Earlier this week, Switzerland’s federal mint, Swissmint, launched a commemorative gold coin celebrating “probably the most famous” Swiss folk hero, William Tell.
The work of Tell is mentioned for the first time in the White Book of Sarnen, a chartulary written by civic recorder Hans Schriber, of Obwalden, around 1470. Tell also crops up at the time of the Burgundian Wars in the 1477 “Song of Tell,” which is about the origin of the Swiss Confederation.
In 1507, Tell’s story was recorded in the Chronicle of the City of Lucerne by Melchior Russ and Petermann Etterlin and printed for the first time. It also found its way into the Swiss Chronicles written by Heinrich Brennwald, of Zurich, between 1508 and 1516. Around 1570, the chronicler Aegidius Tschudi condensed the various oral and written versions of Tell’s narrative into a saga dated 1307.
Popular theatre performances in Central Switzerland also helped spread the Tell legend. The dramatization of the Tell legend by Friedrich Schiller—which premiered in 1804—made the story well known initially in Europe and later worldwide. Schiller drew extensively on the chronicle of Aegidius Tschudi. Schiller’s play is the basis for the great opera Guillaume Tell by Gioachino Rossini. Earlier depictions showed Tell in different costumes depending on the spirit of the time.
- Alloy: 0.900 per cent gold
- Weight: 11.29 grams
- Diameter: 25 millimetres
- Denomination: 50 Swiss francs
- Mintage: 4,500 Proof coins
Tell as we imagine him today—that is, in a herdsman’s cowl and with a beard—was influenced by the Tell monument by the sculptor Richard Kissling in Altdorf and by the famous Tell painting by Ferdinand Hodler dated 1897. The latter also served as a template for the new commemorative coin and pays respect to the great Swiss painter, the 100th anniversary of whose death is marked this year. The coin was designed by illustrator Angelo Boog.
The new commemorative coin, which was issued on April 26, is available at swissmintshop.ch.