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'VULTUS TRIFRONS', A CROSS AND A PRINCE HELMETED: THREE MYSTERIOUS POLISH BRACTEATES ('Vultus Trifrons', krzyz i ksiaze w helmie: trzy zagadkowe brakteaty polskie)

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1.Vultus Trifrons. In the Cracow hoard found in 1999 (and deposited probably soon after 1240) an interesting bracteate appeared. It bears an arch inscribed with TRIFRONS. Above the arch, there is perhaps a hare running left. Under the arch, there is a head with three faces. The head with three faces, vultus trifrons, would be taken as a representation of the Holy Trinity but there were also similar decorative motives or demoniac figures. It is to be expected that the figure in the upper part, hardly legible and damaged, should make a whole with the triple face below, e.g. as a fairy motive. The coin's size, style and the technique of the die-sinker imply that this coin belongs to the group struck probably in Cracow, perhaps also in Sandomierz, between c 1220-40. 2. A Cross. In the Czapski Museum in Cracow (a branch of the National Museum there), there is a previously unpublished coin with the cross patée surrounded by the legend +I-O I B-A I D-V I M-E. The bractetate's size and style point to the last quarter of the twelfth century or the next decade as the time of the bracteate's origin. The legend stands for Iohannes Baptista, Dvx Mesco. 3. A Prince Helmeted. In the collection of late Rev. Józef Dlugolecki in Cracow there was a bracteate with a broad male head facing, dressed with a conical head-dress, and surrounded by the Hebrew legend ((brakh)ha u tsalakhah). The size and the general appearance of the coin allow it to be placed in the first half of the thirteenth century. One can also suppose that as it differs from coins we know from Silesia, Racibórz-Opole, Cracow and Great Poland, it probably was struck in Kuiavia, Masovia or Sandomierz provinces.
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  • Borys Paszkiewicz, Uniwersytet Wroclawski, Instytut Archeologii, ul. Szewska 48, 50-139 Wroclaw, Poland
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