Frederick II Hohenstaufen

*1194 - 1250








Back to Imperium Romanum

Back to Germany

Back to Sicily

Short Biography



Frederick II Hohenstaufen

*26.12.1194 - †12.12.1250

King of Rome 12.1196 - 08.09.1198

King of Sicily 17.05.1198 - 1250

Innocentius III, regent 1198-1209

Crowned 1209

King of Rome 1211/12 - 1220

Elected Neurenberg 09.1211

Elected Frankfurt 05.12.1212

Crowned Mainz, 09.12.1212

King of Germany 1212 - 1250

Crowned Aachen, 25.07.1215

 Roman Emperor 1220 - 1245/1250

Crowned Rome, 22.11.1220

King of Jeruzalem 09.11.1225

1st excommunication 29.09.1227-28.08.1230

Crowned Jeruzalem, 17.03.1229

2nd excommunication 20.03.1239

Deposed as an Emperor 17.07.1245


Frederick II of Hohenstaufen was born near Seconal in the Papal States in 1194. He was the son of Emperor Henry VI and Constance Hauteville. He was the grandchild of emperor Frederick I and beneficiary of the marriage of his own royal family into that of the Norman rulers of the Kingdom of Sicily (a kingdom, remember, that included the southern Italian mainland). Frederick was crowned King of Sicily as a young child, and he spent much of his childhood in the south. His mother Constance appointed Pope Innocent III guardian of the child.

Frederick was crowned Holy Roman emperor at age 26 and set about continuing the Church/State struggle that his grandfather had waged years earlier. He had his own son installed as King of the lands of Germany, setting the stage for eventual unification of north and south. He then set about solidifying his own rule in the Kingdom of Sicily. He built a chain of castles and border fortifications, built a naval as well as a merchant fleet, and created a civil service for which candidates were trained at the very first European state university, which he founded in Naples in 1224. 

Bound by oath to undertake a Crusade, Frederick finally did so, and, amazingly, through a series of complex negotiations, obtained Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth from the sultan al-Kamil of Egypt.

The emperor's behavior in Jerusalem gave the Pope something to ponder, for Frederick had issued a proclamation comparing himself to Christ, recalling his earlier remarks, supposedly in jest, that Moses, Christ and Mohammed had been impostors! Papal troops invaded Sicily shortly thereafter but Frederick nevertheless managed to return to Italy, and recaptured his kingdom.

In 1231 Frederick came up with a new constitution for the Kingdom of Sicily. The constitution was revolutionary, anticipating the central authority and enlightened absolutism of a later age. 

Frederick's troubles in the north were growing, however. He was unable to thwart the resistance by northern Italian city-states and the princes of Germany to imperial rule. Also, Pope Gregory IX, fearful of eventual encirclement by an earthly empire, excommunicated Frederick in 1239. Frederick countered by invading the Papal States in 1240, threatening to take Rome, itself. He did not carry out his threat, however; he settled for taking 100 clerics prisoner, thereby reinforcing his reputation not only as an oppressor of the Church, but perhaps as the Anti-Christ, himself. 

In 1245 the Pope declared the Emperor to be deposed and Frederick retired to Sicily. At the time of his death in 1250 Frederick was still in a strong position, but within 25 years, his heirs had fallen victim to the same struggle with the Papacy that had taken up his own life. The last Hohenstaufen pretender, Conradin, was executed in Naples by the Angevin rulers who had replaced Frederick.




N° 1


Constance Hauteville,  mother of Frederick II      


*1154 - † 28.11.1198


Empress Constance hands over her new-born infant Roger Constantine,

the future Frederick II, to the wife of Conrad of Urslingen.

Coloured drawing in the Liber ad Honorem Augusti of Petrus de Ebulo. (Bern, Bürgerbibliothek, Cod. 120, fol. 44).


N° 1a




Madonna and Child, end of 12th century

Wil, (Canton St. Gallen, CH)  Sacristy of the Church of  St. Nicolas  [1]

Madonna and Child

Monastery of St. John, Müstair (Canton Graubünden (CH))


From the “Kapelle Unserer Lieben Frauen” in Wil. This chapel belonged to St. Gallen Abbey, of which Fredrick Barbarossa had become the Governor (Vogt) (making it an Imperial Governorate (Reichsvogtei)) in 1180.  After the fall of the Hohenstaufen the Governorate was pawned piecemeal to nearby nobles.


Perhaps this piece, which may represent Empress Constance and her little son, is a representation of the new Governor of St. Gallen Abbey after the death of Henry VI (†1197).


The statue has been thoroughly restored, the top of the head (on which there may have been a crown) being completed and an orb added to a new right hand. The square cross on her dress may be an emblem of her regency.


A similar Madonna is from the Monastery of St. John in Müstair (CH) This Madonna is said to date from about 1160 but the resemblance with the Madonna from Wil is enough to suppose that also Empress Constance and Frederick II are represented, the boy somewhat younger than his counterpart from Wil.


