I’m sure many of us are familiar with the Christmas Carol “Good King Wenceslas”: Good King Wenceslas looked out On the Feast of Stephen When the snow lay round about Deep and crisp and even Brightly shone the moon that night Though the frost was cruel When a poor man came in sight Gathering winter fuel While this is a modern carol (written in the 19th century to a 13th century tune), it tells the fictional tale of the Duke of Bohemia, delivering alms to a poor peasant on December 26 (The feast day of St. Stephen, the first Christian Martyr). Duke Wenceslaus, who was posthumously declared a king, was raised a Christian by his grandmother, but had a pagan mother. When he began his rule in Bohemia in 921, he actively promoted the Christian Church, and began bringing in German priests to follow the Latin traditions. His religious zeal angered many of the pagans, and his mother attempted to turn his younger brother, Boleslaus, against both Wenceslaus and Christianity. When Wenceslaus agreed to begin paying tribute to the Germans in order to stave off an invasion, many more nobles became dissatisfied and joined in a conspiracy with Boleslaus. As Wenceslaus went to mass one day, the conspirators murdered him, and discarded the body. Soon after he had taken charge of the duchy, Boleslaus repented for his role in his brother’s murder, and had Wenceslaus’ body translated to the Church of St. Vitus in Prague where he would be venerated as a martyr and saint. Boleslaus remained a Christian, and Christianity would continue to grow in Bohemia. The Assassination of Duke Wenceslaus as he attempts to enter a church It is under Boleslaus that coins begin to be minted in Bohemia (although there is disagreement, and many believe it began solely in the reign of his son Boleslaus II). The early coins of Bohemia are imitative in style to Carolingian coins, and late Anglo-Saxon coins. A stylistic shift began during the reign of Dukes Jaromír (r. 1003, 1004-1012, 1033-1034) and Oldřich (r. 1012-1033, 1034). As the two brothers fought for control of the duchy, they would each issue coins depicting a haloed figure. While Jaromír‘s coins did not name the figured (which has been assumed to be Christ), Oldřich‘s coins clearly name the figure on his coins as Wenceslaus. Wenceslaus would continue to be featured on coins during the reign of Oldřich‘s son, Bretislaus I (r. 1034-1055). Bohemia Bretislaus I, r. 1034-1055 (1050-55) Prague Mint, AR Denar, 15.33 mm x 1.0 grams Obv.: BRACIZLAVS DVX. Bust facing, a pellet to either side Rev.: SCS WENCEZLAVS. Bust right, cross to right Ref.: Frynas, B.8.15; De Wit 2719 This brings me to my final purchase of 2019, a denar of Bretislaus I featuring Wenceslaus on the reverse. I was first made aware of this time a few years ago when one came up for auction, and was quite enamored with the design. It is very Medieval in style with simplistic lines forming the busts. The bust of the Duke seems to be a bit of a mystery, as it is often described as “bust facing, a pellet on either side” with no mention of the two oval shapes in the foreground. I suspect these are shields, but this is mere speculation (and having two shields seems a bit unusual). The right-facing bust of Wenceslaus also has a good amount of charm to it, with some interesting detail making up his dress. While the legend of my coin is a bit blundered, from what I have read, this s not unusual for the coins of this region. This coin also marks the beginning of an important reform in Bohemia. The denar had been in the process of being debased. This coin would see the beginning of the Prague Mark being used as the basis from which coins were minted (instead of the Carolingian pound), which would result in both the weight and size of the denar being reduced. While the focus of my collecting will remain the Normans, there are some beautiful coins which came out of medieval Bohemia, as well as much of Eastern Europe. Please feel free to post anything relevant!