Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cernism: Finally giving a proper name to an old tradition

If you're familiar with this blog, then you are familiar with Cernunnos. The worship of the antlered male god of the forest, and the goddess, which was part of Western European culture for probably tens of thousands of years. This practice was part of Cisalpine Gaul more than anywhere else. It was widespread in Gaul, and even into Scandinavia. We don't need to rehash how certain religions have turned "infidels," "heathens," "witches," etc., into dirty words.

As with modern Druidry, it was revived by Freemasons in Britain, and given a universalist spin. The Wiccan Revival in the twentieth century took the worship of Cernunnos and other similar local traditons, and mixed it with other ancient spiritual traditions from the Levant, the Middle East, India, and all over the world, and formed "universalist Wicca." In more recent decades, Wicca has been touted, or at least implied, as the "leftist alternative" to "right-wing Christianity." Perhaps more importantly, as a consequence, the REAL tradition was lost.

Odinism is based on the worship of the chief god in Norse mythology: Odin. Therefore, let me ask, why couldn't the chief god of "Celto-European Witchcraft" (for lack of a better name) -- called Cernunnos, Cernenus, or Cern -- be given a proper traditional name as well? Why couldn't we call this tradition, if even just for reference, "CERNISM?" The main Odinist organization in the world is the Odinic Rite, so why not a "Cernic Rite?" As there are Odinists, why not "Cernists?"

Lets back up for a moment. In modern Greek tradition, all over the world, although they are Greek Orthodox in faith, they honor their folkish-pagan past. They seem to recognize it properly as a history! Why can't we do the same? Instead, we allow people to drag our ancient folk-culture through the mud without apology. No, the worship of Cern was not "Feminist," which makes females into males. It is true that Christianity did destroy Cernism, with disempowering women as part of the strategy of that day. It is also worth mentioning that certain political agendas have used ancient Greek and Roman gods and goddesses for their own purposes in recent decades.

Lets stop using "witchcraft" or "Wicca," and use CERNISM or the CERNIC TRADITION in this Celtic awakening. Lastly, it should be mentioned that the culture of Cisalpine Gaul was "Celto-Ligurian" rather than Celtic. The Alpine tribes were also a big part of the culture.

11-02-09 ADDITION: Someone left a comment and added a link for an image of an ancient drawing of Cernunnos from Val Camonica. There are many drawings like this, from over a span of thousands of years. Sometimes Cernunnos was depicted with an bow.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Druids of Cisalpine Gaul

One of the challenges which confronted Roman imperialism in Western Europe was defeating the Druidic priesthood. It was a spiritual war rather than a war of weaponry. Over time, the Romans were so successful that they erased the deeply entrenched Druidic system from memory. There is almost no knowledge of their traditions left today.

On the Druid Wikipedia page, you will find a good deal of information of how important and widespread this culture was from the British Isles, France (Gaul), Spain, Cisalpine Gaul, and vicinities; and why the Romans wanted to eliminate it. Also, YouTube has some interesting videos on it, and attempts to revive it. There are Druids today, but they have little to go on. Although largely identified with males, there seem to have been Druidic priestesses. As far as how the Druidry overlapped with the culture of Witchcraft within the Celtic world, we don't know as yet. Unlike the rest of the Celtic world, the worship of Cernunnos, or Witchcraft, seemed to have been just as strong as Druidry in Cisalpine Gaul.


The Romans and the Druids (from

The Romans had met the Druids before in conquered Western Europe. While the Romans were happy to make a peaceful settlement with most tribes/groups in England, they had no intention of doing the same with the Druids.

The Druids were priests. The Britons both respected and feared them. It was believed that a Druid could see into the future – they also acted as teachers and judges. They were considered to be very learned people. It could take up to twenty years of learning to become a Druid. However, we do not know a great deal about what they learned as Druids were not allowed to write any of their knowledge down.

In their own way, the Druids were very religious. It was this particular issue that angered the Romans as the Druids sacrificed people to their gods. Caesar, in particular, was horrified by the practice and his writings give us a good idea of what went on in Druid ceremonies -- though from his perspective only. The Romans had once sacrificed people but they now saw it as a barbaric practice that they could not tolerate in one of their colonies. The Romans determined that they would stamp out the Druids.

However, they had to be careful. The Druids traveled freely throughout England as the Britons were too scared to stop them. Therefore, they were not simply in one place where the Romans could attack in force. In AD 54, the Emperor Claudius banned the Druids. In AD 60, the governor of England, Suetonius, decided that the only way to proceed was to attack the known heartland of the Druids--the island of Anglesey in the hope that if the center of the Druids was destroyed, those Druids in outlying areas would die out.

Boats were built for the Roman foot soldiers while the Roman cavalry swam across with their horses. The Druids shouted abuse at the Romans and cursed them but they could not stop the Roman army from landing. Any ceremonial sites on Anglesey used by the Druids were also destroyed but many of them were in secret places and some survived.


Two other articles were interesting, but one was a little too long for this entry and the other was written a bit silly and humorous, but still worth reading:

Anglesey: Druid’s island

By Philip Coppens

Anglesey, the island on the far west of Wales, was one of the last vestiges of Celtic religion in Roman times. But whereas it is assumed that the Romans wiped out the druid religion… did it somehow survive? And is nearby Bardsey Island linked with it?

Romans vs. Druids: Best War Ever?


Two recent books which apparently have information on the Druids in Cisalpine Gaul:

The Cults of Cisalpine Gaul as Seen in the Inscriptions (2009)
Specifically about Cisalpine Gaul!

The Philosopher and the Druids: A Journey Among the Ancient Celts (2006)
This book also has much about Cisalpine Gaul, according to the reviews, and you can get a used copy for only 95 cents.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Pan-Celtism and what it means for us

In the past decade or two, there has been an amazing spread of Celtic identity throughout the world. Celtic festivals are common all over Western Europe, North America, Australia, etc. We now have the Celtic League, the International Celtic Congress, and a major international Celtic festival (which was held in Valle d'Aosta in 2009). The question is: where do we fit into this Pan-Celtic milieu?

We would have to fit in somewhere, as much of the spirituality and even the Celtic knotwork is tied to Padania. "Cisalpine Gaul," of course, was the name given to Padania by the Romans, which means in Latin: "Gaul south of the Alps." The Trophy of Augustus was the Roman trophy to the conquest of the Celto-Ligurian tribes.

One interesting commonality of the Celtic peoples throughout history is their struggle against encroaching Teutonic and Roman armies. In the movie 'Braveheart', Celtic Scots are depicted defending their homeland against basically Anglo-Saxon/Norman English. The Roman Julius Caesar conquered Celtic Gaul. These are just two of the more well-known examples. Many compare the Roman invasion of Cisalpine Gaul to the invasion of the English against the Scots.

Unlike many other European cultures, Padania doesn't have the definitive "one ancient culture" that it can draw most of it's inspiration from. Lega Nord chose the Celts. The Etruscans were too tied into Roman (Italian) identity, and the Langobards were invaders from somewhere else. At least some of this was based on political reasoning. We do not have the answer to this equation yet.

