Tag Archives: Frederick II Holy Roman Emperor

A Week With Emperor Frederick II

Andrea CefaloAndrea Cefalo is a Medieval fiction author and Medieval history blogger. Her debut novel, The Fairytale Keeper,  was a quarter-finalist in Amazon’s 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest. The next three books in The Fairytale Keeper series –The Countess’s Captive, The Baseborn Lady, and The Traitor’s Target—will debut later this year.  She regularly posts about Medieval history on Facebook and Twitter.

 

My mother Nancy researching our ancestry.

My mother Nancy researching our ancestry.

In last week’s article, Frederick II’s 21st Great Granddaughter, I announced a serendipitous discovery made by my genealogist mother, Nancy Cefalo.  To make a long story short, even though it seemed that I had no German ancestry–which was quite disappointing since I write Medieval fiction set in Germany– it turns out that I do.

I am a descendent of the man who was emperor at the time of The Great Interregnum.  Frederick II–the man who reigned over the place I have researched for the last five years–is my 21st great grandfather.

In honor of this discovery, I am dedicating a week of posts to Emperor Frederick II.

Today I am posting a short documentary, Frederick II a bridge between East and West, which focuses on Frederick’s desire to reach beyond cultural barriers to broker peace and increase learning during a time when religious and cultural tolerance was discouraged.

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Frederick II’s 21st Great-Granddaughter

meAndrea Cefalo is a Medieval fiction author and Medieval history blogger. Her debut novel, The Fairytale Keeper,  was a quarter-finalist in Amazon’s 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest. Her second book in The Fairytale Keeper series –The Countess’s Captive—debuted earlier this year.  She regularly posts about Medieval history on Facebook and Twitter.

20140520_205112After retiring in 2009, my mom became an ancestry.com-aholic. Her hobby/compulsive disorder has taught me four things.

  1. The Irish didn’t keep good records.
  2. Welsh people have funny names.
  3. My great, great, great grandfather was hanged for trying to murder his wife.
  4. I have absolutely no German in me.

That last one was a bit of a disappointment. I’ve spent the last five years researching the Holy Roman Empire, especially the region that would later become Germany. Our lineage is a sprawling list of Western European nationalities, most of them ending in –sh. Not one of them German. Not one.

We writer people are a strange bunch.  Many of us believe in muses. We sit around at Starbucks sipping our lattes hoping our characters talk to us so the writing will be a little faster and more poignant today than it was yesterday. I guess a part of me thought I was a distant relation to some semi-important person who lived during The Great Interregnum, and, in some way, that person was bringing me this story. Well, ancestry.com poo-pooed all over that. Or so I thought.

Three days ago when my video, The Great Interregnum: A Thirteenth Century Game of Thrones, went live, I pulled it up for mom. We’re both dorks for European history, so I knew she’d appreciate it. After spending forty hours working on a five-minute video, I was in desperate need of mom-praise, which she gladly gave.

Tangelshe name Hohenstaufen sounded familiar to her. Later that day, she told me she found a Hohenstaufen in our line: Margaret Hohenstaufen. Born in 1241. Daughter of Emperor Frederick II.

The sky opened and angels sang.

No, not really, but I did get a case of goose bumps.

So not only am I part German, I am a descendent of the man who was emperor at the time of The Great Interregnum, the setting of my medieval fiction series. The man who ran the place that I have researched for the last five years is my 21st great grandfather.

I’m no mathematician. Maybe this isn’t so odd. I’m certainly only one of thousands of people who are Hohenstaufen descendants—but a part of me hopes that wherever and whatever Frederick II is now, he’s proud of his 21st great granddaughter who strives to tell the story of his reign. In honor of this discovery, I’d like to dedicate a week of posts to a man few know now, but who was a Renaissance man to the Middle Ages: Frederick II.

Using History to Guess Who Will Win The Game of Thrones

meAndrea Cefalo is a Medieval fiction author and Medieval history blogger. Her debut novel, The Fairytale Keeper,  was a quarter-finalist in Amazon’s 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest. The next three books in The Fairytale Keeper series –The Countess’s Captive, The Baseborn Lady, and The Traitor’s Target—will debut later this year.  She regularly posts about Medieval history on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

George R. R. Martin says A Song of Fire and Ice is loosely based on The War of the Roses.  I believe the series more closely resembles The Great Interregnum: a twenty year Game of Thrones taking place in the 13th century Holy Roman Empire.  My five minute documentary, which compares The Great Interregnum to the Game of Thrones, posits who will end up on the iron throne.  (Take a guess who it is before you watch it.)

 

Math in the court of Emperor Frederick II

About Frederick II

Al-Kamil (right) and Frederick II signed a tre...

Frederick ruled the Holy Roman Empire on and off from 1220 to 1250.  As many of you know, my Medieval series,  The Fairytale Keeper, takes place during Frederick’s reign. Frederick is featured in the second novel in the series, The Fairest of All, which is what inspired me to do greater research on this remarkable man who one might argue could have inspired an early Renaissance if it weren’t for his constant battles with the Church.

