The History of Sicily

Emperor Henry VI of Swabia (Hohenstaufen) (1165-1197)

William II died without an heir. He was succeeded by his cousin, Tancred of Lecce, who was in-tent upon keeping the Sicilian crown out of German hands. Tancred ruled from 1189-1194. In the meantime, Henry VI, who had succeeded his father Frederick Barbarossa as Holy Roman Emperor, invaded Sicily and was crowned King in Palermo on Christmas day 1194. (Frederick Barbarossa and Henry, whose last name was Hohenstaufen, were from Swabia in Germany.)

Henry’s wife Constance, the true ruler of Sicily, was not at her husband’s coronation. Aged 40, she took longer to travel because she was pregnant with her first child. At the town of Jesi, Constance went into labor and, fearing that her husband’s enemies might challenge the child’s legitimacy as her very own, she invited the town’s matrons to witness the birth in a tent set up in the town square. The child was born on December 26. Named after his paternal grandfather, Frederick, he was to become the most famous of all the Holy Roman Emperors. The grandson of two of the most important rulers of the Middle Ages (Frederick Barbarossa and Roger II), he was called Stupor Mundi, the “Wonder of the World.”


San Giovanni degli Eremiti, Palermo, in Arab-Norman Style