Topics of coins
Bracteate of Mieszko III the Elder
Coin minting under the rule of Mieszko III the
Elder (1173–1177 and 1181–1202) opens a new
period in the history of Polish coinage – the period
of bracteates or thin coins struck on one side only.
They replaced the heavier, double-sided silver coins
which had been in circulation until then.
At the same time, the number of coin types signifi cantly increased. More than 50 types are attributed to Mieszko III. Di erent presentations of the Prince, St. Adalbert and brutes, real and fantastic, appear on those coins. Also coins with no images at all, with inscriptions only, are known. It is also surprising that the inscriptions on the coins attributed to Mieszko III are not only in Latin but also in Hebrew. This phenomenon is explained by the fact that mints employed Jews, who also rented mint income. The income was generated during the exchange of coins carried out periodically. Such a “ renovation of the coin”, which took place even three times a year, explains the abundance of coin types.
A bracteate with the image of a lion looking to the le , but with its head facing backwards, has been chosen for the series illustrating the history of Polish coins. It is accompanied by a circumscription along the rim, which due to its form and content is totally unique. A sentence in Polish, meaning “Polish King Mieszko”, was written in Hebrew letters. However, since Mieszko, as it is known, was not a crowned head, naming him king means that in the eyes of the Jewish minters he was a powerful ruler, outdoing minor local princes in importance. In this context, we can guess that the lion – the king of animals – impersonated Mieszko III.
On our new coin, the image of the lion from the frame of the Gniezno Doors refers to the lion from the bracteate of Mieszko III, while on the reverse, we see a scene modelled on the paten which Mieszko III donated to the Cistercian abbey in Lad. The images depict the donor Prince (on the le ), St. Nicholas - the patron saint of the monastery (in the centre) and Abbot Simon (on the right).