Actually, Cisalpine Gaul was demographically "Celto-Ligurian," as we have covered before. That is, a mix of both proto-Alpine and Celtic tribes. The Trophy of Augustus lists both Alpine and Celtic tribes.

Another factor is the spiritual component to all of this. The worship of the horned god Cernunnos has been co-opted by the Wiccan faith, along with other traditions from many cultures, into a universalist religion. Some social engineers of Wicca have long touted their religion as a leftist movement to contrast with the perceived right wing Christian movement. That is something we have to look harder at in the future. This worship of Cernunnos is heavily linked to the Cisalpine Gauls, but also widespread in ancient Gaul, and even Scandinavia.

The Pan-Celtic identity is such a good fit, as we are not really southern or northern European, and not Eastern European. Quite frankly, the region of Padania is/was historically located at the crossroads of Roman/Mediterranean (south), Germanic/Norse (north), Celtic/Gaulic (west) and Slavic (east) worlds. In viewing the greater scope of things, in both ancient and modern concepts, we're more Western European. Like the French, we're basically Romanized Gauls.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Lombards: 1911 Encyclopedia

Lombards (1911 Encyclopedia):

LOMBARDS, or Langobardi, a Suevic people who appear to have inhabited the lower basin of the Elbe and whose name is believed to survive in the modern Bardengau to the south of Hamburg. They are first mentioned in connexion with the year A.D. 5, at which time they were defeated by the Romans under Tiberius, afterwards emperor. In A.D. 9, however, after the destruction of Varus's army, the Romans gave up their attempt to extend their frontier to the Elbe. At first, with most of the Suevic tribes, they were subject to the hegemony of Maroboduus, king of the Marcomanni, but they revolted from him in his war with Arminius, chief of the Cherusci, in the year 17. We again hear of their interference in the dynastic strife of the Cherusci some time after the year 47. From this time they are not mentioned until the year 165, when a force of Langobardi, in alliance with the Marcomanni, was defeated by the Romans, apparently on the Danubian frontier. It has been inferred from this incident that the Langobardi had already moved southwards, but the force mentioned may very well have been sent from the old home of the tribe, as the various Suevic peoples seem generally to have preserved some form of political union. From this time onwards we hear no more of them until the end of the 5th century.

In their own traditions we are told that the Langobardi were originally called Winnili and dwelt in an island named Scadinavia (with this story compare that of the Gothic migration, see Goths). Thence they set out under the leadership of Ibor and Aio, the sons of a prophetess called Gambara, and came into conflict with the Vandals. The leaders of the latter prayed to Wodan for victory, while Gambara and her sons invoked Frea. Wodan promised to give victory to those whom he should see in front of him at sunrise. Frea directed the Winnili to bring their women with their hair let down round their faces like beards and turned Wodan's couch round so that he faced them. When Wodan awoke at sunrise he saw the host of the Winnili and said, "Qui sunt isti Longibarbi ?" - " Who are these long-beards?" and Frea replied, "As thou hast given them the name, give them also the victory." They conquered in the battle and were thenceforth known as Langobardi. After this they are said to have wandered through regions which cannot now be identified, apparently between the Elbe and the Oder, under legendary kings, the first of whom was Agilmund, the son of Aio.

Shortly before the end of the 5th century the Langobardi appear to have taken possession of the territories formerly occupied by the Rugii whom Odoacer had overthrown in 487, a region which probably included the present province of Lower Austria. At this time they were subject to Roduif, king of the Heruli, who, however, took up arms against them; according to one story, owing to the treacherous murder of Rodulf's brother, according to another through an irresistible desire for fighting on the part of his men. The result was the total defeat of the Heruli by the Langobardi under their king Tato and the death of Roduif at some date between 493 and 508. By this time the Langobardi are said to have adopted Christianity in its Arian form. Tato was subsequently killed by his nephew Waccho. The latter reigned for thirty years, though frequent attempts were made by Ildichis, a son or grandson of Tato, to recover the throne. Waccho is said to have conquered the Suabi, possibly the Bavarians, and he was also involved in strife with the Gepidae, with whom Ildichis had taken refuge. He was succeeded by his youthful son Walthari, who reigned only seven years under the guardianship of a certain Audoin. On Walthari's death (about 546 ?) Audoin succeeded. He also was involved in hostilities with the Gepidae, whose support of Ildichis he repaid by protecting Ustrogotthus, a rival of their king Thorisind. In these quarrels both nations aimed at obtaining the support of the emperor Justinian, who, in pursuance of his policy of playing off one against the other, invited the Langobardi into Noricum and Pannonia, where they now settled. A large force of Lombards under Audoin fought on the imperial side at the battle of the Apennines against the Ostrogothic king Totila in 5 53, but the assistance of Justinian, though often promised, had no effect on the relations of the two nations, which were settled for the moment after a series of truces by the victory of the Langobardi, probably in 554. The resulting peace was sealed by the murder of Ildichis and Ustrogotthus, and the Langobardi seem to have continued inactive until the death of Audoin, perhaps in 565, and the accession of his son Alboin, who had won a great reputation in the wars with the Gepidae. It was about this time that the Avars, under their first Chagun Baian, entered Europe, and with them Alboin is said to have made an alliance against the Gepidae under their new king Cunimund. The Avars, however, did not take part in the final battle, in which the Langobardi were completely victorious. Alboin, who had slain Cunimund in the battle, now took Rosamund, daughter of the dead king, to be his wife.

In 568 Alboin and the Langobardi, in accordance with a compact made with Baian, which is recorded by Menander, abandoned their old homes to the Avars and passed southwards into Italy, were they were destined to found a new and mighty kingdom. (F. G. M. B.) The Lombard Kingdom in Italy. - In 568 Alboin, king of the Langobards, with the women and children of the tribe and all their possessions, with Saxon allies, with the subject tribe of the Gepidae and a mixed host of other barbarians, descended into Italy by the great plain at the head of the Adriatic. The war which had ended in the downfall of the Goths had exhausted Italy; it was followed by famine and pestilence; and the government at Constantinople made but faint efforts to retain the province which Belisarius and Narses had recovered for it. Except in a few fortified places, such as Ticinum or Pavia, the Italians did not venture to encounter the new invaders; and, though Alboin was not without generosity, the Lombards, wherever resisted, justified the opinion of their ferocity by the savage cruelty of the invasion. In 57 2, according to the Lombard chronicler, Alboin fell a victim to the revenge of his wife Rosamund, the daughter of the king of the Gepidae, whose skull Alboin had turned into a drinking cup, out of which he forced Rosamund to drink. By this time the Langobards had established themselves in the north of Italy. Chiefs were placed, or placed themselves, first in the border cities, like Friuli and Trent, which commanded the north-eastern passes, and then in other principal places; and this arrangement became characteristic of the Lombard settlement. The principal seat of the settlement was the rich plain watered by the Po and its affluents, which was in future to receive its name from them; but their power extended across the Apennines into Liguria and Tuscany, and then southwards to the outlying dukedoms of Spoleto and Benevento. The invaders failed to secure any maritime ports or any territory that was conveniently commanded from the sea. Ticinum (Pavia), the one place which had obstinately resisted Alboin, became the seat of their kings.

