Paper Money

Poland issues special bank note for religious icon

A 20-zloty bank note commemorating the 300th anniversary of the coronation of the Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa was issued by the National Bank of Poland (Narodowy Bank Polski) on Aug. 21. Its issue price was 60 zlotych with a printing limit of 55,000 notes. The note measures 150 by 77 millimeters, was designed by Justyna Kopecka, and was printed by the Polish Security Printing Works.

The Virgin Mary has long has a special status with the Polish people, so much so that both Polish rulers and commoners prayed before her legendary icon, a 4-foot-high painting in the Jasna Góra Monastery in Czestochowa. In 1655, during the long war with Sweden, the icon was said to have changed the course of the conflict, when, for 40 days, the monastery’s 70 monks and 180 volunteers defended Jasna Góra from an army of 4,000 Swedes.

On April 1, 1656, King John Casimir swore an oath to Mary in a ceremony in the Lvov cathedral. He put his kingdom under her protection and declared her Queen of the Polish Crown. The Swedes were defeated the next year, as were their Russian allies in 1661.

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The Lvov Oath was followed by the coronation of the icon, also known as The Black Madonna of Czestochowa, on September 8, 1717. It was the first coronation of a Holy Virgin painting in Poland and the first Papal coronation of any painting of Mary outside Italy. The crowns (stolen in 1909), were given by Pope Clement XI. The picture was crowned on behalf of the pope by Bishop Szembek and the Pauline monks, with almost 200,000 pilgrims in attendance. 

The note’s face shows the crowns given by the pope. The crown of the Virgin Mary, topped by stars, is positioned above Jesus’ crown. Both are supported by pairs of angels. A Marian monogram in a see-through register under the crown of Jesus is one of the security features. The watermark is the coat of arms of the Pauline Fathers — a raven with bread in its beak over two lions supporting a palm tree.

The back has a drawing first published in Rome in 1717 that shows the coronation event. To the left of it is a drawing of the Jasna Góra Monastery. A floral motif from the icon’s frame is on the right side above the watermark.

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This is Poland’s ninth collectible bank note. The first was issued in 2006 to commemorate Pope John Paul II of Poland.

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