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Hungarian coins: Saints of the Arpad Dynasty - Irene of Hungary (1088-1134)

Saint Irene of Hungary (1088–1134), despite not being widely-known today, is venerated in both the Western and Eastern churches. She was bor...

Saint Irene of Hungary (1088–1134), despite not being widely-known today, is venerated in both the Western and Eastern churches. She was born as Piroska, the daughter of Saint Ladislas. Later, her guardian, Coloman of Hungary, negotiated her marriage to John II Komnenos, the son of the Byzantine Emperor. The marriage served the Emperor’s political interests, as the dynasty expanded its power and sought to reinforce the empire with new allies. In the Byzantine Empire, Piroska was given the new name Irene (meaning ‘peace’). Of the eight children born to the couple, one, Manuel I Komnenos became an important ruler in Hungarian history in the mid-12th century.

As the Emperor’s wife, Piroska did not participate directly in politics, although she supported the Hungarian opponents of Coloman when they sought refuge in the Byzantine Empire, regularly received Hungarian delegations and pilgrims to the Holy Land, and mediated between the Kingdom of Hungary and the Byzantine Empire on several occasions. She was active in social issues, supporting the poor and sick, and helping to organize medical services for them.

In 1118, she founded the monastery of Christ Pantocrator, then world’s largest monastery. At first, the monastery also included a 50-bed hospital, which served as the example for later Arab and European hospitals. Construction was completed after her death by her husband. The monastery, which also housed the crypt of the Imperial family, became the most important religious and social institution in Constantinople (now Istanbul). She is celebrated on the day of her death, August 13, in the Eastern church, and an authentic portrait of her is on an original mosaic in the Hagia Sophia.

To commemorate Saint Irene, the Hungarian Mint is issuing two coins, one a gold piece of 2 ducat weight, and one base metal, as the second issue in its series presenting the saints of the House of Árpád, to follow the Saint Margaret coin issued in 2017.

The central motif on the front of the coin features the monastery of Christ Pantocrator in Constantinople (now Istanbul), which was founded by Saint Irene. The back of the coin shows a half-portrait of Saint Irene holding the founding documents of the monastery in her hand. This side of the coin was inspired by the mosaic found in Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia, considered to be the only authentic depiction of Saint Irene. To the left of Saint Irene is her Hungarian name (Saint Piroska) and the dates of her birth and death (1088–1134), with her name as the Byzantine Empress in Greek letters (Eiréné) to the right. The master mark of the coin’s designer, Fanni Király, is at the bottom left of the Saint.

The 22 millimeter, .986 fine gold. 2 ducat-sized proof pieces that weigh 6.982 grams are available for $575.00 each. The issue is limited to 2,000 coins.

A copper-nickel-zinc brilliant uncirculated 2,000 forint version with the same design, weighing 4.2 grams and limited to 5,000 pieces is also available for $19.95. Both coins will be ready for delivery to North America by the end of February.

More information on these and other coins of Hungary, contact the Hungarian Mint's North American Representative, click on the Hungarian flag at

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