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Byzantine and Carolingian crowns

The Crown of Charlemagne

The circlet

The hoop

The cross

Crowns of German and Roman Kings

The Crown of Albrecht Dürer




It is the general opinion that the so-called Imperial Crown (Weltliche & Geistliche Schatzkammer Wien, Inv. Nr. XIII 1) or Crown of Charlemagne, dates from the reign of Otto the Great, reason why it is sometimes called ‘The Ottonian Crown’. Recently there are new publications ascribing the crown to the Salians [1]


Byzantine and Carolingian crowns


Fresco in the Catacomb of S. Ermete in Rome


A woman in Byzantine imperial dress is represented with a child on her lap. She wears a crown with pendilia of strings of pearls. By her side are two angels. To her right a warrior and a woman and to her left a prelate in monk’s habit. [2]

According to Matthiae the fresco dates from the last years of the pontificate of Hadrian I (772-795) who also restored the catacomb. [3]. He ruled in the time that Empress Irene was a regent for her son Constantine VI. The fresco most probably dates from the period around the coronation of mother and son in 776, taking into account that the boy is still on his mother’s lap. The warrior on her right may be Charlemagne, king of the Franks (768-814).

In this period, it is said of  Charlemagne:

 “Charlemagne and his uncle Bernard crossed the Alps in 773 and chased the Lombards back to Pavia, which they then besieged. Charlemagne temporarily left the siege to deal with Adelchis, son of Desiderius, who was raising an army at Verona. The young prince was chased to the Adriatic littoral and he fled to Constantinople to plead for assistance from Constantine V Copronymus, who was waging war with the Bulgars.

The siege lasted until the spring of 774, when Charlemagne visited the pope in Rome. There he confirmed his father's grants of land, with some later chronicles claiming - falsely - that he also expanded them, granting Tuscany, Emilia, Venice, and Corsica. The pope granted him the title patrician. He then returned to Pavia, where the Lombards were on the verge of surrendering.”

The correct dating is after 774 in any case, the year that Charlemagne visited Rome during his siege of Pavia. The persons represented in that case are Irene (between angels), Constantine, then at the age of three, seated on her lap, Charlemagne, his wife Hildegard and pope Hadrian. Charlemagne, born between 742 and 747, is is then between 27 and 32 years old here.

On the other hand the missing of a cross on the crown indicates that the empress was crowned but still had no executive power. This dates the fresco between 776-780.


Æ Irene


Charlemagne at the age of ~54

 On the Triclinio Leoniniano, Rome (betw. 795 &797)


Portrait of Charlemagne

In the Charles the Bald psalter.


The scheme of the crown of Irene when a regent, was copied by Charlemagne when a regent in the West. The circlet here a cylinder set with fleurs de lys (symbols of armed authority)


The regalia of the Carolingian empire had been divided by Louis the Pious on his deathbed between his two faithful sons, Charles the Bald and Lothair. Louis the German, then in rebellion, received nothing of the crown jewels or liturgical books associated with Carolingian kingship. Thus the symbols and rituals of East Frankish kingship were created from scratch.

From an early date the East Frankish kingdom had a more formalised notion of royal election than West Francia. Around 900, a liturgy (ordo) for the coronation of a king, called the early German ordo, was written for a private audience. It required the coronator to ask the "designated prince" (princeps designatus) whether he was willing to defend the church and the people and then to turn and ask the people whether they were willing to be subject to the prince and obey his laws. The latter then shouted, "Fiat, fiat!" (Let it be done!), an act that later became known as "Recognition". This is the earliest known coronation ordo with a Recognition in it, and it was subsequently incorporated in the influential Pontificale Romano-Germanicum.

In June 888, King Arnulf convened a council at Mainz. In attendance were the three archbishops of the East Frankish kingdom—Wilbert of Cologne, Liutbert of Mainz and Ratbod of Trier—and the West Frankish archbishops of Reims (Fulk) and Rouen (John I) along with the bishops of Beauvais and Noyon. According to Walter Ullmann, the presence of the West Franks was on account of the "barren ecclesiastical thought" of the East, and the council proceeded to adopt West Frankish ideas of royal sacrality and anointing. It was "the first phase in the process of assimilation of the two halves of the Carolingian inheritance". In another church council at Tribur in 895, the prelates declared that Arnulf was chosen by God and not by men and Arnulf in turn swore to defend the church and its privileges from all its enemies. When Arnulf died in 899, his minor son, Louis IV, was crowned, but not anointed, and placed under the tutelage of Archbishop Hatto I of Mainz. Louis's coronation was the first in German history. When Louis died in late September 911, Duke Conrad of Franconia was elected to replace him on 10 November and he became the first German king to receive unction.

