Frederick I Barbarossa: Wikis


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Frederick Barbarossa, middle, flanked by his two children, King Henry VI (left) and Duke Frederick VI (right). From the Welf Chronicle

Frederick I Barbarossa[1] (1122 – 10 June 1190) was elected King of Germany at Frankfurt on 4 March 1152 and crowned in Aachen on 9 March, crowned King of Italy in Pavia in 1154, and finally crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Adrian IV on 18 June 1155. He was crowned King of Burgundy at Arles on 30 June 1178. The name Barbarossa came from the northern Italian cities he attempted to rule, and means "red beard".

Before his royal election, he was by inheritance Duke of Swabia (1147–1152, as Frederick III). He was the son of Duke Frederick II of the Hohenstaufen dynasty. His mother was Judith, daughter of Henry IX, Duke of Bavaria, from the rival House of Welf, and Frederick therefore descended from Germany's two leading families, making him an acceptable choice for the Empire's prince-electors.


Life and reign

Early years

Frederick was born in 1122. In 1147 he became Duke of Swabia, and shortly afterwards made his first trip to the East, accompanying his uncle, the German king Conrad III, on the Second Crusade. The expedition proved to be a disaster, but Frederick distinguished himself and won the complete confidence of the king. When Conrad died in February 1152, only Frederick and the prince-bishop of Bamberg were at his deathbed. Both asserted afterwards that Conrad had, in full possession of his mental powers, handed the royal insignia to Frederick and indicated that Frederick, rather than Conrad's own six-year-old son, the future Frederick IV, Duke of Swabia, should succeed him as king. Frederick energetically pursued the crown and at Frankfurt on 4 March the kingdom's princely electors designated him as the next German king. He was crowned at Aachen several days later. At that time, there was a distinction between the election of a candidate who was "king of the Romans", but installed in Germany, and the coronation in Rome which consummated the position as emperor. Frederick was made king of the Romans at Aachen in March 9 1152. He was crowned Holy Roman Emperor, by the Pope, at Rome on June 18, 1155.[2] Frederick I was of the Hohenstaufen family on his father's side and of the Welf family on his mother's side. These were the two most powerful families in Germany. The Hohenstaufens were often called Ghibellines because of a city they owned in Swabia. The Welfs were called Guelfs.[3]

The reigns of Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor and Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor left the status of the German empire in disarray. Power had waned under the weight of the Investiture controversy. For a quarter of a century following Henry V's death in 1125 the German monarchy was largely a nominal title with no real power. The king was chosen by the princes, given no resources outside those of his own duchy, and prevented from exercising any real authority or leadership in the realm. The royal title was furthermore passed from one family to another to preclude the development of any dynastic interest in the German crown. When Frederick I of Hohenstaufen was chosen as king in 1152, the royal power had been in effective abeyance for twenty five years, and to a considerable degree, for more than eighty years. The only real claim to wealth lay in the rich cities of northern Italy, which were still within the nominal control of the German king.[4] The Salian line had died out with the death of Henry V in 1125. The German princes refused to give the crown to his nephew, the duke of Swabia for fear he would try to regain the imperial power held by Henry V. Instead, they chose Lothiar (1125-1137), who found himself embroiled in a long running dispute with the Hohenstaufens, and who married into the Welfs. One of the Hohenstaufens gained the throne as Conrad III of Germany (1137-1152). When Frederick Barbarossa succeeded his uncle in 1152, there seemed to be excellent prospects for ending the feud, since he was a Welf on his mother's side. But the Welf duke of Saxony, Henry the Lion would not be appeased. He remained an implacable enemy of the Hohenstaufen monarchy. Barbarossa had the duchies of Swabia and Franconia, the force of his own personality and very little else to construct an empire.[5]

The Germany that Frederick tried to unite was a patchwork of more than 1600 individual states, each with its own prince. A few of these such as Bavaria and Saxony were large. Many were too small to pinpoint on a map.[6] The titles afforded to the German king were "Caesar", "Augustus" and "Emperor of the Romans". By the time Frederick would assume these, they were little more than propaganda slogans with little other meaning.[7] Frederick was a pragmatist who dealt with the princes by finding a mutual self-interest. Unlike Henry II of England, Frederick did not attempt to end medieval feudalism, but rather tried to restore it. But this was beyond his ability. The great players in the German civil war had been the Pope, Emperor, Ghibillines and the Guelfs. None of these had emerged the winner.[8]

Rise to power

Eager to restore the Empire to the position it had occupied under Charlemagne and Otto I the Great, the new king saw clearly that the restoration of order in Germany was a necessary preliminary to the enforcement of the imperial rights in Italy. Issuing a general order for peace, he made lavish concessions to the nobles. Abroad, Frederick intervened in the Danish civil war between Svend III and Valdemar I of Denmark and began negotiations with the East Roman emperor, Manuel I Comnenus. It was probably about this time that the king obtained papal assent for the annulment of his childless marriage with Adelheid of Vohburg, on the grounds of consanguinity (his great-great-grandfather was a brother of Adela's great-great-great-grandmother, making them fourth cousins, once removed). He then made a vain effort to obtain a bride from the court of Constantinople. On his accession Frederick had communicated the news of his election to Pope Eugene III, but had neglected to ask for the papal confirmation. In March 1153, Frederick concluded the treaty of Constance with the Pope whereby, in return for his coronation, he promised to defend the papacy, to make no peace with king Roger II of Sicily or other enemies of the Church without the consent of Eugene and to help Eugene regain control of the city of Rome. [9]

Reign and wars in Italy

Frederick undertook six expeditions into Italy. In the first he was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in Rome by Pope Adrian IV, following the suppression by Imperial forces of the republican city commune led by Arnold of Brescia. During the 1155 campaign in Rome, Frederick quickly allied forces with Pope Adrian IV to regain the city. The major opposition was led by Arnold of Brescia, a student of Abelard. Arnold was captured and hanged for treason and rebellion. Despite his unorthodox teaching concerning theology, Arnold was not charged with heresy.[10] Frederick left Italy in the autumn of 1155 to prepare for a new and more formidable campaign.

