Startpage Charles V TOUR :  Philip the Magnanimous of Hesse

      Contemporaries in the Holy Roman Empire      

George the Bearded,  Duke of Saxony 1500-1539
George was born in 1471 as the first son of Albert the Brave, the founder of the Albertine line of Wettins in Saxony. He should take up the clerical career. But when his father was appointed governor of Friesland by the emperor in 1487, Georg had to substitute his father in the duchy. After his father's death in 1500, Geog took over the Duchy of Saxony.
As a convinced Catholic, George sought reforms within the framework of the old church. In order to remedy grievances, he initiated visitations of church institutions. Against the resistance of the Bishop of Merseburg, George enabled Martin Luther to take part in the Leipzig Disputation in 1519. He also took part in it himself. But George resolutely rejected Luther's ideas and from then on vigorously fought the Reformation in his country. He considered the peasant uprising of 1525 to be a direct consequence of Luther's teachings.
His younger brother, Henry the Pious, was initially imperial governor in Friesland. His regency was so unfortunate that he renounced it in 1503 in favour of George. In return, he received an annual pension and the Saxon offices of Freiberg and Wolkenstein, where he introduced the Reformation.

The silver mining industry in the Erzgebirge, which was under the joint administration of the Albertines and Ernestines, experienced a boom period at the beginning of the 16th century. George promoted mining, expanding sovereign control to his benefit. He collected the mining tithe (usually 10% of the silver yield), participated with Kuxe (shares in the company), had a monopoly on the purchase of precious metal so that he could set prices, and received the Schlagschatz (profit from coin production). This added up to more than half of his total income.

Four stages of the relationship with the Ernestine relatives are visible on coins.

1. Elector Frederick III, Duke John and Duke George, 1500-1525
In the year of the appearance of the "Klappmützentaler" (later popular name) in 1500, Duke Albrecht died and Georg took the place of his father. The thalers, which initially bore the titles "FRIDERICVS ALBERTVS IOHANNES", subsequently bore the titles "FRIDERICVS GEORGIVS IOHANNES" (1500-1507) and "FRIDERICVS IOHANNES GEORGIVS" (1507-1525) respectively. But the appearance of the Klappmützentaler hardly changed.


Guldengroschen (Klappmützentaler) n. d. (1500-7), Annaberg, no mintmark.
Ø 40 mm.   Schnee 5; Keilitz 16.3; Dav.9707B.

Obv.:   FRIDᗺR - Icus:GᗺOR - GIus:IOH - ANNᗺS   in Gothic letters
Elector Frederick the Wise in electoral regalia: electoral hat, cloak and electoral sword.

Rev.:   MONᗺTa - ARGᗺNtea - DVCVM - SAXONiae   in Gothic letters
Dukes George and John in shirt and doublet with golding caps.

The following thaler is similar to the previous one, but the script is in antiqua instead of gothic.


Guldengroschen (Klappmützentaler) n. d. (1500-7), Annaberg, no mintmark.
Ø 40 mm.   Schnee 10; Keilitz 17; Dav.9707

(1)FRIDᗴR(2)ICVS⦂GᗴO(3)RGIVS⦂IO(4)HANNᗴ // (3)MONᗴT(2)ARGᗴNT(5)DVCVMᕠ(4)SAXONI
arms as before: (1) Electoral Saxony, (2) Margraviate Meissen, (3) Duchy Saxony,
(4) Margraviate Thuringia, (5) Palatinate Saxony.


Guldengroschen (Klappmützentaler) n. d. (1507-25), Annaberg +
Ø 40 mm.   Schnee 20; Keilitz 44.2; Dav.9709.
Similarly before, but with mintmark + of Albrecht von Schreibersdorf, mintmaster in Annaberg 1512-1523. Now John is named before George in the legend.


