Startpage Charles V TOUR :   Philip the Magnanimous of Hesse

      Contemporaries in the Holy Roman Empire      

Frederick III the Wise,  Duke of Saxony and Elector 1486-1525
*1463. Duke Frederick the Wise of Saxony was imperial elector and imperial governor when the emperor was absent or his position vacant. He became candidate of the church party for the imperial election, but voted for Charles as emperor in 1519. He set up the so-called "Election Capitulation", in which Charles V had to agree to numerous restrictions of his imperial power. Frederick was a humanist and founded the University of Wittenberg, birthplace of the Reformation. The pious and tolerant ruler protected and supported Luther, without ever converting to his doctrine.



Bartgroschen 1492, Zwickau.    Ø 25 mm, 2,40 g.   Krug 1869; Levinson I­292; Schulten 2972.
Obv.:   FRIDEricus - I◦GEoRgius - DVCeS - ◦S AXoniae
Bust in electoral coat with sword on his right shoulder.
Rev.:  ♣ GROSSVS◦nOVVS◦ZWICKAVIE◦  -  helmet with Saxon crest between date 14 - 92.
♣ stands for mint master Augustin Horn.
This is the first Saxon coin showing a personalized portrait of a ruler.


Guldengroschen (1st "Klappmützentaler"), n. d. (1500), Annaberg.     Ø 43 mm, 29 g.
Schnee 1; Keilitz 4; Dav.9705

Obv.:   FRIDERICVS – ¤ALBERTV – S ல IOH – ANNES ல –
"Frederick Albert John" with the arms of the Electoral Duchy of Saxony (top), Duchy of Saxony (right), Meissen & Thuringia (left). Bust of Frederick in electoral coat with the electoral sword on his right shoulder.
Rev.:   ·MONETA· – ·ARGENTIN – DVCVM ல – SAXONIaE¤   (...TIN incorrect for ...TEA)
"Silver money from the Duchy of Saxony" interrupted by the arms of Saxony, Meissen, Palatinate Saxony and Thuringia. Busts of dukes Albert and John facing each other and wearing hats with foldable rims.
Albert the Courageous, the founder of the Albertine line of the House of Wettin, war Frederick's uncle.
John the Steadfast was Frederick's youngest brother, co-regent und his successor.
The Klappmützentaler takes its name from the foldable hat rims. This coin shows the dukes wearing their hats with the rims turned up.
Model for the effigy of Frederick was presumably a sculpture made by Adriano Fiorentino [1498, bronze, 62,4 cm, Staatl. Kunstsammlungen Dresden].
The coin shown here belongs to the oldest German talers. The denomination "Guldengroschen" refers to the original name "a groschen for a gulden" thus attesting that the silver content equals the value of a gold gulden. They were the first large silver coins intended for widespread circulation. They were later called "Taler", short for "Joachimsthaler". "Joachimsthalers" were minted in St. Joachimsthal since 1520 with a silver content similar to the Guldengroschen. As the Joachimsthalers were minted in much larger numbers, their denomination prevailed.

The first Klappmützentaler with the names FRIDERICVS, ALBERTVS, IOHANNES was coined only for a few months as Duke Albert died in September 1500. His son George toke his place resulting in a second serie (1500-07) with the names FRIDERICVS GEORGIVS IOHANNES. A third serie (1507-25) lists the names of the three dukes by age, FRIDERICVS IOHANNES GEORGIVS.


Guldengroschen ("Klappmützentaler") n. d. (1507-25), Annaberg.    Ø 41 mm, 29,20 g.
Legends with large letters in antiqua.     Schnee 18; Keilitz 43; Dav.9709.

Obv.:   FRIDE - RIcus⦂IOH - ANnes⦂GE ORGIVS   -   effigy of Frederick III to the right.
Rev.:   MONEta - ARGEntea - DVCVM - SAXOniae   -   effigies of George and John en face.
Both sides have a Central dot.
This is an extraordinary well stuck piece. The Klappmützentaler were not issued for representation
but for circulation, in order to exploit the rich silver yield of the Saxonian mines.

Neither emperor Maximilian nor elector Frederick the Wise are typical Renaissance sovereigns, but they both knew how to use portraits, the new Renaissance media, for their political purposes. Frederick, an eager collector of religious relics, had his true-to-life portrait rendered on altarpieces and in prints such as the "Heiltumsbuch", an inventory of his relics. Like the emperor, he took care to have his fame broadcasted by distributing show pieces and medals. Both sovereigns not only commissioned prestigious coinages but also attended to their completion in person.

Frederick as "Imperii locum tenens generalis"


Schreckenberger 1507, Nürnberg.     Ø 25 mm, ca.4,5 g.  Keilitz 79; Schulten 3031.
on the dignity to be governor-general of the empire in the absence of emperor Maximilan.