Disorder was again rampant in Germany, especially in Bavaria, but general peace was restored by Frederick's vigorous, but conciliatory, measures. The duchy of Bavaria was transferred from Henry II Jasomirgott, margrave of Austria, to Frederick's formidable younger cousin Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony, of the House of Guelph, whose father had previously held both duchies. Henry II Jasomirgott was named duke of Austria in compensation for his loss of Bavaria. As part of his general policy of concessions of formal power to the German princes and ending the civil wars within the kingdom, Frederick further appeased Henry by issuing him with the Privilegium Minus, granting him unprecedented entitlements as Duke of Austria. This was a large concession on the part of Frederick, who realized that Henry the Lion had to be accommodated, even to the point of sharing some power with him. He could not afford to make an outright enemy of Henry.[11] On 9 June 1156 at Würzburg, Frederick married Beatrice of Burgundy, daughter and heiress of Renaud III, thus adding to his possessions the sizeable realm of the County of Burgundy.

Frederick Barbarossa in a 13th century chronicle

His uncle, Otto of Freising, wrote an account of Frederick's reign entitled Gesta Friderici I imperatoris (Deeds of the Emperor Frederick). Otto died after finishing the first two books, leaving the last two to Rahewin, his provost. The text is in places heavily dependent on classical precedent. [12] For example, Rahewin's physical description of Frederick:

His character is such that not even those envious of his power can belittle its praise. His person is well-proportioned. He is shorter than very tall men, but taller and more noble than men of medium height. His hair is golden, curling a little above his forehead... His eyes are sharp and piercing, his beard reddish, his lips delicate... His whole face is bright and cheerful. His teeth are even and snow-white in color... Modesty rather than anger causes him to blush frequently. His shoulders are rather broad, and he is strongly built...

reproduces word for word (except for details of hair and beard) a description of another monarch written nearly eight hundred years earlier by Sidonius Apollinaris.[13]

In June 1158, Frederick set out upon his second Italian expedition, accompanied by Henry the Lion and his Saxon troops. This expedition resulted in the establishment of imperial officers in the cities of northern Italy, the revolt and capture of Milan, and the beginning of the long struggle with Pope Alexander III. In response to his excommunication by the pope in 1160, Frederick declared his support for Antipope Victor IV.[14] Frederick attempted to convoke a joint council with King Louis of France in 1162 to decide the issue of who should be pope. Louis came near the meeting site but, when he became aware that Frederick had stacked the votes for Alexander, Louis decided not to attend the council. As a result the issue was not resolved at that time. [15]

The political result of the struggle with Pope Alexander was that the Norman state of Sicily and Pope Alexander III formed an alliance against Frederick. [16] Returning to Germany towards the close of 1162, Frederick prevented the escalation of conflicts between Henry the Lion from Saxony and a number of neighbouring princes who were growing weary of Henry's power, influence and territorial gains. He also severely punished the citizens of Mainz for their rebellion against Archbishop Arnold. The next visit to Italy in 1163 saw his plans for the conquest of Sicily ruined by the formation of a powerful league against him, brought together mainly by opposition to imperial taxes.

In 1164 Frederick took what are believed to be the relics of the "Biblical Magi" (the Wise Men or Three Kings) from Milan and gave them as a gift (or as loot) to the Archbishop of Cologne, Rainald of Dassel. The relics had great religious significance and could be counted upon to draw pilgrims from all over Christendom. Today they are kept in the Shrine of the Three Kings in the Cologne cathedral.

Frederick then focused on restoring peace in the Rhineland, where he organized a magnificent celebration of the canonization of Charles the Great (Charlemagne) at Aachen. In October 1166, he went once more on journey to Italy to secure the claim of his Antipope Paschal III, and the coronation of his wife Beatrice as Holy Roman Empress. This time, Henry the Lion refused to join Frederick on his Italian trip, tending instead to his own disputes with neighbors and his continuing expansion into Slavic territories in northeastern Germany. Frederick's forces achieved a great victory over the Romans at the Battle of Monte Porzio, but his campaign was stopped by the sudden outbreak of an epidemic (malaria or the plague), which threatened to destroy the Imperial army and drove the emperor as a fugitive to Germany, where he remained for the ensuing six years. During this period, Frederick decided conflicting claims to various bishoprics, asserted imperial authority over Bohemia, Poland, and Hungary, initiated friendly relations with the Byzantine emperor Manuel I Comnenus, and tried to come to a better understanding with Henry II of England and Louis VII of France. Many Swabian counts, including his cousin the young Duke of Swabia, Frederick IV, died in 1167, so he was able to organize a new mighty territory in the Duchy of Swabia under his reign in this time. His little son Frederick V became the new Duke of Swabia.

