Skip to content

December 23, 1310: Emperor Henry VII of Luxemburg, Supported by Dante, Arrived in Milan and Started the Process Leading to the Modern State – 700 Years Ago Today

Webster G. Tarpley

December 23, 2010

Henry VII

Henry VII of Luxemburg

Today, December 23, 2010, marks one of the most important world-historical anniversaries of all time. Seven hundred years ago this evening, the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII of Luxemburg passed through the city gates of Milan, Italy and set into motion the process leading to the most important political innovation of the past 2,000 years: the modern state.

Dante Alighieri

Dante Alighieri

Henry VII’s most vocal political supporter and advocate was the Florentine exile Dante Alighieri, by all odds the greatest man of the second millennium AD. Dante’s immediate goal was to end the fratricidal party strife between the Guelf (pro-papal) and Ghibelline (pro-imperial) factions by restoring imperial guidance to the northern Italian city states, which had been gripped by growing anarchy and incipient civil war since the death of Frederick II of Hohenstaufen and the end of his southern Italian kingdom 60 years earlier. One of the victims of this anarchy had been Dante himself, who was driven out of Florence in 1303 by the ascendant Black Guelf party, acting with the encouragement of the simonist pope, Boniface VIII.

The Greyhound

Dante’s Divine Comedy, the first sustained poetic effort in Italian and the first masterpiece in a modern language, was written as an ideological handbook and justification for Henry VII’s Italian expedition and the restoration of a balance between pope and emperor in northern and central Italy. In Canto I of the Inferno, when Dante is lost in the dark wood of error, his guide Vergil foretells the coming of “il veltro” — a greyhound who will destroy the wolf of avarice, the source of all depraved desires, thought by some to represent the banking power, especially its Venetian aspect. The greyhound is a figure for Henry VII. The entire “Divine Comedy” is full of references and prophecies about Henry VII, too many to be enumerated here.

In Milan, Henry VII’s modest retinue of a few thousand troops were awaited by the hostile but politically decrepit Guelf regime of the Torriani family, who had driven the Ghibelline opposition out of the city. Henry VII’s general policy was that political exiles should be allowed to return to their homes, and in the case of Milan this included Matteo Visconti and his followers, who had originally come from the Pavia area, between Milan and the Po River. Before long, the Ghibelline Matteo Visconti had ousted the Torriani family from power and established one of the most important family regimes in all of European history.

After being crowned King of Lombardy in the church of St. Ambrose in Milan on January 6, 1310, Henry VII attempted to reconcile the factions of other northern Italian cities. Ghibelline cities like Verona, Pisa, Arezzo, Modena, and Mantua welcomed Henry, but the more numerous Guelf rulers soon formed a league to resist him, including by waging war. The prime mover of this rebellion was Guelf Florence, controlled by Dante’s mortal enemies, the Black Guelfs. Henry VII, despite his inadequate forces, responded by besieging Florence, albeit unsuccessfully.

In Cantos 8 and 9 of the Inferno, Dante and Vergil are for a time prevented from passing through the walls that surround the lower hell or City of Dis by the largest and most aggressive assembly of demons the two wayfarers ever encounter in the underworld. This is a pandemonium of pagan and other monsters, featuring Alecto, Tisiphone, and Megaera, the three furies of Greek lore, plus the severed head of the Gorgon Medusa, which these infernal guards intend to use to turn Dante into stone. The demonic resistance cannot be put down by human reason as represented by Vergil, who must wait for an angel or heavenly messenger to quell the rebellion against the divine will, which wants Dante to see the lower hell and tell the world what he was seen. This is followed by an admonition to the reader to look below the surface meaning to understand the allegorical message Dante sought to impart. According to Pietrobono and some of the better commentators, the walls of lower hell are to be understood as a metaphor for the walls of Florence during Henry’s siege of that city, with the Black Guelfs as recalcitrant demons. Hell is a city much like Florence under the Black Guelfs, says Dante.

