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100 lei 2004 - Cantacuzinian Engolpion
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13.92 mm diameter, 1.224 g, gold 99.9%, grained edge
Obverse: year 2004, Romanian coat of arms, Romania, medieval adornment representing two birds head to head, face value 100 lei
Reverse: circular inscription engolpion cantacuzin, the image of a golden engolpion, struck with gems

Issuing date: 29th of November 2004

Mintage: 1000 coins


This fine coin belonging to the history of gold series features a cultic pendant from the History National Museum of Romania. The object is known as the Cantacuzinian engolpion.

The engolpion is a precious metal icon held at the collar by high hierarchs of the Orthodox Church (bishops, archbishops, metropolitans and patriarchs). The word is Greek originated, rarely used in Romanian and sounds strange also to Romanian ears.

Cantacuzino was one of the main Greek families of the Phanar, that is one of the Greek quarters of Constantinople (Istanbul). The Phanariots, members of these families, served as administrators in the civil bureaucracy and exercised great influence in the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century. Phanariotes acted as dragomans (interpreters who also functioned as foreign-affairs advisers) to the Sublime Porte and to foreign embassies. They also mingled with and turned to Romanian noblemen, (mainly) as such having become, not rarely, rulers of the Danubian principalities, Moldavia and Walachia. Their involvement in Romanian politics spread over a larger period of time, but the interval in Romanian history known as the Phanariot Period (between the 1711-1821) corresponds to the stage during which their rule was almost exclusive.

The Cantacuzinian engolpion (this being the name under which the item was entered in the evidence of the Museum) is a golden bicephalous (two headed) eagle with a cross, all struck with gems (rubies and emeralds). At the lower end three pearls are hung. On the other side the engolpion bears the icon of Virgin and Child, in enamel. On the backside of the cross lies the scene of the Saviour's Crucifixion. It is deemed that the item was made for the Ecumenical Patriarchy and came to Romania in the 17th century.

The cross bearing bicepahalous eagle is actually the coat of arms of the Ecumenical Patriarchy of Constantinople.


The History of gold series comprises four pieces of 500 lei from 2001 (featuring the golden cache of Pietroasa), three 100 lei coins from 1999 (and from 2002 and 2003 too) with the Dacian helmet of Poiana-Coțofenești, from 2003 with an eagle from Apahida, from 2004 with the Cantacuzinian engolpion and several of 10 new lei from 2005 with the Perșinari hoard, from 2006 with the Cucuteni-Băiceni hoard, from 2007 with the rhyton of Poroina, from 2008 with the Hinova hoard and from 2010 with the Someșeni hoard, from 2011 with the buckle of Curtea de Argeș and with the cross from Dinogetia and from 2012 with the patera from Pietroasa Hoard.

We are grateful to Mr P. A. Călescu that sent us the pictures you see above.


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