The Cardinal Virtues: Prudence
Following the triennial theme dedicated to the theological virtues, the Philatelic and Numismatic Office is now inaugurating a four-year program of the issue each year of a 200 Euro gold coin dedicated to the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. The four virtues are “cardinal” and play a pivotal role in a life dedicated to doing good; all the other human virtues are grouped around them. Prudence in particular is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it. It is called “Auriga virtutum” (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. The artistic work this year is by Mariangela Crisciotti. The obverse side of the coin shows Pope Francis absorbed in prayer. The reverse side features a depiction inspired by designs from etchings by the 19th century engraver Sanguinetti and by the widespread and ancient iconography where the personification of Prudence is expressed as a woman wearing a helmet, holding in her right hand a mirror showing her reflection and in her left hand a type of serpent wrapped around her arm. The serpent is a symbol of wisdom which works against adversities, but also of logic and time which is renewed cyclically. The mirror is an attribute of the virtue itself which places knowledge of oneself as a pre-condition for accomplishing good. The virtuous person tends towards good, seeking it and choosing it in concrete actions.