Legend has it that the crown at the top of the St Martin’s Cathedral tower is so large that even a horse with a carriage can run on it or that one edge of the pillow on which the crown is placed is as long as a table where twelve men could lie down and stretch. Neither of these legends are true. Nevertheless, the crown still conceals several secrets.
The crown is modelled after St Stephen’s crown and is the most prominent symbol of the coronation temple. Bratislava, then Pressburg or Pozsony, became a coronation town after the Ottoman troops defeated the Hungarian army at Mohacs in 1526 and pushed deeper into the territory of the Hungarian Kingdom, where they conquered the original coronation town of Székesfehérvár.
St Martin’s Dome held a total of 18 coronations from 1563 to 1830. 11 monarchs, including Maria Theresa in 1741, were crowned there along with seven royal spouses.
“The name of the crown after St Stephen is somewhat misleading because it has long been known that the first king of Hungary, St Stefan, certainly was not crowned with this crown,” said Patrik Baxa during a lecture on the crown from the cathedral tower, organized by the Bratislava Beautification Society. Baxa studies at the Faculty of Architecture of Slovak Technical University in Bratislava and is deeply interested in the history of the coronation temple. “The crown we know under this name today was composed from older jewels more than two hundred years later. It consists of two parts, the lower Greek and the upper Latin.”
Cross or crown
Many people are wondering how it is possible that the top of the church’s tower is decorated by a crown and not a cross, as is usually the case. Baxa indicates that this is nothing unusual.
“At the time of the Kingdom of Hungary, the presentation of the crown was a binding symbol and was placed on all public buildings built by the will of the emperor or served for a state purpose,” said Baxa. The crown was also found on other sacral buildings.
The first crown
The current crown is already the second one decorating the top of St Martin’s Dome. The first one was ceremonially installed on October 15, 1765, in honour of Empress Maria Theresa, who celebrated her name day on that date. In that time the crown replaced the former typical Latin cross.
The crown’s installation was part of the Baroque-Classicist rebuilding of the Dome’s tower after lightning struck the original little representative Gothic tower in May 1760.