List of kings of Germany


Louis the German, king of East Francia (843-876) wearing a crown mounted with three pieces

Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Reg. lat. 438, fol. 1v


Louis II the German  (855-876) wearing a crown of a circlet and three leaves or fleurs de lys


Crown of Charles the Bald

Sacra mentary of Charles the Bald

Paris Bibliothèque nationale de France MSS Latin 1141


At the renovatio imperii of Otto I the scheme of the crown of Irene was imitated, the circlet V-shaped and set with points.


The crowns of Otto II and Otto III

As on the seal and portraits


This crown is modelled after the first crown of  Empress Irene as on the Fresco in the Catacomb of S. Ermete in Rome

Imperial seal of Otto III


Obv.: Portrait of the crowned emperor. Legend: OTTO IMPERATOR AVGVSTVS. Date: 998. München  Bayrisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, KS 179 (Hochstift Passau)


The Emperor, here of the age of 17, wears a short curly beard. On his head is a cap crested with three leaves of laurel and surrounded by a diadem set with groups of three leaves of laurel

As Otto III is always represented beardless we may suppose that the stamp of his father, who had a short (curly) beard, was used.


Henry II


Duke of Bavaria 995-1004

 King of Germany 1002-1024

crowned Würzburg 06.06.1002

crowned Mainz 09.07.1002

King of Italy, crowned Pavia 1004

Duke of Bavaria 2nd time 1009-1017

Emperor 14.02.1014-1024


In 1001, Emperor Otto III experienced a revolt against his reign in Italy. He sent word for Henry II to join him with reinforcements from Germany, but then died unexpectedly in January 1002. Otto was only 21 at the time of death and had left no children and no instructions for the Imperial succession. In the Ottonian dynasty, succession to the throne had belonged to the Saxon branch, not the Bavarian line of which Henry was a member. Rival candidates for the throne, including Ezzo of Lotharingia, Margrave Eckard I of Meissen, and Duke Herman II of Swabia, strongly contested Henry's right to succeed Otto III.

As the funeral procession moved through the Duchy of Bavaria in February 1002, Henry met the procession in Polling, just north of the Alps. To legitimize his claims, Henry demanded Archbishop Heribert of Cologne to give him the Imperial Regalia, chief among them being the Holy Lance. Heribert, however, had sent these ahead of the procession, possibly out of distrust of Henry and possibly because he favored the succession of his relative Duke Herman II of Swabia as the next king. In order to force Herman II to relinquish the Holy Lance to him, Henry imprisoned the Archbishop and his brother the Bishop of Würzburg. With neither the symbols of imperial authority, the crown jewels, nor the cooperation of Heribert, Henry was unable to convince the nobles attending Otto III's funeral procession to elect him as king. A few weeks later, at Otto III's funeral in Aachen Cathedral, Henry again attempted to gain the support of the Kingdom's nobles and was again rejected.

So it was without the support of the Kingdom's nobility that Henry took the radical action of having himself anointed and crowned King of Germany (“Rex Romanorum”) by Willigis, Archbishop of Mainz on 9 July 1002 at Mainz. Henry's action marked the first time a German king was not crowned in Aachen Cathedral since Emperor Otto I began the tradition in 936 and the first time a German king assumed the throne without election by the German nobility. Under the regal name of “King Henry II”, he appeared before the Saxons in mid-July in full regal apparel. There, Henry convinced Bernard I, Duke of Saxony to support his claims to the throne. In return for his support, Henry guaranteed Bernard's right to rule the Saxons and to represent their interests before him.


Henri II (1002-1024) on his portraits

Emperor Henry II sitting enthroned

In the Sacramentary of Henry II today in the  Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek in München (Clm 4456, Fol. 11v)

Miniature from the Sacramentary of Henry II.,

today in the  Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek in München (Clm 4456, Fol. 11r)



The emperor crowned with a diadem set with leaves and with a diadem set with fleurs de lys and a hoop. This crown is modelled after the crown of Charles the Bald.


The Royal Crown


It is supposed that the socalled Imperial crown (Reichkrone), today in the Weltliche Schatzkammer in Vienna, was a creation of Konrad II. [4] A profound study of Mechthild Schülze Dörlamm of 1990 has demonstrated that the crown was doubtlessly made in the first half of the 11th century, which was the time of the rule of King and Emperor Henry II but also of Konrad II. [5]


The Circlet


On  the portraits of Henry II there appears a crown of  a new design compared with the Ottonian crowns. The reason may have been the troubles about the coronation of Henry which probably made it necessary to order a new crown for his coronation in Mainz, the Ottonian crown still being in Aachen at the time. For making this crown there has been a span of four or five months (February-July 1002).


