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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

Peter de Vinea his companion for thirty years



Gregory IX. endeavored, but in vain, to set up a rival Emperor: the Princes, and even the Archbishops, were opposed to him. Frederick, who was not idle meanwhile, entered the States of the Church, took several cities, and advanced towards Rome. Then the Pope offered to call together a Council in Rome, to settle all matters in dispute. But those who were summoned to attend were Frederick's enemies, whereupon he issued a proclamation declaring the Council void, and warning the bishops and priests against coming to it. The most of them, however, met at Nice, in 1241, and embarked for Rome on a Genoese fleet of sixty vessels; but Frederick's son, Enzio, intercepted them with a Pisan and Sicilian fleet, captured one hundred cardinals, bishops and abbots, one hundred civil deputies and four thousand men, and carried them to Naples. The Council, therefore, could not be held, and Pope Gregory died soon afterwards, almost a hundred years old.

After quarreling for nearly two years, the Cardinals finally elected a new Pope, Innocent IV. He had been a friend of the Emperor, but the latter exclaimed, on hearing of his election: "I fear that I have lost a friend among the Cardinals, and found an enemy in the chair of St. Peter: no Pope can be a Ghibelline!" His words were true. After fruitless negotiations, Innocent IV. fled to Lyons, and there called together a Council of the Church,

which declared that Frederick had forfeited his crowns and dignities, that he was cast out by God, and should be thenceforth accursed. Frederick answered this declaration with a bold statement of the corruptions of the clergy, and the dangers arising from the temporal power of the Popes, which, he asserted, should be suppressed for the sake of Christianity, the early purity of which had been lost. King Louis IX. of France endeavored to bring about a suspension of the struggle, which was now beginning to disturb all Europe; but the Pope angrily refused.

In 1246, the latter persuaded Henry Raspe, Landgrave of Thuringia, to claim the crown of Germany, and supported him with all the influence and wealth of the Church. He was defeated and wounded in the first battle, and soon afterwards died, leaving Frederick's son, Konrad, still king of Germany. In Italy, the civil war raged with the greatest bitterness, and with horrible barbarities on both sides. Frederick exhibited such extraordinary courage and determination that his enemies, encouraged by the Church, finally resorted to the basest means of overcoming him. A plot formed for his assassination was discovered in time, and the conspirators executed: then an attempt was made to poison him, in which his chancellor and intimate friend, Peter de Vinea--his companion for thirty years,--seems to have been implicated. At least he recommended a certain physician, who brought to the Emperor a poisoned medicine. Something in the man's manner excited Frederick's mistrust, and he ordered him to swallow a part of the medicine. When the latter refused, it was given to a condemned criminal, who immediately died. The physician was executed and Peter de Vinea sent to prison, where he committed suicide by dashing his head against the walls of his cell.

[Sidenote: 1249.]

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