Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor

From Metapedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Frederick I challenged papal authority and sought to ensure continue German dominance in western Europe. He engaged in a long struggle with the cities of northern Italy (1154–83), sending six major expeditions southward. He died while on the Third Crusade.

Frederick I (German: Friedrich I.; 1122 – 10 June 1190), known as "Barbarossa" because of his red beard by the Italians, was a Germanic prince, who was elected King of Germany at Frankfurt on 4 March 1152 and crowned in Aachen on 9 March 1152, also crowned King of Italy at Pavia in 1154 and finally crowned Roman-German Emperor by Pope Adrian IV on 18 June 1155. He was additionally crowned King of Burgundy at Arles on 30 June 1178.

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. One of Germany's greatest rulers of the Middle Ages, Barbarossa unites Germany and seeks salvation in the Holy Land. The contemporary historian Rahewin, an important German chronicler at the abbey of Freising in Bavaria, secretary and chaplain to Bishop Otto von Freising, states about Frederick I, that "the whole world recognized him as the most powerful and most merciful ruler".


Frederick Barbarossa at the Imperial Diet (Reichshoftag) in Besançon; Frederick stops Otto I, Duke of Bavaria from striking Cardinal Roland (later Pope Alexander III), who had insulted him. A painting by Hermann Plüddemann (1859).
  • Duke (Herzog) of Swabia 6 April 1147 – 4 March 1152
  • King of Burgundy 1152 – 10 June 1190 (Coronation 30 June 1178, Arles)
  • King (König) of Germany 4 March 1152 – 10 June 1190 (Coronation 9 March 1152, Aachen)
  • King of Italy 1155 – 10 June 1190 (Coronation 24 April 1155, Pavia)
  • Holy Roman Emperor 1155 – 10 June 1190 (Coronation 18 June 1155, Rome)

Life and Reign

"Death of Frederick of Germany" by Gustave Doré
"Friedrich Barbarossa's Death", after a painting from Julius Schnorr
"Frederick Barbarossa Memorial" (Silifke, Turkey)

Frederick Barbarossa was born in mid-December 1122 in Haguenau, to Frederick II, Duke of Swabia ((1090–1147), and Judith of Bavaria. His uncle was Conrad III of Germany. 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 (Aix-la-Chapelle) several days later.

Anxious 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 somewhat far-fetched grounds of consanguinity (his great-great-grandfather was a brother of Adela's great-great-great-grandmother). 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 a treaty with Rome whereby, in return for his coronation, he promised to defend the papacy and to make no peace with King Roger II of Sicily or other enemies of the Church without the consent of Eugene.

He undertook six expeditions into Italy. In the first of which 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. 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. 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 was named duke of Austria in compensation for his loss of Bavaria. On June 9, 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.

In June 1158, Frederick set out upon his second Italian expedition, accompanied by Henry the Lion and his fearsome Saxons. 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. Returning to Germany towards the close of 1162, Frederick prevented the escalation of conflicts between Henry the Lion of 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.

Frederick then focused on restoring peace in the Rhineland, where he organized a magnificent celebration of the canonization of 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. A lot of swabian counts, and also his cousin, the young duke of swabia, Frederick IV, died in 1167, and so he was able to organize a new mighty territory in the duchy of swabia under his reign in this time. The new duke of Swabia become his little son Frederick V.

In 1174, Frederick made his fifth expedition to Italy and, in response, the pro-papal Lombard League was formed to stand against him. With the refusal of Henry the Lion to bring help to Italy, the campaign was a complete failure. Frederick suffered a heavy defeat at the Battle of Legnano near Milan, on May 29, 1176, where he was wounded and for some time was believed to be dead. He had no choice other than to begin negotiations for peace with Alexander III and the Lombard League. In the Peace of Venice, 1177, Frederick and Alexander III reconciled. The Emperor acknowledged the Pope's sovereignty over the Papal States, and in return Alexander acknowledged the Emperor's overlordship of the Imperial Church. The Lombard cities, however, continued to fight until 1183, when, in the Peace of Constance, Frederick conceded their right to freely elect town magistrates.

