The gold coinage of Louis II of Flanders (1346-84) rivalled that of his contemporary King Philip VI of France in its splendour. In fact, many of his issues were direct imitations of the major French coinages, particularly the écu, a version of which was made in Flanders for nearly a century. But Louis also issued more distinctive pieces, such as this heaume, the largest gold coin to be produced in medieval Flanders and one of the largest in Europe as a whole. Although it was only produced for about six months, from 16 December 1367 to 18 June 1368, mint records show that 336,000 examples were struck.
The heaume takes its name from the central design of the shield of Flanders surmounted by an ornamental helmet (heaume in French), which is held up by two heraldic Flemish lions. The whole group is posed under an elaborate canopy. The highly decorated cross which forms the reverse design has the letters FLAN, for Flanders, between its arms. Each is surmounted by an eagle.
The combination of die-making skills, the vocabulary of Gothic art, and love of heraldry and decoration make these coins uniquely attractive.