Sword of War (Barbarossa) (2009)

 

 

 

 

Director:     .

Starring:      Rutger Hauer (Federico Barbarossa),  Raz Degan (Alberto da Giussano),  F. Murray Abraham (Siniscalco Barozzi),  Christo Jivkov (Gherardo Negro),  Antonio Cupo (Alberto dell'Orto),  Cécile Cassel (Beatrice di Borgogna),  Kasia Smutniak (Eleonora),  Ángela Molina (Ildegarda di Binden)Elena Bouryka (Antonia),  Hristo Shopov (Rinaldo di Dassel),  Federica Martinelli (Tessa),  Maurizio Tabani (Giovanni da Giussano),  Riccardo Cicogna (Wibaldo),  Gian Marco Tavani (Lorenzo della Pigna),  Robert Baer (Alberto).

1176, Frederick I Barbossa (Holy Roman Emperor) is heavily defeated by the Lombard League at the Battle of Legnano near Milan on his fifth offensive against Italy

 

 

Spoiler Warning:

"Italy. 12th century AD.  Northern Italy is ruled over by a German Emperor: Frederick I Hohenstaufen, known as 'Barbarossa'.  His dream is to conquer also Central and Southern Italy, thus reviving the ancient empire founded by Charlemagne.  But in the North a young man from Milan has formed an army of 900 young men from different cities: the 'Company of Death'.  This young man's name is Alberto Giussano.  His dream is to defeat the Emperor and to regain freedom for the Northern lands."

A young boy is virtually run over by a wild boar fleeing from hunters on horseback.  The hunters then nearly run him over chasing after the boar.  The boar circles around and hides near the boy.  Barbarossa comes along and the boar attacks his horse.  He manages to throw a spear into the animal, but is knocked off his horse.  Now he has no weapon to kill the boar, who is charging hard at him.  The boy uses his cross bow to kill the boar just before it reaches Barbarossa.  Barbarossa gets up to thank the boy, who tells the strange man to stop where he is.  The man tells the boy that he is not a wild boar to be killed.  He is the boy's Emperor, Frederick Hohenstaufen.  The boy only knows him as Barbarossa.  The Emperor says that's what they call him in Lombardy.  And what do they call the boy?  He is Alberto da Giussano, son of Giovanni.  The emperor gives Alberto his imperial dagger with the Emperor's name on it. 

Wurzburg, Germany.  A few years later.  [Wurzburg is a city in the region of Franconia, Northern Bavaria, Germany.  Northwest of Nuremberg and southeast of Frankfurt.]

Barbarossa is going to see Hildegard von Bingen, the great sear.  The Emperor is going to marry for the second time.  The sear says the wedding is blessed.  She will bear fruits.  Then she says Frederick of Swabia's name will be remembered for centuries.  But be aware of the water.  And beware of the scythe for it brings defeat.  The water brings death. 

At the wedding, Henry, Duke of Saxony, talks about the bride and she hears this.   She asks her companion who is that man?  He's the Emperor's cousin and call him the Lion.  The bride is very young and people call her a little French girl.  Frederick puts the ring upon her finger. 

Milan, northern Italy.  Evandro calls over to the now grown Alberto and tells him to get onto his cart because they must reach the river before dawn.  They reach the river and start to load their goods onto a boat there.  Lodigiani soldiers arrive and say the merchants crossed through their territory in the night and now they must pay their dues.  Evandro pulls a knife and slits the throat of the soldier next to him.  Alberto and his buddy kill the other soldiers. 

Alberto has been wounded in the fighting.  His horse brings him back home where two lovely women see to his wounds.  Tessa is the blonde and the brunette is her sister Eleonora.  The brunette kisses Alberto's face while he is still unconscious. 

Two emissaries from Lodi come to Barbarossa to tell him that the city of Milan is trying to dominate them.  Lodi has always been loyal to the Emperor and now they ask him for his help.  Barbarossa says he doesn't want to use any force right now on Milan.  He says he will write a letter to Milan and the two emissaries will take it to them. 

