Frederick I Barbarossa

  • Medieval Era
  • 3 mins

By Crusader1307

Frederick I Barbarossa (born in Swabia, 1123 A.D.), was King of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor for nearly 40 years during the 12th Century. His goal was to restore the “Holy Roman Empire” to it's former power. While he “failed” in that mission – his second of unifying German Principalities was a success (creating a “National image”). His nickname “”Barbarossa” (Redbeard) was in recognition of his somewhat “commanding and Regal appearance). The Son of Frederick II (Duke of Swabia), he took his father's title upon his death (1147). Germany at this time was a collection of disunified “little” Nations. At this time two Royal Families (The Hohenstaufens and The Welfs) – were on the verge of a civil war. Frederick knew (and could relate to both sides).


Seen by both as a Mediator, (and he was successful) – this “mending of fences” caused him to be elected King of Germany in 1152. As a means of restoring order, he granted Welf rule over Bavaria – while The Hohenstaufens controlled Austria. Frederick began to develop a deep desire to bring back the glory of The Holy Roman Empire (which would include Germany's dominance over Europe AND Papal Authority). He also planned to greatly minimize the power of the German Aristocracy. In 1153, (with much diplomatic prodding), Frederick was able to force Pope Eugenis III to sign The Treaty of Constance. The Pope (under constant threat from The Normans) – was assured that Frederick's Armies would not allow this.


As a result of this (and a new Pope, Adrian IV) – Frederick I was crowned Emperor.Frederick next launched a series of attacks against Northern Italy and Sicily. Yet another new Pope (Alexander III) – could see that Frederick was attempting to consolidate his power (and limit that of The Papacy). In 1160, Frederick was excommunicated. Frederick (undeterred), elected two successive “Anti-Popes” - retribution. For the next 16 years, Frederick concentrated on his war. He had many victories (and some defeats). The final “straw” for a unified Holy Roman Empire under his command – ended with The Battle of Legnano (1176).


Frederick sought now to “mend fences” once again – and sought to reconcile with The Pope. In 1177, the excommunication was lifted.Devoting his administrative time to Germany now, Frederick set up his reign based on English and French systems of government. It worked very well. His people adored him. Life was good. At this time (1187), Frederick was called upon by Rome to help initiate The Third Crusades. He raised an Army of over 100,000 for the mission.


Now at 60 years old, he still cut a dramatic figure on horseback (He was a few inches over 6 feet and his imposing long red beard added to his presence).While on the way to liberate Jerusalem, Frederick's Forces crossed the Saleph River (Cilicia). Historians have debated Frederick's 1190 A.D. death at this point. Some say he had ridden for hours without rest or water. As he bent over a the river (to drink), he simply passed out and died (possible heat stroke). Others debate, that Frederick was wearing all his battle armor that day. Fording the river, he fell off his horse into The Saleph's quick moving currents. The fast moving waters swept Frederick away (he drowned).