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The SICILIAN VESPERS (Italian : _Vespri siciliani_; Sicilian : _Vespiri siciliani_) is the name given to the successful rebellion on the island of Sicily
Sicily
that broke out at Easter
Easter
, 1282 against the rule of the French-born king Charles I , who had ruled the Kingdom of Sicily
Sicily
since 1266. Within six weeks, three thousand French men and women were slain by the rebels, and the government of King Charles lost control of the island. It was the beginning of the War of the Sicilian Vespers .

CONTENTS

* 1 Background

* 1.1 The Papacy versus the House of Hohenstaufen * 1.2 Charles of Anjou and Sicilian unrest

* 2 The uprising * 3 Immediate aftermath * 4 Aragonese intervention * 5 Michael Palaeologus\' Commentary * 6 Sources * 7 References in culture * 8 Other uses of the term * 9 Notes * 10 External links * 11 References

BACKGROUND

THE PAPACY VERSUS THE HOUSE OF HOHENSTAUFEN

The rising had its origin in the struggle of investiture between the Pope
Pope
and the Hohenstaufen Holy Roman Emperors for control over Italy
Italy
, especially the Church's private demesne known as the Papal States
Papal States
. These lay between Hohenstaufen lands in northern Italy
Italy
and the Hohenstaufen Kingdom of Sicily
Sicily
in the south; the Hohenstaufen also at the time ruled Germany.

In 1245 Pope
Pope
Innocent IV excommunicated Frederick II and declared him deposed, and roused opposition against him in Germany and Italy. When Frederick died in 1250, his dominion was inherited by his son, Conrad IV of Germany . A period of turmoil followed Conrad's death in 1254, and the Kingdom of Sicily
Sicily
was seized by Manfred, King of Sicily
Sicily
, Frederick's illegitimate son, who reigned from 1258 to 1266.

Manfred had no involvement in German politics, where the interregnum lasted longer and there was no emperor until 1274. He first styled himself as vicar of his nephew Conradin , Conrad's son. However, following a false rumour that Conradin was dead, Manfred later had himself crowned as king. He wished for a reconciliation with the papacy, which may have explained his support for the landless Baldwin II, Latin Emperor . However, Pope
Pope
Urban IV and later Pope
Pope
Clement IV were not prepared to recognize Manfred as lawful ruler of Sicily
Sicily
and first excommunicated then sought to depose him by force of arms.

After abortive attempts to enlist England as the champion of the Papacy against Manfred, Urban IV settled on Charles I of Naples as his candidate for the Sicilian throne. Charles invaded Italy
Italy
and defeated and killed Manfred in 1266 at the Battle of Benevento , becoming King of Sicily. In 1268 Conradin, who had meanwhile come of age, invaded Italy
Italy
to press his claim to the throne, but he was defeated at the Battle of Tagliacozzo and executed afterwards. Charles was now undisputed master of the Kingdom of Sicily.

CHARLES OF ANJOU AND SICILIAN UNREST

Charles regarded his Sicilian territories as a springboard for his Mediterranean ambitions, which included the overthrow of Michael VIII Palaiologos of the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
, and the capture of Constantinople
Constantinople
, then the richest city in the western world. Unrest simmered in Sicily
Sicily
because of its very subordinate role in Charles's empire — its nobles had no share in the government of their own island and were not compensated by lucrative posts abroad, as were Charles' French, Provençal and Neapolitan subjects; also Charles spent the heavy taxes he imposed on wars outside Sicily, making Sicily somewhat of a donor economy to Charles' nascent empire. As Steven Runciman put it, " saw themselves now being ruled to enable an alien tyrant make conquests from which they would have no benefit"

The unrest was also fomented by Byzantine
Byzantine
agents to thwart Charles's projected invasion, and by King Peter III of Aragon , Manfred's son-in-law, who saw his wife Constance as rightful heir to the Sicilian throne.

THE UPRISING

The church of the Holy Spirit in Palermo.

The event takes its name from an insurrection which began at the start of Vespers , the sunset prayer marking the beginning of the night vigil on Easter
Easter
Monday, 30 March 1282, at the Church of the Holy Spirit just outside Palermo
Palermo
. Beginning on that night, thousands of Sicily's French inhabitants were massacred within six weeks. The events that started the uprising are not known for certain, but the various retellings have common elements. The only town in Sicily
Sicily
not to join the rebellion was a small village called Sperlinga , which protected French soldiers in a castle excavated in sandstone.

