The National Bank of Hungary has issued (18th January) their second coin as part of a series remembering the Saints of the Arpad dynasty, which was launched in 2017 with the release of the first coin dedicated to the memory of Saint Margaret.
The second coin features Saint Irene, (1088–1134) a daughter of Saint Ladislaus, who was married to Byzantine Emperor, John II Komnenos, and is venerated as a saint in both the Western and Eastern churches. Following her conversion to the Eastern Orthodox Church and settlement in Constantinople, Piroska (her given name) was re-christened Irene, meaning “peace.” As the wife of the Byzantine emperor, she was not directly involved in politics, although she supported the Hungarian opponents of Coloman, king of Hungary from 1095 and king of Croatia from 1097 until his death. As her father’s successor and previously her guardian after the death of her parents, she was orphaned in 1095 and felt a sense of duty and affection toward King Coloman. She regularly received Hungarian delegations and pilgrims to the Holy Land and mediated between the Kingdom of Hungary and the Byzantine Empire on several occasions. She was active in social issues, supporting the poor and sick, and helped to organise medical services for them.
In the year 1118, she founded the monastery of Christ Pantocrator in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul), which was the world’s largest monastery at that time. From the beginning, the monastery also included a 50-bed hospital, which served as the example for later European and Middle Eastern hospitals.
During their marriage, she and John had eight children with their eldest, a son named Alexios, and their youngest son Manuel both becoming Byzantine emperors. Empress Irene died on the 13th August 1134 at the age of just 46 years old and was later venerated as a saint.
The coins are produced by the Mint of Hungary at their facilities in Budapest, on behalf of the National Bank, and are designed by goldsmith Fanni Király. The central motif on the obverse features the monastery of Christ Pantocrator in Constantinople, which was founded by Saint Irene. Its construction was completed by her husband. The monastery also housed the crypt of the imperial family, and it became the most important religious and social institution in Constantinople. Just
The reverse side shows a traditional front-portrait of Saint Irene in the style of an Orthodox icon holding the founding documents of the monastery in her hand. This side of the coin was inspired by the mosaic found in Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia, considered to be the only authentic depiction of Saint Irene. To the left of Saint Irene, is her Hungarian name of SZENT PIROSKA, along with the dates of her birth and death (1088-1134), with her name as the Byzantine empress in Greek letters EΙΡΗΝΗ(Έiréné) to the right. The stylised initials of the coin’s designer Fanni Király
|2,000 forint||Copper-nickel||4.2 g||22 mm||Brilliant Unc.||5,000|
|50,000 forint||.986 Gold||6.98 g||22 mm||Proof||2,000|
Each precious metal coin is individually encapsulated and is accompanied by a numbered certificate of authenticity. A presentation case is available separately. For more information about either version of the coins