Frederick Barbarossa

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.
Related to Frederick Barbarossa: Frederick II, Holy Roman Empire, Richard the Lionheart, Saladin

Frederick I

, Holy Roman emperor and German king
Frederick I or Frederick Barbarossa (bärbərôsˈə) [Ital.,=red beard], c.1125–90, Holy Roman emperor (1155–90) and German king (1152–90), son of Frederick of Hohenstaufen, duke of Swabia, nephew and successor of Holy Roman Emperor Conrad III.

Restoration of Imperial Power

His mother, Judith, was a Guelph (see Guelphs), and Frederick frequently acted as a mediator between his Hohenstaufen uncle, Conrad, and his Guelph cousin, Henry the Lion. Prior to his death Conrad III named Frederick as his successor, hoping that Frederick's reign would end the discord between the rival houses of Hohenstaufen and Guelphs. Frederick's coronation as emperor in Rome was delayed by unrest in Germany and by the revolutionary commune of Rome (1143–55), headed by Arnold of Brescia, which controlled the city. In 1152, Frederick pacified Germany by proclaiming a general land peace to end the anarchy, and in 1156 he satisfied Henry the Lion by restoring the duchy of Bavaria to him, at the same time making Austria into a new duchy as a counterweight to Henry's power.

In Italy, Frederick's policy was to restore the imperial power, which had virtually disappeared as a result of neglect by previous emperors. It was thus necessary for him to conciliate the pope. In a treaty (1153) with Pope Eugene III, Frederick promised to assist him against Arnold of Brescia and against the powerful Normans in Sicily. Frederick entered Italy in 1154 and was crowned in Rome (June 18, 1155) amid hostile demonstrations. The reluctance of his troops to remain in Italy forced him to return to Germany without assisting the new pope, Adrian IV, against King William I of Sicily. Adrian, obliged to ally himself (1156) with William, turned against Frederick.

At the Diet of Besançon (1157) the papal legate presented a letter that Frederick interpreted as a claim by the pope that the empire was a papal fief. Frederick replied in a manifesto that he held the throne “through the election of the princes from God alone” and prepared to invade Italy, where Milan had begun the conquest of Lombardy. Adrian explained that he had not intended that interpretation of his words, but Frederick entered Italy, seized Milan, and at the Diet of Roncaglia (1158) laid claim, as emperor and king of the Lombards, to all imperial rights, including the appointment of an imperial podesta, or governor, in every town.

The rapacity of his German officials led to the revolt (1159) of Milan, Brescia, Crema, and their allies, secretly encouraged by Adrian IV. After a long siege, Frederick stormed and burned Milan (1162). Moreover he set up an antipope to Adrian's successor, Alexander III, who excommunicated him. Frederick withdrew temporarily, but returned in 1166, captured Rome, and was preparing to attack the pope's Sicilian allies when his army was decimated by an epidemic.

Reconciliation and Revenge

In 1167 the rebellious Italian communes united against Frederick in the Lombard League, and Frederick retreated with difficulty to Germany, where he turned to increasing his territorial power and pacifying the constantly feuding German princes. In 1174 he returned to Italy. He was decisively defeated (1176) at Legnano by the Lombard League, partly because of lack of support from the German princes, notably Henry the Lion.

After his defeat Frederick became reconciled with the pope; he agreed to recognize Alexander III as pope and was restored (1177) to communion. He made peace with the Lombard towns (confirmed by the Peace of Constance in 1183) and arranged a truce with the pope's Sicilian allies. After his return to Germany, Frederick brought about the downfall (1180) of Henry the Lion, whose large duchies were partitioned; Frederick's divisions of the German territories were of lasting consequence. At the Diet of Mainz (1184) the emperor celebrated his own glory in fabulous pomp. He arranged the marriage (1186) of his son and successor, Henry (later Henry VI), to Constance, heiress presumptive of Sicily, thus insuring peace with Sicily.

Death and Legacy

In Mar., 1188, Frederick took the Cross, and he set out (1189) on the Third Crusade (see Crusades). He was drowned in Cilicia. Legend, however, has him asleep in the Kyffhäuser, waiting to restore the empire to its former greatness. Among the positive and lasting achievements of Frederick's reign are the foundations of new towns, the increase of trade, and the colonization and Christianization of Slavic lands in E Germany. In his administrative reforms the emperor was ably assisted by his chancellor, Rainald of Dassel.


See study by P. Munz (1969); Otto of Freising, The Deeds of Frederick Barbarossa (tr. 1953).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Frederick Barbarossa

official title Frederick I. ?1123--90, Holy Roman Emperor (1155--90), king of Germany (1152--90). His attempt to assert imperial rights in Italy ended in his defeat at Legnano (1176) and the independence of the Lombard cities (1183)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
The neglect of the German contribution to the Third Crusade is owed, perhaps, to its somewhat anticlimactic ending: following a lengthy journey through Hungary, Byzantium, and Asia Minor, its leader, the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, drowned somewhat ignominiously in a river without actually reaching the Holy Land.
Cardinal Ronaldo favoured supporting William, king of Sicily, against Frederick Barbarossa, while Ottaviano leaned the opposite way.
Frederick Barbarossa, stiff-necked for a long time, eventually did the right thing; so, too, did the Corsicans, illustrating that collectivities, not just kings, were called upon to be humble vis-a-vis the church.
There were problems with the Normans in the south and with the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa. Adrian crowned him in 1155, but Frederick left the Pope in no doubt that as Emperor of Rome he intended to control Rome, and when they first met he ostentatiously refused the usual courtesy of holding the Pope's stirrup.
Rogers takes up in turn the Near East during the impact of the First Crusade, the capture of the Palestinian coastal cities, Norman siege warfare in Sicily and southern Italy, the struggles of the Lombard cities with each other and with Frederick Barbarossa, the Luso-Hispanic Reconquest in Iberia, and the development of seaborne siege campaigning, this last largely in the hands of the Italian maritime cities.
Born in Italy in 1194, heir to the Hohenstaufen territories in Germany and grandson of the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, he was also the heir to the Norman kingdom of Sicily.
And on the other (and for reasons which are far from clear), Anglo-American scholars began to interest themselves in the subject, with the result that in 1998 the world of the Cid is as accessible to anglophone students of the European Middle Ages as the worlds of Frederick Barbarossa and St Louis, and Simon Barton can afford to take a great deal for granted in a thoroughly researched study in which he is able to present the aristocracy of twelfth-century Leon and Castile in much the same terms as J.C.
The German monarchy at its medieval height literally canonised Charles, After Frederick Barbarossa's elevation of the body from its tomb in 1165 -- an occasion marked by the gift of the great copper and gilt candelabra by which the church is still lit -- Frederick II in 1215 drove the last nail into the splendid golden shrine which has since housed Charles' remains.
Perhaps here lies a final reason for the use by the Sienese of the Venetian version of the story of Alexander and Frederick Barbarossa -- and indeed for getting the pope into the palace.
Frederick Barbarossa is organized chronologically through seventeen chapters, which are bracketed by an introduction, a conclusion, and an epilogue.
Part 3, 'Medieval Rulership', examines the rhetoric of kingship in early Germanic monarchies, while Part 4 focuses specifically on Frederick Barbarossa and his relations with the papacy.
Northern Italy, for example, is noticeably richer than southern Italy, thanks in part to the Lombard League, a medieval alliance that successfully fought off an invasion from German conqueror Frederick Barbarossa and preserved a tradition of relative market and citizen freedom in a collation of "free cities" in 1176.

Full browser ?