After the short and cruel reign of Cleph, the successor of Alboin, the Lombards (as we may begin for convenience sake to call them) tried for ten years the experiment of a national confederacy of their dukes (as, after the Latin writers, their chiefs are styled), without any king. It was the rule of some thirty-five or thirty-six petty tyrants, under whose oppression and private wars even the invaders suffered. With anarchy among themselves and so precarious a hold on the country, hated by the Italian population and by the Catholic clergy, threatened also by an alliance of the Greek empire with their persistent rivals the Franks beyond the Alps, they resolved to sacrifice their independence and elect a king. In 584 they chose Authari, the grandson of Alboin, and endowed the royal domain with a half of their possessions. From this time till the fall of the Lombard power before the arms of their rivals the Franks under Charles the Great, the kingly rule continued. Authari, "the Longhaired," with his Roman title of Flavius, marks the change from the war king of an invading host to the permanent representative of the unity and law of the nation, and the increased power of the crown, by the possession of a great domain, to enforce its will. The independence of the dukes was surrendered to the king. The dukedoms in the neighbourhood of the seat of power were gradually absorbed, and their holders transformed into royal officers. Those of the northern marches, Trent and Friuli, with the important dukedom of Turin, retained longer the kind of independence which marchlands usually give where invasion is to be feared. The great dukedom of Benevento in the south, with its neighbour Spoleto, threatened at one time to be a separate principality, and even to the last resisted, with varying success, the full claims of the royal authority at Pavia.

The kingdom of the Lombards lasted more than two hundred years, from Alboin (568) to the fall of Desiderius (774) - much longer than the preceding Teutonic kingdom of Theodoric and the Goths. But it differed from the other Teutonic conquests in Gaul, in Britain, in Spain. It was never complete in point of territory: there were always two, and almost to the last three, capitals - the Lombard one, Pavia; the Latin one, Rome; the Greek one, Ravenna; and the Lombards never could get access to the sea. And it never was complete over the subject race: it profoundly affected the Italians of the north; in its turn it was entirely transformed by contact with them; but the Lombards never amalgamated with the Italians till their power as a ruling race was crushed by the victory given to the Roman element by the restored empire of the Franks. The Langobards, German in their faults and in their strength, but coarser, at least at first, than the Germans whom the Italians had known, the Goths of Theodoric and Totila, found themselves continually in the presence of a subject population very different from anything which the other Teutonic conquerors met with among the provincials - like them, exhausted, dispirited, unwarlike, but with the remains and memory of a great civilization round them, intelligent, subtle, sensitive, feeling themselves infinitely superior in experience and knowledge to the rough barbarians whom they could not fight, and capable of hatred such as only cultivated races can nourish. The Lombards who, after they had occupied the lands and cities of Upper Italy, still went on sending forth furious bands to plunder and destroy where they did not care to stay, never were able to overcome the mingled fear and scorn and loathing of the Italians. They adapted themselves very quickly indeed to many Italian fashions. Within thirty years of the invasions, Authari took the imperial title of Flavius, even while his bands were leading Italian captives in leash like dogs under the walls of Rome, and under the eyes of Pope Gregory; and it was retained by his successors. They soon became Catholics; and then in all the usages of religion, in church building, in founding monasteries, in their veneration for relics, they vied with Italians. Authari's queen, Theodelinda, solemnly placed the Lombard nation under the patronage of St John the Baptist, and at Monza she built in his honour the first Lombard church, and the royal palace near it. King Liutprand (712744) bought the relics of St Augustine for a large sum to be placed in his church at Pavia. Their Teutonic speech disappeared; except in names and a few technical words all traces of it are lost. But to the last they had the unpardonable crime of being a ruling barbarian race or caste in Italy. To the end they are "nefandissimi," execrable, loathsome, filthy. So wrote Gregory the Great when they first appeared. So wrote Pope Stephen IV., at the end of their rule, when stirring up the kings of the Franks to destroy them.

Authari's short reign (584-591) was one of renewed effort for conquest. It brought the Langobards face to face, not merely with the emperors at Constantinople, but with the first of the great statesmen popes, Gregory the Great (590-604). But Lombard conquest was bungling and wasteful; when they had spoiled a city they proceeded to tear down its walls and raze it to the ground. Authari's chief connexion with the fortunes of his people was an important, though an accidental one. The Lombard chronicler tells a romantic tale of the way in which Authari sought his bride from Garibald, duke of the Bavarians, how he went incognito in the embassy to judge of her attractions, and how she recognized her disguised suitor. The bride was the Christian Theodelinda, and she became to the Langobards what Bertha was to the Anglo-Saxons and Clotilda to the Franks.

She became the mediator between the Lombards and the Catholic Church. Authari, who had brought her to Italy, died shortly after his marriage. But Theodelinda had so won on the Lombard chiefs that they bid her as queen choose the one among them whom she would have for her husband and for king. She chose Agilulf, duke of Turin (592-615). He was not a true Langobard, but a Thuringian. It was the beginning of peace between the Lombards and the Catholic clergy. Agilulf could not abandon his traditional Arianism, and he was a very uneasy neighbour, not only to the Greek exarch, but to Rome itself. But he was favourably disposed both to peace and to the Catholic Church. Gregory interfered to prevent a national conspiracy against the Langobards, like that of St Brice's day in England against the Danes, or that later uprising against the French, the Sicilian Vespers. He was right both in point of humanity and of policy. The Arian and Catholic bishops went on for a time side by side; but the Lombard kings and clergy rapidly yielded to the religious influences around them, even while the national antipathies continued unabated and vehement. Gregory, who despaired of any serious effort on the part of the Greek emperors to expel the Lombards, endeavoured to promote peace between the Italians and Agilulf; and, in spite of the feeble hostility of the exarchs of Ravenna, the pope and the king of the Lombards became the two real powers in the north and centre of Italy. Agilulf was followed, after two unimportant reigns, by his son-in-law, the husband of Theodelinda's daughter, King Rothari (636-652), the Lombard legislator, still an Arian though he favoured the Catholics. He was the first of their kings who collected their customs under the name of laws - and he did this, not in their own Teutonic dialect, but in Latin. The use of Latin implies that the laws were to be not merely the personal law of the Lombards, but the law of the land, binding on Lombards and Romans alike. But such rude legislation could not provide for all questions arising even in the decayed state of Roman civilization.' It is probable that among themselves the Italians kept to their old usages and legal precedents where they were not overridden by the conquerors' law, and by degrees a good many of the Roman civil arrangements made their way into the Lombard code, while all ecclesiastical ones, and they were a large class, were untouched by it.