Supposed original of the circlet with pendilia

Reconstruction of the royal crown of 100


1.The crown in its original shape consisted of a circlet of eight enameled plates set with jewels with a round upper side. On top of the four larger plates ar mounted sets of three  laurel leaves.


This circlet may be dated in the 11th century. [6]



The  crown is an imitation of the imperial crown of Empress Irene (†803) as represented on an Icon in S. Maria in Trastevere, but lacks now the long pendilia of strings of pearls, which originally hung from the lower rim. Also, the pearls making a square cross, mounted on the front plate of the Irene crown, has been replaced by a latin cross.

The crown originally consisted of eight golden plates, enameled and set with precious stones. On the back plate and both side plates three laurel leaves were mounted. Pendilia hung from the sides. (Compare the contemporary imperial crowns in the East, consisting of a diadem set with precious stones, with a frontal plate and pendilia).  The side-plates are enameled with the figures of the kings Salomon, David and Ezechias each crowned with crowns of 11th century model of a circlet and a hoop which make the crown be dated of that century. Such crowns became obsolete under the House of Hohenstaufen.

Shortly after gaining the support of the Saxons, Henry arranged for Archbishop Willigis to crown his wife, Kunigunde of Luxembourg on 10 August 1002 in Paderborn as a Queen of Germany.


Crown of Queen Cunigunde

Treasure of the Munich Residence. Formerly Treasure of Bamberg Cathedral


This circlet is thought to have been made in the same time as the royal crown of Henry II. The little holes in the rim probably for hanging prependoulia


The Imperial Crown


The Imperial crown is represented, however poorly drawn, in  the Sacramentary of Henry II fol 11 r.

It looks almost the same there as the first crown on  fol 11 v° but a hoop is added. The hoop seems to have been of a simple form, set with large pearls. A consequence of this argumentation is that the crown was in fact made for Henry II at the occasion of his coronation as an emperor.

The only crown known of the same program,  is the crown of  the reliquiary of St. Foy in Conques (Fr). which, as an extra. crowns a head strongly resembling a beardless Henry II.  


Reliquiary of St. Foy at Conques

(Rodez County, Dept. Aveyron).


Present state of the crown


St Foy was a twelve-year old girl who was tortured and martyred during the persecutions of Christians in 303. In 866 her relics were transported to Conques and buried in the Abbey. The adoration of the relics was a great financial success for the monks. The reliquiary is thought to have been made ca. 985 having the head of a roman emperor from the 4th or 5th century (probably Honorius (395-425)), crowned with a cilindrical crown of two hoops and four fleurs de lys. [7]


The crown of Conques in its original shape

After J. Taralon, 1997

How the crown was reduced in size


According to a reconstruction of the original crown by the French scholar J. Taralon however, the original crown consisted of sixteen golden plates set with precious stones, and one single hoop. At the junctions of the hoop and the circlet two golden fleurs de lis were applied. The hoop makes the crown an imperial crown. [8] Therefore, we may propose that the crown was made for Emperor Henri II, probably for his coronation in Pavia in 1004 at the age of 31

Remains the question how the crown came to Conques.


Crowns of German and Roman kings

Konrad II

*990 ca-† 04.06.1039

∞ 1016 Gisela von Schwaben *989-†1043

King of Germany 1024 – 1039

King of Italy 1026

Emperor 1027

King of Burgundy 1033



Emperor Henry II died in 1024. Childless, Henry's death brought the Ottonian dynasty, which had ruled Germany since 919, to an end. Without a clear successor as King of Germany, Henry’s widow Cunigunde of Luxembourg served as regent while the German dukes gathered to elect a new king. Cunigunde was assisted by her brothers Bishop Dietrich I of Metz and Duke Henry V of Bavaria. Archbiship Aribo of Mainz, the Primate of Germany, also assisted Cunigunde.

On 4 September 1024, the German princes gathered at Kamba, an historical name for an area on the east banks of the Rhine opposite the German town of Oppenheim. Archbishop Aribo served as the assembly's president. Konrad presented himself before the assembly as a candidate for election, as did his younger cousin Konrad the Younger. Both were descendants from Emperor Otto I by their common grandfather Otto of Worms, son of Liutgarde, one of Otto’s daughters. Although other extended members of the Ottonian dynasty existed, none were seriously considered for election. The chronicler Wipo of Burgundy, Conrad's chaplain, attended the meeting and recorded the election. The Duchy of Saxony adopted a neutral strategy while the Duchy of Lorraine favored the younger Konrad. A majority of the assembled princes favored the elder Konrad, whose seven-year-old son ensured a stable dynasty for the kingdom. As president of the assembly, Archbishop Aribo cast the first vote and supported the elder Conrad. He was joined by the other clergy in supporting the elder Conrad. The secular dukes then cast their votes for the elder Conrad as well. Only Archbishop Pilgrim of Cologne, Duke Gothelo I of Lower Lorraine, and Duke Frederick II of Upper Lorraine refused to support him.


