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Places of coronation of monarchs

The places of coronation of monarchs are usually located in the main cathedrals of the country. In 12 European countries, the institution of monarchy has been preserved, although now kings perform more representative functions and do not participate in the management of the country. Almost everywhere the rites of coronation are replaced by an oath in the presence of the legislative assembly of the country. And only in the UK has the tradition of Previously, the anointing of the king was a very important rite in most coronation ceremonies.

In this review, you can read about the places of coronation of the monarchs of Europe:

Byzantium-Hagia Sophia Cathedral
Holy Roman Empire – Aachen Cathedral
United Kingdom-Westminster Abbey
France-Reims Cathedral
Russia-Assumption Cathedral
Georgia-Svetitskhoveli Cathedral
Cyprus-St. Nicholas Cathedral

Click on the hyperlinks to read in detail about each attraction and see a large number of photos

Byzantium - Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia in Constantinople was the site of the coronation of Byzantine emperors for several centuries. We call the Eastern part of the Roman Empire the Byzantine Empire. The term "Byzantium" was coined in 1557 by the German historian Jerome Wolf. The Byzantines themselves never called themselves that. They called their country the "Roman Empire". They were the successors of the Roman Empire, which in ancient times united the entire civilized world.

In 476, the Western Roman Empire ceased to exist under the onslaught of barbarians. This year ended the era of antiquity and began the era of the Middle Ages. However, the Byzantine Empire existed for almost a thousand years until 1453. This country became a stronghold of Christianity, which later spread throughout the world. Its culture allowed to preserve and develop many achievements of the ancient period.

The first rites of the coronation of the Byzantine emperors were similar to the Roman ones. The emperor was given a porphyry (military cloak). The mandatory element was "lifting on the shield". This elevated the emperor above the army and the people. At first, there was no religious component to the coronation ceremony. It appeared only with the establishment of Christianity as the state religion, and began its spread in all countries of Europe.

In Byzantium, under the Emperor Justinian, the rite of anointing for the kingdom appeared. The priest anointed the king with myrrh. This ecclesiastical sacrament gave the king the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. So the emperor received power from God. He received the title of "God's Anointed One." The Byzantine coronation ceremony was partly used in England and France. Russia borrowed Orthodox religious culture from Byzantium, so the coronation ceremony of Russian tsars was held according to Byzantine rites. For the first time, the ceremony of anointing kings is described in the Old Testament. Kings Saul, David, and Solomon were anointed high priests. And there it was also a way of giving the king divine gifts.

At first, the site of the coronation of the Byzantine emperors was Nicaea, but after the completion of the majestic Hagia Sophia in Constantinople in 537, the site of the coronation of the Byzantine emperors moved here.

In front of the altar in Hagia Sophia there is a large circle of marble surrounded by smaller circles of marble of other colors. This circle is called the Omphalion, which symbolizes the "Center of the World", the "Navel of the Earth". During the coronation ceremony, the Byzantine emperor stood in the center of the great circle, and his family and entourage in the center of the small circles.

Holy Roman Empire – Aachen

The site of the coronation of the Holy Roman emperors was the Aachen Cathedral in western Germany. The coronation was conducted by the Pope on the throne of Charlemagne in Aachen Cathedral. The status of the Holy Roman emperors was higher than that of all the other monarchs of Western Europe, but they had no actual power in the regions.

To understand where the term Holy Roman Empire came from, we have to go back to the events of 476. This year the Western Roman Empire fell. The warlord Odoacer overthrew the last emperor Romulus Augustus and sent the Emperor of Byzantium Zeno all the regalia of the Emperors of the Roman Empire (diadem and purple mantle). Thus, in the eyes of the whole world, the emperors of Byzantium became the sole heirs of Ancient Rome.

The situation changed during the reign of King Charles I the Great of the Franks. He spent most of his life in military campaigns and was able to unite the lands of Germany, France and Italy. Charlemagne claimed the succession of emperors of the Roman Empire, but there was no real reason for this.

At this time, the Empress Irene was on the throne of Byzantium. Western countries did not recognize the succession of a woman to the title, so it was declared that the throne of the Roman Empire was free, and in 800 Charlemagne was crowned in Rome by Pope Leo III as "Emperor of the West". But he wanted to be Emperor of the Roman Empire. However, two emperors of the Roman Empire, as well as two empires, could not be.

Then Charlemagne decided to woo Irene and after the marriage to unite the two empires, and Irene even agreed. However, when Constantinople learned of the matchmaking of Charles, whom they considered a barbarian, everyone was outraged. Irina was deposed and sent to live out her days on the island of Lesbos. The gulf in tradition between the West and the East has become quite obvious. The schism of the churches in 1054 soon followed.

