Frederick II of Swabia, king of Sicily, was educated edifier, protector of the arts and great renewal for his supporters, but also fearful enemy of Christendom, for the popes who opposed him. He was a fascinating character, with a great political and cultural depth, who was able to give strength and pride to the people of the Italian South. Its traces are today still traceable.
Federico Rugggero was born in Jesi on December 26, 1194, under a tent raised in the square, as his mother had wanted, Constance of Altavilla, daughter of Roger the Norman, King of Sicily, and wife of Emperor Henry VI, of the great German dynasty degli Hohenstaufen, son of Federico Barbarossa.
His father Henry VI died in 1197, when Frederick II was only three years old. The legacy of the kingdom of southern Italy is destined for him. In Sicily, driven all the Germanic lords from the kingdom, Constance of Altavilla assumes the regency of Federico. Consistent with her husband's will, she conducts negotiations first with Pope Celestine III, then with Innocent III. He recognizes the supremacy of the pope over the Norman kingdom and concludes a concordat in which he renounces the empire on behalf of his son, whose regency is entrusted to the pope.
In 1198 his mother also died and Federico, May 18, 1198, just four years, was crowned King of Sicily, Duke of Puglia and Prince of Capua, and is entrusted to the protection of Pope Innocent III.
For him, the Pope wanted a peaceful destiny, far from political life, yet Federico would not shirk the destiny that seemed marked for him.
Crowned King on December 26, 1208, at the age of fourteen, Federico immediately showed his clear ideas. His first thoughts are directed to the south of Italy where the situation was anything but easy. During the years of his stay in Germany the kingdom of Sicily had remained at the mercy of the German military commanders. Moreover, feudal lords and city communities had taken advantage of the weakness of the monarchy to extend their dominions and their autonomy.
His first objective was to claim all the royal rights that had been usurped in the last thirty years. Federico decides to confiscate all the fortresses built illegally over the years, claims the rights of the state on steps, customs, ports and markets, and cancels the claims of local lords and the exemptions enjoyed by foreign merchants.
Even the fiefs are brought under the control of the King: Federico forbids the sale without his authorization. It also imposes its necessary assent for the marriages of the vassals. At the same time Federico takes steps to facilitate trade and ensure road safety.
Frederick wants to strengthen the bureaucratic-administrative apparatus of the State and needs well-trained jurists and officials: in 1224 he founded in Naples the first State University of the Western world, granting facilities of various kinds to those who wanted to attend it and at the same time prohibiting his subjects to go to study at the Bologna competitor.
Federico's commitment to the population and the land of the South is intensified with the impulse he gives to the Medical School of Salerno, and with the promulgation by Melfi of the Constitutions, which gave the backbone to his centralized state. On a hill of the Capitanata in Puglia, he built, among others, the famous Castel del Monte, which he designed himself.
Innovative also in the judicial field, Federico II places the criterion of equity at the center of his commitment to administer justice without exception of any kind towards anyone. The cult of peace is enunciated, of which the surrender is a guarantor. In this task the judges perform, in the name of the sovereign, an almost sacred function, an intent that is confirmed by some precise correlations: the oath imposed on all the ministers to act with equity, the tightening of the selection criteria and the strong commitment to raise the cultural level of royal officials.
In the economic field, Frederick fought in the main cities of the South, against usury: in Naples and Bari, above all, there were Jewish quarters where money lending activities were carried out with interest repaid. Frederick does not want Jews to be victims of Christians, but he does not want any disequilibrium either. It brings back the economic activities of Jews under public control, granting them protection, impartial justice and guarantee of rights, as well as to all the other subjects of the kingdom.
King Frederick II died in the Swabian castle of Fiorentino di Puglia on the night of December 13, 1250. He was not only a politician, but a warrior, philosopher, architect and scholar: an unparalleled example of an integral man.
Frederick II of Swabia rebuilt the empire, built the first centralized state, harnessed the temporal ambitions of the church and he accused the world with the naturalness with which he performed this work that today is considered titanic.