History and development
The coronation ceremonies in medieval Christendom, both Western and Eastern, are influenced by the practice of the Roman Emperors as it developed during Late Antiquity, indirectly influenced by Biblical accounts of kings being crowned and anointed. The European coronation ceremonies, perhaps best known in the form they have taken in Great Britain (the most recent of which occurred in 1953), descend from rites initially created in Byzantium, Visigothic Spain, Carolingian France and the Holy Roman Empire and brought to their apogee during the Medieval era.
In non-Christian states, coronation rites evolved from a variety of sources, often related to the religious beliefs of that particular nation. Buddhism, for instance, influenced the coronation rituals of Thailand, Cambodia and Bhutan, while Hindu elements played a significant role in Nepalese rites. The ceremonies used in modern Egypt, Malaysia, Brunei and Iran were shaped by Islam, while Tonga's ritual combines ancient Polynesian influences with more modern Anglican ones.
An ancient coronation from India
Coronations, in one form or another, have existed since ancient times. Egyptian records show coronation scenes, such as that of Seti I in 1290 BC. Judeo-Christian scriptures testify to particular rites associated with the conferring of kingship, the most detailed accounts of which are found in II Kings 11:12 and II Chronicles 23:11.
The corona radiata, the "radiant crown" known best on the Statue of Liberty, and perhaps worn by the Helios that was the Colossus of Rhodes, was worn by Roman emperors as part of the cult of Sol Invictus, part of the imperial cult as it developed during the 3rd century. The origin of the crown is thus religious, comparable to the significance of a halo, marking the sacral nature of kingship, expressing that either the king is himself divine, or ruling by divine right.
The precursor to the crown was the browband called the diadem, which had been worn by the Achaemenid rulers, was adopted by Constantine I, and was worn by all subsequent rulers of the later Roman Empire. Following the assumption of the diadem by Constantine, Roman and Byzantine emperors continued to wear it as the supreme symbol of their authority. Although no specific coronation ceremony was observed at first, one gradually evolved over the following century. The emperor Julian was hoisted upon a shield and crowned with a gold necklace provided by one of his standard-bearers; he later wore a jewel-studded diadem. Later emperors were crowned and acclaimed in a similar manner, until the momentous decision was taken to permit the Patriarch of Constantinople to physically place the crown on the emperor's head. Historians debate when exactly this first took place, but the precedent was clearly established by the reign of Leo II, who was crowned by the Patriarch Acacius in 473. This ritual included recitation of prayers by the Byzantine prelate over the crown, a further—and extremely vital—development in the liturgical ordo of crowning. After this event, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "the ecclesiastical element in the coronation ceremonial rapidly develop[ed]".
In some European Celtic or Germanic countriesshield and, while standing upon it, was borne on the shoulders of several chief men of the nation (or tribe) in a procession around his assembled subjects. This was usually performed three times. Following this, the king was given a spear, and a diadem wrought of silk or linen (not to be confused with a crown) was bound around his forehead as a token of regal authority.
prior to the adoption of Christianity, the ruler upon his election was raised on a
According to Adomnan of Iona, the King of Dal Riata Áedán mac Gabráin came to the monastery at Iona in 574 to be crowned as King by St Columba. In 610, Heraclius arranged a ceremony in Constantinople where he was crowned and acclaimed emperor. In Spain, the Visigothic king Sisenand was crowned in 631, and in 672, Wamba was the first occidental king to be anointed as well, by the archbishop of Toledo. In England, the Anglo-Saxon king Eardwulf of Northumbria was "consecrated and enthroned" in 796, and Æthelstan was crowned and anointed in 925. These practices were nevertheless irregularly used or occurred some considerable time after the rulers had become kings, until their regular adoption by the Carolingian dynasty in France. To legitimate his deposition of the last of the Merovingian kings, Pepin the Short was twice crowned and anointed, at the beginning of his reign in 752, and for the first time by a pope in 754 in Saint-Denis. The anointing served as a reminder of the baptism of Clovis I in Reims in 496, where the ceremony was finally transferred in 816. His son Charlemagne, who was crowned emperor in Rome in 800, passed as well the ceremony to the Holy Roman Empire, and this tradition acquired a newly constitutive function in England too, with the kings Harold Godwinson and William the Conqueror immediately crowned in Westminster Abbey in 1066.
The European coronation ceremonies of the Middle Ages were essentially a combination of the Christian rite of anointing with additional elements. Following Europe's conversion to Christianity, crowning ceremonies became more and more ornate, depending on the country in question, and their Christian elements—especially anointing—became the paramount concern. Crowns and sceptres, used in coronations since ancient times, took on a Christian significance together with the orb as symbols of the purported divine order of things, with the monarch as the divinely ordained overlord and protector of his dominion. During the Middle Ages, this rite was considered so vital in some European kingdoms that it was sometimes referred to as an "eighth sacrament". The anointed ruler was viewed as a mixta persona, part priest and part layman, but never wholly either. This notion persisted into the twentieth century in Imperial Russia, where the Tsar was considered to be "wedded" to his subjects through the Orthodox coronation service. Coronation stones marked the site of some medieval ceremonies, though some alleged stones are later inventions.
Crowning ceremonies arose from a worldview in which monarchs were seen as ordained by God[N 1] to serve not merely as political or military leaders, nor as figureheads, but rather to occupy a vital spiritual place in their dominions as well. Coronations were created to reflect and enable these alleged connections; however, the belief systems that gave birth to them have been radically altered in recent centuries by secularism, egalitarianism and the rise of constitutionalism and democracy. During the Protestant Reformation, the idea of divinely ordained monarchs began to be challenged.
The Age of Enlightenment and various revolutions of the last three centuries all helped to further this trend. Hence, many monarchies—especially in Europe—have dispensed with coronations altogether, or transformed them into simpler inauguration or benediction rites. Majority of contemporary European monarchies today have either long abandoned coronations ceremonies (e.g. Spain, last practiced in 1494) or have never practiced coronations (e.g. Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg). Of all European monarchies today, only the United Kingdom still retains its coronation rite. Other nations still crowning their rulers include Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Thailand, and Tonga, as well as several subnational entities such as the Toro Kingdom. The Papacy retains the option of a coronation, but no pope has used it since 1963 after Pope John Paul I opted for an Inauguration in 1978.
A Canonical Coronation (Latin: Coronatam Canonicus) is a pious institutional act of the Pope, on behalf of a devotion. This tradition still stands in 2015, in 2014 Pope Francis crowned Our Lady of Immaculate Conception of Juquila. Since 1989, the act has been carried out through the authorised decree by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.