After the death of Charlemagne's son, Louis the Pious, a fierce internecine struggle began between his sons, which lasted for several decades. After its completion, the Holy Roman Empire was founded, which became a union of German, Italian, Frankish and other peoples and principalities, which for several centuries were part of it. It was created by King Otto I of Germany in 962. He was crowned in Rome, and at first called his country the "Roman Empire", but then it became known as the "Holy Roman Empire".

The city of Aachen was chosen as the site of the coronation of the Holy Roman emperors, as the Palace Chapel, built in 796 by Charlemagne, has been preserved there. It contains the throne of Charlemagne and his grave. The coronation ceremony was exactly like the Byzantine one. From 1531 Frankfurt became the place of coronation, and the emperors were crowned by the archbishops of Cologne, Mainz or Trier.

England - Westminster Abbey

The place of the coronation of English monarchs is Westminster Abbey in London. The English monarchy has long traditions, and they are still observed. The United Kingdom is the only country in Europe where the anointing ceremony is now held in the same way as it was several centuries ago.

The first mention of Westminster Abbey dates back to the 8th century, but the monumental cathedral, which has preserved to this day, began to be built in 1245. It became the place of coronation and burial of kings. A total of 38 coronations were held in Westminster. From the 16th century, during the Reformation, the cathedral became royal property and passed to Anglicanism.

Coronations in Westminster Abbey are held on King Edward`s Chair. The Skunk Stone (the Stone of Destiny) is placed under it. On this stone Kenneth I, one of the first kings of Scotland, was crowned. It is a symbol of Scottish independence. King Edward I conquered Scotland and brought the Skunk stone to London. Since then, the coronation ceremony of English kings has been held on the throne of Edward the Confessor and the Skunk Stone, which means the unity of England and Scotland.

The coronation ceremony is conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He anoints the king's arms, chest, and head with myrrh. Then he places the crown of Edward the Confessor on the new king's head. After that, the king goes to the Chapel of Edward the Confessor, where he exchanges this crown for his own, which he will wear later.

France - Reims Cathedral

The site of the coronation of French kings for 900 years was the Cathedral of Reims. The ceremony of anointing the French kings to the kingdom until the 14th century was carried out according to the Byzantine rite. Later the authentic French features appeared there.

The choice of Reims as the place of the coronation of the French kings is connected with the fact that the legendary King of the Franks Clovis I was baptized here in 496. He was baptized by the Bishop of Reims, Saint Remigius. For baptism, he used myrrh from a Holy Ampoule (a Sacred Vessel), which, according to legend, was brought to him from the sky by a dove. Clovis was baptized in the Byzantine rite.

Louis the Pious, son of Charlemagne, chose Reims Cathedral as the site of his coronation in 816. For his anointing to the kingdom, myrrh from the same Holy Ampoule was used, which emphasized the continuity of power that was given by God to the first king of the Franks, Clovis.

After Louis the Pious for the next two centuries, the place of coronation was different cities. However, since 1027, after the coronation of King Henry I, all the kings of France were crowned in Reims Cathedral. Only twice due to the exceptional circumstance of the ceremony of the coronation took place in other places. We are talking about Kings Louis VI and Henry IV.

The last coronation of the French king in Reims Cathedral was held in 1825, when Charles X was crowned. After that, the institution of royal power in France was abolished.

Russia - Assumption Cathedral

The place of the coronation of Russian tsars for 400 years was the Assumption Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin. The baptism of Russia took place in 988 under Prince Vladimir. Russia completely adopted the religious rites of worship and, in general, the entire culture from Byzantium. Naturally, the rite of anointing the Russian tsars to the kingdom was exactly the same as the Byzantine one.

At the beginning of the ceremony, the tsar and his wife stood on thrones in the center of the Assumption Cathedral, the prayer of the Nicene Creed was read. The king wore a purple cloak. Then he took the crown from the altar of the cathedral and placed it on his head. This meant that the king received the crown from God. The patriarch anointed the king's hands, chest, and head with myrrh.

The Assumption Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin was built in 1475-1479 by the Italian architect Aristotle Fioravanti. This happened under Tsar Ivan III, who completed the unification of the disparate Russian principalities around Moscow.
Ivan III had the title of prince. A century later, in 1533, Ivan the Terrible assumed the title of Tsar. From 1721, Peter I proclaimed the Empire and the Russian tsars became Emperors. However, it did not change the ceremony and the place of the coronation of Russian monarchs in the Assumption Cathedral.

Georgia - Svetiеskhoveli temple

The Svetitskhoveli temple in Mtskheta was the site of the coronation of Georgian kings for several centuries, as well as the enthronement of the Catalikos. It is located on the banks of the Kura River, 25 kilometers from the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi.

