From Canticum Salmonis
By Notkerus Balbulus
July 4th marked the death of the Archduke Otto von Hapsburg (1912-2011), eldest son and heir of the last reigning Emperor of Austria. In remembrance of him and his Cæsarian ancestors, we here provide a translation of the rite of coronation of the Holy Roman Emperor, from Vatican Codex 6112, published in Acta Selecta Caeremonialia Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae, and probably used for the coronation of the Lord Henry VI and his wife the Lady Constance by the Most Holy Lord Celestine III in 1191.
Here begins the Roman Order for the Blessing of an Emperor, when he receives his crown from the Lord Pope in the Basilica of Blessed Peter the Apostle at the altar of the martyr Saint Maurice.
On Sunday, early in the morning, the Emperor-Elect descends with his wife to the church of Santa Maria Traspontina, near the Terebinth, and is there received with honours by the City Prefect and the Count of the Lateran Palace and his wife, the Judex Dativus, and the Treasurer. He is led through the portico as the clergy of the City, all clad in copes, chasubles, dalmatics, and tunicles with thuribles sings Ecce mitto Angelum meum, up to a dais set up under the upper arch at the top of the steps before the bronze doors of the church of Santa Maria in Turri. There sits the Lord Pope in his chair surrounded by bishops, cardinals, deacons, and the other orders of the Church.
Then the Emperor-Elect with his wife, and all his barons, clercs, and laymen kiss the feet of the Lord Pope. The Queen and his other attendants stand back, and the Emperor-Elect swears fealty to the Lord Pope in this wise:
In the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, I, N., King of the Romans, and future Emperor of the Romans, affirm, pledge, promise, and swear by these holy Gospels before God and the blessed Apostle Peter, and the Vicar of the blessed Apostle Peter, fealty to the Lord N. the Pope, and thy successors who enter into office in the canonical manner, and that I will henceforth be protector and defender of this Holy Roman Church and of thy Person, and that of thy successors in all their needs insofar as I be supported by divine assistance, according to my knowledge and ability, without deceit or evil design. So help me God and these God’s Holy Gospels.
At that point, the Lord Pope’s Chamberlain receives the pall that shall be given to the Emperor-Elect. Thereupon the Lord Pope thrice asks the elect if he shall have peace with the Church. He thrice responds “I will,” and then Lord Pope says, “And I give thee peace, as Christ did to his disciples,” and kisses his forehead, chin (which must be shaved), both knees, and lastly his mouth. Thereafter the Lord Pope rises and thrice asks him if he shall be the son of the Church. He thrice responds, “I will,” and then the Lord Pope says, “And I receive thee as son of the Church,” and places the mantle over him. He kisses the Lord Pope’s chest and takes his right hand, and the Chancellor holds him with the left. The Emperor-Elect is led by the right by the Lord Pope’s Archdeacon, and thus enters through the bronze door up to the silver door, while the clerics of St Peter sing, Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel. The Lord Pope leaves him there to pray, while the queen slowly follows with her escort until the said silver door. Once he has finished praying, the Emperor-Elect rises and the bishop of Albano says the first prayer over him: “O God, whose holdeth in thy hand the hearts of kings, incline the ears of thy mercy to our humble prayers, and grant to thy servant our Emperor N. the government of wisdom, that, having drunk counsel from thy fount, he may please thee and preside over all kingdoms.”
Then the Lord Pope enters the church of St Peter as the clergy of that church sing the responsory Petre, amas me. When it is over the Lord Pope says a blessing and sits at the seat prepared for him at the right side of the rota. After the bishop of Albano’s prayer is finished, the Emperor-Elect enters led by the Cardinals Archpriest and Archdeacon and sits at the said place with them, that they might tell him how to respond to the Lord Pope during the scrutiny. Seven bishops sit in order at the Lord Pope’s right as he conducts the scrutiny, and the German bishops sit at the Emperor-Elect’s right. The cardinals and other ranks of the church sit.
The Lord Pope says,
The ancient ordinance of the holy fathers teacheth and commandeth that whosoever is elected to rule must first be most diligently examined in all charity about the Trinitarian faith, and questioned about sundry matters and morals that suit his government and must needs be observed, according to the saying of the Apostle, “Impose not hands lightly upon any man” (1 Tim. 5:22). Moreover, he who is to be ordained must be first instructed how one raised to this dignity ought to comport himself in the church of God, so that those who impose hands of ordination on him may be free of blame. Therefore by that same authority and precept we ask thee in sincere charity, most beloved son, whether thou wilt give all thy wisdom to the divine service inasmuch as thy nature is capable.
