Peculiarities of the first coins of the GDL

Monetary Studies
Volume VIII   No.2  June 2004
Research Papers

Stanislovas Sajauskas

The article presents a comprehensive analysis of the earliest coin minting in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL). The author enters into polemics against the opinion expressed by R. Kiersnowski, a numismatist from Poland, and his followers, who assert that the coin minting in the GDL has only been started since 1386, after Grand Duke Jogaila of Lithuania married heiress to the throne Hedvig of Poland, became the King of Poland, and baptised a part of GDL in 1387. To support his arguments, the author draws attention to the issues of minting and attribution of the coins of PECAT type. The article includes studies of historical, archaeological, metrologic, heraldic, sphragistic, palaeographical, and economic aspects of minting of the above coins and refutes the opinion that those coins were minted after 1392. The author demonstrates that the earliest GDL coins are those minted by Duke Vladimiras Algirdaitis of Kiev (1363–1394), the mining of which was strongly influenced by the neighbouring Golden Horde. Meanwhile, coins of PECAT type minted under Grand Duke Algirdas (1345–1377) are the first GDL coins minted on behalf of the Grand Duke. Attention has been drawn to the characteristic features of Lithuanian coins, i. e., their anonymity and usage of two different heraldic emblems on both sides of a coin. Heraldic study results in the conclusion in respect of coins minted under Skirgaila, Jogaila’s vassal in the Duchy of Trakai and on thrones of the GDL, minted in the period from 1382 to 1392, and bearing Lion – heraldic emblem used on Skirgaila’s seals – on the reverse side. The coins minted under Skirgaila enable to clarify composition of the treasure buried in the territory of the Lower Castle and discovered in 2000, and decide on attribution of coins bearing Lion (snow leopard) with two ornamentally interlaced hearts above. The article discusses the possibility, that the design of coins minted under Jogaila (1377–1386–1392) might have been influenced by coin minting of the Golden Horde and Halicas. The author comes up with an idea that the origin of two ornamentally interlaced hearts on Lithuanian coins does not lie in the Golden Horde, and that this ornamental pattern reached Lithuania from Copts of ancient Egypt through Germans, Vikings of Scandinavia, and Curonians.

The article draws the conclusion that Lithuanian heraldic emblem Spearhead and Cross is the emblem of Algirdas, also used on coins by his vassal Kestutis of Trakai. As the emblem of Algirdaiciai family dynasty, it was also used by Jogaila, son of Algirdas.

The emblem of Gediminaiciai family dynasty – Gediminaiciu stulpai – was used on Lithuanian coins as the second heraldic emblem of the GDL, first by Kæstutis (1345–1381–1382), his son Vytautas (Alexander) (1392–1430), Svitrigaila (Boleslov) (1430–1432) and Kazimieras (1440–1495).

Full article in Lithuanian language

Source of information: Bank of Lithuania.

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