"Hoc opus fecit Nicolaus sacerdos et magister anno millesimo ducentesimo vicesimo nono indictionis secunde"
1229. July. Emperor Frederick II, regent of Jerusalem having married four years earlier Jolanda of Brienne, returned from the crusade after freeing the Holy Sepulchre and take the crown of Jerusalem occupies the city of Bitonto.
The Cathedral of Bitonto was in fact the theater where Pope Gregory IX in 1227 He had excommunicated Frederick II for his laziness in the crusade. And just in Bitonto Federico II stupor mundi back to 'cash out' his merits in the Holy Land, just to put in front of Gregory IX its success.
The priest Nicolaus welcomes him in the cathedral dedicated to the Virgin and to Saint Valentine with a sermon-panegyric pronounced probably by the splendid ambo prepared for the occasion and you can admire in the wonderful Romanesque Cathedral of Bitonto, engraved with the name of that "sacerdos et magister" who had wanted.
Nicolaus is generous as the ambo wealth devoted to the Hohenstaufen house as in the words of the sermon.
From the pulpit infront of Emperor Frederick II delivers his sermon: "Magnus Dominus est et magna virtus eius et sapiencie eius non est numerus" is the beginning of Nicolaus.
He continues: "Magnus est, et maior maximus, quia magnus rex Sicilies, maior quia rex Iherusalem, quia maximus imperator Romanus. "
Probably Nicolaus - perhaps the highest religious in charge present in Bitonto - fears revenge Frederick (the concern was more than legitimate ...) but more probably the priest enthusiastically hoped that eventually shut clashes between power religious and political power; wished the pope and emperor legitimize each other by opening a new age of justice and peace: the real secret dream of the Middle Ages.
Things went - unfortunately - otherwise.
Between Frederick II and Pope Gregory IX the fight became increasingly bitter.
Precisely the conquest of Jerusalem carried out by Frederick II without having spread a drop of blood will cause to Federico another excommunication.
(Ferderico II had agreed, in fact, with his friend the Sultan Kamil for peace in the Holy Land that he must have a term of ten years, five months and forty days starting from February 24, 1229).
The splendid pulpit in the Cathedral of Bitonto is still there to tell us about fears and hopes of Nicolaus cleric but especially the terrible conflict between power secular and religious power that marked those years.
On one side of the pulpit is represented - probably - the house of the emperor: Frederick I the 'Barbarossa', Henry VI, the same Frederick II and his son Conrad.
Frederick Barbarossa is holding the scepter with the imperial lily passing to subsequent generations.
(Someone argue that the first figure represents the city of Bitonto that delivery scepter to a messenger of Frederick II and his son, in return for the status as imperial city as Kaysersberg ...)
But the whole cathedral continues to speak of the Middle Ages full of events, hopes and stories.
One of the capitals represents the unfortunate flight of Alexander the Great where the emperor - with two spindles of meat - handling the griffins that are driving in the sky. On one side it is engraved in stone the handling error by Alessandro that causes the reversal of one of the griffins ...
Could not be absent the enigmatic two-tails mermaids (one on the portal and one on the capitals of the crypt) to certify the importance of the place and its adherence to the era cultural canons.
In the crypt it was found a beautiful mosaic of a griffin probably dating eleventh century, incredibilmnte well preserved: the strange thing is that the griffin holds in its beak a lily.Casualness?
Or maybe the griffin was accessible in the twelfth century and someone is in charge of bind in this way the griffin (a symbol of Christ and / or the Church) with the imperial lily (The same lily represented on the scepter that Frederick I in the ambo passes to successors).
Probably we will never know what happened. But visiting Bitonto and its Co-Cathedral there is no hard to immerse ourselves in that turbulent past and imaginative that so deeply he has marked the European history.
Just restored the right side of the Cathedral with the famous 'door of excommunication'. The gallery houses two other double-tailed mermaids.