A German emissary delivers the letter to Milan.  He says that he comes in the name of the Emperor.  Milan is warned not to attack Lodi on pain of being banished from the Empire.  Gerado throws the letter on the ground and steps on it. Siniscalco Barozzi is shocked at the behavior of his friend and he asks the German emissary not to leave.  Alberto is also shocked and asks Gerado what is he going to do now?  Gerado says he will gather the army and attack Lodi. 

Alberto has a nightmare and awakens in fright from his deep sleep.  His two brothers tell him that Lodi has been defeated. 

Barbarossa is mad that Milan attacked Lodi, but he really has no desire to fight.  He says it's as if Milan were trying to force him into fighting them.  But the new queen wants him to go to Milan and destroy that city.  Barbarossa sets out for Milan. 

Tessa, Eleanora and father are having dinner.  The dog starts barking.  Eleonora says that someone is out there.  It turns out to be Siniscalco Barozzi.  He tells the father that he is heading north to the camp of Barbarossa.  He says he is asking for the hand of his daughter Tessa.  Father says the Tessa would make a good wife and he will put in a good word for him with Tessa. 

Barbarossa and his people are crossing over the Alps. 

Eleonora comes to tell Alberto that Siniscalco Barozzi wants to marry Tessa, but she says that will never happen.  Alberto says that they say that sister is a witch and maybe that's why she knows Tessa's future.  Eleonora gets mad at him for calling her a witch.  To calm her down he shows her the large knife given to him by Barbarossa himself.  Eleonora touches it and sees a vision of fighting.  She recoils from the knife.  Then she runs from the house. 

Tessa tells Eleonora that Ranero, one of Alberto's brothers, says he wants to marry her.  And she wants to marry him. 

Siniscalco Barozzi reaches the camp of Barbarossa.  The Emperor is not there.  So Barozzi tells the substitute Rinaldo di Dassel that he has brought Milan's oath of allegiance to Barbarossa.  Rinaldo takes the money, but says that Barbarossa is still coming to attack Milan. 

Barozzi returns to Milan to warn of the great size of the German army.  In addition, they have a great many war machines.   Barozzi implores the people to surrender Milan.  The people say they will fight!  Barozzi just shakes his head at this decision.

Verona.  Adige River.  A new bridge has been built to the satisfaction of the Germans.  They start crossing the bridge, but soon heavy log rams are send down the river to knock the bridge into sections.  German horses and soldiers are tossed into the Adige River.  For Verona siding with Milan and killing many German soldiers, Barbarossa cuts off the ear of one of the Verona emissaries.

Eleonora runs to tell Alberto that the Germans have destroyed the city of Brescia with more than one thousand dead.  Alberto says they are still going to fight to save Milan.  Eleonora thinks the battle has already been lost. 

Soldiers are sent to join forces with the Emperor.  They are from the cities of Parma, Cremona, Padua and Ferrara. 

The Germans are approaching Milan.  The bells are rung and the people come into the fort.

There is a moat around the fortified walls of the city.  The Germans come forward to the moat behind moveable wooden walls.  They start pushing giant kegs into the moat water.  The Milanese archers try to kill the men working on the kegs, but the German have hundreds of crossbowmen firing arrows into the Milanese archers.  Then fire balls are thrown against the Milanese walls and the Milanese buildings inside.  The Milanese fight back with their own fire balls launched at the keg bearers.  

Barozzi asks for volunteers to go out and collect food for the people inside the walls.  Alberto raises his hand to volunteer, but Barozzi chooses his brother Ranero instead, who did not raise his hand to volunteer.  Alberto tells Barozzi to leave his brother alone.  So Barozzi says then Alberto will go instead of Ranero.  Now Ranero says he is going for he wants no man to say that he lacks courage.  Barozzi wants Ranero to go to battle so he can have Tessa all to himself.  But when Tessa shows up she tells Barozzi that if Ranero does not return, she would rather die than be with Barozzi. 

