The Eagle on Coins

Medieval and Early Modern Eras

From the end of the 10th century at the latest the German kings who had gained the imperial crown through the popes, resumed the old Roman insignia to underline the restoration of the Roman Empire under their own rule. One of the most important insignias was the eagle-tipped sceptre in allusion to the Roman scipio eburneus, and the imperial troops used also eagle standards in battle. The high time of imperial eagle iconography was the period of the Hohenstaufen dynasty (1140-1250). This dynasty has also been called genus aquile, family of the eagle, so that often on coins the figures of the eagle and the emperor are merged: we see an eagle with a crowned royal head, a king or emperor with wings etc. From this time on the eagle and in particular the double-headed eagle, became the preferred symbol and arms of the Holy Roman Empire and its institutions. Successor states like the German Republic and Austria went back to a simple eagle. The Eastern brother of the Western double-headed eagle was the Russian eagle which has its roots in the late Byzantine double-headed eagle. Eagles like those of Poland, Prussia and Tyrol have their own tradition which partly depend on the medieval imperial symbol.

Click on links below to see a larger image of the coins (obv for obverse, rev for reverse):

 16.[obv] Andernach, German imperial mint, Otto III (983-1002), Penny, Philip Grierson coll. (PG) 18,629/FM.CM.454-2000: Heraldic eagle.
 17.[obv] Seal of Henry III of Germany (as king 1039-1046), reproduction, FM old coll.: Emperor enthroned with globe and eagle sceptre.
 18.[obv] Rottweil (?), imperial mint, Frederick I (1152-1189), Penny (bracteate), c. 1180/9, PG 14,146: Heraldic eagle.
 19.[obv] Ulm, imperial mint, Frederick II (German king 1215-1250), Penny, c. 1240, PG 13,687: Crowned bust of emperor with eagle wings.
 20.[obv][rev] Norimberg, imperial mint, Frederick II (1215-1250), Penny, c. 1250, PG 10,691: Crowned bust of emperor with sceptre and falcon/Heraldic eagle with crowned head and wings ending in eagle heads.
 21.[obv][rev] Kingdom of Sicily, Frederick II (1197-1250), Augustalis and half augustalis, mint of Messina, c.1231-1250, Trinity College coll./PG 563: Bust of emperor r./Eagle.
 22.[obv][rev] Aquileia/Italy, Patriarch Gregorio of Montelongo (1251-1269), Denaro (2), FM.CM. A.W. Young bequest/PG 6634: Patriarch enthroned/Eagle.
 23.[obv][rev] Pisa/Italy, Communal coinage in the name of emperor Frederick, Grosso maggiore (2), c. 1257/80, PG 12,292+14,036: Madonna enthroned/Crowned eagle.
 24.[obv] Milan/Italy, Henry VII (emperor 1312-1313), Grosso da 1 soldo imperiale, PG 1238: Cross (not visible)/Eagle.
 25.[obv][rev] Bronze jeweller's mould, Central Germany, c. 1st half 13th c., Given by P. Murawski: Episcopal bust with book and crozier between two towers/Heraldic eagle.
 26.[obv] Luxemburg, county, King Wenceslaw (1378-1419), Gros, c. 1384-1388, PG 2863a: Crown (not visible)/Heraldic eagle.
 27.[obv] Seal of emperor Frederick III of Habsburg (1440/1451-1493), FM old coll.: Double-headed eagle surrounded by the arms of the Habsburgian territories.
 28.[obv][rev] Bohemia, kingdom, Emperor Ferdinand I (1531/1558-1564), Taler (2), Joachimstal and Kuttenberg mints, 1558 and 1560, FM.CM old coll.: Bust of emperor/Heraldic eagle covered with territorial arms.
 29.[obv] Lubeck/Germany, Communal coinage in the name of emperor Ferdinand II, Taler 1622, FM.CM. old coll.: Lubeck's uncrowned eagle (not visible)/Imperial crowned double-headed eagle.

[ Go to previous page ] [ Go to next page ] [ Back to top ] [ Back to index ]

Hosted by the Department of Coins and Medals, Fitzwilliam Museum.