Money makes history

Money, money, money

Money makes history

Images on coins and banknotes reflect the sociopolitical and economic development of Carinthia from the Middle Ages to the present day. From silver pennies minted in Friesach in the thirteenth century to today’s euro, the official currency expresses the gradual emergence of the modern state of Austria and at the same time the consolidation of Carinthia as a federal province. What is striking is the change in the imagery of the banknotes from the First Republic to the European Union: from exuberance to sobriety, from nation state to community.

‘Penny Era’

Around 1125/30 the first local pfennige (‘pennies’) of Carinthian silver were struck at Friesach. In the twelfth and early thirteenth century the Friesacher pfennig was the dominant currency in the Alpine and Adriatic region, and even as far afield as Hungary. The existence of various different mints reflects the political fragmentation of Carinthia at that time, when the church had political authority over the land together with the prerogative of minting coins. These bore images of fantastical (unicorn, dragons) and hitherto unfamiliar exotic animals (elephant, leopard). In the fourteenth century the Carinthian silver deposits gradually began to fail and the Agleier Pfennig of the Lords of Aquileia became more important. Eventually during the fifteenth century the Vienna pfennig became dominant, signalling the long period of Habsburg rule.

Pfennig from Friesach

The obverse of this pfennig from Friesach minted in the mid-twelfth century shows the bust of an archbishop holding a crook in his hand. On the reverse is the gable of a church with a ridge turret; all the towers bear a cross, and crowning the gable and to the side of the middle tower is a ring.

Bracteate from Griffen

Also known as hollow or concave pennies, bracteates are coins of thin sheet silver stamped on one side only. The motif thus appears raised on the obverse and as a recessed relief on the reverse.

Dating from the second half of the thirteenth century, the bracteate from Griffen shows the Easter lamb walking to the right and looking back. To the left of the Cross are three spheres, with a further sphere between the Cross and the lamb.

Under the sign of the King of Bohemia

This bracteate from Völkermarkt dates from the second half of the thirteenth century and was minted by Ottokar II, king of Bohemia. The face design shows a crowned parded lion facing left. Between the head and the tail of the lion are three dots as a mintmark.

King Ottokar II ruled Carinthia as duke from 1269 to 1276 and issued various coins at the Carinthian mints, in particular St Veit, of the Friesach type with Bohemian symbols of power. The latter include a crowned head between two shields above a large fleur-de-lis, the crowned lion with mintmark, and the Bohemian lion.

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