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. 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, where he finished his days as much-diminished Duke of Brunswick, peacefully sponsoring arts and architecture, and died on 6 August 1195.

After making his peace with the Pope, Frederick embarked on the Third Crusade (1189), a grand expedition in conjunction with the French, led by king Philip Augustus, and the English, under Richard Lionheart. He organized a grand army of 100,000 men and set out on the overland route to the Holy Land.

The Crusaders passed through Hungary and Serbia and then entered Byzantine territory, arriving at Constantinople in the autumn of 1189. From there they pushed on through Anatolia (where they were victorious in two battles) and 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 and prepare to confront Barbarossa's forces.

Death in the Saleph

On 10 June 1190, Frederick died while crossing the Saleph River (now known as Göksu) in Cilicia, south-eastern Anatolia. The exact circumstances are unknown. It is likely that he was thrown from his horse and the shock of the cold water caused him to have a heart attack at the age of 67. Weighed down by his armour, he drowned in water that was barely hip-deep, according to the chronicler Ali ibn al-Athir. The armour of the day, designed to be as light as possible, was probably not heavy enough to cause a healthy man to drown in hip-deep waters; however, some re-enactors and living historians argue that, in light of Frederick's advanced age, the weight of the armour plus the difficulty of struggling through water (not something many armoured men would be accustomed to), could have forced him under before reaching shore.

Frederick's death plunged his army into chaos. Leaderless, panicked, and attacked on all sides by Turks, many Germans deserted, were killed, or even committed suicide. Only 5,000 soldiers, a tiny fraction of the original forces, arrived in Acre. Barbarossa's son, Frederick VI of Swabia carried on with the remnants of the army, 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.

Frederick's untimely death 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 Lionheart continued to the East where he fought Saladin with mixed results, but ended without accomplishing the Crusaders' main goal, the capture of Jerusalem.


Frederick's first marriage, to Adelheid "Adela" von Vohburg did not produce any children and was annulled. From his second marriage, to Beatrix von Burgund, he had the following children:

  • Beatrice (end 1162/early 1163 – at least early 1174/1179). King William II of Sicily first asked for her hand but the marriage negotiations never came through. She married Guillaume (II) count of Chalon in 1173 and was mother to Beatrix, countess of Chalon.
  • Frederick V, Duke of Swabia (Pavia, 16 July 1164 – 28 November 1170).
  • Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor (Nijmegen, November 1165 – Messina, 28 September 1197).
  • Conrad (Modigliana, February 1167 – Acre, 20 January 1191), later renamed Frederick VI, Duke of Swabia after the death of his older brother. It was important and tradition for one son of the Hohenstaufen dynasty to have the first name "Friedrich", which, coming from the Germanic language, means "prince of peace" or "powerful protector". He initiated the foundation of the Teutonic Knights and died during the siege of Acre.
  • Daughter (Gisela?) (October/November 1168 – end 1184). She was betrothed to Richard, Count of Poitou (later King of England) but died before they could be married.
  • Otto I, Count of Burgundy (June/July 1170 – killed, Besançon, 13 January 1200).
  • Conrad II, Duke of Swabia and Rothenburg (February/March 1172 – killed, Durlach, 15 August 1196).
  • Renaud (October/November 1173 – before April 1174/soon after October 1178).
  • William (June/July 1175 – soon after October 1178).
  • Philip (February/March 1177 – killed, Bamberg, 21 June 1208) King of Germany in 1198.
  • Agnes (early 1179 – 8 October 1184). She was betrothed to King Emeric of Hungary but died before they could be married.

