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Barbarossa


Frederick I
Frederick I

Intelligent, handsome, warlike, and judicious, Frederick I, known as Frederick Barbarossa, ruled from 1152 to 1190. Regarding himself as the successor of Augustus, Charlemagne, and Otto the Great, he took the title Holy Roman Emperor and spent most of his reign shuttling between Germany and Italy, trying to restore imperial glory to both regions and coming closer than any other medieval ruler to this goal. In the north, Frederick joined Germany and Burgundy by marrying Beatrice, heiress to Burgundy. He then declared an imperial peace, and to ensure it he placated the Welfs by recognizing Henry the Lion as duke of Saxony and Bavaria.

But when Henry refused to contribute troops to a critical Italian campaign, Frederick and jealous princes exiled him as a traitor. Henry’s duchies were split up, with Bavaria going to the Wittelsbach family, who would remain its rulers until the modern unification of Germany.

In the south, Frederick made six expeditions to Italy to assert full imperial authority over the pope and the Lombard city-states, a group of northern Italian cities that had organized to resist Frederick’s imperial claims in Italy. On his first trip in 1155, he was crowned emperor by Pope Adrian IV. During the next 20 years he was successful in defeating a variety of alliances between the popes and the Italian city-states, capturing Rome itself in 1166. During his fifth Italian expedition, though, he was defeated by the Lombard League at the Battle of Legnana in 1176, partly because he lacked the crucial support of Henry the Lion. The subsequent Peace of Constance recognized the autonomy of the Italian cities, which remained only nominally subject to the emperor. Stubbornly, Frederick made one last trip, gaining new support among the quarrelsome cities. He resigned as emperor in 1190 in favor of his son Henry VI and set out to lead the Third Crusade, in which he died. "Germany" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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