Chronicle of Matthew Paris: Year 1238


How the fame of the emperor Frederick was dimmed.

In the course of the same year, the fame of the emperor Frederick was clouded and stained by his envious enemies and rivals; for it was imputed to him that he was wavering in the Catholic faith, or wandering from the right way, and had given utterance to some speeches, from which it could be deduced and suspected that he was not only weak in the Catholic faith, but what was a much greater and more serious crime, that there was in him an enormity of heresy, and the most dreadful blasphemy, to be detested and execrated by all Christians. For it was reported that the emperor Frederick had said (although it may not be proper to mention it) that three conjurers had so craftily led away their contemporaries as to gain for themselves the mastery of the world: these were, Moses, Jesus, and Mahomet; and that he had impiously put forward some wicked and incredible ravings and blasphemies respecting the most holy eucharist. Far be it, from any discreet man, much less a Christian, to unlock his mouth and tongue in such raving blasphemy. It was also said by his rivals, that the emperor agreed and believed in the law of Mahomet more than that of Jesus Christ, and that he had made some Saracen harlots his concubines. A whisper also crept amongst the people (which God forbid to be true of such a great prince), that he had been for a long time past in confederacy with the Saracens, and was more a friend to them than to the Christians; and his rivals, who were endeavouring to blacken his fame, attempted to establish this by many proofs. Whether they sinned or not, He alone knows who is ignorant of nothing.

The archbishop of Antioch claims superiority over the Roman pontiff.

In the same year, the archbishop of Antioch (with the agreement of German, archbishop of Constantinople, advocate of the Greeks, and vicegerent of the anti-pope) presumed with rash violence to break forth into such audacity, that by an empty authority he excommunicated the pope, with the whole Roman church and court, and solemnly preaching blasphemy, he set himself and his church before his holiness the pope and the Roman church, both in age and rank ; that it was and had been superior to the Roman church, because St.. Peter the apostle had in the first place ruled the church of Antioch for seven years with the greatest honour; that he was there received with the greatest possible reverence, and likewise honourably enthroned ; but at Rome he was harassed by manifold injuries and reproaches, and at length, after suffering, together with his fellow-apostle Paul, in the time of the emperor Nero, he ended his tortures by a dreadful death. Therefore, deservedly ought that city and province, together with its citizens and inhabitants, to be dearer and more beloved by the apostle St. Peter, which showed honour and reverence to him, than those which inflicted torments on him and dishonoured him. And it was evident that he liberally conferred the power of binding and loosing on the Greek church rather than on that of Rome, which was now defiled by the stains of simony and usury, avarice, and other sins. By these and other superficial arguments, the said antipope concealed his scars, to his own destruction, and made excuses for sins ; but that pillar of the church the true pope and successor of the godly Peter (although not quite an imitator of him), remained unmoved, reserving all vengeance till the time of retribution.

The Milanese desire to be reconciled to the emperor Frederick.

At this time the Milanese, fearing the imperial mightiness, sent to the emperor, with all possible earnestness, begging him, whom they openly declared to be their true and natural lord, to avert his anger from them, to cease to attack them, and to cherish and protect them, as his liege subjects, under the wings of his mighty protection. They declared that they would thenceforth, as formerly, serve him as their lord and emperor, with all reverence ; that, in token of this obedience, and that they might be protected in the arms of his affection, and that their previous rebellion might not be remembered, they would freely give him all the substance they possessed in gold and silver ; moreover that, as a sign of their subjection and obedience, and of the imperial victory, they would collect all their standards and burn them at the feet of the emperor. Besides this, that they would, when he, the emperor, was again fighting in the service of the cross in the Holy Land, find him annually ten thousand soldiers for the advancement of the Church and for his own honour, on the condition that he would love the citizens without any dissembled malice, and that the state of the city and citizens should be maintained. But the emperor proudly refused all these offers, demanding unalterably that the citizens, in common with their city and all their property, should resign themselves and theirs absolutely to his pleasure. To this piece of tyranny of his, the citizens, with one consent, replied that they would on no account do this, for, said they, ” We have learned by experience, and fear your cruelty ; we would rather die under our shields by the sword, or spear, or by javelins, than by treachery, famine, and flames.” From that time the emperor began to lose favour with many, because he had become a tyrant; and the Milanese, for their humility, were extolled and gained strength. According to the words of the Gospel, “God resisteth the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” The Milanese, then, seeing that it was a matter of life and death, fortified their city more eagerly than usual with arms and trenches, and by entering into alliance with other cities.

The siege of the city of Milan.

