A Christmas Coin

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by FitzNigel, Dec 10, 2016.

  1. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    I had recently made a goal to complete a certain set of medieval French coins before the end of the year, but had to take a departure from that with my most recent purchase (and I may have to delay that goal to about February now...). This is my first German coin, and I have taken more of an interest in German coins in recent months due to the beautiful artistry on many of them (compared to French coins which usually just contain a cross).

    02-GCo-1167-Philip Heinsberg-AR-D-3 R1.jpg
    German States, Cologne
    Archbishop Philipp von Heinsberg, r. 1167-1191
    AR Deniers, 3rd type, 18.05 mm x 1.4 grams
    Obv.: HITARCH EPICOV, Archbishop with mitre, crosier, and bible seated on lion throne
    Rev.: EIACOLONIA PAICHAI, Three towers over wall and gate, likely representing the Cathedral of St Peter, Cologne
    Ref.: De Wit 1993

    The Obverse of this coin is a common depiction of a bishop with the symbols of his office: the crozier in his right hand, the Bible in his left, and a mitre upon his head. I will admit that the mitre is a bit confusing, as it clearly shows it is indented in the middle, whereas a mitre would usually come to a point at the front. It is almost as if the hat was depicted sideways (an example of a bishop's mitre is shown below). It is exceptionally sharp, with the flat areas a product of ghosting from the reverse design.

    A Medieval mitre

    The legend says "HIT ARC-HEPICOPV." While 'archepicopu' is clearly 'archbishop,' 'hit' is a little more confusing. My initial thought was perhaps this is 'hic'; the nominative singular for 'this' as if the coin was saying 'this is the archbishop.' It is not unusual for Medieval Latin to replace a 'c' with a 't' and vice versa. According to de Wit (referencing Engel and Serrure), 'Hit' supposedly stands for 'Hildebold' who was the first archbishop of Cologne and advisor to Charlemagne: a role that Philip would also fill for Frederick Barbarossa. How 'Hit' stands for 'Hildebold' eludes me (that pesky 'T' still stands in the way), but I find neither answer to be satisfactory.

    The obverse design is very similar to the seal of a later archbishop of Cologne, Englebert II, and I suspect this same design was used on Philip's seal (despite my being unable to find an example). It is interesting that what appears to be a lion throne on the seal also appears on the coin if one looks close enough. The Lion's throne was a device used on Frederick Barbarossa's coins as a symbol of his authority (and Philip gained the archepiscopal see at the desire of Barbarossa), this and the copying of other devices on Barbarossa's coins may be an indicator of his loyalty and friendship (that is until later when Philip would fall out of favor). The use of a lion throne likely comes from a description in the Bible from Kings 10:18-20.

    Seal of Englebert of Cologne

    Lion thrones aside, I have often wondered why many coins don't copy the same pictures and devices as seals, since they essentially represent the same thing, and are produced by a similar method. Coins and seals both lend authenticity to what they are stamped on, and they are created through the process of transferring a reversed image onto either metal or wax. In the case of this coin, I believe it is safe to say the coin matches a seal! (Royal coins will occasionally depicted the king enthroned which was common on seals, or the king on horseback denoting his military role, another common depiction from seals. I have not seen another ecclesiastical coin which copies a seal aside from these coins from Cologne and other nearby German states).

    The reverse of this coin depicts a wall and gate or church behind it. Exactly what it is representing has likely become muddled at this point, as the original design was begun by Saint Anno II Archbishop of Cologne from 1056-1075. One of the versions minted by St. Anno has 'PETR' written on the building, likely indicating it is meant to be the Cathedral of St. Peter in Cologne. This would make the most obvious sense, since the Cathedral would be the seat of the Archbishop, but the cathedral depicted was demolished in the 13th century to make way for the current gothic cathedral of Cologne.

    A depiction of the St. Anno coin can be found here, on page 28. My attempts to find another picture of the coin, or reproduce the one on this guide to the medieval coins of Cologne, have proven to be unsatisfactory.

    The Arms of Cologn (Köln)

    The reason for the Cathedral's replacement falls to events occurring during the reign of Frederick Barbarossa. During one of Barbarossa's expeditions to Italy, he attacked Milan and seized what is believed to be the relics of the three wise men (or the Magi as they are sometimes called. These men share an important role in Christianity as being the first to recognize Christ's divinity as a young child, and also establishing him as a 'King of Kings'). These bones were brought back to Germany, and were gifted to Reinald von Dassel, Archbishop of Cologne, and predecessor to Philip von Heinsberg (William of Newburgh records the events as a clever trick of Reginald's to have the bones secreted out of Milan and brought to Cologne). Philip would begin building the shrine to house the bones of the magi around the year 1190. King Otto IV would gift three golden crowns to be included in the shrine for the kings, and it is because of these gifts that the coat of arms of Cologne contains three gold crowns.

