The History of Florence—Book I

Chapter IV

Italy was at this time governed partly by the people, some districts by their own princes, and others by the Deputies of the Emperor. The highest in authority, and to whom the others referred, was called the Chancellor. Of the princes, the most powerful were Godfrey and the Countess Matilda, his wife, who was daughter of Beatrice, the sister of Henry II. She and her husband possessed Lucca, Parma, Reggio, Mantua, and the whole of what is now called the Patrimony of the Church. The ambition of the Roman people caused many wars between them and the pontiffs, whose authority had previously been used to free them from the emperors; but when they had taken the government of the city to themselves, and regulated it according to their own pleasure, they at once became at enmity with the popes, who received far more injuries from them than from any Christian potentate. And whilst the popes caused all the West to tremble with their censures, the people of Rome were in open rebellion against them; nor had they or the popes any other purpose, but to deprive each other of reputation and authority.

Nicholas II now attained the papacy; and as Gregory V had taken from the Romans the right to create an emperor, he in the same manner determined to deprive them of their share in the election of the pope; and confined the creation to the cardinals alone. Nor did this satisfy him; for, having agreed with the princes who governed Calabria and Puglia, by methods which we shall presently relate, he compelled the officers whom the Romans appointed to their different jurisdictions, to render obedience to him; and some of them he even deprived of their offices. After the death of Nicholas, there was a schism in the Church; the clergy of Lombardy refused obedience to Alexander II, created at Rome, and elected Cadolo of Parma anti-pope; and Henry, who hated the power of the pontiffs, gave Alexander to understand that he must renounce the pontificate, and ordered the cardinals to go into Germany to appoint a new pope. He was the first who felt the importance of spiritual weapons; for the Pope called a council at Rome, and deprived Henry of both the empire and the kingdom. Some of the people of Italy took the part of the Pope, others of Henry; and hence arose the factions of the Guelfs and the Ghibellines; that Italy, relieved from the inundations of barbarians, might be distracted with intestine strife. Henry, being excommunicated, was compelled by his people to come into Italy, and fall barefooted upon his knees before the Pope, and ask his pardon. This occurred in the year 1082. Nevertheless, there shortly afterward arose new discords betwixt the Pope and Henry; upon which the Pope again excommunicated him, and the Emperor sent his son, also named Henry, with an army to Rome, and he, with the assistance of the Romans, who hated the Pope, besieged him in the fortress. Robert Guiscard then came from Puglia to his relief, but Henry had left before his arrival, and returned to Germany. The Romans stood out alone, and the city was sacked by Robert, and reduced to ruins. As from this Robert sprung the establishment of the Kingdom of Naples it seems not superfluous to relate particularly his actions and origin.

Disunion having arisen among the descendants of Charlemagne, occasion was given to another Northern people, called Normans, to assail France and occupy that portion of the country which is now named Normandy. A part of these people came into Italy at the time when the province was infested with the Berengarii, the Saracens, and the Huns, and occupied some places in Romagna, where, during the wars of that period, they conducted themselves valiantly. Tancred, one of these Norman princes, had many children; amongst the rest were William, surnamed Ferabac, and Robert, called Guiscard. When the principality was governed by William, thc troubles of Italy were in some measure abated; but the Saracens still held Sicily, and plundered the coasts of Italy daily. On this account William arranged with the princes of Capua and Salerno, and with Melorco, a Greek, who governed Puglia and Calabria for the Greek Emperor, to attack Sicily; and it was agreed that, if they were victorious, each should have a fourth part of the booty and the territory. They were fortunate in their enterprise, expelled the Saracens, and took possession of the island; but after the victory, Melorco secretly caused forces to be brought from Greece, seized Sicily in the name of the Emperor, and appropriated the booty to himself and his followers.

William was much dissatisfied with this, but reserved the exhibition of his displeasure for a suitable opportunity, and left Sicily with the princes of Salerno and Capua. But when they had parted from him to return to their homes, instead of proceeding to Romagna he led his people toward Puglia, and took Melfi; and from thence, in a short time, recovered from the Greek Emperor almost the whole of Puglia and Calabria, over which provinces, in the time of Pope Nicholas II, his brother Robert Guiscard was sovereign. Robert, having had many disputes with his nephews for the inheritance of these States, requested the influence of the Pope to settle them; which his holiness was very willing to afford, being anxious to make a friend of Robert, to defend himself against the Emperor of Germany and the insolence of the Roman people, which indeed shortly followed, when, at the instance of Gregory, he drove Henry from Rome, and subdued the people. Robert was succeeded by his sons Roger and William, to whose dominion not only was Naples added, and all the places interjacent as far as Rome, and afterwards Sicily, of which Roger became sovereign; but upon William going to Constantinople, to marry the daughter of the Emperor, his dominions were wrested from him by his brother Roger. Inflated with so great an acquisition, Roger first took the title of King of Italy, but afterward contented himself with that of King of Puglia and Sicily. He was the first who established and gave that name to this kingdom, which still retains its ancient boundaries, although its sovereigns have been of many families and countries. Upon the failure of the Normans, it came to the Germans, after these to the French, then to the Arragonese; and it is now held by the Flemish.

