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A Dissident View.

It is remarkable to note that neither the crowns of the Ottones nor the crowns of the Salians show any form of relationship with the so-called Imperial Crown. On the contrary, the crowns of the Ottones are characterized by a narrow diadem with relatively large pearl groups. In the time of Henry II a brace is added to the crown and the pearls take the form of fleurons. The crown of Conrad II as it is depicted on the fresco in the apse of the basilica in Aquileia has points with pearl groups and a brace and this form returns under Henry IV and V but certainly under Lothar III.

A plate crown occurs for the first time in the so-called Gospels of Henry III that was made between 1050 and 1056. Here is depicted Emperor Conrad II with a crown consisting of a diadem with semicircular attachments the two on the side with pearl groups and the middle with a Greek cross on a small globe. This description is more or less the same as that of the national crown and this circumstance, added to the text on the braces, suggests that the crown was there already in the time of Conrad, possibly on the occasion of his coronation in 1027.


Through the ages there have been several Imperial crowns which were apparently at least inspired by the crowns of Empress Irene, empress of the Eastern Roman Empire (797-802).


Icon from S. Maria in Trastevere.


In a recent publication it is stated about this icon:


The Mother of God, in imperial dress, is represented here as Theotokos.She sits on a throne between two angels as a kind of guardians. On the lower right the donor is visible, a pope with a square halo. The large size picture, which is not matched in Byzantium, characterizes it as a Roman production because in this city Icons had a purely public function. The picture, preserved in the Capella Altemps (S. Maria in Trastevere), was exposed recently on its original place over the altar. [1]


The person represented is doubtlessly Empress Irene. She wears a plate-crown decorated with pearls and big preciuous stones. On the side-plates groups of three pearls and on the central plate a square cross. Long pendilia of strings of pearls hang from the crown. Around her neck is a broad collar of pearls (also worn by egyptian pharao’s). The child on her lap is certainly Constantine VI (*771). The regency which she took for her son after the death of Leo V in 780 can be symbolized by the cross on the crown, missing on the fresco in the Catacomb of Ermete. The pope represented (much damaged) should then be Hadrian I (772-795). [2] The angels are the usual companions of the imperial imago since the 4th century. The halo is a mark of distinction of a member of the court.


The combination of the cross on the crown and the child on her lap dates the icon at the beginning of the period of 780-790


Emperor Constantine VI

At the age of ~ 24. On the Triclinio Leoniniano, Rome (betw. 795 &797)


With pointed crown and moustache. About a  year before being imrprisoned and blinded (ca. 796).



Photo H.d.V

Portrait of Empress Irene (797-802)

Mosaic in the Cappella Ricci of the S. Marco in Florence.


From the Oratory of Pope John VII (705-707) beside the Old St. Peter in Rome. In the 17th century it was taken off during the reconstruction by Carlo Maderno and was transported to Florence. The empress is standing upright with her hand in a blessing attitude (orans). Her dress is identical to it on the icon from the S. Maria in Trastevere, her traits somewhat aged. This mosaic, for that reason, could date from her term of office in the West (797-800).

In 800 Charlemagne instead of Irene was crowned in the West by Pope Leo (795-816). By this coronation a renewed separation of East and West was a fact. In 802 Irene was also deposed in the East. She died on Lesbos in 803 in the age of 50.


Æ Irene



Emperor 800-814


Coin of Charlemagne


On this coin Charlemagne is crowned with a laurel crown reaching back to the Emperors of the (chistian) Roman Empire before the division in a Western and an Eastern part (395AD).


Solidus of Constantine II (337-361)


Louis I the Pious 

Emperor 813-840


Louis the Pious continued the tradition of the roman (imperial) laurel crown


Solidus of Louis the Pious

Bust with laurel crown.



Lothair I

Emperor 817-855

Son of Louis the Pious


By Lothair a crown was introduced consisting of a circlet decorated with two ornaments on its sides, spanned by an arch crested with a fleur de lys.


Lothair as an emperor

In the Lothair Gospels, between 849 and 851. From Tours, today in the Bibliotèque Nationale in Paris


When sole emperor (840) the crown was embellished by restyling the arch and replacing the fleur de lys from the arch to the circlet


Emperor Lothair I between his btothers Louis the German and Charles the Bald at the Treaty of Verdun, 843.

Bible de Vivien, dite Première Bible de Charles le Chauve.

Présentation du livre à l'empereur Saint-Martin de Tours, 845

BnF, Manuscrits, Latin 1 fol. 423 [3]

Seal of Lothair

Bust of Lothait with laurel crown



Charles the Bald

*13 June 823 –† 6 October 877


was King of West Francia (843–77), King of Italy (875–77) and  Emperor (875–77, as Charles II. 


Sacramentary of Charles the Bald (869-870)

Paris Bibliothèque nationale de France Ms. Lat. 1141, fol 2 v°.


Seal of Charles the Bald

wearing a crown of laurel





SCEAUX. serie: sceaux ; collection Bourgogne


Moulage du sceau de Charles II le Chauve, roi de France.

