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Roman Zaoral
Charles University, Faculty of Humanities, Prague
The paper originated in the framework of a research project related to the precious metal
transfer from Bohemia to Italy and to the role of gold and silver nominals of Bohemian origin
in the money in circulation of late medieval Italy. The project is co-ordinated by Prof. Lucia
Travaini (University of Milan) and follows in my previous analysis of the 13th century hoard
of Fuchsenhof (Upper Austria). The first aim is to clarify what conditions preceded the longdistance trade development between Bohemia and Venice on the turn of the 14th century and
to verify Peter Spufford´s presumption that Prague was the only East-Central European city
which profited from the 13th century trade revolution. The paper is based on the confrontation
of written documents, originated at the Prague royal court and in Venice (the Fondaco dei
Tedeschi, the Maggior Consiglio, the Zecca), with Italian and Islamic glass finds in Bohemia
and Moravia. The analysis of these sources refers to the connection between reforms of coins,
weights and measures, realized in the 1260s and 1270s from the decision of Přemysl II
Ottokar, King of Bohemia (1253-1278) and Duke of Austria (1251-1276), in the Czech and
Alpine lands, and legal and administrative changes, carried out at the same time at the Zecca
and the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, as well as to Ottokar´s control of most important towns
situated on the way to Venice (Aquileia, Cividale, Pordenone, Treviso, Feltre, Verona) as a
background for the development of mutual trade contacts. The paper gives evidence of a close
relationship between the Venetian mint production and the “German” silver supply, largely
originated from the Iglau mine district. The second aim is to point to the fact that this longdistance trade had a cultural dimension. The archaeological finds from the Czech lands
support a direct connection between exported silver bullion and imported Islamic and Italian
glass, linked to a high dining culture focused on a wine consumption. This luxury glass, dated
back to the 1280s – 1350s, is known not only from Prague but also from Brno (Brünn),
Jihlava (Iglau) and from some other places. The role of the Italian community in the Czech
lands seems to have been increased around 1300 when Bohemian silver started to be reexported from Venice to Florence and when the Venetians were replaced by the Florentines in
Central Europe, not only in Bohemia but also in Hungary. The confrontation of these findings
with later merchant diaries proved that the model of trade contacts between Bohemia and
Venice, established during the second half of the 13th century and characterized by a struggle
of the Italian and South German merchants for the intermediary role in silver supply, has
lasted almost two centuries.
The role of Central Europe in the 13th century trade revolution is much less known than trade
contacts between Italy and Flanders. The long-distance trade helped not only to satisfy
growing consumption demands in Central Europe, it was also an important device of cultural
exchange which contributed to the settlement of cultural differences among regions. In the
second half of the 13th century Central Europe became a place where German settlers and
mining experts encountered Italian prospectors, traders and financiers. The stimulus was
coming from Venice which became the largest European market of precious and non-ferrous
metals for more than two centuries (about 1280–1500). The city profited from the fact that it
was situated closer to Central European mines than other Mediterranean ports. Penetration of
the Venetian merchants into the Eastern Mediterranean called for a growing coin production
which was fully dependent on silver supplies. A large amount of silver was an important
condition of payments made by Venetians for goods purchases in the Levant. Venice made
important gains from its role as intermediary between German production regions in Central
Europe and markets in the Eastern Mediterranean. These gains rapidly increased after the
Venetians introduced the grosso matapan which became the most important trade coin in the
Mediterranean for more than a century.
Significant quantities of precious metal were acquired in the mines of Bohemia-Moravia
and Hungary. Silver production in Iglau (Jihlava) and Kuttenberg (Kutná Hora) considerably
increased in the years of 1260-1350. The exact output is, however, unknown. Ian Blanchard
with reference to Jan Kořán averages its growing to some 5 tonnes a year in ca 1270, before
finally rising to a peak of 6.5 tonnes of silver a year in 1298-1306.1 Jiří Majer mentions output
of 5 tonnes in the 1260s and 1270s as well. However, after discovering silver ore in
Kuttenberg the annual yield increased, according to him, to 10 tonnes at the end of the 13th
century and to 20 tonnes in the first half of the 14th century.2 The gold production is assumed
to increase as well, its volume is, however, unknown.3
Metal export lead in two directions from Central Europe: to Venice and Flanders. A failure
to control supply during the initial upswing ensured that local money markets in Central
Europe were flooded with coin. The overpricing of domestic produce caused most of silver
and gold to pass into the hands of merchants who exported it, receiving western and southern
European manufactures in exchange.4 A manuscript compiled in the last third of the 13th
century provides an intimate picture of the nature of this trade, detailing the most important
Ian BLANCHARD, Mining, Metallurgy and Minting in the Middle Ages, vol. 3: Continuing Afro-European
Supremacy, 1250-1450, Stuttgart 2005, 930 prefers figures of Jan KOŘÁN, Přehledné dějiny československého
hornictví (Outline of Czechoslovak mining history) I, Prague 1955, 89-90, 195, based on actual mine revenues, to
the hearsay and chronicle evidence presented by Peter SPUFFORD, Money and its use in medieval Europe,
Cambridge 1988, 125 or the estimations of Josef JANÁČEK, L´argent tchèque et la Méditerranée (XIVe et XVe
siècles), in: Mélanges en l´honneur de Fernand Braudel I, Toulouse 1972, 259 note 12, which yield an
exaggerated annual output figure of 20-25 tonnes.
Jiří MAJER, Konjunkturen und Krisen im böhmischen Silberbergbau des Spätmittelalters und der frühen
Neuzeit. Zu ihren Ursachen und Folgen, in: Konjunkturen im europäischen Bergbau in vorindustrieller Zeit.
Festschrift für Ekkehard Westermann zum 60. Geburtstag. Hrsg. von Ch. Bartels und M. A. Denzel, Stuttgart
2000, 73, 76-78.
Josef JANÁČEK, Stříbro a ekonomika českých zemí ve 13. století (Silver and economics of the Czech lands in
the 13th century), Československý časopis historický 20, 1972, 897, note 100. See also Jaroslav KUDRNÁČ,
Prähistorische und mittelalterliche Goldgewinnung in Böhmen, Anschnitt 29, 1977, 2-15.
Bálint HÓMAN, La circolazione delle monete d´oro in Ungheria dal X al XIV sedilo et la crisi europea
dellˇoro nel secolo XIV, Riviera Italiana di Numismatica, Sekond Series, V, 1922, 134, 140.
goods transported to Bruges. The references to Hungary, Bohemia and Poland contain special
information about the wares traded in this period: “Dou royaume de Hongrie vient cire, or et
argent en plate. Dou royaume de Behaingne vient cire, or et argent et estain. Dou royaume de
Polane vient or et argent en plate, cire, vairs et gris et coivre.“5 The same structure of
commodities can be expected at export to Venice.
As a result of gradual penetration of Venice into the Eastern Mediterranean the push to
increasing volume of the mint production was growing. A regular flow of silver assisted the
city to come through competitive fight with Genoa (1257-1270, 1294-1299) and Pisa and it
became at the same time a dynamic factor of the development of commodity-monetary
relations for those countries which disposed of a sufficient raw materials basis.6 Under these
circumstances most of the new Venetian grossi were not changed, in either weight or
fineness, and progressively new and larger grossi were introduced. Silver passing from
Bohemia, concurrently, had permitted mint masters to stabilize the main circulatory media in
the West – the English sterling and Brabant denier.7 Nevertheless, a relatively fast
establishment of trade connections between Venice and Bohemia was caused not only by
expanding silver production in the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands since the early 1240s, but
also by power expansion of Ottokar II Přemysl, King of Bohemia (1253-1278), to the Alpine
lands and further to the neighbourhood of Venice in the 1260s and 1270s.
On the other side, a geographical location of Bohemia predestined to substantial extent a
total character of long-distance trade. Main trade routes directed from the South at the
European inland passed the Bohemian basin by. A peripheral position of Bohemia is
documented by the inland communications network itself which mediated a link of Prague
with Regensburg, Nuremberg, Magdeburg, Breslau and Vienna, with places then which were
Hansische Urkundenbuch. Ed. K. Höhlbaum, III, Halle 1882-1886, 419 note 1. As is evident from this report
and is documented also in finds, alloys were more spread in Hungary and Poland than in Bohemia.
Trade relations between Venice and Central Europe are subject of many studies of Wolfgang von STROMER.
See particularly Binationale deutsch-italienische Handelsgesellschaften im Mittelalter, in: Kommunikation und
Mobilität im Mittelalter. Begegnungen zwischen dem Süden und der Mitte Europas (11.–14. Jahrhundert). Hrsg.
von S. de Rachewitz und J. Riedmann, Sigmaringen 1995, 135-158. This topic was also a subject of discussion at
the conference in Prato (Wolfgang von STROMER – Frederic C. LANE – Peter SPUFFORD), taken down in the
proceedings La moneta nell´economia europea, secoli XIII-XVIII, Prato 1981, 145, 157-158, 879 (= Atti della
„Settimane di studio“ 7). From the Czech side see Josef JANÁČEK, L´argent tchèque, 245-261; Roman
ZAORAL, Obchodní styky mezi Prahou, Řeznem a Benátkami ve 13. století (Trade contacts among Prague,
Regensburg and Venice in the 13th century), Numismatický sborník 21, 2006, 137-150; Id.,
Wirtschaftsbeziehungen zwischen Bayern und Böhmen. Die Handelskontakte Prags mit Eger, Regensburg,
Nürnberg und Venedig im 13. Jahrhundert, in: Bayern und Böhmen. Kontakt, Konflikt, Kultur. Hrsg. von R.