The Germans now push their towers toward the walls of Milan.  On the front of the towers they have tied the Millanese volunteers that went out in the fields to get fresh food for the residents of Milan.  Everyone says don't shoot, but Barozzi grabs a crossbow and shoots Ranero dead.  Now others start shooting and most of the volunteers are killed. 

At night Alberto goes out and up to retrieve the bodies of his two brothers.  He then tells his father that he is going to kill the men that killed his brothers.  Eleonora tries to talk him out of going, but he won't hear of it. 

Alberto slits the tent of Barbarossa and slips in.  Barbarossa captures him.  He asks where did he get that knife he has and Alberto says some time ago Barbarossa himself gave the knife to him.  Barbarossa lets Alberto go.  As Alberto prepares to slip out of the German camp he sees Barozzi come into the camp. 

Alberto returns to his father, but now the Germans are pouring through the gates.  Who opened the gates? 

Barozzi shows up with the Germans.  Alberto wants to kill him, but he is captured and cannot. 

Alberto and all the other prisoners are brought before the Emperor, who burns the Milanese flag.  He then says that all of Milan will be razed to the ground.  And all the Milanese must leave the area before sunset.  The Milanese will go in all different directions so that there will be no one to call Milanese in the future.  The very name Milan will be erased from the maps. 

Rome.  Barbarossa chooses the new Pope and now the Pope crowns he and his wife the Emperor and Empress of the Holy Roman Empire, respectively.  As the Emperor and Empress leave the coronations, a man falls dead in front of them.  The
Empress wants to know what happened to the man.  A man looks the body over and says the man died of the plague.  The Emperor and Empress now want to get out of there as fast as they can. 

Pontida Monastery.  Men from Milan hold a meeting together in secret.  The men are very pessimistic about their chances of ever defeating Barbarossa and rebuilding Milan.  Alberto and his friend burst into the meeting and Alberto shouts that they can defeat Barbarossa if they can just stay united.  He says this time all the cities of Lombardy will unite against the Germans. 

Alberto comes to see Eleonora at her father's house.  She hides behind some hanging herbs.  Alberto asks where is Tessa and Eleonora says Tessa is dead.  (It sounds like she's not dead, but in a nunnery somewhere.)  Alberto is going to take Eleonora with him this time.  Eleonora resists the idea saying that Alberto always treated her just like everyone else.  Alberto apologizes to her. 

Alberto and Eleonora come to visit with Eleonora's sister-in-law.  And who shows up but Barozzi and the imperial German soldiers here to collect the Emperor's share of the local harvest. 

Alberto tells Eleonora that the Germans treat them like they're animals.  He says it's time to stop running and form an army. 

In Rome Barbarossa's men want to leave this city infected as it is with the plague.  His wife wants him to stay put, but Barbarossa sides with his men and says they are going home. 

Alberto tells his men that they could become the "Company of Death".  Death or freedom.

Alberto and his men start going around picking up volunteers.  Soon Alberto has a large force of Lombard men.  Alberto now speaks of the Lombard League.  Better death than slaves!  He says we the Company of Death swear to take back this land of ours, to fight the Emperor and to never turn their backs to the enemy. 

Eleonora goes to see Tessa in the nunnery.  She tells Tessa of the rise of the power of the Lombard League.   Tessa tells Eleonora to marry Alberto. 

Alberto asks Eleonora again to marry him.  This time she says yes and they get married. 

Barozzi comes to the nunnery to take the Emperor's share of their bounty and to abduct some pretty nuns.  As Barozzi pulls off the veils of the nuns, he finds Tessa among them.  He is ecstatic to find her, but Tessa scratches his face and starts running up to the roof of the nunnery.   There she stands on the ledge threatening to plunge to her death.  Barozzi begs her not to do it, but she wants no part of him and steps backwards to her death.   Far away, her sister senses the death of Tessa and weeps for her. 

