Featured A denier of Jerusalem, possibly minted during the reign of Baldwin IV

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by seth77, Nov 24, 2019.

  1. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    Around the mid 1160s, the Holy Sepulchre complex, whose building began as early as the 1140s, during the reign of Queen Melisende of Jerusalem, is finished and then consecrated in 1167. The new building unifies the older basilicas and ancient structures, some of them dating back to 329/30, built by orders of Constantine at the pleas of his mother, who had been on pilgrimage there in the second half of the 320s. At its consecration, the new Crusader structure was as majestic and important as any European cathedral of the day, although arguably more complex, having to contend with all the history it tried to incorporate, and was the seat of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

    Remnants of the portico curtain of the Holy Sepulchre curia, embedded into later structures in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City, dating to around 1160.

    The importance of this structure cannot be overstated, and in the wake of its service, King Amalric introduced a new coinage of the realm in the spring or summer of 1164, possibly to finance the expenses of his campaigns in Egypt. The new denier of Jerusalem had a distinct iconography, making use of a schematic image of the domed Rotonda of the Holy Sepulchre. This was a very modern and timely representation, coming from a king whose piety was referred to rather scarcely and only by friendly voices, such as William of Tyre. But Amalric was rather very interested in the revenue coming to his coffers from the droit de monnoie, as he was interested in everything relating to the rule of law and efficient administration. The clergy was not particularly affectionate towards him nor he towards it, as he exacted a toll for the secular participation even in the finalization of the Holy Sepulchre complex.

    Offered by a German dealer, October 2019
    AR18mm 0.80g denier of Jerusalem, possibly minted in the mid 1170s.

    The task of introducing a new coinage was no easy task, especially considering the fact that the Kingdom of Jerusalem already had a coin of the realm, which was quite successful, and which had been "just" introduced during the early part of the reign of Baldwin III around the mid 1140s.

    But very likely due to this impressive use of iconographic novelty and the evident importance of the church complex in the collective consciousness (next to the great quality of the billon used, sometimes as high as 700-800/1000 in silver title, cf. Kool - The Circulation and Use of Coins in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem 1099-1291), the new denier of Amalric was a smashing hit. As a matter of fact it was so widely accepted and coveted, that it became immobilized after his death in 1174 and kept as the coinage of the realm until the reign of Guy de Lusignan, to be then revived during the reign of Aimery de Lusignan around 1200.

    The-Descent-of-the-Holy-Fire-ink-drawing-Biblioteka-Vaticana-cod-Urb-Lat-1362-f.png The descent of the Holy Fire through the Holy Sepulchre Rotonda (B. Vaticana cod. Urb. Lat. 1362) after an earlier (Venetian?) sketch from around 1200.

    The coins minted during the reign of Amalric are usually at around 1g of weight and 19mm diameter. Fluctuations in weight are very small and so are differences in billon quality. The seigniorage from the minting operation proved very useful and the coins themselves financed the Egyptian campaigns of 1164-1167, which culminated with the capture of Alexandria in the spring of 1167.

    The research of Robert Kool presents a sequencing of the type that allows us to date some particularities like weight margins, lettering and Rotonda details. Although the type was immobilized, small differences can be traced to different periods and administrations. Amalric died in 1174 and was followed by Baldwin IV "The Leper King," who was less of a legislator and administrator and more of a man of action. The new deniers of around 0.80g and 18mm of the mid 1170s do have some important fluctuations in billon title, which indicates less quality control and standardization. But mostly they continued to be a stable and reliable coinage, following the earlier standard.

    1176 to 1179 were mostly spent by the restless King Baldwin IV on the field of battle, among the likes of Reynald de Chatillon (the Prince of Oultrejourdain), Baldwin d'Ibelin (who was gaining importance as Lord of Ramla and the most active vassal in the south of the Kingdom), Humphrey de Toron (the Constable of Jerusalem) and the Templars. This period was marked by both the victory at Montgisard in November 1177, where Baldwin, Reynald and the Templar company achieved a great success against the odds, and by the losses of 1179, when between Banias and Marj Uyun, the Crusader force lost Humphrey who died on the field at Banias and the Templar Grand Master, Baldwin d'Ibelin and much of the knights of Tripoli, who were captured by Saladin.

    But the most important of Baldwin's losses is also one of the events that help us piece together the history of the Jerusalem coinage: the fall of the Chastellet at Vadum Iacob. This new fortification had been started in the autumn of 1178 as a royal project (paid for by the king) but by early 1179 it was passed to the Templars, which were involved in developing a more coherent defense policy, taking some of the burdens that the local limes barons had to contend with. The castle was extremely important strategically and a great liability for Saladin, as it dominated the Upper Jordan and the Damascus road at a distance of a day's ride from the city.

    The location of the stronghold at Vadum Iacob.

    Saladin's whole incursion up to Marj Uyun was prompted by the need to eliminate the threat that a fully-built Templar stronghold at Vadum Iacob posed for Syria, by cutting off its supply lines. At the same time, building an adequate fortification while under constant duress and attacks by Saladin's troops was no easy task, and by the time it fell to Saladin in August 1179, it wasn't fully functional nor fully garisoned. Its destruction and the massacre of the Templar defenders was followed by a haste return to Damascus.

