August 1, 2013 – The Island Nation of Palau celebrates the election of the new Pope with the issue of a gold coin dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi. In keeping with the simplicity and austerity that the founder of the Order of the Friars Minor always called for, the stamping stands out for its classic simplicity.
Palau / 1 Dollar / Gold .9999 / 0.5 g / 11 mm / Mintage: 25,000.
The image fields on both sides are deepened and burnished, while the border and image elements stand out in matte relief.
Featured on the front of the coin is the coat of arms of the country of Palau, as well as the name Republic of Palau and the nominal value of 1 $ along the rim.
Depicted on the reverse is a frontal view idealized bust of Saint Francis. To the left of it, a bird in flight and to its right, the year of issue, 2013. The name St. Francis of Assisi is struck along the upper edge, and a decorative band with ornamental details runs along like a halo between the legend and the head.
Two additional variants of this issue have also been minted, which carry no issuing year and each weigh 1/25 oz. as well as being slightly larger at 13.92 mm. On one version, a nimbus appears in place of the ornamental band behind the head of Saint Francis, and is bordered on the outside by a coloured stripe. The other, non-coloured version of the coin, features an ornate nimbus.
Top part of the oldes portrait of St Francis, a mural painting in the sacred grotto ‘St Benedict’s Cave’ in Subiaco.
When a newly elected pope selects a name, it’s a calculated decision that normally involves a reference to a role model. Never before has a head of the Roman Catholic Church selected Saint Francis of Assisi as the inspiration for his name. After all, the Saint from the central Italian town of Assisi held radical views, and his messages had a rather provocative relationship to the Church as an institution. Francis insisted upon living the pure and unadulterated message and teachings of Jesus Christ. After he had served in the military for his city as a young man, spiritual awakenings led him to break with his former life, which would have seen him taking over his father’s business as a wealthy cloth merchant. Instead, Francis opted for a life of solitude outside the city where he lived in poverty and amassed like-minded followers. Against the initial resistance of the Church, he founded a new community, the Order of Friars Minor, or ‘the Franciscans,’ whose central message was a life that venerated poverty and creation. Legend tells of Saint Francis’ particularly close relationship with animals, to which he preached. The bird on the coin is a reference to this aspect of his life. The messages of Saint Francis were picked up upon in the 19th century, in particular, and continue to strike a nerve in modern times: in 1939, Pope Pius XII named Saint Francis a Patron Saint of Italy, and in 1980, John chose him as patron of environmental protection and ecology.
When the conclave elected the Argentinian cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio as the new pope, the person seated next to him is said to have whispered, ‘don’t forget about the poor!’ Bergoglio has always been known for his commitment to the destitute and to the integrity of creation. He himself declared that it was this admonition that persuaded him to take the name of Saint Francis as his papal name, and his first actions made it clear that he takes these self-chosen priorities very seriously. Humility, the required frugality – even of the church as an institution – and his down-to-earth nature are all reminiscent of the great paragon from Assisi. In keeping with these values, the coin itself is of a clear, simple design.
The coins were minted by B.H. Mayer’s Kunstprägeanstalt GmbH. Collectors can purchase the issues through specialty dealers.
More information on this and other coins is available on the website of Coin Invest Trust.
CNN has recently published an article and video on St Francis because of the new pope’s choice of name.
And if you want to know what the Franciscans do today you can visit the official website of the Conventual Franciscans.