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Wolff, R. L.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The later Crusades, 1189-1311

III: The Crusades of Frederick Barbarossa and Henry VI,   pp. 86-122 PDF (14.1 MB)

Page 90

 By this time the German aristocracy had been somewhat aroused. The response
to the preaching of the cardinal-legate's representatives at the diet of
Strassburg in December of the previous year had not been notable until supplemented
by bishop Henry of Strassburg's more adequate rhetoric. Meanwhile, moreover,
the "elegant eloquence" of bishop Godfrey of Wurzburg had led to
a numerous response when the pressure of public opinion had reached the point
where "no one in all Germany . . . was considered of any manly steadfastness
at all, who was seen without the saving sign, and who would not join the
comradeship of the crusaders."3 
 The movement had been promoted from the first by Barbarossa. It is not likely
that the old emperor (he was now close to seventy) had much more in mind
than to bring his long and arduous career to a heroic climax, "the good
consummation of his virtues", as the chronicler puts it. He, no less
than others, knew that he might pay with his life. He had been with Conrad
III on the first attempt of the Germans to make their mark in the east. The
opportunity now presented itself to redeem that disaster and to complement
the successes of the empire in Italy, however limited, with a supreme effort
on behalf of western Christendom. No matter how annoyed he may have been
over the attempts of Manuel, the late Byzantine emperor, to thwart his Italian
ambitions, these had come to naught and were now past. The predicament in
which the Byzantine empire found itself at the moment might be tempting to
one politically over-ambitious. But to Frederick it meant only that, if properly
utilized, the German pilgrimage to the east could be facilitated. There is
accordingly no good reason to disagree with the admiring estimate of the
official reporter of his crusade. "Neither the weakening limbs of venerable
old age, nor the long toils of veteran military service . . . nor the abundance
of riches or pleasures, nor the great affairs of state, . . . nor his fondness
for his dearest sons could deter him from the long and hard road of holy
pilgrimage. A glorious old man, by his own example he inspired all the young
men to fight for Christ." 
 With tears of joy Frederick took the cross at "Christ's court"
amidst a weeping multitude. Thousands upon thousands followed him in this
- perhaps as many as thirteen thousand in all, The date of departure from
Germany was set for April 23, 1189, St. George's day. It was necessary, meanwhile,
to pacify Germany and prepare diplomatically for the march. The stubborn
archbishop Philip of Cologne had made his peace at Mainz. Henry the Lion,
given the 
 3 Ansbert, p. 15, lines 7-10. 

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