Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS Borg. lat. 420

Coronation Book of Charles V Facsimile Edition

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The Coronation Book of Charles V commemorates the crowning of Charles as King of Lombardy by Pope Clement VII in the Bologna Palazzo Comunale. The same pope would crown Charles as Holy Roman Emperor two days later. The manuscript, a unique combination of liturgical and historical book, was created in Rome for the pope, presumably in 1530, shortly after the ceremony. It boasts a miniature depicting the ceremony, four painted borders, and twenty-five decorated letters.

The decorative ensemble at the bestowal of the ceremonial ring is a fine example of trompe-l'oeil ("fool the eye") painting (fols. 3v-4r). The end of the rubric and the opening words of the prayer are written on what appear to be irregularly shaped pieces of parchment curling away from the pages.

The Coronation Visualized

A miniature of the coronation ceremony takes the place where a historiated initial A should have appeared (fol. 4r). The bearded Clement is enthroned and wearing the papal tiara as he leans over to place a crown on Charles's head. Four cardinals and at least eight bishops are in attendance. Charles, in a golden mantel, kneels on a cushion. The walls of the chapel are lined with sumptuously embroidered textiles.

A Renowned Florentine Family

In celebration of the pope's illustrious family, the papal arms—the six Medici balls surmounted by the papal tiara and Saint Peter's keys—appear in the lower border of three pages (fols. 1r, 3v, and 4r). Furthermore, one of the noblemen pictured in the foreground of the miniature is Alessandro de' Medici (1510-1537), who would become Duke of the Florentine Republic in 1532.

The Iron Crown of Lombardy

The so-called Iron Crown of Lombardy was brought from Monza to Bologna for the coronation, but the manuscript's artist probably never saw it. The gold circlet with points pictured in the miniature was copied from Raphael's representation of the Iron Crown in a fresco of the Coronation of Charlemagne in the papal apartments at the Vatican—probably the painter's only reference for the crown's appearance.

Hybrid Book

The Coronation Book is an ordo—a Christian liturgical book prescribing texts and actions for a ceremony—and a history book. It looks like a liturgical book, but all the verbs are in the past tense, turning the liturgical prescriptions into a chronicle of a past event.

The text is written in Gothic Rotunda, the stately script customarily used for papal liturgical books at the time. Each prayer and rubric opens with a painted initial, most composed of classicizing foliate motifs on gold grounds.

A Pastiche Book

The text on the manuscript's first page was written on the blank verso of a sheet of parchment bearing text for another book (fol. 1r). The border of the same page is on a separate piece of parchment. These two pieces have been pasted into the Coronation Book to confect a title page.

The last leaf of the manuscript was created by pasting together two layers of parchment inscribed for another purpose. The book was presumably made for Pope Clement VII (1478-1534), but whether at his request has yet to be discovered.

We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Coronation Book of Charles V": Krönungszeremoniale Kaiser Karls V facsimile edition, published by Belser Verlag, 1989

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Manuscript book description compiled by Elizabeth C. Teviotdale.
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Krönungszeremoniale Kaiser Karls V

Zurich: Belser Verlag, 1989

  • Commentary (German) by Schimmelpfennig, Bernhard; Morello, Giovanni
  • Limited Edition: 1980 copies
  • Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document, Coronation Book of Charles V: the facsimile attempts to replicate the look-and-feel and physical features of the original document; pages are trimmed according to the original format; the binding might not be consistent with the current document binding.

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