Légende en latin restituée : "KAROLUS GRATIA DEI REX", traduction : Charles, roi par la grâce de Dieu.




moulage consultable au service des sceaux


reproduction du moulage possible par le service des sceaux; photographie ou impression d'image numérique


plâtre pris sur cire originale


ovale hauteur 40 x largeur 32 mm




Charles II le Chauve (roi de France)

Noms de lieux

FRANCE -- IXe siècle ; FRANCE


Le document portant le sceau original est conservé aux Archives départementales de Saône-et-Loire. Voir l'Inventaire des sceaux de Bourgogne par A. Coulon, publié en 1912 par la direction des Archives de France


Emperor Charles the Bald, 870


Figure: Bust of Charles the Bald with laurel crown



Seal of  Emperor Charles the Bald/The Fat


Figure: Bust of Charles the Bald / Fat with laurel crown



Charles III the Fat

Emperor 881-887


Fig. 2 – Charles III

Seal of Charles the Fat

Figure according to M.Dalas, Corpus des sceaux…, op.cit. [St 7982]; cf. O.Posse, Die Siegel der deutschen Kaiser und Könige von 751 bis 1806, t.1 (751-1347. Von Pippin bis Ludwig den Bayern), Dresden, 1909, table 3, fig. 5 [4]

Ivory plaque with enthroned king

Artist: French School  (15th century )

Art style: Non-classified art

Title: Plaque depicting King David enthroned, from Reims (9th-10th c)

Location: Florence, Museo Nazionale del Bargello

Picture number: XIR79982

EAN-Number: 4050356484685

picture: bridgeman berlin

The crown of a criclet set with four fleurs de lys bended inwards.

Arnulf of Carinthia 

Emperor 896-899

By Arnulf the style of the imperial crown was changed thoroughly. The crown of laurel was abandoned and nor the Byzantine crown nor the crown of Lothair was imitated. Instead a crown consisting of a circlet spanned by a hoop was introduced.

Seal of Arnulf of Carinthia

Bust of Arnulf with diadem with hoop, spear and small shield


Medallion portrait presumed to be of Lothair, from the binding of the Lothair Psalter in the British Library.

Comparison with the seal of Arnulf of Carinthia makes clear that the medallion represents Arnulf.

The model of the crown consisting of a circlet spanned with a hoop was  also used later until the reign of Conrad III 


Berengar of Friuli

King of Italy 888-924

Emperor 915-924

Otto I

Emperor 955-973

In the time of Otto I (Emperor 955-973) the hoop was set with pearls,

Otto I, Emperor 955-973

On and ivory plaque [5]

On this detail Otto I is represented wearing a cilindrical crown spanned with a hoop set with pearls. This may be qualified as an imperial crown.

Fears of Byzantine interference in Roman politics and conflicting claims in southern Italy soon brought the two powers into rivalry, and the conflict proved to be the spur for a major development - the romanization of the western empire. Whereas Otto I had laid no claim to the Roman title, Otto II, to bolster his claims against byzantine emperor Basil II (r. 976-1025), proclaimed himself Roman emperor.

Photo H.d.V. 2016

The crown of Otto II (967-983)

Müstair Abbey Church, (Graubünden CH)

Consisting of a decorated circlet and four plates applied but no square cross symbolizing executive authority. This is probably the imperial crown of Otto II inspired by the crown of the Byzantine co-regent, the square cross omitted.

Constantine VIII, Byzantine co-regent  (962-1025)

Mosaic in the S.W. portal of the Hagia Sofia, Constantinople

The Emperor between two bishops (detail)

Seeon Pontificale. Bamberg, Staatliche Bibliothek, MSC Lit 53, fol. 2 v.

This emperor is thought to be Henry II (1002-’24) but has the short split curly beard of Otto II (Roman Emperor 967-983). The cilindrical  crown is set with five ornaments and is spanned with a hoop. It has two pendilia of little disks set with pearls.

Otto III

Emperor 996-1002

Imperial seal of Otto III (Emperor 996-1002) 998

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

His crown consists of a circlet set with four ornaments of three laurel leaves and a cap crested with another ornament of three laurel leaves. Perhaps this is a better representation of the crown of Otto II.

Henry II


Duke of Bavaria 995-1004

 King of Germany 1002-1024

crowned Würzburg 06.06.1002

King of Italy, crowned Pavia 1004

Duke of Bavaria 2nd erm 1009-1017

Emperor 14.02.1014-1024

 Henry II seated 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)

Henry II (1002/1014-1024) on his portraits

The emperor crowned with a circlet set with fleurs de lys and spanned with a hoop. The first crown resembles the crown of Charlemagne as on his portrait in the Charles the Bald Psalter. To this crown a hoop was added to make it an imperial crown.

The only medieval crown known having the same program,  is the crown of  the reliquiary of St. Foy in Conques (Fr). which, as an extra. crowns a head strikingly 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. [6]

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. [7] Therefore, we may propose that the crown was made for Emperor Henri II, probably for his coronation in Rome on 14.February 1014.

Remains the question how the crown came to Conques.

Side plate of Crown of Charlemagne, 10-11th cent

The crown on the head of Salomon is a version of the crown of Arnulf, a second hoop added.

Conrad 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

On March 26, 1027, Pope John XIX crowned Konrad and his wife Gisela as Emperor and Empress, respectively, in Old Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. The coronation was attended by Cnut the Great, King of England, Denmark and Norway, Rudolph III of Burgundy and 70 high-ranking clerics, including the Archbishops of Cologne, Mainz, Trier, Magdeburg, Salzburg, Milan, and Ravenna. Conrad's son and heir Henry also attended. Rudolph's attendance marked an improvement in the relationship between Burgundy and the Empire. During the seven-day coronation ceremony, a rank dispute between the archbishops of Milan and Ravenna arose, with Conrad deciding in favor of Milan. Following the synod, Conrad traveled south to receive homage from the southern Italian states of the Principality of Capua, the Principality of Salerno, and the Duchy of Benevento.

After his coronation, Conrad issued decrees to reorganize the monasteries and dioceses of Italy with the particular goal of bringing the church at Venice under Imperial control (see the Schism of the Three Chapters). On April 6, 1027, at a synod held in the Lateran Basilica with Pope John XIX, the Emperor resolved the dispute in favor of Old-Aquileia. The Patriarch of Aquleia Poppo had been a loyal supporter of Emperor Henry II, who appointed him as Patriarch in 1020 during the Emperor's campaign to reassert his authority in Italy. Conrad's action placed the church at Grado under Poppo's authority, securing Poppo's loyalty by making him the Emperor's top official in northern Italy. The synod ended the independence of the Grado church and limited the political autonomy of Venice. In so doing, Conrad broke with the policies of his predecessors and revoked Venice's privileged trading status.

