Why would a Greek Jew wear a gold ducat coin with the obverse image of King Christian IV of Denmark, as an amulet pendant?
The coin was struck in 1647 in Glueckstadt, a town to the north west of Hamburg, until 1864 under Danish rule. Glueckstadt was founded in 1617 by Christian IV, who wanted to divert part of the trade of the powerful Hanseatic city of Hamburg to his dominion. For this, the king needed financially strong citizens with far-reaching trade relations. In 1619, he appointed Albert Dionis alias Semuel Jachja, a successful Sephardic businessman from Hamburg, as mint master in the new town of Glueckstadt. During the last four years of his reign (1644-88), Christian IV chose the Tetragrammaton, the Hebrew four-letter-name of God, to be a prominent element on his coins struck in Copenhagen, Christiana and Glueckstadt. The king made the sketch for this design himself. The prominent Tetragrammaton on the coins is rendered with vowel marks, as in the authoritative Masoretic texts of the Hebrew Bible. The minting of these so-called “Jews’ coins” was perhaps due in part to the influence of his Jewish mint master. Another thought is that the king considered the Hebrew name some sort of protection and help for the war against Sweden (1643-45).
Howsoever, one of these coins made its way to the Greek lands in the following centuries. The early Danish King Christian IV was surely quite unknown here, but the Name of God was immediately recognized, so that a hole was made into the coin to be worn as an amulet around the neck.
Identification of the coin by Evi Evangelia Apostolou, Numismatic Museum of Athens.
© The Jewish Museum of Greece