Description:The Byzantine Empire existed for more than a thousand years, from AD 306 to 1453 and was one of the most powerful economic, cultural, and military forces in Europe and Asia Minor. In AD 324, the first Christian Emperor Constantine “The Great” transferred the Eastern Roman Empire capital to Byzantium, which became Constantinople, known as "New Rome". Long after the fall of Rome, the Byzantine Empire was still called the Roman Empire by its inhabitants and its neighbors, although the main language spoken was Greek. In the 6th century, Justinian I created the authority of the Eastern Orthodox Church which firmly established Christianity throughout the Empire.
This 12th century Byzantine bronze coin was minted in the city of Thessaloniki, which is located in modern day Greece. It was considered the second greatest city in the Empire after Constantinople, with a population of 150,000. The obverse side shows the Virgin Mary wearing a nimbus crown and praying in the orans position with the infant Jesus Christ on her chest.
This coin was hand struck during the rule of Emperor Andronicus I Comnenus, over 8 centuries after Constantine announced toleration of Christianity in the Edict of Milan, which removed penalties for professing Christianity. As this coin shows, Byzantine art was mainly devoted to the Christian faith which flourished under their protection.