Luft und L. Eiber, München 2007, 13-34; Id., České země a Benátky: k obchodním stykům ve 13. století (The
Czech lands and Venice: trade contacts in the 13th century), in: Odorik z Pordenone: z Benátek do Pekingu a
zpět – Odoric of Pordenone: from Venice to Peking and back. Eds. P. Sommer and V. Liščák, Prague 2008, 7594 (= Colloquia mediaevalia Pragensia 10).
I. BLANCHARD, Mining, 938-956.
part of the first class European communications network.8 All over the 13th century
superiority of the Danube route in long-distance trade was so marked that Bohemia and
Moravia did not manage to take major share in transit trade.9 It was one of reasons why
neither the industrial specialization happened in sufficient degree nor the home trader stratum
with strong capital originated in the Bohemian kingdom which would keep foreign trade on a
larger scale. Import of foreign goods, of luxury nature as a rule, was therefore reimbursed by
export of precious metal all over the period in view, namely by those who participated in it as
Metals from Central Europe were as important for the Venetian trade as yarn from the
West. The growth of Venice and its trade dominance was based on the balance between the
volume of overseas trade and the metal production, in which German miners and merchants
shared besides the Italians. They came most often from Regensburg and Vienna, since the 14th
century from Nuremberg then. Regensburg as the most important centre of precious metal
trade in 11th – 14th centuries Central Europe, with a high level of goldsmith´s trade, had
relevant significance for Bohemia. It is, however, necessary to keep in view the fact that a lot
of silver supplies were transferred to Southern and Western Europe in more complicated ways
than in direct trade connection. It mainly concerns state and church payments but more
complicated ways are to be expected in trade, too. Due to merchants of southern German
towns, a part of exported Bohemian silver was converted into coins already in the Empire or
was used to jeweler´s works and only further part reached Italy and Flanders as compensation
for exported goods.11
The establishment of close relations between Italy and Central European mine districts was
conditioned by raising trade and political barriers. The intensive wares exchange between
Venice and the Empire was started by a peace treaty concluded between the Holy Roman
Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa (1155-1190) and Venice, pursuant to which a new type of
silver coin – the Venetian grosso – started to be struck. The first German silver suppliers
appeared in Venice in the period between the third (1189-1192) and the fifth crusade (12131221). The richest foreigner was a Regensburg merchant Bernard Teutonicus there who
Jaroslav POŠVÁŘ, Obchodní cesty v českých zemích, na Slovensku, ve Slezsku a v Polsku do 14. století (Trade
roads in the Czech lands, Slovakia, Silesia and Poland until the 14 th century), Slezský sborník 62, 1964, 54-63.
Bedřich MENDL, Zápas o Donaustauf (Struggle for Donaustauf), in: Od pravěku k dnešku I., Prague 1930,
František GRAUS, Die Handelsbeziehungen Böhmens zu Deutschland und Österreich im 14. und zu Beginn
des 15. Jahrhunderts, Historica 2, 1960, 77-110.
J. JANÁČEK, Stříbro, 903-904.
carried silver from the East Alpine mines (Friesach, Villach), Hungary and Transylvania. 12 He
headed a private society which held a monopoly on silver supply in Venice. In the years of
1221-1225 a number of merchants coming from South German and Austrian towns
considerably increased. German suppliers were invested with special rights which enabled
them to establish their own store (Fondaco dei Tedeschi) nearby Rialto with about twenty
brokers, who dealt in import of silver and copper ores.13 The intensification of contacts with a
transalpine region was facilitated by improvement of traffic possibilities, particularly at the
opening of the St Godhard Pass in 1237. In connection with a Mongol invasion to Central
Europe in 1241 the silver trade seems to have been impaired for a short time. It was not
accidental that Florence and Genoa which were better supplied with African gold than Venice
started to strike gold coins already in 1252, while Venice only in 1285.14
During the 13th century, described as a period of the trade revolution, the Italians penetrated
into markets in Flanders and at the same time shared as prospectors in Eastern-Central Europe
in supply of Italian towns not only in precious, but also in non-ferrous metals15 necessary for
production of weapons, instruments and ship equipments. The first documentary proof of the
trade journey of merchants of Venice to the Holy Roman Empire, realized on the authority of
the Doge of Venice, comes from 1232.16 Already during the first half of the 13th century trade
contacts spread wide, as is evident from the customs regulations, issued for Wiener Neustadt
in 1244 by Frederick II, Duke of Austria (1230-1246). The road via the Pyhrn Pass seems to
have been in operation at that time.17 Crucial turn in long-distance trade came, however, only
in the second half of the 13th century. The accurate specification of duties in the Fondaco dei
Tedeschi, the Brenner road building, the opening of new trade routes via Nuremberg and West
W. von STROMER, Bernardus Teutonicus und die Geschäftsbeziehungen zwischen den deutschen Ostalpen
und Venedig vor Gründung des Fondaco dei Tedeschi, in: Beiträge zur Handels- und Verkehrsgeschichte, Graz
1978, 1-15 (= Grazer Forschungen zur Wirtschafts- und Sozialgeschichte, Bd. 3); Id., Venedig und die
Weltwirtschaft um 1200. Ein neues Bild, in: Venedig und die Weltwirtschaft um 1200. Hrsg. von W. von
Stromer, Stuttgart 1999, 1-9. See also Gerhard RÖSCH, Venedig und das Reich. Handels- und verkehrspolitische
Beziehungen in der deutschen Kaiserzeit, Tübingen 1982.
Sources to history of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi have been published by Georg Martin THOMAS (ed.),
Capitular des Deutschen Hauses in Venedig, Berlin 1874 (reprint Vaduz 1978). See also Henry SIMONSFELD,
Der Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venedig und die deutsch-venetianischen Handelsbeziehungen I.-II., Stuttgart 1887;
Karl-Ernst LUPPRIAN, Zur Entstehung des Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venedig, in: Grundwissenschaften und
Geschichte. Festschrift für P. Acht, Kallmünz 1976, 128-134 (= Münchner Historische Studien, Abteilung
Geschichtliche Hilfswissenschaften 15); Id., Il Fondaco dei Tedeschi e la sua funzione di controllo del comercio
tedesco a Venezia, Venezia 1978 and G. RÖSCH, Venedig und das Reich, 85-96.
W. von STROMER, Hartgeld, Kredit und Girageld. Zu einer monetären Konjunkturtheorie des
Spätmittelalters und der Wende zur Neuzeit, in: La moneta nell´economia europea, secoli XIII-XVIII, Prato
1981, 145.
Tin, copper and lead occurs most often among non-ferrous metals exported from Central Europe. See in detail
I. BLANCHARD, Mining, 1451-1572.
H. SIMONSFELD, Fondaco II, 31.
G. RÖSCH, Venedig und das Reich, 87.
European passes directed at the Rhineland, Flanders and England beyond – it all laid the
ground for boom of late medieval long-distance trade.
Metal supplies to Venice were provided from all known ore districts of Central and South
Eastern Europe at that time: Freiberg, Freiburg im Breisgau, Tyrol, Friesach, Iglau,
Kuttenberg (after 1280), Gölnicbánya (Göllnitz, Gelnica) in Zips (Spiš), Rodna in
Transylvania, Brskovo in Serbia.18 They were mediated by experienced and wealthy
merchants from Upper German and northern Italian towns who waged competitors fight
among each other. The entrepreneurs of Prague as well as of other East-Central European
cities were not able to compete with them and were from this fight excluded. A mutual
German-Italian rivalry for European markets culminated in the 1270s. It was not allowed
Venetian merchants to carry on trade on two main routes heading via Padua and the Brenner
Pass to Regensburg and via Tarvisio to Vienna in 1272. Five years later Rudolf of Habsburg
(1273-1291) promised protection for merchants of Venice in his letter addressed to Jacopo
Contarini, Doge of Venice (1278-1280),19 but it mostly referred to supplies for princely courts
only. Especially contacts between Venice and adjacent Treviso managed by German
merchants had been tensed. Reports on reprisals in Treviso in 1265 and trade bans with the
town, repeatedly enounced in Venice (1272, 1284, 1303), illustrate a strenuous struggle of
Venetian merchants for capture of the metal market.20 Penetration of the Venetians to Central
Europe had strengthened since the 1270s and their positions became stabilized after they had
achieved free trade right for their merchants in the Empire in 1303.21 The Italians likewise the
Germans were in charge of coiner´s and goldsmith´s work in the Bohemian kingdom, but they
also asserted themselves as diplomats and notaries which corresponded to the “imperial” size
of the Ottokar´s court.22
It was the power struggle between the Patriarchate of Aquileia and local nobility in 1267
which brought profit to Venice as well as to the Bohemian king. It enabled entrepreneurs of
Striking analogies, documented at the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands, on the Saxon side of the Ore Mountains
(Erzgebirge) as well as in the Siegerland or Schwarzwald evoke image of an integral cultural and technological
milieu. See Jiří DOLEŽEL – Jaroslav SADÍLEK, Středověký důlní complex v trait Havírna u Štěpánova nad
Svratkou. Příspěvek k dějinám těžby stříbra v oblasti severozápadní Moravy ve 13. a 14. století (A medieval
mining complex “Havírna”. Contribution to history of silver mining in the region of North-western Moravia in
the 13th and 14th centuries), in: Mediaevalia archaeologica 6, Prague – Brno – Plzeň 2004, 43-119.
