While most of Europe suffered great cultural and material setbacks during the Middle Ages, the mercantile cities of Italy enjoyed a renaissance unequalled 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. These gold coins were struck at Venice, one of the leading cities of Italy during the 17th Century A.D.
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 Venitians 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.
Many of these coins featured a silver Grosso from the Republic of Venice, Italy. It was struck in the 13th century AD. Christ is shown enthroned on one side, with the ruler of Venice and St. Mark, the Patron Saint of the city, on the reverse side. Venice was a strong commercial and political power in the 13th century following their successful siege of Constantinople at the beginning of the century.
By eclipsing Constantinople politically, Venice also eliminated its main commercial rival for the strong maritime trade around the Aegean Sea and beyond. The coinage of Venice was closely modeled after Byzantine issues, which was the standard currency of the age.