Though quite receptive to the ideas of the Reformation,
he never broke with the Catholic Church. During the Peasants’ War in 1525, the first German revolution, he stood fast in preserving the traditional feudal system, though desisting, unlike other leaders, from mercilessly subjugating and punishing the revolting farmers. His last campaign to Italy ended in personal tragedy. Trying to rally and restore order among his restive and mutinying mercenaries (who had not been paid), he suffered a serious stroke near Bologna in 1527. He was lying ill in Ferrara when the imperial hordes were sacking and pillaging Rome (the famous Sacco die Roma). Fatally ill and heavily in debt because he had co-financed the campaign, he returned home one year later.
It is wrong, however, to consider Frundsberg’s life as one of war and mercenary life alone: he fulfilled many other roles. In politics, as Governor in the Tyrolean government in Innsbruck and Imperial Councillor in Austria, he was also a daring entrepreneur of war, and a fine administrator of family properties. As head of the family, he married twice, and had eight children by the Tyrolean aristocrat Katharina von Schrofenstein, and three by the Tyrolean Countess Anna von Lodron. Famous contemporaries like Martin Luther appreciated him highly. Frundsberg remained a lasting memory in the Landsknechts’ tunes and tales, in countless portraits, in the songs of the “Wandervogel” and “Bündische Jugend” (German Youth Movements founded in the beginning of the 20th century), in several monuments and in numerous novels of the 19th and 20th century. All this brought him a well-earned position as a memorable – and durable – German historical figure.
Dr. Reinhard Baumann