From Pagan Gods to the Rise of Christianity: A Look at Coins

Given its Pride Month, I wanted to share the commemorative 50p coin that celebrates the ongoing fight for LGBTI+ rights.  Five million of these were made and entered circulation in the UK in October 2022. These are sold by the Royal Mint directly and are not intended to be used as everyday money.  The coin commemorates the 50th anniversary of Pride UK, which marks the first Pride march in the UK that happened in London in 1972. It is the first coin in the UK to celebrate the LGBTI+ community. Designed by LGBTI+ activist and artist Dominique Holmes.

Coins tell a story! Coins are more than just currency; they offer a glimpse into the beliefs and values of the societies that minted them. In today's blog, we'll explore two rare coins, one depicting ancient gods and the other hinting at the rise of Christianity, with insights from my colleague Dr Peter Lewis from the Centre for Coins, Culture and Religious History (CCCRH).

Coin One - A Whisper of Early Christianity

Coin depicting Sun-god Helios on the obverse and Demeter on the reverse

Imagine a worn coin, minted in the city of Colossae sometime between 100 AD and 150 AD. On one side, the sun god Helios shines brightly. On the other, Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, presides. While the wear makes details fuzzy, the very existence of this coin sparks curiosity.

Colossae was a center of trade and diverse beliefs. When Christianity arrived, some scholars believe early Christians might have seen parallels between Helios, the bringer of light, and Christ. This coin, though not explicitly Christian, becomes a silent witness to a time of religious change.

Coin Two - The Rise of a Christian Emperor

Coin of Constantine the Great with the Chi-Rho monogram of Christ on his helmet

The second coin features Constantine the Great, a Roman emperor who played a crucial role in the acceptance of Christianity. This coin, unlike the first, is believed to depict the Chi-Rho monogram, an early Christian symbol, on Constantine's helmet.

The presence of this symbol signifies a significant shift. Constantine's reign (early 4th century AD) saw Christianity gain official recognition within the Roman Empire. This rare and expensive single coin becomes a tangible reminder of a pivotal moment in history.

Connecting the Dots
These two coins, separated by time and imagery, offer a glimpse into the evolution of religious beliefs. The Colossae coin hints at a potential connection early Christians might have drawn, while the Constantine coin showcases the growing prominence of Christianity within the Roman world.

The Centre for Coins, Culture and Religious History (CCCRH) is an organization dedicated to understanding the role of religion in history, precisely through objects like these coins. Their work in preserving, exhibiting, and studying coins, icons, manuscripts, and other artifacts sheds light on the connections between religious beliefs and cultural development.

The beauty of coins lies in their ability to spark the imagination. While the Colossae coin doesn't explicitly depict Christian faith, it becomes a silent witness to a time of religious transition. The Constantine coin, on the other hand, stands as a testament to the rise of a new dominant religion. Whether worn and weathered or meticulously preserved, these coins offer valuable insights into the past. They remind us that even the smallest objects can hold stories waiting to be unearthed.

Further Exploration with Dr. Peter Lewis
For those interested in delving deeper, I had the pleasure of discussing these coins with my colleague Dr. Peter Lewis, a research associate for the CCCRH. Dr. Lewis' expertise in the area of ancient coins and early Christianity would be invaluable in further exploring the potential connections between these artifacts and the rise of Christianity.

The CCCRH website provides a wealth of resources for individuals interested in delving deeper into the convergence of coins, culture, and religious history. Access their website at, conveniently linked in our Christianity menu on our site.

I encourage you to learn more about coins and the and their resources, perhaps, even consider supporting their mission to preserve and share these fascinating pieces of history.

From Pagan Gods to the Rise of Christianity: A Look at Coins From Pagan Gods to the Rise of Christianity: A Look at Coins Reviewed by Shane St Reynolds on June 03, 2024 Rating: 5

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