At this time, much of northern Italy was in the grip of the growing power of the Commune of Milan, and neighbouring rival cities such as Lodi and Como solicited Barbarossa’s help, fuelling his expansionist ambition for the Italian territories.
Without a second thought, he travelled to Italy to try to subdue Milan and its allies, who had become imperial opponents and, thus, representatives of the Guelphs. But, instead, Barbarossa was surprised by a fierce and unexpected resistance that, after a few attempts, drove him back to Germany.
However, it was not long before his thirst for conquest drove him more determinedly to cross the Alps again. As a result, the alliance of the Lombard communes, which went down in history as the Lombard League, suffered a heavy blow in 1163 CE when Milan fell, and the emperor asserted his right to rule in northern Italy.
The bloody defeat left an unforgettable wound on Milan and its people. The city’s destruction was brutal and wiped out much of the culture and tradition of the flourishing town of Milan. Moreover, the city’s destruction was a decisive and deliberate action as a warning to the other insubordinate cities of the Lombard League not to rebel.