Later years

In 1174, Frederick made his fifth expedition to Italy but was opposed by the pro-papal Lombard League (now joined by Venice, Sicily and Constantinople) which had previously formed to stand against him.[17] The cities of northern Italy had become exceedingly wealthy through trade, and represented a marked turning point in the transition from medieval feudalism. While continental feudalism had remained strong socially and economically, it was in deep political decline by the time of Frederick Barbarossa. When the northern Italian cities inflicted a defeat on Frederick, the European world was shocked that such a thing could happen. [18] With the refusal of Henry the Lion to bring help to Italy, the campaign was a complete failure. Frederick was able to march through Northern Italy and occupy Rome with his self-appointed Antipope Paschal III, but the Lombards rose up behind him while a severe fever crippled his army.[17] Frederick suffered a heavy defeat at the Battle of Legnano near Milan, on 29 May 1176, where he was wounded and for some time was believed to be dead. This battle marked the turning point in Frederick's claim to empire. [19] He had no choice other than to begin negotiations for peace with Alexander III and the Lombard League. In the Peace of Anagni in 1176, Frederick recognized Alexander III as Pope and in the Peace of Venice, 1177, Frederick and Alexander III were formally reconciled. [20] The scene was similar to that which had occurred between Pope Gregory VII and Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor at Canossa a century earlier. The conflict was the same as that resolved in the Concordat of Worms. Did the Holy Roman Emperor have the power to name the pope and bishops? The Investiture controversy from previous centuries had been brought to a tendentious peace with the Concordat of Worms and affirmed in the First Council of the Lateran. Now it had recurred, in a slightly different form. Frederick had to humble himself before Pope Alexander III at Venice. The Emperor acknowledged the Pope's sovereignty over the Papal States, and in return Alexander acknowledged the Emperor's overlordship of the Imperial Church. Also in the Peace of Venice, a truce was made with the Lombard cities,which took effect in August, 1178.[21] But the grounds for a permanent peace were established only in 1183, when, in the Peace of Constance, Frederick conceded their right to freely elect town magistrates. By this move, Frederick recovered his nominal domination over Italy. This became his chief means of applying pressure on the papacy. [22]

Frederick did not forgive Henry the Lion for refusing to come to his aid in 1174. By 1180, Henry had successfully established a powerful and contiguous state comprising Saxony, Bavaria and substantial territories in the north and east of Germany. Taking advantage of the hostility of other German princes to Henry, Frederick had Henry tried in absentia by a court of bishops and princes in 1180, declared that Imperial law overruled traditional German law, and had Henry stripped of his lands and declared an outlaw. [23] He then invaded Saxony with an Imperial army to bring his cousin to his knees. Henry's allies deserted him, and he finally had to submit in November 1181. He spent three years in exile at the court of his father-in-law Henry II of England in Normandy, before being allowed back into Germany. He finished his days in Germany, as the much-diminished Duke of Brunswick. Frederick's desire for revenge was sated. Henry the Lion lived a relatively quiet life, sponsoring arts and architecture. German feudalism was different from English feudalism. While the pledge of fealty went in a direct line from overlords to those under them, the Germans pledged oaths only to the direct over lord. Those lower in the feudal chain owed nothing to Frederick. Despite the diminished stature of Henry the Lion, Frederick was unable to establish English feudalism into Germany. [24] Frederick was faced with the reality of disorder among the German states where continuous civil wars were waged between pretenders and the ambitious who wanted the crown for themselves. Italian unity under German rule was more myth than truth. Despite proclamations of German hegemony, the pope was the most powerful force in Italy. [25] When Frederick returned to Germany after his defeat in northern Italy, he was a bitter and exhausted man. The German princes, far from being subordinated to royal control, were intensifying their hold on wealth and power in Germany and entrenching their positions. There began to be a generalized social desire to "create of greater Germany" by conquering the Slavs to the east. [26]

Frederick held a massive celebration when his two eldest sons were knighted in 1184. Thousands of knights were invited from all over Europe. While payments upon the knighting of a son were part of the expectations in of an overlord in England and France, only a "gift" was given in Germany for such an occasion. Frederick's monetary gain from this celebration is said to have been modest. [27]

Third Crusade and death

The death of Frederic Barbarossa. From the Gotha Manuscript of the Saxon Chronicle.

Pope Urban III died shortly after, and was succeeded by Gregory VIII, who was more concerned with troubling reports from the Holy Land than with a power struggle with Barbarossa. After making his peace with the new Pope, Frederick vowed to take up the cross at the Diet of Mainz in 1188.[17] Frederick embarked on the Third Crusade (1189), a massive expedition in conjunction with the French, led by king Philip Augustus, and the English, under Richard the Lionheart. He organized a grand army of 100,000 men (including 20,000 knights) and set out on the overland route to the Holy Land.[28] However, some historians believe that this is an exaggeration and that the true figure might be closer to 15,000 men, including 3,000 knights.[29]

The Crusaders passed through Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria and then entered Byzantine territory, arriving at Constantinople in the autumn of 1189. When they were in Hungary, the Barbarossa personally asked the Hungarian Prince Géza, brother of the king Béla III of Hungary, to join the Crusade so a Hungarian army of 2.000 men led by Géza also advanced along with the German Emperor. The forces coming from west Europe pushed on through Anatolia (where they were victorious in taking Aksehir and Konya) and entered Cilician Armenia. The approach of the immense German army greatly concerned Saladin and the other Muslim leaders, who began to rally troops of their own to confront Barbarossa's forces.

However, on 10 June 1190, Emperor Frederick drowned in the Saleph River as his army was approaching Antioch from Armenia; Arab historians report that his army had encamped before the river, and that the Emperor had gone to the river to bathe when he was carried away by the current and drowned in it.[30]

Frederick's death plunged his army into chaos. Leaderless, panicking, and attacked on all sides by Turks, many Germans deserted, were killed, or even committed suicide. Only 5,000 soldiers, a small fraction of the original force, arrived in Acre. Barbarossa's son, Frederick VI of Swabia, carried on with the remnants of the German army, along with the Hungarian army under the command of the prince Géza, with the aim of burying the Emperor in Jerusalem, but efforts to conserve his body in vinegar failed. Hence, his flesh was interred in the Church of St Peter in Antiochia, his bones in the cathedral of Tyre, and his heart and inner organs in Tarsus. In the end, the actions of both Frederick Barbarossa and his son have been judged anachronistic, blind and an example of ill-fated heroism.[31]

The unexpected demise of Frederick left the Crusader army under the command of the rivals Philip II of France and Richard I of England ("Lionheart"), who had traveled to Palestine separately by sea, and ultimately led to its dissolution. Richard continued to the East where he fought Saladin, but failed to accomplish the Crusaders' original goal of capturing Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