Obv.:   FRIDericus'ELECTor◦IMPeriI⦂Que3 - LOCVM◦TEnenS⦂GENEraLIs'
bearded bust with long hair to the right; arms of Electorate and Saxonia in the legend.
Rev:   MAXIMILIANVS◦ROmanorum◦ REX◦SEMPER◦AVGVSTVS   -   royal eagle with shine,
shield of Austria-Burgundy on the breast, on top the date 15 - 07.


1/4 Guldengroschen 1507, Nürnberg.     Ø 29 mm, 6,99 g.   Keilitz 73; Schulten 3029,
on the dignity to be governor-general of the empire in the absence of emperor Maximilan.

Obv.:   FRID'◦ELECTtor◦IMPeriI⦂Que3 - LOCVM⦂TEnenS⦂GENeraLIs'◦
bearded bust with hood of wire to the right; arms of Electorate and Saxonia in the legend.
Rev:   MAXIMILIANVS◦ROmanorum◦ REX◦SEMPER◦AVGVSTVS   -   royal eagle with shine,
shield of Austria-Burgundy on the breast, on top the date 15 - 07.

The previous two coins present Frederick as appointed governor. Maximilian at that time (1507) was roman king "romanorum rex". The eagle, therefore, is single headed. The next piece was issued later (1513), after Maximilian's proclamation as Emperor in early 1508.


Guldengroschen, n.d. (1513), Nürnberg.     Ø 43 mm, 28,6 g.   Schnee 39; Dav.9702
Obv.:   FRIDericus DVX:SAXoNiae:E - LECTor:ImPERIi:QVE:L - OCum TENEnS·GENEralis
"Frederick, Duke of Saxony, imperial elector, Emperor's governor"
between arms of the Electoral Duchy of Saxony, Duchy of Saxony, Meissen and Thuringia.
Rev.:   MAXIMILIANVS·×·ROMANORVM·×·REX·×·AVGVSTVS·×·
Imperial eagle with shine and shield of Austria-Burgundy on the breast.
This commemorative was designed from a model by Lucas Cranach the Elder. The painter had been summoned to attend Frederick's court in 1505.
It was a sign of humility for a nobleman to present himself bareheaded. In order to keep long hair tidy, a hood of wire was accepted. The elector wearing a hood of wire is presented on an altar wing in Dessau [L. Cranach, about 1510, 104x39 cm, oil on wood]. The life-sized alabaster figure in the choir of the Wittenberg castle church also wears a wire hood.

These Guldengroschen are sometimes called "Locumtenens-Taler" because the legend highlights the distinguished position of the governor-general ("Imperii locum tenens generalis"). They were minted in silver, ranging from the double taler to the 1/4 taler. The elector gave them away as presents, especially on the occasion of a diet.
In 1507, during the diet in Constance, King Maximilian I had invested the elector of Saxony with the honour and duty of governor-general of the empire for the time of his absence. Frederick's appointment expired in 1508 when Maximilian I returned from Trient as Roman emperor-elect. However, Maximilian granted him the honorary title of governor-general for life.


Guldengroschen, 1522.     Ø 42 mm, 25,99 g.   Schnee 43; Dav.9704
Obv.:   FRiDericus·DVX - SAXONiae - Sacri·ROmani:IMPerii - ELECTor -
Rev.:   +VERBVM.DOMINI:MANET:IN:AETERNVM.   "The word of the Lord is eternal"
Cross with flowered ends, in the angles C-C-N-S (Crux Christi Nostra Salus = "Christ's Cross is our salvation") surrounded by the date M - D - XX - II with ornaments between the letters.
The design of this commemorative follows a picture painted 1522 by Lucas Cranach. This Guldengroschen became the model for the commemorative 3-mark-coin of 1917 below.

3 Mark 1917, Muldenhütten.     Ø 33 mm, 16,67 g.   Jäger 141
Obv.:   EIN FESTE BVRG IST VNSER GOTT   1517-1917   /   FRIEDRICH - DER WEISE
"A Mighty Fortress is Our God" (the best known of Martin Luther's hymns)
Rev.:   DEUTSCHES REICH 1917 ¤ DREI MARK ¤
This commemorative of the 400-year-anniversary of the Reformation was issued in 1917. At the time, the reigning king of Saxony was Frederick August III. He was a catholic, so his portrait could not well embellish a coin commemorating the reformation. Luther did not qualify either as he was a commoner. Frederick the Wise, Luther's protector, offered a way out of the predicament.
Only 100 pieces were minted, as not much silver was available during World War I. Less than half the number have survived the disorders after the war. As the coin is not only rare but also beautifully designed, its value now far exceeds the value of its older model of 1522.
enlarged: 9.2017

Startpage Charles V  /  Karl V. TOUR :  Philip the Magnanimous of Hesse