Photo credit: Bratislava Convention Bureau

When visiting Bratislava, make sure to stop off at the St. Martin’s Cathedral, which in 1563 became the coronation church of the sovereigns of the Kingdom of Hungary when on the 8th of September the crown was placed on the head of the Maximilian II, son of Emperor Ferdinand I of Habsburg. Between then and 1830 the coronations of 11 kings and 7 queens plus 8 of their consorts all took place in the cathedral, with an intricately inscribed list of the names and coronation dates of the monarchs painted on the north wall of the choir area, beginning with Maximilian and ending with Ferdinand V.

It was in June 1741 that Maria Theresa was a 24-year-old empress and also a new mother determined to cut a regal figure and establish her authority in front of a cadre of disgruntled Hungarian nobles unhappy about, among other things, crowning a woman as a “King”. She was the only woman to have ever become queen and rule, not as the wife of a king who had solemnly accepted the title of Queen of Hungary. According to historical accounts, Maria Theresa won over the crowds with her Hungarian-style garb, and then flawlessly pulled off one of the most flamboyant coronation rituals. Laden with heavy crown and mantle, she mounted a black horse and rode through the city, later charging up a symbolic mound of earth and brandishing her sword towards the four compass points to swear her eternal protection of Hungary.

The city recalls this spectacular event even today in the form of a Coronation Ceremony held in June when the Royals return to the streets of Bratislava. Visitors get directly involved in the ceremony as there are a number of accompanying events, such as jousting tournaments featuring knights in armour, theatre events and music performances, lectures and many other things going on. Wandering the streets of Bratislava one might notice the crowns embedded in the pavement that represent the coronation route, since a part of it is still marked today.