The Italian policy of the German emperors

The Italian policy of the German emperors

At the beginning of the XII century. The German Empire united the lands of modern Germany and Austria. Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, the Czech Republic, parts of France and Northern and Central Italy. It was a collection of separate territories, which, in effect, were controlled by independent secular and ecclesiastical princes.

Emerging from the crisis of the struggle for investment, the German rulers of the dynasty Staufen try to restore the empire to its former power. A bright figure among the rulers of the dynasty Staufen was Emperor Frederick I. Italians gave him the nickname Barbarossa – Red-bearded. He had an outstanding talent as a commander and diplomat, he was gifted, brave, sociable, but prone to cruelty.

XII cent. The Italian chronicler of Acerbus Morena about Friedrich I Barbarossa

The emperor came from a noble family. He was of medium height, had a beautiful posture and slender legs. His clear face was pale pink. Her hair was reddish, curly, her face was funny – it seemed that he was constantly smiling. He had white teeth, very beautiful hands and attractive lips. He was always quite militant… To the features of his character belonged to courage, fearlessness, dexterity, eloquence. He was generous, but not wasteful, cautious and far-sighted in judgment, smart and intelligent. To friends and kind people was welcome, to evil – severe and ruthless. He loved justice and respected the laws, was pious and always ready to

give alms to the needy…

At the price of significant concessions, Friedrich Barbarossa achieved reconciliation with mighty German princes and directed all his forces to the subordination of Northern Italy. And, although this territory was formally part of the Holy Roman Empire, it, in essence, remained independent and submitted to the German kings only when their troops were in trouble. During his reign Friedrich Barbarossa carried out five campaigns to Italy. It attracted developed Italian cities, especially Milan.

In 1158, during the second campaign of Friedrich Barbarossa to Italy, the rights of the cities of Lombardy were revised: the emperor was given the right to appoint officials, coin money, collect taxes, etc.

The inhabitants of Milan did not want to obey. Friedrich took the city to siege, which lasted more than two years.

And only in March 1162 the starving Milanese were forced to surrender. All the people left the city: with heads sprinkled with ashes, with ropes on their necks, with candles in their hands, barefoot. Milan was destroyed, its lands plowed, and fresh furrows were sprinkled with salt to indicate that this place was cursed.

The terrible news of the massacre of the Milanese flew all over Italy. 22 cities merged into the Lombard League, which was supported even by the Pope. In 1176 the league’s militia routed the Imperial army under Legnano, near Milan. The winners even got the weapons of Friedrich Barbarossa. He reconciled with his father and recognized the self-government of the northern Italian cities.

It was not easy for Friedrich I Barbarossa to reach agreement with the pope. In 1177, on the porch of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice, the procedure of reconciling the emperor with the Pope took place. It resembled a meeting a hundred years ago in Canossa, when Henry IV prayed for pity for three days on his knees. Only now the proud Barbarossa had to kiss the papa’s boot and hold the bridle of his horse during the celebrations.

Soon Frederick Barbarossa was able to partially redress the bitterness of his defeat in Italy, having arranged the marriage of his son Henry with the heiress of the Sicilian kingdom, which enabled him to annex South Italy to Germany. This meant a serious deterioration in the position of the Papal States, which was now surrounded by the possessions of Staufen from the north and from the south. However, fate was unfriendly to Frederick I Barbarossa: in 1190, during the Third Crusade, he ingloriously perished, drowning in a mountain stream.

The legend says that Frederick I Barbarossa has not died. He just sleeps soundly in the mountains of Thuringia, sitting on a chair made of ivory and with his head bent over a stone table. His dream is guarded by six knights. For centuries his beard grows and wraps around the table. When she surrounds the table for the third time, the emperor wakes up, exits the mountain cave and raises Germany to the world’s tops.

Attempts to subordinate Italy were made by the successors of Barbarossa – son Henry VI and grandson of Frederick II. Frederick II was born in the Sicilian kingdom. At the age of three he was proclaimed heir to the throne. After the death of Henry VI juvenile Friedrich took under the care of Pope Innocent III. It was he who in 1212 helped the youth become a German king.

After a while the princes chose Frederick II as the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. But in Germany he felt like a stranger and visited the country three times, having lived there for about 9 years.

Becoming emperor, Frederick II begins to strengthen power primarily in the Sicilian kingdom – the pearl of their possessions. Here he introduced an exemplary system of government, concentrating all power in the hands of the monarch. The royal court in the capital of Sicily, Palermo, was distinguished by its special luxury and sophistication. Friedrich II surrounded himself with Byzantine, Arab and Jewish scholars, was interested in mathematics, physics, medicine, astronomy, philosophy. He even wrote a treatise on falconry, became one of the creators of Italian poetry. In Naples, the emperor founded a university.

A well-considered tax policy allowed Friedrich to significantly replenish the treasury. Thanks to this, the emperor built a strong fleet and was the first in Europe to create a permanent army, based on Sicilian Muslims. He had exceptional diplomatic talent and during the Sixth Crusade was able to agree with the Egyptian sultan on the peaceful return of the Christians of Jerusalem. In this holy city, Frederick II himself laid his crown on his head and assumed the title of King of Jerusalem.

The only unresolved issue remained the subordination of Northern Italy. Here the Emperor came across a counteraction of independent Italian cities and the papacy. Long war did not bring the desired victory. In the midst of military operations, Friedrich II suddenly died.

XIII century. “The Chronicle of Fra Salambien de Atamo” about Friedrich II

He was a clever, two-faced man, malicious, vain… At the same time, he was a man of exceptional qualities, if he wished to show his kindness and benevolence, – hospitable, pleasant, active; he was able to read, write, sing, compose Cantilena and canzone; He was handsome and had a fine physique, although he was of medium height… He also knew many different languages ​​… If he was a real Catholic and loved God, the Church and his own soul, then he would find very few peers in this world from rulers…

The heir to the emperor Conrad IV unsuccessfully continued to struggle with the papacy and the north-Italian cities. At the call of the pope in Sicily landed with the army brother of the French King Charles of Anjou. In the war with the Pope and the Angevians, all the representatives of the Staufen dynasty died. The last of them was executed in 1268 in Naples. Italy, Burgundy and the Netherlands separated from the empire. Strong once the country broke up into independent principalities. In the hands of the princes went over the main functions of state power.

The canzone is a genre of medieval lyricism of the troubadours of Provence: a song about chivalrous love, associated with the cult of a beautiful lady.

Cantilena – in medieval French poetry, a lyric-epic poem laid on music.


The Italian policy of the German emperors