Barbarossa Monument

Barbarossa Monument c. 1900

The 1896 completed monument (Kyffhäuserdenkmal) in the Kyffhäuser mountain range in the German state of Thuringia has a total height of 81 m (266 ft) and is located at an elevation of 420 m (1,380 ft) on top of an 800 m (2,600 ft) long outcrop of the eastern Kyffhäuser range, below the 439 m (1,440 ft) high mountain peak of the Kyffhausen Castle. The site lies within the Steinthaleben community in the Kyffhäuserland district, about 6.5 km (4.0 mi) north of Bad Frankenhausen and southwest of Tilleda in the Goldene Aue plain. A little scenic stone quarry surrounded by terraces on the east side of the monument forms the backdrop for the emperor Frederick Barbarossa sandstone sculpture created by Nikolaus Geiger (1849–1897). The Barabarossa legend holds, that he would rise again when Germany was in need of his leadership. The emperor himself is depicted as one might imagine an ancient powerful monarch in poems and legends at the very moment of awakening.

Only a few minutes away from the picturesque Kurstadt Bad Frankenhausen, amidst the natural and Geopark Kyffhäuser, rises the imposing "Kaiser Wilhelm I monument" which is the second largest national monument in Germany. After extensive renovations the complete greatness of the monument is visible again. Climb up to the top of the monument and be rewarded with a unique view of the landscape. Admire the impressive remains of the medieval Kyffhausen castle and the deepest castle well of the world - with a depth of 176 m.[1]

Sculptor Nikolaus Geiger decorated the emperor's red beard with the imperial crown (Reichskrone), as its original is on display in the Vienna Hofburg. Above him towers an equestrian statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I, designed by sculptor Emil Hundrieser (1846–1911) in Neo-baroque style. Wilhelm is depicted as a general, with Pickelhaube and Grand Cross of the Iron Cross, he poses on horseback in a dignified manner. He is flanked by two allegorical sculptures. To the right a Germanic warrior, who represents defense and to the left a woman, holding a pen and an oak leaf wreath, symbolizing history. Both, the Barbarossa and the Wilhelm sculptures represent the idea of the monument's program - the glorification of the monarchy and the military strength of the empire. The 1871 founded second German Empire was to be understood as the legitimate successor to the Holy Roman Empire. It also signifies the national theme of decline and rebirth.

Emperor Frederick I is a myth and, as a symbol of a united empire, inspired poets and writers to write the story of the eternally sleeping ruler - in the hidden castle in the Kyffhäuser Mountains. Emperor Redbeard and the legends surrounding him continue to fascinate people to this day. Barbarossa is enthroned in sandstone on the Kyffhäuser Monument, which has towered over the legendary Kyffhäuser Mountains for more than 120 years. Once you have climbed the 250 steps of the second largest monument in Germany, you will be rewarded with a fantastic view over the region all the way to the Brocken. In the Middle Ages, the imposing Kyffhausen Castle stood here - with the deepest castle well in the world. Visitors can now take a virtual tour of the well in the multimedia exhibition and discover many a treasure that has ended up in the well shaft over the centuries. Riding high on his horse, Kaiser Wilhelm I proudly leads the way at the monument - since the unification of the German Empire in 1871, the people have praised him as "Whitebeard on Redbeard's Throne". The legendary emperors are still united today at the monument on Kyffhäuser Hill, which can be seen from afar - and so Kyffhäuser is not only an exciting destination for hikers and history buffs.[2]

Further reading

  • Franz Kuhn:[3] Frederick Barbarossa - The Life and Times of the Holy Roman Empire's Greatest Medieval Emperor, Quintessential Classics, 2015

See also

External links



  1. Kyffhäuser Monument, Harzer Tourismusverband e.V.
  2. Kyffhäuser Monument, Rosenstadt Sangerhausen GmbH · Gesellschaft für Kultur, Tourismus & Marketing
  3. Franz Walther Kuhn (1884-1961) was a German lawyer, sinologist, and translator, chiefly remembered for translating many Chinese novels into German.