Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire
Overview
 
The Imperial Crown , is the hoop crown
Hoop crown
A hoop crown is a crown consisting of a "band around the temples and one or two bands over the head". First used by the Carolingian dynasty, hoop crowns became increasingly popular among royal dynasties in the Late Middle Ages, and the dominant type of crown in the Modern Era.-Origins:Hoop crowns...

  of the King of the Romans
King of the Romans
King of the Romans was the title used by the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire following his election to the office by the princes of the Kingdom of Germany...

, the rulers of the German Kingdom, since the High Middle Ages
High Middle Ages
The High Middle Ages was the period of European history around the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries . The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and followed by the Late Middle Ages, which by convention end around 1500....

. Most of the kings were crowned with it. It was made probably somewhere in Western Germany, either under Otto I
Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor
Otto I the Great , son of Henry I the Fowler and Matilda of Ringelheim, was Duke of Saxony, King of Germany, King of Italy, and "the first of the Germans to be called the emperor of Italy" according to Arnulf of Milan...

 (with additions by Conrad II
Conrad II, Holy Roman Emperor
Conrad II was Holy Roman Emperor from 1027 until his death.The son of a mid-level nobleman in Franconia, Count Henry of Speyer and Adelaide of Alsace, he inherited the titles of count of Speyer and of Worms as an infant when Henry died at age twenty...

), by Conrad II
Conrad II, Holy Roman Emperor
Conrad II was Holy Roman Emperor from 1027 until his death.The son of a mid-level nobleman in Franconia, Count Henry of Speyer and Adelaide of Alsace, he inherited the titles of count of Speyer and of Worms as an infant when Henry died at age twenty...

 or Conrad III
Conrad III of Germany
Conrad III was the first King of Germany of the Hohenstaufen dynasty. He was the son of Frederick I, Duke of Swabia, and Agnes, a daughter of the Salian Emperor Henry IV.-Life and reign:...

 during the late 10th and early 11th centuries. The first preserved mention of it is from the 12th century — assuming it is the same crown, which seems very probable.

Along with the Imperial Cross
Cross of Lothair
The Cross of Lothair or Lothair Cross is a crux gemmata processional cross dating from about 1000 AD, though its base dates from the 14th century. It was made in Germany, probably at Cologne...

 (Reichskreuz), the Imperial Sword
Imperial Sword
The Imperial Sword , is one of four Imperial Regalia of the Holy Roman Empire. During the coronation, it was given to the emperor along with the sceptre and the Imperial Orb...

 (Reichsschwert), and the Holy Lance (Heilige Lanze), the crown was the most important part of the Imperial Regalia
Imperial Regalia
The Imperial Regalia, insignia, or crown jewels are the regalia of the Emperors and Kings of the Holy Roman Empire. The most important parts are the Imperial Crown, the Holy Lance and the Imperial Sword...

 (Reichskleinodien).
Encyclopedia
The Imperial Crown , is the hoop crown
Hoop crown
A hoop crown is a crown consisting of a "band around the temples and one or two bands over the head". First used by the Carolingian dynasty, hoop crowns became increasingly popular among royal dynasties in the Late Middle Ages, and the dominant type of crown in the Modern Era.-Origins:Hoop crowns...

  of the King of the Romans
King of the Romans
King of the Romans was the title used by the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire following his election to the office by the princes of the Kingdom of Germany...

, the rulers of the German Kingdom, since the High Middle Ages
High Middle Ages
The High Middle Ages was the period of European history around the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries . The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and followed by the Late Middle Ages, which by convention end around 1500....

. Most of the kings were crowned with it. It was made probably somewhere in Western Germany, either under Otto I
Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor
Otto I the Great , son of Henry I the Fowler and Matilda of Ringelheim, was Duke of Saxony, King of Germany, King of Italy, and "the first of the Germans to be called the emperor of Italy" according to Arnulf of Milan...

 (with additions by Conrad II
Conrad II, Holy Roman Emperor
Conrad II was Holy Roman Emperor from 1027 until his death.The son of a mid-level nobleman in Franconia, Count Henry of Speyer and Adelaide of Alsace, he inherited the titles of count of Speyer and of Worms as an infant when Henry died at age twenty...

), by Conrad II
Conrad II, Holy Roman Emperor
Conrad II was Holy Roman Emperor from 1027 until his death.The son of a mid-level nobleman in Franconia, Count Henry of Speyer and Adelaide of Alsace, he inherited the titles of count of Speyer and of Worms as an infant when Henry died at age twenty...

 or Conrad III
Conrad III of Germany
Conrad III was the first King of Germany of the Hohenstaufen dynasty. He was the son of Frederick I, Duke of Swabia, and Agnes, a daughter of the Salian Emperor Henry IV.-Life and reign:...

 during the late 10th and early 11th centuries. The first preserved mention of it is from the 12th century — assuming it is the same crown, which seems very probable.

