While most of Europe suffered great cultural and material setbacks during the middle ages, the mercantile cities of Italy enjoyed a Renaissance unequaled elsewhere. Industrious seafarers, merchants and bankers built a global trading and financing network so powerful that individual families often had more money than some small nations.
This silver coin was struck at Venice, one of the leading city-states of Italy during from the 13th century AD, until the mid-15th century. The Patron Saint of Venice, St. Mark, is shown on the back of the coin standing side-by-side with the Doge,, the top official in Venice.
Because of their wealth, the Venetians were instrumental in financing the Crusades in the east, and were efficient enough in war and commerce to breach the walls of Constantinople early in the 13th century and temporarily force the Byzantine government into exile. In one fell swoop they eliminated their chief political and commercial rival in the Mediterranean, and even though Byzantium soon recovered, were the uncontested masters of commerce at sea.