Frederick II, under whose reign the Holy Roman Empire reached its greatest territorial extent, was called by his contemporaries “Stupor Mundi,” the “astonishment of the world.” Frequently at war with the papacy, which was hemmed in between Frederick’s northern and southern Italian lands, he was excommunicated four times. Frederick spoke six languages and was an avid patron of the arts. He negotiated a peace treaty ending the sixth crusade, reigned over a cosmopolitan court at Palermo, and entrusted the administration of his southern kingdom to an efficient Muslim and Jewish bureaucracy. Allshorn writes that “around his name there gathered a glamour of strangeness and splendor, of genius soaring to perilous questionings of eternal truths, of unbreakable resolution and of unconquerable pride.”
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