|The sleeping Barbarossa|
There was an intermezzo between the Salian and Staufer eras. Lothar III, Duke of Saxony, was emperor from 1125 to 1137. He conducted war with his rivals, the Staufer, and went twice to Italy, in 1133 and in 1137; on June 4, 1133, he was crowned as emperor in Rome. There is no modern biography of him.
THE STAUFER NAME
In 1079 Henry IV made Frederick of Büren Duke of Swabia; he married the emperor’s only daughter Agnes, which made him overnight an important person in the empire. Duke Frederick built a new castle near Lorch (in the present Land Baden-Württemberg, between Stuttgart and Schwäbisch-Gmünd), which became the ancestral seat of the Staufer. He erected it on the top of the Hohenstaufen mountain, hence its name `Stauf’. The name `Hohenstaufen’is less correct. The castle went up in flames in 1525 during the Peasants’ War, but the remains can still be visited.
THE STAUFER ERA
The Staufer era lasted from 1138 to 1250. The Staufer rulers were:
Conrad III, 1138-1152, was the first German king not to be crowned as emperor; he never went to Rome. Instead, he took part in the Second Crusade, which became a dramatic failure.
THE WELF PROBLEM
Staufer rule was contested by the mighty Welf dynasty for a long time. The Welfs were Dukes of Bavaria. Duke Henry X the Proud had also been a candidate for the throne; as the next of kin of Lothar III he claimed the Duchy of Saxony, but Conrad, not wanting him to make so powerful, deposed him as Duke of Bavaria. Thus the Welf problem was born. Henry fought Conrad; when he died in 1139, Conrad gave Saxony (but not Bavaria) to his young son, Henry the Lion.
Frederick I Barbarossa, who inherited the Welf problem, tried to solve it by allotting Bavaria to Henry the Lion in 1156, thus creating a mighty feudal power block of Saxony and Bavaria combined. Moreover, Henry’s uncle Welf VI was Duke of Swabia, so that Germany was virtually divided between two mighty dynasties. Hostilities broke out in 1178, which ended with the Lion’s flight to England in 1181. He never got his duchies back.
After the death of Henry VI in 1197, the problem presented itself again. The Staufer party made Duke Philip of Swabia king, whereas the Welf party elected Otto IV. Acctually, there was a third king, the still very young son of Henry VI, Frederick II. A civil war broke out, lasting from 1198 to 1208, and ending with Philip of Swabia’s death.
In 1209 Otto IV felt safe enough to leave Germany and go to Rome, where he was crowned emperor. He attacked the Norman kingdom in South Italy, but in spite of initial successes, he was unable to invade Sicily, an important Staufer fief. When he returned to Germany in 1212, he found there an entirely changed situation. Frederick II had arrived there and was soon master of the whole country. Otto lost his last bastions and died in 1218. The Welf problem was over.
|Barbarossa, with above him the equistrian statue of the emperor William I.|
FREDERICK I BARBAROSSA
Frederick I Barbarossa (he had indeed a barba rossa) (1152-1190) was a son of Conrad III.
Frederick I was an exceptional man, who became the subject of many legends. The chronicler Acerbus, Morenae continuatio, MGH Scriptores 18. Hannover, 1863, describes him as follows. "Since long there had not been an emperor who could reasonably be compared to him." He was a man of medium length and with a fine stature; he had straight and wll-composed limbs, his complexion being white, but tending to the reddisch, while his hair was blond and curly. His face was cheerful; it seemed as though he would always begin to laugh." Another author, Wibald, Epistola ad Papam, MGH Constitutiones I, no. 138, Hannover, 1896, adds that everybody found him very eloquent; it was incredible how he could talk round all people and make them do what he wanted. And Ragewinus, Gesta Friderici: He always used his own vernacular, for, although he knew some Latin, he needed an interpreter. He was, however, reticent, keeping his thoughts to himself, but he could be angry and occasionally even cruel.
HIS GREAT DESIGN
As he wrote himself, he would, with God’s help, restore the grandeur of the Roman Empire. What this meant was: 1. solving the Welf-Staufer conflict (see above); 2. fortify the position of the empire in Burgundy; 3. unite all Italy, Sicily included, under the Staufer sceptre; 4. put the relation with the papacy on a new basis, harking back to the days of Charlemagne, who had considered himself both the spiritual and secular overlord.