Barozzi and Eleonora are at the funeral.  She approaches Barozzi and he keeps saying over and over to Eleonora:  "I loved her. I loved her."  Eleonora grabs her knife and slits Barozzi's throat, but not enough to kill him. 

News comes to Alberto that Eleonora almost killed Barozzi..  And now Barozzi  has taken Eleonora to the camp of Barbarossa at Alessandria.  There they plan to burn her at the stake.  Alberto goes a bit crazy upon hearing the news.   

Alessandria.  The Empress wants to know who is this woman?  The answer is that she's a witch. 

Barbarossa is upset because they have been trying for weeks to take the city without success.  He tells his staff to double the digging of the tunnel.  His staff says that the frequent rains have slowed the digging.  And the rivers around the city are filled up with water.  If the rains continue the rivers will overflow and the whole camp will be submerged.  In addition, the rain and mud are destroying the morale of the troops. 

The Empress goes in to see the witch.  The Empress is curious about Eleonora.  She sees her right arm has been burned and asks what happened.  Eleonora says that's just scarring from a lightning strike.  The Empress is amazed.  How could this woman have survived a lightning strike?  Eleonora's cellmate screams that the woman is a witch and she runs to the cell door banging hard on it to be let out.  The guard comes in and throws the woman across the room telling her to shut up.  The Empress leaves the cell still wondering how the woman survived. 

The men with Alberto have come up with a new tactic.  They hide inside a wagon, but at the right time they jump up and with scythes cut the heads off dummies. 

The tunnel is discovered when there is a cave in opening up a big hole to the sky.  When Barbarossa learns of this, he orders that the war machines all be set on fire.  They are retreating.  Barbrossa says they will retreat to Pavia in Lombardy.  His wife advises him to send a message to his cousin Henry the Lion to bring fresh troops for the German army.  Barbarossa agrees.  The Empress has one request.  Please free that woman from Milan.  Why?, asks Frederick.  Lightning hit the woman and yet she lived.  She was saved.  Don't defy God who saved her for a reason.  Frederick will not agree to pardon the witch.

Como. Mera River.  [The Mera River originates in the mountains of Switzerland, flows west to cross the Italian border near Soglio, turns south at Chiavenna and ends in Lake Como, near Sorico in the Province of Como.]  The Emperor and his troops arrive and Barbarossa asks his cousin Henry the Lion where is the army that cousin promised him?  Henry says that war is no longer a luxury that he can afford.  He has no soldiers to give to Frederick, but he does have a small chest filled with coins with which Frederick can buy fresh troops. 
But Frederick is not in need of money.  He has lots of that.  He needs troops.  Frederick growls that Henry is "useless".   He leaves Henry behind. 

A woman is burned at the stake while Barozzi watches.  The witch's head is covered, so Barozzi really doesn't know for sure who was burned at the stake. 

Alberto and the men of the Company of Death prepare to attack the forces of Barbarossa.  Alberto gives his men a moving speech about fighting for their freedom. 

Legnano, 29 May 1176.  [Legnano is in the north-westernmost part of the Province of Milan, about 20 km (12 mi) from Downtown Milan.]

The German army faces what they think is only the Milanese army.  They are roughly two miles away on the plain.  Barbarossa is sure of victory.  He gives the order to take the Empress Beatriz to Pavia.  He then leads the charge.

The cavalry retreats and the Germans face the secret weapons of the scythes.  The wagons filled with men with scythes cut the cavalry down.  Now with the German cavalry weakened the Lombard cavalry attacks them.  In the battle Barozzi kills Lorenzo, another of Alberto's brothers.  In turn, Alberto kills Barozzi.  The Lombards win the battle. 

Found on the battlefield is a wounded Eleonora in full uniform.  She tells Alberto that the Empress saved her life by substituting another woman in her place to be burned.  Alberto gets his wife back. 

