THE CORONATION MANTLE

THE HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE

 Palermo

Royal workshop, 1133/34

Figured silk (kermes-dyed), gold and silk embroidery, pearls, gold with cloisonné enamel, precious stones

H 146 cm, W 345 cm

The precious mantle embroidered with gold, pearls and cloisonné-enameled plaques was part of the coronation set of robes used at the coronations of the kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire.

These precious robes were made by Arab artisans for the Norman kings on Sicily in the 12th and 13th centuries and passed to the German house of Hohenstaufen. This unique coronation mantle of heavy red silk is richly embroidered with gold stitching and tens of thousands of pearls. It is semicircular and was locked with a clasp decorated with precious stones and enamel. The Arabic inscription on the lower hem of the mantle tells us the date of the production at the royal workshop in Palermo in 528 (according to Islamic chronology) corresponding to the Christian year 1133/34. Thus this robe was made for Roger II of Sicily (1095-1154). The oriental motifs are borrowed from Arabic art: two symmetrically addorsed (back-to-back) lions triumph over a camel; between them like a stylized palm tree is the tree of life.  The lions symbolize the ruler who defeats his foes. 

Because of the preciousness of the mantle, the kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, ignoring the "foreign” motifs, had used it as a coronation mantle since the 13th century. In the 14th century it was believed that the mantle had belonged to Charlemagne, the canonized emperor and renewer of the Roman Empire, who had supposedly won it from the Moors.