1567, Saxony, Augustus I. Large Early Silver Thaler Coin.
Mint Year: 1567
Mint Place: Dresden
Denomination: Silver Thaler
Reference: Davenport 9795, MB-182.
Obverse: Armored and bearded bust right, holding sword and mace in hands. Date (15-67) split in fields.
Legend: AVGVSTVS DG DVX SAXONE SA ROMA IM *
Reverse: Three ornate helmets with ontop of composite coat-of-arms of Saxony.
Comments: Mintmaster’s initials HB (Hans Biener) in upper right field between helmets.
Legend: ARCHIMARS – CHAL ET ELEC
Augustus was a covetous, cruel and superstitious man, but these qualities were redeemed by his political caution and his wise methods of government. He wrote a small work on agriculture entitled Künstlich Obstund Gartenbüchlein. He was also famous for his various museum collections, including the finest collection of arms and weapons in Northern Europe, paintings, and an extensive collection of tools. The library named in his honor in Wolfenbuettel contains the world’s largest collection of original documents relating to the Lutheran Reformation and German and Early Modern Europe history.
Augustus I, Elector of Saxony (b. Freiberg, 31 July 1526 – d. Dresden, 11 February 1586) was Elector of Saxony from 1553 to 1586.
The first care of the new elector was to come to terms with John Frederick, and to strengthen his own hold upon the electoral position. This object was secured by a treaty made at Naumburg in February 1554, when, in return for the grant of Altenburg and other lands, John Frederick recognized Augustus as elector of Saxony. The elector, however, was continually haunted by the fear that the Ernestines would attempt to deprive him of the coveted dignity, and his policy both in Saxony and the wider Holy Roman Empire was coloured by this fear.
In imperial politics Augustus acted upon two main principles: to cultivate the friendship of the Habsburgs, and to maintain peace between the contending religious parties. To this policy may be traced his share in bringing about the religious peace of Augsburg in 1555, his tortuous conduct at the diet of Augsburg eleven years later, and his reluctance to break entirely with the Calvinists. His policy of religious peace was also promoted by the marriage he negotiated between his niece Anna and the then-Catholic Prince of Orange, at the time one of the chief Habsburg vassals in the Netherlands, in 1561.
On one occasion only did he waver in his allegiance to the Habsburgs. In 1568 a marriage was arranged between Johann Casimir, son of Frederick III, Elector Palatine, and Elisabeth, a daughter of Augustus, and for a time it seemed possible that the Saxon elector would support his son-in-law in his attempts to aid the revolting inhabitants of the Spanish Netherlands. Augustus also entered into communication with the Huguenots; but his aversion to foreign complications prevailed, and the incipient friendship with the elector palatine soon gave way to serious dislike.
Although a sturdy Lutheran the elector hoped at one time to unite the Protestants, on whom he continually urged the necessity of giving no cause of offence to their opponents, and he favoured the movement to get rid of the clause in the peace of Augsburg concerning ecclesiastical reservation, which was offensive to many Protestants. His moderation, however, prevented him from joining those who were prepared to take strong measures to attain this end, and he refused to jeopardize the concessions already won.
The hostility between the Albertines and the Ernestines gave serious trouble to Augustus. A preacher named Matthias Flacius held an influential position in ducal Saxony, and taught a form of Lutheranism different from that taught in electoral Saxony. This breach was widened when Flacius began to make personal attacks on Augustus, to prophesy his speedy downfall, and to incite Duke John Frederick to make an effort to recover his rightful position. Associated with Flacius was a knight, Wilhelm von Grumbach, who, not satisfied with words only, made inroads into electoral Saxony and sought the aid of foreign powers in his plan to depose Augustus. After some delay Grumbach and his protector, John Frederick, were placed under the imperial ban, and Augustus was entrusted with its execution. His campaign in 1567 was short and successful. John Frederick surrendered, and passed his time in prison until his death in 1595; Grumbach was taken and executed; and the position of the elector was made quite secure.
The form of Lutheranism taught in electoral Saxony was that of Melanchthon, and many of its teachers and adherents, who were afterwards called Crypto-Calvinists, were favoured by the elector. The Crypto-Calvinists were confident that they would be able to bring Augustus over to their Calvinizing positions by convincing Augustus that they were in fact merely loyal Lutherans, when in fact they were working to introduce Calvinist views of the Lord’s Supper and the doctrine of predestination at the University of Wittenberg. Augustus at first was deceived. Spurred on by his wife the matter reached a climax in 1574, when letters were discovered, which, while revealing a hope to bring over Augustus to Calvinism, cast some aspersions upon the elector and his wife. Augustus ordered the leaders of the Crypto-Calvinists to be seized, and they were tortured and imprisoned. He restored genuine Lutheranism to Saxony and began to work on a way to bring unity among Lutherans by commencing a process that would lead to the publication, in 1580, of the Lutheran Book of Concord. Augustus I personally sponsored the publication of the Book of Concord, a book containing the various Lutheran Confessions of faith, which was signed by over 8,100 ministers and professors and nearly 30 territories, states and cities in Germany. A strict form of Lutheranism was declared binding upon all the inhabitants of Saxony, and many persons were banished from the country.
The change in Saxony, however, made no difference to the attitude of Augustus on imperial questions. In 1576 he opposed the proposal of the Protestant princes to make a grant for the War against the Ottoman Empire conditional upon the abolition of the clause concerning ecclesiastical reservation, and he continued to support the Habsburgs.
Much of the elector’s time was devoted to extending his territories. In 1573 he became guardian to the two sons of John William, duke of Saxe-Weimar, and in this capacity was able to add part of the county of Henneberg to electoral Saxony. His command of money enabled him to take advantage of the poverty of his neighbours, and in this way he secured Vogtland and the county of Mansfeld. In 1555 he had appointed one of his nominees to the bishopric of Meissen, in 1561 he had secured the election of his son Alexander as bishop of Merseburg, and three years later as bishop of Naumburg; and when this prince died in 1565 these bishoprics came under the direct rule of Augustus.
As a ruler of Saxony Augustus was economical and enlightened. He favoured trade by encouraging Flemish emigrants to settle in the country, by improving the roads, regulating the coinage and establishing the first posts. He was specially interested in benefiting agriculture, and added several fine buildings to the city of Dresden. His laws were numerous and comprehensive. The constitution of 1572 was his work, and by these laws the church, the universities and the police were regulated, the administration of justice was improved, and the raising of taxes placed upon a better footing.