The two euro banknote series were inspired by the theme of “the ages and styles of Europe”. Windows and gateways form the main elements on the obverse side of the banknotes, while bridges are the main feature on the reverse. These images do not, however, depict real buildings, but represent stylised architectural examples from the chosen epoch.
The bridges on the banknotes represent various periods and architectural styles of European cultural history:
- €5 banknote: Classical
- €10 banknote: Romanesque
- €20 banknote: Gothic
- €50 banknote: Renaissance
- €100 banknote: Baroque and rococo
- €200 banknote: Iron and glass architecture of the 19th century
- €500 banknote: 20th century architecture
The banknotes of the first series were designed by Austrian artist Robert Kalina. Reinhold Gerstetter, an independent banknote designer from Berlin, was commissioned to rework the design for the Europa series.
The leitmotif was also retained in the second series of banknotes, although the design was changed slightly to better accommodate new security features and to allow for easier distinction between the two series.
In addition to the names of the currency in the Latin (EURO) and Greek (EYPΩ) alphabets, the Cyrillic designation (EBPO) has been included in the second series of banknotes, because all three scripts are used in the European Union. In this regard, it is irrelevant whether the European country whose script is printed on the banknotes has actually adopted the euro as its national currency (the Cyrillic script for Bulgaria, for example). In addition, the number of linguistic variants of the ECB’s initials was expanded from five to nine (denominations from €5 to €20) and then to ten variants following Croatia’s accession to the EU (denominations of €50 and above).