There must have been much change of property; but appearances are conflicting as to the terms on which land generally was held by the old possessors or the new corners, and as to the relative legal position of the two. Savigny held that, making allowance for the anomalies and usurpations of conquest, the Roman population held the bulk of the land as they had held it before, and were governed by an uninterrupted and acknowledged exercise of Roman law in their old municipal organization. Later inquirers, including Leo, Troya and Hegel, have found that the supposition does not tally with a whole series of facts, which point to a Lombard territorial law ignoring completely any parallel Roman and personal law, to a great restriction of full civil rights among the Romans, analogous to the condition of the rayah under the Turks, and to a reduction of the Roman occupiers to a class of half-free "aldii," holding immovable tenancies under lords of superior race and privilege, and subject to the sacrifice either of the third part of their holdings or the third part of the produce. The Roman losses, both of property and rights, were likely to be great at first; how far they continued permanent during the two centuries of the Lombard kingdom, or how far the legal distinctions between Rome and Lombard gradually passed into desuetude, is a further question. The legislation of the Lombard kings, in form a territorial and not a personal law, shows no signs of a disposition either to depress or to favour the Romans, but only the purpose to maintain, in a rough fashion, strict order and discipline impartially among all their subjects.

From Rothari (d. 652) to Liutprand (712-744) the Lombard kings, succeeding one another in the irregular fashion of the time, sometimes by descent, sometimes by election, sometimes by conspiracy and violence, strove fitfully to enlarge their boundaries, and contended with the aristocracy of dukes inherent in the original organization of the nation, an element which, though much weakened, always embarrassed the power of the crown, and checked the unity of the nation. Their old enemies the Franks on the west, and the Sla y s or Huns, ever ready to break in on the north-east, and sometimes called in by mutinous and traitorous dukes of Friuli and Trent, were constant and serious dangers. By the popes, who represented Italian interests, they were always looked upon with dislike and jealousy, even when they had become zealous Catholics, the founders of churches and monasteries; with the Greek empire there was chronic war. From time to time they made raids into the unsubdued parts of Italy, and added a city or two to their dominions. But there was no sustained effort for the complete subjugation of Italy till Liutprand, the most powerful of the line. He tried it, and failed. He broke up the independence of the great southern duchies, Benevento and Spoleto. For a time, in the heat of the dispute about images, he won the pope to his side against the Greeks. For a time, but only for a time, he deprived the Greeks of Ravenna. Aistulf, his successor, carried on the same policy. He even threatened Rome itself, and claimed a capitation tax. But the popes, thoroughly irritated and alarmed, and hopeless of aid from the East, turned to the family which was rising into power among the Franks of the West, the mayors of the palace of Austrasia. Pope Gregory III. applied in vain to Charles Martel. But with his successors Pippin and Charles the popes were more successful. In return for the transfer by the pope of the Frank crown from the decayed line of Clovis to his own, Pippin crossed the Alps, defeated Aistulf and gave to the pope the lands which Aistulf had torn from the empire, Ravenna and the Pentapolis (754-756). But the angry quarrels still went on between the popes and the Lombards. The Lombards were still to the Italians a "foul and horrid" race. At length, invited by Pope Adrian I., Pippin's son Charlemagne once more descended into Italy. As the Lombard kingdom began, so it ended, with a siege of Pavia. Desiderius, the last king, became a prisoner (774), and the Lombard power perished. Charlemagne, with the title of king of the Franks and Lombards, became master of Italy, and in 800 the pope, who had crowned Pippin king of the Franks; claimed to bestow the Roman empire, and crowned his greater son emperor of the Romans (800).

Effects of the Carolingian Conquest

To Italy the overthrow of the Lombard kings was the loss of its last chance of independence and unity. To the Lombards the conquest was the destruction of their legal and social supremacy. Henceforth they were equally with the Italians the subjects of the Frank kings. The Carolingian kings expressly recognized the Roman law, and allowed all who would be counted Romans to "profess" it. But Latin influences were not strong enough to extinguish the Lombard name and destroy altogether the recollections and habits of the Lombard rule; Lombard law was still recognized, and survived in the schools of Pavia. Lombardy remained the name of the finest province of Italy, and for a time was the name for Italy itself But what was specially Lombard could not stand in the long run against the Italian atmosphere which surrounded it. Generation after generation passed more and more into real Italians. Antipathies, indeed, survived, and men even in the 10th century called each other Roman or Langobard as terms of reproach. But the altered name of Lombard also denoted henceforth some of the proudest of Italians; and, though the Lombard speech had utterly perished their most common names still kept up the remembrance that their fathers had come from beyond the Alps.

But the establishment of the Frank kingdom, and still more the re-establishment of the Christian empire as the source of law and jurisdiction in Christendom, had momentous influence on the history of the Italianized Lombards. The Empire was the counterweight to the local tyrannies into which the local authorities established by the Empire itself, the feudal powers, judicial and military, necessary for the purposes of government, invariably tended to degenerate. When they became intolerable, from the Empire were sought the exemptions, privileges, immunities from that local authority, which, anomalous and anarchical as they were in theory, yet in fact were the foundations of all the liberties of the middle ages in the Swiss cantons, in the free towns of Germany and the Low Countries, in the Lombard cities of Italy. Italy was and ever has been a land of cities; and, ever since the downfall of Rome and the decay of the municipal system, the bishops of the cities had really been at the head of the peaceful and industrial part of their population, and were a natural refuge for the oppressed, and sometimes for the mutinous and the evil doers, from the military and civil powers of the duke or count or judge, too often a rule of cruelty or fraud. Under the Carolingian empire, a vast system grew up in the North Italian cities of episcopal "immunities," by which a city with its surrounding district was removed, more or less completely, from the jurisdiction of the ordinary authority, military or civil, and placed under that of the bishop. These "immunities" led to the temporal sovereignty of the bishops; under it the spirit of liberty grew more readily than under the military chief. Municipal organization, never quite forgotten, naturally revived under new forms, and with its "consuls" at the head of the citizens, with its "arts" and "crafts" and "gilds," grew up secure under the shadow of the church. In due time the city populations, free from the feudal yoke, and safe within the walls which in many instances the bishops had built for them, became impatient also of the bishop's government. The cities which the bishops had made thus independent of the dukes and counts next sought to be free from the bishops; in due time they too gained their charters of privilege and liberty. Left to take care of themselves, islands in a sea of turbulence, they grew in the sense of self-reliance and independence; they grew also to be aggressive, quarrelsome and ambitious. Thus, by the nth century, the Lombard cities had become "communes," commonalties, republics, managing their own affairs, and ready for attack or defence. Milan had recovered its greatness, ecclesiastically as well as politically; it scarcely bowed to Rome, and it aspired to the position of a sovereign city, mistress over its neighbours. At length, in the 12th century, the inevitable conflict came between the republicanism of the Lombard cities and the German feudalism which still claimed their allegiance in the name of the Empire. Leagues and counterleagues were formed; and a confederacy of cities, with Milan at its head, challenged the strength of Germany under one of its sternest emperors, Frederick Barbarossa. At first Frederick was victorious; Milan, except its churches, was utterly destroyed; everything that marked municipal independence was abolished in the "rebel" cities; and they had to receive an imperial magistrate instead of their own (1158-1162). But the Lombard league was again formed. Milan was rebuilt, with the help even of its jealous rivals, and at Legnano (1176) Frederick was utterly defeated. The Lombard cities had regained their independence; and at the peace of Constance (1183) Frederick found himself compelled to confirm it.