Riccardo PREDELLI et al. (eds.), I libri commemoriali della Repubblica di Venezia – regesti I. Venezia 1876,
document No. 5 of 18th March 1277.
The German colony in Treviso is documented already in 1184-1193. H. SIMONSFELD, Eine deutsche
Colonie zu Treviso im späten Mittelalter, in: Abhandlungen der Historischen Klasse der Königlich-Bayerischen
Akademie der Wissenschaften, München 1891, 555 note 2.
W. von STROMER, Binationale Handelsgesellschaften, 143-146.
Since 1273 Master Henry of Isernia, for example, had a comfortable post in the chancery of Ottokar II at
Prague. See Václav NOVOTNÝ, České dějiny (Czech history) I/4, Prague 1937, 370-372.
Venice to penetrate more systematically to Central European mining districts. Ottokar used
the patriarchate crisis for his own benefit: in 1270 he acquired Friuli and in the spring of 1272
his commissioner in Carinthia Ulrich of Drnholec captured Cividale and included in king´s
power sphere the Patriarchate of Aquileia with the centre in Udine, where the local canonry
elected Ottokar its captain general.23 At that time (1270–1276) the king of Bohemia and his
allies had control of most important towns situated on the way to Venice (Aquilea, Cividale,
Pordenone, Treviso, Feltre, Verona). The connection between Bohemia-Moravia and Venice
was not in fact as unusual as it might seem. Essentially the entire road from Prague or Brno
via Vienna or Linz to Venice passed through the demesne of the king of Bohemia at that time.
The doges of Venice and the Major Council (Maggior Consiglio) took a number of
measures to have a booming long-distance trade under control. Three and later four officers
were entrusted with financial powers over trade transactions of precious metals (1260 and
1266/67), a public debt (1262) and a permanent deposit (1265) were established and a law
concerning coinage (1269). A tax on imported silver was imposed in 1270 and the silver
alloys purchase was authorized in 1273.24
The import of silver was subject to close checking. In an effort to restrict a growing power
of German merchants the council issued a decree in 1268 according to which foreign
merchants owed a duty to present imported silver in the mint straightaway after their check-in
at the Fondaco. At the same time it assessed a delay or non-notice fee in the amount of about
9 per cent of a total silver price and 4 per cent of a total gold price.25 The assay office in
Venice, which was tasked to weigh and assay precious metal, is documented already 1262, its
effectiveness seems, however, to have been insufficient. It is evident from the fact that the
precious metal control became more restrictive in 1278. The council ordered appraisers to
weigh all silver offered for sale on their bank or in the mint. The mint master was obliged to
buy it back for mintage and had right to remove from the exchange office everybody who
overpaid the silver price. The purchased silver could bear a form of mined silver, coins and
alloys made in Venice (since 1273). At the same time silver alloys started to be marked with
Roberto CESSI, Venezia nel Ducento: tra Oriente e Occidente, Venezia 1985, 257; V. NOVOTNÝ, České
dějiny I/4, 252.
Alan M. STAHL, Zecca. The Mint of Venice in the Middle Ages, Baltimore-London-New York 2000, passim.
See also Lucia TRAVAINI, Mint organization in Italy between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries: a survey, in:
Later Medieval Mints: Organisation, Administration, Techniques. 8th Oxford Symposium on Coinage and
Monetary History, eds. N.J. Mayhew and P. Spufford, Oxford 1977, 39-60 (= BAR International Series 389).
A. M. STAHL, Zecca, 133.
coining dies. Silver in the coin form was allowed to be melted in the mint only or in the state
refinery at Rialto.26
The first mentions of silver taxation and regulation in Venice come from 1268 and 1270.
They presumably referred to the regular supply of “German” silver, which had established its
dominance at Venice since the late 1260s and which seems to originate predominantly from
Iglau.27 German merchants arriving at the Fondaco dei Tedeschi were required, within two
days of their arrival, to register their wares with the officials supervising activity at the
Fondaco (vicedomini). Should they fail to register a single mark of silver or coin they were to
be subject to draconian penalties. By 1270 they had to pay a 2.5 per cent tax on all their
goods, including “argentin et platas argenti.”28 These rules have not much changed even in
the first half of the 14th century, as is evident from the merchant´s manual of Francesco
Balducci Pegolotti, a Florentine factor for the Bardi banking house, according to which every
merchant had to declare supply in three days after his arrival and realize a sale in a week. In
15-20 days he was to be bought off in Venetian grossi.29 Similar ordinance was in force at
Prague. King Wenceslas II (1278/83-1305) confirmed decision of Old and Lesser Town in
1304, every foreign merchant to be obliged to unload his goods and put it on the market on
five days of his stay in Prague.30
Silver was sold for market price. Even if any gold coins have been yet struck in Venice in
1269 (the mint started with their production in 1284 only), the law concerning coinage froze a
silver price to unstable gold prices31 and required silversmiths working for the mint to pay a
tax in the amount of 0,625 grammes of gold from each silver pound. 32 The mint masters owed
the duty to pay 107 grossi for a silver pound of grosso fineness, the price, then, which had not
been changed even after fifty years.33 The mint struck from purchased silver grossi and their
parts, which were in 1273-1278 sold in relation 1 gramme of pure silver = 4,05 – 4,18
Ibidem, 138-139, 169.
J. JANÁČEK, L´argent, 245-261.
R. CESSI (ed.), Problemi monetari veneziani, Padua 1937, 11-12, documents No. 14-15 (= Documenti
finanziari della Repubblica di Venezia IV/1).
Francesco Balducci PEGOLOTTI, La pratica della mercatura. Ed. A. Evans, Cambridge, Mass. 1936. The
most recent discussion of Pegolotti is in L. TRAVAINI, Monete, mercanti e matematica: le monete medievali nei
trattati di aritmetica e nei libri mercatura, Roma 2003, 118-130.
Prague City Archives, Manuscript collection, No. 986, fol. 64. Quoted according to Miloš DVOŘÁK,
Zahraniční a vnitřní obchod (Foreign and home trade), in: Lucemburská Praha 1310-1437, Prague 2006, 124.
The contemporary boom in European silver production ensured a progressive cheapening of that metal in
terms of African gold. In the 1250s a given weight of gold had been generally purchasable in Europe for eight to
nine times the amount of silver. By the 1280s the value of gold in terms of silver increased at a ratio of 1:11 and
in the early 14th century gold was worth over thirteen times the amount of silver. See I. BLANCHARD, Mining,
Louise B. ROBBERT, The Venetian money market, 1150 to 1229, in: Studi Veneziani 13, 1971, 63; Id.,
Money and prices in thirteenth-century Venice, Journal of Medieval History 20, 1994, 373-390.
A. M. STAHL, Zecca, 170.
grammes of silver ore.34 The merchants of Venice who travelled overseas were to have been
invested with full-bodied grossi by conversion of old ones. The Fondaco dei Tedeschi
capitulary required in 1278 the valid coins compensation for devalued ones to be carried out
on a weight for weight basis.35
Silver supplies directly influenced a productive efficiency of the Venice mint. Data
published by Alan Stahl explicitly support this connection: the first marked upsurge of
mintage came in the 1260s and 1270s with a peak production in 1278.36 The profit of the mint
was about ten times higher from the striking of petty coins (20, 9 per cent in 1278) than from
the striking of grossi (2,3 per cent in 1278). But even at its extremely high productivity,
estimated at 10 tonnes of silver in 1278, its total subsidy for settlement of a huge debt of the
Republic of Venice was negligible.37 Running into debt and inflation rise is well documented
by the rate of petty coins to Venetian grosso, which increased from 1:26 in 1254 to 1:32 in
1282.38 Even other European countries including the Kingdom of Bohemia with rich
resources of precious metal did not avoid similar inflationary trends.
It became a general rule of the Exchequer of Venice that all incomes, collected above a
limit set, were to have been used for settlement of debts and amortization. In this case it was
possible to loan money through the medium of mint. The establishment of public debt
contributed to increasing sale of testator´s obligations as well as to regular investments in real
estate.39 The precious metal trade supported, moreover, development of banking system
which, however, stayed limited to the most advanced regions of Europe only. A credit level in
Venice ranged between 8 and 12 per cent at that time.40
The Bohemian king Ottokar II, as a ruler related to the Stauf dynasty, was probably
inspired in his efforts by economic reforms of the Emperor Frederick II (1220-1250). The aim
of three Ottokar´s reforms from 1253, 1260/61 and 1268/70 was to make compatible two
different monetary systems (bracteates and pfennigs) and to make trade contacts with Venice
Prices of silver valid at the Venetian mint in 1273-1278: at sale of grossi (1273 and 1274): 1 gramme of native
silver = 1,04 gramme of coin silver alloy of 960/1000 fineness = 4,18 grammes of silver ore; at sale of petty
coins (1278): 1 gramme of native silver = 5,05 grammes of coin silver alloy of 198/1000 fineness = 4,05
grammes of silver ore. Calculated from data published by L. B. ROBBERT, The Venetian money market, 91.
