Tag Archives: Holy Roman Empire

The Six-Month Siege of Aachen

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.
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Frederick II Excommunicated by Innocent IV

Emperor Frederick II Excommunicated by Pope Innocent IV

Medieval history is rife with clashes between popes and kings—and the thirteenth century was no exception.  Disagreements between Emperor Frederick II and Pope Innocent IV—over Frederick’s attempts to extend his power in Italy and his reluctance to go on crusade—led to the excommunication and attempted ousting of the Hohenstaufen emperor. With the help of his allies, Pope Innocent selected men to take Frederick’s place. The first of these antikings, Henry Raspe, died only two years after his selection. William of Holland was elected king ten months later.

Since the time of Charlemagne, Holy Roman Emperors and kings were traditionally crowned in Aachen. In Spring of 1248, William’s men rode ahead of their new king to the Medieval city for the coronation, but the gates were barred. The people of Aachen remained loyal to the emperor and refused William’s entry. A skirmish ensued, and sixteen of William’s men were killed.

Because there was an emperor and king already on the thrown, William needed an official coronation so Europe would see him as more than a Church-sponsored pretender. William arrived with his armies approximately a week later, and the siege began.

Siege of Mortagne near Bordeaux in 1377.

Painting of 14th cent. Siege of Mortagne

According to the book The Medieval City Under Siege, siege warfare, though common, was ineffective during the thirteenth century for two reasons. First, a lack of gains in military technology meant that city walls and defenses were often stronger than the weapons used to destroy them. Second, most nobles had difficulty rallying an army large enough to  surround a city’s walls. Even if they could, they usually couldn’t feed and supply a large army for months at a time. Luckily for William, he had a strong ally in the pope who had strong allies of his own.

By summer, troops from Picardy, Flanders, and Brabant came to William’s aid. They damned the river flowing through Aachen, causing a third of the city to flood. After the addition of Frisia’s troops in the fall, William’s army finally had enough men to surround the city. Though the people of Aachen lay starving in a flooded city under constant bombardment, they remained loyal to the emperor. It wasn’t until a rumor of Frederick’s death circulated the city that Aachen waved the white flag.

Cologne’s Archbishop, Konrad von Hochstaden, aided in arbitration. The city nobles and the imperial bailiff pledged fealty to the Church and to William of Holland, gaining their freedom and the end of the siege in exchange. William entered the city on October 19th, nearly six months after the battle began. He was crowned on November first.

 

Sources:

Corfis, Ivy A.., and Michael Wolfe. The Medieval City under Siege. Woodbridge: Boydell, 1995. Print.

Rogers, Clifford J., William Caferro, and Shelley Reid. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Medieval Warfare and Military Technology. New York: Oxford UP, 2010. Print.

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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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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.

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13th Century Kingmaker:  Konrad von Hochstaden

 

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Few men are memorialized in such a contradictory manner as Konrad von Hochstaden. Surely a man who laid the cornerstone of one of Europe’s greatest churches—The Cologne Cathedral—should be remembered fondly. And he is…sometimes. (See the mosaic below.) But Hochstaden gave the people of Cologne and the Holy Roman Emperor of the time several reasons to hate him. Perhaps that’s why a vulgar statue of Hochstaden sits on the side of Cologne’s City Hall. (Scroll to the bottom to see it. Warning: it’s rather vulgar.)

Mosaic Konrad von Hochstaden Cologne Cathedral

This mosaic from Cologne’s Cathedral shows a saint-like Konrad von Hochstaden holding the plans for the church’s construction.

The Complexity of Rule in Thirteenth-Century Europe

To better understand Konrad von Hochstaden’s power and influence, a very brief examination of Medieval Europe’s political structure is in order. At the time, Europe was a hodgepodge of kingdoms, principalities, duchies (areas ruled by dukes), counties (areas ruled by  counts), ecclesiastical sees (areas owned by the church), and free imperial cities.  Trying to decipher the boundaries between these areas when looking at the map below is a tad tricky.

Thirteenth-Century map of Europe

This map of Europe shows the political boundaries under Hohenstaufen rule.

