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Two Salian jigsaw puzzles, Solved (well, mostly)


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Among 11th-century coins of western and central Europe, the Salian denars of the German empire probably take the prize for the elaborateness and sheer diversity of their designs.  These run from ships, to neo-Byzantine iconography, to a wide range of architectural motifs, including schematic cityscapes.  Even when the flans are noticeably smaller than the pennies and deniers of England and France, the contrast to the competition is pronounced. 

 The sad irony is that this pitch of inventiveness coincides with the frankly sloppy minting for which the series is justly notorious.  In any given example, it’s common for only half of the design and legend to be struck up.  Many have little or no trace of the border legends.

Which is why, when I finally landed a Salian denar that was struck on the opposite side of the flan as one I already had, ‘filling in’ a good part of the missing motifs and legends, it was a big day.  Here are both sides of each of them, in order of acquisition.

Heinrich III (German emperor 1046-1059) as ‘King of the Romans’ (heir designate to the German Empire), 1039-1046.  Denar /Marienpfennig of Speyer, 1042-1046, celebrating the ongoing construction of the cathedral there, initiated by his father, the emperor Konrad II.



Obv.  Cathedral facade, tower to right; “CHON[RADVS]” –or variant (cf. first example)-- inside.  

(Again with variations; here drawing mainly from the second example, from 11 o’clock:) 

H[ENRIC? …SPIRA] CIVITAS [‘S’ retrograde].  

(Several related issues use the original Roman place name, ‘NEMETIS’ (cf. Dannenberg 830-839, passim), but that’s no obvious help in interpreting the variant legend in the first example.)



 Rev.  Neo-Byzantine ikon of Mary, haloed, orans, with Jesus’ haloed face on her breast.  (Cf. Panagia, Our Lady of the Sign - Wikipedia.) 

(From 9 o’clock: various elements of) +S[AN]CTA MARIA.

Dannenberg 838, apparently with several legend variants.  Cf. this listing: NumisBids: Alfa Numismatics ApS Auction 8, Lot 111 : Germany. Speyer. Heinrich III 1039-1056. AR Denar.

(For Anglophone amateurs like yours truly, Dannenberg’s conscientiousness becomes an inconvenience in its own right.  I can’t even identify the source(s) of the examples he draws from.  (.Pdf format doesn’t like to cooperate with Google Translate!)  But they’re clearly individual coins, along the lines of a corpus des monnaies.  The ensuing range of incomplete legends, in a series known for legend variants, is, well, less than optimal.  But from the fragmentary legends of this and related types (cf. esp. Dannenberg 829-839), it’s possible to tentatively reconstruct the full legends of a given type as initially intended, along the lines of ‘authorial intent.’  Given which, the obverse legend of the first example remains irreducibly problemmatic.)   

This next collective instance involves the more recent acquisition.  The issue is actually a little earlier, coissued with Konrad II at the end of his reign as emperor.  But only over the past week, it got the same treatment.  Same as above; pictures are of each side, in order of acquisition.  Yes, it has the same neo-ikonic reverse.  But the way the obverses complement and ‘complete’ eachother is only more dramatic.

Konrad II as Emperor, with Heinrich III as ‘King of the Romans.’  Denar of Speyer, 1039 or shortly before.




(Aggregately:) Konrad and Heinrich, facing, separated by a double arch; cross above.  Here I’ll just summarily combine the two renderings of the legend; in this instance, there’s no obvious variation between them.  





Reverse: The Panagia, as in the previous, later examples; +SC[A MARIA].

Dannenberg 829.  It’s worth noting that while the second one here has almost no trace of legend, the face of Jesus is the best strike of the four.  …It’s really the luck of the draw with this stuff.

Especially from Heinrich III onwards, the Salians strongly identified their own dynasty, and its perpetuation, with Speyer and its patron saint, Mary.  Under Heinrich III (who called Speyer his “beloved place”), and his successor Heinrich IV, the cathedral saw two dramatic expansions, leaving it unrivalled in Latin Christendom for sheer size and, according to prevailing esthetics, magnificence.  (Cf. esp. Weinfurter 87, 158.)

