Jump to content

A medieval elephant and Alexander the Great from Staufen im Breisgau


shanxi
 Share

Recommended Posts

Staufen im Breisgau is a small town in the south of Germany, between the Rhine Valley and the Black Forest and today a popular destination for tourists. It is close to the bigger city of Freiburg im Breisgau (about 20km)

staufen04h2.jpg.4e5de9bd289a967977a14cc0eacd7251.jpg

The city of Staufen im Breisgau

 

The town was ruled by the “Herren von Staufen”. Their rule also included the silver mine in the nearby village of "Münster", which no longer exists today. Most of the silver went to the Dukes of Freiburg, so that today there is only one type of coin of the “Herren von Staufen”. Although the mines were in Münster the coins were minted probably in the City of Staufen or in the castle.

 

staufen02h.jpg.ebfe4d34ace1295d9b910bd36657ba1e.jpg

Caste of the “Herren of Staufen”, above the City of Staufen.

 

The coin:

Staufen.jpg.9af9dccc8f0d935bcbfc9c56f3b0ea97.jpg

Vierzipfliger Pfennig (Silver, 19 mm, 0.39 g), Münster/Staufen. Elephant walking to left. Rev. Incuse of obverse, around AD 1300 (Leu Web Auction 22)

 

The depiction on the bracteate is very interesting. It does not show the coat of arms of the "Herren von Staufen" but goes back to the "Alexanderlied", a very popular medieval poem about Alexander the Great. 

A wall hanging from 1320 shows the scene: “Alexander the Great is a guest at the palace of the Indian queen Candace borne on the back of an elephant.

 

293667314_StaufenAlexander.jpg.549b3ad2e60cd9bcf0915a77c83cd29c.jpg

This wall hanging is from the Adelhausen Abbey in Freiburg, and could have been the direct model. The representation on the coin is simplified. You can see only the three heads.

So we have an elephant and Alexander the Great on a medieval German coin. Very unique.

 

 

Ref.:

1: Untermann / Bechtold: Die Stadtwüstung Münster im Breisgau „Archäologische und historische Untersuchungen 1995-97. Ein Vorbericht“

2: https://onlinesammlung.freiburg.de/index.php/en/object/A050A6EE4C206459BFFA05B7E0ECBD8C

 

Post your medieval German coins or anything relevant !

 

 

Edited by shanxi
  • Like 18
  • Thanks 1
  • Cookie 1
  • Clap 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, shanxi said:

Staufen im Breisgau is a small town in the south of Germany, between the Rhine Valley and the Black Forest and today a popular destination for tourists. It is close to the bigger city of Freiburg im Breisgau (about 20km)

staufen04h2.jpg.4e5de9bd289a967977a14cc0eacd7251.jpg

The city of Staufen im Breisgau

 

The town was ruled by the “Herren von Staufen”. Their rule also included the silver mine in the nearby village of "Münster", which no longer exists today. Most of the silver went to the Dukes of Freiburg, so that today there is only one type of coin of the “Herren von Staufen”. Although the mines were in Münster the coins were minted probably in the City of Staufen or in the castle.

 

staufen02h.jpg.ebfe4d34ace1295d9b910bd36657ba1e.jpg

Caste of the “Herren of Staufen”, above the City of Staufen.

 

The coin:

Staufen.jpg.9af9dccc8f0d935bcbfc9c56f3b0ea97.jpg

Vierzipfliger Pfennig (Silver, 19 mm, 0.39 g), Münster/Staufen. Elephant walking to left. Rev. Incuse of obverse, around AD 1300 (Leu Web Auction 22)

 

The depiction on the bracteate is very interesting. It does not show the coat of arms of the "Herren von Staufen" but goes back to the "Alexanderlied", a very popular medieval poem about Alexander the Great. 

A wall hanging from 1320 shows the scene: “Alexander the Great is a guest at the palace of the Indian queen Candace borne on the back of an elephant.

 

293667314_StaufenAlexander.jpg.549b3ad2e60cd9bcf0915a77c83cd29c.jpg

This wall hanging is from the Adelhausen Abbey in Freiburg, and could have been the direct model. The representation on the coin is simplified. You can see only the three heads.

So we have an elephant and Alexander the Great on a medieval German coin. Very unique.

 

 

Ref.:

1: Untermann / Bechtold: Die Stadtwüstung Münster im Breisgau „Archäologische und historische Untersuchungen 1995-97. Ein Vorbericht“

2: https://onlinesammlung.freiburg.de/index.php/en/object/A050A6EE4C206459BFFA05B7E0ECBD8C

 

Post your medieval German coins or anything relevant !

