Easter on notes and coins

The principal holiday of the year for all Christians is Easter, which marks the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christian motifs also appear frequently on paper money. Besides major religious buildings and artefacts, these motifs include portraits of important saints, often national patron saints. Czech saints are no exception in this regard and can be found on Czech and other banknotes.

It is probably not surprising that, among the Czech saints, the most frequently depicted one on Czech and Czechoslovak banknotes is Saint Wenceslas, the patron saint of the Czech lands. In 1944, Saint Wenceslas appeared on a banknote with a nominal value of 5,000 koruna, the highest denomination at that time. It featured a portrait of Saint Wenceslas based on Josef Václav Myslbek's statue of the saint located on Wenceslas Square in Prague. Interestingly, the same statue was used by Vladimír Oppl as the motif for his design of the 20 koruna coin.

We should add that Saint Wenceslas also features on the current 100 koruna note, where he is depicted on the seal of Charles University. The seal shows the kneeling Charles IV, King of Bohemia and King of the Romans, handing the university's Foundation Charter to Saint Wenceslas. The same image can also be found on a number of Czech coins devoted either to Charles University or to Charles IV. In 2021, the CNB issued a gold coin celebrating Saint Wenceslas's grandmother - Saint Ludmila.

Saint Agnes of Bohemia (1211-1282) and her charity work are the theme of the now invalid 50 koruna note, which was first put into circulation in 1993. Besides Saint Agnes, the note bears portraits of Saint Claire (1194-1253) and Saint Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) inside the letter A on the reverse side. These two personalities represent the monastic orders (the Poor Clares and the Friars Minor) for whom Saint Agnes founded a joint convent in Prague (now known as Na Františku), of which she became the first abbess. It is interesting to note that she is the only Czech saint to whom a commemorative coin has been dedicated. The coin was issued in 1990, a year after her canonisation.

Turning to our neighbouring countries, there is a Slovak banknote dating from 1993 that features Saint Cyril (826-869) and Saint Methodius (813-885), the apostles to the Slavs, who have been joint "Patrons of Europe" since 1981 and are also the main patron saints of Moravia. The importance of the two brothers from Thessaloniki is also evidenced by their portrayal on the 1992 Bulgarian 50,000 lev note. In 2013, the Czech National Bank commemorated their arrival in the Czech lands by issuing a gold coin.

A Czech saint - namely Saint Adalbert (956-997) - can also be found on a Hungarian banknote. The commemorative 2,000 forint note, which, on its reverse side, depicts the baptism of the Hungarian prince Vajk, who took the name Stephen, was issued in Hungary in 2000. Saint Stephen, who is the patron saint of Hungary, was baptised in 994 by Adalbert, Bishop of Prague. In 1997, the Czech National Bank issued a commemorative coin to mark the 1,000th anniversary of Adalbert's martyrdom.

These banknotes you can see here.

As well certain flowers and budding trees, Easter and the arrival of spring are symbolised by birth and young life in the animal kingdom. Examples of such symbols - lambs, rabbits and hares - can be found on banknotes from around the world.

Perhaps the most impressive example is the motif of youth on 1950s Swiss banknotes. The obverse side of the 100 franc note of 1956 features a small boy holding a lamb and a flower. The reverse side of the 500 franc note of 1957 shows a scene representing the fountain of youth, with elderly people stepping in and emerging young and reborn. It also contains two baby rabbits (or hares) symbolising the start of new life. A similar image as on the 100 franc note appeared on Peruvian banknotes issued in the 1930s and the 1940s. The obverse side of the 50 sol note depicts a caring shepherdess with a lamb in her arms accompanied by a sheep. Interestingly, the reverse side features a motif of reapers which American Bank Note Company used on the Czechoslovak 1,000 koruna note.

The motif of a running hare can also be found on the Belarusian one rouble note put into circulation in 1992. In this case, however, it does not symbolise youth and spring, but is part of a denomination series depicting Belarusian fauna. The image of a hare on the coupon on the obverse and reverse sides of the ten pound note issued in 2018 by Ulster Bank (one of the British banks authorised to issue banknotes) has a similar function. The 2009 Costa Rican 20,000 colon note features a rabbit and a coyote, the heroes of a story written by author and teacher Marie Isabel Carvajal. Besides official banknotes, images of rabbits and hares are also popular on some emergency notes, whether in Germany (the municipality of Kneitlingen) or Spain (the municipality of Vallcebre).

In connection with Easter, we should also mention the Christian symbol of the Lamb of God carrying a banner with a cross. It appeared on a wide denomination series of Puerto Rican banknotes issued into circulation in the late 1880s.

These banknotes you can see here.