Along with the Imperial Cross
Cross of Lothair
The Cross of Lothair or Lothair Cross is a crux gemmata processional cross dating from about 1000 AD, though its base dates from the 14th century. It was made in Germany, probably at Cologne...

 (Reichskreuz), the Imperial Sword
Imperial Sword
The Imperial Sword , is one of four Imperial Regalia of the Holy Roman Empire. During the coronation, it was given to the emperor along with the sceptre and the Imperial Orb...

 (Reichsschwert), and the Holy Lance (Heilige Lanze), the crown was the most important part of the Imperial Regalia
Imperial Regalia
The Imperial Regalia, insignia, or crown jewels are the regalia of the Emperors and Kings of the Holy Roman Empire. The most important parts are the Imperial Crown, the Holy Lance and the Imperial Sword...

 (Reichskleinodien). During the coronation, it was given to the new king along with the sceptre
Sceptre
A sceptre is a symbolic ornamental rod or wand borne in the hand by a ruling monarch as an item of royal or imperial insignia.-Antiquity:...

 (Reichszepter) and the Imperial Orb (Reichsapfel). The Imperial Regalia of the Holy Roman Empire, especially the Imperial Crown, were all kept 1424–1796 in Nuremberg
Nuremberg
Nuremberg[p] is a city in the German state of Bavaria, in the administrative region of Middle Franconia. Situated on the Pegnitz river and the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, it is located about north of Munich and is Franconia's largest city. The population is 505,664...

, Franconia
Franconia
Franconia is a region of Germany comprising the northern parts of the modern state of Bavaria, a small part of southern Thuringia, and a region in northeastern Baden-Württemberg called Tauberfranken...

 — and could only leave the city for the coronation
Coronation
A coronation is a ceremony marking the formal investiture of a monarch and/or their consort with regal power, usually involving the placement of a crown upon their head and the presentation of other items of regalia...

.

Currently, the crown and the rest of the Imperial Regalia
Imperial Regalia
The Imperial Regalia, insignia, or crown jewels are the regalia of the Emperors and Kings of the Holy Roman Empire. The most important parts are the Imperial Crown, the Holy Lance and the Imperial Sword...

 are exhibited at the Hofburg in Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

 — officially "until there is again a Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
The Holy Roman Emperor is a term used by historians to denote a medieval ruler who, as German King, had also received the title of "Emperor of the Romans" from the Pope...

 of the German Nation".

An identical copy is in Aachen
Aachen
Aachen has historically been a spa town in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Aachen was a favoured residence of Charlemagne, and the place of coronation of the Kings of Germany. Geographically, Aachen is the westernmost town of Germany, located along its borders with Belgium and the Netherlands, ...

 in Germany in the Krönungssaal of Charlemagne's former palace, now the town hall. There are also copies of the crown and regalia in the historic museum of Frankfurt
Frankfurt
Frankfurt am Main , commonly known simply as Frankfurt, is the largest city in the German state of Hesse and the fifth-largest city in Germany, with a 2010 population of 688,249. The urban area had an estimated population of 2,300,000 in 2010...

, as most of the later Emperors were crowned in the cathedral
Frankfurt Cathedral
Saint Bartholomeus's Cathedral is a Gothic building located in Frankfurt, Germany.Frankfurt Cathedral is the main church of Frankfurt and was constructed in the 14th and 15th centuries on the foundation of an earlier church from the Merovingian time...

 of the city, as well in the fortress of Trifels
Trifels Castle
Trifels Castle is a medieval castle at an elevation of near the small town of Annweiler, in the Palatinate region of southwestern Germany. It is located high above the Queich valley within the Palatinate Forest on one peak of a red sandstone mountain split into three...

 in the Palatinate, where the Imperial Crown was stored in medieval times.

Appearance

The Imperial Crown does not look like most more modern crowns. The crown does not have a round shape, but an octagonal one. Instead of a ring, it has eight hinged plates which are rounded off at the top. Two strips of iron, riveted with golden rivets to the plates, hold the crown together and give it its octagonal shape. At what point these iron strips were installed is unknown. Before the addition of the rings the plates were held together by long golden pins thus making it possible to separate the plates and the arch for easier transport.

