Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor

Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor

Frederick I Barbarossa [Meaning "Redbeard".] (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 at 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.

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.

Rise to power

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 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 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.

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. 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, 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 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 unprecented entitlements as Duke of Austria. 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.

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. 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. [Sidonius Apollinaris, "Epistles" 1.2, a description of Theodoric II of the Visigoths (453-66). See Mierow and Emery (1953) p. 331]

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.

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, which had previously 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. He finished his days in Germany, as much-diminished Duke of Brunswick. He lived a relatively quiet life, sponsoring arts and architecture.

Third Crusade and death

After making his peace with the Pope, 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.J. Phillips, "The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople", 66] 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.Konstam, "Historical Atlas of the Crusades", 162] 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 taking Aksehir and Konya) 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.

However, 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 to Western scholars (Islamic scholars of the time related his death to the will of God). Western scholars suggest that he was jumping in when the shock of the cold water caused him to have a heart attack at the age of 67 or 68. Weighed down by his mail 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 reenactors 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. It is also possible that the river current, perhaps combined with a slippery bottom, swept him off his feet.

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 small 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 early 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, but ended without accomplishing the Crusaders' main goal, the capture of Jerusalem and the Holy Land.


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. A similar story, set in Sicily, was earlier attested about his grandson, Frederick II. [Kantorowicz, "Frederick II"; last chapter] The Kyffhäuser Monument atop the Kyffhäuser commemorates Frederick.

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

Frederick's descendants by his wife Beatrix

#Sophie (b. 1161 - d. 1187), married to Margrave William VI of Montferrat.
#Beatrice (b. 1162 - d. 1174). She was betrothed to King William II of Sicily but died before they could be married.
#Frederick V, Duke of Swabia (b. Pavia, 16 July 1164 - d. 28 November 1170).
#Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor (b. Nijmegen, November 1165 - d. Messina, 28 September 1197).
#Conrad (b. Modigliana, February 1167 - d. Acre, 20 January 1191), later renamed Frederick VI, Duke of Swabia after the death of his older brother.
#Daughter (Gisela?) (b. October/November 1168 - d. 1184).
#Otto I, Count of Burgundy (b. June/July 1170 - killed, Besançon, 13 January 1200).
#Conrad II, Duke of Swabia and Rothenburg (b. February/Marc 1172 - killed, Durlach, 15 August 1196).
#Renaud (b. October/November 1173 - d. in infancy).
#William (b. June/July 1176 - d. in infancy).
#Philip of Swabia (b. August 1177- killed, Bamberg, 21 June 1208) "King of Germany in 1198".
#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.
* The computer game "" 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. Henry the Lion narrates each level's introduction and epilogue.
* The 1981 novel "Little, Big" by John Crowley has 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.
* Frederick is a character in the PC game Stronghold: Crusader.
* 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."
*In the computer game "Stronghold Warchest", Emperor Frederick is an AI player that you can challenge in skirmish play.
*Another computer game featuring Frederik Barbarossa is in the crusade campaign. Barbarossa launches a crusade to the Holy land with 100,000 strong men. The next 'turn' he drowned in a sea and because of his death, the crusade was canceled.

ee also

*Kings of Germany family tree. He was related to every other king of Germany.



*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 St Blasien.
*The "Bergamo Master". "Carmen de gestis Frederici I imperatoris in Lombardia".
*Haverkamp, Alfred. "Friedrich Barbarossa", 1992
*Opll, Ferdinand. "Friedrich Barbarossa", 1998
*Reston, James. "Warriors of God", 2001
*Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists Who Came to America Before 1700 by Frederick Lewis Weis, Line 45-26

ee also

*Dukes of Swabia family tree

External links

* [ Catholic Encyclopedia: Frederick I]
* [ MSN Encarta - Frederick I (Holy Roman Empire)]
* [ Famous Men of the Middle Ages - Frederick Barbarossa]
* [ The Death of Frederick Barbarossa 1190]
* [ The Deeds of Frederick Barbarossa - Otto of Freising]
* [ Crusade of Frederick Barbarossa]
* [|%7D%7B|%7D137.248.186.134%7B|%7Dlba-cgi-local%7B||%7DE4969.jpg%22 Charter given by Emperor Frederick] for the bishopric of Bamberg showing the Emperor's seal, 6.4.1157 . Taken from the collections of the [ Lichtbildarchiv älterer Originalurkunden] at Marburg University

NAME = Frederick I
SHORT DESCRIPTION = Holy Roman Emperor
DATE OF DEATH = 10 June 1190

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