The History of Sicily

Frederick II: Stupor Mundi (1194-1250)

Henry VI died only three years after being crowned King of Sicily. A tyrant of the first order, he is said to have castrated and burned his enemies alive. At his death, Frederick was only three years old, so Constance acted as regent. She died only a year later, but not before naming Pope Innocent III (1160-1216) the child’s guardian.

The Kingdom now came under the rule of a group of German knights, but Germany and Sicily were as far apart culturally and intellectually as Paris is from Kabul, and as Frederick grew, his focus was clearly on the regno, as the Kingdom of Sicily was called to distinguish it from the Holy Roman Empire. Having been tutored by Michael Scot (1175-1232), the scholar who had translated the Greeks and the Arabs, Frederick became immersed in Sicilian culture and lore by the time he became king the day he turned fourteen.

In 1212 at Mainz, Frederick was crowned King of the Germans. Eight years later, he donned the imperial crown in Rome, but his interests continued to lie in Sicily and the Italian southland. At Capua in 1220, he put forth a series of reforms to reorganize the Kingdom. These were followed by the Liber Augustalis or the Constitutions of Melfi (1231), a compendium of laws, written in Latin, which modernized the regno’s legal system. According to some scholars, it is a constitution that provides the legal foundation for Frederick’s kingdom and that makes it the world’s first modern state. It is no wonder that Medieval historians dubbed him Stupor Mundi.


Frederick II of Swabia