Nový člen eurozóny (a new Euro country)  Share

How many Euro countries are there? Twenty-seven? No, although the European Union has 27 member states since 1 January 2007, the Euro area is not that large. Twelve? Almost, that was the correct answer in 2002. Fifteen then? Until a short while ago this was correct, but we are now in 2009 and that’s the year that the Euro area welcomes its sixteenth member: Slovakia. High time to discover the newest series of Euro coins.



One country, eight coins, three designs

Since Slovakia became a member of the European Union 1 May 2004, the Slovakians were really concerned about the national side of their future Euro coins. A contest had to bring solace: what images would at best represent the country inside and outside its borders. Fifty-six artists handed in sixty-four proposals or no less than 658 designs for the set of eight coins.

From March to October, different jurys tackled the first selection. Representatives of the Národná banka Slovenska (NBS – National Bank of Slovakia) as well as experts of several scientific and cultural institutions, artists and art historians had a say in the decision making. Things that mattered to them were the symbolic value and the artistic quality of the proposed designs.

Ten designs made it to the second round where they had to face the general public. In a referendum the Slovak people had the opportunity to choose the design they liked most. Out of no less than 140.653 votes the general council of the NBS finally selected the three designs which were the most popular amongst those who had casted their votes.

And the winners are…

With 33.068 votes, the gold medal goes to the double cross of the Slovakian national emblem. As winner of the contest the design decorates the 1 and 2 Euro coins. The silver medal goes to the Kriváň mountain that recollected 24.589 votes and hence decorates the coins of 1, 2 and 5 cents. And finally, the bronze medal is for the Bratislav castle. Thanks to 21.792 votes the castle is represented on the coins of 10, 20 and 50 cents.

A double silver cross above three blue hills


National side of the Slowak 2 Euro coinThe Slovakian coat of arms is represented on the national flag. It is composed of a silver (argent) double cross, elevated on the middle peak of a dark blue (azure) mountain consisting of three peaks. It is situated on a red (gules) early gothic shield. This coat of arms was already present on the obverse of the former Slovak koruna and halier coins. Although this emblem is the main design of the 1 and 2 Euro coins, it also figures as secondary design on the other coins.

And what’s the meaning of this coat of arms? One of the possible explanations is that it represents Slovak country and history. The double cross symbolizes the christian religion or Byzantyne heritage and the hills represent the three symbolic Slovak mountains Mátra,Tátra, Fátra, although the first one is in present-day in north Hungary. Slovakia and Hungary do not only share a border, they also have a common history. Until 1920 Slovakia was a Hungarian province of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Not surprisingly, the two countries also share parts of their national emblem. Both represent the double cross based on three hills, even though these hills are scattered over the two countries.

The design of the national sides of the 1 and 2 Euro coins has been executed by Ivan Řehák. The cross is placed against a background in relief, which evokes stylized rock.

A people of the mountains

National side of the Slowak 5 Eurocents coinSlovaks love their mountains. Poets and songwriters glorify them in their works of art. And also the national anthem, Nad Tatrou sa blýska, testifies of this love: “Above Tatra bolts of lightning, thunderstorm pounds wildly” Not surprisingly that one of the designs is dedicated to a mountain, Mount Kriváň.

The Mount Kriváň in the High Tatra (2.494 m) is not only renowned to be the countries most beautiful summit, it is also linked to several important events. It symbolizes the national consciousness, the safeguarding of territory and independance and, of course, also the unspoiled nature.

It’s not the first time that the mountain occurs on coins. Indeed, the 20 halier coin has been graced with the mountain peak before. And this should not come as a surprise, because the designer of the 1, 2 and 5 cents, Drahomír Zobek was also the designer of the last Slovakian koruna coins.

A castle for only a few cents

National side of the Slowak 50 Eurocents coinThe design made by Ján Černaj and Pavel Károly was selected as national motif for the 10, 20 and 50 cents coins. The castle of Bratislava which already forms part of the city for more than 12 centuries has seen many changes. The origin of this important monument dates back to the 9th century. In 1811 the castle was laid in ruins by fire and it took almost a century and a half, until 1953, before reconstruction was started. Situated on a rocky hillside it dominates, as it did before, the city and the river Danube.

So far the presentation of the coins. Now, time to go and look for the real thing. A trip to Slovakia might be tempting, but maybe the youngest Euro coins already found their way to your purse.

Estelle Piraux
Museum guide