In addition to devoting so much of the Divine Comedy to Henry VII, Dante also wrote about his hopes for the new emperor in three of his few extant Latin letters. Letter V, probably written in the fall of 1310, proclaims the coming of Henry VII as the new Moses and bridegroom of long-suffering Italy. Letter VI is an emphatic prophecy of ruin for Henry VII’s enemies, who will see their cities destroyed as punishment for their resistance, despite their contemptible fortifications (ridiculo cuiquam vallo). Letter VII exhorts Henry VII to stop wasting time with the rebellions fomented in Brescia and other cities, and to strike directly at the heart of the insurrection by launching a new attack on Florence, the stinking vixen of the Arno. Finally, Dante’s treatise on politics and government, De Monarchia, is a theoretical expression of the idea that the temporal rule of the emperor is superior to the political authority of the Roman pope, who needs to focus on spiritual matters.

Henry VII of Luxemburg died in August of 1313, just as he was preparing a new attack on Florence. He is likely to have been poisoned by political adversaries.

Dante’s detractors have never tired of deriding the failure of his attempt to restore civic peace in northern and central Italy with the help or a revivified Holy Roman Empire. But this ignores the two political powers that Henry VII helped to establish. One was Verona under the Scala family; Can Grande della Scala was one of Dante’s benefactors in exile, and for a time seemed likely to dominate northern Italy, perhaps including Venice. The other imperial vicars who became prominent were the Visconti.

By the end of 1313, the Visconti state controlled not just Milan, but also Lombard towns like Piacenza, Lodi, Bobbio, and Novara. In 1314, they added Como, Bergamo, and Tortona. In 1315, Pavia and Cremona were conquered, while Alessandria invited them in to escape the repressive rule of the French-backed Anjou overlords. In 1316, Parma and Vercelli joined the Visconti state. As the leading scholarly study of Henry VII by William M. Bowsky concludes, the Visconti power “owed its start, both militarily and legally, to Henry of Luxemburg.”

Giangaleazzo Visconti

Giangaleazzo Visconti, c. 1400: Architect of the First Prototype of the Modern State

It was a somewhat later Milanese ruler of this line, Giangaleazzo Visconti, who in the years around 1400 created a large northern Italian state which must be considered as the first prototype of the modern state. Giangaleazzo’s state included most of northern Italy, with the key exceptions of Venice and Tuscany. He ruled Verona, Cremona, Brescia, Belluno, Pieve di Cadore, Feltre, Pavia, Novara, Como, Lodi, Vercelli, Alba, Asti, Pontremoli, Tortona, Alessandria, Valenza, Piacenza, Parma, Reggio Emilia, Vicenza, and Vigevano. Another year and Florence would have appeared on the list, and shortly thereafter, probably Venice, making the Kingdom of Italy a viable reality.

Milan was traditionally the richest city in western Europe, and its only serious competitor for first place in Europe as a whole was Constantinople. Giangaleazzo’s political method featured two aspects which have remained indispensable to the modern state. The first was an economic recovery program favoring the middle class: when Giangaleazzo seized control of Milan, he implemented a tax amnesty, cancelling the debts owed by citizens to the tax collector. This would be the modern equivalent of a debt moratorium or cancellation.

Giangaleazzo’s other hallmark was the building of modern infrastructure. For Milan, that meant a very advanced system of canals in and around Milan, and reaching down to the Po and other rivers — the navigli, many of which still exist, covered over with more recent constructions. These canals enabled Giangaleazzo to make rapid progress on the Milanese Duomo, the most ambitious late Gothic cathedral in Europe, and to build the striking Charterhouse of Pavia (Certosa di Pavia), a Carthusian monastery.

Milan was also the European leader in key areas of advanced technology, especially in steel and other metallurgy. The Milanese arms and armor industry was in demand from both England and France, the antagonists in the Hundred Years War of 1337-1453.

By 1402 Giangaleazzo was thus well on his way to accomplishing the single most important thing needed to consolidate the gains of the Italian renaissance — unifying northern and central Italy into a powerful national state capable of preventing the country from becoming a battlefield between France and Spain, as happened in the years after 1494, with the most tragic consequences. But in 1402, just as Giangaleazzo was about to add Florence and Tuscany to his emerging nation, he died in September 1402 under mysterious circumstances, just like Henry VII in 1313 and Dante in 1321.

