Treasures of the Habsburg Dynasty. The Imperial Crown

We are starting a series of articles under the general title "Treasures of the Habsburg Dynasty” collected in the famous Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria. This museum has a large number of exhibits, so the accompaniment of a local private tour guide will be necessary. He is a connoisseur of history who lives in this beautiful city and knows the whole chronology of the Habsburgs to the smallest detail, who will be able to tell you in an exciting and detailed way about their heritage and those historical characters who used it!

Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire

So, today our personal tour guide will tell you about the famous Crown of the Holy Roman Empire - the main relic of the museum, and at the same time tell us about the empire itself, its main character - Charlemagne, and we will take a closer look at this unique and precious object! 

The Crown of the Holy Roman Emperor 

The crown was required primarily for royal enthronement ceremonies. This title was given to Roman monarchs and elected emperors of their choice. The crown as a work of jewelry art was created at the end of the 10th century and the beginning of the 12th century. Unlike many diadems, it is octagonal rather than round and has eight hinged leaves. The cross is fixed on the front leaf of the crown, and the arc connects it to the back side of the crown. Today, the crown is on display at the Imperial Treasury at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria.

The Crown in Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Austria

 Entity Facts

Entity Title                   Imperial Crown

DATING                   End of the 10th century; alterations in the 11th century

MATERIALS                         Gold, enamel, precious stones, pearls 

TECHNOLOGY                                                        cell enamel

DIMENSIONS                  Faceplate: 14.9 cm × 11.2 cm

                                                          Cross: 9.9 cm

                                      Diemeter: 28.6 cm



The Hofburg is the former principal imperial palace of the Habsburg dynasty

The Hofburg Palace (literally meaning "Imperial Palace" in German) is a former imperial chateau in the center of Vienna, Austria. It was built in the 13th century, as the monarchical residence of the Habsburgs, who were considered the heirs of the Holy Roman Empire, and was used as the palace of the Austro-Hungarian sovereign until 1918.

The main staircase of the Neue Burg wing in Hofburg Palace

The chateau was the political center and seat of the Habsburgs for 640 years and is also known as the Hofburg Palace. Schönbrunn Palace was the summer residence, but the Hofburg was used for imperial occupancy in winter. 

IDEAL PORTRAIT OF EMPEROR CHARLES THE GREAT (747-814) late 16th or early 17th century, Copy after: Albrecht Dürer

and the Crown of the Holy Roman Emperor

It is a palace that was home to successive Habsburg emperors of Austria and its extensive grounds consist of the Old Royal Palace, the New Royal Palace, the Austrian National Library, the Augustinian Church, the Albertina Museum, the Royal Garden, the Riding School, and the Swiss Palace. 

The Roman Empire 

Archives show that the Hofburg was built in the 13th century (circa 1275) as a castle for the Chancellor of Austria, Duke Ottokar II of Austria. After Emperor Rudolf I (Habsburg) defeated Ottokar II, Hofburg became the residence and imperial chateau of the Habsburgs. It was then expanded and rebuilt and is open today. It was later used as the Imperial Palace of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. 

Berlin, Otto I mosaic from 1903 in the Richard-Wagner-Platz underground station,

originally in the "Bayernhof" hotel (Potsdamer Straße), implemented in 1975

The Holy Roman Empire was a "German state" once ruled by an emperor known as the "King of Germany". It was a multinational state, mainly occupying the territory of modern Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, and northern Italy

Detailed map of the territories that were part of the Holy Roman Empire in the 10th century

It was founded in the 8th century and lasted till the beginning of the 19th century. Since 1034, the Holy Roman Empire formerly consisted of three kingdoms: Germany, Italy, and Burgundy. It was initially a state, but from the 14th century it ceased to function as a state, and the non-Germanic territories under its control were successively lost. The 17th-century Treaty of Westphalia left the Holy Roman Empire in name only, while over 300 kingdoms, principalities, free imperial cities, ecclesiastical lands, principalities, counties, and other petty principalities within the empire remained effectively independent. Only the Habsburgs, who had a monopoly on the imperial throne and were based in the Grand Duchy of Austria, were considered an empire. 

In 1806, Napoleon Bonaparte liquefied the Holy Roman Empire and the imperial throne was transferred to the Austrian Empire. The territories controlled by the Kingdom of Prussia seceded from the empire, and all other smaller states were transferred under the auspices of the Confederation of the Rhine.

