Carantania - the early Slovenian state

A model for democratic form of government

Tu pride flash
The ancestors of the present day Slovenes had their own well established state named Carantania. Early and unmistakable evidence of the people occupying the territory of what became recognized as Slovenian Carantania dates to the year 611 AD in the records of the historian Paolus Diaconus. It is from this time that we also have records of the unique ceremony centred on the Duke's Stone, Ducal Throne and the investiture of the Duke of Carantania. It took place on the Field of Gospa Sveta (Maria Saal) near Krn castle in Carinthia (Koroška/Kaernten) which is now part of Austria.

  The ceremony was regarded as so extraordinary that it became a model for political theorists, who were looking for alternative forms of government. In the sixteenth century the French political theorist Jean Bodin examined the investiture ceremony in detail in his Les six livres de la Republique (1576). Thomas Jefferson used this work when he wrote the American Declaration of Independence.
After the death of the ruling duke, council of noblemen and kosezi (members of lower landed nobility or freeholders) elected a new duke and in the presence of the people, granted him authority. This took place with a festive inauguration on the Duke's Stone, which stood in the courtyard of the Krn Castle. After the ceremony the duke and his escort crossed the field to the cathedral of Gospa Sveta (Maria Saal). Following the church ceremony and the blessing of the duke by the bishop, the company proceeded to the Ducal Throne - a two-seat stone throne standing not far from the church. The eastern seat was occupied by the duke who performed his first duties as the leader of his people. He pronounced judgements,  rendered justice, bestowed fiefs and privileges associated with the lands and properties. The western seat was occupied by the Count Palatine, the king's representative. His duty was supplementary; he resolved problems that were not concluded by the duke.

The investiture ceremony continued to be conducted in Slovenian language long after Carantania was incorporated into the Habsburg empire. The ceremony of the Duke's Stone was last performed in 1414. After that it was conducted at the Ducal Throne till year 1615, still in Slovenian language. From then on it was continued till 1728 in the State House in Celovec (Klagenfurt), when the so-called institutio Sclavenica was incorporated into the Austrian Constitution.

The Duke's Stone is now kept in the State Museum of Carinthia in Austria. The Ducal Throne remains in its original place, on the Field of Gospa Sveta.
The enthronement of Carantanian dukes was a sovereign act on the level of the nation and has no comparison. It is regarded by many as a milestone in development of Western democracy.

Historical records
Paolus Diaconus refers to the state of Carantania as 'provincia Sclaborum' (Sclabones was the name Romans gave to Slavs, the consonantal grouping sl being unknown in Latin). Another reference made in the same year had to do with the mission of St. Columban, who dreamt that the lands occupied by 'Veneti, also called Slavs' are not yet ready for the Christian faith. There are several more references of similar kind, including the rebellion by Sclavos (Sloveni) also called Vinedos (Veneti) against Avars. This is the time when the kingdom with the elected King Samo was founded, uniting the lands of present-day Slovenes, Austrians, Czechs and Slovaks.

The name Carantania was mentioned in the historical records around 670, but the name is much more ancient, as evidenced by present-day regions of Kranjska and Koroška (deriving from Gorotan or Korotan - mountain region).

The earliest known historical source recording the ceremony is the Conversio Bagoariorum et Carantanorum written circa 870. It describes with great precision the ongoing right of the Carantanians to elect their ruler. We read in this document that after the death of Duke Borut, the Carantanians asked for his son Gorazd (being held in Bavaria) who was then returned by the order of the Frankish king and made duke in 751. His cousin Hotimir was received in a similar manner in 752. Carantanians preserved the right to reject dukes proposed by the emperor, and did this at least three times in the 11th century.The investiture of the Duke's Stone became well known in Europe at the time and was recorded in several historical sources in Latin and German languages.

Investiture ceremony

The installation of the duke took place on a hill named Krnski grad (Karnburg), a few miles north of Celovec (Klagenfurt). There, not far from the church of St. Peter, in a meadow, is the Prince's Stone. The ceremony unfolds as follows:

The new duke arrives on the hill surrounded by nobles and knights and the Carantanian banner. With one hand he leads a black and white bull and with the other a horse of the same colours. He puts aside his precious vestments, the people dress him in a grey coat, and gird him with a red belt from which hangs a red hunting bag such as is suitable for the Master of the Hunts. He is given a hunting horn bound with red straps and they also put shoes wrapped with red thongs on his feet. He is then draped in a grey cloak and a grey Slovenian hat with a grey cord is placed on his head. A free peasant is sitting on the Prince's Stone. This office belongs to him by right of succession, hereditary in his family. The duke carries in his hand a staff and comes forward. Alongside him walk the Count Palatine (the king's representative) and other nobles.

The peasant sitting on the Prince's Stone asks in the Slovenian language: "Who is he, that approaches?"
All the assembled answer: "He is the prince of the land." After this, he asks:"Is he an upright judge, is he seeking the well-being of the country, is he freeborn and deserving? Is he defender of the Christian faith?" All answer: "He is and will be." The peasant then asks:"By what right can he displace me from this seat?"
The people reply: "He will present you sixty denarii and give you the two animals and the peasant clothes that he is decked with, and he will make your house free and without tribute."

Whereupon the peasant, after giving the duke a gentle stroke on his cheek, offers him the seat. The new duke now steps on the Prince's Stone and, drawing his sword, turns in all directions in order to show that he will be a righteous judge to all.

The duke then takes a drink of cold water from the peasant hat so that the people, seeing this, will not crave for wine but will be content with what the native soil produces to sustain life. Finally they lift him onto the horse and conduct him around the Stone three times to indicate that he has now taken possession of the Land. At the same time all sing a hymn in Slovenian, praising God for having been given a new ruler in accordance with his will. (This last detail became part of the ceremony only after the introduction of Christianity)

After the ceremony of the Prince's Stone, the duke and the escort descend the hill of Krnski grad and cross the field to the cathedral of Gospa Sveta; there the bishop or another outstanding prelate celebrates the lithurgy and blesses the duke.


Šavli, Jožko, Bor, Matej, and Tomažič, Ivan, Veneti-First Builders of European Community, Editiones Veneti, Vienna, Boswell, British Columbia, 1996