On January 28th, 814, Charles the Great died.
One-hundred and eighty-six years later, a small party of men quietly worked at prying a marble lid from its foundation in the palace of Aix-La-Chapelle. As the corner seal broke free, a long swoosh of air sucked into the hollow space beneath their feet and quickly rushed back out. The workmen turned their heads and held their breath. After a few seconds they slowly exhaled and glanced furtively at each other’s faces. One of them sniffed.
The air was a little musty, but overall it was fresh.
The Holy Roman Emperor stood watching off to the side. In his hand was a scroll with a broken wax seal bearing the crossed keys of Peter. Otto III slowly moved forward as the laborers groaned and slid the top across the floor. With an intense expression marring his young face, he bent over the opening and peered down into the darkness.
“Give me light here!”
When candelabrum were lowered into the crypt, the sparkle of gold caught Otto’s eye.
Charlemagne sat in his throne the same as the day he was buried. Except for a twist of his neck which caused his head to tilt unnaturally to the side, the body was remarkably incorrupt. Atop his head was the crown.
For a moment, Otto’s youthful impetuosity almost took over.
That’s rightfully mine.
An open bible lay across Charlemagne’s lap and his finger was resting on a specific verse, Mathew 16:26. “For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?”
Otto caught his breath.
“If the Pope wants István to have it, so be it,” he said and walked out.
Since then, fifty Hungarian rulers have been found to wear this “living” crown.