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Germany and Italy.

Medieval history. From end of western empire to the discovery of America (a.d. 476-1492). The Crusade Period (a.d. 1096-1270).
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We turn from this spectacle of decline to Germany and Italy, where we shall see the conflict of Pope and Emperor, the representatives of those who had united in founding the "Holy Roman Empire." In 1138 the Hohenstaufen (or Swabian) line of emperors came to power in the person of Conrad III. (1138-1152). The name is derived from Hohenstaufen, a castle which then stood on the summit of a steep and lofty conical hill in what is now the kingdom of Wiirtemberg. There were already a Papal party and an emperor's party in Germany, and about this time arose the names of "Waiblings" and "Welfs" (corrupted in Italian to "Ghibellines" and "Guelfs") as those respectively assumed by supporters of the emperors and maintainers of Papal power. The nephew; and successor of Conrad, elected by the German princes, was Frederick I. (1152-1190), surnamed in Italian "Barbarossa" or "Red Beard," one of the noblest personages of the middle ages. We may first note the changes, in feeling and in constitutional matters, which had come in German affairs. Papal power had been growing, and the encroachments of the Roman See aroused a feeling of repulsion north of the Alps. A real Teutonic patriot was bound to resist Italian priestcraft. All fiefs had become hereditary, and could only be granted afresh, in case of a vacancy, not by the feudal sovereign, but by the States or Diet of nobles. The commonwealth of princes and barons was beginning to be regarded as the main part of the empire. The principle of election to the imperial office, by the feudal nobles had become well established. It was under these circumstances that Frederick Barbarossa assumed his position. He is still regarded as one of the national heroes, as the type of Teutonic character, enshrined in legend arid song, statue and picture, throughout German territory. He stands forth as. the haughty maintainer of imperial rights, especially as regarded northern Italy, where the authority of the rulers, who remained, for the most part, north of the Alps, had long been suffering from their neglect. In Germany Frederick's policy in dealing with his vassals was one of conciliation and judicious rearrangement of the balance of power* The duke of Saxony received also the duchy of Bavaria, and thus became by far the most powerful of German princes. At the same time, Austria was taken from Bavaria,, and became a new and separate, duchy,, hereditary in the female as well as in the male line. Some of the barons were held in check by the conferring of new rights upon the municipal cities, their chief opponents. The duchy of Bohemia became a kingdom. The bishop of Cologne received Westphalia, and Guelf princes began to rule in Brunswick. The emperor, very handsome in face and dignified in form, with free gracious manners, a firm will, and high administrative ability, warlike in spirit, ambitious not merely for personal ends, was a sort of imperialist Hildebrand, regarding - his office as being fully equal in sanctity to that of the Pope. At the beginning of the reign this was the Englishman Adrian IV. (1154-1159), who crowned Frederick "King of Italy" and "Roman Emperor." He was very strong in Germany, supported by all parties, including the prelates, and on one occasion, when a Papal legate declared in the Diet that the Empire was dependent on the Papacy, the man's life was saved only by the emperor's personal intervention.

Frederick's great conflict with the Papacy, a strife of 20 years' duration, was carried on against Alexander III. (1159-1181), of Italian race, and it was only by the aid of the Lombard cities that the Pope prevailed. In 1158 the emperor, resolved on asserting his rights in Italy, marched thither with an army, and at first Milan and the other towns submitted to the transference of their inner jurisdiction to an imperial officer. The Pope encouraged them to form a league of mutual support, with "The Church" as their watchword, and thus arose the Italian party of Guelfs. The cities were, of course, mainly contending for municipal self-rule, but Frederick, though it is ridiculous to represent him as a foreign tyrant and oppressor, could scarcely yield to such an attitude. He turned fiercely on the rebels in 1162, and Milan vanished by utter destruction with fire. Five years later, the northern cities were again in arms - Cremona, Bergamo, Brescia, Ferrara, Mantua, Vicenza, Padua, Verona, Treviso, and others. In this cause Guelfs and Ghibelins were for the time united. Milan was rebuilt, and Alessandria was founded, with a name derived from that of their ally, the Pope. Frederick again crossed the Alps, and drove Alexander from Rome; but he was soon forced to retire through a plague which almost destroyed his force. He was then occupied for some years with German affairs, and it was not until 1174 that he crossed Mont Cenis into Lombardy. Failing in a siege of Alessandria, the emperor advanced to Legnano, about 15 miles from Milan, and there he met with utter defeat from the Milanese, gathered around their carroccio, a waggon with a flagstaff planted on it, which the Lombards used as a rallying-point in battle. This famous conflict, from which the emperor with difficulty escaped, had notable effects. The freedom of the cities was secured by the Peace of Constance, in which the emperor renounced everything except the mere recognition of his suzerainty. Nominally a part of the empire, and henceforth virtually independent, the cities of Lombardy began a career of freedom, often stained by mutual jealousy and conflict, but productive of great things in the development of artistic culture.