From the peace of Constance the history of the Lombards is merely part of the history of Italy. Their cities went through the ordinary fortunes of most Italian cities. They quarrelled and fought with one another. They took opposite sides in the great strife of the time between pope and emperor, and were Guelf and Ghibelline by old tradition, or as one or other faction prevailed in them. They swayed backwards and forwards between the power of the people and the power of the few; but democracy and oligarchy passed sooner or later into the hands of a master who veiled his lordship under various titles, and generally at last into the hands of a family. Then, in the larger political struggles and changes of Europe, they were incorporated into a kingdom, or principality or duchy, carved out to suit the interest of a foreigner, or to make a heritage for the nephew of a pope. But in two ways especially the energetic race which grew out of the fusion of Langobards and Italians between the 9th and the 12th centuries has left the memory of itself. In England, at least, the enterprising traders and bankers who found their way to the West, from the 13th to the 16th centuries, though they certainly did not all come from Lombardy, bore the name of Lombards. In the next place, the Lombards or the Italian builders whom they employed or followed, the "masters of Como," of whom so much is said in the early Lombard laws, introduced a manner of building, stately, solemn and elastic, to which their name has been attached, and which gives a character of its own to some of the most interesting churches in Italy. (R. W. C.)


I know that we have covered the Lombards extensively, but have never actually put an encyclopedia entry for them. The 1911 Encyclopedia is an old-style reference, without much of the modern "political correctness," and is just generally is more in-depth.

Monday, October 19, 2009

La Bella Principessa

Leonardo fingerprint reveals $150 million artwork

Bob Gillies - Associated Press - October 14, 2009

TORONTO – Mona Lisa has something new to smile about.

A portrait of a young woman thought to be created by a 19th century German artist and sold two years ago for about $19,000 is now being attributed by art experts to Leonardo da Vinci and valued at more than $150 million.

The unsigned chalk, ink and pencil drawing, known as "La Bella Principessa," was matched to Leonardo via a technique more suited to a crime lab than an art studio — a fingerprint and palm print found on the 13 1/2-inch-by-10-inch work.

Peter Paul Biro, a Montreal-based forensic art expert, said the print of an index or middle finger matched a fingerprint found on Leonardo's "St. Jerome" in the Vatican.

Technical, stylistic and material composition evidence — including carbon dating — had art experts believing as early as last year that they had found another work by the creator of the "Mona Lisa."

The discovery of the fingerprint has them convinced the work was by Leonardo, whose myth and mystery already put him at the center of such best-sellers as "The Da Vinci Code" and "The Lost Symbol."

Biro examined multispectral images of the drawing taken by the Lumiere Technology laboratory in Paris, which used a special digital scanner to show successive layers of the work.

"Leonardo used his hands liberally and frequently as part of his painting technique. His fingerprints are found on many of his works," Biro said. "I was able to make use of multispectral images to make a little smudge a very readable fingerprint."

Alessandro Vezzosi, director of a museum dedicated to Leonardo in the artist's hometown of Vinci, Italy, said Wednesday he was "very happy" to hear about the fingerprint analysis, saying it confirmed his own conclusion that the portrait can be attributed to Leonardo with "reasonable certainty."

"For me, it's extraordinary there is confirmation" through the fingerprint, although "it's not like I had any doubt," he said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Even before the fingerprint discovery, Vezzosi said several experts agreed with his conclusion, which was based on "historical, artistic, stylistic (and) aesthetic" considerations.

Based on its style, the portrait has been dated to 1485-1490, placing it at a time when Leonardo (1452-1519) was living in Milan.

Canadian-born art collector Peter Silverman bought "La Bella Principessa" — or "The Beautiful Princess" — at the gallery in New York on behalf of an anonymous Swiss collector in 2007 for about $19,000. New York art dealer Kate Ganz had owned it for about nine years after buying it at auction for a similar price.

One London art dealer now says it could be worth more than $150 million.

If experts are correct, it will be the first major work by Leonardo to be identified in 100 years.

Ganz still doesn't believe it is a Leonardo.

"Nothing that I have seen or read in the past two years has changed my mind. I do not believe that this drawing is by Leonardo da Vinci," Ganz told the AP on Wednesday. She declined to comment further.

Silverman said he didn't expect Ganz to acknowledge it's a Leonardo because that would damage her credibility, adding that if she wants to "go against science and say the Earth is not round," then that's her prerogative.

"Thank God, we have the fingerprint because there will still be those doubting Thomases out there saying it couldn't possibly be and giving all sorts of reasons for it. We not only have a fingerprint, but a palm print."

He said the palm print was found in the neck of the portrait's subject, who is believed to be the daughter of a 15th century Milanese duke.

Biro said the two main ideas to emerge from the news are the discovery of "an important lost work by Leonardo," and how "science, technology, scholars and art historians are learning to work together to solve these incredibly complex puzzles."

Silverman said the Swiss collector first raised suspicions about the drawing, saying it didn't look like 19th century artwork. When Silverman saw it at the Ganz gallery in 2007, he thought it might be a Leonardo, although the idea seemed far-fetched. He hurriedly bought it for his Swiss friend and then started researching it.

"Of course, you say, 'Come on, that's ridiculous. There's no such thing as a da Vinci floating around,'" Silverman said. "I started looking in the areas around da Vinci and all the people who could have possibly done it and through elimination I came back to da Vinci."

Last year, Silverman asked Nicholas Turner, a former curator of drawings at the J. Paul Getty Museum and the British Museum. Turner said it was a Leonardo.

Silverman described the Swiss collector as a very rich man who has promised to buy him "lunch and dinner and caviar for the rest of my life if it ever does get sold."

Vezzosi said the portrait seemed to be of a prospective bride and compared its purpose to today's photos of clients of Internet matchmaking agencies.

As for the possibility of finding other Leonardo works, "there are thousands of lost works of Leonardo, mainly pages from codexes or drawings," Vezzosi said, but discovering a lost or undocumented painting would be "much more difficult."

Associated Press writer Frances D'Emilio in Rome contributed to this report.

Yahoo News Link

Sunday, October 18, 2009

First Look: 2010 Ferrari 458 Italia

First Look: 2010 Ferrari 458 Italia

By Marty Padgett -

July 28, 2009

Ferrari says its new 2010 458 Italia will replace the F430 this fall when it makes a world debut at the Frankfurt auto show.

