The Emperor and the Saint. Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, Francis of Assisi, and Journeys to Medieval Places. By Richard E Cassady. (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2011. Pp. xvii, 454. $35.00.)
This book is a wide-ranging portrait of two figures who together represent the challenges and potential of the thirteenth century: Frederick II of Hohenstaufen [1194-1250] and St. Francis of Assisi [c. 1182-1226].
Frederick II appears as the wonder of the world (stupor mundi) his contemporaries believed him to have been. An intellectually curious ruler able to take advantage of opportunities presented to him, Frederick was able--for a time--to meld the German territories and southern Italy into a political whole. He accomplished this despite the opposition of his former guardian, Pope Innocent III. Frederick aroused the opposition of such subsequent popes as Gregory IX and Innocent IV, tenaciously administering the German territories and southern Italy until the end of his life. For Muslim and Christian relationships, Frederick demonstrated what was possible when be combined his linguistic gifts (including his knowledge of Greek, Latin, and Arabic) with his broader interests in learning; he was able to negotiate with al-Kamil, the sultan of Egypt, for access to Jerusalem without shedding blood as a result of the Sixth Crusade.
Francis of Assisi, along with Dominic Guzman, helped lead the major spiritual reform that produced two new mendicant orders, the Franciscans and the Dominicans. Richard E Cassady ably shows the frustrations of Francis as be strove to find ways to merge his ideals of poverty and service alongside the organizational necessities of sustaining a group of people sharing strong commitments to the ideal of service. …