G. M. THOMAS (ed.), Capitular, chapter 64.
A. M. STAHL, Venetian Coinage: Variations in Production, in: Rythmes de la production monétaire, de
l´antiquité à nos jours. Actes du colloque international organisé à Paris du 10 au 12 janvier 1986. Louvain-laNeuve 1987, 476-479.
A. M. STAHL, Zecca, 169-173.
Gino LUZZATO, L´oro et l´argento nella politica monetaria veneziana dei secoli XIII-XIV, in: Studia di storia
economica veneziana, Padua 1954, 261-263. See also Michael KNAPTON, La finanza pubblica, in: Storia di
Venezia II, Roma 1995, 375.
Reinhold C. MUELLER, The Procurators of San Marco in thirteenth and fourteenth centuries: a study of the
office as a financial and trust institution, in: Studi Veneziani 13, 1971, 192-193.
M. KNAPTON, La finanza publica, 396-402.
easier. In this sense his last reform connected with the weights and measures adjustment
belongs to the most important. The timing of these changes with legal and administrative
reforms in Venice is remarkable. It is beyond doubt that they created conditions for more
intensive goods exchange between Prague-Brünn and Venice.
The monetary policy of the Bohemian king was followed by the earl Menhart family (the
mint Lienz in Tyrol) and the archbishops of Salzburg (the mint Friesach in Carinthia), as is
evident from their coins with lion coat of arms.41 The coinage improvement and stabilization
was a part of the princes´ pledge before the battle of Kressenbrunn (1260), in which the power
struggle for Styria culminated.42 The exchange of better quality coins for those with lower
silver contents caused all consumers damage because coin was not only a subject of a longdistance trade but also penetrated into everyday life. Solution consisted in system measures,
which were to have strengthened the coin quality and the more practical exchange of used
That is why the Bohemian king “ordered to renew measures and weights and to mark
them”.43 The aim of Ottokar´s last reform of 1268 was to establish coins of lower weight but
of high quality (970-980/1000) and integrate nominals of half value (obols), recorded in the
coin finds, into currency systems of the Czech and Austrian lands. Cancellation of the striking
of one coin type in two different weights, new issues of pfennig-type deniers,44 put into
circulation in Bohemia and Moravia, as well as the fact that the bracteates weight of the small
flan became compatible with the pfennigs weight – it all can serve as other proofs of more
advanced currency conditions.45 A new heavy pound of 280 grammes seems to have been
introduced in Moravia just at that time as is evident from the secondarily modified, originally
Tomáš KREJČÍK, Mincovnictví Přemysla Otakara II. v alpských zemích (Coinage of Ottokar II Přemysl in the
Alpine lands), Folia historica bohemica 1, 1979, 209-224.
Fontes rerum Bohemicarum (thereinafter FRB) II. Eds. J.Emler and V. V. Tomek, Prague 1874, 319.
Codex diplomaticus et epistolaris regni Bohemiae (thereinafter CDB) V/1. Eds. J. Šebánek and S. Dušková,
Prague 1974, No. 794. See also FRB II, 300.
I use a term “pfennig-type denier” in Jiří Sejbal´s intention due to a close connection between currency
development in Moravia and Austria and at the same time in efforts to distinguish Moravian coins from Austrian
and southern German pfennigs. See Jiří SEJBAL, K chronologii moravských ražeb 13. století (Chronology of the
13th century Moravian mints), in: Sborník I. numismatického symposia 1964, Brno 1966, 78–84; Id.,
K základním otázkám vzniku moravských ražeb 13. století (The origin questions of the 13 th century Moravian
mints) , in: Sborník II. numismatického symposia 1969, Brno 1976, 60; Id., Základy peněžního vývoje (ABC of
monetary development), Brno 1997, 119. By contrast Jarmila HÁSKOVÁ, K ražbě a ikonografii české mince ve
13. století (The striking and iconography of a Bohemian coin in the 13 th century), in: Z pomocných věd
historických XI – Numismatica, Acta Universitatis Carolinae – Philosophica et Historica 1, 1993, Prague 1995,
35 note 3 uses a less suitable term “bracteates-type denier”.
R. ZAORAL, Die böhmischen und mährischen Münzen des Schatzfundes von Fuchsenhof, in: Der Schatzfund
von Fuchsenhof. Hrsg. von B. Prokisch und T. Kühtreiber, Linz 2004, 95-132; Id., České a moravské ražby
z pokladu Fuchsenhof (Bohemian and Moravian mints from the Fuchsenhof hoard), Numismatický sborník 20,
2005, 61-108.
much lighter bronze weight, found at the Upper Square in Olmütz (Olomouc) and dated back
to the second half of the 13th century.46 New middle bracteates started to be struck in Moravia
sometimes after 1270.47 The structure analysis of the Fuchsenhof hoard even supported a
hypothesis of a short period characterized by reduction of bracteates types in money
circulation in South Moravia in favour of pfennig-type deniers, which could be interpreted as
attempt inkling at the unification of two different coin systems (pfennigs and bracteates) in
the early 1270s.48 Nevertheless, this Ottokar´s daring and basically unrealistic plan remained
unfinished, which his bracteates from the mints of St. Veit and Völkermarkt, following
Bohemian patterns, are indicative of.49
During the second half of the 13th century a number of mints leased to burghers
considerably increased both in northern Italy and in the Czech lands. The decentralization and
“privatization” of coinage by means of lease was contrasted by the centralization in
distribution of coin metal and in assays of its quality. It is evident from the centralization of
mining rights in Iglau where royal officials from all Bohemia and Moravia, responsible for
management of the silver mining proceeds (so-called urburéři), were concentrated in 1272.50
In order to find a reason for the 13th century expansion in currency development it is
evidently necessary to search for an uncontrolled mass production of coins that basically had
an inflationary character. Just in this way it was possible to multiply incomes and create so
conditions for enforcement of a royal domain in mining and coinage. For practical reasons to
be closer to mines in Iglau and Deutschbrod (Smilův Brod) the main mints of the 1260s-1280s
were located in the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands.51
Not only specialized coiner teams were engaged in the coinage and currency organization
but also entrepreneurs, who were able to provide for the whole complex of the coin renewal
(renovatio monetae), during which they withdrew old coins out of circulation and changed
them for new on the order of the king.52 These entrepreneurs seem to have been able to
J. DOLEŽEL, Středověká miskovitá (lotová) závaží v českých a moravských nálezech (Medieval dished
weights in the Bohemian and Moravian finds), in: Přehled výzkumů 49, Brno 2008, 198-201.
František CACH, Nejstarší české mince (The oldest Bohemian and Moravian coins) III, Praha 1974, 55-56.
Až do 80. a 90. let 13. století datuje ražbu středních brakteátů na Moravě Jiří SEJBAL, Základy peněžního
vývoje, 125 dates the striking of middle bracteates in Moravia any later to the 1280s and 1290s.
R. ZAORAL, Die böhmischen und mährischen Münzen, 124; Id., České a moravské ražby, 100.
T. KREJČÍK, Mincovnictví Přemysla Otakara II., 209-224. See also Vratislav VANÍČEK, Velké dějiny zemí
Koruny české (History of the lands of the Bohemian Crown) III, 1250-1310, Prague-Litomyšl 2002, 328-329.
CDB V/2. Eds. J. Šebánek and S. Dušková, Prague 1981, No. 681.
Libor JAN, Václav II. a struktury panovnické moci (Wenceslas II and the structures of royal power), Brno
2006, 122.
This forced money exchange was perceived as a burden. The Vilémov monastery (East Bohemia), for
example, received a charter dated back to 22 nd March 1276 not to be obliged to change old money supply for
new every time. Likewise the Jews had to purchase once a week a certain amount of money from particular
support the mint establishment and its operations for coin renewal needs. As is evident from
the formulary reports of 1230-1305, the renovatio monetae, which represented in fact the only
effective form of the population taxation at that time, was to have been held annually on St
Peter´s (29th June) and Candlemas (2nd February).53 The striking itself took place in mints
which were in the inherited tenancy of private entrepreneurs (concessores). The Prague assay
office served to the quality control of the coining metal.54 In Prague, analogous to Venice,
three to four city officials over gold and silver (so-called litkupníci) were entrusted with
mediation of commercial transactions with registered precious metals.55 At sale of real estate
the purchaser was asked to add one lot of silver “pro purificando argento”. It was in fact a
tax in the amount of one sixteenth of a pound in weight, as is evident from the deed issued by
the Vyšehrad chapter on 12th September 1279.56
The 13th century coin represented a temporary increase in the price of silver owing to its
mintage. The reduced content of precious metal in coins was a reason why unminted metal
became a more widespread form as a means of payment on the market rather than coin
itself.57 To merchants it represented an advantageous counter value for imported goods. It
could often be carried without a large customs duties, its transport was less expensive and
gave a guarantee of bigger independence of climatic conditions. In agreement with these
findings Jiří Majer calculated that about 90 per cent of silver mined in the 13th century Czech
lands was sold in an unminted form.58 The non-punishable use of unminted metal was
established primarily by larger payments and taxes.59 The Venice mint allowed silver alloys to
be purchased in 1273 and thus assisted to spread them. This practise was still common at the
beginning of the 14th century. South German and Italian merchants took precious metals in
various forms with them: silver ore, silver and gold jewellery, valid and devalued coins as
mints. RBM II, No. 1009. See also Josef ŠUSTA, Dvě knihy českých dějin 1: Poslední Přemyslovci a jejich
dědictví, 1300-1308 (Two books of Czech history I: The last Přemyslides and their heritage, 1300-1308), 2nd
edition, Prague 1926 (reprint Prague 2001), 91.