Konrad was crowned King of Germany by Archbishop Aribo in Mainz Cathedral on 8 September  1024 at the age of 34. To mark his election, Konrad commissioned the construction of the Speyer Cathedral, near his ancestral home of Worms. Construction began in 1030. Archbishop Aribo, as archbishop of Mainz, was already the chancellor of Germany. Konrad wanted to reward the archbishop for his electoral support, so he made Aribo chancellor of Italy as well, making him the second most powerful man in the Frankish Empire as the imperial chancellor.

Aribo refused to crown Konrad's wife Gisela as queen due to a violation of canon law. Konrad refused to accept Archbishop Aribo's position. Archbishop Pilgrim of Cologne saw the situation as an opportunity to restore his relationship with the king, after refusing to support Konrad's election, and he crowned Gisela queen on 21 September 1024. The political reorientation of Pilgrim also weakened the opposition towards the new king.


Coronation of Konrad II by Archbishop Aribo 1024

Miniature from Mainzer Pontifikale, Schaffhausen, Stadtbibliothek: Ministerialbibliothek Cod. 94.


Circlet with four points. This crown is inspired by the crown of the Empresses Zoe in Constantinople  and of Irene of the Oratory of Pope John VII (705-707) the square cross missing.


Byzantine Empress Zoe (r.1028-1050) at an older age

On a mosaic in the Hagia Sophia of Constantinople


Henry III


Henry III



Henry IV King of Germany, 1056-1084



Henry IV


Henry IV

Henry IV


Henry V


Henry V



Henry V

Æ IRO1084HeinrichIV.htm


Rudolph of Swabia, Roman King (1077- †1080)


Tombstone  of  Rudolph of Swabia, Roman King (†1080)

Merseburg Cathedral


Conrad of Lower Lorraine *1074-†1101


The Hoop


2. An arch or hoop consisting of eight little plates inscribed chvonradvs dei gratia / romanorv imperator avg. This hoop may be dated in the 11th century and the Emperor referred to may be Emperor Konrad of Lower Lorraine 


Reconstruction of the crown of King Conrad †1101

Supposed shape of the crown of Conrad of Italy for his coronation as a Roman emperor in 1095


Sinister side  of  the inscribed hoop of the present Imperial Crown. [9]


On the front and back plate a hoop is mounted with a text reading chvonradvs dei gratia / roma-norv imperator avg. This title corresponds with the title of Conrad II on his imperial seal:  X cvnradVs dei gratia romanor imp ac avg  but is spelled  as on a picture of Roman King Conrad of Lower Lorraine (†1101) This part of the crown is thought to have been added at its earliest at the coronation of Konrad II in 1027. [10]

However, the spelling of the name CHVONRADVS is only known from a manuscript now in Kraków representing King Henry IV and his sons.


Emperor Henry IV and his sons Henry (V) and Conrad

Miniature in the Regensburg Gospels of Henry V (1106-1111)

Kraków. Library of the Chapter of the Cathedral, Ms. 208


Both kings with and orb crested with a silver eagle with golden wings, the emperor himseld with a golden eagle with silver wings.

The name of King Conrad (being Conrad of Lower Lorraine 1074-1101) spelled CHVONRAD REX


The adding of the inscribed hoop may be explained by the following episode in the life of this Conrad:


In March 1095 Conrad attended the Council of Piacenza and confirmed his stepmother Eupraxia's accusations that Henry IV was a member of a Nicolaitan sect, participated in orgies and had offered Eupraxia to Conrad, stating that this was the reason for his turning against his father. Shortly after the council, he swore an oath of loyalty to Pope Urban II on 10 April at Cremona and served as the Pope's strator (groom), leading the Pope's horse as a symbolic gesture of humility first performed, according to tradition, by Constantine I. The duty of the strator had not been performed for a pope since the ninth century, and was revived specifically for Conrad. On 15 April, in a second meeting at Cremona, Conrad swore an oath, either of “security” or of “loyalty”, to the pope, guaranteeing the “life, limb and Roman papacy” to Urban. This oath was customary for kings who would be crowned emperor, but Conrad went further and promised to forsake lay investiture. Urban in turn promised Conrad “his advice and aid in obtaining the kingship and the crown of the empire”, probably a promise to crown him in the future, after he had control of the kingdom. By these actions Conrad transformed himself from a rebellious son to a papally-sponsored anti-king and supporter of the Reform movement.