Beginning in the tenth century, the king of the Holy Roman Empire was called King of the Romans and, later, King of the Germans. These were the titles used during Hochstaden’s lifetime. In a nutshell, prince electorates selected a nobleman to fill the position of king. Typically when a Holy Roman Emperor died, the pope promoted the King of Romans to take the emperor’s place, which essentially made the newly crowned Holy Roman Emperor the official ruler of Central Europe. Although, the amount of power each emperor actually wielded varied throughout medieval history and depended on several factors.

While inheritance often played a role in electing the King of the Romans and the Holy Roman Emperor, these were not strictly inherited positions.  As I mentioned above, by the thirteenth century seven prince electorates—made up of four secular nobles and three church officials—ultimately decided who took the title of King of the Romans. The archbishop of Cologne was one of these prince electorates.  One might argue that these kingmakers were even more powerful than the king himself.  We certainly see this when examining the life of Konrad von Hochstaden, who was archbishop of Cologne from 1238 to 1261.

Prince Electorates Holy Roman Empire

This miniature from the Chronicle of Henry VII (1341) shows the seven prince electorates. The archbishop of Cologne sits below the shield with the black cross.

Konrad Von Hochstaden’s Rise to Prince

Konrad von Hochstaden came from noble blood, his father being Count Lothar of Hochstadt.  We know little of his childhood, but by 1216 he was the beneficiary of the parish of Wevelinghoven, and in 1226, he was promoted to canon.  He eventually ended up in Cologne as the provost of the cathedral. When Archbishop Henry of Molenark died in March of 1238, the chapter named Konrad as his replacement, an appointment that Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II approved in August.Surprisingly, Hochstaden wasn’t even a priest at the time. That was a title he’d earned the following year.

Konrad Von Hochstaden

Konrad Von Hochstaden was laid to rest in the Johannes Chapel of the Cologne Cathedral.

Konrad von Hochstaden Turns Against Frederick II

For the first year of his term as archbishop, Konrad supported the emperor in his disagreements with the pope, but when Pope Gregory IX issued Emperor Frederick’s (second) excommunication after he invaded a papal fief, Konrad’s loyalties shifted and he sided against the emperor with the pope and Archbishop of Mainz.  It was a decision Hochstaden must have regretted in 1242 when he was badly wounded in battle against the emperor and captured by the Count of Julich, though he was eventually freed. By 1245, Konrad’s star was on the rise again.

excommunication of emperor frederick ii

This fourteenth-century illumination portrays Pope Innocent IV excommunicating Emperor Frederick II.

Trouble in Cologne

By supporting the pope, Konrad von Hochstaden’s power grew.  He now had two duchies and the ecclesiastical see of Cologne, making him the most powerful man in Northwest Germany.  Not everyone was pleased with Konrad’s quick rise, and this resulted in struggles for power with his noble neighbors (Remeber the Count of Julich?) and the people of Cologne, who often refused to accept his authority.  His ruthless methods in dealing with the people of Cologne left him with a malicious reputation.

English: Albertus Magnus (fresco, 1352, Trevis...

Albertus Magnus (fresco, 1352, Treviso, Italy)

Hostilities grew, so a theologian and scholar by the name of Albertus Magnus was brought in to help bring the people of Cologne and the archbishop to peace.  This event is referred to as the Great Arbitration.  Konrad lost some power in the bargain.  After which, he tried unsuccessfully to pit the craftsman against the patricians in order to gain favor.  He died two years later, and when his successor, Engelbert II, tried to fortify one of the city’s towers, he was arrested and imprisoned by the Count of Julich for little over a year for violating the terms of the Great Arbitration.  Meanwhile, Cologne gave way to violent battles between the wealthy families of Cologne.  Unfortunately for Engelbert, he supported the losing side, and rather than continue his fight for Cologne, he abandoned it for his palaces in Bruhl and Bonn.

A league of German nobles defeated Engelbert’s successor, Siegfried of Westerburg, at the Battle of Worringen in 1288.  After this, the archbishops of Cologne would no longer reside within the city walls.  But Cologne would not officially have its freedom from the Church until 1475 when it was declared a Free Imperial City.

