Bishop of York, Paulinus, shilling. -
Anglo-Saxon England, Bishop of York, Paulinus (625-633 / † 10 October 644), Gold Shilling (58% AV), 'Ultra Crondall', York Group, Inscriptional type, face over segmented wall, bifurcated cross forms features, teardrops, cross pattée either side, rev. PVOHENVl Ep: [PAVLINVS EP(ISCOPVS)], letters retrograde and inverted, central cross pattée in beaded circle, 1.29g, 320° (SCBI 69, 5 this coin; BNJ 2019, pp. 1-18; T&S pp. 50-51, 76; A&W type V, xxi; Gannon, pp. 27-28, 62, 88, 172 nos. 111, 185 and no. 30, Fig. 2.4; cf. North 27; Spink 763).
Of national significance, the discovery coin naming this totemic historical and religious figurehead and latterly first Bishop of York
Images and selected text reproduced by kind permission of Spink and Son Ltd, London, auction 21000, The Tony Abramson Collection of Dark Age Coinage - Part I, March 18th 2021, lot # 19. Provenance: Acquired privately from finder, March 2007 ~ Found by R Last at Pocklington (East Yorkshire), March 2007.
The Historical Context: In 616, Æthelfrith of Northumbria was killed when attacking Rædwald of the Wuffingas in East Anglia, possibly in pursuit of his rival Edwin, son of Ælle of Deira. Æthelfrith was married to Edwin’s sister Acha. It has been suggested that Edwin was converted by Paulinus on his visit to Rædwald at whose court Edwin was exiled. Rædwald installed Edwin as king of Northumbria, interrupting the Bernician dominance, and York (now Eoforwic, ‘place of the boar’) became the capital. Æthelfrith’s sons were exiled to Dál Riada. The death of Æthelberht of Kent in this year left Rædwald, the favoured candidate as occupant of the Sutton Hoo ship burial, in a dominant position. Edwin waged annual wars to expand his territory as far as Strathclyde, Rheged (Carlisle and Solway), Mersey, Anglesey and Man. With his court he travelled around his kingdom collecting renders and dispensing justice. His royal palaces included Yeavering, Barwick, Goodmanham and, possibly, Sancton. Paulinus assisted in the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons and remained in Kent, becoming a bishop in 625. Around that time, he accompanied Æthelburg, King Eadbald’s sister, to York, for her marriage to Edwin. Paulinus urged Edwin to convert and according to Bede he, with many followers, did so in 627 in York. Paulinus also carried out mass baptisms in places that included Yeavering and Lindsey, and built churches at places including York and Lincoln. He consecrated Eanflæd at Whitby and Honorius at Canterbury. The replacement in stone of the small wooden minster at York was initiated in 627 by Edwin and completed by Oswald, who was of Bernician descent. At the Battle of Hatfield (probably Hæđfeld near Doncaster) in 633, Edwin was defeated and killed by an alliance of Penda of Mercia and Cadwallon ap Cadfan of Gwynedd. Paulinus, Æthelburg and her children fle--d to Kent, leaving James the Deacon, an Italian cleric who had assisted Paulinus, in Northumbria. Paulinus was appointed bishop of Rochester, where he died in 644. Significantly, in terms of continuity, James lived into Bede’s time.
Literature and Interpretation: An additional plate in some copies of Withy and Ryall, engraved by Charles Hall in 1773, illustrated a York shilling, of variety C, mistakenly attributed to Eadbald of Kent. Other attributions include Pirie’s conjecture that the inscription may read ECGFRITH. Sutherland denigrated the York coinage: ‘the ‘legend’ seems to be a mere congeries of letter-forms, quite devoid of sense’, and Grierson followed suit: ‘…a jumble letters … meaningless’. Not only is the obverse design of the York gold shilling enigmatic but the reverse inscription of varieties B and C have defied interpretation until 2015, when Jonathan Mann identified the first part of the variety B and Ci inscription as SANCTE. The interpretation of the inscription on type Cii, argued in Abramson (2019) and identifying Bishop Paulinus as the issuer, has gained wide acceptance.
The Coinage: The main varieties are classified A to D with further subdivisions based on distinctions between the standardbearer obverses, displaying either ecclesiastical vestments or a grid-like lower half, and the reverses with either symmetrical cruciform designs or inscriptions around a central cross. Abramson favours architectural descriptions of the designs.
The Specimen: The obverse is well centred. The reverse is somewhat off struck, impairing transcription of the entire legend. The coin is virtually as struck and clearly incised on good metal. The finder is a near neighbour of the vendor.
The Corpus: A second specimen of variety Cii (Abramson 2019, no. 18) surfaced within days of the vendor announcing his interpretation at the October 2016 Symposium in Medieval Coinage. Dies Cii1/Cii1. 1.29 g; gold content not tested; found Tockwith, North Yorkshire, March 2016 (EMC 2016.0318). Dix Noonan Webb 12−13 December 2016, lot 2151.