Coronation of the Roman-German kings and emperors

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The choice of a king . Above: three spiritual princes in the election, they point to the king. Middle: The Count Palatinate near Rhine hands over a golden bowl as a stewardess, behind it the Duke of Saxony with the marshal's baton and the Margrave of Brandenburg, who brings a bowl of warm water as a chamberlain. Below: the new king before the greats of the empire ( Heidelberger Sachsenspiegel )

The coronation of the Roman-German kings and emperors was a sequence of several secular and sacral acts of sovereignty , ceremonies and ordinations for the installation of a new ruler in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation .

The ritual, which developed over a long period of time, was shaped by the character of the empire as an elective monarchy . It combined the traditions of the ancient Roman and the later Carolingian-Frankish empire with those of the ascension of Germanic peoples to the kings and the religious consecration of bishops. Since the late Middle Ages it followed the provisions of the Golden Bull , the 1356 under Charles IV. Incurred imperial constitution, and remained until the coronation of Francis II. In 1792, almost unchanged.

Raising King in the Middle Ages

Origins of the ceremonial

The coronation ritual developed over the course of several centuries from the Germanic-Franconian tradition of elevating a king to the shield as a sign that he was the leader chosen by the people. Although in is Isidore of Seville , the use mentioned by golden crowns in Visigoth and Lombard kings of the 7th century but it is questionable whether these crowns played a role as a symbolic sign the accession to power.

According to the sources, there is still nothing to be seen of a coronation in the true sense of the word in Pippin the Younger , who was transferred by the Pope as majordomo of the Frankish Empire on July 28, 754. Einhard reports:

"He was anointed to this high dignity by the Holy Unction by the hand of the archbishop and martyr Bonifatius , holy memory, and elevated to the royal throne according to Franconian custom at Soissons ."

The anointing , which is documented here for the first time in the Frankish Empire, added a sacred component to the king's elevation, the central act of which it was to remain. With it, the royal salvation , which had legitimized the rule of the Merovingians since pre-Christian times , was to be transferred to the new Carolingian dynasty . In contrast, neither Einhard nor other contemporary sources speak of a coronation. However, it may have been performed as an additional act. The central position of the elevation of the shield can also be seen in Pippin's sons Charlemagne and Karlmann I , who were enthroned in Noyon and Soissons in 754 .

But as early as 781, Charlemagne and his sons Ludwig the Pious and Pippin the Hunchback received the royal diadem from Pope Hadrian II . The decisive element was the coronation act in the year 800 at the imperial coronation of Charles by Leo III. Einhard says:

“When the king was just on St. On Christmas Day rose from prayer in front of the grave of Blessed Apostle Peter for mass, Pope Leo placed a crown on his head [...] and henceforth, omitting the title Patricius, Emperor and Augustus. "

Thirteen years later, Karl's son Ludwig crowned himself king and successor to his father in Aachen. This self-coronation happened on the express instruction of Charlemagne. The church and the throne on which Karl attended the ceremony were of paramount importance in the future for the coronation of the Roman-German kings in the Middle Ages.

With the imperial coronation of Louis the Pious in 816 by Pope Stephan IV in Reims , the solemn act of the coronation was presented as an ecclesiastical and liturgical act that combined the anointing and the actual coronation. The ordines of the imperial coronations give at least indirect testimony of the course of the act of institution.

Whether the wives were also crowned or anointed - as has been customary since the High Middle Ages - can only very rarely be recognized from the mostly very brief descriptions of the coronations and elevations. It is known that Lothar II raised his second wife Waldrada in 862 and had her crowned queen. The oldest text on the coronation of a queen comes from the year 866 and is the coronation formula of the West Franconian Queen Irmintrud, the wife of Charles the Bald .

Further development in the early Roman-German Empire

The importance of the coronation city of Aachen for the elevation of the king in the next centuries became evident after the death of the East Franconian king Heinrich I. Although he was the first ruler of Saxony, the election day was convened in the city of Charlemagne in 936. On it Otto I , the son of Heinrich, was elected the new king of the empire and then crowned. With the exception of four coronations in Mainz, Cologne and Bonn, all enthronements of the Roman-German kings took place in Aachen until 1531.

With Otto's accession to the throne, the gradual formation of symbolic acts began, which were valid until the coronation of the last emperor in 1792. The purely secular act of the elevation of the king from the Frankish-Germanic tradition merged more and more with the anointing and the liturgy of the mass to form a representation of power that should make the sacred character of the royal office visible. In addition, it was a matter of emphasizing the divine determination of rulership over the subjects, i.e. the divine right of the king. The crown , in which a relic was often inlaid, became the symbol for this divine destiny and for Christ's representation on earth. With the coronation, the king became a new person.

