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Widukind of Corvey (d.c. 1004)

The Coronation Oath of Otto I (963-973)

From the chronicle Rerum Gestarum Saxonicarum ("On the Deeds of the Saxons"), the coronation of the Saxon Otto I

After the death of Henry (936), the father of his country and greatest and best of all kings, the Franks and Saxons chose as their prince his son Otto, who had already been designated king by his father. They ordered the coronation to be held at the palace in Aachen, the place of universal election . . . .

And when they had arrived, the dukes and the great lords with a force of the chief vassals gathered in the portico of the basilica of Charlemagne. They placed the new ruler on the throne that had been constructed there, giving him their hands and offering fealty; promising their help against all his enemies, they made him king according to their custom.

While this part of the ceremony was being carried out by the dukes and other magistrates, Archbishop Hildibert of Mainz awaited the procession of the new king with all the priestly order and the commoners in the basilica. The archbishop awaited the procession of the king, holding the crozier (2) in his right hand and wearing the alb, the pallium, and the chasuble . When the king came forward, he advanced to meet him, touching the king's right hand with his left. Then he led the king to the middle of the sanctuary and turned to the people standing about them (ambulatories had been constructed above and below in that round basilica so that all the people might have a good view).

"Lo," Hildibert said, "I bring before you Lord Otto elected by God, formerly designated by Henry, now made king by all the princes. If this election pleases you, signify by raising your right hand to heaven." To this all the people raising their right hands on high loudly called down prosperity on the new ruler.

The king, dressed in a close-fitting tunic according to the Frankish custom, was escorted behind the altar, on which lay the royal insignia-sword with sword-belt, cloak with bracelets, staff with sceptre and diadem ....

When the question of who should crown the king arose, two bishops besides Hildibert were considered eligible: the bishop of Trier because his city was the most ancient and had been founded by St Peter, and the bishop of Cologne because the place of coronation - Aachen - was in his diocese. But both of these men who would have enjoyed the honour deferred to the pre-eminence of Archbishop Hildibert.

Going to the altar and taking from it the sword with sword-belt and turning to the king, he said: "Accept this sword, with which you may chase out all the adversaries of Christ, barbarians, and bad Christians, by the divine authority handed down to you and by the power of all the empire of the Franks for the most lasting peace of all Christians."

Then taking the bracelets and cloak, he clothed him saying, "These points (of the cloak) falling to the ground will remind you with what zeal of faith you should burn and how you ought to endure an preserving peace to the end."

Then taking the sceptre and staff, he said: "With these symbols you may be reminded that you should reproach your subjects with paternal castigation, but first of all you should extend the hand of mercy to ministers of God, widows, and orphans. And never let the oil of compassion be absent from your head in order that you may be crowned with eternal reward in the present and in the future."

After having been sprinkled with holy oil and crowned with a golden diadem by the bishops Hildibert and Wikfried (of Cologne) and all legal consecration having been completed, the king was led to the throne, to which he ascended by means of a spiral stair case. The throne of marvellous beauty had been constructed between two marble pillars, and from there the king could see and be seen by all.


This text is part of the Internet Medieval Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history. Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

Paul Halsall, February 2023
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