Thousands of 17th century silver coins found buried in Teutonic Knights’ church
A treasure trove of 17th century silver coins has been found under the floor of a monastic church.
Archaeologists from the University of Gdańsk were working in the presbytery of the 14th century Church of the Saint Andrew the Apostle in the town of Barczewo in Poland’s northern province of Warmia, when they discovered a glazed ceramic mug handle filled with nearly 1,000 coins.
Coins were also scattered around the vessel.
The treasure was hidden underground in the north-western corner of the chancel near what is known as the rainbow arch.
Though covered in dirt and needing a good clean after their 400-year hibernation, the experts from Gdańśk said that the coins are relatively well-preserved.
The coins are silver and were struck for the Polish royal crown and bear the image of King Sigismund III Vasa’s long reign (1587-1632).
The find is made up mainly of lower denomination Polish coins, and includes groschens, 1.5 groschens, as well as 3 and 6 groschen coins.
The haul includes many Prussian shillings struck for Prince George Wilhelm Hohenzollern, who was a fief of the Republic of Poland, as well as Lithuanian coins.
Dr. Koperkiewicz, the archaeologist leading the work, believes that the treasure was placed under the floor in the chancel of the church by the monks themselves.
Many of the coins have marks on them suggesting that they were in circulation for a long time. One of them has a hole showing that it could have been worn around the neck.
Dr Koperkiewicz says that the coins were hidden at the time when the Bernardine monastery flourished in the 17th century, when the Order received numerous subsidies from the Warmian bishops.
However, it remains a mystery why the coins were placed where they were and why they remained hidden until today.
Dr Arkadiusz Koperkiewicz said in an interview with PAP: “It is a sensational find in terms of the context of the discovery and the amount of historical information directly connected with the history of the Barczewo monastery and the history of Warmia.
“It reflects the character of the place and the specificity of the monetary crisis of those times. Its value as a date marker in further conservation work should not be under-estimated.”
The interior of the church is currently undergoing preparatory work to strengthen the earth under the foundations of the church.
The Church of St. Andrew the Apostle was built at the same time as Franciscan monastery at the end of the 14th century by the Teutonic Order.
The monastery, like other Prussian monasteries, fell into decline and was deserted during the Reformation in the first half of the 16th century.
It was restored thanks to the bishops of Warmia, including Bishop Andrzej Batory, the nephew of the Polish king Stefan Batory, who invited the Bernardine order to settle in the monastery.
The Bernardines remained in Barczewo until 1810, when they were abolished by the Prussian authorities. After World War II, the Franciscans returned to Barczewo and regained the church of St. Andrew the Apostle.
The extensive program of archaeological, architectural and conservation being carried out in the church is connected with the ongoing complex renovation and construction work, which will last until 2021.
Przemysław Gorek, head of conservation at Gorek Restauro, the general contractor, told PAP: “We will do everything in our power to make sure that the treasure can be exhibited here in the Church in a specially arranged exhibition space.”