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In 1152 Frederick I Barbarossa ('Red Beard') became Holy Roman Emperor, and reigned until 1190. His reign was dominated by struggles with the German nobility and the papacy. He mounted a series of campaigns in Italy to capture lands from the pope, and succeeded in capturing Rome in 1167.

In 1144 the Muslims retook Edessa in Asia Minor. A second crusade from Europe to win back Edessa foundered on the long journey eastwards. Soldiers starved, or were ambushed by bandits. Those who reached Asia Minor were destroyed by Turks. In Palestine, Christian rulers competed for power, organizing their resources with the defence of their own territory in mind. In the 1170s Syrian and Egyptian Muslims united under a great warrior, Saladin. In 1187 at the Battle of Hattin, Saladin routed the Christians and took Acre and Jerusalem. In 1189 Richard I of England, German emperor Barbarossa, and King Philip II of France led a third crusade to the east. On his way to Palestine, Barbarossa drowned while swimming in a river. In 1191 Richard recaptured Acre.

According to legend, Barbarossa is not dead but merely sleeping, and will one day wake up to save Germany from disaster.

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