Frederick was first married to Adela of Vohburg; the union was far from happy and remained childless. Having obtained an annulment on the ground of sanguinity, he married Beatrix, a Burgundian noblewoman, who gave him ten children. This union strengthened his grip on Burgundy considerably.
In October 1154 Frederick departed to Italy for the first time. Very probably he was crowned as King of Italy at Pavia on April 24, 1155. He met with much resistance in Lombardy, especially from Milan, but his forces were not strong enough to capture it.
Pope Hadrian IV (1154-1159), the only Englishman (Nicholas Breakspear) ever to occupy the papal throne, was Pope then. On June 8, 1155, Pope and emperor had their first encounter in the German army camp at Sutri. There a strange, but revealing incident occurred. Hadrian arrived on horseback, with a retinue of cardinals and bishops. It was an old custom that during such an encounter the royal person acted as strator, that is, lead the Pope’s horse, while holding it at the stirrup. The first to do this had been Pepin the Short, when he met Pope Stephen II on January 6, 754, at Ponthion on the river Marne. But Frederick refused to do this. The indignation among the papal retinue was great. Hadrian himself dismounted and took his place on a throne; the king came near, knelt before him, and kissed his feet. But when he would give the pontiff the kiss of peace, he would not receive it, before the king had acted as his strator. The twelfth century was a time in which questions of honor played an enormously much greater role than they do now.
The next two days there were endless negotiations. At last some German princes succeeded in convincing Frederick that he had to honour the Pope in the customary manner; old documents and chronicles were shown to him in order to prove that his predecessors had acted as stratores. On June 11 the encounter was enacted again, not in the army camp this time, but on the shores of Lake Monterosi near Nepi; once again the Pope approached on horseback, while the king came from the other side. He dismounted and with the whole army looking on, led the papal horse at the stirrup along the shortest possible distance, namely, a stone’s throw. At the background of this incident stood the old question of who was to be the master in Europe.
In the morning of June 18, 1155, Pope Hadrian IV crowned Frederick I Barbarossa as emperor. He wore Charlemagne’s crown, the corona urbis et orbis, of the city and the world. But the city was hostile to him. Embittered by the fact that Frederick had made an end of Arnold of Brescia’s anti-papal `Roman Republic’ and had restored the Pope’s rule over the city, furious Romans crossed the Tiber bridge and killed some of the German guards, who still stood there; they entered the Leonine City and mistreated some cardinals. Even the Pope was in danger. At the head of armed detachments the new emperor stormed into the Leonine City; there was confused but very bloody fighting in the narrow streets far into the night. Finally, the Germans proved the stronger; the Romans retreated over the bridge, where many of them fell into the river and were drowned. The Roman losses were estimated at a thousand dead. Yet the Roman gates remained closed to the Germans; they could not storm the city proper with their small army. On June 19 Frederick left Rome without having set a foot in the town itself. In September he returned to Germany.
In June 1158 Frederick entered Lombardy again with an army that was large enough to force the always rebellious Milan into submission. On November 11 a Diet was held on the traditional spot, the Fields of Roncaglia; here the Roncaglia Decrees were promulgated: all the royal rights the Lombardian cities had appropriated to themselves must be given back to the emperor. Actually, this was no more than declaration of intent. The city magistrates went their own way as soon as Frederick had left.
Milan rebelled again and was besieged for the second time during the winter of 1158/1159. Famine forced the city to surrender. On March 1, Frederick saw the Milanese consuls, with their naked swords on their necks, accompanied by twenty noblemen, appear before him. They laid down their swords, prostrated themselves, and promised to surrender unconditionally and to always obey the emperor’s commands. The next Sunday three hundred knights came to ask for mercy and to deliver they keys of the city; many of them were held back as hostages. Then followed a scene typical of medieval symbolism. On March 6, `the people’ appeared, in the form of a thousand Milanese militiamen. The emperor, high on his throne, saw them range themselves before him. They brought with them a wagon, the so-called carroccio; fixed to its mast was the image of Saint Ambrose, the patron saint of the city. This wagon symbolized the town’s power and might.
When it had stopped before the throne, the mast was lowered; the emperor descended and took the picture from the mast, after which it was elevated again. The trumpeters, who stood on the wagon, blew their instruments for the last time and then gave them to the emperor, as a sign that Milan would never again issue its own decrees. Then all the Milanese fell to their knees, begging for mercy. But Barbarossa remained unmoved and told them to return the next day. When they came back, Frederick informed them that they had forfeited their lives. He would , however, spare them. All the officials would be detained as hostages. Every citizen above the age of twelve had to take an oath of loyalty to the emperor. The German army was to enter the town and occupy it.
