1st Edition

The Thirty Pieces of Silver Coin Relics in Medieval and Modern Europe

By Lucia Travaini Copyright 2022
    308 Pages 76 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    308 Pages 76 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The Thirty Pieces of Silver: Coin Relics in Medieval and Modern Europe discusses many interconnected topics relating to the most perfidious monetary transaction in history: the betrayal of Jesus by Judas for thirty pieces of silver. According to medieval legend, these coins had existed since the time of Abraham’s father and had been used in many transactions recorded in the Bible. This book documents fifty specimens of coins which were venerated as holy relics in medieval and modern churches and monasteries of Europe, from Valencia to Uppsala. Most of these relics are ancient Greek silver coins in origin mounted in precious reliquaries or used for the distribution of their wax imprints believed to have healing powers.

    Drawing from a wide range of historical sources, from hagiography to numismatics, this book will appeal to students and academics researching Late Antique, Medieval, and Early Modern History, Theology, as well as all those interested in the function of relics throughout Christendom. The Thirty Pieces of Silver is a study that invites meditation on the highly symbolic and powerful role of money through coins which were the price, value, and measure of Christ and which, despite being the most abject objects, managed to become relics.

    List of Figures

    List of Maps

    Preface to the English edition



    1. From the ritual uses of coins to their creation as relics
    2. The coins of Saint Helena: objects of devotion before the invention of the Thirty Pieces of Silver
    3. Judas, the Priests and the Thirty Pieces of Silver
    4. The legend of the Thirty Pieces of Silver: from hagiographic tale to coin relics
    5. The Thirty Pieces of Silver depicted as instruments of the Passion
    6. The Thirty Pieces of Silver as relics: from the first specimens to their proliferation
    7. The Thirty Pieces of Silver as Jewish shekels
    8. Through the eyes of the Antiquarian and those of the Devout. Identification and debate since the Sixteenth Century
    9. Conclusions: ancient and modern legends, coin relics and the nature of money

    Appendix 1: Inventory of recorded specimens of the Thirty Pieces of Silver

    Appendix 2: Collection of sources on the Thirty Pieces of Silver, by Francesco D'Angelo




    Lucia Travaini is Associate Professor of Numismatics, Milan State University, Italy. She has published extensively on coinage and money and has received prizes and honours including the 2012 Medal of the Royal Numismatic Society, London.

    ‘This is an impressive work which benefits from careful reading. It has much to contribute to studies on medieval religion, the use and interpretation of relics, as well as approaches to studies of material culture … this is an excellent, original and interesting book, which deserves broad readership’ - Medieval Archaeology, Volume 66/2, 2022.

    ‘Travaini must be applauded for this wonderfully researched and presented work, which has much to offer not merely to the medieval and early modern numismatist, but to people with a range of interests, for instance in popular religious history, in the history of numismatics, and in the non-monetary usage of coins, amongst others’ - The Numismatic Chronicle.

    ‘ …  this is an important and intriguing book that will appeal to scholars of various topics: theology, the function of relics, iconography, numismatics, and economics. Also, Travaini’s study of the thirty pieces of silver opens issues which are sure to interest researchers who are directly involved with the influence of money on the economy of salvation’ – Renaissance Quarterly, Volume 76:1.