Regesta diplomatica n ec non epistolaria Bohemiae et Moraviae (thereinafter RBM) II: 1253–1310. Ed. J.
Emler, Prague 1882, Nos. 2324–2343, particularly No. 2334.
CDB V/1, No. 794.
Miloš DVOŘÁK, Císař Karel IV. a pražský zahraniční obchod (Emperor Charles IV and foreign trade in
Prague) I, Pražský sborník historický 34, 2006, 22.
RBM II, No. 1189.
Supply of Venice by unminted metal is in more detail analysed by L. B. ROBBERT, Il sistema monetario, in:
Storia di Venezia II. Roma 1995, s. 409-436. See also I. BLANCHARD, Mining, 936-970 and A. M. STAHL,
Zecca, passim.
J. MAJER, Development of Quality Control in Mining, Metallurgy, and Coinage in the Czech Lands (up to the
19th Century), in: History of Managing for Quality, Milwaukee (Wisconsin) 1995, 264-266; Id., Rudné hornictví
v Čechách, na Moravě a ve Slezsku (The ore mining in Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia). Prague 2004, 60.
A non-punishable use of unminted metal by larger payments is, for example, documented in report of the socalled Saar memorials from 1250, according to which a magnate weighs out his son-in-law 10 pounds of gold
and 104 pounds of silver. See FRB II, 528.
well as silver alloys.60 Such a variety of metal objects can be found, for example, in the hoard
of Fuchsenhof, Upper Austria, concealed in the years 1276/78, which could be interpreted as
one of many silver supplies to the Venetian Fondaco dei Tedeschi.61
Owing to a gradual reduction of precious metal in coins the profit on unminted metal seems
to have been bigger than it had been judged until now.62 Evidence of it is one of principles
mentioned in the capitulary of the German Nation to 1278, according to which such a price of
silver alloys is to be accepted, which is stipulated by doge and his council, whereas price for
minted silver is not mentioned at all.63 The Venetian merchant Zibaldone da Canal gives in
his manual from the early 14th century instructions for conversion of unminted metal und
claims that Venetian money-dealers purchase unminted silver from Germany and Hungary.64
The last will of Bruno of Schauenburg, Bishop of Olomouc (1245-1281), from 1267 is
witness to wide-spread payments in unminted silver carried out in Moravia. According to this
document, taxes were paid solely in unminted silver. The testament traces a specific medium
of payment represented by unminted denier flans. Bruno´s efforts to avoid losses in incomes
of clerics connected with coin depreciation stood in the background of these measures. It is
evident from a rule, according to which wages for two hundred priests in the amount of 12
deniers are to be paid not in a common devalued coin but in an unminted metal.65
The 13th century merchant has not yet been as much limited by protective measures as later
so that he could pass with his goods without bigger barriers.66 The push to pass silver through
the local mint has not yet been strong enough. An attempt to do it in Venice and any later in
Kuttenberg represented an innovation which was not successful straight away. 67 A lot of
merchants were repeatedly attempting to evade these regulations. Such “tricks” sometimes
Klaus FISCHER, Regensburger Hochfinanz. Die Krise einer europäischen Metropole. Regensburg 2003, 185.
Hunks of fine precious metal were changed into Venetian grossi and ducats also later as is evident from the
accounting book of the Regensburg family Runtinger from 1383-1407. Franz BASTIAN, Das Runtingerbuch
1383-1407 und verwandtes Material zum Regensburger-südostdeutschen Handel und Münzwesen, Bd. I.-III.,
Regensburg 1935-1944.
Bernhard PROKISCH – Thomas KÜHTREIBER (eds.), Der Schatzfund von Fuchsenhof (= Studien zur
Kulturgeschichte von Oberösterreich, Folge 15), Linz 2004, 954 pp. + CD (map plates). See also R. ZAORAL,
České a moravské ražby,z pokladu Fuchsenhof (Bohemian and Moravian coins from the Fuchsenhof hoard),
Numismatický sborník 20, 2005, 61-108.
Attention to this fact has been drawn in F. C. LANE – R. C. MUELLER, Money and Banking in Medieval and
Renaissance Venice I.: Coins and Money of Account, Baltimore-London 1985, 134-142. See also F. C. LANE,
Exportations vénitiennes d´or et d´argent de 1200 à 1450, in: Études d´histoire monétaire XIIe – XIXe siècles.
Textes réunis par J. Day, Lille 1984, 29-48.
G. M. THOMAS (ed.), Capitular, chapter 73.
ZIBALDONE da CANAL, Manoscritto mercantile del sec. XIV. Ed. Alfredo Stussi, Venice 1967.
Codex diplomaticus et epistolaris Moraviae (thereinafter CDM) III. Ed. A. Boczek, Olomouc 1841, 402-408.
Jaroslav MEZNÍK, Praha před husitskou revolucí (Prague before the Hussite revolution), Prague 1990, 25.
Wenceslas II tried to interdict the Regensburg merchants the import of unminted metal from Bohemia in 1305.
See Josef WIDEMANN (ed.), Regensburger Urkundenbuch, Bd. I., München 1912, 111-112, No. 219 (=
Monumenta Boica 53, N. F. 7).
enjoyed success, such as on the 14th December 1322, when the Major Council of Venice had
to liberate Konrad Spitzer, a merchant of Regensburg, from a punishment for protraction with
registration of imported gold and silver.68 But this luminary carried on with his unfair
business practices in Bohemia, too, so that he was in Prague kept again in prison in 1324.69
The question, whether miners and smelters should strike silver without delay or not, seems to
have been a subject of discussions at many places in Europe at that time, as is evident from
the fact that miners from the contado of Siena tried to obtain a certificate of their freedoms
from the city council still in the early 14th century to be able to carry unminted silver how they
would like.70
High earnings of the Prague patricians, which had their origin in colonization, mining
business and silver trade, enabled the upper class members, settled in Bohemia and Moravia,
to purchase foreign luxury goods in a larger degree. A demand was considerable. They could
purchase by foreign merchants “cheap” (in terms of silver) cottons and linens woven in Syria
and Egypt, silk,71 painted or enamel glass manufactured in Italy and Syria as well as a whole
range of spices from India and Arabia that passed through the Levant. Silver of the Bohemian
origin flowed so in the form of Venetian grosso to the Eastern Mediterranean and in 12611278 even towards the capital of the Persian Khanate, Tabriz, where a mint was opened in
1271 to process these burgeoning supplies.72 It was possible to buy these articles in Prague
and Brünn so that they seem to have become available even to persons outside the royal and
bishop´s court.73
Glass beakers decorated by coloured enamels, which were made in Murano between 1280
and 1350, have been discovered in the holdings of Bohemian and Moravian patricians. The
Prague finds concern not only the Prague Castle, they mostly come from places connected
K. FISCHER, Regensburger Hochfinanz, 185.
J. JANÁČEK, L´argent tchèque, 247-249.
P. SPUFFORD, Power and Profit. The Merchant in Medieval Europe, New York 2003, 365.
A list of home and foreign textiles in the archaeological finds was published by Helena BŘEZINOVÁ, Textilní
výroba v českých zemích ve 13.-15. století (The textile production in the 13 th – 15th centuries Czech lands).
Prague - Brno 2007.
I. BLANCHARD, Mining, 946-947. See also P. SPUFFORD, Power and Profit, 347.
A written evidence of the Venetian glass trade in Prague at the end of the 13 th century is traced by F. GRAUS,
Die Handelsbeziehungen, 94 note 119. It concerns an entry in the deed of the Břevnov monastery from 1296: „It.
cristalinam monstranciam Venetiis emptam pro 7 mar.“ See RBM II, 1202, No. 2752. The finds of Venetian and
Islamic glass in Bohemia and Moravia are subject of a number of works. See, for example, Eva ČERNÁ (ed.),
Středověké sklo v zemích Koruny české (Medieval glass in the lands of the Boehemian Crown), Most 1994; E.