Frederick and the Justinian code

Because of the increase in wealth of the trading cities of northern Italy, there occurred a revival in the study of the Justinian Code. This was a Latin legal system which had become extinct in earlier centuries. Legal scholars renewed its application. It is speculated that Pope Gregory VII personally encouraged the Justinian rule of law, and possessed a copy of it. Corpus Iuris Civilis (Justinian Body of Civil Law) has been described as the greatest code of law ever devised. It envisaged the law of the state as a reflection of natural moral law, the principle of rationality in the universe. By the time Frederick assumed the throne, this legal system was well established on both sides of the Alps. He was the first to utilize the availability of the new professional class of lawyers. The Civil Law allowed Frederick to use these lawyers to administer his kingdom in a logical and consistent manner. It also provided a framework to legitimize his claim to the right to rule both Germany and northern Italy. In the old days of Henry VI and Henry V, the claim of divine right of kings had been severely undermined by the Investiture controversy. The Church had won that argument in the common man's mind. There was no divine right for the German king to also control the church by naming both bishops and popes. The institution of the Justinian code was used, perhaps unscrupulously, by Frederick to lay claim to divine powers. [32]

In Germany, Frederick was a political realist, taking what he could and leaving the rest. In Italy, he tended to be a romantic reactionary, reveling in the antiquarian spirit of the age, exemplified by a revival of classical studies and Roman law. It was through the use of the restored Justinian code that Frederick came to view himself a the new Roman emperor. [33] Roman law gave a rational purpose, for the existence of Frederick and his imperial ambitions. It was a counterweight to the claims of the Church to have authority because of divine revelation. The Church was opposed to Frederick for ideological reasons, not the least of which was the humanist nature found in the revival of the old Roman legal system. [34] When Pepin the Short sought to become king of the Franks, the church needed military protection. Pepin found it convenient to make an ally of the pope. Frederick desired to put the pope aside and claim the crown of old Rome simply because he was in the likeness of the greatest emperors of the pre-Christian era. Pope Adrian IV was naturally opposed to this view and undertook a vigorous propaganda campaign which was designed to diminish Frederick and his ambition. To a large extent, this was successful. [35]

Charismatic leader

Historians have compared Henry II of England and Frederick Barbarossa. Both were considered the greatest and most charismatic leaders of their age. Each had a rare combination of qualities that made him appear superhuman to his contemporaries. Each possessed longevity, boundless ambition, extraordinary organizing skill, and greatness on the battlefield. Both men were handsome and proficient in courtly skills, without appearing effeminate or affected. Both came to the throne in the prime of manhood. Each had an element of learning, without being considered impractical intellectuals, but rather more inclined to practicality. Each found himself in the possession of new legal institutions which were put to creative use in governing. Both Henry and Frederick were viewed to be sufficiently and formally devout to the teachings of the Church, without being moved to the extremes of spirituality seen in the great saints of the twelfth century. In making final decisions, each relied solely upon their own judgment. [36] Both were interested in gathering as much power as they could. [37]

Frederick's charisma led to a fantastic juggling act which over a quarter of a century, restored the imperial authority in the German states. His formidable enemies defeated him on almost every side, yet, in the end, he emerged triumphant. When Frederick came to the throne, the prospects for the revival of German imperial power were extremely thin. The great German princes had increased their power and land holdings. The king had been left with only the traditional family domains and a vestige of power over the bishops and abbeys. The backwash of the Investiture controversy had left the German states in continuous turmoil. Rival states were in perpetual war. These conditions allowed Frederick to be both warrior and occasional peace-maker, both to his advantage. [38]


Frederick sends out the boy to see whether the ravens still fly.

Frederick is the subject of many legends, including that of a sleeping hero, like the much older British Celtic legends of Arthur or Bran the Blessed. Legend says he is not dead, but asleep with his knights in a cave in the Kyffhäuser mountain in Thuringia or Mount Untersberg in Bavaria, Germany, and that when the ravens cease to fly around the mountain he will awake and restore Germany to its ancient greatness. According to the story, his red beard has grown through the table at which he sits. His eyes are half closed in sleep, but now and then he raises his hand and sends a boy out to see if the ravens have stopped flying. [39] A similar story, set in Sicily, was earlier attested about his grandson, Frederick II.[40] The Kyffhäuser Monument atop the Kyffhäuser commemorates Frederick.

In medieval Europe, the Golden Legend became refined by Jacopo da Voragine. This was a popularized interpretation of the Biblical end of the world. It consisted of three things: (1) Terrible natural disasters; (2) the arrival of the Antichrist; (3) the establishment of a good king to combat the anti-Christ. These millennial fables were common and freely traded by the populations on Continental Europe. End-time tales and myths had been around since at least the time of a hermit monk named Peter who wrote them down in the 8th century. German propaganda played into this belief by characterizing Frederick Barbarossa and Frederick II as personification of the "good king." [41]

Frederick's uncle, Otto, bishop of Freising wrote a biography entitled The Deeds of Frederick Barbarosa, which is considered to be an accurate history of the king. Otto's other major work, The Two Cities was an exposition of the work of St. Augustine of Hippo of a similar title. The latter work was full of Augustinian negativity concerning the nature of the world and history. His work on Frederick is of opposite tone, being an optimistic portrayal of the glorious potentials of imperial authority. (See description supra.) [42]

Another legend states that when Barbarossa was in the process of seizing Milan in 1158, his wife, the Empress Beatrice, was taken captive by the enraged Milanese and forced to ride through the city on a donkey in a humiliating manner. Some sources of this legend indicate that Barbarossa implemented his revenge for this insult by forcing the magistrates of the city to remove a fig from the anus of a donkey using only their teeth. [43] Another source states that Barbarossa took his wrath upon every able-bodied man in the city, and that it was not a fig they were forced to hold in their mouth, but excrement from the donkey. To add to this debasement, they were made to announce, "Ecco la fica", (meaning "behold the fig"), with the feces still in their mouths. It is said that the insulting gesture, (called fico), of holding one's fist with the thumb in between the middle and forefinger came by its origin from this event. [44]

The German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 was codenamed Operation Barbarossa.

