The Perquisite of a Medieval Wedding: Barbara of Cilli’s Acquisition of Wealth, Power, and Lands
Central European University: MA Thesis in Medieval Studies, Budapest May (2014)
Justifying the “German Messalina” (Die Keiserin Barbara ist geil un ruchlos)
His consort Barbara was a German Messalina, a woman of insatiable appetite for lust; at the same time so heinous that she did not believe in God and neither angel nor devil, neither heaven nor hell. How she scolded her maidservants when they fasted and prayed, that they were agonizing their bodies and worshipped a fictional god: she on the other hand admonishes, in the spirit of Sardanapalus, that they should make use of all the pleasures of this life, because after this one, there is no other to hope for. This denier of God, searching for her heaven upon this foul earth and her paradise in groveling lust, even though she was already 60 years old…
With these words is Barbara of Cilli, the central person of this thesis, described in Johann Jakob Fugger’s Spiegel der Ehren des Hoechstloeblichsten Kayser- und Koeniglichen 2 contemporary, Aenea Silvio Piccolomini (1405-1464), the later Pope Pius II, chancellor of Frederick III of Habsburg (1415-1493), who later became the Holy Roman Emperor. Since the Habsburgs were always the enemies of the Cillis, a family that had been under their Lehensherrschaft and since then tried to climb the ladder of nobility, it is clear why Piccolomini tried with such hateful words to denigrate Barbara’s character. Only after her death did Piccolomini change his attitude, or neutralized it if anything. When describing her looks, Piccolomini talks about a woman of pale, almost snow white skin and of a beautiful physical constitution. Furthermore, Barbara knew several languages, had an unusually profound education, and displayed an interest for politics and diplomacy. Misogyny is therefore another explanation why such a versatile woman had a so bad reputation from the Middle Ages, which was carried on by history up until the recent years.