start page Charles V TOUR :   Mercurino Gattinara

Swiss portrait coins of the early modern period
Coins from the early modern period usually show coats of arms and saints.
In Lausanne and Sitten, however, some bishops also had their heads depicted on coins,
probably inspired by Savoy and Milan in their vicinity.

Bishopric of Lausanne
Benoît de Montferrand, 1476-1491
Aymon de Montfalcon, 1491-1517
Sébastien de Montfalcon, 1517-1536
Bishopric of Sion
Jost of Silenen, 1482-1496
Mathieu Schiner, 1499-1522
Hildebrand of Riedmatten, 1565-1604

Bishopric of Lausanne
Marius of Avenches (Aventicum), 1st Bishop of Lausanne, moved his bishopric to Lausanne towards the end of the 5th century. The last bishop of Lausanne was Sébastien de Montfalcon. After the introduction of the Reformation, he fled to Savoy in 1536.

Benoît de Montferrand, 1476-1491
Benoît, from a noble Savoy family, was so contentious and dominant, that he was transferred several times: Pius II appointed him abbot of Saint-Antoine-en-Viennois in 1460. His demeanor led the friars to refuse to obey him. In order to restore peace in the abbey, Pius made him deputy of Coutances in Normandy (1470-76). But there also there was a dispute with the cathedral chapter, which knew how to prevent Benoît from taking office. Then Pope Sixtus IV had him swap the diocese with the Bishop of Lausanne, Julius de La Rovère, who later became Pope Julius II. But here too there was a dispute between Lausanne, striving for autonomy and imperial immediacy, and the power-obsessed bishop.

Ducat, n. d.    Ø 22 mm, 3,15 g.   Unique in the Musée monétaire cantonal, Lausanne; Dolivo 68; Fr.283.
Obv.:   + LAVS·TIBI·REX·ETERn(?)E·GLOriE   -   "Glory be to you, king in eternal honor"
Head with tonsure to the right.

Rev.:   + B·De·MOTE·FERADO·EPiscopuS·LOS·A   -   Coat of arms of the bishops family.
The legends are still in Gothic script, the figures are already in the Renaissance style.
This bishop's head was apparently taken over for the first ducat type of the subsequent bishop.

Compare the bishop on a painting from around 1478 in the Château Saint-Maire, the former bishopric in Lausanne. [Photo Bertrand Cottet in]

Aymon de Montfalcon, 1491-1517
earlier spelling: Montfaucon
Aymon comes from a Savoy family, became a Benedictine in 1462, councilor of Savoy and prior of Anglefort in 1471. He worked as a diplomat for the Chamber of Commerce of Savoy. Pope Innocent VIII appointed him bishop of Lausanne in 1491. 1497-1509 he was administrator of the diocese of Geneva for the minor Philip of Savoy. Between 1495 and 1510 he worked as envoy of Savoy to the confederates. Aymon made a special effort to achieve a good understanding with Bern and Freiburg, some or all of which were subordinate to his diocese. He granted the city of Lausanne a certain degree of autonomy. In 1493 he conducted a diocesan synod in Lausanne. Aymon founded the Carmelite monastery of Sainte-Catherine du Jorat in Lausanne and the Franciscan monastery in Morges.

Ducat, n. d.     Ø 23 mm, 3,47 g.   3rd type: Dolivo 77; HMZ 1-524b; Fr.284.
Obv.:   + DIgnARE'.mE'LAuDARE'TE   -   Bareheaded bust with tonsure to the right.
The completed legend reads:
"Dignare me laudare te, Virgo Sacrata" = Give me the grace to praise you, holy virgin

Rev.:   + AY*DE*mOnTE*FALCOnE:EPS   -   Quartered family coat of arms: eagle / ermines.
A variant with a modified portrait (2nd type: Dolivo 76) has changed legends between obv./rev.
There are several variants of the spelling in the legend, such as DINGNARE, DIGNARE, DINARE.