About this time Urban II became Pope, and excited the hatred of the Romans. As he did not think himself safe even in Italy, on account of the disunion which prevailed, he directed his thoughts to a generous enterprise. With his whole clergy he went into France, and at Anvers, having drawn together a vast multitude of people, delivered an oration against the infidels, which so excited the minds of his audience that they determined to undertake the conquest of Asia from the Saracens; which enterprise, with all those of a similar nature, were afterward called Crusades, because the people who joined in them bore upon their armor and apparel the figure of a cross. The leaders were Godfrey, Eustace, and Baldwin of Bouillon, Counts of Boulogne, and Peter, a hermit celebrated for his prudence and sanctity. Many kings and people joined them, and contributed money; and many private persons fought under them at their own expense; so great was the influence of religion in those days upon the minds of men, excited by the example of those who were its principal ministers. The proudest successes attended the beginning of this enterprise; for the whole of Asia Minor, Syria, and part of Egypt fell under the power of the Christians. To commemorate these events the order of the Knights of Jerusalem was created, which still continues, and holds the island of Rhodes—the only obstacle to the power of the Mohammedans. The same events gave rise to the order of the Knights Templar, which, after a short time, on account of their shameless practices, was dissolved. Various fortune attended the Crusaders in the course of their enterprises, and many nations and individuals became celebrated accordingly. The Kings of France and England joined them, and with the Venetians, Pisans, and Genoese, acquired great reputation, till the time of Saladin, when, by his talents, and the disagreement of the Christians amongst themselves, the Crusaders were robbed of all that glory which they had at first acquired, and after ninety years were driven from those places which they had so honorably and happily recovered.

After the death of Urban, Pascal I1 became Pope, and the empire was under the dominion of Henry IV, who came to Rome pretending friendship for the pontiff, but afterward put his holiness and all his clergy in prison; nor did he release them till it was conceded that he should dispose of the churches of Germany according to his own pleasure. About this time, the Countess Matilda died, and made the Church heir to all her territories. After the deaths of Pascal II and Henry IV many popes and emperors followed, till the papacy was occupied by Alexander III and the empire by Frederick surnamed Barbarossa. The popes during this period had met with many difficulties from the people of Rome and the emperors; and in the time of Barbarossa they were much increased. Frederick possessed military talent, but was so full of pride that he would not submit to the pontiff. However, at his election to the empire he came to Rome to be crowned, and returned peaceably to Germany, where he did not long remain in the same mind, but came again into Italy to subdue certain places in Lombardy, which did not obey him. It happened at this time that the Cardinal St. Clement, of a Roman family, separated from Alexander, and was made Pope by some of the cardinals. The Emperor Frederick being encamped at Crema, Alexander complained to him of the anti-pope, and received for answer that they were both to go to him, and, having heard each. side, he would determine which was the true pope. This reply displeased Alexander; and, as he saw the Emperor was inclined to favor the anti-pope, he excommunicated him, and then fled to Philip, King of France. Frederick, in the meantime, carrying on the war in Lombardy, destroyed Milan; which caused the union of Verona, Padua, and Vicenza against him, for their common defence. About the same period the anti-pope died, and Frederick set up Guido, of Cremona, in his stead.

The Romans, from the absence of the Pope, and from the Emperor being in Lombardy, had reacquired some authority in Rome, and proceeded to recover the obedience of those places which had been subject to them. And as the people of Tuseulum refused to submit to their authority, they proceeded against them with their whole force; but these, being assisted by Frederick, routed the Roman army with such dreadful slaughter that Rome was never after either so populous or so rich. Alexander now returned to the city, thinking he could be safe there on account of the enmity subsisting between the Romans and the Emperor, and from the enemies which the latter had in Lombardy. But Frederick, setting aside every other consideration, led his forces and encamped before Rome; and Alexander fled to William, King of Puglia, who had become heir of that kingdom after the death of Roger. Frederick, however, withdrew from Rome on account of the plague which then prevailed, and returned to Germany. The cities of Lornhardy in league against him, in order to command Pavia and Tortona, which adhered to the imperial party, built a city, to be their magazine in time of war, and named it Alexandria, in honor of the Pope and in contempt of Frederick.