The report by the historian Widukind von Corvey , who claims to describe the coronation of Otto I in Aachen , offers a first description of what the course of a coronation might have looked like in the Middle Ages . Since Widukind was not an eyewitness to Otto I's coronation, research doubts that he really described Otto I's coronation in his work, The History of Saxony. It is assumed that Widukind either carried out a general stylization of the coronation ceremony or rather described the coronation of Otto II (961-983), at which he was present, and projected it back onto his father's coronation. He reported on the process in his history of the Saxons :

“The dukes, the most distinguished counts and other distinguished greats of the empire met in Aachen and, after an oath of allegiance, elevated the new king to the throne of Charlemagne . On the day of the coronation, the king and members of the clergy and the greats of the empire went to the church, where he was expected by the Archbishop of Mainz. The bishop seized the rights of the ruler and led him to the center of the church. "

After another symbolic homage by those present, Otto received the insignia of the empire : the sword, a cloak, the scepter and a clasp. This was followed by the anointing and coronation by the two archbishops Hildebert and Wigfried . Widukind further reports:

“After the consecration was duly completed in this way, the king was led by the two archbishops to the throne, to which a spiral staircase led and which stands between two marble columns of wonderful beauty. From there he could see everyone and be seen by everyone. "

After the choir singing and the high mass, a common coronation meal was taken in the Palatinate . Widukind mentions that the dukes exercised their respective court office, which at that time were not purely symbolic acts, as was customary later. From these honorary services of the dukes, the ore offices developed in the later centuries , which have been held by the four secular electors since the interregnum . The offices of were actually exercised Erztruchsess , Erzmarschall , Ore Chamberlain and ore mouth gift by proxy by holders of hereditary offices .

The Aachen chronicler Peter von Beeck reports the coronation celebrations (in Latin) in his first printed Aachen Chronicle Aquisgranum , published in 1620 :

“Then the king mounts the chair of Charlemagne in the Hochmünster [St. Mary's Church, today's Aachen Cathedral ] with prayer and then accepts the congratulations. The Te Deum is started and the consecrator and his companion return to the altar to complete the Holy Mass, while the other electors remain with the king. Meanwhile, the king is included in the Aachen chapter and swears the oath of loyalty and obedience to the blood of the holy arch-martyr Stephen over the old Gospel book . Then he takes the Carolingian sword the accolade before and descends into the cathedral, where the ceremonial office continues. "

High and late Middle Ages

The seven electors elect Henry VII as king. Miniature from the illustrated chronicle of Henry VII ( Codex Balduineus ).

The act of the actual coronation does not seem to have finally established itself as an integral part of the ceremony even in the early High Middle Ages. For example, Wipo reports that Konrad II was ordained in great haste by the Archbishop of Mainz just one day after his election . However, there is no talk of a coronation, let alone the crown known today as the imperial crown. It is not known when and on what occasion this crown received the bow usually attributed to Konrad.

From the sources on the various coronations from the 10th to 14th centuries it can be seen that the election of the king seldom took place at the coronation site, but at a neutral place where the greats of the empire could assemble and still have enough distance between the camps of the nobles, who were often enemies, could be preserved. Probably because of this, but also so that the party that had lost in the negotiations for the election could withdraw without losing face, the election meeting often took place in the open air. The election of Konrad II was carried out in the Rhine plain near Kamba , a meanwhile submerged place opposite Oppenheim on the wide Rhine plain between Worms and Mainz , for the election of Lothar of Supplinburg people gathered on the Rhine near Mainz and the election of Charles IV was Performed in 1346 at the Königsstuhl in Rhens .

A contemporary source reports on the tent camps of the princes who had traveled there on the occasion of the election of Lothar, which were set up on both sides of the Rhine to mark the occasion, but also on the turbulence and the diplomatic skill that the leader of the meeting had to muster to get his candidate through .

However, this election was not a vote in the current sense by a defined group of people, but an anticipated homage by consensus. The more great people in the empire took part in the election, the greater the legitimacy of the person elected in general. The “voice of God” should be visible in the election. But since God only has one vote, the choice had to be unanimous. That is why voters who disagreed with a candidate did not even travel to the city or withdrew before the actual election act. These princes either later paid homage, which usually had to be bought with concessions and privileges, or they voted unanimously for their own candidate. If several kings were to be elected, the ensuing events in the form of armed conflicts or the remorseful submission of one of the elected had to decide in which election the voice of God was ignored.

Since 1147, most royal elections have taken place in Frankfurt am Main . In the course of the 13th century, the election in Frankfurt developed into customary law , which is described, for example, in the Schwabenspiegel around 1275: As one des kiunig kiesen wil, daz sol man tuon ze Frankenfurt.

The Coronatio Aquisgranensis , a coronation order from the 14th century, which is attributed to the coronation of Henry VII in Aachen, shows the course of the coronation at this time. In contrast to Otto I's coronation, the Archbishop of Cologne was seen as the only legitimate coronator. He was accompanied by the archbishops of Trier and Mainz. Otherwise, the process has, as far as can be seen, but not changed. Here, too, the king was subjected to a symbolic test of faith, anointed, swore an oath of allegiance to the church and also received the insignia and the crown. Subsequently, Queen Margaret, whose coronation is specifically mentioned here, was crowned in a similar way.

Places of royal coronations in Germany

Until 1531, Aachen was the city where most of the coronations of the Roman-German kings took place; there were 31 in total. So Otto I , with whom historical research started the Holy Roman Empire, but also his successors Otto II and Otto III. crowned or consecrated king in Aachen. Heinrich II. And Konrad II. Were in Mainz, Heinrich III. and Heinrich IV. again elevated to kings in Aachen. Rudolf von Swabia in Mainz and Hermann von Salm in Goslar were consecrated by the opposing kings .