Therefore the adding of the hoop may have been part of the preparations for the imperial coronation of Conrad. The crown itself disappeared for a long time and seems to have been preserved in Rome and came only to light for the coronation of Frederick III in 1452.


Konrad of Lower Lorraine, Roman King, 1187-1098

Gravestone, sandstone. Former collegiate church in Enger (Westfalen) ca. 1101. Height 1,88 m


Here Conrad is crowned with a crown similar to the crown of  Rudolph of Swabia, which is the crown of a Roman King.



Lothair †1137


Photo H.d.V.

Head of a prophet

Fragment of a statue on a column

From the right entrance of the façade of St Denis Abbey, about 1137-‘40

Musée de Cluny, Paris, acquired 1992. Inv. n° Cl. 23415


Æ Lothair


Konrad III

Konrad III

Æ Konrad III  


Frederick Barbarossa


The first crowns of Frederik I Barbarossa followed the scheme of the earlier crowns but in particular that of his predecessor Konrad III in that they consist of a diadem with a hoop and  pendilia. In later representations of Frederik I, however, he always wears a plate crown of which three plates can be seen. They have a rounded or parabolic shape and there is a pearl or pearl group on the top of each plate. This crown is best depicted on the frescoes in the SS. Quattro Coronati in Rome on which the events surrounding the coronation of Frederick in 1155 are depicted. You can always see a plate crown on it, even though it has different shapes. Both the cross, the hoop and the pendilia are always missing.

It can be seen from the drawings that the artists did not usually see the crowns themselves, and this is especially the case with the crowns with which Frederik Barbarossa was crowned, although a certain similarity can be noted between the different images. On the other hand, the crowns may be orally transmitted because they comply with the description of a 'plate crown with rounded plates with pearls'.



Emperor Frederick Barbarossa with a crown

Fresco in the SS. Quattro Coronati, Rome.


Frederick Barbarossa

On a stained glass in Straatsburg Cathedral

Æ Frederick Barbarossa


Henry VI


Æ Henry VI


Philip of  Swabia


Philip of Swabia at the age of 21

Seal of Majesty 1198


The king on his throne with crown, cross-sceptre and orb.

L.:  PHILIPP(US) • DEI • GR(ATI)A • ROMANOR(UM) • REX • ET  SEMP(ER) • AVG(US)T(US). (Die Zeit, cat. n° 35)


Statue of Philip of Swabiaat the age of ~ 30

Originating from the bridge at Regensburg ~ 1207

The crown completed.

Museen der Stadt Regensburg, Inv.Nr. AB 25


Frederick II


Frederick II, 1199


1199  The 5-year old king in byzantine coronation robes, sitting on his throne, crowned and with sceptre and orb. L.: X FREDER(ICUS) . D(E)I GR(ATI)A REX SICIL(IE) . DVC(ATVS) . APVL(IE ET) P(RI)NC(IPATVS) . CAPVE. D: 1199. 4 Î 3,5 cm. (Die Zeit cat n° 43)


So-called Essener Krone

Domschatz Essen


This is a small crown of a diameter of 12,5 cm and fit for a small child. The shape is completely new for the time and shows four fleurs de lys cut out from a narrow circlet. It resembles the crown worn by little Frederick II on his seal of 1199 when he was 5 years old. The craftmanship resembles the crown of Otto IV who was elected a counter king in 1198, in particular the use of pearls.


Æ Frederick II


Otto IV




So-called Crown of Otto II from Berge Monastery.

Watercolor in the Halleschen Heiltumsbuch. Aschaffenburg, Hofbibliothek, Ms. 14. fol 1730


Æ Otto IV


Henry VII


Henry VII

Æ HenryVII


Conrad IV

Conrad IV

Conrad IV


Henry Raspe


Henry Raspe



Seal of Majesty: The king on his throne with crown, lily-sceptre and orb. L.: heinricvs dei gracia romanorvm rex semp avgvstvs. Date: 1246-08-13  [11]


The crown on this seal is not a leafed crown but a crown composed of vertical plates. It may be an early picture of the so-called Crown of Otto the Great, alias the crown of Charlemagne. But a better picture would be of help. This crown was kept in the castle of Trifels. The crown on the seal suggests that Henry Raspe did have access to the treasury of Trifels.