Frederick's descendants by his wife Beatrix

  1. Sophie (b. 1161 - d. 1187), married to Margrave William VI of Montferrat.
  2. Beatrice (b. 1162 - d. 1174). She was betrothed to King William II of Sicily but died before they could be married.
  3. Frederick V, Duke of Swabia (b. Pavia, 16 July 1164 - d. 28 November 1170).
  4. Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor (b. Nijmegen, November 1165 - d. Messina, 28 September 1197).
  5. Conrad (b. Modigliana, February 1167 - d. Acre, 20 January 1191), later renamed Frederick VI, Duke of Swabia after the death of his older brother.
  6. Daughter (Gisela?) (b. October/November 1168 - d. 1184).
  7. Otto I, Count of Burgundy (b. June/July 1170 - killed, Besançon, 13 January 1200).
  8. Conrad II, Duke of Swabia and Rothenburg (b. February/Marc 1172 - killed, Durlach, 15 August 1196).
  9. Renaud (b. October/November 1173 - d. in infancy).
  10. William (b. June/July 1176 - d. in infancy).
  11. Philip of Swabia (b. August 1177- killed, Bamberg, 21 June 1208) King of Germany in 1198.
  12. Agnes (b. 1181 - d. 8 October 1184). She was betrothed to King Emeric of Hungary but died before they could be married.


Frederick Barbarossa in fiction

  • Umberto Eco's novel Baudolino (2000) is set partly at Frederick's court, and also deals with the mystery of Frederick's death. The imaginary hero, Baudolino, is the Emperor's adopted son and confidant.
  • John Crowley's novel Little, Big (1981) features Frederick Barbarossa as a character in modern times, awoken from his centuries of sleep.
  • The Land of Unreason, by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt, mentions the castle of the Kyffhäuser.
  • In The Thomas Crown Affair (1999 film), the title character is said to be in possession of "an ornament worn by Frederick Barbarossa at his coronation in 1152."
  • The computer game Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings has a campaign which follows Fredrick Barbarossa from the period of his struggles in Germany to his death on the Third Crusade. It is of note that Barbarossa never appears as an actual soldier in the game, though the objective of the final level (after his death) is to take a unit named "Emperor in a Barrel" to the Dome of The Rock in Jerusalem.
  • In the computer game Stronghold Warchest, Emperor Frederick is an AI opponent that players can challenge in skirmish play.
  • Frederick is a character in the PC game Stronghold: Crusader.
  • The computer game Medieval II Total War: Kingdoms features Frederik Barbarossa in the crusade campaign. Barbarossa launches a crusade to the Holy land with 100,000 strong men. During the next 'turn,' he drowns in the sea and because of his death the crusade is canceled.
  • Andreas Seiler's novel Real Wizard (2008) is an attribution to the 1,000 year old myth, with aspects of life and death of the Emperor. It includes a generalised German history of unification as a background to the story. ISBN 9780646496252


  1. ^ Meaning Redbeard.
  2. ^ Le Goff, J. Medieval Civilization, 400-1500, Barnes and Noble, New York, 2000, p. 266.
  3. ^ Dahmus, J. The Middle Ages, A Popular History, Garden City, New York, 1969, p. 300-302.
  4. ^ Cantor, N. F. Medieval History, Macmillan and Company, 1969, p. 302-3.
  5. ^ Cantor, N. F., ibid. p. 428-429.
  6. ^ Dahmus, p. 359, ibid.
  7. ^ Brown, R. A., The Origins of Modern Europe, Boydell Press, 1972.
  8. ^ Davis, R. H. C. A History of Medieval Europe, Longmans, 1957, p. 318-319.
  9. ^ Falco, G. The Holy Roman Republic, Barnes and Co., New York, 1964, p. 218 et seq.
  10. ^ Cantor, N. F., ibid. p. 368-9.
  11. ^ Davis, R. H. C., A History of Medieval Europe, Longmans, 1957, p. 319.
  12. ^ Cantor, N. F., ibid p. 360.
  13. ^ Sidonius Apollinaris, Epistles 1.2, a description of Theodoric II of the Visigoths (453-66). See Mierow and Emery (1953) p. 331.
  14. ^ Dahmus, J., The Middle Ages, A Popular History, Doubleday & Co. Garden City, New York, 1969, p. 295.
  15. ^ Munz, Peter. Frederick Barbarossa: A Study in Medieval Politics. Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London, 1969, p. 228.
  16. ^ Davis, R. H. C., p. 326-7, ibid.
  17. ^ a b c Kampers, Franz. "Frederick I (Barbarossa)". The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 21 May 2009.
  18. ^ Le Goff, J. Medieval Civilization 400-1500. Barnes and Noble, New York, 2000, p. 104; reprint of B. Arthaud. La civilization de l'Occident medieval, Paris, 1964.
  19. ^ Davis, R. H. C., p. 332 et seq., ibid.
  20. ^ Brown, R. A., p. 164-5 "The Origins of Modern Europe", Boydell, 1972
  21. ^ online in the Yale Avalon project
  22. ^ Le Goff, J., ibid. p. 96-97
  23. ^ Davis, R. H. C., p. 333, ibid.
  24. ^ Cantor, N. F., ibid. pp. 433-434.
  25. ^ Le Goff, J. ibid. pp. 102-3.
  26. ^ Cantor, N. F., ibid. p. 429.
  27. ^ Dahmus, J., p. 240 "The Middle Ages, A Popular History", Doubleday & Co., Inc. Garden City, New York, 1968
  28. ^ J. Phillips, The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople, 66
  29. ^ Konstam, Historical Atlas of the Crusades, 162
  30. ^ See, eg, Ibn Al-Athir, XII, 30-32
  31. ^ Falco, Giorgio, p. 15 The Holy Roman Republic, Barnes and Co., New York, 1964
  32. ^ Cantor, N. F., ibid., p. 340-342
  33. ^ Davis, R. H. C., p. 322, ibid.
  34. ^ Davis, R. H. C., p. 324
  35. ^ Davis, R. H. C., p. 325, ibid.
  36. ^ Cantor, N. F., ibid. p. 422-423
  37. ^ Cantor, N. F., ibid. p. 424
  38. ^ Cantor, N. F., ibid. p. 428-429
  39. ^ Brown, R. A., p. 172, ibid.
  40. ^ Kantorowicz, Frederick II; last chapter
  41. ^ Le Goff, J., ibid. p. 190
  42. ^ Cantor, N. F., ibid. p. 359-360
  43. ^ Walford, Edward, John Charles Cox, and George Latimer Apperson. "Digit Folklore part II". The Antiquary: A Magazine Devoted to the Study of the Past 1885 Volume XI: January-June.
  44. ^ Novobatzky, Peter and Ammon Shea. Depraved and Insulting English. Orlando: Harcourt, 2001