Each plate of the crown is made out of a high carat gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

, around 22 carats, which gives the crown a "buttery" colour, and is studded with pearls and precious stones. The stones are not cut into facets (a technique still unknown when the crown was made), but rather polished into rounded shapes. This technique is an ancient one and gemstones like this are described as being "en cabochon", which are still made to this day. The pearls and the stones were put into openings that were cut into the metal, and fastened with thin wires. The effect was that when the light shone in, the stones looked as if they would shine from within.

The crown is decorated with 144 precious stones (including sapphires, emeralds and amethysts) (green and blue precious stones being proper to emperors in Byzantine imperial protocol) and about the same number of pearls. Similar gem-studded styles of decoration were used for the most precious objects of a number of types at this period, in particular processional or altar crosses such as the Cross of Lothair
Cross of Lothair
The Cross of Lothair or Lothair Cross is a crux gemmata processional cross dating from about 1000 AD, though its base dates from the 14th century. It was made in Germany, probably at Cologne...

 and book-covers such as that of the Codex Aureus of St. Emmeram
Codex Aureus of St. Emmeram
The Codex Aureus of St. Emmeram is a 9th century illuminated Gospel Book. It is named after Emmeram of Regensburg and lavishly illuminated.-History:...

.

Four smaller plates bear pictorial representations of figures and scenes from the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 and inscriptions in cloisonné
Cloisonné
Cloisonné is an ancient technique for decorating metalwork objects, in recent centuries using vitreous enamel, and in older periods also inlays of cut gemstones, glass, and other materials. The resulting objects can also be called cloisonné...

 enamel
Vitreous enamel
Vitreous enamel, also porcelain enamel in U.S. English, is a material made by fusing powdered glass to a substrate by firing, usually between 750 and 850 °C...

, in the Byzantine
Byzantine art
Byzantine art is the term commonly used to describe the artistic products of the Byzantine Empire from about the 5th century until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453....

 style. The four plates, called 'picture-plates' (Bildplatten) each shows representations from the Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

. Each of these enamelled plates is surrounded by blue sapphires and pearls in raised filigree settings.

Front Right Plate — Christ enthroned as the Lord of Hosts between two cherub
Cherub
A cherub is a type of spiritual being mentioned in the Hebrew Bible and cited later on in the Christian biblical canons, usually associated with the presence of God...

im beneath the inscription in red enamel [PER] ME REGES REGNANT "By me kings reign" (Proverbs 8:15).

Back Right Plate — The Prophet Isaiah
Isaiah
Isaiah ; Greek: ', Ēsaïās ; "Yahu is salvation") was a prophet in the 8th-century BC Kingdom of Judah.Jews and Christians consider the Book of Isaiah a part of their Biblical canon; he is the first listed of the neviim akharonim, the later prophets. Many of the New Testament teachings of Jesus...

 stands speaking to King Hezekiah
Hezekiah
Hezekiah was the son of Ahaz and the 14th king of Judah. Edwin Thiele has concluded that his reign was between c. 715 and 686 BC. He is also one of the most prominent kings of Judah mentioned in the Hebrew Bible....

 who sits on his bed. Isaiah holds a scroll with the words, "Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life" (II Kings 20:6). Above both Isaiah and Hezekiah is the inscription in red enamel ISAIASEZ E IPHETACHIAE REX "Isaiah said to King Hezekiah."

Front Left Plate — King Solomon
Solomon
Solomon , according to the Book of Kings and the Book of Chronicles, a King of Israel and according to the Talmud one of the 48 prophets, is identified as the son of David, also called Jedidiah in 2 Samuel 12:25, and is described as the third king of the United Monarchy, and the final king before...

 holding a scroll with the words, "Fear the Lord and flee from evil" (Proverbs 3:7), beneath an inscription in red enamel REX SALOMON "King Solomon."

Back Left Plate — King David
David
David was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary...

 holding a scroll with the words, "The renown king delights in doing justice" (Psalm 99:4), beneath the inscription in red enamel REX DAVID "King David."

The other four plates, called 'stone-plates' (Steinplatten), are of differing sizes and are decorated solely by precious stone and pearls in raised filigree settings. The twelve stones on the front and back plates are probably a direct reference to the twelve stones of the Jewish high priest's breastplate
Hoshen
The priestly breastplate was a sacred breastplate worn by the High Priest for the Israelites, according to the Book of Exodus...

 (cf. Exodus 39:9-14) and to the twelve foundation stones of the New Jerusalem in the Revelation to John (Cf. Revelation 21: 19-21).