Æ Henry Raspe


William of Holland


William of Holland


Æ William of Holland


Richard of Cornwall


Richard of Cornwall †1272



Æ Richard of Cornwall



Alfonso †1284


Seal of majesty. The king with a crown of three leaves, a sceptre crested with an eagle and an orb





Rudolph †1291



After Rudolph of Habsburg a long time the royal crown was of three fleurs de lys.

Adolf of Nassau † 1298




Albrecht of Habsburg †1308



Henry VII Luxemburg † 1313


Crown from the tomb of Henry VII Luxemburg




Louis IV the Bavarian † 1347



Günther von Schwarzburg †1349


Charles IV



Charles IV †1378


This is the so-called Bust of Charlemagne of the Treasury in Aachen. The hoop of the crown removed.





Wenceslas †1419


The king on his throne , crowned and with sceptre and orb.



The crown of three leaves.

Wenceslas after his  deposition, 1400

Laurentius Bust, treasury, Burtscheid abbey


In view of his troubles in Bohemia, Wenceslaus did not seek a coronation ceremony as Holy Roman Emperor and was long absent from the German lands. Consequently, he faced anger at the diets of Nuremberg (1397) and Frankfurt (1398). The four Rhenish electors, Count Palatine Rupert III and the Archbishops of Mainz, Cologne and Trier, accused him of failing to maintain the public peace or to resolve the Schism. They demanded that Wenceslaus appear before them to answer to the charges in June 1400. Wenceslaus demurred, in large part because of renewed hostilities in Bohemia. When he failed to appear, the electors meeting at Lahneck Castle declared him deposed on 20 August 1400 on account of "futility, idleness, negligence and ignobility". The next day they chose Rupert as their king at Rhens, though Wenceslaus refused to acknowledge this successor's decade-long reign.

Wenceslas is represented here at the age of 39 without his crown which can be found on the head of his brother Sigismund in the same treasury.




Ruprecht †1410

His tomb in Heidelberg


Jobst of Moravia †1411


After the death of King Rupert of Germany in 1410, Jobst was elected successor by four of the seven prince-electors on 1 October, opposing his cousin Sigismund who had already been elected by three electors on 10 September. The deciding vote came from his cousin Wenceslaus in his capacity as King of Bohemia, however, though Jobst had the greater support among the electors he died on 18 January 1411 - possibly poisoned -, clearing the way for Sigismund's election as King of the Romans and his later coronation as Holy Roman Emperor.


The Olomouc Law Book or Commemorative Book of Olomouc (shelfmark SOk AO, cod. Knihy, 1540) is an illuminated manuscript created for the city of Olomouc around 1430 and currently in the municipal archives. Although in the past attributed to the local copyist Václav of Jihlava (1398–1477) or to the illustrator Vanèk, a town councilor in 1435–39, the illumination is more likely the masterwork of a foreign artist. It is in the style of International Gothic with clear Austrian influence

In this manuscript there is a picture of Wenceslas, Sigismund and Jobst (also thought to be Wenceslas, Charles IV and Jobst) Wenceslas with a short beard, Sigismund with a forked beard and Jobst also with a forked beard. Wenceslas has a royal crown and Sigimund an imperial crown whilst Jobst has a ducal hat.




Crown on the

Bust of St. John, Burtscheid Abbey (Near Aachen, NRW)


This crown is on the crowned bust of Roman King Sigismund (1411-1433)  †1437.

On his imperial seal (1433) this crown has two arches or hoops spanning a mitre





Seal of majesty of Albrecht II Habsburg †1439


On this seal King Albrecht is crowned with a closed crown, crested with a latin cross. Probably this was the crown of King Charles IV augmented with a hoop (still transversal) and a cross.


The arms of (clockwise) Arpad; Dalmatia, Luxemburg;  Cumenia (= barry of six Or and Sable); Austria ancient; Bohemia and Germany.



Perhaps the introduction of the latin cross has something to do with the Council of Basel (1431-1449) which split up in 1437 between a papal party, being for the primacy of the Pope, and a Baseler party being for the primacy of the council. As a result the Baseler party was excommunicated by the Pope and, somewhat later, in 1439, the Pope was deposed by the council party

Albrecht had taken the side of the Baseler party in this conflict but nothing came of it because of his campaigns in Hungary and his premature death.


