So, this is where everything starts...
My friend Gianluca is a lecturer in medieval history at Edinburgh University and last summer revealed me that there was a chance to obtain funds to promote the diffusion of academical subjects to a wider audience, breaking the boundaries of formal education.
We had no hesitation: historical wargames!
We decided to apply and - boom! - our project was accepted!
Rebels to the Empire and Crusades Against Fellow Christians in the Italian City Republics
An overlooked but very significant part of the history of the crusades relates to those that were fought against fellow Christians. They are known as internal crusades, and were launched against heretics, their supporters, and opponents of the Papacy within Western Europe. Internal crusades started from the beginning of the thirteenth century, more than a century after the first crusade against Muslims. Scholars distinguish between internal crusades fought against heretics and those against political opponents of the Papacy. Yet they both had political features, and opponents of the Papacy were branded as heretics anyway.
Exploring internal crusade helps to test the current dominant emphasis on crusades against Muslims, suggesting a more balanced view of the crusades and of their impact on Europe. Considering those that were fought in northern Italy also helps to explore the evolution of such a unique phenomenon as the medieval Italian city republics from a new and different angle.
Of all the battlegrounds of the internal crusades, the city republics of northern Italy hold a special place because they were quite unique experiences of non-monarchical government and popular sovereignty, while the rest of Europe was rather dominated by kings and lords. There were around thirty main cities, which were virtually independent but recognised the weak overlordship of the Holy Roman Emperor (who was usually a German). The emperor claimed to be the highest temporal authority in Europe, but by the thirteenth century he especially exerted different degrees of authority on a strip of territories that went from northern Germany to Sicily. The Italian cities mainly battled each other, or faced internal factional strife. Yet they seldom also dealt with emperors who wished to enhance their authority over Italy. On those occasions cities coalesced in pro-imperial and anti-imperial leagues, and the latter usually struck an alliance with the pope. The emperor and his Italian supporters labelled their opponents as rebels to the empire (rebelles imperii - just like in Star Wars).
The first full crusade against fellow Christians was launched against the Cathar heretics of Southern France in 1208. The Italian cities were also accused of being hotbeds of heresy. Yet it took more than three decades for internal crusades to be introduced there, starting around 1240. The reasons for that delay are not clear, but, initially, internal crusades were probably quite controversial. Moreover, northern Italy was key in the troubled relations between popes and emperors, because, geographically, it was the link between Germany and Rome. That meant that popes needed to tread carefully with the Italian cities. Indeed, it is not by chance that the first crusade against northern Italian targets belonged to the first crusade that was launched against a Holy Roman Emperor around 1240.
That's it for the background of our endeavour. I'll soon delve into the miniatures' side of the subject and our reconstruction of the Battle of Lodi Vecchio of 1239.