    What was left behind, the ruins at Ateret (as it is presently known), offers vast insights into both Crusader/Templar warfare and the economic and monetary life of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the 1170s. The discovery in 1995 of 22 immobilized deniers of the "Holy Sepulchre dome type" added to our understanding of coin circulation in the late 1170s. On the basis of these finds, R. Kool of Israel Antiquity Authority was able to study a glimpse of the monetary mass available in 1179. The coins weigh generally under 1g to 0.80g, with 7 of them showing stylistic similarities -- double-barred A's and the "regular type A" dome -- with the coin presented here. They are all probably part of a series that was minted around mid 1170s and/or later, but not later than late 1178 or the summer of 1179, the terminus ante quem for the Chastellet fortification.

    cf26d2dc6540d2b6886a009501f668e2--the-fortress-knights-templar.jpg Chastellet at Vadum Iacob towering the ancient road to Damascus.

    1180 marks the beginning of the decline of the Latin Kingdom, along the gradual but fast deterioration of the "Leper King's" health. Much like his father Amalric, he died before having the chance to put the affairs of state in full order, and much like in 1174/5, in 1185 the reins of the Kingdom were handed by the Haute Cour to Raymond III de Tripoli as regent. But although we know from William of Tyre that Amalric could contemplate the possibility of death being the end, a thought that scared and guided him as king, there is not much we now about Baldwin's inner thoughts about his own mortality. He was almost 24 when he died.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2019
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  3. TheRed

    TheRed Supporter! Supporter

    Thank you for posting such a great coin @seth77 it is one of my favorite types from the Kingdom of Jerusalem. It has been high on my list of coins to acquire, but I haven't found one yet with the right combination of style and price.
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  4. Yorkshire

    Yorkshire Well-Known Member

    Very nice read, don't have any crusader coinage yet but I've been on the look out for something of Baldwin IV or Guy De Lusignan.
  5. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Nice coin & great writeup, Seth.
  6. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Basileus Megalos

    Great write-up and nice coin. I have one crusader coin - a denier of Bohemund of Tripolis but it turned out to be a cast fake.
  7. AnYangMan

    AnYangMan Well-Known Member

    Awesome and in-depth topic! I love these detailed little write-ups you do now and again; keep them coming!

    My humble example of these deniers from Jerusalem (made with my old photography setup, so the lighting is a bit off):


    To be honest, I only had this attributed to the entire reign of Amaury/Amalric (1163–1174). No idea a more detailed typology was available! The A seems to be single-barred and the dome seems to be comprised of less vertical elements. An earlier type?
  8. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    According to Kool (p. 146) your type is contemporary to the specimen I posted. But that is if you just take into account the shape of the A (btw, your specimen seems to have what Kool calls the "chevron A" type). However, if you take into account the design of the Rotonda and the lack of any dot or annulet as a privy mark inside the obverse legend, then your coin seems to be a bit earlier than the specimen presented above. How early is a matter of speculation and imagination mostly. By the look and taking into account all of the components, I would say your coin is cca. 1170 or maybe a bit later, so during the later part of Amalric's reign, but a lifetime issue.

    A preliminary dating/sequence of the types proposed by Kool according to the shape of A's here:


    This very schematic picture is at least useful to a certain extent to put specific coins in context inside the larger confines of the type, which was minted from 1164 as a "heavy denier." In a similar manner to the work of D.M. Metcalf - Billon Coinage of the Crusading Principality of Antioch, that tries to work through some 70+ years of minting the "helmeted knight" coinage, these suggestions by Robert Kool are more like general guidelines than exact typologies of the Holy Sepulchre denier.

    PS: In terms of condition, your specimen far outshines what I posted, yours is an excellent coin.
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  9. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Basileus Megalos

    Here is the coin in question. Mine was almost a die match, but a cast fake. This is a real example.

  10. VD76

    VD76 Well-Known Member

    Haven’t find the time yet to closely examine my coins , but according to Malloy , first three belong to Amaury . And another four to Amiery 1195-1205 .
  11. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    I recommend getting Robert Kool's articles on Crusader coinage and up to date discoveries from Israel. For the "heavy deniers" of Amalric "The Circulation and Use of Coins in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem" is the most in depth work yet.

    The one on the right upper row looks like it has triple-barred A and no privy mark in the legend. There are no consequential stilistic variations in the later "deniers mauvais" but the 3 larger ones could be IDed better.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2019
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  12. AnYangMan

    AnYangMan Well-Known Member

    Wow, thanks for the detailed response @seth77! We’re lucky to have you here ;)

    I’ll update my ID with your information. As for condition; this was more or less an accidental purchase. I was visiting a friendly dealer and while browsing through his unsorted stock, this little denier popped out. He hadn’t identified it, so I was able to purchase it for a song!
  13. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    No problem. Glad I could help out.
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  14. VD76

    VD76 Well-Known Member

    Yes , you are right ! Triple bared A .
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