Between the end of 1045 and his coronation as Emperor in 1046, Heinrich III commissioned an especially lavish book of the Gospels, donating it to Speyer Cathedral.  It includes the caption, “‘Speyer shall shine in splendor through the favors and gifts of King Henry’” (158).  This is the de facto title page.




The convergent legal and visual rhetoric coincided with Salian adaptation of Byzantine legal theory, back to the Code of Justinian.  This accorded the monarchy near-absolute powers, verging on a kind of imperial theocracy.  (See esp. Weinfurter 156, in the context of Heinrich IV.)  

Henry III, in particular, sought to appropriate this precedent for the sake of his own rule and the future of the whole dynasty, which he envisioned as continuing in perpetuity.  He proceeded to “sequester an entire third of the [...] central nave [of Speyer] as a royal burial site, a project that in the eyes of the bishop seriously impaired the cathedral’s function as a [...] church” (111).  Following his burial there in 1059, “drastic measures were taken to reduce the size of the royal burial place,” under the aegis of the bishop, Konrad I, “dash[ing Heinrich]’s ambitious dream of of establishing a monumenal burial place to celebrate Salian royalty into the indefinite future” (ibid.).  The imperial necropolis would remain a prominent part of the nave, but fewer people would have to step over graves on their way to celebrating Mass.



Bishopric of Speyer.  Konrad I, 1056-1060.  

Obv. Konrad facing.  (From 8 o’clock:) [CVNR]ADVS EP[S].

Rev.  Cathedral facade; central tower, topped by a cross and flanked by two turrets; gate below.  +N[EM[E]TIS CI]VIT.--.  Dannenberg 839 (this example, rather than his, providing the end of the reverse legend).  This issue returns to the original, Roman name for Speyer, noted above.

Funly, the schematic facade here succeeds in evoking the west entrance of the cathedral, refaced in the 19th century, but along the original lines.



This aerial view shows the same facade in the context of the entire cathedral.



Heinrich III’s aspirations for his dynasty would soon fall victim to his own implementation of them, in collusion with accidents of history.  His increasingly isolated, autocratic rule alienated the German baronage, including several of the major ‘stem’ duchies.  Likewise, his aggressive assertion of imperial control over the appointment (‘investiture’) of bishops could not but antagonize Papal interests.  In the eyes of Rome, the Great Schism of 1054, dividing the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic communions, did nothing to bolster his Byzantine-inspired agenda.  Notwithstanding the triumphs of his own reign, he left a whole, big world of hurt to his son and successor, Heinrich IV.  …Right, that gets to be a different story.  


The principal reference in print that I looked at (highly recommended, even in translation) is

Weinfurter, Stefan.  The Salian Century: Main Currents in an Age of    

Transition.  Tr. Barbara M. Bowlus.  1991; U of Pennsylvania P, 1999.

  If anyone wanted to add anything --No, tell me why; I won't tell you-- that would be terrific fun.  ...And if someone could do anything with the .pdf graphics, along the lines of visual mixing and matching, that would elicit serious gratitude.

Edited by JeandAcre
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Nice write-up and beautiful coins! A few comments, just to add even more confusion to your jigsaw:

1. More recent scholarship on the Speyer mint usually identifies the pseudo-Byzantine reverses showing Mary as copying not from Byzantine icons but from a gold histamenon struck for the empresses Zoe and Theodora in 1042. If that is correct, which I personally find likely, it means that all the respective types, including the coins you have shown (Dannenberg 838 and 829) were minted a bit later than previously assumed. Dannenberg 829 thus should be attributed to Henry III, who cites his father, and not to Conrad II.

Below is the histamenon in question (DOC 3, no. 1) for comparison. It is not my coin – the image is from the Dumbarton Oaks collection:



2. The Speyer mint was technically an episcopal mint. Especially in the cases of Speyer, Worms, Strasbourg, and Mainz, the Salian kings habitually exercized the royal prerogative of using the mints of cities they visited to strike royal coinage. Bernd Kluge calls this a "system of royal participation in episcopal mints" (Kluge 1991, 59). Effectively, the Salians thus outsourced the production of royal coinage in their Franconian heartland to episcopal mints they held some sway over. To my knowledge, it isn't quite clear what degree of influence the actual owner of the Speyer mint, i.e. the bishop, had on the design and production of royal coins struck at his mint. During the reign of Henry III, the dies for the royal coins of Worms and Speyer appear to have been partly crafted by the same die cutter (cf. Kluge 1991, 51). That might imply that at least the dies for these coins were produced independently from the bishop.