Toward the end of May 1027, Conrad returned north to Germany to attend the funeral of Duke Henry V of Bavaria at Regensburg. With the Duchy of Bavaria left vacant, Conrad asserted his right to name a next duke as a matter of royal prerogative, taking the unprecedented decision of naming his 10-year-old son Henry as Duke of Bavaria despite the existence of candidates with a better claim to the Duchy. Never before had the Bavarian Duchy passed to a non-member of the Bavarian ducal family.

The Imperial Crown

Portrait of Empress Irene  (797-802)

Mosaic in the Cappella Ricci of the S. Marco in Florence.

From the Oratory of Pope John VII (705-707)

Emperor Konrad II (1027-1039)

On the absidial fresco in the Basilica of Aquileia (1031)

Here the royal crown of 1024 is upgraded to an imperial crown by adding a hoop set with laurel leaves replacing the square cross.

The pointed crown of 1024 augmented with a transversal hoop set with groups of three pearls. This imperial crown is a copy of the third crown of Empress Irene (deposed in the West in 800 at the coronation of Charlemagne), and the royal crown of Konrad of 1024, a hoop instead of a square cross added to make it an imperial crown. This would mean that that crown was perhaps preserved in the West after the coronation of Charlemagne.

After his gaining the royal title of Burgundy in 1033 another imperial crown seems to have been made. [8]

1034-1039  Imperial seal of Konrad II

Seal of Majesty, the emperor on his throne with an orb in his lright hand an an eagle-sceptre in his left hand. On his head a closed crown. L.: X cvnradus dei gratia romanor imp ac avg.  

(Typar Kaiser Konrads II. Blei, 2. Viertel 11. Jahrhundert. Historische Museum der Pfalz, Speyer. (Foto Herman G, Klein Verlag. Speyer. Also: Posse, Pl. 13 nrs. 2,3,4.)

Henry III (alias David Rex) on a stained glass window from Augsburg

His crown of the Arnulf-model  augmented with three pearls.

The Hoop

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

Reconstruction of the crown of King Conrad  †1101

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 Konrad II on his imperial seal:  X cvnradVs dei gratia romanor imp ac avg  but is spelled  as on a picture of Roman King Konrad 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 (and from the seal of Conrad I)

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 explaine 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 “ealty”, 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

Henry IV †1106

Detail with an Emperor on his throne. (Henry IV) in the Gospels of  Montecassino

(Rome, Biblioteca Vaticana, Cod. Ottob. lat. 74, fol. 193v)


The emperor represented is Henry IV (1050-1106) who was black haired and had a short beard. He is crowned with the salian crown of Henry II here

Æ yrneH VI

Charter of Exemption of Vornbach Monastery (on the Inn, Bavaria) 1136

Bay. Staatshauptarch. KL Vornbach 1.

Emperor Lothair II (1125-1137) with a pointed crown crested with fleurs de lis, and pendilia. No hoop.

This is a crown copied from the crown of Empress Irene but a three-pointed crown was also used by the empress of Byzantium a century earlier

Æ riahtoL

A three-pointed crown was also worn by Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa

Emperor Frederick Barbarossa with a crown

Fresco in the SS. Quattro Coronati, Rome.

Frederick Barbarossa

on a painted glass formerly in the choir of Straatsburg Cathedral

Æ kcirederF braBassora

And by his son Henry VI after 1191

Henry VI

In Straatsburg Carhedral

Æ IV yrneH

1228+  Seal of majesty of Emperor Frederick II

The emperor on his throne with crown, sceptre and orb. L.: X FRIDERICVS DI GRA ROMANOR IMPERATOR  & SEP AVGVST. & REX  SICIL & REX IERLM.

Apparently his crown is a crown of plates with pendilia but without a hoop. It resembles in this way the crown of Empress Irene of the icon of S. Maria in Trastevere and the crown of Henry II.

This crown was in Mount Trifels in Germany when King William of Holland went after it for his planned coronation in Rome. (cf. note 18).

However there were no emperors to be crowned for a long time.

Head of a statue of Henry VII

by Timo di Camaino, 1315; Campo Santo, Pisa

This crown is probably a creation of the sculptor. There is no trace of a hoop.  In the tomb of Henry VII  a crown of four leaves was found. On some other pictures the crown is of four leaves and a hoop. There is no trace of the salian crown.

Louis the Bavarian (†1347)

Bayrisches Nationalmuseum

His crown of three large and two small leaves and closed with a hoop enclosing a mitre. The crown supported by two hovering angels. This is an upgrading of the royal crown.

Charles IV

In 1354 Charles IV crossed the Alps without an army, received the Lombard crown in St. Ambrose Basilica, Milan, on 5 January 1355, and was crowned emperor in Rome by a cardinal appointed by the pope (still residimg in Avignon) in April of the same year. His sole object appears to have been to obtain the Imperial crown in peace, in accordance with a promise previously made to Pope Clement. He only remained in the city for a few hours, in spite of the expressed wishes of the Roman people. Having virtually abandoned all the Imperial rights in Italy, the emperor re-crossed the Alps.

After this event, of which we do not know the details, Charles is represented with a crown with a transversal arch enclosing a mitre .

1355 + Seal of Majesty:

Charles IV on his throne with scepte and orb. On his head a crown of three large and two small leaves, one arch and a mitre. On both sides the arms of Germany and Bohemia supported by two eagles.


1357 Portrait of Charles IV - detail from the mural paintings by Mikulàs Wurmser (about 1357) in the collegiate Church of the Virgin Mary at Karlstein Castle.

Charles IV represented with an imperial crown with four leaves, one arch or hoop and with infulae, spanning a white mitre.

