Archbishopric of Riga,
(1202) 1255-1561

The coat of arms of the Archbishopric of Riga

The local settlement near the place, where River Daugava joins the Baltic Sea, was already established before the arrival of German merchants and crusaders. Further on Riga developed as the main merchandise centre of the Livonia Confederation and was a chain between merchants of Western Europe and Lands of Russia. The Bishopric of Ikskile was established in 1186 and the first was Bishop Meinard, which died in 1196. The second was Bishop Berthold. He was killed during the battle in 1198. His successor was Bishop Albert, who moved the residency from Ikskile to Riga in 1201-1202, therefore establishing the Bishopric of Riga.

The first written evidence on coin minting in the Bishopric of Riga is the monetary privilege, issued by Bishop Albert in 1211. This document said that Riga coins must have the same weight and fineness as Gotland coins. Only the design of coins was allowed to be different. The weight of 4.5 pfennigmarks had to be equal to 1 Gotland weight mark. The new weight unit, Riga mark (marca Rigensis = 207.82 g), was established. It was the basic weight unit until dissolving the Livonia Confederation in 1561. However, no coins were found until archaeological excavations at Martinsala castle in 1968. There were found 20 bracteates with the facing bust of Bishop. After the numismatic investigations and metal analysis these coins are now related to the period of Bishop Albert.

After the main towns of the Livonia Confederation joined the Hanseatic League middle-late 13th century, the Gotland monetary counting system became the leading one. However, soon the Lubeck monetary counting system became popular as well and, according to the written sources and found hoards, was the main since 1430's. There is no evidence that coins could be struck after death of Bishop Albert in 1229. In 1255 the Bishopric of Riga became the Archbishopric of Riga. Coins, used in circulation, were struck in other mints of the Livonia Confederation (Tallinn, Tartu) as well outside territory of Livonia.

The first coins, which are clearly identified, were struck by Archbishop Johan VI Ambundi (1418-1424). They were called artigs and had a design, which was basically the same until 1561.

Due to the reduced income by striking low fineness coins, the idea was announced to conduct the monetary reform of the Livonia in 1422. It was decided, that 1 new artig = 12 pre-reform Lubeck schillings = 1 counting schilling. Thus, since 1426, the name schilling was used instead of artig. There was made another decision in 1422, saying, that all the mints of Livonia has to struck coins according to the same minting rules. The 1422-1426 monetary reform of the Livonia Confederation created the unified monetary system with the schilling as the main exchange coin, and centralized minting rules for all the mints of the Livonia Confederation. This system was functional until the territory of the Livonia Confederation was dissolved in 1561.

As mentioned already, the basic struck denomination was schilling. However, another - smaller coins were struck as well. These coins were called seestling until 1426, then renamed to scherf (according to the protocols of the Landtag of Livonia, dated January 18, 1426). Seestlings were thin coins, struck on both sides, while later scherfs were bracteates. Possibly the relation was already 8 seestlings (scherfs) = 1 artig (schilling) after the monetary reform. Thus, the name scherf actually could be derived from Northern German halbling, which as a counting unit was 1/8 of artig. Besides that, halblings also were bracteats, and the Livonia Confederation had the closest relations with Northern Germany.

In 1452 another important event occurred, the Salaspils (Kirchholm) Treaty was signed. It clarified the relations between the two main superiors of Riga - the Archbishopric and the Order of Livonia. Before this treatment the relations between them were tough, even hostile. From now on, the privilege of joint mintage was established. However, in practice the first case of joint coinage occurred late 15th century only. When the incoming silver reserves increased, the first bigger size coins - ferdings and marks - were introduced in the Livonia Confederation from 1515 as joint mintage of the Archbishopric of Riga and the Order of Livonia. Another interesting period was Sede Vacante (1479-1484), when the new Archbishop was chosen by the Order of Livonia, but was not accepted by Riga domcapital.

The following denominations were struck in the Archbishopric of Riga in pre-reform period (until 1422): seestling, pfennig, artig.

Riga mark (weight) - marca Rigensis = 207.82 g
The relation between different denominations was as follows:
1 Riga mark = 48 ore or 36 schillings = 144 artigs or 432 Lubeck pfennigs
1 schilling = 4 artigs = 12 Lubeck pfennigs
1 artig = 3 Lubeck pfennigs = 6 seestlings

The following denominations were struck in the Archbishopric of Riga after the 1422-1426 monetary reform of the Livonia Confederation: scherf, pfennig, schilling, 2 schillings, ferding, 1/2 mark, mark, thaler. During the first phase of the Livonia War, the necessity money - uniface thalers, called silver gulden, and gold guldens were struck to cover the war expenses, but this coinage was not in accordance with the Livonia Confederation minting rules.

The basic relation between different denominations was as follows:
1 ferding = 9 schillings = 27 pfennigs
1 thaler = 4.5 marks = 18 ferdings

However, the relation was changing, so more precisely it will be reflected under each respective Archbishop.

The standard description of the Archbishopric of Riga coins since 1418:
Obverse picture : the family shield of Archbishop.
Reverse picture : crossed sceptre and cross (the coat of arms of the Archbishopric of Riga).

The Archbishops of Riga and their coinage.

 Albert, 1199-1229

Coinage not reported between 1229-1418.

 Johannes VI Ambundi, 1418-1424

 Henning Scharpenberg, 1424-1448

 Silvester Stodewescher, 1448-1479

 Sede Vacante (empty seat), 1479-1484

 Michael Hildebrand, 1484-1509

Jasper Linde, 1509-1524 (There was not any coinage)

Johannes VII Blankenfeld, 1524-1527 (There was not any coinage)

 Thomas Schoning, 1528-1539

 Wilhelm, Markgraf of Brandenburg, 1539-1563


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