Charlemagne (742–814) was crowned emperor of the Romans in 800. Yet coins bearing his imperial title are so rare that it is believed that he had them minted only after 812, when he received recognition as emperor of the West by the emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire. This denier silver coin is typical of those produced during the Carolingian Renaissance, a period in which art, culture, and religion flourished under the influence of Charlemagne. Such coins include a classical imperial bust and a reverse side often inspired by Roman coinage: a city gate (at Arles, Rouen, or Trier), a ship (at Quentovic or Dorestad), minting tools (at Melle), or a temple such as here. The coins were marked with letters under the bust indicating where they were made. The M on this coin stands for Mainz; those marked with C were made in Cologne, F in Frankfurt, and V in Worms. Specimens without letters are attributable to Aix-la-Chapelle. This coin contains what appears to be an actual portrait of Charlemagne, making it comparable in importance to the literary portrait by Einhard in his biography of Charlemagne written shortly after the emperor’s death or to the ninth-century equestrian statue of Charlemagne now in the Louvre Museum.

Last updated: April 3, 2018