The new two-seat, mid-engined, V-8 supercar from Maranello is new from the ground up, according to the Italian automaker. They also believe it's one of the biggest leaps forward for the company ever in terms of technology, performance and emissions.

The core of the new supercar is a 4.5-liter engine (hence the name, plus an "8" for its cylinder count) that puts out 570 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. Ferrari promises the new engine, coupled to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, will shuttle the 458 Italia to 60 mph in less than 3.4 seconds--comparable to a Nissan GT-R. Top speed should reach 202 mph.

The core of the new supercar is a 4.5-liter engine (hence the name, plus an "8" for its cylinder count) that puts out 570 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. Ferrari promises the new engine, coupled to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, will shuttle the 458 Italia to 60 mph in less than 3.4 seconds--comparable to a Nissan GT-R. Top speed should reach 202 mph.

The performance envelope is much bigger than the car it replaces, the F430, and the new 458 Italia benefits from more racing influences than ever, the automaker says in a release. Namechecking F1 champion Michael Schumacher at every opportunity, Ferrari says the handling, design, even the shape of the steering wheel get their inspiration from Formula One, with the input of Schumacher.

With a weight balance of 48/52 and a double-wishbone suspension in front and multilinks in the rear, the 458 Italia's handling will be race-ready, it's claimed. And new traction systems derived from anti-lock brakes should make the new car up to the safety standards of Ferrari's other new model, the California hardtop convertible.

Weight-saving construction techniques have kept the 458 Italia to a lean 3042 pounds, and Ferrari promises low fuel consumption for the class, which includes the Lamborghini Gallardo and potentially, the Lexus LF-A supercar, along with the Nissan GT-R.

We'll have more from this fall's 2009 Frankfurt auto show.

First Look: 2010 Ferrari 458 Italia (link with images)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Interesting excerpt from 'The Lombard Laws'

This excerpt is from the book 'The Lombard Laws' (1973; Katherine Fischer Drew). From the back cover of the book: "The Lombard Laws -- the laws of Rothair and Grimwald, Liutprand, Ratchis, and Aistulf -- are an extraordinarily important source of information about a people whose contribution to medieval civiliztion is just beginning to be understood.

The foreward of the book was written by Edward Peters, who was the man who edited 'The History of the Lombards'. This excerpt is of the paragraph from the bottom of page X to the top of page XI in the foreward.

"In a year of campaigning in Italy, taking cities by force or, more usually, by surrender, the Lombard armies under their king Alboin reached and captured Milan, the former imperial capital. From 568 until Alboin's death in 572 the Lombard conquest of Italy progressed erratically, the king remaining in the north and isolated bands of Lombards under war-leaders penetrating south and even westward into Frankish Gaul. After Alboin's death, the reluctance or inability of the Lombards to establish a successor led to ten years of fragmented rule by Lombard war-leaders called dukes. By the end of the sixth century Italy was divided irregularly between Lombards and imperial occupation forces, with the Duchy of Rome, ruled by a military duke and its bishop, caught uneasily between the two hostile forces. From the pontificate of Gregory I (590-604) to that of Stephen II (752-754), Italy witnessed a century and a half of this balance between Lombard and imperial forces. In 751, however, Lombard pressure finally penetrated the imperial city of Ravenna, and the Lombards won the whole of northern Italy. It was the Lombard triumph against the imperial Byzantine forces that turned their attention once again to the center of Italy and to Rome; faced by such a threat and with no assistance from Constantinople forthcoming, the pope appealed once again to the Franks in Gaul for aid. The successful expeditions of Pepin and Charlemagne precipitated the fall of the Lombard kingdom in 774 and the transformation of the imperial enclave that was papal Rome into the kennel of the later papal state. Lombard law survived in the Frankish north of Italy, however, and after the decline of Carolingian imperial power in the ninth century, Lombard principalities in the south of Italy remained, face to face with their old enemies, the Byzantine forces. Not until the eleventh-century Norman conquest of southern Italy and Sicily did these last Lombard territories fall."

There are a number of interesting items, which we have not covered before, in this illuminating paragraph. First, some Langobard factions actually invaded "Frankish Gaul," which shows a tremendous amount of restlessness because they had just conquered the northern Italian peninsula. Actually the Langobards had long maintained a good relationship with the Franks, including intermarriage of the ruling class, but that was when they were in Germany. It's still a little bit unclear, as "Frankish Gaul" is not an especially accurate term to use for the region at that time. It was more "Romanized Gaul" culturally, than it was "Frankish Gaul."

Second, the following quote: "In 751, however, Lombard pressure finally penetrated the imperial city of Ravenna, and the Lombards won the whole of northern Italy." Ravenna continued to be a Byzantine-Roman stronghold, but was indeed captured by the Langobards. Therefore, the Langbard Kingdom encompassed ALL of the north! The two satellite dukedoms of Benevento and Spoleto were independent. Some even smaller factions of Langobards continued to migrate south as far as Sicily, but research on that subject seems to be small and sporadic. That is likely the source for some Sicilians with surnames like Lombardo, Lombardozzi, etc.

Third, it was only when the Langobards moved against Papal Rome itself that forced the hand of the forces that be. Charlemagne saved the Papacy with a massive Frankish army. The Langobards were in disarray, with a lot of infighting, and coupled with the fact that they were moving against Rome, all led to probably their only real loss in war. They were trounced by the Frankish army. Had they kept their eyes on Langbard, and solidified themselves, Langbard may have survived long after 774.

Lastly, even after Langbard was destroyed, the southern duchies of Benevento and Spoleto continued on. Amazingly, they lasted until late in the eleventh century. In my fantasy mind, I imagine that they would not have even entered the south, or anywhere else at all, and focused their effort on maintaining the north. They could have continued on for centuries, and into modern history. They would have had to play ball with the powers of finance (Vatican, Switzerland, London, etc.), and maybe could have formed a USA-like colony in Argentina (minus the slave-trade). They could have stayed away from tribal territories as well, and exchanged certain technologies for peace. But that's just a fantasy.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Octoberfest & Padanian beer

From Wikipedia's Octoberfest webpage:

"Oktoberfest is a 16 day festival held each year in Munich, Germany, running from late September to early October. It is one of the most famous events in Germany and the world's largest fair, with some six million people attending every year, and is an important part of Bavarian culture. Other cities across the world also hold Oktoberfest celebrations, modeled after the Munich event."

A few Padanian beers:

Forst Beer - South Tyrolean (originally Austrian-German)

Birra Moretti - A beer well-known in the United States. From Udine (Friuli-Venezia Giulia).

Birra Peroni - Another beer well-known in the United States. From Vigevano (Lombardy).

Birra Pedavena - Occasionally seen in the United States. From Milan, and is a very good beer!

