The Emperor and the Saint: Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, Francis of Assisi, and Journeys to Medieval Places

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2011-05-30
  • Publisher: Northern Illinois Univ Pr
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The Emperor and the Saintis a vivid place-by-place telling of the life and times of the most enlightened, creative, and dynamic ruler of Medieval Europe, Frederick II of Hohenstaufen. St. Francis, who shared with Frederick a love of the natural world and was baptized in the same cathedral in Assisi, is a parallel and contrasting presence. Cassady enthusiastically guides the reader through the history and legends, pausing to describe the architecture of a cathedral, to marvel at the atmosphere of a town, to recommend the best place for a quiet picnic of local fare. Frederick#x19;s mother, Constance, was the daughter of the Norman Sicilian king, Roger II; Frederick#x19;s father, Henry VI, was the scion of the German imperial family, son of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. When three-year-old Frederick was orphaned in 1198 he came under the guardianship of Pope Innocent III, marking the beginning of a conflict with the Papacy that was to last for the rest of his life-he was excommunicated twice. As a young boy he wandered freely through the streets of Palermo, a crossroad of Eastern and Western cultures. A man of insatiable curiosity, Frederick spent hours developing his knowledge of science and religion, art and philosophy. He traveled the length and breadth of Europe, even going to the Near East where, as Commander of the Crusades, he met with the great Saladin. Both respected and reviled, Frederick achieved great heights and faced grave disappointments. One failure was his dream to bring Italy and Sicily together in a united empire with a capital at Rome. When Frederick died in December 1250, he was robed in the white habit of a Cistercian monk to demonstrate his connection to both personal/political and religious worlds. This engaging book is richly illustrated with photographs. Armchair historians, general readers of popular biography, and fans of travel literature will delight in Cassady#x19;s lively presentation.


“The book that you hold in your hands is the biography of a giant: a giant who bestrode late medieval Europe and who is infinitely more deserving of the title Frederick the Great than that pipsqueak king of Prussia on whom it was so unaccountably conferred. That giant’s fluency in six languages—including Arabic—was even rarer in the thirteenth century than it is now; he was a sensitive poet in whose court the sonnet was invented, a generous patron of the arts, a skilled general, a subtle statesman, and a superb naturalist. His book on falconry, De arte venandi con avibus, displays a knowledge and understanding of wildlife probably unparalleled in his time. It was to become a classic and is, I am told, still studied today. Frederick demonstrated his diplomatic skills when he recovered Jerusalem and the holy places for Christendom without shedding a drop of Christian—or Muslim—blood. (It was somehow characteristic of his relations with the papacy that he should have done so while under a papal sentence of excommunication.) A passionate intellectual curiosity—surely inherited from his Norman grandfather, King Roger II of Sicily—gave him more than a passing knowledge of philosophy and astronomy, geometry and algebra, medicine and the physical sciences. No wonder that he should have been given the sobriquet of stupor mundi; he was indeed, in his own highly individual way, a wonder of the world. . . . Being intended—as all really good books should be—not for scholars but for the average intelligent reader, it is, of all those [biographies] that I have mentioned, the most easily accessible. Frederick II was always a lucky man; in his latest biographer he can count himself fortunate indeed.”—from the Foreword by John Julius Norwich

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