Life and History
Frederick II, son of Henry VI and Costance of Altavilla and grandson of Frederick Barbarossa (Red beard), was more commonly known by his nickname stupor mundi (“wonder of the world”). He was Holy Roman Emperor and King of Germany, Italy, Burgundy, Jerusalem and Sicily.
From childhood, Frederick II had a curious spirit and sharp mind.
He loved science, nature, the arts, poetry and philosophy. He was also a skilled hunter and valiant soldier. From childhood, Frederick II had a curious spirit and sharp mind. He loved science, nature, the arts, poetry and philosophy. He was also a skilled hunter and valiant soldier. His gifts led his kingdom to a victory during the Crusade, but also a period of cultural and scientific development – he formed the Salerno school of medicine. He also made advances in agriculture and livestock management. Southern Italy did not experience a period of growth like this one for many centuries to come.
Frederick II, patron of the arts and a cultured man, was known by his contemporaries for his lifestyle, defined by many sources as “dissolute.” He loved both food and women, and it is said that his imperial dining table was filled with broth of almonds, rice and spices. Various authors also suggest that the Emperor even enjoyed experimenting in the kitchen himself. It seems that although he was a lover of luxury and ostentation, Frederick favored quality over quantity, like a true gourmet and unlike many of his friends.
Frederick II loved to invite his court, a mix of Greek, Latin, Arab and Jewish cultures, to his various homes and castles throughout Italy. His favorite was Castel del Monte in Apulia. He also loved to go hunting. His passion for hunting actually led to a tragic event, which lowered his spirits and led to his premature death. In 1248, Frederick was involved with the siege of Parma. He built a wooden city for himself and his troupes outside the Parma’s walls, and named it “Vittoria.”
The people of Parma found out about one of his hunting trips, and invaded his camp while he was away. The Parmigiani lit his wooden city on fire and stole everything they could find. Someone even stole the Imperial crown and wore it on his head throughout the streets of Parma. The Emperor was hard hit by the event and retreated to his home in Apulia. He never fully recovered from the loss and died in his son’s arms from a mysterious fever, not long afterwards.
Frederick II had a particular fondness for candied violets. Ironically, violets became the symbol of Parma, the city that ruined him.
- 50 violets
- water to taste
- powdered sugar to taste
Carefully wash the violets with their stalks and allow to dry on a dish towel. Weigh the violets and measure out an equal weight of sugar. Pour the sugar into a casserole with a few drops of water, heat slowly, stirring continuously, until the sugar has turned a golden-colour.
When the sugar is ready, dip the violets into it holding onto the stalks, cover them well with the sugar and lay them to dry on a lightly-oiled surface. Serve at the end of a meal with the coffee or use to decorate cakes and sweets.
M. RINALDI, La storia è servita: vizi e virtù nel piatto dei grandi della storia, Milano, Golosia & C., 1996.