Battles for the Crown

Let’s go back to the battles between the Church and the emperor. In 1242, Frederick II selected Henry Raspe, Landgrave of Thuringia, and King Wencelaus of Bohemia  as protectors of Germany until his young son Conrad was ready for the task.

A papal ban against Emperor Frederick was issued three years later.  Raspe betrayed the emperor, siding with the pope, and was elected king in opposition to the boy he had earlier sworn to protect, Conrad.  Henry experienced success on the battlefield, beating Conrad in the Battle of Nidda.  Unfortunately for Henry, his reign was short.  He died of illness only seventeen months after being named king.

King William II of Holland Granting Privileges by Everdingen and Post 1654

King William II of Holland Granting Privileges (Caeser Van Everdingen & Pieter Post, 1654)

Supposedly many noblemen were considered to fill Raspe’s shoes, but the anti-king crown fell to the young Count William of Holland.  In April of 1248, Holland sieged Aachen, the place where German kings were traditionally crowned.  It took six months for Aachen to fall, but when it did, it was the Archbishop of Cologne, not the Pope, who placed the crown on William’s head.

Konrad von Hochstaden’s faithful service to Pope Innocent was reward with the position of Apostolic legate in Germany, but Hochstaden reached higher.  He secretly encouraged the people of Mainz to ask the pope to make him their new archbishop.  This would make Konrad a double-prince elector since the Archbishop of Mainz also gets to vote on who becomes king.  The pope gently denied Konrad the position, which caused Konrad to turn against the pope.  The apostolic legation was taken from Konrad.  Konrad turned from King William of Holland, as well and used every means necessary to dethrone him.  He probably would have succeeded if William hadn’t died first.

After the death of King William, it was time for Konrad to find another king.  His vote fell to Richard of Cornwall, brother to King Henry III of England.  In trade for his support, Konrad was gifted full imperial authority over his principalities and the right to name bishops in Richard’s stead.  Konrad von Hochstaden died four years later.  Ironically, his remains lie in the Cathedral of the city where he was most hated: Cologne.

I hope you enjoyed this article on Konrad von Hochstaden.  Hochstaden plays a key role in my medieval fiction series, The Fairytale Keeper.  This article is a part of a series on real historical figures from the time period who appear in The Fairytale Keeper series.  As promised, here is that vile statue of Konrad von Hochstaden.

 

 

profile picAndrea Cefalo is a Medieval fiction author and history blogger. Her debut novel The Fairytale Keeper, was a quarter-finalist in Amazon’s 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest. The sequel–The Countess’s Captive—was published earlier this year.  She is currently working on the third book in her series.

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And if you happen to be a historical fiction reader who loves a strong female voice and gritty Medieval settings, check out The Fairytale Keeper series. (When a storyteller’s daughter attempts to avenge her mother, she gets caught in the cross-hairs of a power struggle between kings and kingmakers. The conflict gives rise to some of the greatest stories ever told: Grimm’s Fairy Tales.) Publisher’s Weekly calls The Fairytale Keeper a “resonant tale set late in the 13th century…with unexpected plot twists. An engaging story of revenge.”

Further Reading and Sources:

 

The Real People in The Fairytale Keeper

medieval king

He reminds me of Conrad IV.

I love the Middle Ages, but, to be honest, most of my research time goes into my book.  I am learning more and more every day about the power players during the middle thirteenth century in the Holy Roman Empire.  I don’t recall learning much about the Holy Roman Empire when I was in school.  Most of the Medieval studies focused on England, France, Spain, and Italy.  All those kingdoms, duchies, counties, and ecclesiastical sees in central Europe just aren’t given much time.  As a former teacher, I understand that,  you can’t cover everything, and, in a way, I appreciate it.  Not having learned much about this area made me want to learn more, so I explore it every day.

I was thinking about all I’ve learned about the REAL people who I write in The Fairytale Keeper series, and I thought it would be fun for my readers to learn a little more of these fascinating people who are unknown to most of us.  I hope you enjoy what’s coming up, and that it makes you curious as to how it will all end up in The Fairytale Keeper series.

So now you know what my favorite time period in history is, what’s yours??

 

 

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