A driveway of a house in the village of Asthall, near Burford, in Oxfordshire produced the most amazing discovery in the summer of 2007: 210 gold coins dating from the reigns of Henry VI to Henry VIII (1470–1547). The hoard might represent Church wealth buried for safekeeping during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, or might have belonged to a wealthy wool merchant.
The coins are called angels after the Archangel Michael who is depicted on them. Such coins were first minted in 1465. This was a time of great lay piety and high regard for the ideal of knighthood. So a military saint made an ideal subject for the new coinage.
The reigns of Henry VII and of his son Henry VIII mark the transition from medieval to Renaissance times. This affected many spheres: religion, governance and courtly life, as much as the arts. The angels present in the Asthall hoard illustrate the evolution from a Gothic to a Renaissance-style of representation.
This religious theme continues on the reverse design, where the traditional ship borne by the gold nobles since 1344 is super-imposed by a cross, and by the inscriptions: Per Crucem Tuam Salva Nos Christe Redemptor: – Through thy cross save us, Christ Redeemer (on the angels); O Crux Ave Spes Unica – Hail! O Cross, our only hope (on the half-angels).
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Gold coin from the hoard found in Asthall, Oxfordshire. The Archangel Michael is depicted on the coin.
Gold coin from the hoard found in Asthall, Oxfordshire. The religious imagry of the coins is clearly also shown by the ship and cross.
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22 May 2012