Frederick II was a man of insatiable curiosity in a variety of subjects, including, but not limited to: physics, poetry, logic, linguistics, government, biology, mathematics, and zoology.  The plethora of intriguing facts about Frederick’s exploits in order to gain a better understanding of the world around him and that beyond him has lead me to break up one article on the Holy Roman Emperor into a half-dozen.  So hold onto your hats, Medieval enthusiasts, as we (rather briefly) explore the mathematical pursuits of Emperor Frederick II.  Links to the other articles that I’ve written about Frederick II can be found below.

 

Mathematical Pursuits

Not surprisingly, Frederick surrounded himself with the best and brightest mathematicians of his time.  As discussed in my previous articles, sultans of the east sent their best mathematicians to Frederick’s court.  Other members of his court, Michael Scot and John of Palermo, studied mathematics.  Leonard of Pisa, a man cited to contain “sovereign  possession of the whole mathematical knowledge of his own and every preceding generation,” communicated with the emperor, who took an active role in Leonard’s studies.   Based on their correspondences, we see that Frederick had a fundamental understanding of geometry.  Frederick applied his knowledge of geometry to his love of architecture, designing the towers of Capua.

SOURCES

“Frederick II (Holy Roman Emperor and German King).” Www.encyclopia.com. N.p., 2013. Web.

Haskins, Charles H. “Science at the Court of the Emperor Frederick II.” The American Historical Review 27.4 (1922): 669. Print.

 

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Emperor Frederick II and His Scientific Pursuits

Frederick II’s Scientific Pursuits

Frederick II and his falcon. From his book De ...

Frederick II and his falcon. From his book De arte venandi cum avibus (The art of hunting with birds). From a manuscript in Biblioteca Vaticana, Pal. lat 1071), late 13th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As stated in my previous articles, Frederick studied many of the subjects that interested Aristotle, but it seemed that Frederick was especially interested in astronomy, astrology, geography, zoology, medicine, and human anatomy.   Piero della Vigna, a member of the Sicilian school of poets, remarked that Frederick had friars forming maps into globes, tracking the sun’s course through the zodiac, squaring circles, and converting triangles into quadrilaterals.  As discussed previously, Frederick sent questions of astronomy and astrology to the sultans of the east, gaining two astronomers for his own court and a planetarium for his collection.  Frederick was also interested in medicine and human anatomy.  Of particular interest to Frederick was the hygiene of crusading armies.  The correlation between hygiene and disease prevention was unknown at the time.  In fact, Frederick’s insistence on a Sunday bath was outright scandalous.  Frederick’s first crusade was stalled when Frederick fell sick.  Some hypothesize that the illness was faked because Frederick did not want to go, but his interest in disease prevention leads me to believe that he actually became very ill, so ill that he was inspired to find out how to keep crusading armies safe from disease.    Somehow Frederick made the connection between hygiene and the spread of disease.  In 1227, Adam, chanter of Cremona wrote a treatise on the hygiene of crusading armies and dedicated it to the emperor.  Theodore also examined the subject of hygiene.   Frederick also paid careful attention to his own hygiene in terms of bathing and bloodletting.

It could easily be argued that Frederick’s love of zoology, especially the study of hunting with falcons, surpassed his love of any other subject.  In 1231, Frederick brought a menagerie of animals unknown to most Italians including elephants, dromedaries, camels, panthers, gerfalcons, lions, leopards, white falcons, and bearded owl.  Five years prior, he took a similar collection to Parma. In 1245, during Frederick’s travels, the monks of Santo Zeon not only kept Frederick and his entourage, they also had to accommodate an elephant, five leopards, and the 24 camels that Frederick used when crossing the Swiss Alps.  His menagerie wowed the untraveled population of Germany, of which Frederick was the first person to bring a giraffe.

Frederick particularly enjoyed studying birds and horses, possibly inspired by his love of hunting.  He was well versed in Aristotle’s De Animalibus, which he utilized when composing his treatise on ornathology called De Arte Venandi cum Anivabis, which studies the anatomy and behavior of birds .  Frederick also commissioned a volume on the treatment of ailments afflicting horses.  It was very popular and translated into a variety of languages.

Frederick II’s Strange Experiments

13th century anatomical illustration showing t...

13th century anatomical illustration showing the circulation of blood. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As mentioned earlier, Frederick was interested in the workings of the human body and unafraid to conduct unethical experiments to see if his hypotheses were true.  On one occasion, Frederick invited two men to dinner, feeding them very well.  He took on one the hunt and had the other sent to bed.  Both men were murdered and then disemboweled so Frederick could determine if digestion was better aided by exercise or rest.  His examiner determined that the man who had napped, digested his meal better.

Frederick also took an interest in linguistics.  Frederick sought to discover the natural language that children would speak, and hoped that in doing so he would discover the language Adam and Eve used when talking with God.  In order to discover this, Frederick took a group of infants from nearby orphanages and had them raised by nurses who never held or spoke with the children.  According to Slimbene Di Adam who recorded the experiments in his treatise  entitled  Chronicles, the infants were nursed, kept warm, and bathed, but never spoken to.  The hypotheses ranged from Greek to Hebreow, and Latin to the language of God.  Unfortunately for Frederick and these poor children, None of them ever spoke and not a single child lived past the age of two.