A great feature of Frederick's reign in Germany was his hearty recognition of the importance of the towns which had grown up in the south and west, mainly on the rivers which favoured trade. These natural allies of the Crown against the nobles and princes, clerical and lay, fostered also by the successors of Barbarossa, were the famous "Free Cities" which became, for a long period, the centres of Teutonic freedom and intellectual power, havens of safety amid the storms of civil war, loyal supporters of the throne with money and men, in return for the favours bestowed upon them in the way of municipal institutions, independent jurisdiction, and many privileges. Such were Cologne and Treves (Trier), Mentz (Mayence) and Worms, Speyer and Nurnberg, Ulm, Regensburg (Ratisbon), and Augsburg. The old order of German freemen in the towns was raised by Frederick's allowing them to be admitted to knighthood, and benefited by the checking of the unruly barons, and by improvements in the administration of justice. We have already seen the death of this great ruler in the Third Crusade. The limits of the empire at this period included the following territories, consisting of the German lands in which effective sovereignty was exercised, and of non-German districts where the emperor was acknowledged as sole monarch, but little regarded in a practical way. Germany proper, besides other territories, comprised Lorraine, Alsace, and a part of Flanders. Outside this were the northern half of Italy and the kingdom of Burgundy or Aries - this latter being made up of Provence, Dauphine, the "Free County" of Burgundy, or Franche Comte, and the western part of Switzerland. Bohemia and the Slavic principalities in Mecklenburg and Pomerania were outlying dependencies not yet forming part of the empire, and the region from the Oder to the Vistula was inhabited by yet heathen Lithuanians or Prussians, whose subjection and conversion came about afterwards, as we have seen, through the military order of Teutonic knights.

Frederick's successor, his son Henry VI. (1190-1197), became ruler of Sicily by right of his wife, daughter of King Roger, and thus disappeared the Norman realm which had always supported the Pope against the Emperor. Henry, in his Sicilian dominions, was a cruel tyrant, and his death, occurring under the Papacy of Innocent III., allowed that energetic ruler to extend his influence in Italy. We pass over civil war in Germany between rival claimants for the empire, each elected by some of the princes, and the rule of Otto IV., one of the defeated allies at Bouvines, in order to arrive at the most remarkable of all the emperors, Frederick II., who ruled from 1212 till 1250. This son of Henry, trained in Sicily his native country, by his Italian mother, had little of the Teutonic character. His natural gifts, and his acquired accomplishments in literature, languages, science, and art, earned for him the title, from an English chronicler, of "Wonder of the World." Greek, Latin, Italian, French, Hebrew, Arabic, German-all spoken in his wide dominions - were to him like mother-tongues. He had the energy and knightly courage of his grandsire Barbarossa. It was on the intellectual side of his highly subtle, philosophical, and sympathetic character that he was least understood by the men of his own day, of whom he was many generations in advance. His love of beauty and luxury made the keen politician, warrior, and lawgiver appear to some a mere sensualist. In his Sicilian home he learned much from Mohammedan instructors, and he showed a favour to the adherents of Islam which caused him to be regarded by bigots as a mere pretender to orthodoxy when he went on the Fifth Crusade, and, in later life, was a persecutor of heretics. His polished manners and witty discourse were those of the southern clime of his birth and education. He was accused of blasphemy and unbelief, but these charges, in the "Age of Faith," might rest on the slightest foundations. The many-sided man was and is a riddle of seeming inconsistency. What is certain about his career is that he, among the emperors, was fated to the long and desperate struggle with the Papacy which left Rome triumphant over the ablest and most accomplished of the long line of German Caesars, who exhausted in vain all the resources of military and political skill in the attempt to vindicate the rights of the civil power against the Church; that the result of the conflict determined the fortunes of the German kingdom, and of the little republics of northern Italy; and that the vengeful hatred of the priesthood, pursuing his house to the third generation, effected the ruin of the line of Hohenstaufen.

