Silver bracteate pfennig of Wichmann von Seeburg, archbishop of Magdeburg

Magdeburg, Germany, AD 1152-92

Saints and silver

In the early Middle Ages many religious leaders (archbishops, bishops and abbots) were granted, or assumed, the right to strike their own coinage. Sometimes this was the result of royal weakness, at other times it was deliberate royal policy. In Germany the kings and emperors used churchmen to settle and organise wide territories, encouraging them with land grants and the right to have mints and markets. As a result, coinages issued by the church dominated German currency by the late eleventh century. The bishops and archbishops used their own names on the coins, and used a wide variety of designs.

The actual form of coinage also changed in some areas. The traditional two-sided pfennigs were replaced by much thinner but broader ones, with a single design visible in the positive on the front and in the negative on the back. Such coins are known as bracteates, from the Latin word bractea, meaning leaf, because of their thinness. Because they were larger they could carry designs of high quality.

Being thin, the bracteates were easily damaged, and often had to be replaced in recoinages. As a result there are a great number of varieties. This is a typical example of a bracteate-type ecclesiastical coin from north-eastern Germany. It was issued by Wichmann von Seeburg, archbishop of Magdeburg (1152-92). The soldier-saint Maurice was the patron of the see of Magdeburg.

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More information

Bibliography

A. Suhle, Das Münzwesen Magdeburgs unter (Magdeburg, 1950)

Dimensions

Diameter: 28.000 mm
Weight: 0.910 g

Museum number

CM 1881-8-4-29

CEM31644

Location

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