Aymon de Montfaucon was immortalized in the choir stalls of the Notre Dame cathedral in Lausanne [picture in Dupraz, 1906], together with saints of the Theban Legion. The decoration of the west portal was also started under Aymon and continued under his nephew and successor Sébastien.

Sébastien de Montfalcon, 1517-1536
Sébastien was appointed coadjutor of his uncle Aymon by Pope Leo X in 1513 and followed him as Bishop of Lausanne in 1517. He fought in vain the Reformation that spread in Vaud from 1525 onwards. He was the last bishop of Laussane, leaving the country in 1536. He also did not succeed in setting up an episcopal administration in Freiburg.

6 Groschen, 1527.     Ø 29 mm, 5,73 g.   Unicum in Historisches Museum Bern; Dolivo 89.
Too light to be called a Teston.

Obv.:   ·SEB'·DE·MONTE·FALCONE·EPS·ET·Princeps·Lausanensis
Bust in profile to the right, with tonsure and in episcopal regalia.
Rev.:   In a circle of lilies: ·TIBI· / ·VIRGO / GLORIA· / ·15Z7·   "Glory to you virgin"
See an imitation for collectors in gold with counterstamp FAUX under the date.

Teston, n. d.     Ø ca.29 mm, 8,54 g.   Dolivo 87d; HMZ 1­530a.
Obv.:  +SEB·EPS·ET·PRINCEPS·LAV  -  Long-haired bust in profile without tonsure.
Rev.:   S MARIVS (eagle)+ MARTIRIS+  -  St. Marius enthroned with nimbus,
blessing with the right, palm branch (attribute of the martyr) in the left hand. Imperial eagle at his feet.
The coin images are taken from a Teston of Lodovico II. Fieschi, 1528-32 of the county of Messerano:   + LVDOVIC.FLISC.LAVANIE.ZC.DO   //   S'·THEONES (eagle) T'·MARTIRI +

The saint of Lausanne (bishop Marius, who had moved the bishopric to Lausanne) was not a martyr like the saint of Messerano. The closest possible resemblance to the Italian model was more important, in order to promote acceptance of the coin abroad.
The inferior imitation from Lausanne was to be sold profitably in northern Italy. Neighboring coin minters complained about the unfair competition. In 1531 they were able to convict the mint master Jean Réal of Lausanne of such bad coinage, that he had to go to prison. Thanks to the protection of the bishop, he was soon dismissed, as the bishop had the main profit. [B. van Muyden, p.85ff]

Ref. for Lausanne:
• Dolivo, Dimitri: Les monnaies de l'evêché de Lausanne (Schweizerische Münzkat. 2), Bern 1961
• Morel-Fatio, A.: Histoire monétaire de Lausanne (1476 à 1588), Fragment. In: Mémoires et documents ...
  de la Suisse Romande, Vol.35 (1881) p.1ff & 4 pl. - online
• C.F. Trachsel: Les ducats d'or d'Aymon de Montfaucon, RBN 1897, p.430-434 - online
• B. van Muyden: Pages d'Histoire Lausannoise, Lausanne 1911. online
  Darin S.85ff: Atelier monétaire de Sébastien de Montfalcon.
• Historisches Lex. der Schweiz: Benoît de Montferrand, Aymon de Montfalcon, Sébastien de Montfalcon.
• E. Dupraz: La Cathedrale de Lausanne - étude historique (Le stalles: p.535ff), 1906 - online [27 MB].

Bishopric of Sion
Sion is located in the upper Valais in Switzerland and was the seat of a bishopric in Franconian times. The diocese is connected to Saint Theodul, who brings together three Valais bishops, including Theodul (381-393). It is said that Emperor Charlemagne granted a bishop Theodul secular rule over the Valais in 805. But it was King Rudolf III of Burgundy, who gave the county of Valais to the applicant Hugo in 999. Since then, the Bishop of Sion has also called himself Count and Prefect in Valais. In the upper Valais, rural communities (so-called Zehnden) emerged, which influenced the bishop.
Bishop Walter Supersaxo (1457-82) conquered the Lower Valais as far as Saint-Maurice from the Counts of Savoy in 1475-76 and strengthened the episcopal power both internally and externally. He was the first bishop of Sion to mint coins. Since then, one of the sides of the coin usually carries the coat of arms of the issuing bishops family.