The San Francisco is known for having warm Octobers, and so October always stuck me as an unusual time of the year in that it's warm weather just prior to winter. It's dramatic enough that we can have a very warm late October, and then it's simply "cold" in another two weeks. I always thought that there should be some type of greater celebration at the first of November, since there is a certain awe to the start of winter, with Christmas, Winter Festivals, and New Years, and the American tradition of late December and January football all upcoming. There's a certain warm feeling in the cold season. Perhaps it's somehow in our collective genetic memory, of family or clans huddling around the fire during frozen winter evenings for hundreds of generations. Remember, Venice is farther north than Minnesota. Maybe we could have some type of "Novemberfest" to go along with Halloween, to celebrate "Samhain," which our ancestors partook in for thousands of years.


10-6-09 Addition: Also, anonymous has informed us the following, "You forget to list the best Padan Beer, THERESIANER Brewery 1766 from Trieste. It won the German DGL Medal in 2006." See This beer is from the Treviso province.

10-24-09 Addition: Halloween is, in fact, the Christianized form of the old Celtic festival of Samhain. For example, the tradition of the "jack-o'-lantern goes back many centuries.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

History of the Lemon

Lemon (from Wikipedia)

"The first real lemon cultivation in Europe began in Genoa in the middle of the fifteenth century. It was later introduced to the Americas in 1493 when Christopher Columbus brought lemon seeds to Hispaniola along his voyages."

The lemon is a small evergreen tree (Citrus limon) originally native to Asia, and is also the name of the tree's oval yellow fruit. The fruit is used for culinary and nonculinary purposes throughout the world – primarily for its juice, though the pulp and rind (zest) are also used, mainly in cooking and baking. Lemon juice is about 5% (approximately 0.3 mole per liter) citric acid, which gives lemons a tart taste, and a pH of 2 to 3. This makes lemon juice an inexpensive, readily available acid for use in educational science experiments. Because of the tart flavor, many lemon-flavored drinks and candies are available on the market, including lemonade.


The exact origin of the lemon has remained a mystery, though it is widely presumed that lemons first grew in India, northern Burma, and China. In South and South East Asia, it was known for its antiseptic properties and it was used as an antidote for various poisons. It was later introduced to Persia and then to Iraq and Egypt around AD 700. The lemon was first recorded in literature in a tenth century Arabic treatise on farming, and was also used as an ornamental plant in early Islamic gardens. It was distributed widely throughout the Arab world and the Mediterranean region between AD 1000 and AD 1150.

Lemons entered Europe (near southern Italy) no later than the first century AD, during the time of Ancient Rome. However, they were not widely cultivated. The first real lemon cultivation in Europe began in Genoa in the middle of the fifteenth century. It was later introduced to the Americas in 1493 when Christopher Columbus brought lemon seeds to Hispaniola along his voyages. Spanish conquest throughout the New World helped spread lemon seeds. It was mainly used as ornament and medicine. In 1700s and late 1800s, lemons were increasingly planted in Florida and California when lemons began to be used in cooking and flavoring.

In 1747, James Lind's experiments on seamen suffering from scurvy involved adding Vitamin C to their diets through lemon juice. The name lemon was originated from Arabic līmūn and Persian limun through Old Italian and Old French limone.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Alberto da Giussano and Barbarossa - Part VII: The Carroccio


A Carroccio was a war chariot drawn by oxen, used by the medieval republics of Italy. It was a rectangular platform on which the standard of the city and an altar were erected; priests held services on the altar before the battle, and the trumpeters beside them encouraged the fighters to the fray.

In battle the Carroccio was surrounded by the bravest warriors in the army and it served both as a rallying-point and as the palladium of the city's honour; its capture by the enemy was regarded as an irretrievable defeat and humiliation. It was first employed by the Milanese in 1038, and played a great part in the wars of the Lombard League against the emperor Frederick Barbarossa. It was afterwards adopted by other cities, and first appears on a Florentine battlefield in 1228.

The Florentine Carroccio was usually followed by a smaller cart bearing the Martinella, a bell to ring out military signals. When war was regarded as likely the Martinella was attached to the door of the Church of Santa Maria in the Mercato Nuovo in Florence and rung to warn both citizens and enemies. In times of peace the Carroccio was in the keeping of a great family which had distinguished itself by signal services to the republic.

The carro della guerra of Milan was described in detail in 1288 by Bonvesin de la Riva in his book on the "Marvels of Milan". Wrapped in scarlet cloth and drawn by three yoke of oxen that were caparisoned in white with the red cross of Saint George, the city's patron, it carried a crucifix so massive it took four men to step it in place, like a ship's mast.


I looked it up again and the opening date, in Italy, for 'Barbarossa' is October 9. Of course, we need to find out when it opens in the United States, and we will just have to make a point to monitor this. It could be a month, or several months.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Alberto da Giussano and Barbarossa - Part VI: Battle of Legnano

With October now here, and this month being the release date of the upcoming Italian movie 'Barbarossa', here is another segment of our Alberto Giussano and Barbarossa series: The Battle of Legnano. There probably should be an entry just for the "Oath of Pontida," which was the event which united the city-states into the Lombard League, but there wasn't an adequate text in English. It was one of the most brutal wars of the last millennium: The Holy Roman Empire versus The Lombard League.

Battle of Legnano

The Battle of Legnano was fought on May 29, 1176, between the forces of the Holy Roman Empire, led by emperor Frederick Barbarossa, and the Lombard League.

The Lombard League

The Lombard League was formed in 1167, largely out of the Veronese League. It was a Union of Lombard cities promising each other unity, against the Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa. The Lombardy cities swore the oath at Pontida, a small village in Lombardy.

After the disastrous defeat of Pope Alexander III at the Battle of Monte Porzio in May 1167 against Imperial forces, the Lombard League remained as the last legitimate fighting force opposing the Emperor and was therefore heavily backed by the Pope.

Kenneth Pennington wrote: "Alexander’s inability to control Rome and the Papal States was due to his conflict with Frederick. Although he attempted to support the cities of Lombardy, he had neither the power nor the resources to render effective assistance."

[Right: The "Oath of Pontida," painted by Amos Cassioli]

Frederick's 5th Italian Campaign

In September 1174, Frederick embarked on his 5th Italian Campaign, to quench the constant revolts in Lombardy and his quarrels with Pope Alexander III. Frederick led a force of 8,000 knights over the Alps and arrived in Piedmont in late September. His cousin Henry the Lion and his forces, were once again not a part of the Imperial campaign. Frederick wanted to take revenge on Susa, for its "evil" behaviour of 1168, and on the 30 September his forces captured and burned down the town. His next aim was the town of Asti, which he captured after a seven day siege. In October, Frederick finally received the promised Imperial reinforcements from Bohemia. Upon Frederick's rapid and fierce initial success, Margraviate William of Montferrat and the Count of Biandrate, abandoned the Lombard League.

