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Information about mint: Papal Mint, Rome

Mint namePapal Mint, Rome
CountryPapal States
Dates1305 - 1870

The right to coin money being one of the regalia (sovereign prerogatives), there can be no papal coins of earlier date than that of the temporal power of the popes. Nevertheless, there are coins of Pope Zacharias (741-52), of Gregory III (Ficoroni, "Museo Kircheriano"), and possibly of Gregory II (715-741). There is no doubt that these pieces, two of which are of silver, are true coins - and not medals like those distributed as "presbyterium" at the coronation of the popes since the time of Valentine (827). Their stamp resembles the Byzantine and Merovingian coins of the seventh and eighth centuries, and their square shape is also found in Byzantine pieces.

There is no pontifical money of a date between the last-named year and 1305; this is explained, in part, by the fact that the Senate of Rome, which sought to replace the papacy in the temporal government of the city, took over the mint in 1143. On the other hand, Prince Alberic had already coined money in his own name. The coins of the Senate of Rome usually bear the inscription "ROMA CAPUT MUNDI", or, S. P. Q. R., or both, with or without emblems. In 1188 the mint was restored to pope Clement III, with the agreement that half of its profits should be assigned to the sindaco, or mayor. The Senate, meanwhile, continued to coin money, and there is no reference on the coins of that time to the papal authority. In the thirteenth century the Sindaco caused his own name to be stamped upon the coins, and, consequently, we have coins of Brancaleone, of Charles I of Anjou, of Francesco Anguillara, viceroy of Robert of Naples, etc.; so did King Ladislao. Cola di Rienzi, during his brief tribunate, likewise struck coins, with the inscription: N. TRIBUN. AUGUST.: ROMA CAPU. MU.

The popes, and also the Senate when it coined money, appear to have used the imperial mint of Rome, which was on the slope of the Campidoglio, not far from the Arch of Septimius Severus; but in the fifteenth century the mint was near the bank of Santo Spirito. Finally, in 1665, Alexander VII moved it to the rear of the apse of St. Peter's. Bernini invented for it a machine to do the work more rapidly, and Francesco Girardini furnished a very sensitive balance; so that the mint of Rome was technically the most perfect one of those times. In 1845 Pius IX equipped it with the most modern appliances.

The administration of the mint was at first entrusted to the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church; direct supervision, however, was exercised by the senate, from the time at least when that body took possession of the mint, until the reign of Pope Martin V. The sindaco and the conservators of the Camera Capitolina appointed the masters of the mint, while the minting was witnessed by the heads of the guild of goldsmiths and silversmiths. In 1322 John XXII created the office of treasurer for the mint of Avignon, and its incumbent, little by little, made himself independent of the Camerlengo. Later, the office of prelate president of the mint was created. According to Lunadori (Relaz. della Corte di Roma, 1646), the establishments for the coining of money were in charge of a congregation of Cardinals.

The Papal States joined the Latin Monetary Union in 1866.

With the unification of Italy and the altered status of Rome, the Italian government took over the operation of the Papal mint in September 1870. The mint was used to make Italian coins, and due to the presence of Italian soldiers guarding the mint, a tunnel was constructed beneath the Apostolic Palace to ensure private access to the Vatican gardens.

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