The Lion throne is a very common symbol of authority. It occurs from the very west point of Europe to Indo-China and perhaps also in Indonesia. From China, no lion thrones are known for the time being.

The lion throne probably comes from the Egyptian cultural area because the oldest example is known from Egypt. Generally, examples of lion thrones are rather modern, and some very clear examples from the European Middle Ages are known. In the Dutch East Indies lionthrones occur mainly in the past three centuries and from Burma a lion throne is known from the beginning of the 19th century, probably made after older examples.

Meanwhile, there is nowhere made clear what a lion throne exactly means apart from a passage in the Bible about the Throne of Salomon. Even there however there is no explanation about its exact symbolisim but for the fact that it is the seat of the ruler.  Interpreted as a military symbol, the lions can have a protective function and are thus meant to be guardians of the monarch who is seated on the throne. On the other hand, it is also possible that the lions should symbolize the rank of the seated sovereign. In a heraldic scheme the configuration of monarch and lions should mean: ruler by the grace of the guardians, which for example in the case of the throne of Chefren, should be the warriors directly subordinate to the monarch.

In terms of shape, the lions can be incorporated in the armrests so that the hands can rest on the lion heads. The legs of the seat are then made in the form of lion claws. Another possibility is that the lions do not form an integral part of the seat itself but are set up alongside within an architectural framework of which other symbol animals can also form part.

Lion thrones are the most common princely seats. For example, I do not think Eagle thrones do really exist. Dragon thrones, on the other hand, are there, both of the Chinese model on which the four-legged dragons are placed on the back, and of the European model that can not be distinguished from the lion throne. Cases of a griffin throne do not occur at all, to my knowledge.


The oldest lion throne known is that of Chefren (ca.2603-ca.2578., IVe Dyn.)

Schweitzer H. III. Throne :. The lion throne comes from the 4th dynasty (2613-2498) and replaces the bull throne.


Khafre (Chepren)  ca.2603-ca.2578


King Chefren.

Diorite. H.: 1,68 cm.

Museum Kairo


This image, which represents the pharaoh, is found together with eight other, more or less complete, statues of the king in the "source shaft" of the valley temple. Only in this image is the king-god Horos in the shape of a falcon is placed behind his head. Standing on the back of the throne, Horos gives his power to the king. The sides of the seat of the throne represent lions; in the plane of the arm rests the symbol of the union of both countries, consisting of the figurative sign "sema", (uniting), around which the plants are wounded from the arms of Lower and Upper Egypt: the papyrus and the water rose or lotos (Nymphæa). On the front of the footplate, right and left, is the name of the pharao. The right hand of the king, clenched to a fist, holds a folded cloth with hanging slips of unequal length. A round cavity of unknown purpose is between the heels. The hood closes closely around the head; above the middle of the forehead is the erected front part of the divine serpent which indicates the royal power and threatens the enemies of the "great god" with destruction.



Fig. 1. White limestone statue of the Elamite goddess Narunte, dedicated by Puzur-Inshushinak, governor of Susa (later, ruler of Elam) about 2250 B.C. Height, 84+25 cm. In the Musée du Louvre



Solomon 970-931


1 Kings 10:18-28 New International Version (NIV)

18 Then the king made a great throne covered with ivory and overlaid with fine gold. 19 The throne had six steps, and its back had a rounded top. On both sides of the seat were armrests, with a lion standing beside each of them. 20 Twelve lions stood on the six steps, one at either end of each step. Nothing like it had ever been made for any other kingdom. 21 All King Solomon’s goblets were gold, and all the household articles in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon were pure gold. Nothing was made of silver, because silver was considered of little value in Solomon’s days.22 The king had a fleet of trading ships [a] at sea along with the ships of Hiram. Once every three years it returned, carrying gold, silver and ivory, and apes and baboons.

23 King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. 24 The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart. 25 Year after year, everyone who came brought a gift—articles of silver and gold, robes, weapons and spices, and horses and mules.

26 Solomon accumulated chariots and horses; he had fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horses,[b] which he kept in the chariot cities and also with him in Jerusalem. 27 The king made silver as commonin Jerusalem as stones, and cedar as plentiful as sycamore-fig trees in the foothills. 28 Solomon’s horses were imported from Egypt and from Kue [c]—the royal merchants purchased them from Kue at the current price.