Georgia was the second country after Armenia to declare Christianity the state religion in 327. In the Roman Empire itself, the emperor Theodosius did this only in 380. The Georgian king Mirian III appealed to the Emperor Constantine and Queen Elena to send a bishop who would baptize Georgians in the waters of the Kura. Then the Roman Empire was still united. However, after the division of the Roman Empire Georgia has adopted all the rites of the Orthodox Church of Byzantium.

The extant Svetitskhoveli Cathedral was built in the period 1010-1029. The layout of the temple inside does not have exact symmetry, as some ancient walls and pillars were not destroyed. Svetitskhoveli Cathedral has a cross-domed structure typical of Byzantine churches. The temple was not only the place of the coronation of kings, but also the necropolis where many kings from the Bagrationi family are buried.

Cyprus - Cathedral of St. Nicholas 

The site of the coronation of the Cypriot monarchs was the Gothic Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Famagusta. The architecture of the Cathedral of St. Nicholas is very similar to the Cathedral of Reims in France, where the French kings were crowned. In addition to the title of Kings of Cyprus, the Lusignan dynasty was also crowned as Kings of Jerusalem, and this was no less important for them.

Representatives of the Lusignan family from France took an active part in all the Crusades. Count Hugo VI was one of the confidants of king Baldwin I of Jerusalem (1100-1119). Amaury de Lusignan arrived in Jerusalem in 1170 and received the title of Chamberlain of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. His younger brother Hugo de Lusignan married the heiress of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, Princess Sibylla, and became king of Jerusalem himself. 

The kings of Jerusalem were initially crowned in Jerusalem, but in 1187 Salah ad-Din recaptured it from the crusaders. Therefore, Hugo de Lusignan was left without a Kingdom. With the help of the Genoese, he bought Cyprus from the Templars and became its king. 

While the crusaders still had their last strongholds in the Holy Land, the cities of Tyre and Accra, the kings of Jerusalem were crowned there, but in 1291 they lost them as well. Famagusta became the main city where the crusaders who left the Holy land settled. They expected to return to Jerusalem, so in Famagusta in 1298 began to build the Gothic Cathedral of St. Nicholas, where Lousignians could be crowned, as the kings of Jerusalem. At the coronation, the ritual adopted in the Kingdom of Jerusalem was fully preserved. 


Countries where the coronation of kings was not held:

Austrian Empire. The Habsburg dynasty ruled the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1342 to 1918. For more than 500 years, they were one of the most powerful royal houses in Europe. It was considered that they did not need the Anointing of God to rule in their empire. The second reason for the lack of a coronation ceremony in Vienna was the fact that Austria dominated the Holy Roman Empire. This "Empire" united the scattered German principalities into a single union, and Austria had to play an important role in it. Austrian emperors often also became Holy Roman emperors, and they were crowned from 936 in Aachen, and from 1531 in Frankfurt.

Belgium. In 1830, a revolution took place in Belgium. As a result Catholic Belgium gained independence from Protestant Holland. In 1831, a monarchy was proclaimed in Belgium. The first king of the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha dynasty was Leopold I. On 12 July 1831, he took the oath of allegiance to the Belgian Constitution on the steps of the Church of St. James in Brussels. This church is located on the top of the Mountain of Arts, near the Royal Palace. The institution of monarchy still exists in Belgium today. Kings perform representative functions. Since 2013, the King of Belgium is Philippe.

Netherlands. The revolt for independence from Spain in the Netherlands began in 1566. By 1609, the northern part of the Netherlands was effectively independent, but it was ruled by stadtholders who were appointed by the Habsburgs. The southern part of the Netherlands (present-day Belgium), until 1648, was under the direct rule of the King of Spain. Officially, the first king of the Netherlands in 1815 was William I, Prince of Orange-Nassau. The institution of monarchs still exists in the Netherlands today. The coronation ceremony of the kings of the Netherlands was never held. The King swears allegiance to the constitution in the New Church, which is located on Dam Square in Amsterdam, near the Royal Palace.

Italy. Before 1861, there were several kingdoms on the territory of Italy. Some of northern regions were parts of other countries. After the War of Independence and the unification of Italy, the first king was Victor Emmanuel II, a former king of Sardinia and Naples from the Savoy dynasty. The institution of monarchy existed in Italy from 1861 to 1946, but the coronation ceremony of monarchs in Italy was never held, only the oath.

Spain. After the unification of the disparate regions of Spain into a single state, no coronation ceremonies were held. The monarch took the oath before the General Cortes (Spanish Parliament). The place of coronation of the kings of Castile and Aragon before the unification of Spain was the city of Toledo.