Empire Gold Coin
By Austrian Mint
On 5th November, 2008, the
Austrian Mint in Vienna launched its new gold
commemorative series “Crowns of the House of
Habsburg.” The five coin series begins this year
with the 1,000 year old crown of the Holy Roman
When the empire of the Caesars in the west sunk
beneath the waves of barbarian invasions, it
left a ghostly memory of unity and peace among
the peoples of Europe and even among the rulers
who had replaced it. On Christmas Day in the
year 800 Pope Leo III, seeking a powerful
protector from his enemies, crowned the Frankish
king Charlemagne in St. Peter’s in Rome, thus
reviving the imperial title that had vanished
three centuries before.
Charlemagne’s empire, however, declined amidst
the squabbles of his heirs, and it was not until
the reign of Otto I (936-973) that a territorial
empire comparable with that of Rome and
Charlemagne existed once more. In 962 Pope John
XII, also in search of a protector, crowned Otto
I as emperor in Rome.
Most historians regard this coronation as the
true birth of the Holy Roman Empire which was to
continue until Francis II under pressure from
Napoleon laid down the centuries old crown in
1806 and finally dissolved the ghost of the
Roman Empire in Europe.
There is hardly a crown with such symbolic
importance in the history of Europe than that of
the Holy Roman Empire. Although it became
largely an office of prestige with little actual
power outside the territories of the emperor
himself, the crown was a coveted prize for the
powerful princes of Europe. Even Henry VIII of
England tried to get himself elected to the
venerable crown of Rome in 1519.
The crown was never actually hereditary, but by
arranging the election of each successor in the
lifetime of the emperor, the House of Habsburg
ensured an almost unbroken possession of the
dignity for three and a half centuries.
Today the crown is housed in the imperial
treasury in the Vienna Hofburg. It consists of
eight gold plates joined by hinges and encrusted
with pearls and precious stones. Four of the
panels have enamelled pictures of King David,
King Solomon, the Prophet Isaiah and King
Hezekiah, and lastly Christ enthroned between
two angels with the inscription “per me reges
regnant” (through me do kings rule).
The crown is usually attributed to Otto I in 962
and was probably the work of goldsmiths in the
Rhineland. The frontal cross was added by Henry
II, while the arch symbolising universal rule
was an addition by Conrad II, whose name it also
The new 100 Euro gold coin pictures the crown
itself on the obverse side. The reverse shows a
picture of Otto I based on a drawing from c.
1200. In the background is old St. Peter’s
basilica in mediaeval Rome where Otto’s imperial
coronation took place in 962.
The coin is struck in 986 fine gold and in proof
quality only. The maximum mintage is 30,000
pieces world wide. The Austrian Mint has done
everything in its power to reduce costs in order
to keep the increase in price resulting from the
present high gold prices as moderate as
possible. Each coin comes in an attractive box
with a numbered certificate of authenticity.
As an added attraction a pin with a replica of
the crown is included with every coin. A
prestigious collection case for the series may
be purchased separately.
The series “Crowns of the House of Habsburg”
will be continued next year with a coin for the
crown of an Austrian Archduke.
Coin specifications for 100 euro, “Holy Roman
Alloy: Gold, Au 986
Diameter: 30 mm
Fine Weight: 16 g
Date of Issue: 5 November 2008
Face Value: 100 euro
Designer: Thomas Pesendorfer