Barbarossa & The Early Hohenstaufen (1125-1194)


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The music for the show is Flute Sonata in E-flat major, H.545 by Carl Phillip Emmanuel Bach (or some claim it as BWV 1031 Johann Sebastian Bach) performed and arranged by Michel Rondeau under Common Creative Licence 3.0.


Most other medieval German rulers are all but forgotten, so why has interest in the Hohenstaufen never completely disappeared. They were by no means the most successful emperors, that crown has to go the Ottonians, nor was their reign the most fateful, that award goes to the later Salians.

Frederick Barbarossa and his grandson Frederick II have been such fascinating personalities that almost any age could project their own perceptions and expectations onto them, from champion of national unity to modern man before his time. Time to find out what really happened, who they actually were.

As always a great many things keep happening, some good, some bad.

Key Events

Lothar III (1125-1138)

The age of the Hohenstaufen begins with an emperor who wasn’t a Hohenstaufen. Lothar of Supplinburg was a Saxon duke who had spent his early years in opposition to the reigning Salian house and their allies, the Hohenstaufen. The circumstances of his election victory against Frederick of Hohenstaufen kicks off the long lasting political antagonism between Staufer and Welf, between Guelphs and Ghibellines. But despite the outward differences in background and initial political positioning, Lothar III continued the Salian policy of forcing their will upon the princes and pushing back against the papacy. The new element he brings into imperial policy is the Eastern expansion that will ultimately bring about the Baltic empire of the Teutonic Knights and the Hanse.


Death of Emperor Henry V and election of Lothar of Supplinburg as Emperor Lothar III.


Civil War between Lothar III and the Hohenstaufen. Lothar defeats them


Church falls victim to a schism that pulls in all European monarchs. Lothar fights his way to Rome but dies upon his return

Conrad III (1138-1152)

Conrad III manages to gain the crown against overwhelming odds. His opponent Henry the proud was the son-in-law of Lothar III and the most powerful prince in the land. The coup resulted in a continuation of the civil war between the houses of Welf and Hohenstaufen. Participation in the Second Crusade was an attempt to break the gridlock that backfired badly


Conrad III snatches the crown from Lothar’s designated successor, Duke Henry of Saxony from the House of Welf


Conrad III fights endless civil wars against the House of Welf


The disastrous Second Crusade wipes out what was left of royal authority. The Reich falls into chaos

Frederick I Barbarossa (1152-1190)

The most famous of all the medieval German emperors. His reign divides into three parts, part 1 (1152-1160) when he brings peace to war torn Germany and rebuilds imperial authority, part 2 (1160-1177) where he struggles with the papacy and the Italian Communes, and finally part 3 (1177-1190 a period of consolidation ending in the Third Crusade.


Barbarossa is elected in another Coup d’Etat


Barbarossa mends the divisions between Welf and Staufer, finds an agreement with the church and gets crowned emperor


Barbarossa Second Italian Campaign, first defeat of Milan and the promulgation of theLaws of Roncaglia


The cities of Crema and Milan reject the new governance of Northern Italy and are besieged, defeated and razed.


Political and ideological conflict with the papacy. A series of imperial anti-popes fail to get traction. Barbarossa besieges Rome


Alongside with the schism the Lombard cities chafe under imperial rule leading ultimately to the creation of the Lombard League


After the catastrophic disintegration of the army before Rome, Barbarossa fundamentally resets his agenda and sets out for his fifth Italian campaign


The fifth Italian campaign is going from bad to worse as he is abandoned by his secular princes. The imperial army and the Milanese meet for a showdown in Legnano


Peace has to be made with the Pope, the Lombard League, the King of Sicily and Emperor Manuel. The first international peace congress meets in Venice.


Upon his return he finds his cousin and friend Henry the Lion under enormous pressure from the Saxon nobles. Barbarossa cannot protect him


After the shock of seeing his political infrastructure collapse, Barbarossa picks himself up and seeks new routes to expand his family’s power


The Hohenstaufen also need a new ideology, an ideology that makes them independent of papal interference.


Barbarossa sets out for his last adventure. Recapturing Jerusalem and laying down his crown at the church of the Holy sepulchre is the dream that ends in the river Saleph


Barbarossa remains the best known of the medieval emperors. his image has gone through so many iterations, it is now difficult to sperate the man from the myth

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