    A side view of the reliquary to the Magi, begun by Archbishop Philip von Heinsberg

    The shrine is the largest reliquary in the western world (naturally, since it houses three bodies), and the inclusion of the Magi at Cologne made it a popular pilgrimage site. Because of the large number of pilgrims, the small Cathedral of St. Peter couldn't hold the numbers, calling for the construction of the Gothic Cathedral that stands in Cologne today.

    Cologne Cathedral

    The Shrine was hidden away during the French invasion of Germany in the Napoleonic wars, but reinstated in the Cathedral afterwards. The construction of the Cathedral had still not been completed by the 19th century, but a discovery of its original plans would lead to the Prussian state finishing it. During the course of its completion, the reliquary of the magi was opened and inspected. In addition to finding the bones of the Magi and the three gold crowns, there was something else they found: a coin of Philip von Heinsberg.

    Happy holidays all! Feel free to post anything related (Christmas, medieval or Cologne - if I remember correctly, the city was important to Probus...)
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  3. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Dombes collector Supporter

    Very interesting !

    FitzNigel likes this.
  4. chrsmat71

    chrsmat71 I LIKE TURTLES!

    nice lookin' coin and interesting write up FN!

    here's a less nice looking coin that is kind of realted, similar theme and time...but the artistry is......well...


    Holy Roman Empire, Archbishopric of Salzburg, Eberhard II, 1200-1246 AD

    AR Friesarcher pfennig, on right on pic)bishop with crosier, r (left on pic): bishop between crosses. 19 mm, 1.2g

    the strange marks on the obverse (right...got mixed up) are due to striking one side, then striking the other instead of both at once. i can't remember the name for this technique off the top of my head, but you see it on coins of the period and region sometimes.
  5. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    Very nice chrs! I quite like the expression on the Bishop's face...
  6. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I have not researched it but it seems the mitre had some variations across time and place.
    Pishpash, Deacon Ray and FitzNigel like this.
  7. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    I'll admit I've never attempted an in-depth research into mitres- I'm just more familiar with the pentagon front and the two halves split like the picture I provided. Perhaps that shape was more common in the 12th century which is my area of specialty. The split-front mitre you posted looks like a 15th c. Painting, so perhaps there was some evolution. (Love how that bishop is dressed for battle, btw - that's the kind of stuff that makes me love the Middle Ages)
  8. stevex6

    stevex6 Random Mayhem

    Wow, congrats => that's a great coin (I already picked it as one of your 2016 favourites in your other cool thread)

    congrats again
    FitzNigel likes this.
  9. Quant.Geek

    Quant.Geek Well-Known Member

    What a coincidence! I have also been slowing growing a list of German medieval coins, but mostly concentrated on various bracteates. But, here is one that I was very proud to have won a while back in auction:

    Germany, Aachen: Frederick II (1220-50) AR Denar (Menadier-62)

    Obv: ✚ • FRID RIC’ • ; Emperor seated facing
    Rev: ✠ INP RTOR; Bust of Charles the Great with castle behind

    Requires MUFI-compatible fonts for proper rendering of legends



    In regards to a Christmas theme, how about this coin:

    Bohemia: Premysl I. Ottokar (1197-1230) Denar, Prauge Mint (Cach-661, Šmerda-299)

    Obv: Crowned king facing with scepter and orb. Legend around - + REX . OCTACARVS
    Rev: Enthroned St. Wenceslaus facing with flag in right hand, left hand raised. Legend around - + SCS WENCEZLAVS


    The reverse is the same Wenceslaus from the "Good King Wenceslaus" Christmas Carole...
  10. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    I love that Frederick II coin @Quant.Geek ! You can see the similar influences on our two coins, as I believe the Cologne deniers/pfennigs are somewhat based off imperial issues. Can't say I'm entirely sure though - I need to find a good book for medieval German coins! I could see myself delving into this a little more!
  11. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    Great write up, many thanks FitzNigel
    Here's a Probus coin which just arrived in my mailbox:

  12. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    Love that reverse Andres!
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