So it is likely that the hoop was added in Aachen after his  coronation as an emperor. A miniature of the visit of Chareks IV to Charles V of France in 1378 affirmed that because here Charles IV has a crown with one hoop (but without a mitre and cross) 

Crown on the bust of Charles

Domschatz, Aachen

The bust is a reliquiary of the skull of Charlemagne but there may be no doubt that it represents an idealized portarit of Charels IV himself.

The circlet of this crown is, according to Aachen tradition, donated to Aachen by Charles IV after his coronation there on 25 July 1349. The donation of the bust itself is not confirmed by any act. It is also said that this crown was the crown by which Charles was crowned on 27 July 1349.

This crown resembles strongly the crown of Louis the Bavarian (†1347) which was still in the possession of the heirs of Louis at the time of the coronation of Charles in 1349.

On the head of the bust of Charles IV in Aachen the crown is turned 90° and a cross is mounted on the arch which was lacking on the crown of Louis the Bavarian. I suppose that the crown in the end came to Aachen where is was placed on the bust of the then absent King Charles IV. Charles himself is always represented as an emperor with such a crown, of four large and four smaller fleurs de lis, enclosing a white mitre symbolizing the position of a bishop having religious authority. We may suppose that the crown in Aachen was at some time augmented with an arch and a mitre and replaced on the head of his bust in Aachen. Still later the cross was added, at the same time when the crown was turned 90°, the hoop being deformed for the purpose.


Seal of Majesty, 1433 06 08 

Sigismund on his throne with imperial crown, sceptre and orb, beteween two two-headed eagles

Arms: Two-headed nimbused eagle (Holy Roman Empire); 2. Hungar­y; 3. Bohem­ia; 4. Arpad; 5. Luxemburg.

Legend: sigismvndvs dei gracia romanorvm imperator semper avgvstvs ac hvngariae bohemie dalmacie // croacie rame servie gallicie lodomerie comanie bvlgarieq rex et lucembvrgensis heres.

On the counter seal: Two-headed eagle with halos.

Legend: aquila ezechielis sponse missa est de celis volat ipse sine meta qvo nec vatyes nec propheta evolabit altivs.

(ASV, Atti diplomatici e privati, b. 37, n.1077.)

The imperial crown seems to have been the royal crown of his brother Wenceslas, augmented with two hoops, crested with a square cross and spanning a mitre.

Imperial crown of Sigismund

By Albrecht Dürer

Germanisches Nationalmuseum: Gm168

Artist: Dürer, Albrecht (1471-1528)

Date:  1511/13

Place:  Nürnberg

Technic :Painting on limewood (Tilia sp.)

Size: H. 215 cm; B. 115 cm; with frame: H. 214,6 cm; B. 115 cm  [11]

Frederick III 1440-1493

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.

Emperor Frederick III, 1480

Heiltumsblatt representing “die kron keyser karels

Artist: Hans Spoerer (?) (German, fl. last quarter of the 15th century)

Date: 1480 /1496

Material: left: Printer's ink on paper, hand-colored; above: Printer's ink on paper

Dimensions: 43.4 × 29.8 cm

Provenance: left: Duke of Gotha; presented to the British Museum in 1923 by a body of subscribers as a tribute to Campbell Dodgson, Keeper of Prints and Drawings, 1912–32; above: Guiseppe Storck (1766–1836), Milan, by 1797 (mode of acquisition unknown); G. de V. Kelsch (date and mode of acquisition unknown); donated to the British Museum, 1916[12]

Crown of Frederick III on his tomb in Vienna

Maximilian I

Frederick died on 19 August 1493. As per custom, Maximilian took the title King of the Romans on his father's death; the title Holy Roman Emperor was traditionally bestowed by the pope in Rome.

On 16 March 1494, Maximilian married Bianca Maria Sforza. In October he granted her uncle, Ludovico Sforza, the ducal title in Milan. Ludovico Sforza's title was immediately challenged by Alfonso II of Naples, who also had a claim to it. To answer this threat, Ludovico Sforza invited Charles VII of France to take up Innocent's offer. The French invasion sparked a series of conflicts, the Italian Wars, among the states in Italy which made it impossible for Maximilian to travel to Rome. On 4 February  1508 at Trento, he claimed for himself the title of Electus Romanorum Imperator, Elected Roman Emperor, which was subsequently accepted on 12 February by Pope Julius II. Subsequent electees retained the right to call themselves Holy Roman Emperor without being crowned by the pope.

As on Maximilians’ Triumphal Arch 1515

A woodcut of the Triumphal Carriage by Albrecht Dürer (1518)

Here the crown consists of s circlet with fleurons, surrounding a mitre and spanned with a single hoop.

Like on the crown of Frederick III the mitre means that the emperor has the dignity of an (arch-) bishop. The absence of te latin cross means that he has no religious authority: that is to say that he cannot issue religious decrees.

This scheme has been adopted for later crowns made for the emperors of the German Nation of the Holy Roman Empire

Royal crown of King Charles V, 1521

Imperial crown of Charles V

Imperial crown of Charles V, 1558

On his stall-plate in St Baafs cathedral, Gent

Imperial Crown of Emperor Rudolph, 1602

Crown of Emperor Matthias

Grafik aus dem Klebeband Nr. 16 („Leichbegängnisse“) der Fürstlich Waldeckschen Hofbibliothek Arolsen

Motiv: „Abbildung des Kaiserlichen Ornats und anderer Kleinodien“

Verlag: Peter Conrad Monath, Nürnberg

Ferdinand III


Charles VII

The Imperial crowns of Charles VII are two crowns preserved in the Treasury of the Residence in Munich.