The two sons of Henry IV, Konrad and Heinrich V , were ordained king in Aachen. Also in Aachen were Lothar III. , Conrad III. and Friedrich I. Barbarossa crowned. Heinrich VI was already during his father's lifetime . crowned in Aachen.

After the controversial double election of 1198, Otto IV in Aachen and his adversary Philip of Swabia in Mainz received royal orders. After he was able to assert himself militarily against Otto, Philipp was crowned for the second time in 1205, now also in Aachen and by the right coronator.

The coronation of Frederick II also took place in Mainz, but his son Heinrich was again crowned as co-king in Aachen. While Heinrich Raspe was never crowned, Wilhelm of Holland's coronation also took place in Aachen. Of the kings of the interregnum , Alfonso the Wise was never in the empire, his rival Richard of Cornwall was crowned in Aachen soon after his election.

Goslar, the coronation site of Hermann von Salm, can only be seen as an exception. Apart from Mainz as an occasional place of coronation, it becomes clear that Aachen has been the official and most important coronation place since the times of Charlemagne and that it should remain so until the end of the Middle Ages. Here were Rudolf von Habsburg , Adolf von Nassau , Albrecht I , Heinrich VII , Ludwig the Bavarian , Wenzel , Sigismund , Friedrich III. , Maximilian I and Charles V consecrated kings.

In other places only three kings received the royal consecrations: Friedrich the Fair and Charles IV in Bonn and Ruprecht in Cologne, and only for the reason that they did not have Aachen under their control. How important the coronation was in the right place for the legitimation of one's own rule is shown by the fact that Charles IV and Ruprecht were later crowned again in Aachen.

Imperial coronations in Rome

The imperial coronation of Henry VI. in an illustration from the Liber ad honorem Augusti by Petrus de Ebulo , 1196

Up to the beginning of the early modern period one had to distinguish between the coronation as Roman-German king, the coronation as king of another part of the empire, such as imperial Italy and Burgundy, and the coronation as emperor. Although the respective process was very similar, the coronation as emperor was the most important in terms of theological and secular symbolic content. Although the election as Roman-German king, which has been made clear by the name Rex Romanorum , which has been common since the time of the Ottonians , has also been linked to the right to elevation to emperor since the High Middle Ages , this claim could not always be enforced. On the other hand, this royal title only legitimized rule in one part of the empire. Only with the imperial title was the claim to power for the whole empire, including the exercise of rights in Burgundy and imperial Italy, and even a universal claim to power. Especially in the late Middle Ages, the Roman-German kings were almost forced to use the imperial crown to obtain additional legitimation in the parts of the empire outside Germany.

In addition, since the 11th century at the latest, the respective popes have made sure that they occupy a dominant position at the coronation and demonstrate their power to the emperor. With three exceptions, the imperial coronations always took place in Rome and were carried out by the Pope or, although only in the case of Henry VII , by cardinals commissioned by the Pope. The Coronation Church was the predecessor of today's St. Peter's Church , although in some cases other places were used, such as the Lateran , as in the case of Lothar III. and Henry VII.

Before the actual coronation, negotiations between the Roman-German king and the Pope about the exact conditions of the coronation usually took place for months and sometimes even years . The negotiations of Frederick I , his grandson Frederick II , Henry VII and his grandson Charles IV can be cited as an example. When the exact date of the coronation was fixed, the king, accompanied by princes and clergy, crossed the Alps to Rome. These Rome expeditions were often also war expeditions to bring renegade areas in imperial Italy back under the rule of the empire. For example, during his journey to Rome , Conrad II brought some northern Italian cities back under his control that had tried to break away from the empire. The situation was similar in the case of Frederick I and Henry VII.

Arrived before Rome, the future emperor camped with his entourage at the gates of the city and only entered the city on the day of the coronation, which sometimes led to fights with the urban Roman population: Frederick I had to use his armored riders, while Henry VII Was involved in the worst fighting medieval Rome ever experienced within its walls when imperial troops blocked access to St. Peter. The sources of the Middle Ages usually reproduce the multi-day ceremony very briefly. Thus, in Wipo about the coronation of Conrad II in 1027 only to read.:

On Holy Easter Sunday [...] he was elected emperor by the Romans and received imperial consecration from the Pope. […] Queen Gisela was also consecrated there and given the name of an empress.

Only Enea Silvio Piccolomini, humanist and historian, later Pope Pius II , described in his Historia Friderici III. sive Historia Austriaca the imperial coronation of Frederick III. in 1452 in detail.

Regulations of the Golden Bull

Electoral chapel of the Roman-German kings and emperors in the Frankfurt Cathedral

With the Golden Bull of Charles IV from 1356, the royal electoral order of the empire was finally established. Until 1806, it formed one of the core pieces of the imperial constitution. In contrast to the previous procedure, the golden bull focused on the title of king. This became necessary because since the investiture controversy, i.e. the conflict with the Pope, the spiritual position of the ruler was in question. This forced the establishment of rule in its own right.

Through the election alone the elected received all rights of a king and the future emperor. Although the coronation as emperor by the pope in Rome was retained, formal confirmation of the new king by the pope was no longer required. The coronation as emperor was sought by the successors of Charles IV, but only by Sigismund in 1433 and by Friedrich III. Reached in Rome in 1452 and in Bologna in 1530 by Charles V.