 

 

Wow 😮! How fortunate to have a full impression on this paper thin planchet ☺️.

  • Like 1
  • Yes 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very, Very cool coin, @shanxi, readily matched by your enlightening observations on the historical and artistic context.  --Enough to encourage me to get down from my "high horse," where later brakteats are concerned.  :<}

Aggregately, your OP has to elicit another association, also involving elephants. 

...From just a little earlier, relating to the late phases of the (Hohen-)Staufen imperial dynasty (thank you, named after the town, mountain, and castle).  This time involving the gift of an elephant by Friedrich II to Henry III of England.  Henry already had a royal menagerie in the Tower of London.  (--No, we can leave out the Angevin dynasty itself, for one minute!!!) 

Here is the illustration of the elephant from the first of two extant, complete manuscripts of the mid-13th-century chronicler and illustrator, Matthew Paris.  (Edit: Oops, I'm just now noticing, from Matthew's caption, that this was given to Henry's younger brother, Richard, Earl of Cornwall --the force behind Henry's 'Voided Long Cross' pennies, from 1247 ...and eventually the richest man in England, his elder brother emphatically included.)

Matthew_Paris_Elephant_from_Parker_MS_16_fol_151v.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Matthew_Paris_Elephant_from_Parker_MS_16_fol_151v.jpg

Friedrich mostly grew up in his mother's domain of Norman Sicily, and absorbed its remarkable cultural diversity, becoming literate in Arabic.  To to an extent not fully known, but sufficient to achieve the return of Jerusalem to the Frankish Levant by diplomatic means.  (Marking the only 'crusade,' after the first one, to achieve its own stated goals --in the conspicuous absence of the streets of Jerusalem being awash in the the blood of Muslims, Jews, and --Woops-- Christians of various Eastern, and correspondingly ancient traditions.)  ...And, Yeah, he had access to elephants.

The only coin of Friedrich's that I can find pictures of is, well, appropriate enough to this context, apart from being from the beginning of his reign.  I like how this is issued in his and his queen's name, perpetuating precedent from Sicilian coins of his father and mother. 

Sicily; Messina or Palermo.  Friedrich II and Constance of Aragon.  Billon (effectively AE) half denaro, c. 1209-1213.

image.jpeg.a24fc69b9212549f479c5783eda00b04.jpeg

Obv. Staufen heraldic eagle (variant with one, instead of two heads).  (From 1 o'clock:) FREDERIC. REX

Rev. Cross with floriate ends, extending to the outer border and 'punctuating' the legend.  (From 4 o'clock:) .+.C. [/] .RE. [/] .GI. [/] .NA.

Andrea, The Hohenstaufen's [sic] Coins of the Kingdom of Sicily.  P. 47, no.96, citing MEC, Spahr and Travaini. 

  

Edited by JeandAcre
  • Like 8
  • Heart Eyes 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

@JeandAcre 

An interesting story and a very interesting illustration of an elephant.

In order not to create confusion here a note:

The "Herren von Staufen" do not belong to the imperial dynasty of the Staufer. They were just a small noble family. The "Herren of Staufen" resided in Staufen in Breisgau in southern Germany, the imperial dynasty of (Hohen)-Staufen in the area around Göttingen. The similarity of the name is based on the shape of the castle hills. In both cases a solitary, pointed mountain, in old german called   "Stauf" or "Stuufen". The name describes the shape of a bell-shaped cup.

 

@Oldhoopster

What a coincidence. Did you climb up the castle-hill? 

 

@Al Kowsky

In 1863 there  was hoard find of 400 of these coin in Staufen. They were all pristine and in mint state. Most of them also carefully minted. I am convinced that my coin is from this hoard.

 

 

Edited by shanxi
  • Like 3
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 hours ago, shanxi said:

@JeandAcre 

An interesting story and a very interesting illustration of an elephant.

In order not to create confusion here a note:

The "Herren von Staufen" do not belong to the imperial dynasty of the Staufer. They were just a small noble family. The "Herren of Staufen" resided in Staufen in Breisgau in southern Germany, the imperial dynasty of (Hohen)-Staufen in the area around Göttingen. The similarity of the name is based on the shape of the castle hill. In both cases a solitary, pointed mountain, in old german called   "Stauf" or "Stuufen". The name describes the shape of a bell-shaped cup.

 

@Oldhoopster

What a coincidence. Did you climb up the castle-hill? 

