Coronation of Otto the Great

#OnthisDay, August 7th, 936 Otto I (later called the Great) was crowned King of East Francia (~Germany). Otto’s coronation was the diametrical opposite of his father Henry the Fowler’s low-key event in Fritzlar 17 years earlier. Firstly, the coronation took place in Aachen the capital of Charlemagne and spiritual centre of the mighty though largely defunct Carolingian empire. The palace in Aachen was the largest structures north of the Alps. Its Palatine chapel, which I strongly suggest you visit is an octagonal two-story building modelled on imperial churches in Constantinople. Inside Charlemagne had erected ancient Roman columns brought up from Rome and Ravenna. That is a vastly different backdrop to a coronation compared to the more workaday royal castle in Fritzlar.Outside the church in the palace courtyard, Otto is being hailed king by all the assembled magnates of his realm, all the five dukes, the leading bishops and a throng of counts, abbots and other potentates.Then Otto enters the cathedral led by the archbishop of Mainz the common people get a chance to acclaim him as well. During the mass, the archbishop of Cologne then invests him with the insignia of his office, the sword, the mantle and the orb. More bishops come and anoint and consecrate the new king. The crown is laid on his head under recitation of prayers and singing. And, in the climax of the ceremony, Otto wearing all the insignia of his rank, climbs the steps of the throne of Charlemagne and sits down. That does not look like the inauguration of a first amongst equals. This is the coronation of an absolute monarch who intends to rule like Charlemagne with an iron fist. It shouts out loud – no more friendship agreements, no more negotiations – I am the ruler. Since Otto wants to rule like Charlemagne, he needs three things, overwhelming military might, political experience and luck in battle. There were two things we know Otto sadly lacked, which were overwhelming military might and political experience. We will see about the luck in battle….

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