After 1402, Giangaleazzo’s new state quickly fell apart, but was largely re-assembled by his second oldest son, Filippo Maria Visconti. After Filippo Maria, the Milanese state passed under the control of Francesco Sforza, a military leader who had married Filippo Maria’s daughter. In this latter form it was closely studied and imitated by King Louis XI of France, who successfully created the world’s first modern state, no longer a prototype, during his reign of 1461-1483.

The importance and positive potential of the Visconti has been obscured for generations of readers by the profoundly misleading work of the late historian Hans Baron, who could only regard the Visconti as tyrants and precursors of Mussolini and Hitler — a total distortion. For Baron, the positive forces were the sleazy pols of the Florentine Guelf Party and their spokesmen, oligarchs who refused to write in Italian and reverted to Latin, lest the plebs gain insight into statecraft. Francesco Petrarca, Dante’s successor in the effort of promote a renaissance out of the shipwreck of late medieval Europe, did not agree with the pedantic Baron: Petrarch thought highly enough of the Visconti to go to work for them as a diplomat for five years during the 1350s.

The Holy Roman Empire (Sacro Romano Impero, or Heiliges Roemisches Reich Deutscher Nation) was the direct descendant of the empire assembled by Charlemagne around 800 AD. It was an amalgam of much of central Europe, including Germany, Bohemia, Holland and the Low Countries, northern and central Italy, and some adjacent areas. Holy Roman Emperors like Henry VII were chosen by an electoral college of seven members, including the King of Bohemia, the archbishops of Cologne, Mainz, and Trier, plus the rulers of Saxony, the Palatinate along the Rhine, and Brandenburg-Prussia. The newly elected emperor was immediately declared King of the Romans, but he then was supposed to go to Italy to be crowned with the iron crown of Lombardy in Monza near Milan. He was then supposed to go on to Rome to be crowned as Holy Roman Emperor by the pope. This was the traditional itinerary which Henry VII was following, even as he tried to restore imperial authority south of the Alps. Matters were complicated by the fact that the pope in 1310 was the Gascon Clement V, a puppet of Philip the Fair of France (whom Dante called “the French disease”); Clement V lived in Avignon, and never came to Rome. Henry VII was crowned by a cardinal in St. John Lateran, which was controlled by the Ghibelline Colonna family, rather than in St. Peter’s, which was behind the lines of the Guelf Orsini clan.

From Thomas Carlyle and Francesco De Sanctis to the quackademics of today, modern oligarchs have mocked and reviled Dante’s efforts to restore legality to northern and central Italy with the help of Henry VII. The lesson of the story is that Dante failed in the narrow sense of restoring the empire, but succeeded in the larger project launching a process leading to the modern state, and with it modern civilization. Success does not always come in the form we expect, but we must welcome progress nevertheless.

Today, with the modern state under assault by nihilists, anarchists, and barbarians of the extreme left and the reactionary right, proponents of civilization and culture need to recommit themselves to the indispensable institution of the modern state, and to the world-historical geniuses and heroes, starting with Dante, who have worked to create it.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Posted in History.

Tagged with , .

0 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.

Support #altnews & keep Dark Politricks alive

Remember I told you over 5 years ago that they would be trying to shut down sites and YouTube channels that are not promoting the "Official" view. Well it's all happening now big time. Peoples Channels get no money from YouTube any more and Google is being fishy with their AdSense giving money for some clicks but not others. The time is here, it's not "Obama's Internet Cut Off Switch" it's "Trumps Sell Everyones Internet Dirty Laundry Garage Sale". This site must be on some list at GCHQ/NSA as my AdSense revenue which I rely on has gone down by a third. Either people are not helping out by visiting sponsors sanymore or I am being blackballed like many YouTube sites.