ČERNÁ – Jaroslav PODLISKA, Sklo – indikátor kulturních a obchodních kontaktů středověkých Čech (Glass –
indicator of cultural and trade contacts of medieval Bohemia), in: Odorik z Pordenone: z Benátek do Pekingu a
zpět – Odoric of Pordenone: from Venice to Peking and back. Eds. P. Sommer and V. Liščák, Prague 2008, 237256; Hedvika SEDLÁČKOVÁ, Ninth- to Mid-16th Century Glass Finds in Moravia, Journal of Glass Studies
48, 2006, 191-224. Zdeněk SMETÁNKA, Archeologické etudy (Archaeological Etudes), Prague 2003, 56 deals
with sale of imported glass in 13th century Prague.
with activities of foreign merchants so that they cannot be interpreted only as gifts and
souvenirs from crusades but also as a part of long-distance trade. Two glass specimens were
found at the Petrská Street, an area traditionally connected with a German settlement, the rest
comes from the immediate neighbourhood of the Old Town square and the Tyn court (socalled Ungelt) which served as a customs duty point. A find of the Sněmovní Street, situated
close to the main square of the Prague Lesser Town, established as a royal town in 1257, can
be contextualized with foreign inhabitants and their trade activities as well.74 This glass,
among which cups and dishes prevail, bottles and beakers occur rarely, has its origin in Syria
(Aleppo), northern Italy (Murano), Byzantium (Constantinople, Corinth) and in the region of
South-Western Germany.
The Italians settled in Prague and Brünn facilitated not only import of glass but also
fostered a culture of the use of beakers made from a previously unknown material. The Brünn
finds of lead (Náměstí Svobody 17), melting-pots (Rabínova Street/Náměstí Svobody) and
coining dies (Jakubská Street 4) give evidence on a metal trade and efforts to its appreciation
by means of coinage.75 According to glass origin it is possible to assume an important share of
the Italians among merchants, some of whom resided in Brünn.76 Contrary to Prague and
Brünn, Venetian glass from Olmütz (Olomouc) shows evidence of personal contacts with
bishops and canonry. Quite common types of bright green glass of Italian origin occurred not
only in the mercantile centres but also directly in the mining regions as is evident from finds
made in Iglau, Altenberg bei Iglau (Staré Hory) and Troppau (Opava).77 Islamic glass occurs
in finds from Prague, Brünn and Znaim (Znojmo).78 Imported glass was, however, not limited
to metal trade centres and mining regions only. To a certain degree it was also spread at the
castles of Pürglitz (Křivoklát) and Kuttenberg in Central Bohemia, at Tabor in South Bohemia
as well as in Kremsier (Kroměříž) and Ungarisch Hradisch (Uherské Hradiště) in South
Moravia.79 Sometimes at the end of the 13th century the Venetians started to imitate Islamic
E. ČERNÁ – J. PODLISKA, Sklo, 240-245.
In 1297 Brünn obtained from the king a right for mines within six miles, analogous to mines appurtenant to the
towns of Iglau, Kolin or Časlav. CDM V. Eds. A. Boczek and J. Chytil, Brünn 1850, 61-62. See also H.
SEDLÁČKOVÁ, Ninth- to Mid-16th Century Glass Finds in Moravia, 199-203.
L. JAN, Václav II., 127-137.
H. SEDLÁČKOVÁ, Středověké sklo z Jihlavy (Medieval glass from Iglau), in: Zaměřeno na středověk.
Zdeňkovi Měřínskému k 60. narozeninám, Prague 2010, 442-447.
E. ČERNÁ, Islamisches Glas im mittelalterlichen Böhmen, in: Ibrahim ibn Yaqub at-Turtushi: Christianity,
Islam and Judaism Meet in East-Central Europe, c. 800-1300 A.D., Prague 1996, 103-106; H. SEDLÁČKOVÁ,
Archaeological Finds of Medieval Islamic Glass in the Bohemian Lands (Moravia and Bohemia), in: Vibrio de
la Alta Edad Media y Andalusí, La Granja 2009 (in print).
See a map of Italian glass finds in medieval Moravia published by H. SEDLÁČKOVÁ, Italské sklo ve
středověku na Moravě (Italian glass in medieval Moravia), in: Gotika severní Itálie. České země a Furlansko ve
středověku, Mikulov 2009, 46.
glass. In the 14th century, however, imported glass gradually disappears from archaeological
finds and is substituted by home glass production.
Glass, found in Brünn, is concentrated at the main square area with St Nicholas church,
founded by Italian colonists, and near the tower house in the neighbourhood of the Old Town
Hall, which presumably served as a mercantile centre. It is possible to find all sorts of glass
there, including such luxury types as Hedwig beaker or unusual Pordenone-type bowls.
Dishes represent then a category of common glass. Hedwig beaker made in the Near East by
“high relief cutting” technology, unknown in medieval Europe, was found in the building
grounds dated back to 1235-1275, nearby the main square of Brünn (Náměstí Svobody). A
find of this beaker documents a presence of rich patricians in Brünn already before the 1250s.
Ulrich Schwarz (Oldřich Černý), a wealthy and politically active burgher participating in the
crusade in 1248, is considered a potential owner of this beaker.80
Italian and Islamic glass came to Bohemia and Moravia via Venice by two roads. A striking
concentration of quality glass in the finds is evident from the territory of western Hungary,
South Moravia, South-West Slovakia and Lower Austria on one hand and from southern
Germany on the other, which are related to the Viennese route via the Tarvisio Pass and to the
Regensburg route via the Brenner Pass.81 One of the first written records of a glass trade on
the Viennese road comes from the customs book of Wiener Neustadt and is dated back to the
28th May 1244.82 The report of 1282 refers to southern Germany and states that merchants,
toted glass in a goods wagon, were exempted from import duty up to 10 liras, which could
represent, according to prices known from 1288, 400 up to 1300 vessels depending on the
type.83 Italian glass, however, did not have to come from Venice only. In the period of the 13th
– 15th centuries more than 60 glass works are recorded in Italy, whereas their range did not
A find of the 13th century Moravian coins at the port of Caesarea (Israel) is indicative of a presumed crusade of
other, today unnamed pilgrims from Moravia to Palestine. See R. ZAORAL, A Numismatic Evidence on Czech
Pilgrims in 13th Century Caesarea, in: Wallfahrten in der europäischen Kultur - Pilgrimage in European
Culture. Hrsg. von D. Doležal und H. Kühne, Frankfurt am Main 2006, 73-79.
See a map of the Brno-type beakers (Mečová Street) and the Nuremberg-type bottles found in Europe in Marta
JANOVÍČKOVÁ – H. SEDLÁČKOVÁ, Obchod se sklem ve střední Evropě ve 13. a 14. století na příkladu
konvic typu „Mečová“ a stolních láhví typu „Norimberk“ (Glass trade in 13 th and 14th century Central Europe
on the example of Brno, Mečová-type beakers and Nuremberg-type bottles), in: Odorik z Pordenone: z Benátek
do Pekingu a zpět – Odoric of Pordenone: from Venice to Peking and back. Eds. P. Sommer and V. Liščák,
Prague 2008, 268 (= Colloquia mediaevalia Pragensia 10).
Kinga TARCSAY, Mittelalterliche und neuzeitliche Glasfunde aus Wien. Altfunde aus den Beständen des
Historischen Museum der Stadt Wien, in: Beiträge zur Mittelalterarchäologie in Österreich, Beiheft 3, Wien
1999, 13.
Carl PAUSE, Spätmittelalterliche Glasfunde aus Venedig. Ein archäologischer Beitrag zur deutschvenezianischen Handelsgeschichte, in: Universitätsforschungen zur prähistorischen Archeologie, Bd. 28, Bonn
1996, s. 114.
vary too much.84 Production of particular glass works had to be enormous. The annual yield
of all glass houses having produced so-called Venetian glass, i. e. on the Italian territory, in
Dalmatia and Crete, is averaged at about 760 000 vessels.85 Although the hollow glassware
came to transalpine countries mostly in 1270-1350, both in term of a finds number and of
types and variants, some researchers are of the opinion that most products originated in fact
concurrently in the last third of the 13th century when this quality glass was spread in a major
part of Europe.86 This glass is connected with a high dining culture focused on wine
consumption so that exchange of silver for glass had not only a trade but also important
cultural context.
As luxury goods as the Brno-type beakers from the Mečová street and the Nuremberg-type
bottles seems to have been custom-made. They are known from the aristocratic milieu at the
Prague Castle, at the residence of the margraves of Moravia and kings of Bohemia in Brünn,
at local castles in Kuttenberg (Central Bohemia) and Tabor (South Bohemia) and in smaller
number also from localities in ownership of the church (Olmütz) and the urban patriciate
(Prague, Brünn, Bratislava, Vienna, Nuremberg). Concentration of the same, unique glass
types at different places of Europe cannot be accidental. It might be explained as delivery in
one item set out from one production centre.87
Some written records concern import of textile. It is a reminder made by Doge Jacopo
Contarini to Queen Kunigunde, Ottokar´s widow, for “two lions”. Even if this report has
survived in transcript only, according to J. B. Novák it is a letter based on a real exemplar
which is a part of the so-called Queen Kunigunde´s formulary.88 It is not certain whether two
lions meant living animals or work of art. In all likelihood it was cloth with a design of
alternate lions and trees which handed down in collections of the Prague Castle and in which
the sarcophagus of the king of Bohemia was draped.89 King Ottokar was also getting customs
fees from the Danube trade route in form of rare textiles. 90
Maria MENDERA, Glass production in Tuscany 13th to 16th century: the archaeological evidence, in:
Majolica and Glass. From Italy to Antverp and betone. The transfer of technology in the 16th – early 17th
century. Ed. J. Veeckmann, Antwerpen 2002, 263-294.