In addition, the majority vote was established so that there were no more multiple elections, as the losing party now had to accept the election result. The fact that a king elected by the majority does not need confirmation from the Pope was determined by the Kurverein von Rhense and announced on August 4, 1338 at a Reichstag in Frankfurt by King Ludwig the Bavarian . He added that the elected person also had the right to the imperial dignity.

The most serious change appears to be the restriction of the right to vote to exactly seven electors . These were the Archbishops of Cologne , Mainz and Trier , the Count Palatine near Rhine , the Duke of Saxony , the Margrave of Brandenburg and the King of Bohemia . Previously, all the greats of the empire were eligible to vote, even if it was not always clear which of the princes of the empire now belonged to this circle of the greats of the empire. For example, there were disputes over whether princes from imperial Italy were allowed to vote or whether the Duke of Bohemia was eligible to vote.

The coronation as Roman-German king took place one to three weeks after the election and only formally confirmed the election act, which was also evident in the fact that since the Golden Bull, the rulers stated their reigns from the time of the election. The legal significance of the coronation waned, but it was still celebrated with the same pomp as before.

Cost of a medieval royal coronation

The cost of the coronation must have been immense for the future king, but also for the coronation site. Although no exact cost statements have been received, the dimensions can be guessed from other documents. So pledged Rudolf I the Jülich Count William IV. In a document from 1278 Boppard with the customs rights and Oberwesel with all accompanying rights. But even this was not enough for the sum of 4,000 Cologne marks and 3,000 marks sterling paid by Wilhelm for the coronation , so that Rudolf still had to pledge his crown for 1,050 marks. The following comparison may show which values ​​are involved: In 1174 the value of the Bochholz farm near Bergheim was 15 Cologne marks.

Coronations in modern times

Frankfurt am Main in the 17th century, election and coronation site since 1562

Developments in the 15th and 16th centuries

After the long reign of Emperor Friedrich III, who was crowned in Rome in 1452 . his son and successor Maximilian I announced on February 4, 1508 in a solemn ceremony in the Cathedral of Trento that he would in future hold the title of emperor without a trip to Rome and papal coronation. This became necessary because the Republic of Venice had denied Maximilian access to Rome. Referring to the Golden Bull , he immediately called himself "Elected Roman Emperor". The then Pope Julius II confirmed this title , since he considered it empty, but at the same time continued to claim imperial protection for the Roman Church.

Maximilian's first successor, Charles V , also accepted this title at his royal coronation in 1520 and was crowned again by the Pope in Bologna on February 24, 1530 - Karl had achieved this coronation to emphasize his claim to a universal monarchy. She was by the long reign of Frederick III. and Maximilian I's absence was the first for almost eighty years, but it was also the last, because Karl's brother and successor Ferdinand I no longer traveled to the Pope for an imperial coronation. The title of "Elected Roman Emperor" was confirmed to him by the electors during the Frankfurt Electoral Day and the Pope, but soon the Pope's involvement was no longer necessary for the use of the imperial title.

As a result, a distinction was gradually no longer made between the "chosen" and the "crowned" emperor, so that several aspirants to the throne were elected and crowned "Roman kings" during the lifetime of their predecessors, which in the Middle Ages was only considered permissible after the predecessor had been coronated. The title of "Roman King" thus became a title of the already chosen successor, who then became "Elected Roman Emperor" after the death of his predecessor. Others, who were only elected king after the death of their predecessor, took on the title of king and emperor almost simultaneously, so that the distinction was irrelevant.

Since Maximilian II's coronation in 1562, the coronations have now also taken place in Frankfurt am Main, where they were elected. The question arises why Aachen lost this status despite its previous outstanding position as a coronation city. One point is certainly that the legitimation of the rule of the king and the elected emperor no longer had to rely solely on the correct coronation place, the correct coronator and the use of the correct imperial regalia since the stipulations in the Golden Bull . Since then, the elections by the electors have given enough legitimacy and thus shifted the priorities in favor of the location where the election took place.

Apart from the fact that Aachen was one of the most distant places in the empire for the rulers, who have mostly come from the House of Habsburg since then, there were a number of logistical and infrastructural reasons for Frankfurt. It was relatively easy to reach from different directions by ship and by land. Frankfurt was in a relatively central location in the north-south direction of the empire and could be reached in a very short journey for most of the electors. With the St. Bartholomew's Cathedral , which was returned to the Catholic Church after the Augsburg Interim in 1548, Frankfurt had a sufficiently large and appropriate church for the coronation. Due to its role as a trading and exhibition center, there were also a sufficient number of inns and city palaces in Frankfurt that could be rented by the numerous delegations arriving.

At the beginning of the coronations in Frankfurt, however, there was a coincidence. At the coronation of Maximilian II as Roman king in 1562, due to a death, there was no Archbishop of Cologne available as coronator. Since the election took place in the middle of winter on November 24th, which would have meant an arduous journey to Aachen at the time, the Electors' College decided to have the coronation this time in Frankfurt by the local archbishop, i.e. the Archbishop of Mainz. The city of Aachen had the privilege of the royal coronation formally confirmed. The newly crowned king and the electors also assured Aachen that nothing would change. Even later, the original coronation city was repeatedly assured that it would not lose its rights, and yet coronations never again took place in Aachen.

