Note: Castel del Monte BW 2016-10-14 12-26-11 r // Federico II Parma // Tomb of Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor – Cathedral of Palermo – Italy 2015
The Fifth Crusade and early policies in northern Italy
At the time he was elected King of the Romans, Frederick promised to go on crusade. He continually delayed, however, and, in spite of his renewal of this vow at his coronation as the King of Germany, he did not travel to Egypt with the armies of the Fifth Crusade in 1217. He sent forces to Egypt under the command of Louis I, Duke of Bavaria, but constant expectation of his arrival caused papal legate Pelagius to reject Ayyubid sultan Al-Kamil's offer to restore the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem to the crusaders in exchange for their withdrawal from Egypt and caused the Crusade to continually stall in anticipation of his ever-delayed arrival. The crusade ended in failure with the loss of Damietta in 1221. Frederick was blamed by both Pope Honorius III and the general Christian populace for this calamitous defeat.
In 1225, after agreeing with Pope Honorius to launch a Crusade not after 1227, Frederick summoned an imperial Diet at Cremona, the main pro-imperial city in Lombardy: the main arguments would be the struggle against heresy, the organization of the crusade and, above all, the restoration of the imperial power in northern Italy, which had been long usurped by the numerous communes located there. These responded with the reformation of the Lombard League, which had already defeated his grandfather Frederick Barbarossa in the 12th century, and again Milan was chosen as the league's leader. The diet was cancelled, and the situation was set only through a compromise found by Honorius between Frederick and the League. During his sojourn in northern Italy, Frederick also invested the Teutonic Order with the territories in what would become East Prussia, starting what was later called the Northern Crusade.
The Sixth Crusade
Problems of stability within the empire delayed Frederick's departure on crusade. It was not until 1225, when, by proxy, Frederick had married Yolande of Jerusalem, heiress to the Kingdom of Jerusalem, that his departure seemed assured. Frederick immediately saw to it that his new father-in-law John of Brienne, the current king of Jerusalem, was dispossessed and his rights transferred to the emperor. In August 1227, Frederick set out for the Holy Land from Brindisi but was forced to return when he was struck down by an epidemic that had broken out. Even the master of the Teutonic Knights, Hermann of Salza, recommended that he return to the mainland to recuperate. On 29 September 1227, Frederick was excommunicated by Pope Gregory IX for failing to honor his crusading pledge.
Many contemporary chroniclers doubted the sincerity of Frederick's illness, and their attitude may be explained by their pro-papal leanings. Roger of Wendover, a chronicler of the time, wrote:
he went to the Mediterranean sea, and embarked with a small retinue; but after pretending to make for the holy land for three days, he said that he was seized with a sudden illness… this conduct of the emperor redounded much to his disgrace, and to the injury of the whole business of the crusade.
Frederick eventually sailed again from Brindisi in June 1228. The pope regarded that action as a provocation, since, as an excommunicate, Frederick was technically not capable of conducting a Crusade, and he excommunicated the emperor a second time. Frederick reached Acre in September. Since all the local authorities and most of the military orders denied him any help, and because the crusading army was a meagre force, Frederick negotiated along the lines of a previous agreement he had intended to broker with the Ayyubid sultan, Al-Kamil. The treaty, signed in February 1229, resulted in the restitution of Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem, and a small coastal strip to the Kingdom of Jerusalem, though there are disagreements as to the extent of the territory returned.
The treaty also stipulated that the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque were to remain under Muslim control and that the city of Jerusalem would remain without fortifications. Virtually all other crusaders, including the Templars and Hospitallers, condemned this deal as a political ploy on the part of Frederick to regain his kingdom while betraying the cause of the Crusaders. Al-Kamil, who was nervous about possible war with his relatives who ruled Syria and Mesopotamia, wished to avoid further trouble from the Christians, at least until his domestic rivals were subdued.
The crusade ended in a truce and in Frederick's coronation as King of Jerusalem on 18 March 1229, although this was technically improper. Frederick's wife Yolande, the heiress, had died, leaving their infant son Conrad as rightful king. There is also disagreement as to whether the 'coronation' was a coronation at all, as a letter written by Frederick to Henry III of England suggests that the crown he placed on his own head was in fact the imperial crown of the Romans.
In any case, Gerald of Lausanne, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, did not attend the ceremony; indeed, the next day the Bishop of Caesarea arrived to place the city under interdict on the patriarch's orders. Frederick's further attempts to rule over the Kingdom of Jerusalem were met by resistance on the part of the barons, led by John of Ibelin, Lord of Beirut. In the mid-1230s, Frederick's viceroy was forced to leave Acre, and in 1244, following a siege, Jerusalem itself was lost again to a new Muslim offensive.
Whilst Frederick's seeming bloodless recovery of Jerusalem for the cross brought him great prestige in some European circles, his decision to complete the crusade while excommunicated provoked Church hostility. Although in 1230 the Pope lifted Frederick's excommunication at the Treaty of Ceprano, this decision was taken for a variety of reasons related to the political situation in Europe. Of Frederick's crusade, Philip of Novara, a chronicler of the period, said "The emperor left Acre [after the conclusion of the truce]; hated, cursed, and vilified." Overall this crusade, arguably the first successful one since the First Crusade, was adversely affected by the manner in which Frederick carried out negotiations without the support of the church. He left behind a kingdom in the Levant torn between his agents and the local nobility, a civil war known as the War of the Lombards.
