Charles II founder of Monnaie de Paris
Royal power suffered a major blow when the Frankish Realm was carved up between Charlemagne’s three grandsons under the Treaty of Verdun in 843. In the fragmented remnants of the empire, it was common practice for lords to mint their own coinage with no regard for the King.
Charles II, one of the three heirs, was crowned King of West Francia. He attempted to reconstitute the empire and reassert royal power by exerting control over minting operations with a seminal decree that restricted the number of mints to 10.
The Edict of Pistres, promulgated on 25 June 864, was a strong assertion of Charles II’s power over his kingdom.
The Edict regulated minting operations as follows: “We decree that in no other place in all our kingdom shall coinage be minted except in Paris in our palace and in Quentovic (due to the long tradition of minting there), and in Rouen and Reims and Sens and Chalon and Melle and Narbonne and Orléans.”
PARIS MINT ON THE MOVE
9th – 13th century: Relocated from Ile de la Cité to Rue de la Bretonnerie and later to Saint-Jacques de la Boucherie
Among the remaining authorised mints, the Paris facility was relocated on several occasions, depending on where the Royal Treasury was held at the time.
The oldest known coin-striking workshop in Paris was located where the Palais de Justice (Conciergerie) stands today.
The mint was moved to Rue de la Bretonnerie in the Marais area in the present-day 4th arrondissement. When the Treasury subsequently moved to Rue de la Vieille-Monnaie (also known as Rue Passementière) near the Church of Saint-Jacques de la Boucherie, the workshop followed.
13th – 16th century: Saint Germain de l’Auxerrois
Rue de la Monnaie was the mint’s home for the next four centuries (formerly known as Rue du Serf) in Saint Germain de l’Auxerrois, the city’s financial district at the time.
Counterfeiting has been a key issue ever since money was first invented. In 1547, Henry II of France sought to thwart fraudulent activity with the establishment of a second, highly secure coin-striking workshop in the Nesle guard tower. The Nesle workshop struck coins from billon, a silver and copper alloy that was harder to counterfeit.
1552: Maison des Etuves, Ile de la Cité
In 1551, a third, more modern workshop, Maison des Etuves (also known as Maison du Moulin) was established on the western side of Ile de la Cité. This new mechanised coin-striking workshop boasted a screw press, blank cutter and rolling mill imported from Germany. Because it was placed under the direct control of the King, the new workshop was perceived as a slight to the authority of the Currency Court, a sovereign court created in 1552 to rule on matters of monetary justice and protection of workers. Relations between the mint and the Currency Court in Palais de la Cité were plagued by conflict.
In 1586, Henry III decreed that this third workshop would be the sole facility authorised to produce medals, tokens and small-denomination copper coins by means of its fully-mechanised systems. This sowed the seeds of the metalworking manufacture.
1609: Louvre Palace
In 1609, the primary workshop was relocated to the Louvre Palace to make way for the construction of Pont-Neuf bridge.
Now housed in the Grande Galerie, the workshop was renamed the Louvre Screw Press and the Medal Mint at the behest of Louis XIV. Jean Varin, the ingenious master engraver of Monnaies de France, made improvements to the engraving of dies and brought the screw press to coin-striking workshops throughout the kingdom. By 1672 the premises had become dilapidated and unsanitary, but it would take more than a century for the workshop to find a new home.
1775: Construction completed on historic Quai de Conti manufacture
In 1775, the various Parisian workshops came together as the Administration of Currency and Medals, sharing a central location at Quai de Conti on the Left Bank of the Seine. Louis XV awarded the contract for construction of the new establishment to a little known young architect, Jacques-Denis Antoine. Letters patent issued by the king on 16 April 1768 ordained the construction of Monnaie de Paris on the Left Bank, upon lands occupied by a number of buildings and the two Hôtels de Conti. Antoine had the larger Hôtel de Conti demolished; the smaller Hôtel de Conti, a townhouse designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart propped against the old city wall of Philippe Auguste, was preserved. In keeping this structure intact, Antoine acknowledged an early work of Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the architect who designed Versailles, and who was a fellow master of stereotomy, the technique of cutting blocks of stone and assembling them into structures.
On 30 April 1771 , the foundation stone of the Palais and manufacture at Quai de Conti was laid in the name of King Louis XV by Abbé Terray, the General Controller of Finances. In one of the foundation stones of the building, Abbé Terray sealed a series of gold, silver and copper coins of the day as well as a gold, silver and bronze commemorative medal designed by master engraver Charles Norbert Roettiers (see image). The hunt for these treasures continues to this day! Construction of the 12,071 m2-premises was completed in 1775. The installation of nine screw presses ensured the new manufacture met all the demands of a royal mint.
Coins were struck in the Salle du Grand Monnayage (Main Moneying room), the most important part of the Quai de Conti facility.
The workshops were organised in a well-designed sequential layout: raw materials were brought in by boat to Quai de Conti or by carriage to Rue Guénégaud and processed in various specialised workshops. The finished product ready for distribution left the premises to the rear via Impasse Conti.
It was the first manufacturing plant in operation in Paris and today is the last.
Since its the construction in the 18th century,, the coin and medal manufacturing facility has been assisted in its minting activities by workshops in Castelsarrasin and Beaumont le Roger during the two world wars.
Faced with spiralling demand for coin-striking, in 1973 the French state opened a modern manufacturing plant in Pessac just outside Bordeaux. The new plant was tasked with handling the entire production process for currency coins.
The 10-hectare Pessac site houses a manufacturing plant, plant rooms, administrative offices, a laboratory and annexes that together amount to a total of 16,000 m² of floor space.
This new site strikes an average of 1.5 billion coins every year for more than 40 countries worldwide. 6,000 tonnes of metal are procured annually. Coins are struck by coin press at a rate of 800 per minute, making Pessac one of the world’s leading coin-striking facilities in terms of capacity.
The snail-like layout of the plant gives a logical sequence to the various coin manufacturing processes. Administrative offices, plant facilities, and a European currency fraud analysis laboratory orbit around the central building; these satellite services are connected to the manufacturing floor via gangways and suspended passageways some 7 metres overhead. The design of the plant is logical, utilitarian and most of all secure, a message that is visually reinforced by battlements formed out of concrete. The outer perimeter of the site, an intruder-proof joist wall, is CCTV-monitored and protected by hi-tech security systems. These visual cues around the site demonstrate ties between past and present, the confluence between a twelve-century-old royal warrant and cutting-edge technology.
The plant has been awarded a triple health, safety and environment quality (QSE) certification which attests to our commitment to preserving our material heritage and ensuring a safe working environment for our staff.
2007: Launch of MetaLmorphoses project
On 1 January 2007 Monnaie de Paris became a state-funded industrial and commercial institution (EPIC), allowing us to fully function as an independent business.
Monnaie de Paris Pessac continues to fulfil our royal warrant to manufacture currency coins.
In Paris we produce collector’s coins made from precious metals, medals, official decorations and art pieces.
In 2014, Monnaie de Paris is celebrating 1150 trailblazing years during which our historic legacy, expertise and skilled craftsmanship have become the subject of world renown.
The MetaLmorphoses project is set to revamp the functions of the site. The premises will be opened up to the public with the creation of pedestrian streets and a park spanning more than 1,000m². Visitors will have the opportunity to discover the craft of metalwork by means of temporary and permanent exhibitions in this unique venue.
The renovated premises are set to open in autumn 2014.