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Silesia 15th Century Hellers

 
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 Posted 12/07/2019  3:42 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add tdziemia to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
From a numismatic viewpoint, late medieval Silesia is an interesting place. I know that there are two of us out here with these coins, but I thought by starting a dedicated thread we might see a few more.

Historically, Silesia refers to the part of central Europe which is along the middle and upper Oder River, and north of the Sudeten Mountains, which separate it from historical Bohemia. The total area is about 40,000 sq km, or 16,000 sq mi (a bit smaller than the U.S. state of West Virginia)
Following the coalescence of the Polish nation in the late 10th century, the area came under the rule of the Polish Piast dynasty. Then, as Polish sovereignity faltered in the 13th century and migrants from Germany and Bohemia arrived, the area became increasingly aligned toward Bohemia, with allegiance to the Bohemian crown formalized in the 1330s, even while Piast (Polish) rulers remained in place.
By the mid-1400s, dynastic succession had subdivided this small area into over a dozen different principalities (mostly duchies), which minted these small silver coins of typically 0.25 to 0.3 grams. I was able to come up with this (rather astounding) list of coin-issuing places in 15th century Silesia, but maybe there are more. In each case I have listed the Polish and German names as I think these are the ones most often seen in catalogs, but each place also has a Czech name:
Brzeg (Brieg)
Bytom
Cieszyn (Teschen)
Glogow (Glogau)
Klodzko (Glatz)
Kozle
Legnica (Liegnitz)
Lubin (Luben)
Nysa (Neisse)
Olesnica (Oels)
Opawa (Oppau)
Opole (Oppeln)
Oswiencim (Auschwitz)
Raciborz (Ratibor)
Swidnica (Schweidnitz)
Wroclaw (Breslau)
Zabkowice

For theme collectors, there are lots of options. Plenty of eagles (symbol of the Piasts), lions (Bohemia), and other heraldry. A number of places minted coins featuring a single gothic letter on one side reminiscent of the start of a new paragraph in an illuminated manuscript: B (Bytom), G (Glogow and Klodzko/Glatz), L (Legnica), T (Cieszyn/Teschen), P (Opawa/Oppau), W (Wroclaw/Breslau).

I collect images of saints, and there are at least four places with patron saints on their coins. I haven't yet got examples of all four, but here is my most recent, a Legnica heller minted between 1425-48, with an image of St. Peter.


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 Posted 12/07/2019  3:54 pm  Show Profile   Check echizento's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add echizento to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Nice coin and very interesting write up.
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 Posted 12/07/2019  4:04 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Spence to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
@tdz, why is St. Peter pointing at the key to heaven (as opposed to just holding it) do you think? Perhaps a not-so-subtle call to action?
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 Posted 12/07/2019  5:18 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add tdziemia to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I had that same thought ... Something like, "You'd better be good or I won't open the door when your time comes."

BUT there is also a contemporary coin from Brzeg/Brieg with St. Hedwig pointing at a church she holds in her hand. (I've twice bid and twice lost on examples of that coin). So there may be a broader meaning to that gesture?



Edited by tdziemia
12/07/2019 5:23 pm
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 Posted 12/14/2019  10:21 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Novicius to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
As the written word would not have had any meaning to the majority of the (illiterate) people of the time, pictures, especially religious images, would have to convey the message. We will never know for sure what the true significance of the symbolism was, but can assume that it would have been a simple message, understandable by all. St. Peter shows that he holds the key to Heaven, and as you say Tdziemia, the message may be a simple "You'd better be good or I won't open the door when your time comes."

In his book The Order of Rituals: The Interpretation of Everyday Life, Hans Georg Soeffer says St. Hedwig is most depicted as "Duchess with model of a Church", as wife of the Sovereign, as Church founder, and preserver of the faith. Images of saints are often shown to be protecting, or supporting something, similar to St. Hedwig being shown holding, or "supporting" the model church.

Could it be simply a depiction of St. Hedwig showing her support for the Church?
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 Posted 12/14/2019  1:55 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add tdziemia to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks for the thoughtful response.

Here is the obverse of the coin to which I was referring but which I do not possess, with St. Hedwig pointing (roughly contemporary with the St. Peter coin):


In this later coin, she is more clearly "supporting" the church, with a hand under it:

Edited by tdziemia
12/14/2019 1:57 pm
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 Posted 12/14/2019  7:59 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Novicius to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
"Here is the obverse of the coin to which I was referring but which I do not possess."

I hope you find one soon, she was an amazing woman.
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 Posted 12/15/2019  1:20 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add tdziemia to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I was reminded by some reading this morning that I also have a heller minted in Wroclaw (German: Breslau) 1422-1437 with this representation of John the Baptist (or at least a part of him):

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