Frederick II, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire 1220 – 1250
Frederick II, a Hohenstaufen and grandson of Frederick I Barbarossa, was already referred to as stupor mundi (wonder of the world) during his lifetime. He was the Holy Roman Emperor from 1220 and King of Jerusalem from 1225, the Empire having reached its territorial peak during his reign.
His political and cultural ambitions were enormous as he ruled the vast area beginning at Sicily and stretching all the way to northern Germany. He was the only ruler of the Crusader era, during which time the city of Jerusalem was handed over through peaceful negotiations.
He was a man of extraordinary culture, energy, and ability – called by a contemporary chronicler ‘stupor mundi‘ (the wonder of the world), by Nietzsche ‘the first European’, and by many historians ‘the first modern ruler’. In Sicily and southern Italy, Frederick II established something very much like a modern, centrally-governed kingdom with an efficient bureaucracy. He was frequently at war with the papacy and he was excommunicated four times.
Speaking six languages, including Arabic, he was a patron of science and the arts. He played a major role in promoting literature through the Sicilian School of poetry. He was also the first king who explicitly outlawed torture in trials, as they were considered irrational.
Castel del Monte
Castel del Monte is a 13th-century citadel and castle situated on a hill in the Apulia region of southeastern Italy. Inheriting the lands from his mother, Constance of Sicily (the heiress of the Norman kings of Sicily), Emperor Frederick II built Castel del Monte in the 1240s as a hunting castle.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is described by Enciclopedia Italiana as “the most fascinating castle built by Frederick II”. Castel del Monte also appears on the Italian version of the one cent Euro coin. I will publish a photo gallery of the castle here soon.