FREDERICK II
LO STUPOR MUNDI

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Frederick II was King of Sicily from 1198, King of Germany from 1212, King of Italy and Holy Roman Emperor from 1220 and King of Jerusalem from 1225. He was the son of emperor Henry VI of the Hohenstaufen dynasty and of Constance, heiress to the Norman kings of Sicily.

 

The sovereign who made Sicily the moral capital of the Mediterranean engaged in a long and bitter struggle with the popes: at stake were the hierocratic power of the papacy and the risk of a union between Southern Italy and the Empire to the detriment of the territories of the church.

One of the last acts of Frederick I Hohenstaufen, better known as Frederick Barbarossa, was to organize the marriage between his son Henry and the one who would become the heir of the Norman kingdom of Sicily, Constance of Altavilla. Enrico, former emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, was crowned king of Sicily in 1194 in Palermo; the following day, in Iesi, Costanza gave birth to Federico Ruggero, who went down in history as Federico II. But Henry died under mysterious circumstances in 1197, leaving an heir of only three years.

" The greatest and noblest pleasure we have in this world is to discover new truths, and the next is to shake off old prejudices... A man who seeks truth and loves it must be reckoned precious to any human society."

The emperor who favored the meeting of Greek, Latin and Arab civilizations

Grandson of Frederick Barbarossa, Frederick II was considered by some to be a "wonder of the world", for others he was the Antichrist and for still others the Messiah who came to restore God's order to Earth. Throughout the first half of the 13th century, the Swabian emperor moved with ruthlessness and inventiveness in a complex political scenario, which he strongly influenced and of which he was the protagonist for fifty years. The center of his politics was the Kingdom of Sicily and his court in Palermo was the meeting place of Christian, Arab, Jewish and Greek cultures.

Federico inherited German, Norman and Sicilian blood, but in education, lifestyle and temperament he was "above all Sicilian". Maehl concludes that "Until the end of his life he remained above all a great Sicilian lord, and his whole imperial policy was aimed at expanding the Sicilian kingdom into Italy rather than the German kingdom towards the south." Cantor concludes that "Federico had no intention of giving up Naples and Sicily, which were the real strongholds of his power. He was, in fact, disinterested in Germany.

"Frederick had a great thirst for knowledge and learning. Frederick employed Jews from Sicily, who had immigrated there from the holy land, at his court to translate Greek and Arabic works."

He played a major role in promoting literature through the Sicilian School of poetry. His Sicilian royal court in Palermo, saw the first use of a literary form of an Italo-Romance language, Sicilian. The poetry that emanated from the school had a significant influence on literature and on what was to become the modern Italian language. The school and its poetry were saluted by Dante and his peers and predate by at least a century the use of the Tuscan idiom as the elite literary language of Italy.

Frederick II is the author of the first treatise on the subject of falconry, De Arte Venandi cum Avibus

"The Art of Hunting with Birds". In the words of the historian Charles Homer Haskins:

" 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."

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