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Frederick Barbarossa

Emperor from 1152-1190

Frederick I was one of the most famous of German emperors. He was

a tall, stalwart man of majestic appearance. He had a long red

beard and so the people called him Barbarossa, or Red-Beard. He

came to the throne in 1152.

At that time the province of Lombardy in northern Italy was a part

of the German empire.

In 1158 Milan (mï-lan'), the c
ief city of Lombardy, revolted. Then

over the Alps came an army of a hundred thousand German soldiers,

with Frederick at their head. After a long siege the city surrendered.

But soon it revolted again. The emperor besieged it once more and

once more it surrendered. Its fortifications were destroyed and

many of its buildings ruined.

But even then the spirit of the Lombards was not broken. Milan

and the other cities of Lombardy united in a league and defied

the emperor. He called upon the German dukes to bring their men

to his aid. All responded except Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony,

Frederick's cousin, whom he had made duke of Bavaria also. Frederick

is said to have knelt and implored Henry to do his duty, but in


In his campaign against the Lombards Frederick was unsuccessful. His

army was completely defeated and he was compelled to grant freedom

to the cities of Lombardy. Everybody blamed Henry the Lion. The

other dukes charged him with treason and he was summoned to appear

before a meeting of the nobles. He failed to come and the nobles

thereupon declared him guilty and took from him everything that he

had, except the lands he had inherited from his father.

Frederick now devoted himself to making Germany a united nation.

Two of his nobles had been quarreling for a long time and as a

punishment for their conduct each was condemned, with ten of his

counts and barons, to carry dogs on his shoulders from one country

to another.

Frederick finally succeeded in keeping the nobles in the different

provinces of Germany at peace with one another, and persuaded them

to work together for the good of the whole empire. He had no more

trouble with them and for many years his reign was peaceful and


After the Christians had held Jerusalem for eighty-eight years, it

was recaptured by the Moslems under the lead of the famous Saladin

(Sal'-a-din), in the year 1187. There was much excitement in

Christendom, and the Pope proclaimed another Crusade.

Frederick immediately raised an army of Crusaders in the German

Empire and with one hundred and fifty thousand men started for


He marched into Asia Minor, attacked the Moslem forces, and defeated

them in two great battles.

But before the brave old warrior reached the Holy Land his career

was suddenly brought to an end. One day his army was crossing

a small bridge over a river in Asia Minor. At a moment when the

bridge was crowded with troops Frederick rode up rapidly.

He was impatient to join his son, who was leading the advance

guard; and when he found that he could not cross immediately by the

bridge, he plunged into the river to swim his horse across. Both

horse and rider were swept away by the current. Barbarossa's heavy

armor made him helpless and he was drowned. His body was recovered

and buried at Antioch.

Barbarossa was so much loved by his people that it was said, "Germany

and Frederick Barbarossa are one in the hearts of the Germans." His

death caused the greatest grief among the German Crusaders. They

had now little heart to fight the infidels and most of them at once

returned to Germany.

In the Empire the dead hero was long mourned and for many years

the peasants believed that Frederick was not really dead, but was

asleep in a cave in the mountains of Germany, with his gallant

knights around him. He was supposed to be sitting in his chair

of state, with the crown upon his head, his eyes half-closed in

slumber, his beard as white as snow and so long that it reached

the ground.

"When the ravens cease to fly round the mountain," said the legend,

"Barbarossa shall awake and restore Germany to its ancient greatness."