After the Christians had held Jerusalem for eighty-eight years, it was recaptured by the Moslems under the lead of the famous Saladin (Sal'-a-din), in the year 1187. There was much excitement in Christendom, and the Pope proclaimed another Crusade.
Frederick immediately raised an army of Crusaders in the German Empire and with one hundred and fifty thousand men started for Palestine .
He marched into Asia Minor , attacked the Moslem forces, and defeated them in two great battles.
But before the brave old warrior reached the Holy Land his career was suddenly brought to an end. One day his army was crossing a small bridge over a river in Asia Minor . At a moment when the bridge was crowded with troops Frederick rode up rapidly.
He was impatient to join his son, who was leading the advance guard; and when he found that he could not cross immediately by the bridge, he plunged into the river to swim his horse across. Both horse and rider were swept away by the current. Barbarossa's heavy armor made him helpless and he was drowned. His body was recovered and buried at Antioch .
Barbarossa was so much loved by his people that it was said, " Germany and Frederick Barbarossa are one in the hearts of the Germans." His death caused the greatest grief among the German Crusaders. They had now little heart to fight the infidels and most of them at once returned to Germany .
In the Empire the dead hero was long mourned and for many years the peasants believed that Frederick was not really dead, but was asleep in a cave in the mountains of Germany , with his gallant knights around him. He was supposed to be sitting in his chair of state, with the crown upon his head, his eyes half-closed in slumber, his beard as white as snow and so long that it reached the ground.
"When the ravens cease to fly round the mountain, " said the legend, "Barbarossa shall awake and restore Germany to its ancient greatness."