Even this was not enough. The whole population was ordered to leave the town and henceforward to occupy themselves only with agriculture. Then contingents of anti-Milanese towns moved in (Milan had many enemies in Lombardy, because of its power and arrogant behaviour) and began to destroy it quarter by quarter; nothing was spared not even the churches. No trace was left of the fortifications. After having spent four years in Italy, Frederick returned to Germany at the end of August 1162.
In 1163/1164 Frederick visited Italy for the third time without achieving anything of importance. In the autumn of 1166 he came for the fourth time. His aim was to conquer Byzantine South Italy; it was a constant goal of German imperial policy to unite all Italy under the German scepter, a goal that was never reached. In August 1167 the German army stood south of Rome, ready to attack the Normans in South Italy, when a malaria epidemy broke out among the troops. Malaria, dysentery and typhus were the three scourges of medieval armies, especially of those operating in Italy. The army was almost decimated and hastily retreated to Germany. The Lombard towns saw their chance; they concluded the Lombard League, and the reconstruction of Milan was begun. Disguised as a servant,. Frederick fled over the Mont Cenis pass to Grenoble. From 1174 to 1178 Frederick spent once again four years in Italy; on May 29, 1176, Milanese troops defeated him in the Battle of Legnano. Frederick fled for his life. He proved unable to subdue the Lombard League. On June 20, 1183, the Peace of Constance was concluded between Frederick and the Lombard League. The League recognized imperial suzerainty, while Frederick recognized the Lombard League.
The five expeditions to Italy all ended with a deficit: the Lombard towns virtually enjoyed self-government, and the south was never conquered.
Frederick I Barbarossa took part in the Third Crusade. The crusader army marched eastward through Asia Minor in May 1190. On May 26 the valley of the river Saleph (now the Gök-sul) was reached. Following the course of this river in suffocating heat, the emperor wanted to take a swim in the cool waters of the Saleph. Immediately after diving in, he disappeared in the eddies; his lifeless body was later discovered lying on a sandbank. He was buried in the cathedral of Antioch.
|The tower of the Kyffhauser monument seen from below.|
THE KYFFHÄUSER LEGEND
Popular opinion chose to ignore the fact that Frederick’s tomb could be visited in Antioch, which, after its reconquest by the Turks, had become hard to reach. This led to the origination of the so-called `Kyffhäuser legend. This legend exists in several versions, which, however, have in common, that the emperor is not dead, but sits sleeping in a mountain cave. In front of him is a stone table. One version says that his beard will grow through the table. When this has happened, he will awake from his sleep, leave the cave, and make Germany great again. Another version is that his beard will grow three times around the table, before he can take things in hand again. His second reign will be one of justice.
The place of this cave is thought to be the Kyffhäuser mountain. This is a mountain complex at the southern edge of the Harz in the Land Sachsen-Anhalt. On its crest, four hundred and seventy five meters above sea level, stand three very big castles, all from the Staufer period, which, although partly in ruins, can still be visited.
Much information, all in German, with many photo’s and pictures, also of the sleeping Barbarossa, can be found on an Internet search engine (e.g. Google) and fill in: Kyffhäuser. (http://www.google.com/search?q=Kyffhäuser)
There is no definite explanation why it was exactly the Kyffhäuser that became the site of this legend (there are in fact other mountains in Germany, where the emperor is said to sleep). The legend, which dates from the sixteenth century (mentioned in 1521 for the first time), came to exert an ever growing influence on the German mind, especially when Germany began to recover from the humiliations Napoleon had inflicted on it. The idea that Germany would be great once again appealed to the German population and its rulers. When in 1871 the empire was thought to have been restored in the form of the Second Reich, the expectation seemed to have come true.
Today, more than a century later, the tourist can see this hope expressed in stone. Against the slope of the Kyffhäuser, high above the plain, stands an enormous monument, crowned by a high tower, visible from afar. The visitor approaches it through a portico and then stands opposite Frederick Barbarossa. Larger than life he sits upon his throne; since the stone is red, his beard is also red. Higher still, one sees the equestrian statue of the Emperor William I, the founder of the Second Empire; it seems as if his horse is ready to leap into the plain. This Kyffhäuser Denkmal was erected at the end of the nineteenth century. The idea behind this is that William I w as a sort of reincarnation of Barbrossa, not asleep, but alive and kicking.