According to Steven Runciman , the Sicilians at the church were engaged in holiday festivities and a group of French officials came by to join in and began to drink. A sergeant named Drouet dragged a young married woman from the crowd, pestering her with his advances. Her husband then attacked Drouet with a knife, killing him. When the other Frenchmen tried to avenge their comrade, the Sicilian crowd fell upon them, killing them all. At that moment all the church bells in Palermo began to ring for Vespers. Runciman describes the mood of the night:

To the sound of the bells messengers ran through the city calling on the men of Palermo
Palermo
to rise against the oppressor. At once the streets were filled with angry armed men, crying "Death to the French" ("_moranu li Franchiski_" in Sicilian language ). Every Frenchman they met was struck down. They poured into the inns frequented by the French and the houses where they dwelt, sparing neither man, woman nor child. Sicilian girls who had married Frenchmen perished with their husbands. The rioters broke into the Dominican and Franciscan convents; and all the foreign friars were dragged out and told to pronounce the word "ciciri", whose sound the French tongue could never accurately reproduce . Anyone who failed the test was slain… By the next morning some two thousand French men and women lay dead; and the rebels were in complete control of the city.

According to Leonardo Bruni (1416), the Palermitans were holding a festival outside the city when the French came up to check for weapons, and on that pretext began to fondle the breasts of their women. This then began a riot. The French were attacked, first with rocks, then weapons, and all were killed. The news spread to other cities leading to revolt throughout Sicily. "By the time the furious anger at their insolence had drunk its fill of blood, the French had given up to the Sicilians not only their ill-gotten riches but their lives as well."

There is also a third version of the events that is quite close to Runciman's, varying only in the minor details. This story is part of the oral tradition on the island up to the present time. This oral tradition cannot be verified, but is of interest to sociologists. According to the legend, John of Procida was the mastermind behind the conspiracy. It seems that he was in contact with both Michael VIII Palaiologos and Peter III of Aragon . They were all three later excommunicated by Pope
Pope
Martin IV in 1282.

IMMEDIATE AFTERMATH

After leaders were elected in Palermo, messengers spread word across the island for the rebels to strike before the French had time to organise resistance. In a fortnight the rebels gained control over most of the island, and within six weeks it was all under rebel control, except for Messina
Messina
which was well fortified, and whose leading family, the Riso, remained faithful to Charles. But on 28 April it too broke into open revolt and, most significantly, the islanders' first act was to set fire to Charles's fleet in the harbor. It is reported that upon hearing of the fleet's destruction, King Charles exclaimed "Lord God, since it has pleased You to ruin my fortune, let me only go down in small steps."

Charles' Vicar Herbert and his family were safely within castle Mategriffon , but after negotiations the rebels granted Herbert and his family safe conduct to leave the island upon a promise that they never return. After the restoration of order in the city, the townsmen announced themselves a free commune answerable only to the pope. They elected leaders, one of whom was Bartholomaeus of Neocastro who was prominent in the unfolding events and would later chronicle much of the revolt in Historia Sicula , an important if sometimes contradictory source of information for historians. Again significantly, the leaders' next act was to send word, via a Genoese merchant named Alafranco Cassano, to the Emperor Michael advising him that his nemesis Charles had been crippled. Only thereafter were ambassadors sent to Pope
Pope
Martin IV pleading for each city on the island to be recognised as a free commune under the sole suzerainty of the Holy Church. The islanders were hoping for status such as enjoyed by Venice , Genoa, Pisa and other cities, free to form their own government, but morally answerable only to the pope who would hold a vague and unstable suzerainty. However, the French pope was firmly in Charles' camp and he directed the Sicilians to recognize Charles as their rightful king. But Martin underestimated the Sicilians' hatred of the French, and especially of Charles, who ruled from Naples rather than Palermo, where he could have seen the suffering caused by his officials. Charles' island officials were far removed from his oversight; he did not see the avarice, the rape, theft and murder, nor did he see the high taxes levied against the meager possessions of the peasants, which kept them impoverished, but made no improvement in their lives.

ARAGONESE INTERVENTION

Peter III Aragon, in Sicily
Sicily
during Vespri siciliani (1282). We can see him accompanied by his wife and her royal maids, to claim her legal rights to the throne. "Arrivo Aragonesi" (Biblioteca Vaticana)

After the pope refused the rebels' pleas to allow the status of free communes, the Sicilians sent for Peter III of Aragon , whose wife Constance was Manfred, King of Sicily
Sicily
's daughter, Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor 's great-granddaughter and the sole surviving heir of Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
, who was not in captivity and was in a position to assert her rights. Peter III championed his wife's claim to the entirety of the Kingdom of Sicily.

