Art under Frederick II is commonly held to be mainly a secular phenomenon, a product of imperial authority in open conflict with the Church. In fact, the activity of Frederick as a builder of castles is well known, while religious buildings are doubtless a secondary aspect of his patronage. As a consequence, the artistic evidence related to the emperor and belonging to the sacred sphere is among the most disregarded and controversial aspects of his reign.

Paradoxically, the sacred character of the sovereign has long been the subject of debate in research on the imperial ideology of Frederick. Many historical, philosophical and philological studies – from Kantorowicz’s messianic interpretation to Abulafia’s demystification and to more recent contributions – have developed around the concept of an «imperialis Ecclesia» (according to Pier della Vigna) as a fundamental theme in the historiography on Frederick.

Religious buildings are neglected in these studies, both because of the difficulty in identifying sacred architecture explicitly related to the emperor and because of the emperor’s assumed indifference to religious patronage. Despite the reticence to acknowledge a Frederician sacred art, however, it is indisputable that a medieval sovereign needed temples in order to represent his own authority and as an instrument of ideological and political propaganda.

This conference aims to define the role of Frederick II for the sacred architecture of his time in Italy and Germany. For that matter it investigates the dialectic between the two countries as a reflection of his dual identity – Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily – and considers his Norman and Hohenstaufen heritage.

The primary purpose of the symposium is to define Frederick’s concern for religious buildings, their functions in the representation of the imperial power or vice versa the possibility that this function was not fulfilled, by discussing their historical and political contexts. At the same time, we want to discuss the role of Frederick and the Hohenstaufen with respect to the spread of Gothic style in Italy and Germany against the background of the great changes that took place in architecture and sculpture during the first half of the 13th century.

Especially encouraged are presentations that refer to the following themes:

  • the sacred character of the emperor in Frederick’s imago publica and the contexts where it was eventually manifested
  • the religious buildings commissioned by Frederick, the buildings that attracted his interest, and those that were influenced by his political, artistic and territorial strategies
  • the manifestation of imperial power in the church: the use of its space for liturgy, coronation ceremonies, burials, and assertions of the sovereign’s presence
  • the relationship between church and palace: palatine chapels and churches used by the Emperor
  • the foundations belonging to religious orders supported by Frederick II, such as the Teutonic Order and the Cistercians
  • Frederick’s policy concerning sacred art in comparison to his Norman and Hohenstaufen predecessors

Proposals for talks should be sent in the form of an abstract (max 1 page) with a brief CV by February, 15th, 2016 to [email protected][at]biblhertz.it