It's not just Google/YouTube defunding altenative chanels (mine was shut), but Facebook is also removing content, shutting pages, profiles and groups and removing funds from #altnews that way as well. I was recently kicked off FB and had a page "unpublished" with no reason given. If you don't know already all Facebooks Private Messages and Secret Groups are still analysed and checked for words related to drugs, sex, war etc against their own TOS. Personally I know there are undercover Irish police moving from group to group cloning peoples accounts and getting people booted. Worse than that I know some people in prison now for the content they had on their "secret private group". Use Telegrams secret chat mode to chat on, or if you prefer Wickr. If you really need to, buy a dumb phone with nothing for the NSA/GCHQ to hack into. Ensure it has no GPS tracking on it and that the battery can be removed. These are usually built for old people to get used to technology storing only a set of numbers to call. However they have no games, applications to install or other ways people can exploit the computer tracking device you carry round with you most of the day - your smart phone. If you are paranoid ensure that you can remove the battery when travelling around and do so to prevent GPS tracking or phone mast triangulation. Even with your phone in Flight mode or turned off, it can be turned on remotely and any features like front or back cameras, microphones and keylogging software can be installed to trace you.

So if your not supporting this site already which brings you news from the Left to the Right (really the same war mongering rubbish) then I could REALLY do with some..

Even if it's just £5 or tick the monthly subscription box and throw a few pound my way each month, it will be much appreciated. Read on to find out why.


Any support to keep this site would be appreciated. You could set up a monthly subscription for £2 like some people do or you could pay a one off donation as a gift.
I am not asking you to pay me for other people's articles, this is a clearing house as well as place to put my own views out into the world. I am asking for help to write more articles like my recent false flag gas attack to get WWIII started in Syria, and Trump away from Putin. Hopefully a few missiles won't mean a WikiLeaks release of that infamous video Trump apparently made in a Russian bedroom with Prostitutes. Also please note that this article was written just an hour after the papers came out, and I always come back and update them.

If you want to read JUST my own articles then use the top menu I have written hundreds of articles for this site and I host numerous amounts of material that has seen me the victim of hacks, DOS plus I have been kicked off multiple hosting companies, free blogging sites, and I have even had threats to cease and desist from the US armed forces. Therefore I have to pay for my own server which is NOT cheap. The more people who read these article on this site the more it costs me so some support would be much appreciated.

I have backups of removed reports shown, then taken down after pressure, that show collusion between nations and the media. I have the full redacted 28/29 pages from the 9.11 commission on the site which seems to have been forgotten about as we help Saudi Arabia bomb Yemeni kids hiding in the rubble with white phosphorus, an illegal weaapon. One that the Israeli's even used when they bombed the UN compound in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. We complain about Syrian troops (US Controlled ISIS) using chemical weapons to kill "beautiful babies". I suppose all those babies we kill in Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Syria are just not beautiful enough for Trumps beautiful baby ratio. Plus we kill about 100 times as many as ISIS or the Syrian army have managed by a factor of about 1000 to 1.

I also have a backup of the FOX News series that looked into Israeli connections to 9.11. Obviously FOX removed that as soon as AIPAC, ADL and the rest of the Hasbra brigade protested.

I also have a copy of the the original Liberal Democrats Freedom Bill which was quickly and quietly removed from their site once they enacted and replaced with some watered down rubbish instead once they got into power. No change to police tactics, protesting or our unfair extradition treaty with the USA but we did get a stop to being clamped on private land instead of the mny great ideas in the original.

So ANY support to keep this site running would be much appreciated! I don't have much money after leaving my job and it is a choice between shutting the server or selling the domain or paying a lot of money just so I can show this material.

Material like the FSB Bombings that put Putin in power or the Google no 1 spot when you search for protecting yourself from UK Police with "how to give a no comment interview". If you see any adverts that interest you then please visit them as it helps me without you even needing to give me any money. A few clicks per visit is all it takes to help keep the servers running and tag any tweets with alternative news from the mainstream with the #altnews hashtag I created to keep it alive!

However if you don't want to use the very obvious and cost free ways (to you) to help the site and keep me writing for it then please consider making a small donation. Especially if you have a few quid sitting in your PayPal account doing nothing useful. Why not do a monthly subscription for less money instead. Will you really notice £5 a month?