Under Frederick II of Swabia reign Sicily reached its peak of magnificence. The great Daniel Simond said that ‘Sicily prospered during the fifty years of his reign and Palermo reached its greatest magnificence’. In fact, Frederick was called ‘Stupor mundi’ (‘wonder of the world’). Frederick was son of the Norman queen Constance of Sicily and of the emperor Henry VI of Hohenstaufen. When Henry died, Frederick was only 3 years old and his mother Constance became temporarily Queen Regent until her young son came of age. In 1220 he was crowned as Emperor and began his enlightened government.
Frederick always highly prized Sicily. One of his favourite courts was Palermo. Frederick II also promoted Sicilian School of poetry a community of outstanding poets very important for Italian literature history because they influenced Tuscan poets and Dante was one of them.
In his courts you could often meet Muslim and Hebrew scholars because the Emperor loved talking about philosophy and politics with them. When he introduced the new land legislation in South Italy, put Muslims and Hebrews under his protection and, in particular, let the latter to lend money charging 10% interest.
Therefore, Roman Church became hostile and excommunicated him more than once.
Despite trying to make beautiful and well-ordered Sicilian cities, he caused also big problems for the subsequent development of Sicily. His very strict laws aimed to create a rigorous life style (adulterous wives had their nose cut and if their husbands tried to protect them, they were whipped in public), but paralysed every possible development of a civic consciousness in Sicilian cities. Frederick concentrated all power in his hands so Sicily and Palermo became completely dependent on their sovereign.
One of the first orders he gave was for private castles built after 1189 to be destroyed, because he was the one and only who could erect them and in any case they had to be owned by the imperial authority. It was a terrible blow to the Sicilian lord deprived of their authority symbols. Frederick II died in 1250 and his body was buried in Palermo Cathedral near his Norman ancestor who first arrived in Sicily, Count Roger.