Monday, November 27, 2006

Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor

Frederick II (December 26, 1194 – December 13, 1250), of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, was a pretender to the title of King of the Romans from 1212 and unopposed holder of that monarchy from 1215. As such, he was King of Germany, and of Italy, and of Burgundy. He was Holy Roman Emperor from his papal coronation in 1220 until his death. His original title was King of Sicily, which he held as Frederick I from 1198 to death. His other royal titles, accrued for a brief period of his life, were King of Cyprus and Jerusalem by virtue of marriage and his connection with the Crusades.

He was raised and lived most of his life in Sicily, his mother, Constance, being the daughter of Roger II of Sicily. His empire was frequently at war with the Papal States, so it is unsurprising that he was excommunicated twice and often vilified in chronicles of the time. Pope Gregory IX went so far as to call him the Antichrist. After his death the idea of his second coming where he would rule a 1000-year reich took hold, possibly in part because of this.

He was known in his own time as Stupor mundi ("wonder of the world"), and was said to speak nine languages and be literate in seven [Armstrong 2001, p. 415] (at a time when some monarchs and nobles were not literate at all). Frederick was a very modern ruler for his times, being a patron of science and the arts.

He was patron of the Sicilian School of poetry. His royal court in Palermo, from around 1220 to his death, saw the first use of a literary form of an Italo-Romance language, Sicilian. The poetry that emanated from the school predates the use of the Tuscan idiom as the preferred language of the Italian peninsula by at least a century. The school and its poetry were well known to Dante and his peers and had a significant influence on the literary form of what was eventually to become the modern Italian.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


A disciple of St. Francis of Assisi, born probably near Ascoli, Italy, in the second half of the twelfth century; died probably at Lens, France, c. 1234. Local authors identify him with a certain William of Lisciano. Before becoming a Friar Minor he had been poet laureate at the Court of Frederick II of Sicily. When St. Francis, towards 1212, preached at San Severino, in the Marches, the poet saw two resplendent swords crossed on the saint's breast. Deeply impressed by this vision, he asked to be received into the new order, and St. Francis gladly complied, giving him the name of Pacificus. In 1217 we was sent to France, where he is said to have become the founder and first provincial of the Friars Minor. In the Spring of 1226 Pacificus witnessed the holy "Stigmata of St. Francis" (II Cel., II, 99). When the saint composed the "Canticle of the Sun" he wished to summon Brother Pacificus and send him with other friars through the world, preaching the praises of God (Spec. Perfect., c. 100). The last certain date in the life of Brother Pacificus is that of the Bull "Magna sicut", 12 Paril, 1227 (Bull, Franc., I, 33-34; Raynaldus, ad an. 1227, 64, 65), in which Gregory IX recommends the Poor Clares of Siena to his care. Later authors who say he died at Suffiano, in the Marches, confounded him with another friar of the same name. According to Gonzaga, he was sent by Brother Elias back to France, where he died. Pacificus was long credited with having put the songs of St. Francis into verse. But for the simple construction of the "Canticle of the Sun", the saint needed no help, whilst the other two do not belong to him at all. Some Italian verses said to have been composed by Pacificus are given by Italian authors.