In 1220 Frederick went to Italy to be crowned as emperor, and he was absent from his German dominions for 15 years. It was at this time, while he was engaged in settling Italian affairs, that he founded the university of Naples, and was the patron, at his court, of poets, artists, and men of learning. He caused his chancellor to draw up a code of laws for the common benefit of all classes of his Italian and German subjects, but his earnest efforts for an impossible unity in his dominions were hampered by the opposition of the Papacy and the Lombard cities. The real ground of Papal jealousy and dislike was the emperor's possession of Sicily, which placed the occupants of the Holy See, very eager for increase of temporal sway, between the two fires of imperial power to north and south of central Italy. Frederick had, at the beginning of his reign, vowed to go on a Crusade, and when urgent affairs delayed the execution of this project from time to time, he was excommunicated. When he did start for the East in 1228, every effort was used by the Papacy to cause him to fail; and when, without the use of armed force, he effected much for the cause of the pilgrims, he was charged with dishonouring the Church by unworthy dealings with the infidel. In 1234, the emperor was troubled by the revolt of his son Henry, who had been crowned at Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) as "King of Rome," the title of the German king-elect, but his efforts failed against the alliance, in the father's favour, of the princes of the empire and the imperial cities. The unrepentant villain, after submission, tried to poison his father, and ended his days in an Apulian prison. In 1237, Frederick was at open war with the cities of the Lombard League, and gained a great victory over the Milanese army at Corte Nuova in Lombardy, capturing the famous carrocdo, which he sent to Rome as a galling proof to the Pope of the imperial victory over his allies. From 1239 to 1250 the emperor, as an excommunicated and, by the Pope, in 1245, dethroned man, was at war with Gregory IX. and his successor Innocent IV. Rival rulers to himself were elected in Germany, but Frederick paid no heed and fought on in Italy. In 1247 his army was routed by the troops of Padua, and his brave natural son Enzio, fighting for his father, was taken by the men of Bologna, in 1249, and consigned to a life-long captivity. The following year brought the death of the emperor, worn-out by toil and disaster. His son Conrad, succeeding to the kingdom of Sicily, had to fight for his realm, and died in 1254. His half-brother Manfred, regent for Conrad's infant son Conradin, and then king of Sicily, died fighting in 1266 against Charles, count of Anjou, brought into the field by Pope Clement IV., a Frenchman. The young Conradin, set up as king of Sicily by some Ghibelline nobles, was taken in battle by Charles in 1268 and beheaded, and with him ended the line of Hohenstaufen. From 1256 to 1273 there was an interregnum, and a time of lawless confusion in Germany, ended at last by the election to the empire of Rudolf of Hapsburg, a castle in the Aargau.

The strength of the empire perished with Frederick II. The kingship in Germany had been sacrificed to the vain dream of universal dominion, and to the hopeless effort at combining power in Italy with real control of the feudal nobles north of the Alps.

France was rising in political power as Germany declined, and the centralisation of authority there and in England was in striking contrast to the deplorable spectacle presented by the lack of unity and order in Germany. The kings of France and of England had been able to resist Papal encroachments; the emperors of Germany had conspicuously failed. The most favourable view of Germany under the Hohenstaufen emperors is presented in the freeing of numerous serfs. Some were emancipated in reward for doing good service in the Crusades; others obtained freedom from nobles who were setting out for the Holy Land; many more, fleeing from ill-treatment, were welcomed and protected in the free cities, and received in due time municipal rights. This age was also remarkable in Germany for the beginnings of Gothic or pointed architecture, and for the poems of the Minnesanger or lyrists of love, and the great epic poem called the Nibelungenlied, now held to rank next to the Homeric poems in its own style of verse.

The history of Italy in mediaeval times, except as regards the Papacy and Venice, which have a unity and superiority of their own, is of the most perplexing and tedious character through the incessant changes which took place in the internal condition and external relations of numerous petty states. We shall here deal with these down to the end of the middle ages in a general sketch, reserving Venice, the Papacy, and Naples and Sicily, as to the two later centuries of that period. It has been well said that "the keynotes of Italian mediaeval history are individualism and self-assertion, and the breath of the people's being was a long-lasting, ever-reviving struggle between commune and commune, class and class, family and family." The communes or municipalities were the origin of these famous republics, all of them, large and small, animated by narrow and intense civic patriotism, and by the impulse of expansion at the cost of their neighbours. Skill and industry in handicrafts and trade were the foundations of prosperity in a country which was a great centre of agricultural produce and most favourably placed for commercial intercourse. Except in Lombardy, these cities never made any confederation for a common object of defence, and it is to this persistent individuality of character that their precocious development of a brilliant civilisation is due. During the long period of German influence and interference in Italy, the conflicts between different states were complicated, in the 11th and three following centuries, by the strife of the famous parties called Guelfs or Guelphs, and Ghibelins or Ghibellines. These words represented the Italian form, Gitelfi and Ghibellini, as the theatre of contest was chiefly in Italy, of the original German "Welf" and "Waiblingen," the respective names of the historical family of which the House of Brunswick is a branch, and of a town in Wiirtemberg possessed by the imperial House of Hohenstaufen. The words became, in Germany, the war-cries of rival factions, "Welf" that of supporters of the Papal party and opponents of the emperor, "Waiblingen" that of the maintainers of the imperial cause against the Pope. When the struggle was transferred to Italy, the Guelfs were thus on the Papal side, and the Ghibellines were the partisans of the imperial cause. We must notice also that, when Frederick Barbarossa of Germany attacked the free cities, the Guelfs became the Papal party as well as the popular faction, because the Popes, for their own interests, supported them against the emperor, while the Ghibellines, as imperial partisans, represented the Italian feudal party.

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