Prior to the Vespers, Peter III constructed and outfitted a fleet for war. When the pope asked why he needed such a great war fleet, Peter stated that it would be used against the followers of Islam
Islam
along the northern coast of Africa, because he had legitimate trade interests there and needed to protect them. So when Peter received a request for help from the Sicilians he was conveniently on the north coast of Africa in Tunis
Tunis
, just 200 miles across the sea from the island. At first, Peter feigned indifference to the request of the Sicilians and their plight, but after several days to allow a proper showing of deference made for the pope's consumption, he took advantage of the revolt. Peter ordered his fleet to sail for Sicily, landed at Trapani on 30 August 1282. While he marched towards Palermo, his fleet followed close by the coastal road. Peter III of Aragon's involvement changed the character of the uprising from a local revolt into a European War. Peter arrived at Palermo
Palermo
on September 2 and initially he was received by the populace with indifference, as merely one foreign king replacing another. However, after Pope
Pope
Martin made plain his orders for the populace to accept Charles, Peter promised the islanders that they would enjoy the ancient privileges they had had under the Norman king, William II of Sicily
Sicily
. Thereafter, he was accepted as a satisfactory second choice and was crowned by acclamation of the people at the cathedral in Palermo
Palermo
on September 4, thus becoming also Peter I of Sicily
Sicily
.

With the pope's blessing, the counterattack from Charles was not long in coming; his fleet from the Kingdom of Naples
Kingdom of Naples
arrived and blockaded the port of Messina
Messina
and made several attempts to land troops on the island, but all were repulsed.

MICHAEL PALAEOLOGUS\' COMMENTARY

Years later, in his autobiography, Michael VIII wrote: "Should I dare to claim that I was God's instrument to bring freedom to the Sicilians, then I should only be stating the truth." But as Runciman observes, with or without Byzantine
Byzantine
gold, it was the proud people of Sicily
Sicily
alone who fought against their armed oppressor; and "However it may have been plotted and prepared, it was that one March evening of the Vespers at Palermo
Palermo
that brought down King Charles' empire."

SOURCES

* Runciman, Steven, _The Sicilian Vespers_, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1958, ISBN 0-521-43774-1 . * _ Lu rebellamentu di Sichilia , lu quale Hordinau e Fichi pari Misser Iohanni in Procita contra Re Carlu_ is still located in the Central Library in Palermo. Whether it is a contemporary narrative or not hinges on the interpretation of one word in the text. Runciman (p. 329) describes these words as "putirini", the first person plural, vs "putirisi" the impersonal tense. * The earliest narrative source for the Vespers is the Sicilian language _ Lu rebellamentu di Sichilia _, written perhaps as early as 1287. It credits John of Procida with organising the overthrow of the French and portrays him in a positive light. Two later Tuscan Guelph histories, the Liber Jani de Procida et Palialoco and the _Leggenda di Messer Gianni di Procida _, possibly relying on the _Rebellamentu_ or the _Rebellamentu_'s lost source, follow it in stressing John's involvement, but they portray him in a more critical light. The _Liber_, as its title suggests, emphasises John's negotiations with Michael VIII ("Palioloco"). * Besides these there are two Florentine chronicles of importance. The _Leggenda_ was once thought to be a source for the _Nuova Cronica _ of Giovanni Villani , itself a source for the Vespers. Brunetto Latini , in his _Tesoro_, similarly adopts the Sicilian version of events, which includes the earliest version of the rape. The Tuscan _Liber_ turns the rape story around, suggesting the Sicilian woman had pulled a knife on her French suitor when his friends came to aid him.

_ Sicilian Vespers_ (1846), by Francesco Hayez.

* _The Catholic Encyclopedia_ . A description of all prayer 'Offices' is given therein… Vespers, Matins, Laudes… etc. * Jordan, _L'Allemagne et l'Italie_, at pp. 219–221. This is the best source of the blasphemous and cunning character of Frederick II as king. * Bäthgen, _Die Regentschaft Papst Innocenz III im Konigreich Sizilien_ describes Frederick's minority. See also Van Cleve, _Markward of Anweiler_; and Luchaire, _Innocent III, vol. III_; and _Rome et l'Italie_, pp. 153–204. Jordan, (supra) at pp. 272–74 discusses the origin of the Geulf and Ghibelline factions. See also, Hefele-Leclercq, _Historie des Conciles_ vol VI, I, pp. 6–9. * Chalandon, _Historie de la Domination Normande en Italia_, vol. I, pp. 189–211, 327–54. These are excellent sources describing the Norman Conquest of Italy
Italy
and Sicily
Sicily
by the Guiscard family. For their rule in Sicily, see vol. II, passim.