On 15 March 1938 Adolf Hitler proclaimed from the balcony of the New Castle of Hofburg onto Heroes' Square the "Anschluss" of Austria into the Nazi Third Reich

From 1278 to 1918, the Hofburg was the seat and center of power of the Habsburgs, and historical figures born in the Hofburg include Marie Antoinette of Austria and Marie Leopoldina. It is said to have 2,600 rooms, stunning architecture, 20 acres of land, and a huge garden. 

In 1938, Adolf Hitler announced the annexation of Austria on the terrace of the New Palace. Since 1945, it has been a complex building with the residence of the President of Austria, a church, a museum, and a library. Today, the vast complex houses the Austrian National Library, the Spanish Riding School, the official residence of the President of Austria, the Austrian National Museum, and the premises used at the Congress of Vienna, where members of the Habsburg family stayed, the collection of sacred jewels and works of art collected by the house over almost seven centuries of rule and conquests. 

The Crown 

The Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire (German: Reichskrone) is an arched crown with an octagonal form,

it was used for the Coronation ceremony of the Holy Roman Emperors from the 10th century until the 19 century

It is believed that the imperial coronet was skillfully created for Otto I. Therefore, it can be assumed that it was made at the end of the 9th or beginning of the 12th century. The first recognition of the use of this crown dates back to the 12th century. 

Most of the Roman emperors were crowned with this diadem. Along with the Imperial Cross, the Imperial Sword, and the Holy Spear, the Crown is the most meaningful part of the Imperial Regalia - the emblem of the Emperor of the Holy Empire. 

Imperial Regalia 

The Imperial Regalia are the fineries of the Holy Roman Emperor, consisting of the Imperial Crown, the Imperial orb, the Imperial scepter,

the Holy Lance, and the Imperial Sword. Today they are kept at the Imperial Treasury in the Hofburg palace in Vienna, Austria

The imperial jewels on the crown of the Holy Roman Emperor are symbols of his sovereignty. The Regalia includes various treasures, but the most important of them are the Imperial Crown, the Holy Spear, and the Imperial Sword. It is nowadays kept at the Imperial Court Storage Center at the Hofburg in Vienna, Austria. The Habsburgs are the only fully preserved crowned European monarchy since the Middle Ages. Most other monarchies arose after the Middle Ages, so they did not even exist during the time of Charlemagne. Except for the crown, all other regalias - the scepter, the mantle, the imperial sword, and the bible are monuments of the Nuremberg model. 


late 16th or early 17th century, Copy after: Albrecht Dürer

During the coronation, these fineries were solemnly presented to the new Holy Roman Emperor with a scepter and an imperial orb. Imperial royal honors were kept in Bohemia from 1349 to 1421, and Karlštejn Castle was built to safeguard them. Between 1424 and 1796 they were all detained in the German city of Nuremberg in Franconia (modern Germany) and were only allowed to exit the city for one ceremony, the coronation. The crown and other regalia are now on display at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria

Replicas of the Imperial Crown from the museums of Frankfurt and Nuremberg. Do you see a dramatic difference?

A similar copy of the crown is located in Aachen, Germany, in Groningen, the ex-palace of Charlemagne, and the current city hall. There is also a copy of the crown and regalia in the Historical Museum in Frankfurt. This is because most successive emperors were crowned in the cathedral (Kaiserdom) of the fortified city of Trifles in the Electoral Palatinate, which was once the royal residence of the emperors of the Roman Empire. The last licensed copy is held in Karlštejn Castle in the Czech Republic, along with a duplicate of St. Crown of Wenceslas. Some remnants of the crown are truly terrible in quality and can not be compared with the original.

22 carats of gold of the Imperial Crown gives the crown a "buttery" color and it is full of pearls and rare precious stones

The Roman imperial crown is a rare non-round crown. Its design is thought to be deliberately reminiscent of the Byzantine imperial crown. It consists of 2 golden iron bands that hold the crown jointly and give it an octagonal formation. When these pieces of iron were nestled is unknown. Before adding circles, the plates were connected with long gold hooks, which made it potential, if necessary, to isolate the plates and arches for ease of movement. 

The Imperial Crown is adorned with 144 precious and semi-precious rare polished stones

(sapphires, amethysts, and emeralds) and the same amount of pearls.

Each crown leaf is crafted with 22K high-carat gold. Inlaid with large pearls and precious pebbles, they add luxury to Roman decoration. Since the stone cutting technology was not yet known at that time, each stone was polished to a round shape. This particular way is an ancient Roman method, and such stones are still produced today.