As the Imperial Crown was only used at the coronation of the rulers, the Roman Emperors used the so-called Dynastic Crowns of the Imperial House at all occasions when ceremony requested their appearance with a crown. The crown of Rudolf II of Habsburg still exists. When Elector Charles Albrecht of Wittelsbach was elected as the first non-Habsburg emperor after a long period of Habsburg rule, and was crowned on 12 February 1742 there was no other imperial cown available. Therefore he ordered two new dynastic crowns in 1742. They are mentioned  for the first time in the inventory of the Treasury in Munich in 1745

Contrary to the traditional form of a mitre both crowns are imitations of the Imperial Crown of gilded silver, consisting of seven plates and an arch with a latin cross on the front-plate. On two of the plates there are representations of the apostles Peter and Paul.

The first larger crown was made in Augsburg by Jakob Philipp Drentwett and is 25,3 cm heigh and has a diametre of 23 cm.. The other, smaller crown has a height od 25,2 cm and a diametre of 22 cm. and is decorated with tendrils and bands. Both crowns had a cap and were set with precious stones. These last were removed by the successors of Charles Albert, probably already by Elector Max Joseph, and used for badges of orders  and jewelry.

The Imperial crowns of Charles VII, 1745

Left: Crown of Augsburg ; right: Crown of Frankfurt

München, Schatzkammer der Residenz

Francis I

In 1804, the Imperial Crown was made the crown of the Austrian Empire and transferred to Vienna in 1806 for fear of being robbed by Napoleon. On the seal of 1804 the crown is on the imperial arms but on later imperial arms this crown is replaced by the crown of Rudolph. Also, Francis I and Francis Joseph were crowned with this crown on their official portraits.

Francis I wearing the Imperial crown

The mantle of George of Antiochia, the Alba of William of Sicily and the shawl of

In September 1938, following the Austrian Anschluß, the Nazis moved the imperial regalia of the Holy Roman Empire from Vienna to Nürnberg, where they were housed in the Katharinenkirche. St. Katharine's Church was severely damaged in the 1943-45 bombing, and never rebuilt. The regalia are now held in the Imperial Treasury in the Vienna Hofburg.

Charles IV, King of Bohemia and the Holy Roman Empire, emperor as of 1355, had splendid cases made in Prague to hold the imperial insignia. The large container prominently displays the imperial eagle and the Bohemian lion. Stylistically it is closely related to the surviving cases for the Imperial Crown and the Sword. It might also have served to hold pieces of the imperial treasure.

Leather cases exactly fitted to the objects they were designed to hold were made to store the imperial regalia and also to protect them while they were being transported to royal and imperial coronations in Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) or Rome as well as the annually staged public presentations that were held starting in 1350, the Feast of the Holy Lance and Nails. Leather lent itself to the manufacture of such cases because of its flexibility of form and material toughness as well as the varied possibilities it offered for decoration. The cases for the Imperial Crown and Ceremonial Sword have been preserved from the time of Emperor Charles IV. The decoration of the case of the Imperial Crown consists of framed panels of foliate tendrils and mythological beasts. The individual pieces of leather of which the case if sewn correspond to the panels into which the decoration is divided. Fastened to the lower part of the case by iron straps, the lid bears on its top the imperial arms with a black eagle on a yellow ground as well as the Bohemian arms with a white lion rampant on a red ground. On the side are loops through which a carrying strap could be drawn. Traditional forms of leather carving and blind-stamping were the techniques used for the decoration. The beaded ground provides an effective contrast to the smooth decorations of tendrils and animals. Like the rows of small ornaments along the framing bands and in the bodies of the animals, this pattern was embossed with small metal punches. The colours of the case were originally stronger, with an effective contrast of red and green supporting the structure provided by the framing bands of the surface and making the fabulous creatures and leaf motifs appear in greater contrast.

Date of creation: nach 1350

Type: Futteral

Format: H. 25 cm, Dm. 30,8 cm; Leder, blauer Samt, Eisen / in Schichten vernäht, Blindpressung, Lederschnitt, teilweise gefärbt

Relation: http://www.kulturpool.at/plugins/kulturpool/showitem.action?kupoContext=default&itemId=17179921776

Is part of: Weltliche Schatzkammer

Publisher: Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Weltliche Schatzkammer

Data provider: Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna

Provider: Kulturpool

Providing country:Austria

Futteral mit böhmischem Wappen (Futteral aus mit Leder bezogenem Holz mit abnehmbarem Deckel)

Inventarnummer: HG3591

Datierung:um 1350

Ort: Prag

Material/Technik:Holz; Leder, geprägt, geschnitten, teilweise bemalt

Maße: H. 62 cm; Br. 45 cm; T. 18 cm



Kunsthandwerk bis 1800

Beschreibung: Der mit Leder bezogene Deckel des kastenförmigen Futterals zeigt in der Mitte die Wappen des Heiligen Römischen Reiches und Böhmens. Ein lateinisches Bittgebet an den Erlöser in gotischen Majuskeln nimmt die Fläche darüber ein, während zwei Fabelwesen, aus deren Mäulern Ranken wachsen, den Bereich unterhalb der Wappenschilde ausfüllen. Der nur als Fragment erhaltene Kasten war ursprünglich etwa 8 cm länger und mit zwei horizontalen Beschlägen versehen. Von dem verlorenen oberen Fries sind noch die Füße von Tieren zu erkennen. Mittels eines seitlich angebrachten Schlosses ließ sich das Futteral verschließen. Das Behältnis wurde wohl in jener Prager Werkstatt hergestellt, in der auch das 1347 datierte Futteral der Wenzelskrone (Prag, St. Wenzelskapelle) und die Futterale für Reichskrone und Zeremonienschwert (Wien, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Schatzkammer) gefertigt wurden. Karl IV. hatte diese nach dem Empfang der Reichskleinodien in Auftrag gegeben. Über die ursprüngliche Verwendung des Nürnberger Futterals können nur Vermutungen angestellt werden. Die Herkunft aus der für Karl IV. tätigen Werkstatt und die Wappen geben Anlass für die Annahme, das Etui sei ebenfalls für die Aufbewahrung von Teilen der Reichskleinodien benutzt worden. Da Futterale meist in der Form der in ihnen geborgenen Gegenstände angepasst sind, dachte man an ein Krönungsornat. Der Bezug des Bittgebets auf die Passion Christi könnte allerdings auch für die Verwendung als Behältnis für eine Passionsreliquie aus dem Besitz des Kaisers sprechen. (Aus: Ausst. Kat. Magdeburg 2006, Sabine Lata).