 

@Al Kowsky

In 1863 there  was hoard find of 400 of these coin in Staufen. They were all pristine and in mint state. Most of them also carefully minted. I am convinced that my coin is from this hoard.

 

 

Shanxi

I was up and down the castle hill a few times, but it was in February and still cold.   I have pics, but need to find them. Who knows where they are after 35 years.  Staufen was a nice little town.  It was also connected to a hiking trail system.

In hindsight, I'm disappointed that I didn't learn more about German numismatics while I was there.  I was an an active collector but just getting intersted in German States at the time.  I always liked bracteates.  I'll have to keep an eye out for them

I actually went to college in Clausthal in the Harz mountains. Clausthal had a mint and struck many Wildemann coins.  Of course, I had no idea it was there during that semester.  Too bad youth is wasted on the young

  • Like 1
  • Smile 1
  • Yes 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

50 minutes ago, Nerosmyfavorite68 said:

It's pretty cool. Do you have to put those in the soft, old-school PVC flips?  I'd be afraid that it'd get squished

The bracteates are more stable than you think, the 3D shape gives them the stability, I think similar to the Byzantine cup-shaped coins. The ones that look less stable I have in capsules.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Many thanks for the clarification on Staufen(s), @shanxi.  I didn't go any further than Wiki for the background of the Hohenstaufen.  The thought did cross my mind that there could be more than one place with the same name, but I was too lazy to pursue it.

...You might want to at least get a newer, PVC-free flip for the brakteat.  Best not to take chances on that front, especially with an example as great as that.

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Benefactor
Posted (edited)

A wonderful bracteate and a very interesting write-up, @shanxi. I don't know very much about that region in the medieval era, but am quite familiar with it, and its history, from about the 16th century going forward. My maternal grandmother was born (as were six generations of her paternal ancestors back to the early 1700s) in the village of Sulzburg, about 7 km. (a 10-minute drive) south of Staufen, on the western edge of the Schwarzwald. I have visited Sulzburg and the vicinity, including Freiburg, more than once, most recently in 2018.  Even though Sulzburg and Staufen were neighbors geographically (with only the hamlet of Dottingen in between), they were long separated politically: Staufen, and also the city of Freiburg to the north, were historically located in Breisgau -- which was property of the Austrian Habsburgs for hundreds of years before the Napoleonic period, as part of what was known as Vorderösterreich (or die Vorlande) -- whereas Sulzburg belonged historically to the Margraviate of Baden, later Baden-Durlach and, after 1806, the Grand Duchy of Baden.  In fact, Sulzburg was the seat of the Margraviate in the 1500s; the house on Hauptstrasse where my family lived for a couple of hundred years until 1940 was built in 1565. (A Margrave, from Mark + Graf, i.e., a Count of a March or borderland, is equivalent to a Marquess or Marquis.)

The other big difference between Staufen and Sulzburg was that whereas Sulzburg was known for hundreds of years for the presence of a large Jewish community (albeit interrupted by an expulsion lasting from the late 1500s until 1716), and a famous Jewish cemetery where many of my direct ancestors are buried, Jews were continuously barred from living in Staufen -- just as in Freiburg and the rest of the Breisgau -- for more than 450 years from the early 1400s until the Emancipation of the Jews in Baden in 1862. Even afterwards, there was only a tiny Jewish community in Staufen, essentially ancillary to the community in Sulzburg.  However, many Jews  did move to Freiburg after the 1860s, including two of my own great-great-grandparents, who are buried in the Freiburg Jewish cemetery.

Edited by DonnaML
  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
  • Clap 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@DonnaML Thank you for sharing your family history.  I've been at the Jewish Cemetery in Freiburg, today a quiet, peaceful place in a busy neighborhood.

I had not heard of the cemetery in Sulzburg, but found it on the net. Did you know this homepage, about the Jewish history of Sulzburg,  which does also have a  list of all existing graves on the cemetary.

https://juden-in-sulzburg.de/page/startseite

List of graves:

https://juden-in-sulzburg.de/page/begrabnisliste

 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Benefactor
Just now, shanxi said:

@DonnaML Thank you for sharing your family history.  I've been at the Jewish Cemetery in Freiburg, today a quiet, peaceful place in a busy neighborhood.