Process of election and coronation since early modern times

Cover of the depiction of Matthias' coronation

Many of the illustrations in the following section come from the book Wahl undt Coronation of the most brilliant, most powerful, most invincible prince and lord, mr. Matthiae I., chosen Roman kaysers etc. and your Kay. May. Wife etc. depicted in beautiful copper stucco from 1612, which shows the entire course of the celebrations for the coronation of Matthias and his wife as Emperor and Empress of the Holy Roman Empire. In a similar way, many of the modern coronations were recorded in so-called diaries, which were supposed to represent the splendor of the celebrations and thus the power of the emperor. In the first decades of the 18th century, this type of self-portrayal of the rulers was even discussed in the science of ceremonies .

The ceremonial of the celebrations was based very much on the medieval ceremony, but also extended it to include decisive elements such as B. the election surrender.

After the death of the previous king and emperor

If a new Roman-German king was not already elected during the lifetime of an emperor, as happened, for example, with Joseph II , then after the death of an emperor a so-called interregnum , a period without an emperor, occurred . The Golden Bull stipulated that the imperial court had to inform the Archbishop of Mainz, the Elector of Saxony and the Elector of the Palatinate as soon as possible. The other electors and the other major princes of the empire were thereupon notified by them. The death of the smaller princes and the other estates was not announced until the Perpetual Diet in Regensburg .

The government of the empire, in their capacity as imperial vicars , was jointly taken over by the electors of Saxony and the Palatinate . Up until the establishment of the Golden Bull, it was often controversial who was to run the affairs of the Reich during this time of the interregnum. The widows were often involved in imperial affairs; B. did this to Empress Kunigunde after the death of Henry II , but the Pope also occasionally raised claims to the administration of the empire. After the deposition of Frederick II , the legal opinion prevailed in the Curia that if the throne were vacant in the empire, the Pope would have the rights of an administrator, at least for imperial Italy.


Entry of Joseph II for the coronation in Frankfurt (1764)
Charles VII's magnificent coronation car for his coronation in 1742

The Golden Bull decreed that the Elector of Mainz had to convene the Electoral College within a month so that a new King and Emperor could be elected. The electors could not cast their vote in writing, but they could transfer their voting rights to another elector or send an envoy, otherwise the vote would lapse. Within three months the archbishop should then invite the electors to appear in Frankfurt.

The invitation was brought to the secular electors by a high-ranking emissary, at the spiritual courts this was done by a canon. The ambassador was received by the electors in a public solemn audience. He handed over the document signed by the Elector of Mainz himself, which had to be confirmed by a notary.

Each elector, or his delegate, was allowed to travel with a maximum of 200 mounted men, including 50 armed men. The city of Frankfurt itself had to take care of the security, the accommodation and the care of the high lords and their company. Apart from the electors and their company, no stranger was allowed into the city, and if such a person was found, they should be expelled. Should the city violate its duties, it should lose all of its privileges and fall under imperial ban.

In addition, the imperial regalia from Nuremberg and Aachen had to be brought to the coronation site. These have been in the care of the imperial cities of Nuremberg and Aachen since the late Middle Ages. They were brought to Frankfurt in a solemn and well-guarded escort, where they were received by a member of the city council accompanied by a cavalry regiment. The jewels remained in the custody of the delegates from Nuremberg and Aachen until the day of the coronation and were received and returned shortly after the coronation.

Ceremonial transfer of the imperial regalia to Frankfurt in 1790 for the coronation of Leopold II.

The contemporary copper engraving on the right from 1790 shows the train of Nuremberg gems to Frankfurt for the coronation of Leopold II in 1790. The imperial gems themselves were in a box in the so-called crown wagon, on the illustration in the second row from above, the was covered with a red tarpaulin, on which a representation of the imperial eagle was on a yellow cloth. Two images of the imperial coat of arms can be seen on the side of the car. Four crown cavaliers on white horses ride alongside the car to guard. The complete convoy included (numbering according to the engraving):

  1. 2 Anspachian hussar trumpeters
  2. 1 hussar sergeant
  3. 4 members of common hussars, 4 men high
  4. 1 lordly repentant
  5. 1 high princely court coach
  6. The princely Anspachian state carriage ( Carpentum ) with 6 horses
  7. Grooms, some with hand horses
  8. High Princely Anspachian Lords and Councilors
  9. Car master in uniform
  10. Mr. Johann Siegmund Christian Joachim Haller von Hallerstein
  11. Four-horse deputation car with the delegates to the crown
  12. Six-horse crown wagon with a town fitter, accompanied by 4 crown cavaliers
  13. Four-horse carriage with 4 crown cavaliers
  14. Feldscherer Glos on horseback
  15. Crown cavalryman from Holzschuher's riding jacket
  16. 2 secretaries of the Crown Deputy on horseback
  17. 2 baggage wagons, on the first of which Mr. Fischer von Franckfurth am Main born as a hairdresser; and Mr. Haller's hunter from Hallerstein
  18. Nuremberg city trumpeters on horseback
  19. Corporal Ernst on horseback
  20. 12 Nuremberg single horses on horseback
  21. Anspachian hussars, along with corporal, green jacket, white trousers, black hats

Election by the electors

The election itself had to be carried out in Frankfurt, but due to special circumstances the election location could also be relocated. In Frankfurt a total of 16 Roman-German kings were elected according to the rules of the Golden Bull: from Wenzel in 1376 to Franz II in 1792.

