Topics of coins

Bracteate of Leszek the White

The end of the 12th century and the whole of 13th century was a period dominated by bracteates, i.e. thin, one-sided coins. At the same time, it was the darkest period in the history of the Polish minting, coinciding with the fragmentation of Poland. It was the time of simultaneous rule over the Polish territory by many princes, each of them minting their own coins. Most of these coins have no inscriptions at all, which makes identification of the issuers extremely difficult. Some aid in this area has been provided by the large coin hoard recently discovered in Cracow, which had been hidden in the first half of the 13th century. From this find comes the bractreate depicting a winged dragon. The coin was most likely struck under the rule of Prince Leszek the White (1206-1227).

The image of a specimen of this very bracteate was placed on the reverse of the new coin, the fifth in our series. The dragon is turned to the left, with its head turned backwards, wings spread out wide and the tail curled under its body. This monster either symbolises the Prince’s power or, perhaps, it was meant to ward off any evil spirits which might threaten the monarch. The outline of the façade of the Late Romanesque Cistercian church in Sulejów was used as the background.

Our coin’s obverse also features two groups of elements. On the one hand, the coin particulars including the State emblem and name, face value and the year of issue. On the other hand, the Prince’s seal depicting the Prince standing in full armour with a spear and a pennant in one hand and a shield in the other. The legend contains data missing from the bracteate: +SIGIL[LVM] LESTCONIS D-VCIS POLONI-E (the seal of Leszek, Prince of Poland).

Stanisław Suchodolski