1226: Frederick of Isenberg

1 comment November 14th, 2007 Headsman

On this date in 1226, Count — although he had been stripped of this title — Frederick of Isenberg, a German noble, was broken on the wheel for the murder of his cousin, the Archbishop of Cologne.

The proximate cause of the dispute between the two was said to have been Frederick‘s exploitation for his own benefit of an abbey he administered, to which the Archbishop, Engelbert of Berg, took exception. Underlying the conflict are the the outlines of power politics in fractious medieval Germany.

Engelbert was an aggressive and effective Archbishop, and the power he won for his diocese came at the expense of other claimants. Frederick was not likely the only noble menaced by the inroads of the vigorous bishop. One theory has it that, despite the 47 wounds found on the cleric’s body, the ambush Frederick laid for him aimed only to capture him as a hostage — a not unheard-of negotiating strategem of the period.

No matter Frederick’s intent, what he achieved was excommunication and the loss of all lands, title and wealth — including his castle, razed by the Archbishop’s successor. A year after the murder Frederick was captured returning from Rome, where he had sought to have his excommunication lifted. He suffered one of the more excrutiating forms of execution, his shattered body lingering alive overnight displayed atop a stone pillar.

Engelbert, who in life had been no stranger to worldly politics and himself had been excommunicated in his youth for backing an anti-papal power, was incorporated into the Catholic Church’s martyrology for his death in defense of the abbey and (though never formally canonized) has sometimes been venerated as a saint.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 13th Century,Broken on the Wheel,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Germany,God,Gruesome Methods,History,Murder,Nobility,Pelf,Power,Public Executions

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