  • Otto of Freising and his continuator Rahewin, The deeds of Frederick Barbarossa tr. Charles Christopher Mierow with Richard Emery. New York: Columbia University Press, 1953. Reprinted: Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994.
  • Ibn al-Athir
  • Romuald of Salerno. Chronicon in Rerum Italicarum scriptores.
  • Otto of Sankt Blasien
  • The "Bergamo Master". Carmen de gestis Frederici I imperatoris in Lombardia.
  • Haverkamp, Alfred. Friedrich Barbarossa, 1992
  • Novobatzky, Peter and Ammon Shea. Depraved and Insulting English. Orlando: Harcourt, 2001
  • Munz, Peter. "Frederick Barbarossa: A Study in Medieval Politics". Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London, 1969
  • Opll, Ferdinand. Friedrich Barbarossa, 1998
  • Reston, James. Warriors of God, 2001
  • Walford, Edward, John Charles Cox, and George Latimer Apperson. "Digit Folklore part II". The Antiquary: A Magazine Devoted to the Study of the Past 1885 Volume XI: January-June.
  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

See also

External links

Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor
Born: 1122 Died: 1190
German royalty
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Conrad III
German King
formally King of the Romans

Succeeded by
Henry VI
King of Italy
Preceded by
Lothair II
King of Arles
Holy Roman Emperor
Preceded by
Frederick II
Duke of Swabia
Succeeded by
Frederick IV
Preceded by
Renaud III
Count Palatine of Burgundy by marriage
with Beatrice I of Burgundy
as 'Frederick I'

Succeeded by
Otto I


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

FREDERICK I. (c. 1123-11 9 o), Roman emperor, surnamed "Barbarossa" by the Italians, was the son of Frederick II. of Hohenstaufen, duke of Swabia, and Judith, daughter of Henry IX. the Black, duke of Bavaria. The precise date and place of his birth, together with details of his early life, are wanting; but in 1143 he assisted his maternal uncle, Count Welf VI., in his attempts to conquer Bavaria, and by his conduct in several local feuds earned the reputation of a brave and skilful warrior. When his father died in 11 4 7 Frederick became duke of Swabia, and immediately afterwards accompanied his uncle, the German king Conrad III., on his disastrous crusade, during which he greatly distinguished himself and won the complete confidence of the king. Abandoning the cause of the Welfs, he fought for Conrad against them, and in 1152 the dying king advised the princes to choose Frederick as his successor to the exclusion of his own young son. Energetically pressing his candidature, he was chosen German king at Frankfort on the 4th or 5th of March 1152, and crowned at Aix-la-Chapelle on the 9th of the same month, owing his election partly to his personal qualities, and partly to the fact that he united in himself the blood of the rival families of Welf and Waiblingen.

The new king was anxious to restore the Empire to the position it had occupied under Charlemagne and Otto the Great, and saw clearly that the restoration of order in Germany was a necessary preliminary to the enforcement of the imperial rights in Italy. Issuing a general order for peace, he was prodigal in his concessions to the nobles. Count Welf was made duke of Spoleto and margrave of Tuscany; Berthold VI., duke of Zahringen, was entrusted with extensive rights in Burgundy; and the king's nephew, Frederick, received. the duchy of Swabia. Abroad Frederick decided a quarrel for the Danish throne in favour of Svend, or Peter as he is sometimes called, who did homage for his kingdom, and negotiations were begun with the East Roman emperor, Manuel Comnenus. It was probably about this time that the king obtained a divorce from his wife Adela, daughter of Dietpold, margrave of Vohburg and Cham, on the ground of consanguinity, and made a vain effort to obtain a bride from the court of Constantinople. On his accession Frederick had communicated the news of his election to Pope Eugenius III., but neglected to ask for the papal confirmation. In spite of this omission, however, and of some trouble arising from a double election to the archbishopric of Magdeburg, a treaty was concluded between king and pope at Constance in March 1153, by which Frederick promised in return for his coronation to make no peace with Roger I. king of Sicily, or with the rebellious Romans, without the consent of Eugenius, and generally to help and defend the papacy.