Guldengroschen (Klappmützentaler) n. d. (15070-25), Bucholz T
Ø 40 mm, 29,08 g.   Schnee 24; Keilitz 46; Dav.9709A.
Similar as before, but with mint mark T at the beginning of the legend from the obverse.

2. Elector John and Duke George, 1525-1528
After the death of Frederick the Wise, John took over his position as Elector. John's portrait on the talers changed from the reverse to the obverse. Also the portraits appear much more realistic.


Guldengroschen n. d., Annaberg ♣    Ø 38 mm, 29,07 g.  Schnee 51; Keilitz 86; Dav.9717.
Obv.:  (1) IOhANnes: (2) ELECtor: & (3) GEORgivs: (4) FIEri: FEcit:   [FIERI FECIT = have ordered]
Arms in the legend:
(1) Electorate Saxony, (2) Margraviate Meissen, Duchy Sachsen (3), Landgraviate Thuringia (4).
Bust of John with cap and shouldered Electoral sword to the right.

Rev.:   (a) MONEta (b) NOVA: (c) DVCVM (d) SAXOniae
(♣ = mintmaster Melchior Irmisch in Annaberg 1527-32)
Arms inserted in the legend: (a) Duchy Saxsony, (b) Margraviate Meissen, (c) Palatinate Saxony,
(d) Landgraviate Thuringia.   -   Bust of Georges with fur cape and wire bonnet looking left.


1½ thaler 1527, Annaberg.     Ø 43 mm, 44,59 g.   Schnee 659; Keilitz -; Dav.9784.
Obv.:   GEORGIVS⦂DEI⦂GRACIA⦂DVX⦂SAXONIaE◦&◦C◦ / ANNO◦DOMINI◦M◦D◦XXVII◦ETATIS◦SVE◦LVI◦✼   "The year of the Lord 1527 at his age of 56 years"
Bust with fur cape and wire bonnet to the left.

Rev.: ◦SIT⦂NOMEN⦂DOMINI⦂BENEDICTVM◦   "Praise the name of the Lord"
Triple-helmeted, ten-field coat of arms, including the county of Brehna (three hearts in a triangle), margraviate Landsberg (2 stakes), burgraviate Altenburg (rose).
With the exception of these pieces (2, 1½ and whole thalers in 1527) Georg only minted together with the Ernestine House before 1530.
According to Tentzel, this coinage is possibly connected with the wedding of his cousin Johann Friedrich in Torgau in 1527. The high-relief coin with ETATIS SVE LVI was probably distributed as a gift.

3. George alone, 1530-1533
Because a shortage of gold had led to a rise in the price of gold, the Rhenish gold florins was minted with a decreasing gold content. How should the Saxon silver equivalent react to this? Elector John wanted to reduce the silver content of the Saxon thalers in order to prevent their outflow abroad and to increase his own treasury. Duke George, on the other hand, wanted to preserve the intrinsic value assumed by the population. Negotiations had been going on since 1526, but were ultimately unsuccessful. The publicly aired "coin dispute" eventually led to the interruption of the common coinage policy, the so-called "coin separation" of 1530.


Guldengroschen, 1530, Annaberg ♣    Ø 38 mm, 29,06 g.  Schnee 664; Keilitz 107; Dav.9785.
Obv.:  NAW·MVNTZ·HERZOG·GEORGEN·ZV·SAXE ♣   "New coin from Duke of Saxony"
♣ = sign for mintmaster Melchior Irmisch in Annaberg   -   Bust with fur cloak to the left.

Rev.:   NACH·DEM·ALTEN·SCHROT·VND·KORN·1530   "According the old weight and fineness"
Arms in a cross position around the arms of Duchy Saxony (middle):
Margraviate Meissen (top), Palatinate Saxony (right), Margraviate Landsberg (bottom),
Landgraviate Thuringia (left).
For the first time, the legend is written in German. It is intended to send an important message recognisable to all. The "new coin according to the weight and fineness" is still the old coin, while the Electoral Saxony thalers were issued unindicated according to a lowered finess. George had to ban the new electoral thalers, while the electorate gladly accepted the new ducal thalers as pieces of equal value.
The situation was, of course, untenable. Therefore, the estates of both princes jointly initiated the compromise with their "Grimmaischen Machtspruch" of 1531, which came to fruition after the death of Elector Johann in 1534.