The top central stone of the front plate is a triangular sapphire which replaces a famous stone, now lost, which was known as the Waise (i.e., the 'Orphan', because of its uniqueness), probably a large white opal
Opal
Opal is an amorphous form of silica related to quartz, a mineraloid form, not a mineral. 3% to 21% of the total weight is water, but the content is usually between 6% to 10%. It is deposited at a relatively low temperature and may occur in the fissures of almost any kind of rock, being most...

 with a wine-red fire or possibly a singularly brilliant garnet
Garnet
The garnet group includes a group of minerals that have been used since the Bronze Age as gemstones and abrasives. The name "garnet" may come from either the Middle English word gernet meaning 'dark red', or the Latin granatus , possibly a reference to the Punica granatum , a plant with red seeds...

 or red zircon
Zircon
Zircon is a mineral belonging to the group of nesosilicates. Its chemical name is zirconium silicate and its corresponding chemical formula is ZrSiO4. A common empirical formula showing some of the range of substitution in zircon is 1–x4x–y...

 and the subject of much legendary medieval lore. The medieval theologian and philosopher Albert the Great
Albertus Magnus
Albertus Magnus, O.P. , also known as Albert the Great and Albert of Cologne, is a Catholic saint. He was a German Dominican friar and a bishop, who achieved fame for his comprehensive knowledge of and advocacy for the peaceful coexistence of science and religion. Those such as James A. Weisheipl...

 wrote about it in 1250:
The orphan is a jewel in the crown of the Roman emperor. Because the like of it has never been seen elsewhere it is called the "orphan". It has the color of wine, of delicate red wine and it is as if the dazzling, white of snow penetrates the bright wine red and yet it remains dormant in this redness. The gem shines powerfully and it is said that it once even shone at night, but not in our time, but it is said to preserve the honour of the empire.
How or why it was removed from the Imperial Crown is not known. The last mention of it is in a inventory ordered by Charles IV in 1350.

The crown has a single arch from from the front to back plate with the name and imperial style of Conrad II in seed pearls On the left side of this arch these seed pearls spell out the words CHUONRADUS DEI GRATIA "Conrad, by the Grace of God", while on the right side they read ROMANORU (M) IMPERATOR AUG(USTUS) "Emperor of the Romans (and) Augustus". Above the front plate and in front of the arch is a jewelled cross, originally a pectoral cross said to have belonged to Henry II. and only later attached to the Imperial Crown. There are also three small holes on each of the two side stone-plates from which chains with pendant jewels, known as pendilia
Pendilia
Pendilia are pendant or dangling ornaments for a piece of metalwork such as a crown, votive crown, crux gemmata, or kamelaukion, and are a feature of Early Medieval goldsmith work...

, like those still found on the Hungarian Holy Crown of St. Stephan probably hung.

The present red velvet cap on the inside of the crown dates from the 17th century. Before this the imperial crown was worn over a miter. If originally the form of the miter the imperial crown was intended to be worn over had the form of the Byzantine 'camelaucum' the arch would have depressed the centre of the now collapsed inner cap causing it to bulge up on either side much as the embroidered ribbon from front to back on the eleventh century bishops' miters caused their linen fabric to bulge up on either side. Thus the Imperial Crown appears to be the earliest form of the miter crowns worn by the Holy Roman Emperors as a singular privilege of their imperial office.

The Imperial Crown was also the inspiration for the heraldic crown
German State Crown
In 1871 a design and model for a new state crown was created to reflect the new German Empire. The model was based upon the Crown of the Holy Roman Empire and was kept in the Hohenzollern museum at Schloss Monbijou in Berlin, until it disappeared during World War II. It has never re-surfaced. No...

 adopted in 1871 for the coat-of-arms of the German Emperor and Empire
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

, although the latter crown had four half-arches supporting a small orb and cross, rather than the single arch of the original.

Commemorative coin

The Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire was recently selected as the main motif for a high value commemorative coin, the €100 Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire commemorative coin, minted in 2008. The obverse shows the Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire. The reverse shows the Emperor Otto I
Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor
Otto I the Great , son of Henry I the Fowler and Matilda of Ringelheim, was Duke of Saxony, King of Germany, King of Italy, and "the first of the Germans to be called the emperor of Italy" according to Arnulf of Milan...

 with old St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Basilica
The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter , officially known in Italian as ' and commonly known as Saint Peter's Basilica, is a Late Renaissance church located within the Vatican City. Saint Peter's Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world...

in Rome in the background, where his coronation took place.

Literature

  • Leithe-Jasper, Manfred. The Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna: The Imperial And Ecclesiastical Treasury. Scala Publisher. 2005. ISBN 978-3406429385
  • Secular Treasury - Imperial Crown
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