Pressing metal, pressing politics: Papal annual medals, 1605–1700

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This article surveys images depicted on the reverses of papal annual medals in the seventeenth century, beginning in 1605 under Paul V (r. 1605–21) with the first confirmed annual medal, and ending in 1700 at the conclusion of the papacy of Innocent XII (r. 1691–1700), a reign that marked a distinct change in papal politics in advance of the eighteenth century. The article mines a wealth of numismatics images and places it within a narrative of seventeenth-century papal politics. In the ninety-six years under consideration, ten popes issued ninety-four annual medals (sede vacante produced generic annual medals in 1667 and 1691). Annual medals are a unique iteration of papal commemorative medals and they celebrate an important papal achievement from the preceding year. The production of annual medals was an exercise in identity creation, undertaken to advance the image of the pope as an aristocratic prince in three specific roles: as builder, warrior, and impresario. The timeliness of the medals makes them valuable sources to gauge the perceived success of the papacy on an annual basis and to chart the political course plotted by popes through the seventeenth century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number60
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Religious studies


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