From My Life: Poetry and Truth - Book 5, pages 235-240


had a perfect view of everything. As early as possible we went to the location and position assigned and now saw from a bird's perspective the preparations we had seen much closer days before. There was the newly constructed fountain with two large vats to the right and left in which the double eagle on the post was supposed to gush white wine from the upper beak and red wine from the lower beak. Over there in a pile lay the oats, here stood a large boarded hut in which people had been roasting and stewing a whole fatted ox for several days on an incredibly large spit over a coal fire. All passages leading out from the Römer to the street had been secured on both sides by barriers and sentries. The large plaza was filled to capacity and the surge and press of the crowd grew stronger and more active as they shifted whenever possible to whatever location there appeared a new entrant or something specific was announced.

A suitable stillness prevailed over all, and when the storm bell sounded the entire folk seemed gripped by fear and awe. What aroused the attention of all, who can see the plaza from above, was the procession in which the lords of Aachen and Nuremberg brought the imperial jewels to the cathedral. These men took the first places in the wagon as holy protectors and the deputies sat before them on the back seat in fitting reverence. Now the three electors enter the cathedral. After delivering the royal insignias to the Elector of Mainz, the crown and sword were brought into the imperial quarter. Further customs and ceremonies occupied


the main personages as well as the spectators in the church, while we, being among the informed, might well imagine.

Before our eyes the ambassadors are conducted to the Römer, from which the canopy is carried by underofficers into the king's quarter. The hereditary marshall, Count von Pappenheim, mounts his horse. He is a very handsome, leanly built man dressed in Spanish attire, with a rich jacket, golden cloak, high feathered hat, and radiant, flowing hair. He set himself in motion and amid the ringing of all the bells the ambassadors followed him on horse to the emperor's quarter in even greater splendor than on election day. Even being there, you wanted to be in several places at the same time. We told each other what would happen. The king is now dressing, we said, in new clothing in the Carolingian style. The hereditary officers take the imperial flags and mount their horses. The king in his robes, the Roman emperor in his Spanish raiments mount their steads and just as this happens the advance marchers of the endless parade have made the announcement.

The eyes were already weary from watching the multitude of richly dressed servants, the other retainers and the various visiting nobles wandering about. Now there came the election messengers, the hereditary officers and finally the richly stitched canopy carried by twelve sheriffs and councilmen under which moved the king in romantic dress and to the left and slightly behind him was his son in Spanish costume moving slowly on a splendidly decorated horse. The eyes couldn't take it all in. One would have wished he had a magic formula so he could completely capture the moment.*


However the splendor passed by without stopping and the weaving crowd immediately filled up the vacant space.

But then a new crowd emerged as another entrance from the market to the Römer doors opened. It was bridged by a plank walkway which the procession leaving the cathedral had to cross.

What would have happened in the cathedral, preceeding and accompanying the anointing, the coronation and the bestowal of knighthoods we would have to wait to hear about from those who sacrificed much in order to be present in the church.

In the interim we ate a frugal meal in our places, for we had to make do with cold meat while living through these days of celebration. However the best and oldest wine was brought out of all family cellars so for our part we were at least able to celebrate the ancient festival in the ancient manner.

The most sight-worthy of spectacles from the plaza was the bridge overlaid with orange and white cloth. We had seen the emperor first in a wagon, then on a horse, and now we could gaze in awe at him as he walked. Strangely enough, this last action pleased us the most because we considered this manner of representing himself the most natural and also the most worthy.

Older people, who attended the coronation of Francis I told the story: Maria Theresia, beautiful beyond measure, witnessed every festivity from a balcony window of the Frauenstein House, which was quite near the Römer.


When her husband exited the cathedral in his unusual clothing looking to her like a ghost of Charlemagne, in jest he raised both hands and showed her the imperial orb and scepter in his awesome gloves, she broke off in endless peals of laughter. This served to bring joy and edification to the entire crowd for they got to see the good and natural conubial relationship of the first couple of Christendom. As the empress waved her handkerchief to greet her husband, he cried out his own "Long live!", which raised the enthusiasm and jubilation of the crowd to its peak, then there was no end to the cries of joy.

Now the ringing of the bells and the appearance of the foremost members in the long procession, who crossed over the colorful bridge quite slowly, announced that everything was completed. Our attention was greater than ever, the procession had more import than before, especially for us, since it would now pass right by us. We saw it along with the throng, which filled to plaza, in outline. Now at the end the splendor swelled in extreme as the ambassadors, the hereditary officers, the king and emperor under the canopy, the three clerical electors in attendance, the black robed sheriffs and councilmen, the gold stitched heaven, everything seemed to be but one mass moving as if by one will, harmonic and uniform amid the ringing of the bells from the temple as if one saintly apparition shined down on us.

A political and religious ceremony has endless charm. We see the worldly majesty before our eyes surrounded by all the symbols of its power;


however at the same time we bow down before the heavenly, and this brings to our senses the unity between the two spheres. Indeed, the individual may only activate his affinity with the divine when he subjugates himself and worships.

The sounds of rejoicing from the market place spread over the large plaza and the tumultuous cries of "long live the emperor" echoed from thousands upon thousands of voices, most certainly delivered from their hearts. This great celebration was supposed to mark the establishment of a lasting peace, which in fact blessed Germany for a long number of years.

Many days previously it was announced by public decree that neither the bridge nor the eagle were to be exhibited and the people were not to go near them. This was done to prevent catastrophe which would result from an onslaught of rushing people. However in deference to the genius of the crowd, certain appointed individuals went behind the procession, loosened the cloth from the bridge, waved it like a flag and threw it into the air. There was no catastrophe but a laughable mishap when the cloth unrolled itself in the air, fell and covered a significant number of individuals. Those, who grabbed the ends and pulled them, forced the people in the middle to the ground. These people in the middle were covered and anxiously pinned down until they could rip or cut their way through until each had a piece of the sacred cloth which had been sanctified by the footprints of His Majesty.

I did not watch this wild scene of revelry for long but rather rushed from my lofty stand down the steps and passages to the large Römer staircase, where the prominent and noble masses, seen earlier from a distance,


where supposed to ascend. The press of the crowd was not substantial here because the entrances to the council house were well guarded and I arrived immediately above the iron landing. The main personages ascended above me while the retinue remained behind in the lower archways. I could observe them from all sides on the three-tiered stairway and finally get quite close.

Finally both their majesties ascended. Father and son were dressed like Menachmen.* The emperor's house robes of purple silk richly studded with pearls and gemstones along with the crown, scepter and orb struck the eye. Everything was new but it tastefully imitated the ancient styles.* He seemed to move quite easily in his garments. His true-hearted and worthy facial features let one know right away that he was both emperor and father. The young king, on the other hand, schlepped about in the horrendous raiments with Charlemagne's jewels as though it were a theater costume and from time to time as he looked up at his father he could not hold back his smile. The crown, which had to be heavily padded, stood out like an overhanging deck on his head. The dalmatica and stole, even refitted and sewn, certainly did not present a favorable impression. The scepter and orb took one by surprise. One could not deny he would rather see a more powerful, adult figure dressed and adorned by these robes for the sake of a more favorable aspect.

Scarcely had the doors to the large room closed behind these figures when I hastened to take up my former place, which had been taken by others. With a little effort I was able to partially regain my spot.


Go to pages 241-246


Text provided by the Lockwood Library, State University of New York at Buffalo.
Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks