Archaeologists in Germany have unearthed a handful of 500-year-old gold coins during their excavations at the ruins of the Himmelpforten monastery, near the town of Wernigerode in Saxony-Anhalt state.
The medieval monastery, founded in 1253 and once home to Augustinian hermits, housed monks until the 16th century. According to historical records, the monastery faced a turbulent event in 1525 when it was stormed by rebellious farmers during an uprising.
Described as guilders (guldens), a currency used during the Holy Roman Empire, the gold coins were of significant value. Unfortunately, due to the severity of the situation, the coins could not be retrieved, and they remained hidden until their recent discovery.
The find includes a guilder minted in Frankfurt before 1493, under the reign of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III. Additionally, a guilder produced in Schwabach, near Nuremberg, between 1486 and 1495, was found, along with two coins minted in Bonn by the Archdiocese of Cologne around 1480.
The Himmelpforten monastery’s excavation did not stop at the gold coins; a plethora of other artifacts was unearthed, shedding light on the prosperous trade and livelihood of the monastic community.
Among the finds were brass book clasps from the monastery’s library, ceramics, animal bones, a cavalry spur, and lead seals used to stamp cloth for commerce.
It is worth noting that the Himmelpforten monastery played a role in one of the significant historical movements: the Protestant Reformation. In 1516, the German priest and theologian Martin Luther, a pivotal figure in the Reformation, visited the monastery. The Reformation, a religious movement that resulted in the splintering of the Catholic Church and the formation of Protestantism, had far-reaching political and social consequences across Europe.
Today, the physical remains of the Himmelpforten monastery have been reduced to the foundations of certain buildings, including the main chapel and refectory where the monks used to dine. The once-thriving monastery gradually fell into disrepair after being abandoned during the Reformation and was eventually almost completely demolished.
Felix Biermann, the project manager and archaeologist from the Saxony-Anhalt State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology, emphasized the significance of the find, stating, “The gold coins were of great value, and the small fortune was probably hidden by a monk in an acutely dangerous situation. It didn’t end well because the coins couldn’t be recovered.”