Frederick III


In 1452, at the age of 37, Frederick III travelled to Italy to receive his bride and to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor. As per tradition, Frederick spent a night outside the walls of Rome before entering the city on 9 March, where he and Pope Nicholas V exchanged friendly greetings. Because the emperor had been unable to retrieve the Iron Crown of Lombardy from the cathedral of Monza where it was kept, nor be crowned King of Italy by the archbishop of Milan (on account of Frederick's dispute with Francesco Sforza, lord of Milan), he convinced the pope to crown him as such with the German crown, which had been brought for the purpose. This coronation took place on the morning of 16 March, in spite of the protests of the Milanese ambassadors, and in the afternoon Frederick and Eleanor were married by the pope. Finally, on 19 March, Frederick and Eleanor were anointed in St Peter's Basilica by the Vice-Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church, Cardinal Francesco Condulmer, and Frederick was then crowned with the Imperial Crown by the pope. Frederick was the last Emperor to be crowned in Rome; his great-grandson Charles V was the last emperor to be crowned, but this was done in Bologna.


The Imperial Crown and several attires, orbs, 1487

(Bayerische Staatsbibliothek) [12]


This crown has two crosses: a square cross on the front plate and a latin as a crest. These emblems symbolize administrative and religious authority.

The Imperial Crown, 1487

(Bayerische Staatsbibliothek) [13]


Maximilian I


Woodcut with the crowned arms of the German Nation of the Holy Roman Empire, 1507


On this woodcut the crown is of  a circlet set with fleurons and spanned with two hoops crested with a square or a latin cross


The Salian crown of the Holy Roman Empire is represented for the first time by Albrecht Dürer:


Initially his imperial crown was drawn by Albrecht Dürer and consisted of of eight plates, spanned with two hoops and lined with a cap, the latin cross in front  missing.


The Cross


3. A pectoral-cross or a golden latin cross. also set with precious stones

Mounted on the front plate is a golden latin cross, set with precious stones. This cross may be a pectoral cross, dating from the Salian era but mounted on the crown of Henry II.  [14]  It poses a problem because it is a latin cross which is the emblem of religious authority and therefore an emblem to be used by religious officials like the pope, archbihops and so on but not by a secular ruler. Latin crosses mounted on crowns are only known from the 15th century when the emperors claimed supreme religious power in their realms. Examples of these are the crowns of King Albert on his seal, and of Frederick III on his portrait. Therefore in the 15th century when the Salian crown was used for the coronation of Frederick III in 1452 there was a cross mounted on the crown. Æ Frederick III. Even then however, the cross mounted on the front plate was a square cross, symbol of secular or administrative power.


When the cross has been added to this crown is not certain. There is no picture of any mediaeval emperor wearing a crown with a latin cross which would mean that the Emperor was the head of the church (Pontifex Maximus) a position always held by the Pope. At the secession of Germany of the Holy Roman Empire in the 15th century the situation changed because Frederick III could pretend to be the head of the German Church after the Treaty of Vienna (1449), leaving the position of the Pope untouched. In that configuration not only a mitre was added, symbolizing his clerical office of a bishop, but also a latin cross, symbolizing religious authority.

The idea was introduced by King Albrecht in 1438 and imitated by Frederick III, which is visible on his portraits

The latin cross only appeared on the crown on the portrait of Charlemagne by Albrecht Dürer of 1515. This, maybe, shows the ambition of Emperor Maximilian I for the religious supremacy in the German Nation of the Roman Empire. Soon, the latin cross on imperial crowns was abandoned and the imperial crown of the Habsburgers have the shape of a mitre symbolizing the office of an (arch-) bishop, but have no latin cross thus leaving the supreme religious power to the pope.


The Crown of Albrecht Dürer


A few years after the recognition of the title Electus Romanorum Imperator, by the pope the salian crown was drawn by Albrecht Dürer. Then, the latin cross was already mounted on the front plate


Portrait of Charlemagne by Albrecht Dürer, 1511-1513

Oil on lime-wood

© Stiftung Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin. 


Design for the Imperial Crown by Albrecht Dürer ca 1515

Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nürnberg


Shows the ultimate design of te Imperial crown spanned with a hoop inscribed  chvonradvs dei gratia / romanorv imperator avg, a pectoral cross added in front but no mitre

This crown was actually made from parts found in the imperial treasury and has been preserved in the Imperial Treasury in Vienna.



Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum


The city of Nuremberg had a silver shrine made for the relicss of the imperial treasury (1438/40,), as well as several suitcases for various insignia. The shrine hung in the choir of the Holy Spirit Church. Finally, in 1518, the city enriched the treasure of the relics by two monstrances with a piece of the table cloth of the Last Supper and the Shroud of the Foot washing of  Christ.



