Crab nebula

It's no use looking for the written memories of the observation of the supernova exploded in 1054 in the records of the Western world. However we may find them on coins.

After astronomers carefully observed the Crab nebula, they calculated from the velocity of the expanding gas that the Crab Nebula might have born from a star that evolved to supernova around A. D. 1050.crab nebulaBased on the distance of the Crab Nebula, it was concluded that the star's death must have been bright enough to be observed from Earth. Not long after a description of a guest star was found in Chinese chronicles that was so bright that for 21 days it was visible even on the daytime sky, and it took almost two years, while it had disappeared from the evening sky out of sight of the people. sn1054Natives of North America, the Anasazi Indians also observed it. It seemed unlikely that from Europe no one would have observed it, but there were no written records. It has to wait until 1999, while research has shown that the 1054 supernova explosion coincides Pope Leo IX.'s death, and the division of eastern and western Church, that is the Great Chasm (see link at the bottom of the page). In addition, the Eastern Church appropriated the appearance of the bright star as the confirmation of the split. Therefore it is understandable, that in Western Europe much written notes cannot be found.

BizáncThe first known evidence that the supernova had been seen in Europe, was thought to be discovered on a coin. On a part of coins depicting the Byzantine Emperor Constantine IX Monomachos - only on 20 of the known 4000 pieces - two stars are visible, while on the rest only one. (Celestial records struck in gold - Sky & Telescope 1994. January, referring to Catalogue of the Byzantine Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and in the Whittemore Collection, Vol. 3, Leo III to Nicephorus III (717–1081). Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1973.)

Marshall Faintich in his elsewhere already much-quoted book, "Astronomical Symbols on Ancient and Medieval Coins", already mentions three coins. Edward the Confessor, radiating type denarIn addition to the above mentioned Byzantine coin he mentions a denier of Edward the Confessor. This latter denier is described as radiating type and might have been struck between 1050-1053. If these dates are correct, it will not be a representation of a supernova, because this event can not be predicted in advance. However, in the absence of reliable records, these coins still may have been struck later, and truly can represent the supernova. As a deeply religious man, Edward probably had no reason to commemorate the churches breakup and the representation must have been motivated by something else.

The third coin is the second type denier of Andrew I of Hungary. Andrew I. minted only two type of deniers, of which order of struck was never a doubt among the numismatist. The first type was struck at beginning of his reign while the second one at a later date. One expert on the subject, Laszlo Kovacs, mentions that the average weight of two deniers "did not significantly differ from each other, so replacement not for treasury, but rather for political reasons had taken place". But what could be this political cause, and when did the change occur? Can be the appearance of a star enough good reason to exchange money? At first, perhaps it is an unlikely assumption, but if we look at the political and military events, we get a more balanced picture.

andrea obverseandr reverse

Let's see the medal first. The reverse follows the usual reverse of Hungarian coins, there is nothing special. Inside the outer circle is an inscription "✞ PANONEIA". Inside the inner circle in quadrants are four wedges. On the obverse inside the outer pearl-circle are two more circles, inside them is the inscription: "✞ ANDREAS REX". Within them is a new circle followed by a unique cross-shape. The cross is built from four arms of equal length and each arm was constructed from three rays. There is a small circle in the middle. (Small dots and moonlets between the arms are not part of the coin image, rather struck marks, which may vary from coin to coin.) The appearance of the whole interior reminds us of a radiant star. This oddly shaped "cross" - neither earlier nor later appears on Árpád Dynasty's money, but it is much like King Edward's radiating type - led Marshall Faintich to the assumption that they might be supernova representations.

If Edward had not any reason to commemorate the death of the Pope, Andrew I. might have more because he had repeatedly confronted with Pope Leo IX. Namely the pope stuck up for Henry III., the  Holy Roman Emperor, who started in battle against Hungary in 1051. The German troops searched the battle, but the Hungarians used the scorched earth tactics. Before the German army people were removed, the food was taken away or destroyed. Despite this the Germans reached the Vértes-hills, according to some sources even Székesfehérvár, but because of the lack of food in the end they decided to leave the Vértes-hills, turned north to reach their supply transport ships. According to legend, Vértes-hill got its name when the tired and starving Germans threw their plate armours (vért in Hungarian) as they went further north.

On the following spring Henry again invaded Hungary, but this attack also ended in failure, and the losers left the country. At the Treaty of Pozsony (now Bratislava, Slovakia) Pope Leo IX. was present, as he wanted to promote negotiations between the parties. The Pope has even threatened with aggravation of the Hungarian king.

Internal affairs in the early 1050's was also a success for Andrew I. Around this time he knew beside himself his brother Béla, whose military leadership talents greatly helped victories. Thus, in 1054, after winning two wars Andrew I. might have seen the shine of his fortunes in the supernova. Perhaps this was a political reason which necessitated the coin change.