Jost (Jodocus) of Silenen, 1482-1496
Jost was appointed envoy of the Confederates to King Louis XI of France. In 1477 the king promoted Jost to the applicant of Grenoble as thanks for the successful negotiations for the dissolution of the Free County of Burgundy after the death of Charles the Bold. In 1482 Jost was elected Bishop of Sitten. The reputation of the francophone bishop fell after the campaigns against the Duchy of Milan and the lost battle of Crevola (1487). Georg Supersaxo (= Jörg auf der Flüe), his opponent and leader of the Milan party, drove him to France in 1496, where he died in 1498.
Jost exploited silver mines in Bagnes. Numerous church buildings in Valais testify him as an art-loving Renaissance prince.

Dicken (Testone), n. d.     Ø 29 mm, 9,80 g.   Palezieux 5 [2, p.274]; Lavanchy 5.
Obv.:   +IODOCVS·DE·SILINO:EPiscopuS·SEDVNENsIs·   -   Bust with hat to the right.
Coat of arms [lion] of bishops family, behind it the bishop's staff crossed with a sword, above it a miter.
The Roman title 'prefect' perhaps suggests immediacy under the Holy Roman Empire.

"The image on the coin bears no resemblance to other portraits of the bishop that were made posthumously. The embossed portrait is probably the most lifelike surviving portrait of the bishop" [Charles Kuntcher]. A slight resemblance to the image on the coin can perhaps be found in a picture by an unknown painter (64x53cm, gallery in the Stockalper Castle in Brig (?), Photo by Valais Libre [].

Dicken are thick (German: dick) silver coins made in Switzerland and southwest Germany at the end of the 15th century and were heavier than the previous coins. They were worth 1/3 gold gulden, weighed about 9.8 g and based on the Italian Testone. Milan coined the first Testone (from Italian 'testa' = head) in 1474 with the lifelike Renaissance portrait of their Sforza Duke.

Wandering die cutters probably 'exported' this type of Italian coins. [P. Elsig]
The dies of the 6 Groschen of 1527 from Sion (see above) was made by a die cutter, who also made the dies for the undated 6 Groschen of Matthäus Schiner (see below). [Dolivo, p.33]

Matthäus Schiner, 1499-1522
Born around 1464, † 1522 in Rome. Matthäus Schiner was a very influential church politician in Europe at the time. He succeeded his uncle as Bishop of Sitten in 1499. He attended the imperial diet (Reichstag) in Constance as papal envoy in 1507. Pope Julius II made him a cardinal and papal legate in 1511.
On Schiner's initiative, the Swiss Confederation supported Duke Maximilian Sforza in the Milan Wars. The defeat of Marignano concerning the Duchy of Milan, to which he contributed, put an end on Swiss expansion efforts. Schiner then tried in vain to build a league against France, because Pope Leo X had meanwhile turned to a policy of reconciliation with France. This also strengthened the Swiss francophile party around Georg Supersaxo (Jörg auf der Flüe), who was now able to drive Schiner out of Sion. Schiner joined Emperor Maximilian in 1515 and acted as his deputy in Italy since 1516. He supported the election of Charles V as Roman king. After Charles V and Leo X had entered into a new alliance against France, Schiner took part in the reconquest of Milan with a swiss army in 1521.
Schiner was devoted to humanistic ideas and also saw the need for reform in the church. However, he refused to break with Rome and opposed Luther and Zwingli.
After the death of Leo X, the resistance of the French cardinals prevented his election as Pope. Schiner died of the plague in Rome shortly after the election of Pope Adrian VI.