C. PAUSE, 101-102.
Marta JANOVÍČKOVÁ – Hedvika SEDLÁČKOVÁ, Obchod se sklem, 263.
Ibidem, 266-267.
Jan Bedřich NOVÁK, Kritika listáře královny Kunhuty (Criticism of the Queen Kunigunde´s memorials), in:
Sborník prací historických k šedesátým narozeninám prof. dra Jaroslava Golla. Eds. J. Bidlo, G. Friedrich and
K. Krofta, Prague 1906, 124-125.
Milena BRAVERMANOVÁ, Co se také stávalo s ostatky panovníků (What also happened with remains of
rulers), in: Příběh Pražského hradu, Prague 2003, 202. See also Nina BAŽANTOVÁ, Pohřební roucha českých
králů (Burial garbs of the Bohemian kings), Prague 1993.
FRB IV: Chronicon aulae regiae. Ed. J. EMLER, Prague 1884, 150.
Mutual contacts are also supported by sporadic finds of Venetian coins at the castles of
Prague and Olmütz91 as well as by the 19th century report on the exceptional hoard of
Florentine florins concerning a small South Moravian town Jarmeritz (Jaroměřice nad
Rokytnou) and dated back to the second half of the 13th century.92 Another source is
connected with the Prague court. According to Reimchronik by Ottokar of Styria the
Bohemian king Wenceslas II sent jeweller masters to Italy before his coronation in 1297 to
purchase gemstones for making a new crown and sceptre. 93
On the other hand it is true that import of luxury goods was rather exceptional in the 13th
century Kingdom of Bohemia and had a marginal importance in total structure of its trade
relations. Connections with merchants of neighbouring countries and import of a common
range of goods manifold exceeded contacts with Italy, as is evident from customs tariffs
coming from Prague, Leitmeritz (Litoměřice) and Passau, which were limited on a relatively
small list of items: cloth, salt, wine, spices, metal articles and weapons.94 While Venice
evinced interest in native metal only, a range of articles exported from Bohemia-Moravia to
South German towns was broader and included corn, fur, wax, cattle, horses, weapons and
occasionally cheap Bohemian and Moravian cloth, too.
The trading capital, accordingly, enabled only for some wholesale merchants of Prague to
participate occasionally in more complicated credit transfers. In 1262 the Florentine banking
house Dal Burgo allegedly settled a king Ottokar´s debt on behalf of the papal court which
originated of divorce with his first wife Margaret of Austria and of legalization of his three
natural children.95 If we ignore the fact that this report raises certain scruples, it was surely not
a common situation in the region where money trade was handled by Jewish usurers.96
Zdenka NEMEŠKALOVÁ–JIROUDKOVÁ – Kateřina TOMKOVÁ, Benátská mince z Pražského hradu (A
Venetian coin from the Prague Castle), in: Acta Universitatis Carolinae – Philosophica et historica 1, 1993.
Z pomocných věd historických XI – Numismatica, Prague 1995, 114-115; Vít DOHNAL, Olomoucký hrad
v raném středověku (The Olomouc castle in the early Middle Ages), Olomouc 2001, illustration plates.
J. POŠVÁŘ, Florentské dukáty v nálezu z Jaroměřic n. Rok. z roku 1815 (Florentine ducats in the find of
Jaroměřice nad Rokytnou from 1815), Numismatické listy 21, 1966, 77-78.
Joseph SEEMÜLLER (ed.), Ottokars österreichische Reimchronik, Monumenta Germaniae Historica,
Deutsche Chroniken V/2, Hannover 1893, verses 69039-69050.
Rostislav NOVÝ, Funkce obchodu a mince v pozdně přemyslovských Čechách (The role of trade and coin in
late Přemyslide Bohemia), Numismatické listy 35, 1980, 13-17. See also Ferdinand TADRA, Kulturní styky
Čech s cizinou (The cultural contacts of Bohemia with foreign countries), Prague 1897, 34-43.
Jaroslav ČECHURA, Peněžní a finanční aktivity ve středověkých Čechách (The money and financial activities
in medieval Bohemia), in: F. Vencovský – Z. Jindra – J. Novotný – K. Půlpán – P. Dvořák a kol., Dějiny
bankovnictví v českých zemích, Praha 1999, 28-29. This report seems to relate to a questionable data mentioned
by F. L. HÜBSCH, Versuch einer Geschichte des böhmischen Handels, Prag 1849, 112-113. In that year the
pope Urban IV allegedly attached to money in Venice destined for purchasing goods for the Ottokar´s court. A
critical stand to this report has been taken by H. SIMONSFELD, Der Fondaco II, 80.
This situation has changed only in connection with an “extinction of Jewish debts” as a result of anti-Jewish
pogroms of 1349, 1385 and 1390. A new space for business enterprising in the Holy Roman Empire was thus
opened, advantage of which was best taken by Nuremberg merchants. See W. von STROMER, Hartgeld, 110.
Trade interests of German and Italian entrepreneurs in Bohemia and Moravia and their
stimulation in the 1290s directed Prague as “a city with extraordinary consumption conditions
within the scope of a local market”,97 in which a relatively numerous Italian colony was
settled, to part in the 13th century trade revolution.98 Thanks to presence of royal court and
numerous church institutions, in Prague there were people among customers whose incomes
came practically from the whole country. The central position of Prague caused that at least
until the 1350s the Old Town merchants supplied with foreign goods most of smaller towns in
Bohemia and Moravia. The forced store right referred to as the guests´ right, established
sometimes at the turn of the 14th century, forbade foreign merchants to carry on retail sale and
dictated them to sell wholesale to home merchants only.99 Nevertheless, thanks to small
dependence upon benefits, which this right rendered the Praguers, foreign wholesalers were
not losers. They had a direct connection with other trade centres and their money potential
and personal contacts protect them from the competition.100
A restrictive policy of Venice towards the German merchants in the 1280s and 1290s
enabled the Florentine entrepreneurs, who controlled international financial operations, to
take advantage of the opportunity. Moreover, Bohemian silver stopped to be sent to Venice as
a sole terminal destination in Italy but it may have been re-exported from there to Florence.101
The Venetians seem to be replaced by the Florentines around 1300 not only in Bohemia but
also in Hungary where activities of the Venetians were of an older date.102 The best known is
a role of the Florentine banking company in Bohemia formed by Rinieri, Apardo and Cyno
called Lombardian. The identification of these persons is difficult. Apardo came probably
from the influential Florentine Donati family,103 the origin of Rinieri, the head of the
company, is, however, unclear. The Czech historian Libor Jan identifies him with the Peruzzi
family,104 while Marco Veronesi attributes his origin in the Macci family. He connects Verius
with the same Macci family and considers him to be Rinieri´s successor in the office of mint
This characteristic in connection with Prague was for the first time used by J. JANÁČEK, Řemeslná výroba
v českých městech v 16. století (The craft production in the 16th century Bohemian towns), Prague 1961, 187.
P. SPUFFORD, Power, 134.
J. MEZNÍK, Der ökonomische Charakter Prags im 14. Jahrhundert, Historica 17, 1969, 56-58.
J. MEZNÍK, Praha, 63.
Unminted “German” silver appears in the early (ca 1290) list for Florence, compiled some forty years later
(ca 1330), under the guise of “della bolla di Venegia”, bars of silver sealed at the Venice mint. See Phillip
GRIERSON, The coin list of Pegolotti, in: Studi in onore di Armando Sapori, Milan 1957, 485-492.
Martin ŠTEFÁNIK, Počiatky obchodných stykov Uhorska s Benátskou republikou za dynastie Arpádovcov
(The origins of trade contacts of Hungary with the Republic of Venice under the Árpád dynasty), Historický
časopis 50, 2002, 553-568.
L. JAN, Václav II., 133-135.
Ibidem, 146.
master in Kuttenberg.105 At the same time, about 1300, the Macci banking house was
concerned with export of precious metal from Hungary and Andrew III, King of Hungary
(1290-1301), banked 4500 florins just with it.106 If this identification is correct, then it would
mean that both Central European kingdoms entered into economic relations with Florence
through the Macci family whose trade activities in the transalpine region seems to have
started in 1299 in Prague and continued in 1322 on the trade fairs in Nördlingen where
Rainerio de Macis is documented.107
These partners established a regular trading and financial private company which acted as a
bank and rented from the king office of the mint master and a mine including royal incomes
from smelted precious metals (so-called urbura) with the aim to carry out a complete
monetary reform.108 Despite of failure of Ottokar´s reforms the experience with them became
a basis for its successful execution. The Florentine financiers could prove their knowledge
and experience thanks to a good quality of Bohemian and Moravian coins that had arisen from
previous reforms.109 They acquired an exclusive status in the framework of the Prague trade
with abroad because they were exempt from the ordinance that goods of foreign provenience
can be only sold with a written authentication of its origin so that they could deal with goods
of luxury consumption without restraints. King Wenceslas II presented to their hereditary
possession a house in Brünn after a dead mint master Eberhard´s son with an appropriate
piece of land and farmstead, two mills with a fulling-room, houses, gardens, orchards, fishery
and other belongings.110 Up to1305 they carried business with real estate and were for a short
term charged with important authorities related to economic administration. In that year they
sold this property to butcher John, burgher of Brünn, for 330 pounds of Prague groschen of
Moravian weight, as is evident from the deed of 23rd February 1305, where Rinieri acts as
Marco VERONESI, Heinrich von Luxemburg und die italienische Hochfinanz: Mittelalterlicher Staatskredit,
der Prager Groschen und das florentinische Handelshaus der Macci, in: Vom luxemburgischen Grafen zum
europäischen Herrscher – Neue Forschungen zu Heinrich VII. Hrsg. von E. Widder und W. Krauth, Luxemburg
2008, 218-220.
