Today in Catholic History – Frederick I drowns while on the Third Crusade

On 10 June 1190, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa drowned in the Saleph [also known as the Calycadnus] River near Antioch. Some accounts claim that he drowned while bathing. Other accounts state that after Frederick fell from his horse while crossing the river, his head hit some rocks and drowned.

Frederick, along with French king Philip Augustus and English King Richard the Lionheart was leading the armies of the Third Crusade in the hopes of re-capturing the city of Jerusalem from the Muslims and their leader Saladin. But with his death, the soldiers of the Third Crusade fell into chaos as rivalries between Philip Augustus and Richard the Lionheart split the Crusaders apart. Much of the army of Frederick I would return to Germany. Unable to preserve the body of Frederick I in vinegar, his son Frederick V of Swabia will have the body boiled to remove the flesh of of Frederick Barbarosa from his bones. This was a typical treatment of fallen Crusaders as it was easier to transport just the bones of a dead Crusader rather than the entire body. However, this practice will eventually be condemned by the Pope Boniface VIII in 1300. While Frederick V hoped to bury the bones of his father in Jerusalem, he will be unable to do so and instead the bones will be buried in the city of Tyre.

Richard the Lionheart and his soldiers would later attempt to retake Jerusalem, but fail. This failure would lead to a call for a fourth crusade a few years later.

One account of the death of Frederick I

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