9 November, Vienna – The Austrian Mint will issue today the fourth gold coin in the “Crowns of the House of Habsburg” series, featuring the mysterious crown of St. Wenceslas, crown of Bohemia. The crown is named in honor of St. Wenceslas, patron of Bohemia and the Czechs.
The obverse of the coin depicts the fantastic gold crafted crown, resting on a cushion draped with a silk cloth embroidered with a repeat pattern of the Bohemian coat of arms featuring its heraldic lion. Also located on this side of the coin are the country of issue “Republik Oesterreich” Republic of Austria, and the face value of 100 euros, and the word “Wenzelskrone,” crown of St. Wenceslas. A ring of tiny pearls along the outer edge encircles both sides of the coin.
The reverse of the coin depicts Rudolf II in richly embroidered robes typical of the Renaissance period. Three statues, of the 30 that exist, along either side of the historic Charles Bridge are noted in the central design field. The Charles Bridge existing since the 1360’s was the most important crossing over the Vltava River; the waves of which are seen to the lower right of Rudolf. In the background parts of the old city of Prague are detailed. The castle of Prague, Hradschin, and the spires of the famous cathedral of St. Vitus, where the Wenceslas crown is secured, soar above the old city. Mint engraver Herbert Waehner designed both sides of the coin.
The Czech crown of Bohemia, the Wenceslas crown is not just any crown. Mystery surrounds it. The ominous legend that mysteriously envelops the crown states that of anyone who wears it without the right to do so will die within a year. Sadly, this myth seems to have proven to be true, even within the last 100 years. Therefore, the crown is securely locked behind not just one lock, but seven locks, deep within the cathedral. There are seven keys held by seven high-ranking officials of the church as well as the state. All seven must come together in order to gain access to the crown. It is very rare indeed; only happening 9 times during the 20th century.
The crown was originally crafted in 1347. The Wenceslas crown is made of 21 and 22 karat gold and weighs 2.5 kilos. The diameter is 19 centimetres. The crown has four panels, each with a fleur de lys design that are encrusted with 30 emeralds, 19 sapphires, 20 pearls and a large ruby. The crown comes together though two intersecting arches topped by a cross.
Amongst the things Wenceslas was most known for was his habit of caring for the sick and destitute by personally visiting churches and giving alms not just to widows and orphans but also to prisoners. He was also known to harvest grain and bake communion wafers for the church. After his death the people of Bohemia spoke about his humble qualities and religious aura. A holy cult formed around Wenceslas the righteous king, one who has power by simply being pious.
Although Wenceslas was only a duke, during the reign of King Otto I (912 -973), Otto posthumously recognized Wenceslas as King. The poplar Christmas carol “Good Kind Wenceslas” is inspired by the kind deeds of Wenceslas and maybe based on the words of a Czech poet put to music by Englishman John Neale.
There is a statue of Wenceslas on horseback in the main square of Prague, appropriately named Wenceslas square. It is here that in 1989, the end of communist rule was declared.
Rudolf is depicted on the coin since he had many similarities to Wenceslas. Both had the right to the Bohemian crown.
The new 100 Euro gold coin is struck in proof quality (reverse frosting) with a maximum mintage of 30,000 pieces. The coin has a diameter of 30 mm., contains 16 grams of gold and is .986 fine. Each coin is encapsulated and comes in a box with a numbered certificate of authenticity.
A unique lapel pin plated with gold and bearing a miniature version of the Crown of St. Wenceslas also accompanies the gold coin.
A wooden collection case with a red velvet insert on the lid bearing a miniature reproduction of a heraldic crown of an Austrian Archduke may be purchased separately for the series.
The series “Crowns of the House of Habsburg” will be continued next year, in November, with the final coin of the series featuring the Crown of the Austrian Empire.