6 Groschen n. d.     Ø 28 mm, 5,77 g.   Palezieux 58; Lavanchy 15.
Obv.:   +MATHEVS·EPiScopus·SEDVnensis'.PRaEfectus'.ET·COmes'.VAL'lesiae
Bust to the right, with tonsure and in episcopal regalia.
Rev.:   Lily-adorned polypass with three lines of writing:
SOLI / DEO:GLO / ·RIA·   "Glory to God alone"
The profile picture on the coin differs greatly from the oil painting in his place of birth in Ernen
[Photo by Friedrich Dreier in:, Bild 12].

Compare with the graphic and also the painting in the portrait gallery "Galerie des Illustres" of
Beauregard Castle in the Loire Valley.
The original that served as model for these pictures was probably burned at Tourbillon Castle in 1788. [Morard]
It is hard to determine a similarity between these images and the image on the coin.

Hildebrand of Riedmatten, 1565-1604
Hildebrand I did not succeed in implementing reforms in the priesthood of his diocese. But the Reformation flourished at this time. In 1579, the Sion city authorities even denied the papal nuncio an entry to the city. It was not until 1604 that Hildebrand's district administrator decided to expel the Reformed. The last Reformed families left Valais around 1650.
In the Treaty of Thonon (1569), Bishop Hildebrand and Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy agreed to give back territories at Lake Geneva to Savoy, while Monthey remained permanently in the Lower Valais. In 1571 Hildebrand enacted the renewed Valais land law, which regulates the relationship between the Upper and Lower Valais and is regarded as the highlight of his reign.
No one else mintrd more coins in Sion than Hildebrand I, who was a bishop for almost forty years.

Teston or Dicken n. d.     Ø 31 mm, 7,5 g.   Palezieux 183; Lavanchy 46.
A piece is said to be in the South Kensington Museum, London (Palezieux, 1908).
Obv.:   HIL:DE:RIEDmatten:EPiscopuS:SEDunensis:Prefectus:Et:Comes·Vallesis
Coat of arms of the bishop (shamrock and two stars) between two flowers.
Above it sword, miter and crook.

Rev.:   + HILTEBRANDVS·DE·RIET·EPI·S   -   Bust to the right.
Compare with a picture by an unknown artist after 1636, 66x48cm, Galerie du Couvent des Capucins de Sion [source: Valais Libre -].

Ref. for Sion:
• Elsig, Patrick: Kopf oder Zahl? Die Geschichte des Geldwesens im Wallis, Sion 1993. - available.
• Palézieux-Du Pan, Maurice de:  Numismatique de l'Évêché de Sion. In: Schweizerische numismatische
  Rundschau 10 (1900) 212-299; 11 (1901) 100-138; 14 (1908) 265-352; 15 (1909) 1-37.
• Lavanchy, Charles:  Numismatique valaisanne. In: Vallesia : bulletin annuel de la Bibliothèque et des
  Archives cantonales du Valais, des Musées de Valère et de la Majorie, 1985, p.61-100
• Kuntcher, Charles:  Les monnaies valaisannes de la période épiscopale. In: Annales valaisannes : bulletin
  trimestriel de la Société d'histoire du Valais romand, 1959, vol.10, no.4, p.565-585
• Zenhäusern, Gregor : Sitten (Diözese) im Historischen Lexikon der Schweiz
• Historischen Lexikon der Schweiz: Jost von Silene ; Matthäus Schiner ; Hildebrand von Riedmatten
• Truffer, Bernard: Portraits des évêques de Sion de 1418 à 1977, Sion, 1977 - online: SN-Ann.no7.pdf
• Morard, Joseph: Un portrait authentique di Cardinal Schinner, Annales Valaisannes I (1916) 7ff - online

Startseite Charles V  /  Karl V. TOUR :   Mercurino Gattinara