Imperial Crowns of Sicilian manufacture, end of 12th century.

The one on the left a ceremonial crown, the one on the right for daily use.


These crowns may have been a part of the treasury of Empress Constance. They were transported to Germany by King Philip of Hohenstaufen, the brother of Henry VI and were kept in the treasury of Bamberg. [2] Probably a model of such a crown was on the head of the Madonna of Wils.


N° 2

King of Sicily

crowned Sicily 17.05.1198



1199  The 5-year old king in byzantine coronation robes, sitting on his throne, crowned and with sceptre and orb. L.: X FREDER(ICUS) . D(E)I GR(ATI)A REX SICIL(IE) . DVC(ATVS) . APVL(IE ET) P(RI)NC(IPATVS) . CAPVE. D: 1199. 4 Î 3,5 cm.  [3]


N° 3



1211 The 16-year old king in byzantine coronation robes, sitting on his throne, crowned and with sceptre and orb, his feet on a suppedion.  L.: (X fre)der(icvs) . D(e)i gr(ati)a (rex . sic)il(ie) . dvc(atvs ap)vl(ie et) p(ri)nc(ipatvs) cap(ue) i(n) romanor(vm) imp(e)ator(em)  e(lectvs). D.: 1211/1212.


When represented as a pretender for the Roman crown, as a Roman King and as a Roman Emperor Frederick II dressed in the northern fashion, thus abandoning the byzantine styled dress he was wearing as a king of Sicily before.


N° 4


St. Just.

13th century mosaic in the righthand chapel of the abside of the Basilica di San Giusto in Trieste showing Christ between St. Just and St. Servulus.


This mosaic may show Frederick II after his election in November 1211 at the age of sixteen. The red stockings and shoes are a prerogative of a ceasar. From March to September 1212 Frederick travelled from Messina to Germany on an adventurous journey in which he succesfully eluded the supporters of the Roman emperor Otto IV who was at the time deposed by the same German princes that had elected Frederick as his sucessor. Trieste as well as Lucca may have been on his itinerary.


N° 5


St. Martin and the Beggar.

Lucca, Cathedral, 13th century.

(This original is inside the cathedral, a replica is on the façade)


This image of Frederick II has probably been made before his second election as a Roman King because no attempt seems to have been made to add a crown or circlet. The halo has probably been added later.  Also the rider seems to be very young which matches with the age of about sixteen or seventeen when Frederick was lobbying for his election. This statue can be compared with the statue of his son Henry VII in the Cathedral of Bamberg, the rider crowned.


N° 6

German king and elected king of Rome

crowned Mainz, 09.12.1212




1212. The 18-year old king in western coronation robes, sitting on his throne, crowned with a circlet, a sceptre surmounted by a greek cross in his right hand and an orbin his left hand. L.: X FRIDERICVS . DEI . GR(ATI)A . ROMANOR(VM) . REX & SEMP(ER) . AVGVSTVS [ET REX SICILIE]. D.: 1212. [4]


N° 7


Bust of Saint Eustache;

 Made in Basel, first half of the 13th century.

(London, British Museum).


This image has to be compared with the seal above. Frederick is wearing a circlet and not a crown because he was crowned as a Roman King but in 1215. The pendilia, visible on the seal are lacking, like they are on the seal below.


From: Thurre, Daniel: L’Atelier roman dorfèvrerie de l’Abbaye de Saint-Maurice. 1992. Pl. XXVIII.


N° 8



1212 Golden Bull: R°.:The king on his throne with a crown or circlet and with sceptre and orb. L.: FREDERICVS DEI GRA(TI)A . ROMANOR(VM) REX (ET) SEMP(ER) AVGVSTVS [ET REX SICILIE].

V°.: Basilica in Rome. L.: X ROMA CAPVT . MVNDI . (REGIT .O)RBIS . (FR)ENA . ROTVNDI [AVREA ROMA]. D.: 1212/1213. [5]


N° 9

Roman King

crowned Aachen  25.07.1215



1215 The king on his throne with a closed cown, a sceptre with a greek cross and an orb. L.: X FRIDERICVS D(E)I : GR(ATI)A : ROMANOR(VM) : REX : ET . SE(M)P(ER) AVGVST (VS) . ET. REX : SICIL(IE). D.: 1215. [6]


On this seal Frederick II wears a dalmatica strewn with lockets with eagles. A few contemporary dalmaticas from the West also strewn with lockets, have been preserved in Ghent (Belgium) and in Halberstadt (Germany). They can be considered as real coats-of-arms in the literal sense of the word.  


This image is the only known image of Frederick II wearing a coat of arms, be it on a shield or on his clothing. Probably the medallions were of gold, the eagles black, like on the dalmatica of Louis the Bavarian (r.1314-‘47), now in the Weltliche u. Geistliche Schatzkammer in Vienna (Inv. nr. XIII 15).