Beads and stones were inserted into holes in the metal and affixed with thin fasteners. As a result, when a ray of light fell on these jewels, they seemed to glow from the inside. In addition to these jewels, the crown is adorned with 144 treasured and semi-precious stones (such as fine sapphires, amethysts, and emeralds), blue and green stones, befitting an emperor in the Eastern Roman tradition, and the same amount of the purest pearls. The same type of ornamentation was used during this period on many types of valuable items, especially processional or altar crosses, monuments, jewels or crucifixes, and book covers. This style was also used for valuables. 

Biblical images on The Crown 

Four small panels are made in the late Byzantine style with picturesque biblical figures and settings and memoranda in cloisonné enamel. Each plate depicts a story from the Old Testament. Each of the processed leaves is adorned with pearls and blue sapphires in a relief setting. On the right obverse, Jesus His Majesty is depicted between cherubs under a red enamel memo. [I] declare that "the king reigns" (Proverbs 8:15).

Behind the right, the prophet Isaiah is talking to King Hezekiah, who is posing in bed. Isaiah holds up a scroll: “Behold, I will add 15 years to your life” (2 Kings 20:6).

Above Isaiah and Hezekiah, the memorandum ISAIAS P[ro] PHETA EZECHIAS REX "Prophet Isaiah-King Hezekiah" made in red enamel. Obverse left King Solomon, memorandum in red enamel REX SALOMON "King Solomon" with a scroll with the inscription "Fear the Lord and flee from evil" (Proverbs 3:7).

On the back left panel is a papyrus inscribed in ancient language "The kings of glory rejoice to administer justice" (Psalm 99:4) and REX DAVID "King David" in the same red enamel underneath. He represents King David.

The remaining four panels, called “Stenplatter”, vary in size and are decorated only with pearls and treasured stones. The 12 gravel in front and behind could be the 12 pebbles from the breastplate of the Jewish pastor (cf. Exodus 39:9-14) and the 12 foundations of New Jerusalem revealed by John the Baptist (cf. Rev. 21:19). 21). Because, this is a large white opal with wine content. Symbolizing scarlet fire, or a very bright red garnet, zirconia is the topic of many mythical stories in the Middle Ages. Albert the Great, a well-known thinker and theologian in the Middle Ages, mentioned in his memoirs in 1250: 

How, by whom and why this unique opal was withdrawn from the Imperial crown is not known, but the last recognition of this opal is in the documents of Charles IV in 1350. The gem glows intensely and it is said that it once even shimmered at the darkness, but not in our time, but it is said to conserve the glory of the empire.

The highest foremost stone of the front plate is a triangular sapphire that replaces a prominent pebble, now lost,

which was known as the Waise (meaning the 'Orphan', because of its uniqueness)

The anterior and posterior plates of the corolla have a single arc called the seed bead. On the left side of the bell arch is the inscription CHUONRADUS DEI GRATIA "KONRAD, BY GOD'S GRACE", and on the right ROMANORU (M) IMPERATOR AUG (USTUS) (Roman Emperor(s) Augustus).

In front of the arch and above the facades rises the precious stone cross of Henry II. Both the cross and the angle were added during the reign of Conrad. 

Above the front leaf and in front of the arch is a jeweled cross with an engraving of the crucified Christ on its reverse side

The plates on each side of this luxurious piece of jewelry had three holes of small diameter and dangling jewels called medallions, similar to the coronet of St. Stephen of Hungary. 

The red velvet hat inside the current crown was created in the 17th century. The original imperial crown was in the shape of a Byzantine headdress protruding to both sides like embroidery, with arches pressing down on the center of the now folded inner cap.

The episcopal peg of the 11th century bulged out of linen on both sides. One might get the impression that an imperial crown is an early form of the miter diadem, held by the Holy Roman Emperor as the sole right of the imperial family. 

The Coin 

The imperial crown also inspired the heraldic crown adopted in 1871 for the German emperor and his imperial coat of arms. The Crown of the Holy Roman Empire appeared on the Austrian €100 memorial coin, stamped in 2008, which has a market value of €860 today.

Now this valuable and rare coin is the dream of every numismatist!

On it, on the front side, the crown of the Holy Roman Empire is depicted, and on the back side of the coin, the coronation of Emperor Otto I is minted against the backdrop of the old St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, where this coronation took place. 


In other articles, we will talk about the rest of the Imperial Regalia, as well as other Habsburg treasures stored in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria!

Read our previous article  Carcassonne - a walled city in France

Read our next article Tokyo - the city of perfection!



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