The Emperor-Elect replies, “With all my heart I so wish to obey and consent in all things .”
Q: “Wilt thou temper thy manners from all evil and as far as thou art able, with God’s help, change them to all good?
R: “I will.”
Q: “Wilt thou with God’s help keep sobriety?”
R: “I will.”
Q: “Wilt thou give thyself up to divine business, and remove thyself from lowly cares, as far as human frailty permits?”
R: “I will.”
Q: “Wilt thou keep humility and patience in thyself, and incline others to the same?”
R: “I will.”
Q: “Wilt thou be affable and merciful to the poor, to pilgrims, and to all the needy on account of the Lord’s name?”
R: “I will.”
Then let the Lord Pope say, “May the Lord bestow upon thee all these and other goods, and strengthen thee in all goodness.” And all reply, “Amen.”
Then follows the examination of the Emperor-Elect’s faith: Credis secundum intelligentiam &c.
Then the Lord Pope goes to the sacristy and dresses himself in pontifical vestments up to the dalmatic, and thus dressed he sits. Meanwhile, the bishop of Porto says this prayer over the Emperor-Elect in the middle of the medium rota: Deus innerrabilis auctor, as in the anointing of a king. Then the Emperor-Elect goes to Gregory’s choir with the aforesaid Cardinals Archpriest and Archdeacon, who act as his teachers throughout the office of anointing. They dress him with the amice, alb, and cincture, and thus dressed lead him to the Lord Pope in the sacristy. He makes him a cleric and grants him the tunicle, dalmatic, cope, mitre, buskins, and sandals to be used in his coronation, and thus dressed he stands before the Lord Pope.
After the scrutiny, the Bishop of Ostia leaves through the silver door, where the queen stands in waiting with the judges and her barons, and says the prayer Omnipotens aeterne Deus fons &c. over her. Thereafter, one of the cardinal priests, whom the prior previously appointed, and similarly a cardinal deacon, whom the archdeacon previously commanded, lead the queen to the altar of St Gregory, and there she waits for the Lord Pope to depart in procession.
After all these things are completed, the ministers dress the Lord Pope with the chasuble and pallium, and place the mitre on his head. Then the procession sets out. The orders go first, according to custom, and then goes the Emperor-Elect with his aforesaid guides, followed by his wife, up to St Peter’s altar. Then the Primicerius sings the Introit with the schola and the Kyrie eleison, and then he is quiet. The Lord Pope goes up to the altar, and after the confession he gives the peace to the deacon, and incenses. After the incensation, he goes up to his seat. In the meantime, the Emperor-Elect and his wife prostrate themselves before St Peter’s altae, and the archdeacon says the litany. After it is over, the Emperor-Elect’s cope is removed.
The bishop of Ostia anoints his right arm with exorcized oil, and between his shoulders, and says,
Lord God Almighty, to whom is all power and dignity, we entreat thee with supplicant devotion and most humble prayer, that thou mightest grant to this thy servant the fruit of the imperial dignity, that, established in thy disposition, no past obstacle might impede his rule of the Church, nor future one one obstruct it; but by the inspiration of thy gift of the Holy Ghost, he might rule the people subject to him with equal balance of justice, and might always fear thee in all his works, and strive continually to please thee. Through &c.
May our Lord God Jesus Christ, son of God, who wast anointed by his Father with the oil of gladness above his fellows, by this infusion of holy oil pour over thy head the blessing of the ghostly Paraclete, and make it penetrate unto the depths of thy heart, that thou mightest be made worthy of grasping the invisible by this visible and sensible gift and, having ruled thy temporal kingdom with just governance, of reigning with him for aye, the king of kings, alone without sin, who liveth and glorieth with God the Father in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, &c.
After the king’s anointing follows the blessing of the queen before the altar, Deus qui solus &c, and the anointing of the queen’s breast with holy oil: Spiritus Sancti gratia &c. Then the Lord Pope leaves his seat and goes to the altar of St Maurice followed by the emperor and his queen. The Lord Pope stands at the threshold at the entrance to the altar, and the Emperor-Elect stands before him the middle of the rota with the queen at his right, and the six bishops of the Lateran palace stand around in the rotae which are placed there, according to the ancient custom. The seventh bishop serves the Lord Pope when he officiates at the altar.