N° 10



1216 Golden Bull: O.: The king on his throne with a closed cown, a sceptre with a square cross and an orb. L.: FRIDERIC(VS) D(E)I GR(ATI)A . ROMANORV(M) . REX . (ET) SEMP(ER) . AVGVSTVS . (ET) . REX SICILIE. R.: BASILICA. L.: X : ROMA CAPVT . MVNDI . REGIT . ORBIS . FRENA . ROTVNDI [AVREA ROMA]. D.: 1216/1218. [7]


N° 11

Roman Emperor

Crowned 22.11.1220



1220 The emperor on his throne, crowned with the imperial crown with pendilia, sceptre and orb. L.: (X) fridericvs : d(e)i gr(ati)a : imperator : romanorv(m) (et) semp(er) avgvs(t)(us). D.: 1220. [8]


The imperial crown might have had the form as shown here on the left. In this version there is no arch with the words CHUONRADVS REX, nor is there the pectoral cross on top of the front-plate. Instead, the pendilia are still intact. The crown which is visible on different pictures of Frederick Barbarossa and his son Henry VI, has about the same form.

From the different pictures of the crown must be concluded that the exact form was not known by the mediaeval artists, as the crown was guarded high up in the mountain of Trifels (now in Rheinland Pfalz) and was only shown during the short periods of the coronation ceremonies.

It is said that the imperial crown was used at the coronation of Frederick II in Rome on the 22nd of November 1220.


(The picture is an adaptation of a reconstruction by P.E. Schramm, Gottingen Univ., Germany


N° 12

King of Jeruzalem




1233 Golden Bull:. The emperor on his throne, crowned with the imperial crown with pendilia, sceptre and orb. L.: X frideric(vs) . d(e)i . gr(ati)a . romanor(vm) . imp(er)ator (et) . se(m)p(er) avg(u) [st(vs) & rex sicilie], also: [st(vs) & rex ier(vsa)lem(iae) & sicilie.

V°: Basilica L.: X roma : capvt . mvndi . regit . orbis . frena . rotvndi. D.:1233.08.14.

(Secret Archives of the Vatican, A.A., Arm. I-XVIII, 29 (XXIX); SEal (XXXa-b)


N° 13


1228+  The emperor on his throne, crowned with the imperial crown without pendilia, sceptre and orb. L.: X fridericvs di gra romanor imperator & sep avgvst. & rex  sicil & rex ierlm.


N° 14


Goldcoin (augustalis) of Frederick II,

struck in Messina between 1231 and 1266.


Bust of Frederick II with a crown of laurel.  L.: R°: FRIDERICVS; v°: IMP ROM · CESARAVG ·. On the reverse a Roman eagle. On this coin Frederick II, who had been excommunicated from 1227 until 1230 but rehabilitated after his succesful crusade (1228-’29), has adopted the Roman imperial style.


N° 15


Corpo dell  Imperadore Federigo II

Mortal remains of  Frederick II in his tomb in the cathedral of Palermo

Copperplate in I regali sepolchri del Duomo de Palermo of F. Daniele (Naples, 1784, Tav. Q).


The emperor was dresssed in an alba, a dalmatica, a mantle, stockings and shoes and was wearing a crown, a sword and a ring. All these items are lost.


Lit.: Schramm, Percy Ernst & Florentine Mütherich: Denkmale der deutsche Könige und Kaiser. München, 1962.  N° 215.


N° 16


Posthumous portrait of Frederick II

in the Manfred edition of his De Arte Venandi cum Avibus (Book on Falconry, 1239).

Southern Italy, 3rd quarter of the 13th century. (Rome, Bibl. Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 1071, fol. 1 v°).


Frederick II is shown here in royal dress, and probably as a king of Sicily. As such this image can be compared with his portrait on his seal from 1211. Byzantine influence is shown by the chiton (long tunica) and the loros (shawl) which completes the dress. His royal crown however, is thoroughly West-European.




Æ For an extensive article about the Imperial and Royal Emblems of Frederick II see:  Sicily, Royal Emblems.






Henry VII

Conrad IV

Henry Raspe of Thuringia



Back to Main Page


© Hubert de Vries 2006-09-07. Updated 2012-02-27; 2012-09-24; 2012-12-12; 2016-02-12




[1] Die Zeit der Staufer, Stuttgart 1977, No. 480 Abb.  285

[2] From: Ludewig, J.P. Scrptores rerum Germanicarum I. Scriptores episcopatus Bambargensis. Frankfurt-Leipzig 1718. P. 8, Sp. 388. Cited by Schramm & Müterich 1962, n° 188.

[3] Die Zeit, cat. n° 43

[4] Die Zeit, cat. n° 46

[5] Die Zeit, cat. n° 47

[6] Die Zeit, cat. n° 48

[7] Die Zeit, cat. n° 49

[8] Die Zeit, cat. n° 50