The sleeping emperor – A new commemorative coin of the Austrian Mint

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October 21st, 2010 – On 13th October, 2010, the Austrian Mint in Vienna has issued the fourth 10 Euro silver coin in its popular series “Tales and Legends in Austria”. The new coin deals with the old legend of a famous emperor and his army sleeping deep beneath the mountain called Untersberg awaiting the recall to life.

Untersberg near Salzburg. Photo by Matthias Kabel / Wikipedia.

The emperor in the legend is Charlemagne, King of the Franks, who was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the Pope in the year 800. The story tells that Charlemagne and his army dwell under the Untersberg, a mountain between Salzburg and Bavaria, where he rules over princes, warriors and dwarfs. Charlemagne and his court have fallen into a deep sleep over the centuries and the emperor’s beard has continued to grow, winding itself twice around a great stone table before him.
When the beard has wound itself around the table three times and the ravens have ceased to circle over the Untersberg, Charlemagne and his soldier will awake and return to the world of men to fight a final battle on the Walser Field near Salzburg. In another version of the tale, the emperor awakes every hundred years and sends to find out if the ravens are still flying over the mountain, in which case he falls back into his sleep for another hundred years.
The legend also tells that one day a shepherd boy on the mountain was surprised by a dwarf, who persuaded the boy to follow him into the caverns beneath the mountain. Here in great stone halls the boy encountered the astonishing sight of the sleeping monarch and his court. Suddenly Charlemagne awoke and demanded of the shepherd: “Do the ravens still circle the mountain?” The unnerved boy stuttered that the ravens did indeed still fly over the Untersberg. Charlemagne then sank back into his chair. “Then I must sleep on for yet another hundred years.”
This tale is a common one from the Middle Ages and familiar in some form or other in most cultural circles. A strong king or hero does not die, but merely sleeps in secret until his people need him. Similar tales were woven around the figure of the British King Arthur, who is supposed to slumber on the Isle of Avalon until he is once again needed to save Britain.

Austria. 10 Euro “The sleeping emperor”; date of issue 13th October, 2010; design Th. Pesendorfer / H. Andexlinger; fine weight 16 g Ag; fineness 925/1000 g; diameter 32 mm; mintage max. 40,000 proof; max. 30,000 special uncirculated; 130,000 circulation pieces. The coin is legal tender in the Republic of Austria.

The obverse of the new commemorative coin depicts the shepherd boy being accosted by the dwarf on the slopes of the Untersberg. He points to the mysterious mountain above which the ravens are circling. The reverse side shows the dwarf and the shepherd boy as they come into the great halls beneath the mountain to discover Chalemagne in a deep sleep, his crown on his nodding head and his long beard wound around the great stone table before his throne. Next to him stands a soldier, also asleep, leaning on his spear. In the background we see the grand stairway that led them down beneath the Untersberg.
The new 10 Euro silver coin is struck in three qualities: a maximum of 40,000 pieces in the top quality of proof; a maximum of 30,000 in special uncirculated; 130,000 pieces in circulation quality. The proof coins come in an attractive box with a numbered certificate of authenticity. The special uncirculated pieces are issued in a colourful and informative blisterpack, while the circulation pieces are available at face value through the local banks. A collection album for the proof version may be purchased separately.
The series “Tales and Legends” in Austria will continue in 2011 with a coin for the Lindworm (a kind of dragon) in Carinthia and one for the piper Augustine and the plague of 1679 in Vienna.