Woodcut of the Triumphal carrriage of Maximilian I 1522

This shows a crown inspired on the crown of Charlemagne spannend with two hoops, crested with a square cross.




Neue Folge.


Sechsundzwanzigster Band.

Jahrgang 1879.

Ueber Kronen.

Bemerkungen zu dem Siegel des Dr. Konrad Gäb.

Das in vorhergehendem Aufsatze beschriebene Siegel ist jedenfalls sphragistisch hochinteressant, und es ist lebhaft zu bedauern, daß der Herr Verfasser uns nicht in die Lage setzen konnte, eine Abbildung desselben zu geben. Das Interesse liegt in der schwer erklärbaren Bedeutung der Krone; doch möchten wir der Bezeichnung derselben als „heraldische Rangkrone“ nicht zustimmen. Sie hat kaum Bezug zum [S. 167] Rang des Siegelführers; aber es können auch Rangkronen nicht als „heraldisch“ bezeichnet werden, wenn schon dies in unserer Zeit geschieht.

Fig. 1.

Fig. 2.

Das Mittelalter kannte allerdings bereits Rangkronen und wendete sie auch in Verbindung mit der Heraldik an, aber nur für wirkliche Kronenträger und in der ihrem Range entsprechenden Form. Wir finden kaiserliche und königliche Wappen, bei denen statt des heraldischen Helmes mit der Helmzier die Krone auf dem Schilde steht, und können im 15. Jahrh. einen feststehenden Typus für die Kaiserkronen finden, der merkwürdiger Weise scheinbar in gar nichts mit der wirklichen Kaiserkrone übereinstimmt, aber nicht blos in Verbindung mit der Heraldik auftritt, sondern der gesammten Kunst des 15. Jahrh. angehört. Wie weit diese Unterscheidung etwa in das 14. Jahrh. hinaufgeht, können wir zur Zeit nicht feststellen; im 15. finden wir sie gegeben und sehen darin die Grundlage der „Rangkronen.“ Die Königskrone unterscheidet sich bei allen Darstellungen — Ausnahmen aus Mißverständnissen oder besonderen Gründen vorbehalten — jener Zeit, auch wo sie in Verbindung mit der Heraldik auftritt, von der Kaiserkrone dadurch, daß sie ein einfacher, mit Laubzacken besetzter Reif ist, während die Kaiserkrone Bügel hat, die sich über dem Kopf wölben. Wenn es nun auffallen muß, daß diese typische Form der Kaiserkrone keine Aehnlichkeit mit der wirklichen hat, so hat dies seinen Grund darin, daß die wirkliche Kaiserkrone sehr wenigen Künstlern je selbst zu Gesicht kam und auch dem Volke unsichtbar war, da sie ja der Kaiser selbst nur bei der Krönung trug, so daß die Künstler sich deshalb ein typisches Bild machten, an welches auch das Volk sich derart gewöhnte, daß es selbst in officiellen Darstellungen auftritt. Wenn wir absehen von dem alten [S. 168] Holzschnitte [234] vom Beginn des 15. Jahrh., welcher die Reichskleinodien vor Augen führt und „Kaiser Karls Krone“ so, wie sie Fig. 1 in einer Hälfte dargestellt erscheint, abbildet, so ist in vielen späteren Bildern eine der bischöflichen Mitra ähnliche Form wiedergegeben; so insbesondere bei Wohlgemuth, welcher in der Schedel’schen Chronik consequent die Kaiser und Könige in der Krone unterscheidet. Wir erhalten davon ein deutliches Bild durch die zwei Figuren, welche wir der Darstellung des deutschen Reiches und seiner Glieder entnommen haben (Fig. 2) und die den Kaiser und den König von Böhmen zeigen. Grünenberg gibt in seinem Wappenbuche eine Darstellung der Kaiserkrone, welche auch im wesentlichen mit der Krone übereinstimmt, die Kaiser Friedrich IV. auf seinem Grabmale in der St. Stephanskirche zu Wien trägt (Fig.3). Es ist dieselbe Hauptform, welche später, am Schlusse des 16. Jahrh., der sog. „österreichischen Hauskrone“ gegeben wurde, die, dem Kaiser dienend, nicht Reichseigenthum, sondern solches des österreichischen Kaiserhauses war, also auch außer der Krönung zur Verfügung stand und noch heute als österreichische Kaiserkrone betrachtet wird. Wie entstand diese Form? Betrachten wir (Fig. 4) die deutsche Kaiserkrone, so zeigt sich, daß sie in nichts mit jener auf Friedrichs IV. Grabstein übereinstimmt, als daß ein Kreuz oberhalb der Stirne steht, von welchem ein Bügel nach rückwärts geht. Aber wir sehen neben der Hülse, in welcher der letztere an der Rückwand und ebenso an der Vorderwand befestigt ist, noch zwei solche etwas schräg stehende Hülsen. In diesen mag je ein flacher Bügel befestigt gewesen sein, der als oberer Rand [S. 169] je eines halben Käppchens von Sammt oder Seide diente und sofort das Charakteristische der typischen Künstler-Kaiserkrone auch an der echten erscheinen läßt, so daß es klar wird, wie die Künstler ihr Bild der bloßen Erinnerung der Wirklichkeit entnahmen, indem sie nur die 8 Schildchen der echten Krone, die sie nie nahe gesehen, in Laub umwandelten. Während die erste uns bekannte Darstellung, die sich einigermaßen der echten Kaiserkrone nähert, in dem Nürnberger Heilthumsbuch von 1493 enthalten ist (Fig. 5), zeigen selbst jene Siegel Kaiser Maximilians I., bei welchen eine Krone statt des Helmes auf dem Schilde ruht, nur den Typus der Bügelkrone, wie er populär war. Auf einem vom Kaiser verbreiteten Flugblatte von 1508 erscheint am Fuße das Wappen Fig. 6.

