granting the regency of Brandenburg to John at a "Landtag" in Rathenow on January 13 1426, while retaining the electoral dignity for himself.

John was poorly received by the populace of Brandenburg, as his administration was incompetent, leading to unrest in the countryside. Rather than governing, John was more interested in artificially creating gold through alchemy, thereby receiving the cognomen "the Alchemist". Realizing the danger Brandenburg was in, Frederick I granted John Franconian lands in Brandenburg-Kulmbach on June 7 1437, territory rich with mines for the Alchemist to indulge his hobby in. The governance of Brandenburg passed to Frederick I's second-oldest son, Frederick II.

After his younger brother Albert Achilles defeated a Hussite army in 1431, John and Albert went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to atone for their sins. Their retinue began its journey in Nuremberg on March 2 1431, reached their destination in the Holy Land on May 30, stayed until June 6, and returned to Nuremberg on September 25. Despite his pacific nature, John knighted Albert Achilles in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

After the death of Frederick I in 1440, John inherited all of Brandenburg-Kulmbach, including the castle of Plassenburg in Kulmbach. In his later years, he allowed Christopher of Bavaria to administer his possessions in the Upper Palatinate until Christopher's death in 1448. John ruled as Margrave of Brandenburg-Kulmbach until abdicating in 1457, which allowed him to dedicate himself toward studying alchemy and the environs of Franconia. He died in Castle Scharfeneck near Baiersdorf in 1464.

Family and children

John of Brandenburg-Kulmbach and Barbara of Saxe-Wittenberg had four children:
# Rudolf, born and died in 1424
# Barbara (1423 – 7 November 1481), married:
## on 12 November 1433 to Marquis Louis III of Mantoue;
# Elisabeth (1425 – after 13 January 1465), married:
## on 27 August 1440 to Duke Joachim, Duke of Pomerania;
## on 5 March 1454 to Duke Wratislaw X, Duke of Pomerania.
# Dorothea (1431 – 10 November, 1495), married:
## on 12 September 1445 to King Christopher III of Denmark;
## on 28 October 1449 to King Christian I of Denmark.


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*Eulenberg, Herbert. "The Hohenzollerns". Translated by M.M. Bozman. The Century Co. New York, 1929.

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