The journey to Italy made by the king in 1154 was the precursor of five other expeditions which engaged his main energies for thirty years, during which the subjugation of the peninsula was the central and abiding aim of his policy. Meeting the new pope, Adrian IV., near Nepi, Frederick at first refused to hold his stirrup; but after some negotiations he consented and received the kiss of peace, which was followed by his coronation as emperor at Rome on the 18th of June 1155. As his slender forces were inadequate to encounter the fierce hostility which he aroused, he left Italy in the autumn of 1155 to prepare for a new and more formidable campaign. Disorder was again rampant in Germany, especially in Bavaria, but general peace was restored by Frederick's vigorous measures. Bavaria was transferred from Henry II. Jasomirgott, margrave of Austria, to Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony; and the former was pacified by the erection of his margraviate into a duchy, while Frederick's step-brother Conrad was invested with the Palatinate of the Rhine. On the 9th of June 1156 the king was married at Wiirzburg to Beatrix, daughter and heiress of the dead count of Upper Burgundy, Renaud III., when Upper Burgundy or Franche Comte, as it is sometimes called, was added to his possessions. An expedition into Poland reduced Duke Boleslaus IV. to an abject submission, after which Frederick received the homage of the Burgundian nobles at a diet held at Besancon in October 1157, which was marked by a quarrel between pope and emperor. A Swedish archbishop, returning from Rome, had been seized by robbers, and as Frederick had not punished the offenders Adrian sent two legates to remonstrate. The papal letter when translated referred to the imperial crown as a benefice conferred by the pope, and its reading aroused great indignation. The emperor had to protect the legates from the fury of the nobles; and afterwards issued a manifesto to his subjects declaring that he held the Empire from God alone, to which Adrian replied that he had used the ambiguous word beneficia as meaning benefits, and not in its feudal sense.

In June 1158 Frederick set out upon his second Italian expedition, which was signalized by the establishment of imperial officers called podestas in the cities of northern Italy, the revolt and capture of Milan, and the beginning of the long struggle with pope Alexander III., who excommunicated the emperor on the 2nd of March 1160. During this visit Frederick summoned the doctors of Bologna to the diet held near Roncaglia in November 1158, and as a result of their inquiries into the rights belonging to the kingdom of Italy he obtained a large amount of wealth. Returning to Germany towards the close of 1162, Frederick prevented a conflict between Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony, and a number of neighbouring princes, and severely punished the citizens of Mainz for their rebellion against Archbishop Arnold. A further visit to Italy in 1163 saw his plans for the conquest of Sicily checked by the formation of a powerful league against him, brought together mainly by the exactions of the podestas and the enforcement of the rights declared by the doctors of Bologna. Frederick had supported an anti-pope Victor IV. against Alexander, and on Victor's death in 1163 a new antipope called Paschal III. was chosen to succeed him. Having tried in vain to secure the general recognition of Victor and Paschal in Europe, the emperor held a diet at Wiirzburg in May 1165; and by taking an oath, followed by many of the clergy and nobles, to remain true to Paschal and his successors, brought about a schism in the German church. A temporary alliance with Henry II., king of England, the magnificent celebration of the canonization of Charlemagne at Aix-la-Chapelle, and the restoration of peace in the Rhineland, occupied Frederick's attention until October 1166, when he made his fourth journey to Italy. Having captured Ancona, he marched to Rome, stormed the Leonine city, and procured the enthronement of Paschal, and the coronation of his wife Beatrix; but his victorious career was stopped by the sudden outbreak of a pestilence which destroyed the German army and drove the emperor as a fugitive to Germany, where he remained for the ensuing six years. Henry the Lion was again saved from a threatening combination; conflicting claims to various bishoprics were decided; and the imperial authority was asserted over Bohemia, Poland and Hungary. Friendly relations were entered into with the emperor Manuel, and attempts made to come to a better understanding with Henry II., king of England, and Louis VII., king of France. In 1174, when Frederick made his fifth expedition to Italy, the Lombard league had been formed, and the fortress of Alessandria raised to check his progress. The campaign was a complete failure. The refusal of Henry the Lion to bring help into Italy was followed by the defeat of the emperor at Legnano on the 29th of May 1176, when he was wounded and believed to be dead. Reaching Pavia, he began negotiations for peace with Alexander, which ripened into the treaty of Venice in August 1177, and at the same time a truce with the Lombard league was arranged for six years. Frederick, loosed from the papal ban, recognized Alexander as the rightful pope, and in July 1177 knelt before him and kissed his feet. The possession of the vast estates left by Matilda, marchioness of Tuscany, and claimed by both pope and emperor, was to be decided by arbitration, and in October 1178 the emperor was again in Germany. Various small feuds were suppressed; Henry the Lion was deprived of his duchy, which was dismembered, and sent into exile; a treaty was made with the Lombard league at Constance in June 1183; and most important of all, Frederick's son Henry was betrothed in 1184 to Constance, daughter of Roger I., king of Sicily, and aunt and heiress of the reigning king, William II. This betrothal, which threatened to unite Sicily with the Empire, made it difficult for Frederick, when during his last Italian expedition in 1184 he met Pope Lucius III. at Verona, to establish friendly relations with the papacy. Further causes of trouble arose, moreover, and when the potentates separated the question of Matilda's estates was undecided; and Lucius had refused to crown Henry or to recognize the German clergy who had been ordained during the schism. Frederick then formed an alliance with Milan, where the citizens witnessed a great festival on the 27th of January 1186. The emperor, who had been crowned king of Burgundy, or Arles, at Arles on the 30th of July 1178, had this ceremony repeated; while his son Henry was crowned king of Italy and married to Constance, who was crowned queen of Germany.

The quarrel with the papacy was continued with the new pope Urban III., and open warfare was begun. But Frederick was soon recalled to Germany by the news of a revolt raised by Philip of Heinsberg, archbishop of Cologne, in alliance with the pope. The German clergy remained loyal to the emperor, and hostilities were checked by the death of Urban and the election of a new pope as Gregory VIII., who adopted a more friendly policy towards the emperor. In 1188 Philip submitted, and immediately afterwards Frederick took the cross in order to stop the victorious career of Saladin, who had just taken Jerusalem. After extensive preparations he left Regensburg in May 1189 at the head of a splendid army, and having overcome the hostility of the East Roman emperor Isaac Angelus, marched into Asia Minor. On the 10th of June 1190 Frederick was either bathing or crossing the river Calycadnus (Geuksu), near Seleucia (Selefke) in Cilicia, when he was carried away by the stream and drowned. The place of his burial is unknown, and the legend which says he still sits in a cavern in the Kyffhauser mountain in Thuringia waiting until the need of his country shall call him, is now thought to refer, at least in its earlier form, to his grandson, the emperor Frederick II. He left by his wife, Beatrix, five sons, of whom the eldest afterwards became emperor as Henry VI.

