The coronation of Emperor Charles V

The date was 23rd October 1520 in Aachen Cathedral

Charles V was crowned emperor at the age of twenty in the capital of Aachen on 23rd October 1520. An event with many clues and a few curious tales to tell.

The place was Aachen, the old court city of Charlemagne -in fact, his remains were buried there- whose cathedral awaited the future Emperor Charles V, the symbolic throne of the Empire’s founder. This is all the more remarkable because every new emperor had been consecrated in that city for 700 years.

The curious thing is that the date was originally set at 29 September 1520, even in good weather, for the people to acclaim their new emperor. However, a plague epidemic had spread through Germany and there was a danger that it would eventually reach Aachen. For this reason the date of the coronation was finally postponed to 23rd October 1520, because the future emperor wanted to be crowned as such in Aachen.

According to the chronicles, the day before the coronation there was a parade in which the Margrave of Brandenburg met with his entourage; this was followed by high-ranking figures of the Empire followed by about 3,000 infants in their three sections of harquebusiers, halberdiers and pikemen; the German and Spanish princes; and finally the future emperor. After him, the cardinals of Salzburg, Sion and Toledo; and, closing the march, the royal guard.

On the day of the coronation, a four-part ceremony was held, which concluded with the consecration of Charles with the holy oil in his hands, chest and head by the archbishops of Cologne and Trier, while a choir accompanied the moment with their voices.

Such was the ceremony that an exceptional spectator like Albrecht Dürer would remember it years later: “I, who attended the whole show, saw things as superb, precious and exquisite as none of the living have ever seen”.


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