Iron crown

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The Iron Crown of the Lombards

The Iron Crown is the royal crown of the Longobards .


The crown consists of a six-part, green-enamelled gold ring set with 22 precious stones . It is held together inside by a metal ring that, according to legend, was made from a nail from the cross of Christ . However, according to more recent research, it seems questionable that the crown got its name from its current, inner fortification, which is neither made of iron nor dates back to the time of its creation. Rather, in earlier times it could have had another, now lost, actually iron bracket. Tradition has it that Emperor Constantine the Great received the holy nail from his mother Helena , who claimed to have discovered the cross in 325 during excavation work she financed .

There is evidence that the crown has been used ceremonially since the 14th century, probably as early as the 11th century. Older research claimed that the crown was a symbol of royal power as early as the early Middle Ages, around the 8th or early 9th century. The chemical analysis (see below) from 1993 showed two successive, even earlier periods of formation of individual components around 450/500 and around 800 . That would confirm a production during the migration period , i.e. during the rule of the Lombards .

Reinhard Elze argued that Gisela, the daughter of Louis the Pious , who married Duke Eberhard of Friuli , could have owned the crown and bequeathed it to Berengar I of Friuli in 874 . At that time he was the only noteworthy patron of the Monza Cathedral and also donated a cross that is made in a similar style to the crown. According to another theory by Edward Francis Twining, it was originally a question of three crowns, which were each too small for an adult's head, but were connected to each other with a veil at coronations, which is why the Monza crown also has several small holes Have attachment. The other two crowns could therefore be identical to those found in Kazan, Russia, in 1730 and brought to the museum in St. Petersburg. Twining sees himself confirmed by a relief, which is supposed to show the coronation of Otto IV in Monza in 1209 and on which a crown is depicted that has no resemblance to today's one.

Today, the crown is in the cathedral treasure to Monza in northern Italy . It is kept in the altar tabernacle in the Chapel of the Theudelinde ( Cappella di Teodolinda ) of Monza Cathedral .

In the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Italy is a crest displayed.

Two 19th century orders of merit are named after the Iron Crown : the Order of the Iron Crown and the Order of the Crown of Italy .

Chemical Analysis

At the University of Milan , the crown was extensively examined for its chemical components in 1993 using an X-ray fluorescence analysis and the radiocarbon method . According to this, the foil, rosettes and bezels are made of the same material, an amalgam made of 84–85% gold, 5–7% silver and 8–10% copper , which suggests a uniform creation time. The outer fillings on the enamel plates and the hinge joints, on the other hand, consist of 90–91% gold and 9–10% silver, from which the experts derived one or more post-processing. The alleged "iron nail" is actually made of 99% silver, so contrary to its name, the crown does not contain any iron. From a written source from 1159, however, it was variously deduced that the crown at that time could have had an iron arch above the head circlet. Similar jewelry is typical of the time. Antelloto Bracciforte is said to have made the inner, silver ring during a restoration in 1345 to stabilize the crown, which had suffered greatly from the loss of two side elements. Currently, two enamel plates are only held together by the silver ring due to the lack of a resilient hinge. In an inventory from 1352, the crown is described for the first time in its current, "small" form. The gemstones include seven red garnets , seven blue sapphires , four purple amethysts and four glass stones .

Three of the seven enamelled glass bodies differ so clearly from the others in composition and appearance that a separate production is assumed. This was also confirmed by the chemical analysis, according to which the older glass components were made using potassium salt ( potash ), the younger ones with the help of sodium salts , which have been used as a flux to lower the melting points of lime and quartz sand since the 18th century . The discovery of beeswax , with which the enamel plates were attached to the gold foil, was surprising . A closer examination showed that wax components could come from the period around 500, i.e. the transition from antiquity to the Middle Ages, others were obtained around 800, according to which parts of the crown are still of late ancient origin and go back to the time of Theodoric the Great , essential parts, however, were added under Charlemagne .

The crown in literature and film

In the 37th chapter of Herman Melville's novel Moby-Dick, Captain Ahab fantasizes about the Iron Crown. In the Italian film La corona di ferro (1941) by Alessandro Blasetti , the legendary arrival of the crown in Italy is embellished like a fairy tale. She also appears in episode 10 of the sixth season of the BBC series Father Brown , "The Two Deaths of Hercule Flambeau," when master thief Hercule Flambeau fakes his death to get hold of her while she is on display near Kemblefort is.

Crowned rulers


  • Reinhard Elze : The “Iron Crown” in Monza . In: Percy Ernst Schramm (Ed.): Signs of rule and state symbolism. Contributions to their history from the 3rd to the 16th century. Vol. 2 (= Writings of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica . Vol. 13, Part 2). Stuttgart (et al.) 1955, pp. 450-479.
  • Magda von Bárány-Oberschall: The iron crown of Lombardy and the Lombard royal treasure. Vienna, Munich 1966.
  • Ernst Günther Grimme : The Aachen cathedral treasure (= Aachen art sheets . Vol. 42). Schwann, Düsseldorf 1972, pp. 57-58.
  • Victor H. Elbern : fibula and crown. A new contribution to the “Iron Crown” of Monza. In: Klaus Ertz (Hrsg.): Festschrift for Wilhelm Messerer for his 60th birthday. Cologne 1980, pp. 47-56.

Web links

Commons : Eiserne Krone  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
  • Iron crown . In: Website of the Cathedral Museum and Cathedral Treasury of Monza (English)
  • Iron crown . In: Leopold Rössler's jewelry dictionary

Individual evidence

  1. Reinhard Elze: The "Iron Crown" in Monza . In: Percy Ernst Schramm (Ed.): Signs of rule and state symbolism. Contributions to their history from the 3rd to the 16th century. Vol. 2 (= Writings of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica . Vol. 13, Part 2). Stuttgart (et al.) 1955, pp. 450-479
  2. Lord Edward Francis Twining: A History of the Crown Jewels of Europe , London 1960, p. 424
  3. ANALISI XRF QUANTITATIVA NELLEAPPLICAZIONI ARCHEOMETRICHE ( Memento from October 16, 2017 in the Internet Archive )
  4. Father Brown 6x10 The Two Deaths of Hercule Flambeau. Retrieved July 10, 2020 .