Author Topic: Prague gross  (Read 271 times)

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Offline Figleaf

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Prague gross
« on: June 04, 2019, 10:28:54 AM »
This is one of the best known medieval coins: the Prague gros. I picked it up during a recent visit to Prague. What makes it special is that it was struck in the name of John the blind of Luxembourg (1310-1346). John spent little time in Luxembourg, where he was a mere duke, preferring the kingdom of Bohemia.

John died in a noteworthy way. He attended the battle of Crécy with his son and successor Charles. When it was reported to him that the French were winning and Charles' position was not known, his reasoning is likely to have been that the English king would only surrender to someone of equal rank. The English king's ransom would make him incredibly rich. He ordered his household knights to tie their reigns to his horse and the group advanced to the front, where the Black Prince was at last supported by his father's reserves, driving away the French advance guard and exposing John's group. The group could not turn around because of the tied reigns. All were killed.

To hide the utterly stupid way of John's death, several gallant legends were invented, repeated through the ages and surviving today. John is a national hero in Luxembourg and, unlike his household knights, he has a monument in Crécy.

The coin (Smolík 14) shows:
Obverse: a crown with the legends +IOhANNES:PRIMVS (inside ring) +DEI:GRATIA+REX:BOEMIE (outside ring, the second + is quite small)
Reverse: a climbing lion with double, intertwined tail and legend +GROSSI+PRAGENSES (the second + is in fact a plant with three leaves).

Modern coins of Czechoslovakia often show the same lion. Their denomination is expressed in korun (crown). The current 1 korun combines a crown and lion in a comparable way.

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.