Then the first and second Oblationarii take the crowns of the Emperor-Elect and the queen from the altar of St Peter and place them on the altar of St Maurice. The Lord Pope gives the ring to the Emperor-Elect saying,
Receive the ring, the pledge of holy faith, solidity of the realm, and increase of power, by which thou mayest with triumphal power repulse thine enemies, destroy heresies, unite thy subjects, and join them in the steadfastness of the Catholic faith. Through &c.
Prayer after the giving of the ring:
O God, to whom belongeth all power and dignity, give unto thy servant the fruit of his dignity, wherein by thy recompense he might remain and always endure, and strive continually to please thee, through &c.
He girds him with the sword and says,
Receive this sword bestowed on thee with God’s blessing, wherein by the virtue of the Holy Ghost thou mayest resist and repulse all thine enemies and all adversaries of God’s Holy Church, and safeguard the kingdom committed to thee, and protect God’s encampments by the help of the unvanquished conqueror our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost forever and ever. Amen.
Prayer after the sword:
O God, who by thy providence dost govern all things in heaven and on earth, be mindful to our most Christian king, that he might break the strength of all his enemies by the virtue of his spiritual sword, and fighting entirely destroy them. Through &c.
Now he is crowned. Then the Archdeacon takes the crown from the altar of St Maurice and gives it to the Lord Pope, who places it over the Emperor-Elect’s head saying this prayer:
Receive the sign of glory, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, so that, scorning the ancient enemy and the contagion of all vices, thou mightest so love judgement and justice and live mercifully, that thou mightest receive the crown of the eternal kingdom from Our Lord Jesus Christ in the company of the saints, who with the Father &c.
Then the Lord Pope places the crown over the queen’s head as seven bishops impose their hands upon her, and the Lord Pope says in a loud voice, while the bishops stay quietly,
Receive the crown of glory and of royal excellence, the honour of gladness, that thou mightest shine and be crowned with splendid and eternal exultation, that thou mayest know thyself the consort of the realm and always prosperously counsel the people of God; and the higher thou art are exalted, the more thou mightest love and keep humility; since thou shinest without wreathed with gold and jewels, so within thou mayest strive to be adorned with the gold of wisdom and the jewels of the virtues, that, worthily and laudably meeting the ever-lasting Spouse Our Lord Jesus Christ with the prudent virgins after the passing of this age, thou mightest be made worthy to enter the kingly door to the heavenly halls, with the help of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father &c.
Here the Lord Pope gives the sceptre to the emperor saying,
Receive the sceptre, a sign of royal power, the straight rod of of the realm, the rod of virtue, whereby thou mayest rule thyself, and with royal virtue defend holy Church and the Christian people entrusted to thee by God from evil-doers, correct the wicked, bring peace to the upright, and lead them with thine assistance that they might be able to hold the right path, in order that thou mightest arrive from thine earthly kingdom to the ever-lasting one, by the help of him whose kingdom and empire endureth without end for ever and every. Amen.
Prayer after the giving of the sceptre:
O Lord God, fount of all good things and giver of all advancement, grant to thy servant N., we beseech thee, that he mighteth well keep the dignity he hath received, and vouchsafe to strengthen the honour thou hast given him. Honour him before all the kings of earth, enrich him with bountiful blessing, confirm him in the kingly throne with firm stability, visit him with offspring, and grant him long life: let justice ever spring up in his days, that he may glory in his kingdom with joy and gladness everlasting. Through our Lord &c.
Thereafter the Lord Pope returns to Saint Peter’s altar with his ministers. Then the City Prefect and the Primicerius Judicum lead the emperor and the Prefect of the Navy and the Secundicerius Judicum the empress. When they are standing in their places the Lord Pope begins Gloria in excelsis Deo and the schola responds; then he says this prayer: “O God of all kingdoms and supreme protector of the Roman Empire, grant to thy servant our Emperor that he may wisely perfect the triumph of thy virtue, in order that he who is prince by thy disposition, may always be powerful by thy favour. Through &c.”