2 Chronicles 9:17-19 New International Version (NIV)

17 Then the king made a great throne covered with ivory and overlaid with pure gold. 18 The throne had six steps, and a footstool of gold was attached to it. On both sides of the seat were armrests, with a lion standing beside each of them. 19 Twelve lions stood on the six steps, one at either end of each step. Nothing like it had ever been made for any other kingdom.


Marble Roman Throne from a Mithras  Sanctuary, 2nd century AD

San Clemente Basilica, Rome

(Sonne, p. 69)


The Lion thrones in Western Europa are directly derived from the Lion thrones as of the late roman consuls as represented on their diptychs.

(Aerobindus Consul, 506, Anastasius Consul 517).


Diptych of Areobindus, Consul, 506

Coll. Musée de Cluny, Paris


Anastasius Consul of  Rome 517


Ivory diptych of Anastasius. 517


The Consul seated on a lion throne (sedes curulis) . In his left hand an eagle’s sceptre crested with three busts. In his right hand a mappa circensis or an akakia (a pouch filled with soil). In the upper register the portraits of Empreror Anastasiu and Empress Ariadne and his successor Justin I . The text on the left part reads: FL ANASTASIVS PAVL PROVS SAVINIANVS POMP ANAS (= Flavius Anastasius Paulus Probus Sabinianus Pompeius Anastasius). The text on the right part reads VIR INLUSTRIS COMES DOMESTICORUM EQUITUM ET CONSUL ORDINARIUS. [1]

In the lower register there are two men keeping a horse on the reign and having a labarum in their hands, charged with square crosses


The diptych formerly was in Liege bust disappeared during the revolution. One part was in the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1837 the other part in Berlin. That part disappeared in WWII


In the Roman Republic, and later the empire, the curule chair (Latin, sella curulis, supposedly from currus, "chariot") was the chair upon which senior magistrates or promagistrates owning imperium were entitled to sit including dictators, masters of the horse, consuls, praetors, censors, and the curule aediles. Additionally, the Flamen of Iuppiter (Flamen Dialis) was also allowed to sit on a sella curulis, though this position lacked imperium. In the latter Republic, Caesar the Dictator was entitled to sit upon a curule chair made of gold.

The curule chair was traditionally made of ivory; with curved legs forming a wide X; it had no back, and low arms. The chair could be folded, and thus made easily transportable for magisterial and promagesterial commanders in the field.

According to Livy the curule chair originated in Etruria.

The form has since found its way into decorations of later periods, especially in the neoclassicism of the early 19th century.

The curule chair is used on medals to express a curule magistracy; when traversed by a hasta (spear), it is the symbol of Juno, and serves to express the conservation of princesses.


Constantine VII Porphyrogenetos  913-959


A description of the throne room of Constantine VII Porphyrogenetos comes from Liutprand of Cremona who visited the city in the tenth century as an envoy from the Italian King Berengar of Friuli (888-924, Emperor 915-924):


“Before the emperor’s throne stood a tree; it was made of bronze and gilded all over. There were birds of different kinds in its branches, and they also were made of gilded bronze; each sang its own kind of song, and together they formed a chorus. The emperor’s throne was made with such skill that at one time it was level with the ground, and at another it was raised high up. It was guarded by what seemed enormous lions; it was not possible to say if they were of bronze or wood, but they were gilded all over. These opened their mouths and roared, moving their tongues and beating the ground with their tails. Here I was brought into the emperor’s presence, leaning on the shoulders of two eunuchs. The lions roared when I appeared, and the birds sang according to their kind... Three times I lay prone at full length on the ground in the act of homage, and then I raised my head. Behold, the emperor, whom I had just seen before seated at ground level, now appeared to me dressed in different robes and raised almost to the ceiling of the palace. How it was done I could not imagine...”



996 Otto III seated on a lion throne between prelates and warriors. He is dressed in a purple tunica and a green mantle. ON his head a crwn with three attachments, in his right hand an eagl’s sceptre and in his left hand an orb with a square cross. The warriors with a sword, a spear and a green shield.