4. John Frederick the Magnanimous and George, 1534-1539
Under the new Elector John Frederick, the joint minting of both lines was resumed. The common coinage agreement mentions for the first time the term "Guldengroschen". Before that, there was officially no linguistic difference between golden and silver "Gulden" (guilders). They were both called Gulden. It was not until 1534 that the term Guldengroschen became established. From 1570, the pieces were called thalers.


Guldengroschen (Thaler) 1534, Buchholz T.   Ø 39 mm.  Schnee 78; Keilitz 130.5; Dav.9720.
Obv.:  (1) IOANnes FR (2) RIdericus·ELE (3) Ctor·DVX·SA (4) Xoniae·FIeri·FEci T  (T = mint Buchholz)
Arms in the legend:   (1) Electorate Saxony, (2) Margraviate Meissen, (3) Duchy Saxony,
(4) Landgraviate Thuringia.
Bust of John Frederick with shouldered electoral sword to the right.

Rev.:  (a) GEORGIus (b) DVX·SAX (c) Oniae·FIeri·FEcit· (d) ANno·1534  (without mintmark)
Arms in the legend:   (a) Duchy Saxony (top), (b) Margraviate Meissen, (c) Palatinate Saxony,
(d) Landgraviate Thuringia.
Beardless bust of George, collar with Order of the Golden Fleece on the chest.


Guldengroschen 1535, Schneeberg X.    Ø 39 mm, 29,01 g.  Schnee 74; Keilitz 131; Dav.9720
Obv.:  (1) IOhANnes FR (2) IDericus ELECtor (3) DVX·SAXoniae (4) FIEri FEcit X
(X = mint Schneeberg)   Arms in the legend as before.
Rev.:   (a) GEORGIus (b) DVX·SAXoniae (c) FIERI FEcit (d) ANno·I535
Beardless bust of George, without collar.


Guldengroschen (Thaler), 1535, Buchholz T.    Ø 39 mm.  Schnee 81; Keilitz 130.2; Dav.9722.
Obv.:   () IOAN FR () ID II EC () DVX SAX () FIEri FECit T   (T = mint Buchholz).
Bust of John Frederick in curial regalia with shouldered electoral sword to the right.

Rev.:   () GEORGI () DVX SAX () FIERI FE () AN I533
Bust of George with beard to the left, collar with Order of the Golden Fleece on the chest, raised hands.


Guldengroschen 1535, Freiberg ⚜.    Ø 39 mm, 28,84 g.   Schnee 73; Keilitz 129; Dav.9721.
The mint mark consists of a fleur-de-lis reflected downwards ⚜ and stands for Hans Hausmann, mint master in Freiberg 1500-41.

Obv.:   () ⚜ GEOR· () DVX·SA () X·FIE·F () ·A·1535   as before.


Guldengroschen (Thaler), 1536, Annaberg.    Ø 39 mm.   Schnee 72; Keilitz 128; Dav.9721.
Obv.:   () IOHANnesF () RIdericus·ELECtor· () DVX·SA () Xoniae·FIeri·FEcit
Bust of John Frederick in curial regalia with shouldered electoral sword to the right.
Rev.:  () (Mm.) GEORgius () DVX·SA () Xoniae·FIEri·Fecit· () Anno·1536
(Mm. = star with cross = mintmaster Wolf Hühnerkopf in Annaberg)
Bust of George with beard to the left, collar with Order of the Golden Fleece on the chest.
George, who was loyal to the emperor and an Old Believer, received the Order of the Golden Fleece in 1531, which he displayed on his talers from 1534 onwards.
After the death of his wife Barbara (1534), a Polish king's daughter, George grew a beard as a sign of his mourning. Called "the Rich" because of his silver wealth, George was henceforth given the nickname "the Bearded".
George also had himself portrayed by Lucas Cranach the Elder, the Lutheran court painter of the Ernestines: See the oil painting on wood, c. 1537, 57 x 37 cm in the Aschaffenburg State Gallery in Johannisburg Castle.