Eigentliche Vorbildung der Heylthumb und des Keyserlichen Ornats, Darstellung der Reichskleinodien auf einem Flugblatt (True representation of the sanctuary and the Imperial Robes, picture of the Imperial regalia on a folder) (2nd half 16th century).


F. Die Kayserliche Kron.

Diese Kron ist sehr Alt / wie der Augenschein weisset / vnnd ist in dem Bogen der Nahm Conradus zulessen / welcher vermuthlich der erste dieser Nahmens gewesen / weil darbey keine zahl zusehen: Vnnd haben dieses Nahmens vier Römische Kayser regieret / alß Cunradus I.  A. C. 1025. biß 1039 Cunradus II. Salicus von 1137. biß 1152. Cunradus Suevus III. 1256. biß 1254. dann Cunradus IV. von 1254 biß 1258


The salian crown with the legend II Corona regalis 1670ca.



Sämtliche Reichs Cleinodien, welche von den Löbl. Reichs-Städten Nürnberg und Aachen verwahret, und jedesmal an den Ort der Kayserlichen Crönung durch Abgeordnete überbracht werden

[Representation of the Imperial insignia on the occasion of the Imperial coronation of Francis I of Lorraine, the husband of Maria Theresia.]


Copperplate of W. C. Mayr after I. G. Funck and I. N. Lentzner from “Vollständiges Diarium von der höchst-beglückten Erwehlung des … Herrn Franciscus, König zu Jerusalem … zum Römischen König und Kayser”, Frankfurt, 1746.


Design of the crown, present outside, inside and cross


Imperial crown, 16th century


Some Conclusions


The so-called Crown of Charlemagne or the Crown of the Empire / Reichskrone, was perhaps made by King Henry II of the Roman Empire to replace the crown of Otto III, disappeared soon after his death. For a long time the crown seems to have been stored somewhere, probably in Rome. There it was adapted to be used for the imperial coronation of anti-king Konrad of Lower Lorraine (1095). This however never took place, reason why it may have been kept in the papal treasury. Therefore a new model of royal crown was developed by the Hohenstaufen and their successors. The Salian crown reappeared in Rome when needed for the coronation of Frederick III (1452), now with a small orb on top and a little square cross in front. It was adapted again by adding a (latin) breast- or pectoral cross by Emperor Maximilian I who engaged the painter Albrecht Dürer for the design. The result was a pastiche of several ancient parts joined together into a diadem expressing imperial and religious authority legitimized by the hereditary succession reaching back to Charlemagne. In this form  it was preserved to this day, first in Nürnberg and later, after the abolishment of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, in Vienna.



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 © Hubert de Vries 2019-03-20




[1] Schulze-Dörrlamm, Mechthild: Die Kaiserkrone Konrads II (1024-1039).

[2] Picture:  Andrea Jemolo

[3] Matthiae, Guglielmo: Pittura Romana del Medioevo. Vol. I (Secoli IV-X). Roma, 1965. Fig. 130, p. 195. The  catacomb of  S. Ermete  was restored by pope Hadrian I.  After the removal of the relics of S. Ermete by Pope Gregoriy IV (827-844)  the catacomb became an oratory with the  fresco in the apse.

[4] Weltl. Schatzk. Wien inv. n° XIII 1 Kat. 153

[5] Schulze-Dörrlamm, Mechthild:  Die Kaiserkrone Konrads II. (1024-1039). Eine archäologische Untersuchung zu Alter und Herkunft der Reichskrone. Jan Thorbecke Verlag Sigmaringen, 1992.

[6] The theory that the crown was the crown of Henry II was posed earlier in 1927 by G. Haupt.: Zur Entstehung der deutschen Kaiserkrone. Oberrheinische Kunst 2.1927, 79ff.

[7]   Rodez en Rouergue. De gueules au lion léopardé, d’or, armé et lampassé d’azur. (Jouffroy 1848).

[8]  Taralon, Jean † & Dominique Taralon-Carlini: Sainte Foy de Conques. La Majesté d’Or. La Couronne. In: Bulletin Monumental (du) Société Française d’Archéologie.  T. 155-1 Année 1997. Paris, 1997 In particular  pp. 59-73. Louis the Child is not called  a possible owner in this extensive study

[9] Schulze-Dörrlamm , Mechthild: Die Kaiserkrone Konrads II (1024-1039). Sigmaringen1992. Taf.  12

[10] Schulze-Dörrlamm op.cit 1992 pp. 102-104

[11] Der .Deutsche.Herold., 1871, p. 122.

[12] https://www.historisches-lexikon-bayerns.de/Lexikon/Reichskleinodien

[13] ibid.

[14] Schulz-Dörrlamm op.cit 1992 pp. 104-116

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