I had not heard of the cemetery in Sulzburg, but found it on the net. Did you know this homepage, about the Jewish history of Sulzburg,  which does also have a  list of all existing graves on the cemetary.

https://juden-in-sulzburg.de/page/startseite

List of graves:

https://juden-in-sulzburg.de/page/begrabnisliste

 

Thanks. Yes, I know that website quite well, and contributed a lot of information, and copies of family photographs, to its owner to be added to the site. I later collaborated with the owner, and a number of other people in the area interested in Jewish history (even though none of them is Jewish) on a pamphlet and then a full-fledged book published last year, about my family. I don't want to be more specific!

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
  • Heart Eyes 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

That is a lovely and somewhat mysterious bracteate from the region that I live in! I have been the underbidder on this coin in the last Leu auction, but I'm happy to see that it went to a good home.

The connection of the elephant to the "Basler Alexander," though often claimed by scholarship, appears a bit thin to me. It seems well possible that the Adelhausen tapestry and the bracteate just draw on the same basic design, for example one of the "pattern books" (Musterbücher) of animal drawings that were relatively common in the later Middle Ages.

Here are some of my Breisgau and northern Swiss bracteates:

670697219_MADeutschlandetc.BaselVierzipfligerJoahnnSennvonMunsingen.png.77cf732329c6c3f65168f81c899f69f4.png

Prince-Bishopric of Basel, under Johann II. Senn von Münsingen, Angster ("vierzipfliger Pfennig"), 1335–1365 AD. Obv: head of a bishop wearing mitre (three pellets at each side) left, between B-A, ring above. Rev: negative design (bracteate). 17–20mm, 0.33g. Ref: Wielandt: Basler Münzprägung 117; HMZ 255; Slg. Wüthrich 31; Berger 2415–1416.

1379813191_MADeutschlandetc.FreiburgimBreisgauLindwurmpfennig(neu).png.e51b7dfed37a38fc98074f9676dd1cb6.png

Freiburg im Breisgau, civic issue, bracteate penny ("vierzipfliger Pfennig"), ca. 1250 AD. Obv: dragon ("Lindwurm") r. Rev: negative design. 18mm, 0.37g. Ref: Berger 2432–3; Slg. Wüthrich 54; Wielandt: Breisgau 44.

1503456978_MADeutschlandetc.FreiburgimBreisgauRappenbrakteat(neu).png.93f850bdef057292440629a47a128889.png

Freiburg im Breisgau, civic issue, bracteate pfennig ("vierzipfliger Pfennig"), ca. 1368–1390 AD. Obv: eagle's/raven's head l. Rev: negative design (bracteate). 18mm, 0.30g. Ref: Wielandt: Breisgau 48b; Slg. Wüthrich 63; Slg. Ulmer 249; Berger –.

1343373017_MADeutschlandetc.ZofingenVierzipfligerMauritiuskopf.png.234c6b8394fa858b3189c97f504af55d.png

Zofingen (Habsburg mint, under the Counts of Frohburg), bracteate penny ("vierzipfliger Pfennig"), ca. 1285–1300 AD. Obv: ZOVI; male frontal bust (St. Maurice?) flanked by two stars, crescent above. Rev: negative design. 18mm . Ref: Berger 2445–6; Slg. Wüthrich 134–5; HMZ I–149a.

501811600_MADeutschlandetc.ZurichAbteiFraumunsterVierzipfligerNonnenkopf.png.03bde2d509c55edd75f2e4876e5886bd.png

Zurich, Imperial Abbey of Fraumünster, "vierzipfliger Pfennig," ca. 1300–1320. Obv: ZVRICh; veiled head of nun facing. Rev: negative design (bracteate). 18mm, 0.40g. Ref: Berger 2472–2475; Schwarz 30; Hürlimann 38; Slg. Wüthrich 209.

  • Like 6
  • Cookie 1
  • Heart Eyes 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

15 hours ago, shanxi said:

 

16 hours ago, Ursus said:

I have been the underbidder on this coin in the last Leu auction

Did you get some of the others ? I was hoping to get this one too, but the price went through the roof. 

 

Unfortunately not… I had my eye on a total of five coins from the Blaschegg collection and bid on four of them, including the bracteate struck for the Dukes of Zähringen. Yet, bidding on all my targets in the end was too strong for me, especially considering the current euro-franc exchange rate. Maybe next time!

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)
34 minutes ago, Ursus said:

bidding on all my targets in the end was too strong for me

Yes, the Blaschegg collection had exceptionally good pieces. I was outbid on 5 of 7 coins in my watchlist, not really bidding high on 4 of them.
In addition to the Staufen coin, I was able to win one of the  "Struwelkopf" examples. I will show this later when I have found a viable explanation for the person depicted.

Edited by shanxi
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...