Siege of Alessandria

The siege of Alessandria was an important event in Frederick's 5th Campaign as this was a campaign of revenge, with the aim of the total destruction of the Lombard League and the removal of the Pope Alexander III. Frederick's next goal was therefore the Lombard city of Alessandria. Alessandria was founded by Milanese refugees, who fled after Frederick's forces burned and destroyed the City of Milan in 1162 and named after Pope Alexander III. The siege of the "Straw City", called so because all the roofs were covered with straw, began at the end of October. To Frederick's surprise and anger, his forces were not able to take the city so he had to spend the winter in front of its gates. On Holy Saturday, Fredericks forces managed to enter the city by digging tunnels under its walls, but the attack was repulsed by the Milanese with heavy losses. Alessandria withstood, and that was the first victory of the Lombard League. Frederick had to break off the siege due to an advancing Lombard army and retreated to Pavia.

Treaty of Montebello

On 16 April 1175, Frederick and the Lombard League negotiated peace at the Castle of Montebello but after long talks, negotiations broke with no result. Frederick knew that a battle was imminent and traveled to Chiavenna to meet Henry the Lion. Henry the Lion however refused to help his cousin as he thought that Frederick's defeat would allow him to obtain greater power.

The Battle

After Frederick's setback at Alessandria, the failed agreement of Montebello and the refusal of his cousin Henry the Lion to help him, Frederick finally received some good news and reinforcements from Germany. The German reinforcements crossed Lukmanier Pass into the Lake Como region in April 1176. Frederick I Barbarossa, Philipp I of Heinsberg and Archbishop Wichmann of Magdeburg rode secretly from Pavia along the Ticino River, to meet the reinforcements and to lead them to a joint operation with his main forces. Frederick received 1,000 knights and 1,000 foot soldiers from 16 different German rulers. At Como, Lombard imperialist allies increased the reinforcements to about 3,000 knights and foot soldiers, however, the Imperial army was largely a cavalry force of German knights.

[Left: Lombard knights looking for Fredrick's dead body]

The Milanese were informed about Frederick's plan and prepared for battle. A Carroccio, or a sacred war wagon drawn by oxen, was built and was decorated with the city standard and an altar upon which the cross of Archbishop Aribert of Milan was erected. In 1038, Archbishop Aribert led the victorious defence of Milan against the Holy Roman Emperor Conrad II, and therefore his cross was a symbol of victory against the Empire. According to Sire Raoul, a chronicler from Milan, 900 knights came from Milan and around 550 knights from three other towns, the rest of the League's forces were foot soldiers. The "Company of Death" was a foot soldier unit, that according to Milanese chronicles was led by Alberto da Giussano, and formed the core of the Lombard infantry. While Frederick and his reinforcements were on their way back to Pavia to join the main Imperial force, the Lombard League placed about 3,500 men near the west bank of the Olona. The infantry with the Milanese war cart, the carroccio, stood in a hastily fortified position at Borsano. The Lombards knew that Frederick was about to skirt through their area, however, the Lombards did not know how close Frederick already was. At dawn on the 29 May, the Lombard League sent a reconnaissance unit of 700 horsemen to the Seprio landscape. At the same time, the emperor had crossed the Olona and was marching south from Cairate, five miles northeast of Busto Arsizio. Here, the battle commenced. The Lombard reconnaissance and the 300 Imperial vanguard clashed. The clash was brief and bloody and with Frederick already on the horizon, the Lombard reconnaissance broke off and fled beyond Borsano. Now, Frederick and his Imperial German army launched a rampant and brutal attack on the Lombard League forces near Borsano - Legnano. The Lombard cavalry was largely routed but managed to escape the skirmish, leaving the infantry and carroccio on its own. Frederick advanced to the carroccio, and assaulted the infantry and the Company of Death with his cavalry.

M.B. Synge wrote this about the Company of Death: "Nine hundred desperate patriots forming the Company of Death defended the sacred car. Seeing the Germans were gaining ground, fearful for the safety of their treasure, they suddenly knelt down and renewed their vow to God that they would perish for their country."

The infantry positioned itself in a phalanx-like line. The fight around the carroccio was a long and bloody fight in which the Lombard League infantry brought the Imperial army to a stalemate. Despite the difficulties the Imperial cavalry had against the Lombard infantry, it would have still prevailed in the long run. Finally, the Lombard League forces received help from its regrouped cavalry and from a Brescian cavalry that was called to aid by the fleeing reconnaissance troops. The regrouped reconnaissance troops and the Brescian cavalry jointly attacked Frederick's army from the rear. The decisive assault was made by the Brescians, who managed to break through the lines and attack Frederick directly. In this attack, his guards and standard-bearer were killed, and Frederick was thrown off his horse and believed to be dead. Upon this, the Imperial troops panicked and fled, pursued to the Ticino by the Leagues cavalry. The generals tried to rally the men in vain. The booty and prisoners taken by the League were immense.


After the battle, Frederick's rule over Lombardy was decisively broken. The knights that managed to escape, gathered in Pavia. There, they brought the news of Frederick's presumed death to his wife Beatrice I, Countess of Burgundy. Beatrice and the Empire mourned Frederick's demise but after several days the Emperor appeared at the gates of Pavia.

H. E. Marshall wrote: "Then, greatly to the joy of all, after three days Barbarossa suddenly appeared before the gates of Pavia. Although wounded and bruised and left for dead Frederick had not been killed."

The victory of the Lombard League forced Frederick to travel to Venice. In the Peace of Venice, 1177, Frederick and Pope Alexander III reconciled. The Emperor acknowledged the Pope's sovereignty over the Papal States, and in return Alexander acknowledged the Emperor's overlordship of the Imperial Church. The Peace of Venice were heavily instigated by Archbishop Wichmann of Magdeburg, who was amongst the defeated at Legnano. The cities of Lombardy, however, continued to fight until 1183, when, in the Peace of Constance, Frederick conceded their right to freely elect town magistrates. The Treaty was cast in bronze.

Frederick did not forgive Henry the Lion for refusing to come to his aid in 1176. Taking advantage of the hostility of other German princes to Henry, Frederick had Henry tried in absentia by a court of bishops and princes in 1180, declared that Imperial law overruled traditional German law, and had Henry stripped of his lands and declared an outlaw.

On 27 January 1186, Frederick's son Henry VI married Constance of Sicily in Milan as a sign that peace had really been established.

Actual battlefield

The battle is traditionally tied to the name of Legnano, since the League's forces came from that town. Actually, as local historians have ascertained, the battle was fought a couple miles west of Legnano, where today Villa Cortese and Borsano, frazioni of Busto Arsizio, stand.


"Nine hundred desperate patriots forming the Company of Death defended the sacred car. Seeing the Germans were gaining ground, fearful for the safety of their treasure, they suddenly knelt down and renewed their vow to God that they would perish for their country."

That country was not "Italy." I'm not going to argue about whether it should be called Cisalpine Gaul, Etruria, Langbard, Padania, or the Subalpine/Po River Valley; but it was a Nation. "Italy" should be "the Italian peninsula," just as there is "the British Isles," "the Balkins," "the Iberian peninsula," "Scandinavia," etc. So for clarity, it should be Europe, then for reference "northern, southern, Eastern, or southern Europe, and then these "regions."