Fig. 3.

Diese Kronen bei kaiserlichen Wappen sollen aber Kaiser- und keine Königskronen sein, sie sollen des Kaisers Rang bezeichnen, wenn auch das Grabmal Friedrichs IV. ähnliche Kronen auf anderen Schilden zeigt. Bei dem Wappen von Alt-Oesterreich steht der Herzogshut auf dem Schilde (Fig. 7) und trägt merkwürdiger Weise auch die Helmzier, die eben zum Helm gehört, nicht zur Krone. In ähnlicher Weise, wie hier der Herzogshut angewen [S. 170] det ist, tragen die Wappen der Päpste und Bischöfe die Tiara und Mitra, das Wappen des Dogen von Venedig den Dogenhut u. s. w., um den Rang zu bezeichnen. Aber während diese Darstellungen bis in das 15. Jahrh. hinaufgehen, ist uns kein Beispiel bekannt, daß Dynasten oder niederer Adel damals schon Rangabzeichen mit dem Schilde verbunden hätten, noch weniger, daß sie das Zeichen eines Ranges, den sie nicht besaßen, also eine Königskrone, als Rangabzeichen gebraucht hätten. Als nach dem Mittelalter die Sitte allgemein wurde, Rangabzeichen mit den Wappen zu verbinden, war es auch nicht die Königskrone, welche jene Herren führten, sondern ein ihnen eigenthümliches, je ihren speziellen Rang ausdrückendes Zeichen, welches wir, weil es mit einer Königskrone Aehnlichkeit hat, als „Grafenkrone“ oder „Freiherrenkrone“ bezeichnen. Für deren Entstehung kann aber unser Siegel des Dr. Gäb doch keinen Anhaltspunkt gewähren; denn die Krone dieses Siegels ist eine Königskrone, also keine, welche den Rang des Dr. Gäb bezeichnete.

Fig. 4.

Fig. 5.

Fig. 6.


Wenn es somit auch nicht schwer fällt, die vom Herrn Verfasser des vorhergehenden Aufsatzes gewählte Bezeichnung [S. 171] umzustoßen, so ist es um so schwieriger, die Bedeutung der Krone in diesem Siegel festzustellen.

In der Heraldik kommt die Krone (Königskrone) als Schildfigur häufig vor. Als eigentliches Helmkleinod sie gesehen zu haben, erinnern wir uns nicht; wohl aber kommt sie oft genug als Hülfskleinod, ähnlich wie die Federkörbe, Wulste u. dgl. vor. Dafür erscheint sie bei dem vorliegenden Siegel zu groß, da der Federbusch sie nicht ausfüllt. Sollte nur der Siegelstecher sie in die Breite gezogen haben, weil im Mittelalter jedes Feld durch die Figuren entsprechend gefüllt sein mußte, ein Grundsatz, der jedem Maler oder Bildschnitzer für jede Composition ebenso galt, [235]

 wie dem Heraldiker für die Schildzeichnung, und den auch jedes schöne Siegel bezüglich der Darstellung, ob diese nun eine heraldische war oder nicht, zur Geltung bringt? [236] Unbedingt überzeugend ist allerdings diese Erklärung nicht. Ist es etwa besser, anzunehmen, daß Gäb einer Bruderschaft oder einem Orden angehörte, deren Symbol die Krone war? etwa einer Bruderschaft der Himmelskönigin? Führte er deshalb eine Königskrone im Siegel? die Krone der Himmelskönigin? Sollte aber auch die Krone nichts anderes sein, als ein vom Künstler der Form des Siegelfeldes wegen ins Breite gezogenes Hülfskleinod, so ist die Darstellung des Kleinodes ohne Helm als Siegelbild höchst interessant, wenn auch nicht ohne Parallelbeispiele.

Fig. 7.

[S. 172]

Zum Schlusse noch ein Wort über die Bezeichnung der Rangkrone überhaupt als „heraldische“. Diese Bezeichnung erscheint uns, so allgemein sie auch ist, nicht zutreffend. Heraldisch sind doch nur Schildfigur und Kleinod, etwa Schildhalter. Sie sind eine heraldische Illustration des Familiennamens. Der Rang des Trägers gehört in ein anderes Gebiet. Der Träger führt seinen Rang eben so wohl wie seinen Namen; er kann also mit seinem Wappen die Rangbezeichnung verbinden; sie wird aber dadurch nicht Theil des Wappens, sondern Zugabe zu demselben, wie sie auch nicht Theil des Monogramms oder des Buchstabens wird, wenn der Träger seine Rangbezeichnung dem Namensinitial beifügt, eben so wenig als man bei Verbindung von Ordensabzeichen mit dem Wappen diese als heraldisch bezeichnen kann, während gewiß zur Darstellung der persönlichen Verhältnisse diese Verbindung eben so berechtigt ist, als jene des Rangabzeichens mit dem heraldischen Abzeichen des Trägers. Die Verbindung der Darstellung sonstiger persönlichen Verhältnisse mit der heraldischen Illustration des Namens geht ja auch bis in das 15. Jahrh. hinauf. So führen verschiedene Nürnberger Ketzel die Zeichen ihrer Pilgerfahrt an das heilige Grab als Beizeichen zum Wappen und auch die Verbindung der Ordensketten und Ordensinsignien findet sich schon in jener Zeit.

