Page images
PDF
EPUB

great body of Milanese around their sacred standard still maintained their firm array, and presented a front impenetrable to the imperial arms. In vain Frederic attacked this body with fury and determination-in vain he himself performed prodigies of valour at the head of his knights; no impression was made upon the hardy band of Milanese, who after supporting frequent assaults, became in turn the assailants, and in the end changed the fortune of the battle.

While yet the result of the day was in suspense, various fresh bodies of Lombard troops, which had been marching to join the confederates, arrived upon the field ; and all the efforts of the Emperor and his gallant soldiery now proved in vain. The conflict was continued with desperation, during many hours, and the slaughter was terrible on both sides. The people of Como, however, who had abandoned the party of the league to join the Emperor, suffered more severely than the rest, and scarcely a man of them, we are told, escaped alive.

The struggle on the part of the Germans, though unsuccessful, would probably have been protracted till nightfall, had not the well-known crest of the Emperor, which had been seen in every part of the field, and in the thickest of the battle, suddenly disappeared, and the rumour spread through his army that he was killed. The flight then became general; much slaughter took place in the pursuit, and many of the imperial partisans were made prisoners, while many others were drowned in the Ticino in attempting to escape. The whole baggage of the imperial army, the banner of the empire, the cross, the shield and the lance of the Emperor, the treasure which had been sent him from Germany, with an immense quantity of arms, and restments of gold and silver, fell into the hands of the Lombards; while the brother of the Archbishop of Cologne and the nephew of the Empress were found amongst the prisoners. *

The fugitives who fled from this bloody field dispersed themselves over the country, some seeking Pavia, some flying to Como, and bearing to the Empress, who had been left in that town, the sad intelligence of her husband's defeat and supposed death. Even the confederates themselves believed that he was slain; his body was sought for amongst the dead, and the Empress put on mourning: but suddenly, several days after the battle, Frederic appeared uninjured in the town of Pavia, and his escape from that fatal field still remains a mystery which has never been solved. Certain it is that he was seen fighting with the most desperate and determined valour at a very late period of the day; and it would appear that his horse was either killed under him or fell with him, making those around

* Such is the account given by the people of Milan themselves in a letter written immediately after the battle to the town of Bologna, to communicate the joyful news of their victory.

him believe that he was slain. But what took place after that moment no one has satisfactorily explained, though we are told by one author that the Emperor surrendered to some of the people of Brescia, and was conducted to that city, whence, either by his own skill or the connivance of his gaolers, he effected his escape to Pavia. This tale, however, has not obtained credit, and is rejected entirely by the most acute critics of Italian history.

The pride of Frederic Barbarossa was effectually humbled by the terrible defeat which he sustained near Como. The struggle was certainly not inglorious on his part; for there can be no doubt, that the force with which he attacked the Lombards was greatly inferior to their own. He also had received no support during the action from any but the troops that he first led to battle; while it is clearly shown that several large bodies joined the confederates in the course of the day. But the great depression of mind which fell upon Frederic would seem to prove that the numbers could not have been by any means so unequal as the German writers would lead us to believe. He appears to have been impressed, for the first time in his life, with the idea that the hand of Heaven was visibly exerted against him; and in this frame of mind he immediately opened negociations with the Pope and the confederates for the restoration of tranquillity to the north of Italy, and for his own reconciliation with the church. The first treaty

signed was one between Frederic and the Pope, who, to his honour be it spoken, showed himself very willing to receive the Emperor once more into the bosom of the church on terms milder than might have been expected after the signal success which had attended the arms of the Papal party. The negociations between the Pope and Frederic were kept secret for some time; but the terms of reconciliation were speedily settled, and Alexander engaged to use his influence with the Lombards to procure a peaceable adjustment of the respective claims of the empire and the confederate cities. Great difficulties ensued in coming to any compromise respecting demands which were undoubtedly excessive on both sides; and after proceeding to Venice and to Ferrara in order to mediate between the contending parties, Alexander, finding that notwithstanding the most zealous and truly Christian efforts to restore peace, he could not arrive at any exact definition of the rights of the Emperor and the Lombards, proposed that a long truce should be substituted for a definitive treaty of pacification; and this suggestion was ultimately followed.

Frederic seems to have been sincerely grateful to Alexander for his endeavours to serve him in this negociation. He agreed to meet the Pope and to receive absolution in the city of Venice; and the terms of a truce of six years having been arranged with the Lombards, while a simi

VOU

lar suspension of hostilities for fifteen years was agreed upon between the Emperor and the King of Sicily, Frederic repaired to Venice in July 1177; and, on the 24th of that month was met by the Pope at the door of the church of St. Mark. The Emperor then cast himself at the feet of the Pontiff, having previously received absolution from the hands of the papal legates ere he crossed from the main land; but Alexander instantly raised him from the ground, shed tears of joy at his reconciliation with the church, embraced him and gave him his blessing. Frederic on his part displayed every sign of repentance for his long contumacy, led the Pope by the hand into the church, and in the course of that and the following day, rendered all those honours to the Roman Bishop which had been conceded by previous Emperors.

Thus terminated one of the fiercest schisms which ever desolated the Roman Church; and Alexander, freed altogether from apprehension, prepared to exercise his increased power and influence—which had now indeed become almost irresistible-in a manner that greatly affected the destinies both of England and France, of Henry the Second and of his son Richard. What precautions Frederic took to secure from danger the Anti-pope Calixtus, I do not know ; but although those were times in which the clergy were not wont to spare an offending brother, yet Alexander seems to have been satisfied with the complete triumph which he had obtained,

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »