Carved Skull coins are back with St Aloysius Gonzaga, a work by artist Zane Wylie

A popular coin on its debut last year, the first Carved Skull coin carried a highly unusual subject for a numismatic. Carved human skulls date back literally thousands of years and have been a constant component of many cultures around the world. Even today, there are artists that use them to create some quite extraordinary pieces of artwork. The artist Zane Wylie is one such individual and is responsible for some striking examples (realhumanskull.com). Zane has an exclusive agreement with US dealer Coins Boutique to produce coins based on his skull artworks.

The piece chosen for this second Carved Skull coin is a work a little more special than most. Depicting religious iconography and some genuine old crosses, the piece is noteworthy for including actual bone fragments from Saint Gonzaga, although the skull itself is more recent in origin. You can take a good look at the work involved and the finished article in the video lower down.

The reverse face of this coin features a depiction of the skull set against a background of pattern details from it. Moving away from the copper-plating of the first coin, this one chooses some very subtle colour highlighting instead. It’s another rimless, high-relief design from the Mint of Poland – one of the very best producers of them in modern numismatics today. The antique finish should look great if the first coin is any indicator.

The obverse features the emblem of Cameroon along with the usual inscriptions, all set inside an attractive border. We only have renders at present, but we have an original coin here and it’s an excellent piece, so have high hopes for this one. Presented in a themed box and with a certificate of authenticity, the coin comes in at an ounce of fine silver in weight and should ship in March. The mintage is again set at 666 and it can be bought from the two companies responsible for the coin – Coins Boutique and Pela-Coins . Other dealers like Powercoin also have the coin for sale. Something different to pretty much everything else out there and we always like to see that.

SPECIFICATION
DENOMINATION 1,000 Francs CFA
COMPOSITION 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 31.1 grams
DIAMETER 38.61 mm
FINISH Antique
MODIFICATIONS Colour highlights
MINTAGE 666
BOX / COA Yes / Yes

SAINT ALOYSIUS DE GONZAGA

Saint Aloysius de Gonzaga, (March 9, 1568 – June 21, 1591) was an Italian aristocrat. Born the eldest of seven children, Aloysius was in line to inherit his father’s title and status of Marquis. In November 1585, he gave up all rights of inheritance and went to Rome where, because of his noble birth, gained an audience with Pope Sixtus V. Following a brief stay at the Palazzo Aragona Gonzaga, the Roman home of his cousin, Cardinal Scipione Gonzaga, on 25 November 1585, he was accepted into the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Rome.

In 1591, a plague broke out in Rome. The Jesuits opened a hospital for the stricken, and Aloysius volunteered to work there. After begging alms for the victims, he began working with the sick, carrying the dying from the streets into a hospital founded by the Jesuits. There he washed and fed the plague victims, preparing them as best he could to receive the sacraments. But though he threw himself into his tasks, he privately confessed to his spiritual director, Fr. Robert Bellarmine, that his constitution was revolted by the sights and smells of the work.

At the time, many of the younger Jesuits had become infected with the disease, and so Aloysius’s superiors forbade him from returning to the hospital. But Aloysius—long accustomed to refusals from his father—persisted and requested permission to return, which was granted. Eventually he was allowed to care for the sick, but only at another hospital, called Our Lady of Consolation, where those with contagious diseases were not admitted. While there, Aloysius lifted a man out of his sickbed, tended to him, and brought him back to his bed. But the man was infected with the plague. Aloysius grew ill and was bedridden by 3 March 1591, a few days before his 23rd birthday.

Aloysius rallied for a time, but as fever and a cough set in, he declined for many weeks. It seemed certain that he would die in a short time, and he was given Extreme Unction. Aloysius had another vision and told several people that he would die on the Octave of the feast of Corpus Christi. On that day, 21 June 1591, he seemed very well in the morning, but insisted that he would die before the day was over. As he began to grow weak, Bellarmine gave him the last rites and recited the prayers for the dying. He died just before midnight. Many people considered him to be a saint soon after his death, and his remains were moved into the Sant’Ignazio church, where they now rest in an urn of lapis lazuli in the Lancellotti Chapel. His head was later translated to the basilica bearing his name in Castiglione delle Stiviere. He was beatified only fourteen years after his death by Pope Paul V, on 19 October 1605. On 31 December 1726, he was canonized together with another Jesuit novice, Stanislaus Kostka, by Pope Benedict XIII.

MINT OF POLAND