Holy Roman Empire

Frederick I

called Barbarossa (1123?–1190), king of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor from 1152 until his death. He was the second emperor of the Hohenstaufen line. Barbarossa (“the Redbeard”) is a hero of the German people. He was of strong character and commanding personality, admired for his wisdom, courage, and generous nature. Under his rule, the empire was expanded, learning encouraged, and internal peace established.

The struggle between the German princely houses of Guelph (Welf) and Ghibelline (named for a Hohenstaufen estate) reached a crisis during Barbarossa's reign. He temporarily destroyed Guelph power in Germany.

Barbarossa was the son of Frederick II of Swabia, one of the older German states. His mother was a Guelph. In 1147 he succeeded his father as Duke of Swabia and went on the Second Crusade with his uncle, Conrad III, king of Germany and uncrowned Holy Roman Emperor. On the death of Conrad in 1152 Barbarossa was chosen to wear the German crown. He went to Italy for coronation as Holy Roman Emperor in 1155.

Conflict over imperial and papal authority had continued for a century. Between 1154 and 1184 Barbarossa led six campaigns into northern Italy to subdue Lombard towns that refused to accept his rule. In 1176 his army was devastated by disease. His cousin, Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony and Bavaria and head of the house of Guelph, deserted Barbarossa's cause. Barbarossa was defeated at Legnano (1176) and forced to recognize the independence of the Lombard League. Upon his return to Germany, he seized Sax-ony and Bavaria from Henry and forced him into exile. ( .)

In 1187 Jerusalem fell to the Muslim leader Saladin. Barbarossa joined in organizing the Third Crusade. His army left Germany in 1189. It had reached Asia Minor when in June, 1190, Barbarossa was drowned while crossing a river.

Frederick II

called Stupor Mundi (1194–1250), king of Sicily (as Frederick I), 1198–1250, and king of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor, 1215–50. He was a member of the house of Hohenstaufen, the son of Henry VI and the grandson of Frederick I. He gained the name Stupor Mundi (“The Amazement of the World”) for both his leadership and his many scholarly interests. After several years of civil war in Germany, Frederick, with the support of Pope Innocent II, claimed the German throne in 1212. His claim was not generally recognized until he was elected emperor three years later. In 1228 he embarked on the Sixth Crusade, in which he successfully negotiated with the Moslems for the return of Jerusalem to the Christians.

Frederick created a strong monarchy in Sicily, where he encouraged trade, reformed the fiscal system, and established a code of laws. As Holy Roman Emperor, however, he did nothing to check the growing autonomy of the German princes and failed in attempts to assert his authority over local rulers in many northern Italian cities. After the mid-1220's Frederick was almost continually in conflict with the papacy, which frequently allied with northern Italian leaders against him. In 1248, in his last significant campaign, Frederick suffered a major defeat by the northern Italians at Parma. He spent his remaining years in southern Italy. He was succeeded by his son Conrad, who was the last Hohenstaufen emperor.

Frederick was interested in the Arabic and Byzantine cultures and supported the work of many scholars and artists. In 1224 he founded the University of Naples.

Frederick III

(1415–1493), duke of Styria from 1435, king of Germany (as Frederick IV) and Holy Roman Emperor from 1440, and archduke of Austria from 1463. He succeeded his distant cousin, Holy Roman Emperor Albert II, as head of the house of Hapsburg in 1439, and the next year was chosen as the German king and Holy Roman Emperor. Frederick was careful to keep the empire at peace with its neighbors, but he did little to suppress the local conflicts within the empire. He increased the Hapsburg dominion by arranging the marriage of his son Maximilian to the heiress of Burgundy. ( I.)