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Coins and Medals
Silver piastra of Pope Clement X
Rome, AD 1675
A pope's propaganda
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the popes used the high-value silver denominations of the currency of the Papal States to highlight their achievements. Notable sanctifications, papal interventions in international affairs, building projects and other civic improvements within the Papal States were all commemorated, usually on the silver piastra, the local version of the thaler or crown-sized coin.
This coin commemorates the Jubilee of 1675, the celebrations held every twenty-fifth year, during which pilgrims could come to Rome for the ceremonies and receive forgiveness for their sins. The front of the coin has an excellent portrait of the pope, and the back a scene of pilgrims in the portico of the Basilica of St Peter's. The Latin inscription is from Psalm 87.2: 'The Lord loveth the gates of Zion'.
The papal mint often used the work of highly skilled artists and engravers, ensuring that the coins were of the highest standard. Benvenuto Cellini engraved coins for Clement V in the sixteenth century and Bernini was to do so in the seventeenth century, to name two of the most prominent figures.
F. Muntoni, Le monete dei Papi e degli sta (Rome, 1972)