The Influences on 13th Century Renaissance Man, Frederick II

Frederick II’s Intellectual Roots

Similar to his grandfather, King Roger II of Sicily, Frederick was interested in intellectual pursuits and legislative matters.  Roger consulted travelers and commissioned them to help him create a better world map, only recording what was agreed upon.  His pursuits resulted in a great silver map in the year 1154. The emperors following Roger, William I and William II, didn’t share Roger’s vigor for scientific pursuits, but like Frederick, did study and have Greek texts translated.

Frederick II Looks Back to Greek and Egyptian Thinkers

Bust of Aristotle. Marble, Roman copy after a ...

Bust of Aristotle by Lysippos from 330 BC

Frederick made a conscientious effort to surround himself with the best and brightest minds of his time, reaching out to anyone who could answer his questions: Moslems, Jews, and Christians alike.  One such man, referred to as Michael Scot, born in Scotland (hence the surname) but educated in Spain, composed works on astrology, meteorology, astronomy, and pysiognomy and dedicated them to Frederick.   These works illustrate Scot’s familiarity with the works of Ptolemy.

Frederick himself was a known admirer of Aristotle.  Though Frederick didn’t always agree with Aristotle, he certainly shared his interests and methods.  Like Aristotle, Frederick studied physics, poetry, logic, linguistics, government, biology, and zoology. Also like Aristotle, Frederick often studied the scientific world through detailed observation, especially in the areas of zoology and biology. He collected animals from across the known world, including panthers, a giraffe, elephants, camels, and a menagerie of birds.  In his studies, Frederick went beyond Aristotle’s scientific method, conducting experiments, though not like what we know today as the scientific method.  Frederick certainly made hypotheses and predictions.  He also tried to set up controls.  However, many of his experiments couldn’t be replicated because they were highly unethical and often resulted in the death of the subject matter.

Frederick II Looks East to Moslem Leaders

Al-Kamil (right) and Frederick II signed a tre...

Al-Kamil (right) and Frederick II signing a treaty restoring Jerusalem to the Crusaders for ten years.

As said earlier, Frederick reached out across the known world for answers to his many questions.  In scientific matters, he often reached out toward Arab leaders. It was rumored that Frederick preferred the company of Moslems, especially when it came to learning.  While this cannot be confirmed, we do know that Frederick often looked eastward when trying to quench his thirst for knowledge.

Frederick was well-known for his acceptance of other beliefs and cultures.  So it’s of no surprise that he  was reluctant to go on crusade against the Islamic east, but after much pressure Frederick did go.  He brought a Sicilian Moslem to tutor him in logic while on crusade. Unlike most crusades, Frederick’s led to a positive relationship with Moslem leaders both commercially and politically. By 1236, the sultan of Egypt sent the emperor a scholar named Theodore, who was, for his time, an expert in math, astrology, and medicine. This however, did not quench Frederick’s thirst for knowledge.  Much like his grandfather Roger, Frederick wasn’t satisfied with a theory unless it was widely agreed upon.  Frederick composed questionnaires, in which he puzzled through scientific, mathematical, and theological mysteries.   Frederick sent his questionnaires to Moslem leaders in the hopes that they could tap their intellectual resources and find answers.

While on another trip to the east, Frederick asked if he could interview an expert on astronomy.  Rather than allow the interview, the sultan Malik al-Kamil sent Frederick an astronomer/mathematician by the name of al-Hanafi.  The sultan of Damascus, al-Ashraf, who was also aware of Frederick’s interest in astronomy, sent him a planetarium with figures of the sun and moon which marked the hours as they made their rounds, a gift valued at 20,000 marks.

Related Articles:

Sources:

“Frederick II (Holy Roman Emperor and German King).” Www.encyclopia.com. N.p., 2013. Web.

Haskins, Charles H. “Science at the Court of the Emperor Frederick II.” The American Historical Review 27.4 (1922): 669. Print.

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Frederick II: 13th Century Renaissance Man

Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor

English: Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Frederick II was a man of insatiable curiosity in a variety of subjects, including, but not limited to: physics, poetry, logic, linguistics, government, biology, mathematics, and zoology.  The plethora of intriguing facts about Frederick’s exploits in order to gain a better understanding of the world around him and that beyond him has lead me to break up one article on the Holy Roman Emperor into a half-dozen.  So hold onto your hats, Medieval enthusiasts, as we explore a fortnight’s worth of articles on Emperor Frederick II.

Frederick ruled the Holy Roman Empire on and off from 1220 to 1250.  As many of you know, my Medieval series,  The Fairytale Keeper, takes place during Frederick’s reign. Frederick is featured in the second novel in the series, The Fairest of All, which is what inspired me to do greater research on this remarkable man who one might argue could have inspired an early Renaissance if it weren’t for his constant battles with the Church.

Related Articles:

13th Century Kingmaker:  Konrad von Hochstaden

 

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