The Legend Of The Sleeping Barbarossa Emperor

Samuel Reason - December 15th, 2020

Emperor Frederick I. also known as Barbarossa was an Emperor of modern-day Germany. He became a symbol of stability and national unity, even years after his death. Because the country fell into war and civil war, the people longed for the peace that had existed with Barbarossa’s rule. The legend started because his body was never found and therefore, there is no grave. Accounts state he died during a crusade in 1190 in Saleph. Therefore, the people created a legend that Barbarossa was just sleeping, waiting to return and save Germany.

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As the legend goes the Kyffhäuser mountains are where the emperor is sleeping, deep inside a bewitched cave. Apparently, he sleeps with his servants, sitting upright on his throne completely motionless. He sits in his cave with his red beard growing around his stone table. Every 100 years Barbarossa sends out one of his servants to check if ravens are flying around his mountain. If they are then he will go straight back to sleep. Because the Ravens are a symbol of misfortune and discord. As the legend goes, an eagle will come and chase away the ravens. At that point, the emperor will know it is time to wake up. Another version of the legend says that his beard must grow around the table three times to remove the curse. And if ever he wakes up, then he will set out on an almighty battle against evil at Wallerfield.

In medieval times, many men claimed to be the emperor. To the point that the myth of him sleeping turned into the whole legend about a cursed cave. Some even say it is not the emperor himself but his grandchild. Nowadays he has become so famous in Germany, many will just call him Redbeard. During the 1890s, the legend was cemented in history when a monument was built on top of the Kyffhäuser mountains. The monument showed Emperor Wilhelm I riding a horse with a sleeping Barbarossa. The idea was to show that the myth was completed, Barbarossa had returned to unify Germany.

The plan worked and Wilhelm was declared the official successor of Barbarossa, unifying Germany again. He was even nicknamed Whitebeard, as another reminder he was the successor of the famous king. Of course, not everyone believes he woke up, and therefore, the legend remains – so watch out if you ever go walking in the mountains.

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