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Frederick Barbarossa, Holy Roman emperors


Frederick Barbarossa (1152-90) was the first German emperor—later to be called the Holy Roman Emperor—who gave considerable attention to the three terms of the imperial title. His own registers and contemporary chronicles reveal frequent references to the three components of both his title and the Holy Roman Empire. I argue that Barbarossa was the first to attempt to integrate them into the German traditions of the empire, in particular the method of electing the king of the Romans, the historical ties with Charlemagne, and the concept of the empire as an amalgam of smaller principalities. He was the first to attach the three attributes and the Germanness of the empire to the concept of “honor,” a classical word which he based in the Germanic court culture of the time. Barbarossa can be said to be the first to assign full imperial powers to the elected king of the Romans (crowned at Aachen), and to the future direction of the Holy Roman Empire for the Hohenstaufen and afterwards.