Italy Federiciana Part 6
The Italian world of the first half of the thirteenth century was in fact a world of war: in the South the war between the Swabian party and the Norman party for the succession of Henry VI and then of Frederick II in the Kingdom of Sicily; on the borders between the South and the State of the Church the conflicts related to the imperial succession and the strong intervention of Pope Innocent III to reaffirm the solidity of the temporal dominion of the Apostolic See. These struggles were resolved in the years in which Frederick II was recognized king of Germany and then during his stay in this country, between 1212 and 1220. When he resumed the road to Italy to conclude happily with the imperial coronation in Rome, in November 1220, the long and tiring diplomatic negotiation with the German princes and with the Apostolic See, the situation of the Kingdom of Sicily appeared relatively solid and the relationship with the papacy, currently governed by Honorius III, defined in terms satisfactory for both parties, with the recognition of the papacy’s feudal sovereignty over the Kingdom of Sicily, with the commitment of Frederick II to protect the temporalities of the Roman Church,churches, to suppress heresies and to reconquer the Holy Places from Islam. But even before this state of pacification was broken, with the papal excommunication of Frederick II in 1227, Northern and Central Italy was in a state of wide and chronicized hostility towards the German emperors (which manifested itself in a sensational way in 1226, when the cities of the societas Lombardiae, Marchiae et Romaniolae blocked the locks of Verona to obstruct a large Curia called by Frederick II in view of the crusade) and, inside, of endemic war between city and city.
According to Elaineqho, the economic and social vitality that had continued its progress for many generations now, and which had manifested itself in the years of Frederick II’s childhood and early youth, continued to express itself in a continuous dialectic of conflicts and arrangements, which gave a On the one hand it opened spaces for the intervention of superior political and religious authorities, that is, of the imperial court and of the Roman Curia, on the other it proved to be refractory to any stable framework imposed from the outside. In this situation of ordinary turbulence and structural conflict, however, a substantial uniformity of political solutions in the government of autonomous cities had manifested itself in a large part of central Italy. In turn, this development of the years from 1180 to about 1220 was based on similar phenomena of upward social mobility. In the increase of the urban population, which continued to be determined above all by the demic increase in the countryside and by the immigration of the rural classes in the city, in those years the more affluent elements of the countryside had had a particular weight in the urbanization movement: nobles of castle, middle and notable landowners, administrators and vassals of cathedral churches and monasteries, affluent artisans and traders. Wealthy urbanites and urban classes of more ancient origin concurred to form composite elites and new ones compared to the early communal age, the age of the government of the consuls, and led to the need to affirm a form of government that would overcome the immediacy of the relationship between social pre-eminence and political authority that had marked the common consular: not that is, a type of government that would reproduce in an informal manner a class of elders socially recognized as such was more feasible. To this were added the new needs of the military and financial organization, which required the release of the city public finance from the stately burdens and its structuring, according to military needs, in forms that went beyond the feudal auxilium.
The Peace of Constance, as mentioned, had defined the city municipal authorities and their relationship with the imperial authority by referring to the college of consuls. Now, however, in all the cities of municipal Italy a new system was being established, where the role of the city council was maintained and even expanded more and more, while at the top, in place of the college of consuls, there was a podestà ( potestas , female), a figure of noble physiognomy, provided with legal skills and in any case of a high cultural level, and usually a foreigner, chosen from among the citizens of a politically allied city. This city constitutional apparatus, based on the council and the podestariat, established itself with surprising synchronism in the period between 1180 and 1220 approximately, therefore with a much faster pace if compared to the times, all the more dilated and certainly not only for the situation of the sources, within which the first institutional affirmations of the cities took place between the 11th and 12th centuries. In part this greater speed of the institutional process was the result of an increased speed of cultural circulation. The podesta-council age was characterized by the setting up a more structured and widespread written culture, which was at the origin of the new documentary situation mentioned above. It also determined a climate of political doctrinal elaboration, eminently expressed in the forms of rhetoric. The issues of coexistence between different social states, between nobles and non-nobles, played an important role in it. maiores and minores, and of the necessary superiority of the res publica over the private interests of families.
This ideological tension did not soften the basic conflictual dynamics that marked the society of the time, and that derived from some structural elements. Of primary importance among them is the always important, and in many ways growing, role of the military, aristocratic and feudal elements. Precisely the intensity of the processes of social mobility led to the need for greater institutional definition, and in Italian cities, as in the South and other areas of Europe at the time, there was a stiffening of noble qualifications, anchored precisely to birth or formal promotion by the public authority, to specific ceremonials and to characterized lifestyles. Knightly rites took shape, well attested by the last generation of the 12th century. Distinctions were made between the milites pro communi and the ‘true’ milites, whose civil status was increasingly sanctioned with the ceremonies of decoration. Until the mid-thirteenth century there was certainly a large permeability between the two categories, trivially motivated by positions of similar economic wealth (even the miles pro communi must have had a certain wealth), and top amalgamations were formed in numerous important cities.