At the same time of the year, the emperor having continued the siege of Milan, almost all the Christian princes sent him auxiliary troops ; the king of England, his brother in-law, sent a hundred knights, handsomely equipped with horses and arms, under the command of Henry de Trubleville, together with a large sum of money, to his assistance. The bishop elect of Valentia, too, who knew more of temporal than spiritual arms, hastened there with the knights whom the counts of Toulouse and Provence had sent to the emperor’s assistance. The emperor being attended by such a numerous host of nobles, to the astonishment of many, wasted a long time in the siege with great loss, except that in one battle, Henry de Trubleville, with the triumphal standard of the king of England, followed by the English troops under his command, bravely repelled the attacks of the enemy, and put them to a hopeless flight; on which the emperor returned thanks by letter to the king, declaring that this bold attack was the cause of his safety and honour ; and not long after, he betook himself, with his large army, to lay siege to Brescia, the citizens of which place had succoured the Milanese in all their emergencies. The Milanese, in the mean time, were not idle, but surrounded their city with deep trenches, and continued frequently to assist the citizens of Brescia. In this way the summer season was spent and ended, so that on the approach of winter, a truce was agreed to by consent of both parties, and those who had come to the assistance of the emperor, went away without effecting their purpose; and the emperor himself, as he could not conquer and subject to his rule the city of Brescia, which was a small one in comparison to the other cities, became less formidable to his enemies, and less respected by his friends.

The emperor Frederick, in his anxiety about the crusade, writes to Earl Richard. About the same time, the Roman emperor Frederick, being anxious about the progress of the crusaders and the arrangement of their proceedings, and especially as to the progress of Earl Richard, wrote to the said earl as follows :— ” Frederick, by the grace of God, emperor of the Romans, ever Augustus, and king of Jerusalem and Sicily, to his beloved brother-in-law Richard, earl of Cornwall, Health and sincere affection.—The general advantage of the Holy Land, which depends on the exertions of the crusaders, often induces us, by warnings and entreaties to them, to urge the postponement of the passage of the crusaders in the kingdom of France and other parts of the world, till the predetermined time of the truce, namely, from the month of August next ensuing till the end of the following year; as we think that it will be expedient for assisting the said land, and to the advantage and honour also of those crossing over to it, that the passage of such a numerous host should take place at an opportune time, namely, after the next festival of St. John the Baptist until that same feast in the following year. And we ought not to pass this over in silence, since the burden of the business for the liberation of the said country lies on our shoulders more than on any other of the princes of the world, and for that purpose we are bound to afford assistance and to spend our money; so that by this delay we may, by previously taking advice, when they themselves are perfectly prepared for the service of Christ, fully weigh all the circumstances, without omitting any contingencies. Those persons who have devoted their hearts and bodies to the service of the cross, and desire to give advantageous assistance to the crucified one, having been asked on this matter by our messengers and letters, have prudently and wisely replied to our suggestions, that until the expiration of the before-mentioned truce, they would comply with our request; wherefore, with many thanks we have approved of the wisdom evinced by their reply ; wherefore, as we in our brotherly affection desire to see you in person, and to procure you an honourable passage, we wish and beg of you, if you live, at a convenient time to make your passage through our kingdom of Sicily, because it would not be agreeable to us if you were to take your journey any other way without seeing us; and especially since our kingdom is so situated that a more easy and convenient passage is afforded through it to the transmarine countries. Given at Yercelli, the llth of February, the eleventh indiction.”

The emperor sends word to Earl Richard of the birth of his son.

About this time the emperor Frederick, as a sign of his affection, wrote the following letter to Earl Richard, telling him, to his joy, that a son was born to him by the empress Isabella, the said earl’s sister.

Frederick, by the grace of God, emperor of the Romans, ever Augustus, king of Jerusalem and Sicily, to his beloved brother-in-law Richard, earl of Cornwall, Health and every good wish.—A joyful event, and one looked for by the wishes of all in common, one which is the most grateful of all other gifts received from nature’s bounty, and that by which the sceptres of sovereigns are blessed with a desired succession, we have thought proper to make known to you the earlier, because the novelty of the joy it gave us does not admit of delay. For we have to communicate good news, which we now do by these presents, namely, that, by the disposition of the providence of the Supreme King, who gives increase and health to kings, on the eighteenth day of the month of February a son was born to us from the fruitful womb of our august consort, and a new nephew was given to you. His birth tends to the glory of his father and his uncle, refreshes the joy of his mother, and confirms the hopes of our subjects,, by this, the sound mutual affection, in which we are bound by the ties of affinity, is strengthened, and tends to the increase of our prosperity; and the good of the Caesars turns out in time to the joy and honour of the whole community. The birth of this same child happens in the midst of our exultation at our fortunate proceedings in Italy, which is now yielding to our sovereignty, and at our victory over our defeated enemies, a happy star accompanying these auspices. And since this long-desired son has been born in the midst of these continued fortunate events and victories of ours, we trust in him who, after the birth of a daughter from our fruitful consort, your sister, has bestowed a male offspring, that he has liberally increased the ancient glory of our empire, which having fallen away in former times, now rises renewed by his birth, to the honour and glory of us and our posterity ; and we wish you, who we know have long wished for the birth of this expected nephew, to share in the joy of us and our august consort __Given at Turin, the third day of March, the eleventh indiction.”

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