Then the archdeacon and other prelates, deacons, primicerius, and subdeacon standing between the cross and the altar begin the laudes saying thrice: “Hear us, O Christ!”, with the schola and notaries responding in the choir, “To our Lord N., by God’s decree Supreme Pontiff and universal Pope, long life!”
The archdeacon and those standing with him again say “Hear us, O Christ!” and the schola and notaries respond, “To our Lord the great and peaceful Emperor, crowned by God, long life and victory!”, also thrice.
“Hear us, O Christ!” The schola and notaries respond, “To our Lady his Wife, the most excellent Empress, long life!” thrice.
Likewise “Hear us, O Christ!” and the response, “To the Roman and German army, long life and victory!” thrice.
Likewise “Saviour of the World!”, and the response, “Help thou them,” thrice.
Likewise, “Holy Mary!”
“Christ conquereth, Christ reigneth, Christ commaneth!” and the others respond likewise three times.
“Our impregnable wall!”
“To him praise, honour, and power for all ages of ages! Amen.”
When the laudes have finished, the Epistle is read and the Gradual and Alleluia are sung. Then the Emperor and Empress remove their crowns, and the Gospel is read. When it is over, the Emperor puts down his sword and goes up to the Lord Pope’s seat, followed by the Empress, and they offer the Lord Pope bread together with candles and hold. The Emperor also offers the wine and the Empress the water to be used in the Holy Sacrifice that day. Then they return to their places. When the Preface begins, the Emperor removes his cope and puts on his own mantle. At the words Pax Domini, he goes up to receive communion dressed in his own mantle, accompanied by the Empress, and after receiving communion they return to their places.
After Mass, the Count Palatine goes up to the Emperor, removes his sandals and buskins, and puts on him the imperial greaves and spurs of St Maurice. Receiving their crowns, the Emperor and Empress follow the Lord Pope towards their horses, led by the aforesaid guides. When the Lord Pope comes up to his horse, the Emperor holds his stirrup. Then he is crowned and joins the procession. The Empress follows the Emperor with her escort, and the other barons follow. All the clergy of the City shout their accustomed acclamations from their parishes, and the Jews likewise in their neighbourhood. Let the whole city celebrate and let all the bells ring out. The Emperor’s chamberlains go first, followed by those throwing coins, lest they impede the knights’ progress. When they reach the Holy Stairs, the priores cardinalium of S. Laurence, standing without the walls, begin the laudes, as is the custom, and the rest respond. When they are over, the Emperor dismounts, removes his crown, and holds the Lord Pope’s stirrup as he dismouts. Then the Emperor and the City Prefect lead the Lord Pope to the Leonine Hall, where they separate. The Empress, meanwhile, is led by the Primicerius and Secundicerius Judicum to the Hall of the Empress Julia, where she is to lunch with the bishops and her other barons. The Emperor’s chamberlains and the Lord Pope’s chamberlains serve all the orders of the presbytery of the Holy Palace, as the Pontiff and Emperor await. Then the Emperor lunches seated at the right of the Lord Pope, and everyone else sitting at his seat.
Pope Clement VII and Emperor Charles V walk in procession after the coronation. Sketch by Juan de la Corte, Museum of Santa Cruz, Toledo.
After lunch one of the deacons rises at the archdeacon’s command and reads a Lesson, after which the cantors rise and sing as they are accustomed. After the chant all rise for the blessings. Let the Lord Pope retire to his chamber, and the emperor to the Hall of the Empress Julia.
When the Emperor-Elect descends from the Mount of Joy, and comes to the Ponticellum, he swears this oath to the Romans: “I, N., who shall be Emperor, swear that I will uphold the Romans’ good customs, and uphold their charters without deceit or evil design. So help me God and these holy Gospels.” He should swear a similar oath at the Colline Gate and at the steps of St Peter.
 The ordinary municipal Judge in late-antique Rome, called dativus because he was not elected by the people but appointed by the emperor. See “Dativus” in Du Cange’s Glossarium mediae et infimae latinitatis.
 Also known as the Camera Majoris Palatii, or Triclinium.
 Thus called by pilgrims. In Ancient Rome, the hill was called Mons Vaticanus or Clivus Cinnae. The medieval Romans referred to it as Mons Malus, and later Mons Marius (Monte Mario), as it is still known today.