Robert DAVIDSOHN, Geschichte von Florenz, Bd. IV/2, Berlin 1925, 312, 567.
See note 98.
In light of recent research, attesting Rinieri´s presence to Bohemia already since 1299, a Josef Šusta´s still
accepted commentary on a mediating role of Peter of Aspelt at realization of the Wenceslas II´s currency reform
seems to be a mere fiction. See L. JAN, Václav II., 144-146. For activities of the Florentines in the Bohemian
kingdom see in detail Winfried REICHERT, Oberitalienische Kaufleute und Montanunternehmer in
Ostmitteleuropa während des 14. Jahrhunderts, in: Hochfinanz. Wirtschaftsräume. Innovationen. Festschrift für
Wolfgang von Stromer, Bd. I. Hrsg. von U. Bestmann, F. Irsigler und J. Schneider, Trier 1987, 269-356; Id.,
Mercanti e monetieri italiani nel regno di Boemia nella prima metà del XIV secolo, in: Sistema di rapporti d'
élites economiche in Europa (secoli XII-XVII). Ed. M. Del Treppo, Napoli 1994, 337-348.
Ivo PÁNEK, Das Münzvermächtnis des 13. Jahrhunderts in Böhmen, Numismatický sborník 12, 1973, 65-74.
A report on a fulling-mill is considered as a probable evidence of home cloth production in late 13 th century
Brünn. See RBM II, No. 1880.
captain of Cracow, Apardo as vice-chamberlain and Cyno is just called “de Florentia”.111
Nevertheless, the anticipation of fabulous gains from conducting business in the lands of the
“silver” king obviously did not prove true because Apardo sallied out to Bohemia in 1311 to
recover his claims. Many owed him money. In 1316 king John the Blind (1310-1346)
acknowledged debt of his predecessors on the Bohemian throne in the amount of 28 000 silver
pounds. Such a high sum was in fact unenforceable and the company even seems to have gone
The Italian cultural influence of the currency reform of 1300 was proved by the issue of the
Mining Code of King Wenceslas II, titled Ius Regale Montanorum, which was drawn up by
Gozzius of Orvieto, Italian professor of law, on the basis of the older German Mining Code of
Iglau. This code introduced Roman law to the Bohemian Kingdom at specifying
administrative and technical terms and conditions necessary for the operation of mines, such
as a king´s part in mining and coinage, rules of labour safety, legislation on wages or on
labour time.113
Favourable conditions for trade and money transactions created in the 13th century were
full developed in the following period, namely thanks to the expansion of the South German
towns. When the council of Vienne imposed a veto on trade with Muslims in 1312, Bohemia
and Hungary became the most important producers of precious metal in late medieval Europe.
The Kuttenberg mining and silver supplies to the Venice mint culminated in the years of
1330-1380.114 Bohemian silver – bracciali cioe buenmini or braccali coniata – in the form of
quality Prague groschen has not been melted in the Venice mint but re-exported from Venice
to other Italian towns as well as to Famagusta (Cyprus) and Lajazzo (Lesser Armenia).115
Zibaldone da Canal traces silver from Germany (l´argento che vien d´Alemagna) at 1320 and
Francesco Pegolloti states that the Prague groschen from the Kuttenberg mint referred to as
buenmini dalla magna (“Bohemian from Germany”) came to Venice via Vienna.116 The
Prague groschen (grossi boemi) became so one of the most frequent silver nominal in 14th
RBM II, No. 2019.
L. JAN, Václav II., 147-148.
Codex juris Bohemici I. Ed. Hermenegild JIREČEK, Prague 1867, 265-435. For its analysis see Guido Ch.
PFEIFER, Ius Regale Montanorum. Ein Beitrag zur spätmittelalterlichen Rezeptionsgeschichte des römischen
Rechtes im Mitteleuropa, Ebelsbach 2002.
J. JANÁČEK, České stříbro a evropský trh drahých kovů v první polovině 14. století (Bohemian silver and
the European precious metal market in the first half of the 14 th century), in: Historiografie čelem k budoucnosti,
Prague 1982, 549-563.
F. B. PEGOLOTTI, La pratica della mercatura, 60, 81. See also I. BLANCHARD, Mining, 951-952.
P. SPUFFORD, Money, 137-138.
century Italy, as is evident, for example, from the pilgrim book of Siena. 117 Nevertheless,
unlike Bohemian florins, struck in Prague since 1325, Prague groschen have never been
hoarded in Italy.
The Viennese, to whom the store right was conferred in 1312, profited from this trade. John
the Blind, King of Bohemia, and Charles Robert of Anjou, King of Hungary, made a contract
against monopoly of Vienna in 1327 with the aim to prevent Bohemian silver to be sent to
Italy via Austria. All silver reserves from the Bohemian-Moravian mines have been rerouted
to the West since that time, which strengthened a Nuremberg position. Moreover, fall in the
price of gold on the Venetian market in 1328-1335 played up to growing gains of the silver
The acceptance of basic principles of northern Italian currency reform consisting in coin
quality and weight improvement, in creating a flexible currency system and finally in
integration of gold nominals in a new system of traditional European silver standard was an
important assumption for consolidated economic development of the Bohemian kingdom in
the 14th century. Extremely large supplies of silver and quality coin in the form of the Prague
groschen attracted attention of prospectors, merchants and financial entrepreneurs from far
countries. The import volume of Flemish cloth,119 popular saffron and wine120 into Bohemia
gradually grew. The quality ounce gold in form of gold wires braided in Lucca, Milan and
Venice into expensive garments may have been imported already at the end of the 13 th
century.121 The goods import from Venice is documented by the authentication tests of
Venetian products from 1304 and 1333, which were often counterfeited in Prague. 122 The
influx of luxury goods had, however, a drawback for the Czech lands: it took on such
dimensions in the 14th and 15th centuries that it suppressed expansion of home craft
Gabriela PICCINNI – L. TRAVAINI, Il Libro del pelegrino(Siena 1382-1446). Affari, domini, monete
nell´Ospedale di Santa Maria della Scala, Naples 2003. See also R. ZAORAL – Jan HRDINA, Peněžní
hotovosti římských poutníků ve světle poutnické knihy ze Sieny, 1382-1446 (Cash of the Rome pilgrims in light of
the pilgrim book of Siena, 1382-1446), Numismatický sborník 23, 2008, 191-204.
P. SPUFFORD, Money, 271.
RBM III, ed. J. Emler, Prague 1890, No. 747.
RBM III, No. 965. The Flemish cloth from Gent, Ypres and Poperinghen has been sold at the Prague market
already in the 13th century. See F. GRAUS, Český obchod se suknem ve 14. a počátkem 15. století (The
Bohemian trade with cloth in the 14th and in the early 15th centuries), Prague 1950, 102.
Such garbs were carried to Prague per order of a royal court. See notes 90 and 91. The 14th century import of
ounce gold is traced by Wiltrud EIKENBERG, Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg, Göttingen 1976,
F. GRAUS, Die Handelsbeziehungen, 94.
J. JANÁČEK, Der böhmische Aussenhandel in der Hälfte des 15. Jahrhunderts, Historica 4, 1962, 39-58.
There is no question that silver became an instrument for more effective connection of the
Kingdom of Bohemia with advanced foci of the European economics. At the same time some
symptoms of a passive balance in trade started to increase: the Italians sold more goods and
services in the cisalpine regions than the other way round. A lot of money left the Czech lands
in connection with campaigns, pilgrimages to the Holy Land, organized on cost of the
Venetians, and last but not least with payments to the papal court. Another reason for this
imbalance was a difference between the real and nominal value of coins recognized already at
the beginning of the groschen reform in 1300. A real worth of 12 parvi, accordant with the
Prague groat, was cut by 2.77 per cent in comparison with their nominal worth and this trend
over time further deepened.124 In spite of some negative tendencies the long-distance trade
helped to connect different cultural regions of Europe and to settle contrasts among them
which I take as one of the most important processes of late medieval history.
R. NOVÝ, Nominální a reálná hodnota mince doby husitské (The nominal and real coin value of the Hussite
period), in: Acta Universitatis Carolinae – Philosophica et historica 2-1988. Z pomocných věd historických VIII,
Prague 1989, 82.