But, as already mentioned, not all were made king after the emperor's death; seven of them were already elected and crowned during the emperor's lifetime and took the title after his death or, in the case of Charles V, renouncing the imperial title "Chosen Emperor" without further coronation. This became possible because the Golden Bull did not expressly exclude this, but instead named other unspecified extraordinary reasons as legitimation for such a procedure in addition to the death of the incumbent. The early modern practice thus tied in with the medieval view that with the coronation of the Roman-German king as emperor, the title of king became free again. Otto I already used this to have his son, Otto II, elected King of Eastern France at the age of six .

The day of the election began with the ringing of the Frankfurt church bells . Then the seven electors gathered in the Römer to put on their festive garb. They went from the Römer to the north portal of St. Bartholomew's Cathedral and took up positions in the church. During the subsequent Catholic mass, the electors, who had become Evangelicals since the Reformation, withdrew to the conclave. The oaths to be taken by the voters and the solemn declaration of the elected were precisely recorded by notaries. The actual proclamation of the new emperor then took place in the election chapel.

After the king returned to the choir of the church, prayers and psalms were said again while the king knelt in front of the altar. The subsequent elevation of the king by placing the elected on the throne had gradually supplanted the elevation on the shield since the early Middle Ages. The solemn act of election was concluded with a Te Deum .

Election surrender

Since 1519, the newly elected king and emperor had to take an oath on a previously negotiated electoral surrender to the electors. Such an electoral capitulation was made by all Roman kings from Charles V to Francis II. In the election surrender the new king had to promise that he did not intend to rob the Holy Roman Empire of its character of an elective monarchy and to encroach on the rights of the electors. He promised to continue to observe the rules of the Golden Bull.

Even though such a document was negotiated when Charles V was elected, the name appears first when Ferdinand I was elected (1558). In the Unio Electoralis novissima collection of documents , which recorded the deliberations of the electors gathered in Frankfurt, a document with the name of electoral surrender is recorded for the first time .

The oath was solemnly taken by the elected in the Bartholomäuskirche. From then on, he carried the title of Roman King ; that officially closed the election act.


On the day of the coronation, the imperial regalia that had been fetched from Nuremberg and Aachen were brought to the coronation church, where they were received by the imperial heir keepers and placed on the cross altar.

In the procession to the church, the secular electors or their envoys rode ahead of the new king or emperor with their heads uncovered. Immediately in front of the emperor, the arch marshal rode with the bare imperial sword . Against this the rode Erztruchsess with the orb , before this turn of Rabsaris with the scepter and left of the Erzschatzmeister with the imperial crown . The king himself rode in his home regalia - the coronation regalia belonging to the imperial regalia was only put on him later - under a canopy carried by ten city deputies. He was followed by his court, his bodyguard, a Frankfurt citizen company and the entourage of the king and electors on horseback or in magnificent carriages .

At St. Bartholomew's Cathedral, the King was received by the Elector of Mainz and the other clerical electors, who handed him the holy water . The king then entered the church, where he was received by the imperial heirkeepers, the Counts of Pappenheim and the Counts of Werthern . The Coronation Church was guarded outside by the Electoral Mainz and inside by the Electoral Saxon Swiss Guard.

After completing the antiphons , the electors of Cologne and Trier led the king to the altar, where the elector of Mainz awaited him in the archbishop's vestments. The king knelt and prayers were said, after which he sat in his prayer chair. After the high mass that followed, the King was asked questions in Latin by the Elector of Mainz about his government duties. He was asked if, as a devout Christian, he was ready to pledge the umbrella of the Church, the upholding of justice, the enlargement of the kingdom, the protection of widows and orphans, and the honor of the Pope. All questions were answered by the king with volo (German I want ). After taking the oath of this pledge, the elector asked those present whether they would like to accept this prince, obey his orders and consolidate his empire, whereupon this Fiat, fiat, fiat! (German Let it happen! ) shouted.

During the subsequent anointing, the king was stripped of his outer garment and through openings made in the undergarment by the archbishop on the head, chest, neck, between the shoulders on the right arm, on the joint of the right arm and on the inner surface of the right hand with the words I anoint yourself king in the name of the father, son and holy spirit . The anointing oil was then dried off by two auxiliary bishops with cotton and rye bread.

Now the anointed retired with the electors of Mainz and Trier to the conclave, where the Nuremberg deputies put on stockings and the shoes of the coronation regalia of the imperial regalia. The Brandenburg ambassador handed him the Alba and the Dalmatica , two people from Nuremberg handed him the belt, which the King himself fastened, and the Elector of Brandenburg then threw the stole on him. The belt itself was lost at the end of the 18th century.

He then went back to the church, where, at the prayers of the Archbishop of Mainz, the other two clerical electors presented him with the shining sword of Charlemagne , which was presented to the Elector of Saxony after the prayer was over. The Saxon Elector sheathed it and girdled it around the emperor. The emperor then put on the gloves belonging to the regalia , put on the imperial ring, took the scepter in his right hand and the imperial orb in his left. The sword of Charlemagne was pulled out of its scabbard again by the Elector of Saxony and handed over to the Hereditary Marshal Graf von Pappenheim. The count put the imperial sword , which he had held until then, on a table next to the altar.

