Past and present of two European Mints
Segovia and Hall in Tyrol (Austria)
The cities of Segovia and Hall were very important in economic terms in the early modern period and they harboured, for centuries, mints that were closed during the 19th century. In both cities, in the second half of the 19th century, the novel technique of minting coins using a drill was applied. In the end, these machines replaced the people who, up to that moment, used the traditional system of coining with a hammer. The corresponding buildings that housed the machinery, after the stoppage in the production of coins and the dismantling of the facilities, were used until the second half of the 20th century for other purposes and, with the passing of time, they were in a very deteriorated state. However, collective memory and the interest of both cities in saving and revitalizing both architectural complexes led to the idea of a restoration with the aim of making visible the old architectural structure, but also to readdress them towards new functions as a public space and museum, where visitors would be able to follow the history of the building and the old coining techniques. All this resulted in different restoration and regeneration projects in each of the cities that have been accomplished in the last years. In the Mint of Hall there is, since 2003, a replica of the machine with which, in the 15th century, the minting of coins entered a new stage.
Despite the availability in the second half of the 19th century of a network of mints in his territories, King Philip II, acknowledging the importance of the new coining technique, decided to build a new Mint. Its history starts at the end of 1580 with Philip II’s decision of introducing in his kingdoms the new technique of minting coins with a drill. He had received information about a new machine that worked with hydraulic power and that was developed in the 1560s in Tyrol, and that since 1567 coined in the Mint of Hall in Tyrol, a territory that was ruled by Archbishop Ferdinand of Tyrol, the cousin of King Philip II. The new machine guaranteed better quality coins that were mechanically and rapidly produced, and not manually with a hammer, thus reducing the staff and the expenses and leading to significant savings. In 1582, when Philip II was in Portugal, his request was formalized and the price, the means of transportation and the architectural necessities to locate it were agreed.
This plant, as it is called nowadays, included a building, the hydraulic facilities – a channel and the wooden wheels with its axis – and the equipment itself. While the machine was being built in the Mint of Hall in Tyrol, the structure that was necessary to harbour it was prepared in Spain. Everything had to be finished upon arrival of the machinery, which was finally given as a gift by the Archbishop Ferdinand to his cousin Philip II.
Consequently, a group of craftsmen and specialized workers were sent from Tyrol. In 1583, it was decided that the new Mint would be located in Segovia, where Philip II had purchased a flour and paper mill on the shores of the Eresma river. By the end of that year, the works started. They were supervised by the architect Juan de Herrera, and in 1584 the new building of the Mint of Segovia and the hydraulic facilities – specially a wooden channel that carried the water from the river to the wheels that should put the machinery in motion – where finished. In 1585, and after a long journey, the machine arrived at Segovia accompanied by a group of coining men from Hall in Tyrol, who put it in operation. The following year, the regular production of coins started with a quality never known before in Spain, and this situation continued until the second half of the 18th century, when the flywheel presses were introduced. In 1868 the Royal Mint of Segovia closed its doors.
The city of Hall in Tyrol is located to the east of the city of Innsbruck, the capital of Tyrol, 10 km away, in the valley of the Inn river. Its origin dated from the Middle Ages and, in 2003, it celebrated its 700-year anniversary as a city. In this same year, the renewed museum of the Mint of Hall (Münze Hall) was inaugurated. The recovery of the 16th century technology, which in the case of the Mint of Hall has been achieved with the reconstruction of the drill machine, that is working at full speed.
In the 15th century – exactly in 1477- the Hapsburg Sigmund der Münzreiche (Sigmund, Rich in Coins, 1446-1490), Archbishop of Austria and Count of Tyrol, established his Mint in Hall, an important place where the commercial routes to the east and west, north and south met. The city was at that moment more important than Innsbruck, currently the capital of Tyrol.
In Hall, and from 1482 onwards, a new monetary system was developed, ending with the coining of the silver “Taler”, a coin that acquired enormous popularity from the 16th century. An important issue was that, not very far from Hall, in the mountains near the city of Schwaz, there were rich silver mines that provided the raw material. With the help of the new machine constructed in Tyrol at the end of the 15th century and which replaced in Hall the coining with a hammer in 1571, large quantities of silver were minted.
During 180 years, the machine in Hall was active, until the time of the Empress María Teresa, in the 18th century. Then, in around 1750, the change to flywheel minting took place.
The history of the Mint of Hall finished in 1809, during the time of the Napoleonic wars. The Mint was closed during the years of the occupation of Tyrol by the Bavarian troops, allies to the French, while the people of Tyrol were fighting under the orders of Andreas Hofer. Then, the castle of Hasegg was turned into a building that had nothing to do with its past, and it was only since 1975 that its restoration process started.
From 2003 onwards, the relations between the City Councils of Segovia and Hall focused on the historical facet and current appearance of their Mints. A series of activities started, among which we can highlight the visits of the corresponding mayors in the years 2004 and 2005. Worth mentioning, and within a cooperation agreement, are the talks and specialized meetings in the years 2004, 2006 and 2007 about current and historic issues of the two Mints. The results of the first Symposium in the year 2004 were published in the volume Casas de la Moneda. Segovia y Hall en Tyrol (edited by the City Council of Segovia and the Austrian Historic Institute, Segovia, 2007).