3. Your coin minted for bishop Conrad I (Dannenberg 839) illustrates that this system of shared mints became less stabile after the death of Henry III. Although Henry IV was able to contninue minting at Mainz, Worms, and Speyer, the amount of episcopal issues became proportionally higher during his reign. The bishops seem to have in many cases found a way of withdrawing larger shares of their mints' production from royal control.

4. Dannenberg is an incredibly valuable resource and a milestone of German medieval numismatics. Some of his hypotheses, especially concerning the dating and attribution of some Salian and Ottonian key issues, have by now been proven wrong, though. The best comprehensive monograph on the topic in my eyes still is Bernd Kluge: Deutsche Münzgeschichte von der späten Karolingerzeit bis zum Ende der Salier (ca. 900 bis 1125), Sigmaringen: Jan Thorbecke Verlag 1991 (Romisch Germanisches Zentralmuseum. Monographien 29).

5. I second your recommendation of Stefan Weinfurter's "The Salian Century." It is a wonderfully written, deeply erudite but still gripping read. When Weinfurter passed in 2018, German academia truly lost one of its intellectual pillars.

Edited by Ursus
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Huge thanks to both of you, @Tejas and @Ursus.  

I was at Speyer during the one summer I was in Europe, at the age of 11, with family.  But at the time, we got precious little about the historical context.  I definitely need to go looking online for anything on the graves.

I'm still waiting on a copy of Kluge's book on Salian coins.  (Ordered from Germany via ABE Books.)  Sure wish my German was any better than cusswords and how to order at McDonald's.  :<}  His interpretive input sounds fascinating. 

Edited by JeandAcre
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@Ursus, the copy of Kluge just got here --I had no idea it would arrive so soon!  It's already a revelation, yes, updating several of Dannenberg's attributions.  ...Regarding his introductory material, I can only wish I got along with German even as well as I do with French ...which is nothing to write home about in the first place.

But your comments set off a couple of synapses, nonetheless.  

First, granted the well-known, active diplomatic and dynastic relations between the Salians and Byzantines, it makes immediate, intuitive sense that the immediate prototype of the Salian Panagia would be numismatic, rather than ikonic in a more direct sense.  This has to evoke a nearly contemporaneous penning of Svend Estridsen (k. of Denmark 1047-1076), imitating an histamenon of Constantine IX ...at a point when Scandinavia was awash in them, following Harald Hardrada's return from his lucrative career in the Varangian Guard. 

thumb05050.jpg    (...Oh, Great, this one won't paste.  See below for the link.)

https://www.coinarchives.com/w/lotviewer.php?LotID=6108332&AucID=7009&Lot=5050&Val=91c9a8fc33a0c2c50440d24cc99dd1f1 and

http://www.wildwinds.com/coins/byz/constantine_IX/sb1829.jpg , respectively.)

...After all, minting --whether, as you note, under the aegis of the crown or the bishopric-- was an entirely different milieu from the Salian court.

Along similar lines, your observation that "the Salian kings habitually exercized the royal prerogative of using the mints of cities they visited to strike royal coinage," rang another bell.  (Thank you again for translating Kluge, and adding so much nuance to the minting practices in the process.)  Bompaire notes that, back to the reign of Charles the Bald, coins were often given the mint signature of 'PALATINA MONETA,' regardless of the mint city, when the king happened to be in residence there.  Of course, this provides only very partial precedent for the more complex dynamics under the reigns of Heinrich III and IV.  But as such, it struck me as being evocative, if not significant.  (Bompaire, Marc. “Les monnaies.” Revue archéologique de Picardie. N°1-2, 2012.)



Edited by JeandAcre
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