"Three days after the Battle of Legnano, Barbarossa reappeared at the court of Pavia.  No one knows where he was or what he did during those three days.  Fourteen years later, he left for the Crusades.  On a spring evening, in Anatolia, he waded in the waters of the Salef River and, just as foretold, he met his death in the water. 

"Alberto da Giussano lived a long life with Eleanora, and they had several children.  The Company of Death was dispersed: the towns of the Lombard League had won their freedom."

 

 

Alberto da Giussano was not a real historical character, but it makes a complicated story easier to tell.  Good story of how the Germans were thrown out of Lombardy in the 12th century. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

 


Historical Background:

Today Lombardy is one of the 20 regions of Italy with its capital at Milan.  Other cities are:  Brescia, Mantua, Pavia, Como, Cremona, Bergamo, Sondrio, Varese, Monza, and the lakes of Garda, Como, Maggiore, and Iseo.  Lombardy is bordered by Switzerland to the north, and by the Italian regions of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol and Veneto on the east, Emilia-Romagna on the south, and Piedmont on the west.

A Germanic tribe, the Lombards, took control over vast regions of Italy. In 751 the Lombards seized Ravenna, ending the Byzantine presence in central Italy.

 

963-1806  --  Germany within the Holy Roman Empire, 963–1806.

1138-1254 --  Hohenstaufen Dynasty in Germany. 

1152 (March 4)   --  Frederick was elected King of Germany at Frankfurt Germany.

1152 (March 9)  --  Frederick was crowned in Aachen.

1155  --  Frederick became King of Italy.

1155 (June 18)  --  Frederick was finally crowned Roman Emperor by Pope Adrian IV.  He got the name Barbarossa from the northern Italian cities he attempted to rule. Barbarossa is "red beard" in Italian.

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

1174 (September)  --   Frederick embarks on his fifth Italian campaign, to quench the constant revolts in Lombardy and settle his quarrels with Pope Alexander III. He led 8,000 knights over the Alps and arrived in Piedmont in late September.

1174 (September 30)  --  Frederick wanted to take revenge on Susa in Piedmont for its behavior of 1168 and on this date his forces captured and burned down the town. Then he took Asti, Piedmont, after a seven-day siege. Upon Frederick's rapid and fierce initial success, Margrave William of Montferrat and the Count of Biandrate abandoned the Lombard League.

1174 (October)  --Frederick finally received the promised imperial reinforcements from Bohemia.

1174 (end of October)  --  his forces were not able to take the city of Alessandria, Piedmont so he had to spend the winter in front of its gates.  He has tunnels dug underneath the walls of Alessandria. 

1175 (Holy Saturday, Easter Eve)   --  Frederick's forces managed to enter the city, but the attack was repulsed with heavy losses. This 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. Then his cousin Henry the Lion refused to help Frederick.

1176 (April)  --  German reinforcements crossed Lukmanier Pass into the Lake Como region. The Lombard "Company of Death" was a foot soldier unit, led by the in fact fictional Alberto da Giussano, which formed the core of the Lombard infantry.

1176 (May 29)  --  Frederick returning with his reinforcements is hit by the Lombard forces.  Casualties were heavy on both sides.  At the Battle of Legnano, Frederick's rule over Lombardy was decisively broken.

1177  --  in the Peace of Venice, Frederick and Pope Alexander III were reconciled.

1180  -- Henry was tried in absentia by a court of bishops and princes that stripped cousin Henry of his lands and declared him an outlaw.

until 1883  --  the cities of Lombardy continued to fight until 1183, when, in the Peace of Constance, Frederick conceded their right to freely elect town magistrates.

1186 (January 27)  --  Frederick's son the future Henry VI married Constance of Sicily in Milan as a sign that peace had really been established.

1190  -- on the Third Crusade, Barbarossa fell off his horse and drowned in the Seleph River, a river in Turkey that arises in the Taurus Mountains.  He was succeeded by Henry VI (1191-1197). 

 

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