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The coronation vestment of Czech kings

Description

The coronation cloak with a sweep and ermine as well as a belt, stole and maniple are the youngest objects of the Czech coronation jewels. For a long time, it was believed that they were made for the coronation of Charles VI in 1723. However, examination carried out in 1994 showed that the used fabric is about one hundred years older: the fabric – brocade –was made in Italy in the first third of the 17th century. The coronation vestment kept at the Prague Castle is a part of a set with a cope (cloak), gloves, and an electoral beret made from the same fabric and are now in the treasury in Vienna.

In order to answer the question as to when and for which event the set was made, we had to research the documentation about coronations of Czech kings and Roman emperors. Since we know the approximate time, it is obvious that the coronation vestment could have been made for any Hapsburg ruler since they all were crowned Czech kings and most of them shortly after also Roman kings and emperors. Imperial coronation reports show that for their imperial coronation they would be dressed as Czech kings and electors.

Based on historical sources, it seems that it was probably Ferdinand II who had it made for his Czech coronation in 1617. It says that he was dressed in a brocade cloak. This is when he probably had the set with fringes (the cope, gloves, belt and stole) made since, based on iconographic sources, Czech kings were crowned in cloaks in the shape of a cope. In 1619 at the latest, he then had the set adorned with ermine (the cloak with a sweep, electoral beret and maniple) – the cloaks of electors were traditionally decorated with ermine. When crowned the Czech king in 1723, Charles VI definitely had the cloak with a sweep and ermine, i.e. the original electoral cloak. The last ruler to wear this coronation vestment was Ferdinand V. The coronation vestment then lost its political meaning. Its historical and artistic importance, which so far has been neglected, is all the more important.

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