The “Crown of Charlemagne”

The Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire 

Western Germany, 2nd half of the 10th century

The cross is an addition from the early 11th century; the arch dates from the reign of Emperor Conrad II (ruled 1024-1039); the red velvet cap is from the 18th century.

Gold, cloisonné enamel, precious stones, pearls

Brow plate: H 14.9 cm, W 11.2 cm; cross: H 9.9 cm

Eight hinged plates form the octagonal body of the imperial crown. Four smaller plates bear pictorial representations from the Old Testament in cloisonné enamel; the four main plates of differing sizes are decorated solely by precious stones and pearls in raised settings.

The programmatic theological concept can be recognized in the more prominent of the four stone-encrusted plates. The twelve precious stones on the brow plate correspond to the number of the Apostles.  The twelve stones on the neck plate refer to the pectoral of the Jewish high priest; they are engraved with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. In the place of the heart-shaped sapphire at the top of the arch of the brow plate, there was once the "Waise”.  The stone was last mentioned in an inventory of 1550; it later vanished. 

The cloisonné enamel plaques are symbolically related to one another. The prophets included in these inscriptions hold banderoles inscribed with their own quotations explaining their relationship to one another. All of the biblical texts in the inscriptions are also quotations from the coronation liturgy, as laid down in the Ordo of 960.  Only on the Maiestas Domini plate is there a quotation (Proverbs 8:15) instead of an inscription — a revelation of the pre-existing Christ and ruler of the universe of the Old Testament.

Like his son and successor, Solomon, David — both king of Israel and prophet,—

symbolizes justice; Solomon symbolizes wisdom and the fear of God; Isaiah prophesies a further fifteen years of life to King Hezekiah, lying on his deathbed, for his pious prayers to God. God shows mercy to the king by prolonging his life and destroying his enemies.

This crown is regarded as an imperial symbol representing in a suitably formal fashion the self-confidence of the Ottonian dynasty, endowed with the divine right of kings.