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Battle of Giglio
Part of Guelphs and Ghibellines
and Genoese-Pisan Wars
A depiction from the 14th century Nuova Cronica
Date3 May 1241
LocationIsle of Giglio, Tyrrhenian Sea
Result Imperial victory
Armoiries Saint-Empire monocéphale.png Frederick II
Kingdom of Sicily
Republic of Pisa
CoA Pontifical States 02.svg Gregory IX
Republic of Genoa
Commanders and leaders
Enzio of Sardinia
Ugolino Buzaccherini
Ansaldo de Mari
Giacobo Malocello
27 Sicilian galleys
40 Pisan galleys
27 Genoese galleys
Casualties and losses
2,000 killed [1][2]
1 Archbishop killed
4,000 captured [1][2]
18 Prelates captured
3 galleys sunk [3][4]
22 galleys captured [3][4]

The naval battle of Giglio was a military clash between a fleet of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and a fleet of the Republic of Genoa in the Tyrrhenian Sea. It took place on Friday, May 3, 1241, between the islands of Montecristo and Giglio (Tuscan Archipelago) and ended with the victory of the Imperial fleet.

The target of the Imperial fleet was to intercept a delegation of high ranking prelates from France, Spain, England and northern Italy which were traveling with the Genoese fleet on route to Rome where Gregory IX had summoned a council.


After Frederick's victory at Cortenuova in 1237 a conflict erupted in the spring of 1239 between the Pope and the Emperor concerning the question of the Imperial claim to rule over the cities of the Lombard League, an open conflict that culminated in the second excommunication of the Emperor on March 20, 1239.[5] From then on both sides not prepared to compromise carried the military conflict against each other, where the Emperor achieved a victory in the Papal States at the Siege of Faenza, which increasingly threatened the position of the Pope.[1] In the fall of 1240 the Pope issued to the Church dignitaries of Italy, Sicily, Germany, France and Spain, the invitation to a council which should be addressed at Easter 1241 in Rome consulting the next steps of the church against the Emperor.[4] In his capacity as King of Sicily Frederick II could easily suppress participation of the Sicilian prelates, but the clergy of the other countries gathered in the following months in order to travel on to Rome.


The Emperor controlled the land route through central Italy and thus Rome was cut off by land from northern Italy.[5] The council prelates gathered in Nice, where they were first transported by a fleet of the Maritime Republic of Genoa, which was led by a Guelph (Pope loyal) Government in its port.[2] The two legates James of Palestrina and Otto of San Nicola negotiated with the Genoese for 32 armed galleys for the further transport by sea to Rome, and as soon as the embassies of the Lombard cities had embarked the journey should be started. When Frederick II learned of this project he ordered in March 1241 his in Lombardy prevailing vicars, Marino di Ebulo and Oberto Pallavicini to attack Genoa by land.[1]

The battle of Giglio depicted in the Chronica Majora of Matthew Paris (1259)

The Emperor had to upgrade its Sicilian fleet to set the Genoese under pressure from the sea. The Emperor had 27 galleys armed[2] standing under the command of his son Enzio along with admiral Ansaldo de Mari.[3] This contingent than sailed to the Maritime Republic of Pisa which was the arch rival of Genoa and staunchly Ghibelline (Emperor loyal). The Pisan fleet of 40 galleys stood under the command of Ugolino Buzaccherini.[3]

On April 25, the Genoese fleet sat sail from her hometown but first headed to nearby parts of Portofino[6] where they anchored one or two days. When the crews learned of an attack by Oberto Pallavicino on the to the Republic of Genoa belonging town of Zolasco, they intended to come to the rescue, but the two legates kept it off by successfully pushing for a quick drive to Rome. In another stopover in Porto Venere[6] they learned of the union between the Sicilian fleet an that of Pisa and thus now had an enemy between them and their destination. They managed to sail past Pisa but not unnoticed since the Imperial fleet was already emerging between the islands of Montecristo and Giglio. Of the battle Matthew Paris recorded:[7]

A most bloody fight then ensued at sea between the Pisans . . . and the Genoese in which the Genoese were defeated, and the prelates and legates were made prisoners, with the exception of some who were slain or drowned

In the now following engagement the Imperial fleet proved superior over that of the Genoese, especially the numerous passengers and their luggage disabled the Genoese in the adequate defense of their ships, which could therefore provide only weak resistance to escape the threat of sinking.[1] The Imperial side succeeded in sinking 3 and hijacking 22 galleys[4] killing 2,000 Soldiers, Sailors and Priests[2][8] and capturing the notable prelates as well as the treasuries and correspondence.[3]


The hijacking of the Genoese fleet was a great success for the Emperor Frederick II. Almost all the high dignitaries of the council got into his captivity. These included the three Papal legates; the Archbishops of Rouen, Bordeaux and Auch;[] the Bishops of Carcassonne, Agde, Nîmes, Tortona, Asti and Pavia; the Abbots of Citeaux, Clairvaux, Cluny, Fécamp, Mercy-Dieu and Foix;[1][2] They were first brought to Pisa and San Miniato, later to Naples. On the ships that saved themselves and were able to escape capture were mainly the prelates of the Spain and Arles. Emperor Frederick II proclaimed his victory to be God's judgment and a symbol against the illegality of his persecution by the Pope Gregory IX. The comune of Pisa was excommunicated by Pope Gregory IX and the interdict lasted until 1257.[9]

Only with the surprisingly fast death of Pope Gregory IX in August 1241 did the situation seemed to relax at first. As a sign of good will Frederick II had the legates released in order to make way for the election of a new Pope. The newly elected Pope Innocent IV, however, should prove to be an equally intransigent opponent as his predecessor. In 1244 he took his exile seat in safe Lyon, where this time the convocation of a council (First Council of Lyons) was achieved, which formally deposed the Emperor.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Kington Oliphant, T. L. (1862). History of Frederick the Second Vol.II. Cambridge. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Graf zu Stolberg, Friedrich Leopold (1864). Geschichte der Religion Jesu Christi. Mainz. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Münch, Ernst (1841). König Enzio. Stuttgart. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Milman, Henry (1857). History of Latin Christianity Vol.IV. London. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Böhmer, Johann Friedrich (1849). Regesta Imperii. Stuttgart. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Canale, Michel-Giuseppe (1860). Nuova istoria della Repubblica di Genova. Florence. 
  7. Lewis, Suzanne (1987). The Art of Matthew Paris in the Chronica Majora. University of California Press. 
  8. Dittmar, Heinrich (1880). Die Deutsche Geschichte. Heidelberg. 
  9. Brooke, Rosalind (2006). The Image of St Francis. Cambridge. 

See also

Coordinates: 43°32′53″N 10°13′08″E / 43.548°N 10.219°E / 43.548; 10.219

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