Following the partition of the Carolingian Empire - made official in 843 by the Treaty of Verdun - imperial power waned significantly. At the time, numerous coin striking workshops were scattered right across the territory that constitutes modern-day France.
One of the three heirs of Charlemagne, Charles II - known as Charles the Bald - used the reorganisation of minting to bring back territorial unity and identity. With the promulgation of the Edict of Pistres (25 June 864), he asserted his power and created 10 coining workshops, including Monnaie de Paris. From the reign of Philip Augustus onwards (Philip II, 1180-1223) and especially during that of Saint Louis (Louis IX, 1226-1270), the royal mint gained ground over feudal dependencies, limiting the privileges of local lords.
For several centuries, the number of royal workshops varied.
Some were repeatedly closed and reopened due to financial crises, while the needs of the king (financing wars, etc) and new territories annexed by the crown also caused frequent fluctuations in how many were active at any one time.
At the end of 1689 there were 22 in total, yet barely two years later this number had risen to 27.
The regional workshops gradually disappeared and in 1870 only three remained: Bordeaux, Paris and Strasbourg. By 1878, only Monnaie de Paris was still in operation.
In 2014, Monnaie de Paris revived the ancient network of France's provincial mints that contributed to its history and the reach of its influence. The exhibition Heads or Tails: 1,150 years of minting coins in France, was shown in 20 cities throughout France between mid-June and the European Heritage Days in September. It retraced the history of minting coins, the different crafts involved, and what became of each of the old workshops that played a part in the process.
Since the 9th century, Monnaie de Paris has had several different addresses. The oldest known coin striking workshop in Paris was on the Ile de la Cité but it was later moved several times.
Because Monnaie de Paris's original activity served the crown, it was always established in close proximity to the royal residence. Initially housed in what is now the Palais de Justice (the Conciergerie) - ancient seat of the Carolingian, then Capetian, monarchs - its subsequent relocations included the present-day Rue de la Monnaie, named after it. These premises were on the right bank of the Seine and very close to the Louvre, the king's new palace where the treasury was also situated. The buildings became dilapidated and cramped over time and although there were plans to move to the left bank as early as 1672, it took more than a century for these to come to fruition.
The decision to construct the current building on the Quai de Conti, in Paris's 6th arrondissement, was made by Louis XV. Jacques-Denis Antoine was the architect he entrusted with creating a palace on the banks of the river and a royal manufacture. The foundation work began at the end of 1769 and the first stone was laid on 30 April 1771. Monnaie de Paris was officially established on the Quai de Conti on 20 December 1775.
The building, which has retained its original industrial purpose to this day, was the first major construction project in Paris during the reign of Louis XV. Because of the work carried out there, the architectural complex as a whole has been kept exactly as it was, without significant alteration. The production of works of artistic craftsmanship, drawing on ancestral expertise and techniques passed down from generation to generation and still practised today, make Monnaie de Paris the first and last operational manufacturing establishment in Paris.
the parisian site : dates and key figures
12 centuries since its inception
1 hectare of surface area in the 6th arrondissement
26,000 m2 developed
1 palace, 1 manufacture and 1 town house
300 employees in Paris (Monnaie de Paris has 500 employees in total)
100,000 medals manufactured each year
120,000 gold coins struck each year
130,000 official decorations produced each year
3 stars for Guy Savoy's gourmet restaurant
3 to 4 contemporary art exhibitions held each year
In 1958, faced with the increasing volume of coins to be struck, the president of the French council of ministers, Charles de Gaulle, approved a report by the decentralisation committee stating that the country's minting facilities should be moved away from the Paris region. This choice was justified by constraints on Monnaie de Paris's Parisian premises (listed as a historic site) that precluded any development of its industrial capacity.
It was therefore decided to divide the activity into two parts, an arrangement still in place today: a regional plant would look after industrial minting, while Paris would keep artistic production. The new plant was built in Pessac (Gironde) by the architects Salier-Courtois-Lajus, selected following a competition. Of considerable size, to cater for the requirements of the mint, it became operational on 1 September 1973.
Although all stages of the industrial process were originally carried out at the Pessac site, it now handles just the cutting and burnishing of flans, as well as the core activities of the minter's trade: engraving, coining and packaging.
Today, Pessac still makes the euro coins used in France, as well as coins for other countries in the euro zone, such as Malta, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Monaco and Andorra.
The plant has also discovered a new development opportunity in applying its expertise to producing circulating coins for export. At the present time, more than 40 countries have entrusted the minting of their currencies to Monnaie de Paris and every day their inhabitants use coins produced at Pessac. These countries include Oman, Namibia, Bangladesh, Thailand, Costa Rica, Uruguay, West African States, Madagascar, Tunisia, Lebanon, to name but a few.
The volume of activity accounted for by circulating foreign currencies has stabilised at around 500 million coins per year. The Foreign Circulating Coins Department (Direction des Monnaies Courantes Etrangères, DMCE) is responsible for this aspect of the business.
the pessac site : dates and key figures
1973 date the Pessac plant was commissioned
190 employees at Pessac (Monnaie de Paris has 500 employees in total)
98,000 m2 land
120 x 130 m2 surface area covered by the plant
13,300 m2 surface area covered
20,400 m2 built surface area in total
1.5 billion coins struck each year
42 countries for which the plant has been striking coins since 2011
850 coins struck per minute by coin press
29 coin presses
3 Quality, Security and Environment (QSE) certifications
Attached to the French ministry for the economy, finances and industry since 1796, Monnaie de Paris became an Etablissement public industriel et commercial (EPIC, an official designation for state-funded industrial and commercial institutions) on 1 January 2007.
When the EPIC was established, the state entrusted Monnaie de Paris with a specific mission. Over and above its two existing activities, the public service of manufacturing circulating coins and the making and marketing of artistic creations, the institution was charged with:
- conserving, protecting and presenting to the public its historic collections and showcasing the historic built heritage of which it is the custodian;
- preserving, developing and passing on its artistic skills and technical expertise.
Closed to visitors for security and confidentiality reasons until today, Monnaie de Paris is now opening its doors to reveal to the widest possible public twelve centuries of heritage and crafts. This vision was the point of departure for the MétaLmorphoses project which is currently transforming the Parisian site.
Works got underway in mid-2011 to create a new, vibrant venue that is welcoming and open to the city. The architects responsible for the project are Philippe Prost for the new buildings and overall redevelopment of the site, Jean-Michel Wilmotte for the Guy Savoy restaurant and the signage and Hervé Baptiste (chief architect for France's historic monuments) for work to the listed parts of the structure.
The idea is to open up Monnaie de Paris's entire 1.2 hectare site in the heart of Paris's 6th arrondissement and present our heritage in an unprecedented way through:
• A new cultural opportunity, permanently available to visitors, to discover our artisan workshops and admire the treasures of the Monnaie de Paris collections, never before on public display. This will be complemented by a series of temporary exhibitions featuring works by contemporary artists.
• New shopping opportunities, showcasing artistic creations and excellence in craftsmanship with a new Monnaie de Paris boutique dedicated to metalwork arts. There will also be a concept store and other brands representing French arts and crafts expertise will be opening outlets.
• Gourmet dining at two establishments run by French chef Guy Savoy: his three-star restaurant in the rooms overlooking the Seine and a second table.
The Palais Conti, the manufacture and the Mansart Wing, refurbished and opened to the public, will become a place of discovery, a place to stroll, and an attractive leisure and cultural venue on the banks of the Seine, a UNESCO World Heritage site.