Guido the anti-pope died, and Giovanni, of Fermo, was appointed in his stead, who being favored by the imperialists, lived at Montefiascone. Pope Alexander being at Tusculum, whither he had been called by the inhabitants, that with his authority he might defend them from the Romans, ambassadors came to him from Henry, King of England, to signify that he was not blamable for the death of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, although public report had slandered him with it. On this the Pope sent two cardinals to England, to inquire into the truth of the matter; and although they found no actual charge against the King, still, on account of the infamy of the crime, and for not having honored the archbishop so much as he deserved, the sentence against the King of England was, that having called together the barons of his empire, he should upon oath before them affirm his innocence; that he should immediately send 200 soldiers to Jerusalem, paid for one year; that, before the end of three years, he should himself proceed thither with as large an army as he could draw together; that his subjects should have the power of appealing to Rome when they thought proper; and that he should annul whatever acts had been passed in his kingdom unfavorable to ecclesiastical rule. These terms were all accepted by Henry; and thus a great king submitted to a sentence that in our day a private person would have been ashamed of. But while the Pope exercised so great authority over distant princes, he could not compel obedience from the Romans themselves, or obtain their consent that he should remain in Rome, even though he promised to intermeddle only with ecclesiastical affairs.

About this time Frederick returned to Italy, and while he was preparing to carry on new wars against the Pope, his prelates and barons declared they would abandon him unless he reconciled himself with the Church; so that he was obliged to go and submit to the Pope at Venice, where a pacification was effected, but in which the pontiff deprived the Emperor of all authority over Rome, and named William, King of Sicily and Puglia, a coadjutor with him. Frederick, unable to exist without war, joined the crusaders in Asia, that he might exercise that ambition against Mohammedans which he could not gratify against the vicars of Christ. And being near the river Cydnus, tempted by the clearness of its waters, bathed therein, took cold, and died. Thus the river did a greater favor to the Mohammedans than the Pope's excommunications had done to the Christians; for the latter only checked his pride, while the former finished his career. Frederick being dead, the Pope had now only to suppress the contumacy of the Romans; and, after many disputes concerning the creation of consuls, it was agreed that they should elect them as they had been accustomed to do, but that these should not undertake the office till they had first sworn to be faithful to the Church.

This agreement being made, Giovanni, the anti-pope, took refuge in Mount Albano, where he shortly afterward died. William, King of Naples, died about the same time, and the Pope intended to occupy that kingdom on the ground that the King had left only a natural son named Tancred. But the barons would not consent, and wished that Tancred should be king. Celestine III, the then Pope, anxious to snatch the kingdom from the hands of Tancred, contrived that Henry, son of Frederick, should be elected emperor, and promised him the kingdom on the condition that he should restore to the Church all the places that had belonged to her. To facilitate this affair, he caused Costanza, a daughter of William, who had been placed in a monastery and was now old, to be brought from her seclusion and become the wife of Henry. Thus the Kingdom of Naples passed from the Normans, who had been the founders of it, to the Germans. As soon as the affairs of Germany were arranged, the Emperor Henry came into Italy with Costanza his wife and a son about four years of age named Frederick; and as Tancred was now dead, leaving only an infant named Roger, he took possession of the kingdom without much difficulty. After some years Henry died in Sicily, and was succeeded in the kingdom by Frederick, and in the empire by Otho, Duke of Saxony, who was elected through the influence of Innocent III. But as soon as he had taken the crown, contrary to the general expectation, he became an enemy of the Pope, occupied Romagna, and prepared to attack the kingdom. On this account the Pope excommunicated him; he was abandoned by everyone, and the Electors appointed Frederick, King of Naples, Emperor in his stead. Frederick came to Rome for his coronation; but the Pope, being afraid of his power, would not crown him, and endeavored to withdraw him from Italy as he had done Otho. Frederick returned to Germany in anger, and, after many battles with Otho, at length conquered him. Meanwhile Innocent III died, who, besides other excellent works, built the Hospital of the Holy Ghost at Rome. He was succeeded by Honorius III, in whose time the religious orders of St. Dominic and St. Francis were founded, 1218. Honorius crowned Frederick, to whom Giovanni, descended from Baldwin King of Jerusalem, who commanded the remainder of the Christian army in Asia and still held that title, gave a daughter in marriage; and, with her portion, conceded to him the title to that kingdom: hence it is that every king of Naples is called King of Jerusalem.