World Coins

CNG sale offers educational Swiss rectangular silver medal

A silver medal issued in 1902 to mark the 300th anniversary of the defense of Geneva recently sold at auction.

Images courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group.

Medals commemorate a rich tapestry of events and individuals, and offer a chance to educate those inclined to learn the lessons embodied.

One such medal, in silver, issued in Switzerland, provides a history lesson on what was then the self-governing canton of Genèva.

The rectangular 1902 Tercentennial of L’Escalade medal, by H. Bovy, C. Roch, and A. Bailey, toned and Near Extremely Fine, realized $177, including the 18% buyer’s fee, during Classical Numismatic Group’s e-auction No. 518 on June 15.

The medal measures 41 millimeters wide and 61 millimeters tall, and weighs 59.78 grams.

On its obverse Helvetia stands facing right, cradling a long gun in her right arm, drawing back a stage curtain with her left hand. In revealed scene, soldiers of the Duke of Savoy attempt to scale the walls of Geneva. Below the stage, a coat of arms appear above a banner in Latin translating to “Light after darkness.” Other inscriptions denote the battle’s 300th anniversary.

The reverse carries a scene of the battle at the gates of Geneva. A Genevan soldier wields a halberd against a Savoyard who raises his right arm to defend a fallen comrade. Another Genevan soldier at the gate fires an arquebus into the melee beyond the gate. An inscription in French references the soldiers surrounding the enemy on all sides.

The late 16th and early 17th centuries were a time of perennial conflict between Geneva and the Duchy of Savoy, and on Dec. 11, 1602, Carlo Emmanuele, the hot-headed expansionist Duke of Savoy, laid siege to Geneva under cover of night, according to the auction house. The duke’s plan hinged on using a commando raid to distract and disorient the defenders and open the city gates. He ordered his heavily armored cuirassiers to dismount and scale the walls, but the Genevan militia soundly repulsed them. The annual l’Escalade festival celebrates the victory.

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