David Pickup submitted this second article in his series of four for the season of advent, featuring coins or tokens with a link in some ways to the Christmas story. Thanks! This one is about John the Baptist.
Last week we looked at a king's designs on other thrones and using a religion to add weight to his claim. This week we have a story not about a king or but a rather unusual man. John the Baptist was the sort of person you might cross the road to avoid. He ate scraps, wore rags and lived rough in the desert; but he had a key role in the bible story. He was the cousin of Jesus. Unlike last week's rather special and pricey coin, these featuring him are easier to collect.
John the Baptist appears on many coins from the island of Malta. You can get small copper coins with John the Baptist at reasonable prices. When I say coins of John, many of them only have a part of him. He came to a sticky end because he was beheaded for standing up to misuse of authority and imprisoned. On Herod's birthday, his daughter Salome danced for the king and his guests. Her dancing impressed Herod so much that he promised to give her anything she wanted. When Salome asked her mother what she should request, she was told to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Herod reluctantly agreed and his head was served on a platter. Sometimes it is difficult to know what present to get someone who seems to have everything. Her mother knew exactly what she wanted!
Maltese coins often have images of John because of the link with the Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem or Knights Hospitaller which was a medieval and early military order. It was headquartered in the Kingdom of Jerusalem until 1291, on the island of Rhodes from 1310 until 1522, in Malta from 1530 until the 1790s. Some of the coins show the full image of John. Here is a rather nice silver coin.
Lot 1082 Date of Auction: 7th October 2003
Sold for £180
Collection of Coins, Banknotes and Medals of Malta formed by Bill Adams
Malta, FOUR TARI, reads HIE, rev. Baptist's head on round charger, reads PROTER and IVSTICIAM·, 11.40g/2h (RS 38 obv., 43 rev.).
Image by kind permission of © Dix Noonan Webb.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
ADVENT COINS: A GAME OF THRONES
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