The royal ecclesiastical treasurer hung the coronation cloak around the king and the kneeling king was put the imperial crown on the head of the kneeling king by the three clerical electors . After a renewed oath of the crowned one in German and Latin, the mass continued. Then he was placed on the throne of Charlemagne on a high stage in the south transept, on which he received the electors' congratulations after the Te Deum, which was accompanied by cannon salvos and bells. Then the king, at his own choice and at the suggestion of the elector, granted noble persons the accolade. So z. B. rewarded the envoys from the two cities of Aachen and Nuremberg, who had led the imperial regalia to Frankfurt.

Symbolic performance of the ore offices

After the king had left the church after his coronation, the holders of the ore offices held their office. The meanings originally inherent in these offices were performed symbolically in front of a large crowd. The king was meanwhile in full regalia on the balcony of the building in which the coronation meal was taking place and was cheered by the people.

The elector of Saxony , arch marshal of the empire, rode to a heap of oats lying ready in the square and took oats for the emperor's horses with a hung vessel. The Elector of Brandenburg, in his capacity as treasurer, rode to a table and fetched the silver washbasin and towel that had been set up there and brought both into the hall where the coronation meal was to take place. The Elector of the Palatinate, as the archdeader, took a piece of the ox roasted on the square on horseback and presented it to the king in a silver bowl. A silver goblet with wine was brought to the king by the King of Bohemia, who was the arch-cupbearer, from a table also in the square. The wine was later taken from a fountain installed in the square, from which white and red wine gushed. The arch-treasurer, the elector of Hanover, threw two bags with silver and gold coins from his horse among the crowds present in the square.

When the electors were not present, these services could also be performed by the holders of the Reichserbämter ; so it was done at the coronation of Joseph II . Since the coronations took place in Frankfurt, this has happened on the square in front of the town hall, the Römerberg . The subsequent coronation meal took place in the Römer.

The roasted ox, the oats and the fountain from which the wine gushed were then given to the people. Despite repeated admonitions and bans by the council, the fight is said to have resulted in violent fights and even deaths. As reported Johann Wolfgang Goethe of the 3. April 1764 witnessed the coronation of Joseph II. Was Roman-German king in Frankfurt, in his autobiographical work and fiction I, 5:

But this time, as usual, a more serious fight was waged over the roasted ox. One could only dispute them en masse. Two guilds, the butchers and vintners , had traditionally positioned themselves in such a way that one of them had to be served this enormous roast.

This fight for the capture of the ox could be life-threatening due to the equipment, especially the butchers, and had already taken place several times between the butcher's guild and other guilds. At the wine fountain, it is said to have been so crowded that hardly anyone got anything because most of the wine was spilled.

In addition to the food, the other facilities on the square were also affected. The wooden hut under which the ox was roasted and the fountain with wine were dismantled and taken away, as Goethe reported and can also be seen on the depiction of Matthias' coronation. Therefore, the magistrate ordered the people that at least the cross on the well should not be touched. Goethe further reports that the expensive red material with which the bridge, over which the emperor and the newly elected king had ridden shortly before, was covered, was hurriedly removed before the “rabble” tore it up and took it, as it was supposed to the times happened before.

Coronation meal

The subsequent coronation meal , which the king attended alone or together with his wife, was extremely stiff and in ceremonially bound lanes, in contrast to the wild public amusement outside on the Römerberg. The procedure of the coronation meal including the hereditary offices was also regulated in the Golden Bull in order to eliminate ambiguities and disputes also on this point, as it often happened before, especially who was allowed to sit closest to the king. So she determined that the king should sit six steps and the electors one step higher than the others present. The meals were served to the king and all electors at their own tables. If an elector was not present in person, he remained free and was not allowed to be occupied by his envoy.

First the Elector of Mainz said the grace, the Reichserbmundschenker took the crown from the king's head, during which the Reich Chamberlain handed water and towel. The Reichserbtruchsess , accompanied by the Reichserbmarschall , the Reichsquartiermeister , the Reichsheralds and the Imperial and Saxon Swiss Guards served the first meal. The remaining dishes were served by 40 imperial counts.

The Elector of Mainz as Arch Chancellor for Germany presented the king with the imperial seal and then hung it around his neck.

In the adjoining rooms, the owners of the hereditary offices and the imperial upper court offices as well as the deputies from Nuremberg and Aachen who accompanied the imperial regalia, some representatives of the Frankfurt council and other dignitaries dined.

In Frankfurt the coronation feasts took place in the Kaisersaal of the Frankfurt Roman . In Aachen the meal was taken in the Middle Ages in the royal hall of the Aachen Palatinate and probably in the ballroom of the new Gothic town hall since the coronation of Charles IV in 1349. Exact evidence of this has only been available since the coronation of Frederick III. in 1442.


Homage to the citizens of Frankfurt before Franz I. 1745, colored copper engraving

The celebrations came to an official end a few days after the coronation with public homage . Representing all subjects of the Holy Roman Empire, the citizens of Frankfurt gathered - separated according to the 14 city quarters behind their respective flag bearers - on the Römerberg and swore loyalty and obedience to the ruler. The new emperor, on the other hand, who took his seat on a specially built wooden stand in front of the town hall for this ceremony, promised his subjects protection and confirmed the privileges of the free imperial city of Frankfurt.