A. Essenwein.


[234] Ein vollständiges Exemplar des Blattes ist uns nicht bekannt. Es war aus zwei Stücken zusammengesetzt. Der Abdruck des einen Stockes mit der halben Krone ist im germ. Museum.

[235] Vgl. die Darstellung der Kreuzigung Christi auf dem Elfenbeinrelief, Jahrgang 1867, Sp. 228 d. Bl., wo die Arme des Heilandes, dem Formate entsprechend, in die Länge gezogen sind.

[236] Wir bewegen uns mit unserer gesammten Darstellung in diesem Aufsatze nur auf deutschem Boden; italienische Siegel sind uns nicht genügend bekannt, um dieselbe Regel festzustellen. Italienische Medaillen des 15. Jhdts. haben mitunter auf dem Reverse nur eine kleine Darstellung im leeren Felde. Auch die schönen deutschen des 16. Jhdts. folgen diesem Grundsatze, bei mittelalterlichen Sigeln aber nur rohe Arbeiten, kein schönes Stück.


Geschichtsbilder. Die Gründung des Germanischen Nationalmuseums und das Mittelalter. Kat. Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg (Die Schausammlungen des Germanischen Nationalmuseums 4). Hrsg. von Jutta Zander-Seidel/Anja Kregeloh. Nürnberg 2014, Kat.-Nr. 95. — Heiliges Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation. 962 bis 1806. Von Otto dem Großen zum Ausgang des Mittelalters. Ausst. Kat. Kulturhistorisches Museum, Magdeburg. Dresden 2006, S. 483-485, Nr. V.78 (Sabine Lata). — Drake Boehm, Barbara (Hrsg) und Fajt, Jirí (Hrsg.): Prague. The Crown of Bohemia 1347-1437. Katalog zur Ausstellung im Metropolitan Museum New York (20.9.2005-3.1.2006). New Haven und London 2005, Nr. 71. — Germanisches Nationalmuseum. Führer durch die Sammlungen. Nürnberg 2001, S. 78. — Germanisches Nationalmuseum. Führer durch die Sammlungen. 4. überarbeitete Aufl. Nürnberg 1994, S. 73, Nr. 156. — Kaiser Karl IV. 1316-1378. Ausst. Kat. Kaiserburgmuseum, Nürnberg. München 1978, S. 80, Nr. 78 (Günther Schiedlausky). — Schramm, Percy Ernst/Fillitz, Hermann: Denkmale der deutschen Könige und Kaiser. Bd. 2: Ein Beitrag zur Herrschergeschichte von Rudolf I. bis Maximilian I., 1273-1519 (Veröffentlichungen des Zentralinstituts für Kunstgeschichte in München, Bd. 7). München 1978, S. 60, Nr. 38b, S. 142. — Albrecht Dürer 1471-1971. Ausst. Kat. Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg 1971, Nr. 250. — Gall, Günter: Leder im europäischen Kunsthandwerk (Bibliothek für Kunst- und Antiquitätenfreunde, Bd. 44). Braunschweig 1965, S. 56-58. — Colsman, Gudrun: Die Denkmale der deutschen Kaiser und Könige im 14. Jh. Phil. Diss. Göttingen 1955, S. 330-331. — Kunst und Kultur in Böhmen, Mähren und Schlesien. Ausst. Kat. Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg 1955, S. 94, Nr. C 8. — August von Essenwein: Zwei zu den deutschenReichskleinodien gehörige Futterale. In: Anzeiger für Kunde der deutschen Vorzeit. Januar 1873, Sp. 1-6.

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 © Hubert de Vries




[1]  Andaloro, Maria: Römisches Mittelalter. Regensburg, 2002. P. 43 Photo from the book cited.

[2] Compare the representation of  Hadrian I on the wall of the apse of the S. Giovanni in Laterano.

[3] http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8455903b/f853.item

[4] https://de.wikisource.org/​wiki/​Die_Siegel_der_deutschen_Kaiser_und_K%C3%B6nige_Band_1/​Tafel_3 [1-05-2017]

[5] https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/467730

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

[7]  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

[8] Typar Kaiser Konrads II. Blei, 2. Viertel 11. Jahrhundert. Historische Museum der Pfalz, Speyer. (Foto Herman G, Klein Verlag. Speyer. Ook: Posse, Pl. 13 nrs. 2,3,4.)

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

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

[11] http://objektkatalog.gnm.de/objekt/Gm168

[12] Besides relic-books, pilgrims could purchase single-leaf woodcut reproductions of relics associated with a particular church or shrine. Scholars often refer to these woodcuts, or Heiltumsblätter, as cheaper versions of relic-books, since the high cost of parchment and even paper prevented many people from purchasing the latter. While this was generally the case, the single-leaf woodcut illustrating the relics of the Holy Roman Empire first printed around 1480 and then again in 1496 came in a hand-colored version. What really differentiated Heiltumsblätter from relic-books was that their large scale allowed them to be displayed in public places like churches, where they performed a similar function to indulgence announcements. Of course, this did not preclude their use in private devotion; it simply draws attention to how different kinds of objects encourage different viewing practices.

This difference is apparent in the Heiltumsblatt illustrating the relics of the Holy Roman Empire, including pieces of the True Cross, thorns from Christ's crown, along with the sword, robe and scepter of Charlemagne (r. 768–814). The imperial collection also featured the Holy Lance that tradition states was used by Longinus to pierce Christ's side after his death; this was a highly prized possession, since it was one of the few contact relics associated with Christ, who was said to have left behind no bodily relics. In 1423, Emperor Sigismund (r. 1368–1437) bequeathed the Lance to Nuremberg for safekeeping, where it became the centerpiece of the Heiltumsweisung. The Holy Lance's size in the woodcut is one indication of its importance, although this was not a mere effect of representation, for its makers claimed that this was a "true copy" of the Lance, which measures 50.8 cm in height and 7.9 cm in width.


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