Canossa (Province of Reggio Emilia) is a comune and castle town in Emilia-Romagna, famous as the site where Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV did penance in 1077, standing three days bare-headed in the snow, in order to reverse his excommunication by Pope Gregory VII. The Walk to Canossa is sometimes used as a symbol of the changing relationship between the medieval Church and State.
Canossa Castle was built before the middle of the 10th century by Adalberto Atto, son of Sigifred of Lucca. When Adelaide of Italy, the respective daughter, daughter-in-law, and widow of the last three kings of Italy was hard pressed by a local noble, Berengar of Ivrea, who declared himself king of Italy, abducted Adelaide, and tried to legitimize his reign by forcing Adelaide to marry his son Adalbert, it was to Canossa that she escaped: from the rocca of Canossa she issued a call for German intervention. Canossa was inherited by Matilda of Tuscany, the principal Italian supporter of Pope Gregory VII, in 1052. Matilde died in 1115 in Mantuan territory.
The fortress was destroyed by invaders from Reggio in 1256. Perched spectacularly on top of the white cliffs of the Apennines, the castle is an abandoned ruin today. Because of its historical importance each year more than 30,000 tourists come here, especially from Germany.
The church of San Apollonio within the walls, contemporary of the castle, was also destroyed, only the christening font remains, preserved in the national museum "Naborre Campanini" next to the remains of the wall.
Saint Magdalen of Canossa is an Italian saint of the early 19th century, who set up the Institute of the Daughters of Charity and in whose name the Canossian schools have been set up in many countries.