(Reichenau, end of 10th century  Gift of Henry II to Bamberg Cathedral. München, Bay. Staatsbibliothek Ms. Clm 4453).


Pilatus on a lion throne


1007-’12 Christ crucified.  Below Christ before Pilatus. The stadholder dressed in a white alba and a red mantle, seated on a lion throne. Behind him a man of his guard with a spear and a red shield.

From the treasury of Bamberg Cathedral. Bayer. Staatsbibliothek München, Cod. lat. 4452, fol. 107 v. Detail of the right lower coner



1014-’24 Emperor Henry II receives teh commentary of Pope Gregor the Great (1012-’24) on the Book Ezechiel. Scene in “In Ezech. Prophetam Commentarius Gregorii Mag-ni”. Originating from Bamberg Cathedral Library.

Staatsbibliothek Bamberg, Msc. Bibl. 84.

Henry II, dressed in red (purple) and green, crowned and seated on a lion throne.

The crown was called ‘of Germania’ in the time of Otto III


In France the consular style of a lion throne was adopted in the time of King Philip I and the royal rule of Henry IV (1054 – ‘84) in Germany but before his imperial rule (1084 – 1105).


Seal of Philip I, 1060


Seated Ruler with crown, sceptre and cross. Legend: PHILIPPVS DIGRA FRANCORVM REX


On this seal is the oldest representation of the so-called Throne of Dagobert.


Dagobert’s Throne, France, late 8th-9th century,

Department of Coins, Medals and Antiquities, no. 651


This is a plastic replica of the bronze armchair which belonged to the abbey of Saint-Denis near Paris, and which was imaginatively attributed in the Middle Ages to the Merovingian king, Dagobert I (623/9-639). In the Middle Ages religious institutions maintained magnificent collections of relics such as this throne. Such treasures provided a concrete expression of the power of the Church and of the Monarchy, and could be melted down or pawned for cash.


The original thtone consisted only of the four legs. The armrests were added later.


This throne has the shape of a sella curulis:



Coulter test of St Kunegonde.  Title page of  Vita S. Cunegondis, thinly coloured pen drawing, early 13th century. The oldest representation of the miracle. L.: X IVDICIO VOMERVM CVNEGVNDIS VIRGO PROBATVR.. Staatsbibliothek Bamberg, R.B. Msc. 120, fol. 32 v.

Cunegonde, wife of Henry II, being accused of adultery, was sentenced to undergo a divine judgement by walking over a long row of red hot coulters. As she passed unharmed she was found innocent.

On this illustration, Henry II, looking like Henry V, is seated on a lion throne and is accompanied by his marshal.


Henry VI  1190-1197

Ebulo, Petrus de: Liber ad Honorem Augusti  sive de rebus Siculis. Codex 120 II der Burgerbibliothek Bern, fol. 147.

The throne of Henry VI, the seat of wisdom, is identical with the Throne of Salomon having also six steps with lions on both sides.(1 Kings 10. 18-20’ 2 Chronicles 9. 17-19).


Golden Bull of Leo II of Armenia (1207)

De koning op een leeuwentroon.

(ASVat., A.A.Arm. I-XVIII, 629)



Pope Urbanus VI (1378-1389)

From the Codex Astensis qui de Malabayla . 1379



Kubera, the God of Wealth on his throne.

Ngepok, Temangung, Middle Java, 9th-10th cent.

Bronze, H. 35 B. 21. D. 15cm

Jakarta Central Museum Inv. n° 5818.


The God, sitting on a cushion of a throne of which the legs consist of  lions and of which the back-rest is decorated with lions standing on the back of elephants. Bhind his head a large sun

He is sitting in lalita-asana, his right foot resting on a toppled pot of jewels. In front of the base five money-bags.


Throne of Najakkar-kings of Sri Lanka, 18th cent

(National Museum of Sri Lanka, Colombo)


Benares Throne 19th century




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 © Hubert de Vries 2018-03-12




[1] ) Bockrijck, A. van: Un Commentaire sur es Monnaies Impriales Romaines par Alexandre Wiltheim. In: Revue belge de Numismatique, 1982 pp. 211-219, pl. XXII.