Fredrick Barbarossa

Fredrick Barbarossa also known as Fredrick I was the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire during the 12th century.

Fredrick Barbarossa

He was an influential leader, excellent military commander, and brilliant administrator of his empire. He was instrumental in restoring “Corpus Jurus Civilis” which dealt with the Roman Rule of Law during his reign.


Fredrick Barbarossa which means red beard in Latin was born in 1122 C.E. to Fredrick II the Duke of Swabia and Judith who was the daughter of the Duke of Bavaria named Henry IX. His parents were from important and rival families in Germany named Hohenstaufen and Welf.

As a young child he grew up in regimented environment that demanded studying. He was also trained at a young age to become the Duke of Swabia after his father’s death. While a young man he also was taught military tactics which helped him in his later years.

In 1147 C.E. Fredrick Barbarossa was made the Duke of Swabia when his father passed away. At the age of 20 years old he accompanied his uncle Conrad III, the King of Germany, on the Second Crusade. During the Second Crusade Fredrick Barbarossa fought brilliantly at the side of Conrad III. Although the crusade failed to retake Jerusalem, Fredrick Barbarossa had made a name for himself during battle.

He became King of Germany in 1152 C.E. upon the death of his uncle Conrad III. He was chosen as King of Germany instead of Conrad III’s six year old son. He was anointed the King of Germany while alongside Conrad III’s deathbed.

Prince-bishop Bamberg and Fredrick Barbarossa were the only two people at Conrad III’s side when he passed away. Several days later he was crowned King of Germany and the King of the Romans.

During this time period the King of Germany was really just a title for show or nobility. After the reign of Henry V the German monarchy did not hold much power or influence over the people.

His reign as King

One of the first things Fredrick Barbarossa wanted to do was restore the King of Germany to its prior power. He wanted to elevate the kingship back to its glory years of Charlemagne and Otto I. After reconciling with numerous princes and nobles in Germany by the use of tribute, he set his quest for Italy.

The first of six campaigns in Italy took place in 1154 C.E. He took over Milan, Pavia, and Tortona during this campaign. He was crowned King of Italy in 1155 C.E. and he proceeded to take Tuscany and Bologna.

When he reached Rome he banded together with Pope Adrian IV to squash a rebellion by Arnold of Brescia. After being victorious in battle he was anointed Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire by Pope Adrian IV.

When Fredrick Barbarossa was appointed emperor the citizens of Rome immediately revolted. He spent most of his first day as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire killing thousands of defiant Romans.

Between the years 1152 and 1157 C.E. he instituted the Peace of the Land. These rules of law had specific punishments for crimes and ways to end disputes between merchants, noble families, and citizens of his empire.

In 1156 C.E. he married Beatrice of Burgundy. Going forward Fredrick Barbarossa would spend much of his time bringing order to the empire and trying to unify Germany. During his reign he ruled over Germany, Northern Italy, Denmark, Hungary, Burgundy, Poland, and Bohemia.

Later life

During Fredrick Barbarossa’s fifth campaign into Italy he faced tremendous problems with the Lombard League cities which favored Pope Alexander III. Fredrick Barbarossa favored the anti-Pope named Victor IV. He suffered a huge loss at the Battle of Alessandria in 1175 C.E.

Frederick Barbarossa, middle, flanked by two of his children

He had asked his cousin Henry the Lion to help but he refused. Fredrick Barbarossa was forced to reconcile with Pope Alexander III and sign the Peace of Venice Treaty in 1177 C.E.

Fredrick Barbarossa set out on the Third Crusade in 1189 C.E. with the French led by King Philip Augustus and the English led by Richard the Lionheart.

He would never see Germany again. During June of 1190 C.E. Fredrick Barbarossa drowned in the Saleph River near the castle of Silifke having never reached Jerusalem.

Important facts about Fredrick Barbarossa

  • Fredrick Barbarossa was born in 1122 C.E to the Duke of Swabia, Fredrick II.
  • His mother was from the influential family of Welf and the daughter of Henry IX.
  • He became Duke of Swabia in 1147 C.E. after his father’s death.
  • Fredrick Barbarossa followed his uncle Conrad III, the King of Germany during the Second Crusade.
  • He was appointed King of Germany by Conrad III on his deathbed.
  • Fredrick Barbarossa was crowned the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1155 C.E. by Pope Adrian IV.
  • While as Emperor he reinstalled Corpus Jurus Civilis or Roman Rule of Law.
  • Fredrick Barbarossa also known as Red Beard was Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire from 1155 to 190 C.E.


  1. How many years did Fredrick Barbarossa rule as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire?

35 years

  1. What was his uncle’s name who appointed him King of Germany upon his death?

Conrad III

  1. Fredrick Barbarossa participated in how many crusades over his lifetime?


  1. What type of legal system did Fredrick Barbarossa reinstitute while Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire?

Corpus Jurus Civlis also known as the Roman Rule of Law