Against the resistance of the Frankfurt Council, Emperor Karl VI. at his coronation in 1712 a separate homage to the Jewish community of Frankfurt . From then on, the adult, male residents of Frankfurt's Judengasse took an oath of loyalty to each newly crowned emperor. The ceremony took place in the yard of the armory at the Konstablerwache .


The coronation ceremony of the Roman-German rulers developed over the centuries from the profane elevation of the new king to a process that lasted several weeks, even months, the culmination of which was the coronation of the king and the chosen emperor themselves but had lost its legal position in relation to the election.

In the celebrations and ceremonies, folk, sacred and political elements were mixed over the course of time, which reflected the character of the empire as an elective monarchy and, through the lavish and splendid staging of the celebrations, were intended to show the power of the respective emperor to the people and the world.

See also


  • Wolfgang Burgdorf (edit.): The electoral capitulations of the Roman-German kings and emperors 1519–1792 (= sources on the history of the Holy Roman Empire. Vol. 1). Göttingen 2015, ISBN 978-3-525-36082-8 .
  • Reinhard Elze (ed.): The ordines for the consecration and coronation of the emperor and the empress (Ordines coronationis imperialis). (= MGH Fontes iuris Germanici antiqui in usum scholarum separatim editi. 9). Stuttgart 1960.
  • Wipo : Acts of Emperor Conrad the Second. Retransmitted by Werner Trillmich . In: Sources of the 9th and 11th centuries on the history of the Hamburg Church and the Empire. Knowledge Buchges., Darmstadt 1990, ISBN 3-534-00602-X , p. 507ff.
  • Johann Wolfgang Goethe: Poetry and Truth. First part, fifth book. (Description of the coronation of Joseph II as Roman-German king)


  • Rainer Koch , Patricia Stahl (ed.): Kaiser Karl VII .: 1742–1745. Election and coronation in Frankfurt am Main. Two-volume exhibition catalog. Frankfurt 1996, ISBN 3-89282-000-7 .
  • Mario Kramp (Ed.): Coronations: Kings in Aachen - History and Myth. Catalog of the exhibition in two volumes. Mainz 2000, ISBN 3-8053-2617-3 .
  • Bernhard A. Macek : The coronation of Joseph II as Roman King in Frankfurt am Main. Logistical masterpiece, ceremonial masterpiece and cultural assets for eternity. Frankfurt am Main / Berlin / Bern / Bruxelles / New York / Oxford / Vienna 2010, ISBN 978-3-631-60849-4 .
  • Helmut Neuhaus : The Empire in the Early Modern Age. (= Encyclopedia of German History. Volume 42). Munich 2003, ISBN 3-486-56729-2 .
  • Heinrich Pleticha: The shine of the empire. The imperial regalia and their history. Freiburg 1989, ISBN 3-88189-479-9 .
  • Elmar D. Schmid: The coronation car of Emperor Charles VII. Munich / Dachau 1992, ISBN 3-89251-141-1 .
  • Aloys Schulte : The imperial and royal coronations at Aachen 813 - 1531 . Schroeder, Bonn 1924. ( digitized version )
  • Karl Schnith : Coronation . In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages (LexMA). Volume 5, Artemis & Winkler, Munich / Zurich 1991, ISBN 3-7608-8905-0 , Sp. 1547-1549.
  • The Emperor Makers. Frankfurt am Main and the Golden Bull 1356–1806. Catalog volume. Societäts-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2006, ISBN 3-7973-1011-0 .

Web links

Commons : Coronation of the Holy Roman Kings and Emperors  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Golden Bull  - Sources and full texts


  1. ^ Translation by J. Bühler, 1923, p. 206, quoted from Pleticha.
  2. ^ Translation by W. Hartmann: German history in sources and presentation 1, pp. 54f. (after R. Rau), quoted from The Early Middle Ages at a Glance: The Empire of Charlemagne: Sources for the year 800. Department for Medieval History of the University of Tübingen, archived from the original on December 8, 2007 ; Retrieved July 21, 2013 .
  3. ^ Widukind von Corvey: Res gestae Saxonicae / Die Sachsengeschichte . Lat./German, edited and translated by Ekkehart Rotter and Bernd Schneidmüller. Book II, Chapter 1. Stuttgart 1981, p. 63-64 .
  4. Harald Müller: Middle Ages . Berlin 2008.
  5. ^ Res Gestae Saxonicae II, 1st translation by J. Bühler, 1923, p. 101, quoted from Pleticha.
  6. Schwabenspiegel , Chapter 129
  7. Wipo, c. 16.
  8. On the theories about the emergence of the royal suffrage of the Holy Roman Empire, see Armin Wolf: Kurfürsten , article from March 25, 2013 in the portal , accessed on August 16, 2013.
  9. Quoted from the description of the sheet in Koch u. Steel.
  10. Helmut Neuhaus: The empire in the early modern times. 2003, p. 12. There it goes on to say: It had models in the episcopal electoral capitulations of the ecclesiastical imperial principalities, in which the cathedral chapters, later also the secular estates, had their privileges confirmed since the 13th century.
  11. ^ Hermann Meinert : From the election and coronation of the German emperors in Frankfurt am Main. With the coronation diary of Emperor Matthias from 1612 , Waldemar Kramer Verlag , Frankfurt 1956, p. 27
This version was added to the list of excellent articles on October 22, 2005 .