5. Medals on George the Bearded


One-sided cast medal 1518 by Hans Schwarz.     Ø 80 mm.   Habich 116; Kastenholz 19.
Specimen in the coin cabinet of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

✱GEORGIVS·IVX·SAXONIE·IN·ANNO·XXXXVII·M·DXVIII
Letters of the legend cut into the wood model.   -   Bust left, beardless, fur coat, gold bonnet.
George of Saxony had arrived for the Imperial Diet in Augsburg 1518 on May 16th. The expense book of the duke noted on June 12, 1518 that Hans Schwarz received 5 guilders for the medal.
See more Portrait Medals by Hans Schwarz on this website.


Schautaler 1533 by Hieronymus Magdeburger.     Ø 44 mm, 17,63 g.  Habich II,1 1894; Katz 64.
Obv.:   GEORGIVS⨯DEI⨯GRA⨯DVX⨯SAXONIAE⨯ANNO⨯SAL⨯M⨯D⨯XXX⨯
Bust to the left, fur bonnet and necklace with Order of the Golden Fleece.
Rev.:   SIT¤I¤NOMEN¤5¤DOMINI¤33¤BENEDICTVM¤Ĥ¤   [Ĥ = Monogram with H and cross]
Ten-field escutcheon, rolled at the upper corners, without crest.
The two occurring dates 1530 and 1533 are not yet convincingly explained. A connection with the so-called "coin dispute" (interruption of the joint minting of the Albertine and Ernestine lines is possible.
The Golden Fleece in combination with the year 1530 also remains open, because Duke George was not yet a member of this highest order in 1530.


cast medal 1537, model by Christoph Weiditz.     Ø 44 mm, 36,96 g.
Domanig 94; Habich 1848.

Obv.:   SEMPER·LAVS·EIVS·IN·ORE·MEO·ANNO·ÆTATIS· - LXV
"His praise shall always be on my lips, at my age 65"   -   Bearded bust right.
Rev.:  GEORIVS.DEI.GRATIA.DVX.SAXONIE ANNO.M.DXXXVII.
Triple helmeted ten-field coat of arms.


Cast silver medal 1537, by Matthes Gebel.     Ø 42,3 mm.
Tentzel III 45 no.8; Habich I.2 263 no.1845; Köhler-M.-Belustigung IV 137ff.

Obv.:   SEMPER·LAVS·EIVS·IN· - ORE·MEO·ÆTA·LXV
"His praise shall always be on my lips, at my age 65"
Bearded bust from the front with Order of the Fleece.

Rev.:   GEORGIVS·DEI·GRACIA·DVX·SAXONIE·ANNO·M·D·XXXVII.
"George by the Grace of God Duke of Saxony in 1537"   -   arms as before.
George's succession:   George's sons had died prematurely and childless. Therefore, after George's death in 1539, the duchy fell to his brother Henry. Georg had actually wanted to avoid this at all costs because Henry was a Lutheran. Henry was succeeded as early as 1541 by his son Moritz, who was to win the electoral dignity for the Albertines in 1547.

Ref.:
• Paul Arnold:  Die sächsische Talerwährung von 1500 bis 1763, in: SNR 59 (1980) 50-94
• G. Krug   Einige Betrachtungen zur Meißnisch-Sächsischen Münzgeschichte III: "Nach altem Schrot und
    Korn"
in: HBN 21 (1967) 159-161.

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