REFERENCES IN CULTURE

* The massacre of the French garrison of Bruges
Bruges
by the city's populace in 1302 was termed " Bruges
Bruges
Matins " in tribute to the Sicilian Vespers. * The present (but composed in 1847 and set to music in 1848) Italian National anthem
National anthem
, "Il Canto degli Italiani", popularly known as "Fratelli d\'Italia " ("Brothers of Italy"): "Il suon d'ogni squilla / i vespri sonò" (with reference to the past uprisings of the Italian people against foreign rulers, occurring again in these years). * Reflecting the dual significance of the events to both France and Italy, Giuseppe Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi
's _ Les vêpres siciliennes _ was originally written for the Paris Opera
Paris Opera
but is usually performed in the Italian version, _ I vespri siciliani _. * Francesco Hayez painted a series on the Sicilian Vespers, beginning in 1821.

OTHER USES OF THE TERM

* In 1594, when the French King Henry IV was taking some tedious peace negotiations with the Spanish ambassador in France, bored with the unwillingness of the Spaniards to accept his terms, he stated that the King of Spain should behave with more humility, for if not, he could easily invade Spanish territories in Italy, stating that _"My armies could move so fast that I would have breakfast in Milan and dine in Rome."_ Whereupon the Spanish ambassador replied _"Now then, if that is so, Your Majesty would surely make it to Sicily
Sicily
in time for Vespers"_. * Having previously arranged the murder of mafia boss Joe Masseria on 15 April 1931 in order to consolidate organized crime in New York City under Salvatore Maranzano , mafia boss Lucky Luciano then ordered the murders of Maranzano and those cappos of Maranzano and Masseria whom Luciano saw as threats. These murders allegedly occurred on September 10, 1931 which marked the end of the Castellammarese War in New York City
New York City
and in mafia parlance is known as the _Night of the Sicilian Vespers_. This was later proved to be mostly a myth in mafia culture as no hard evidence exists that all these murders – outside of Maranzano and a few others – actually occurred. * Sicilian-born brothers David and Francis Rifugiato named their short-lived band "The Sicilian Vespers" after this event. They released one album on Profile Records in 1988. * Operation Sicilian Vespers (1992–98) , an internal security operation involving the collaborative forces of the Italian Armed Forces and local police in the fight against the mafia in Sicily

NOTES

* ^ Crowe _The History of France Vol1_, pp.287 * ^ Possien _Les Vêpres siciliennes, ou Histoire de l'Italie au XIIIe siècle_, pp.123 * ^ Runciman, Steven (1958). _The Sicilian Vespers: A History of the Mediterranean World in the Later Thirteenth Century_. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 26ff. ISBN 0-521-43774-1 . * ^ Runciman, _Sicilian Vespers_, pp. 16ff. * ^ Pope
Pope
Alexander IV literally shopped around for a buyer for the crown of Sicily. In 1256 King Henry III of England
Henry III of England
agreed to buy the crown for his son Edmund for 135,541 German marks. He raised secular and church taxes in England and paid the Pope
Pope
60,000 marks, but could raise no more. The people and clergy of England refused to be taxed any further to enable an English prince to sit on the Sicilian throne. On December 18, 1258 Pope
Pope
Alexander issued a bull releasing Henry from his obligation to buy the throne, but he kept the 60,000 marks already paid (cf. Runciman, Chapter 4) * ^ Runciman, _Sicilian Vespers_, p. 212. * ^ "Sicilian Vespers". _Encyclopædia Britannica_. Retrieved 2011-03-29. * ^ Because the city's borders have expanded over the centuries, the church is now within the city limits. * ^ Runciman, _Sicilian Vespers_, p. 115. * ^ Tournatore, Matteo G. C., _Arba Sicula_ (Sicilian Dawn), _Journal of Sicilian Folklore and Literature_, Vol XXV, Numira 1 & 2, pp. 47ff. * ^ Runciman, _Sicilian Vespers_, p. 218. * ^ Runciman, _Sicilian Vespers_, p. 220. * ^ Runciman, _Sicilian Vespers_, p. 219. * ^ Runciman, _Sicilian Vespers_ p. 216, citing Nicholas Specialis, _Historia Sicula_, pp. 924ff. * ^ Runciman, _Sicilian Vespers_, p. 214. * ^ Runciman, _Sicilian Vespers_, p. 201. * ^ See Runciman, _Sicilian Vespers_, p. 227, citing Bartholomew of Neocastro, _Historia Sicula_, p. 24. * ^ Runciman, _Sicilian Vespers_, p. 228. * ^ M. Palaeologus, _De Vita sua Opusculum_, 9, IX, pp. 537–38. * ^ Runciman, _Sicilian Vespers_, p. 256. * ^ Pirenne 1915 , p. 146-147. * ^ Runciman, _Sicilian Vespers,_ p. 287. * ^ Critchley, David (2009). _The Origin of Organized Crime in America: The New York City
New York City
Mafia, 1891–1931_. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-99030-0 . * ^ allmusic ((( Sicilian