The itinerant Joachimite preachers and many radical Franciscans, the Spirituals, supported Frederick. Against the interdict pronounced on his lands, the preachers condemned the Pope and continued to minister the sacraments and grant absolutions. Brother Arnold in Swabia proclaimed the Second Coming for 1260, at which time Frederick would then confiscate the riches of Rome and distribute them among the poor, the "only true Christians".
The war against the Pope and Henry's revolt
During Frederick's stay in the Holy Land, his regent, Rainald of Spoleto, had attacked the Marche and the Duchy of Spoleto. Gregory IX recruited an army under John of Brienne and, in 1229, invaded southern Italy. His troops overcame an initial resistance at Montecassino and reached Apulia. Frederick arrived at Brindisi in June 1229. He quickly recovered the lost territories and trialled the rebel barons, but avoided crossing the boundaries with the Papal States. The war came to an end with the Treaty of Ceprano in the summer of 1230; the emperor personally met Gregory IX at Anagni, making some concessions to the church in Sicily. He also issued the Constitutions of Melfi (August 1231), as an attempt to solve the political and administrative problems of the country, which had dramatically been shown by the recent war.
While he may have temporarily made his peace with the pope, Frederick found the German princes another matter. Frederick's son Henry VII (who was born 1211 in Sicily, son of Frederick's first wife Constance of Aragon) had caused their discontent with an aggressive policy against their privileges. This forced Henry to a complete capitulation, and the Statutum in favorem principum ("Statutes in favor of the princes"), issued at Worms, deprived the emperor of much of his sovereignty in Germany. Frederick summoned Henry to a meeting, which was held at Aquileia in 1232. Henry confirmed his submission, but Frederick was nevertheless compelled to confirm the Statutum at Cividale soon afterwards.
The situation for Frederick was also problematic in Lombardy, after all the emperor's attempts to restore the imperial authority in Lombardy with the help of Gregory IX (at the time, ousted from Rome by a revolt) turned to nothing in 1233. In the meantime Henry in Germany had returned to an anti-princes policy, against his father's will: Frederick thus obtained his excommunication from Gregory IX (July 1234). Henry tried to muster an opposition in Germany and asked the Lombard cities to block the Alpine passes. In May 1235, Frederick went to Germany, taking no army with him: as soon as July, however, he was able to force his son to renounce to the crown all his lands, at Worms, and then imprisoned him.
In Germany the Hohenstaufen and the Guelphs reconciled in 1235. Otto the Child, the grandson of Henry the Lion, was deposed as Duke of Bavaria and Saxony in 1180, conveying the allodial Guelphic possessions to Frederick, who in return enfeoffed Otto with the same lands and additional former imperial possessions as the newly established Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, ending the unclear status of the German Guelphs, who had been left without title and rank after 1180.
War in Lombardy
With peace north of the Alps, Frederick raised an army from the German princes to suppress the rebel cities in Lombardy. Gregory tried to stop the invasion with diplomatic moves, but in vain. During his descent to Italy, Frederick had to divert his troops to quell a rebellion of Frederick II, Duke of Austria. At Vienna, in February 1237, he obtained the title of King of the Romans for his 9-year-old son Conrad.
After the failure of the negotiations between the Lombard cities, the pope and the imperial diplomats, Frederick invaded Lombardy from Verona. In November 1237 he won the decisive battle in Cortenuova over the Lombard League. Frederick celebrated it with a triumph in Cremona in the manner of an ancient Roman emperor, with the captured carroccio (later sent to the commune of Rome) and an elephant. He rejected any suit for peace, even from Milan, which had sent a great sum of money. This demand of total surrender spurred further resistance from Milan, Brescia, Bologna, and Piacenza, and in October 1238 he was forced to raise the siege of Brescia, in the course of which his enemies had tried unsuccessfully to capture him.
Frederick received the news of his excommunication by Gregory IX in the first months of 1239:149 while his court was in Padua. The emperor responded by expelling the Franciscans and the Dominicans from Lombardy and electing his son Enzo as Imperial vicar for Northern Italy. Enzo soon annexed the Romagna, Marche, and the Duchy of Spoleto, nominally part of the Papal States. The father announced he was to destroy the Republic of Venice, which had sent some ships against Sicily. In December of that year Frederick marched over Tuscany, entered triumphantly into Foligno, and then in Viterbo, whence he aimed to finally conquer Rome to restore the ancient splendours of the Empire. The siege, however, was ineffective, and Frederick returned to Southern Italy, sacking Benevento (a papal possession). Peace negotiations came to nothing.
In the meantime the Ghibelline city of Ferrara had fallen, and Frederick swept his way northwards capturing Ravenna and, after another long siege, Faenza. The people of Forlì, which had kept its Ghibelline stance even after the collapse of Hohenstaufen power, offered their loyal support during the capture of the rival city: as a sign of gratitude, they were granted an augmentation of the communal coat-of-arms with the Hohenstaufen eagle, together with other privileges. This episode shows how the independent cities used the rivalry between Empire and Pope as a means to obtain maximum advantage for themselves.
The Pope called a council, but Ghibelline Pisa thwarted it, capturing cardinals and prelates on a ship sailing from Genoa to Rome. Frederick thought that this time the way into Rome was opened, and he again directed his forces against the Pope, leaving behind him a ruined and burning Umbria. Frederick destroyed Grottaferrata preparing to invade Rome. Then, on 22 August 1241, Gregory died. Frederick, showing that his war was not directed against the Church of Rome but against the Pope, drew back his troops and freed two cardinals from the jail of Capua. Nothing changed in the relationship between Papacy and Empire, however, as Roman troops assaulted the Imperial garrison in Tivoli and the Emperor soon reached Rome. This back-and-forth situation was repeated again in 1242 and 1243.