Frederick's reign, on the whole, was a happy and prosperous time for Germany. He encouraged the growth of towns, easily suppressed the few risings against his authority, and took strong and successful measures to establish order. Even after the severe reverses which he experienced in Italy, his position in Germany was never seriously weakened; and in 1181, when, almost without striking a blow, he deprived Henry the Lion of his duchy, he seemed stronger than ever. This power rested upon his earnest and commanding personality, and also upon the support which he received from the German church, the possession of a valuable private domain, and the care with which he exacted feudal dues from his dependents.

Frederick I. is said to have taken Charlemagne as his model; but the contest in which he engaged was entirely different both in character and results from that in which his great predecessor achieved such a wonderful temporary success. Though Frederick failed to subdue the republics, the failure can scarcely be said to reflect either on his prudence as a statesman or his skill as a general, for his ascendancy was finally overthrown rather by the ravages of pestilence than by the might of human arms. In Germany his resolute will and sagacious administration subdued or disarmed all discontent, and he not only succeeded in welding the various rival interests into a unity of devotion to himself against which papal intrigues were comparatively powerless, but won for the empire a prestige such as it had not possessed since the time of Otto the Great. The wide contrast between his German and Italian rule is strikingly exemplified in the fact that, while he endeavoured to overthrow the republics in Italy, he held in check the power of the nobles in Germany, by conferring municipal franchises and independent rights on the principal cities. Even in Italy, though his general course of action was warped by wrong prepossessions, he in many instances manifested exceptional practical sagacity in dealing with immediate difficulties and emergencies. Possessing frank and open manners, untiring and unresting energy, and a prowess which found its native element in difficulty and danger, he seemed the embodiment of the chivalrous and warlike spirit of his age, and was the model of all the qualities which then won highest admiration. Stern and ambitious he certainly was, but his aims can scarcely be said to have exceeded his prerogatives as emperor; and though he had sometimes recourse when in straits to expedients almost diabolically ingenious in their cruelty, yet his general conduct was marked by a clemency which in that age was exceptional. His quarrel with the papacy was an inherited conflict, not reflecting at all on his religious faith, but the inevitable consequence of inconsistent theories of government, which had been created and could be dissipated only by a long series of events. His interference in the quarrels of the republics was not only quite justifiable from the relation in which he stood to them, but seemed absolutely necessary. From the beginning, however, he treated the Italians, as indeed was only natural, less as rebellious subjects than as conquered aliens; and it must be admitted that in regard to them the only effective portion of his procedure was, not his energetic measures of repression nor his brilliant victories, but, after the battle of Legnano, his quiet and cheerful acceptance of the inevitable, and the consequent complete change in his policy, by which if he did not obtain the great object of his ambition, he at least did much to render innoxious for the Empire his previous mistakes.

In appearance Frederick was a man of well-proportioned, medium stature, with flowing yellow hair and a reddish beard. He delighted in hunting and the reading of history, was zealous in his attention to public business, and his private life was unimpeachable. Carlyle's tribute to him is interesting: "No king so furnished out with apparatus and arena, with personal faculty to rule and scene to do it in, has appeared elsewhere. A magnificent, magnanimous man; holding the reins of the world, not quite in the imaginary sense; scourging anarchy down, and urging noble effort up, really on a grand scale. A terror to evildoers and a praise to well-doers in this world, probably beyond what was ever seen since." The principal contemporary authority for the earlier part of the reign of Frederick is the Gesta Friderici imperatoris, mainly the work of Otto, bishop of Freising. This is continued from 1156 to i 160 by Rahewin, a canon of Freising, and from 1160 to 1170 by an anonymous author. The various annals and chronicles of the period, among which may be mentioned the Chronica regia Coloniensis and the Annales Magdeburgenses, are also important. Other authorities for the different periods in Frederick's reign are Tageno of Passau, Descriptio expeditionis asiaticae Friderici I.; Burchard, Historia Friderici imperatoris magni; Godfrey of Viterbo, Carmen de gestis Friderici I., which are all found in the Monumenta Germaniae historica. Scriptores (Hanover and Berlin, 1826-1892); Otto Morena of Lodi, Historia rerum Laudensium, continued by his son, Acerbus, also in the Monumenta; Ansbert, Historia de expeditione Friderici, 1187-1196, published in the Fontes rerum Austriacarum. Scriptores (Vienna, 1855 fol.). Many valuable documents are found in the Monumenta Germaniae selecta, Band iv., edited by M. Doeberl (Munich, 1889-1890).

The best modern authorities are J. Jastrow, Deutsche Geschichte im Zeitalter der Hohenstaufen (Berlin, 1893); W. von Giesebrecht, Geschichte der deutschen Kaiserzeit, Band iv. (Brunswick, 18 77); H. von Btinau, Leben and Thaten Friedrichs I. (Leipzig, 1872); H. Prutz, Kaiser Friedrich I. (Dantzig, 1871-1874); C. Peters, Die Wahl Kaiser Friedrichs I. in the Forschungen zur deutschen Geschichte, Band xx. (Göttingen, 1862-1886); W. Gundlach, Barbarossalieder (Innsbruck, 1899). For a complete bibliography see DahlmannWaitz, Quellenkunde der deutschen Geschichte (Göttingen, 1894), and U. Chevalier, Repertoire des sources historiques du moyen age, tome iii. (Paris, 1904).

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