Featured An obscure 12th century lord from an obscure lordship: Seigneurie de Vierzon

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by seth77, May 27, 2019.

  1. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    One of my main interests is in obscure lords of the feudal West, especially those who can be tied to either crusading and/or taking the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Many times this interest leads to going through old compendia of often-times fragmented chancellery documents and/or histoire books that have the written story of certain areas, and often-times written long time ago, during the Ancien Regime. Finding and following lords who have also minted coins is a very welcome bonus.

    350px-Carte_du_Berry.svg.png Vierzon and Celles-sur-Cher in Berry.

    Few areas have been so rich and diverse in feudal coinage and more decentralized during the medieval heydays than the old region of Berry, in Central France. The many local seigneuries here enjoyed such an extended autonomy in the 12th to early 14th centuries that minting their own coins, whether baronial or monastical, was the most normal of things.

    histoire de berry.jpg
    Notes on the rule of Herve I de Vierzon (1144-1192 or 1184?) in Gaspard Thaumas de la Thaumassiere's Histoire de Berry, 1689/91

    Seigneurie de Vierzon became a feudal hereditary realm around the 970/80s, when Chateau Vierzon was awarded by Eudes I de Blois to Humbaud le Tortu, his friend and likely kinfolk. The ramparts and the adjacent villages had been attached to the realm of Blois since the early 900s, and possibly had belonged to an ancestor of Thibaut l'Ancien, the Viscount of Blois, as early as the reign of Charlemagne. After the 980s, the castle and the villages dependent on Vierzon, alongside the castles of Ferte-Imbault, Celles-sur-Cher and Mennetou-sur-Cher -- and later on Mehun-sur-Yevre, became the center of power for Humbaud's descendants, the House of Vierzon.

    AR18mm 0.69g denier minted at Chateau Vierzon, cca. 1150-1190
    + VIRSIONE; cross pattee
    large stylized fleur-de-lis, flanked by 2 smaller fleur-de-lis
    Boudeau 313 p. 38, Poey d'Avant 2028 p. 289.

    The first coinage of Seigneurie de Vierzon was at first related to Herve III by M. Cartier (Revue Numismatique 1841, p. 282), as he considered the reverse design to be a trophy surmounted by an H monogram, flanked by two lys. Poey d'Avant considered that this presumed H-shaped design should stand for Humbaud, rather than Herve III in the middle of the 13th century. Neither Boudeau nor Poey d'Avant name an actual Sire, but the coinage is most likely to have appeared during the reign of Herve I, as the low weight and diameter make it an unlikely issue of the 10th century while the overall design and letter shapes seem outdated for the 13th century.

    It is possible though that the other types, with a similar reverse design but a more ornate obverse design (annuleted cross pattee or lys symbols in the quarters), were later issues, perhaps dating up to the reign of Herve III (1252-1270).

    Herve I's rule seems to have been rather peaceful and smooth, the Sire being mostly involved in administrative work and in supporting local abbeys and founding new chapters (like Saint Taurin de la Ferte-Imbault in 1164). In 1163/4 he undertook a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, of which we know little more than the fact that prior to it, he had made all the arrangements for his estate in case he might not have returned from his perilous journey. He did return safely the following year and married soon after. His death is somewhat uncertain, de la Thaumassiere notes it as 1192, but the Chronique de Vierzon and recent studies seem to be pushing his death earlier, around 1184.

    Beffroi-de-Vierzon.jpg One of the very few parts of the Chateau Vierzon still standing: a belfry that had been the main gate for the medieval fortifications.

    The chateau was extended around 1200, very likely by Herve II and by the time Herve III ruled in the later part of the 13th century, the old castle was probably a ville centre. The series of coins starting around 1150 and quite likely advancing to around 1320s could be an indication of steady development, as is the continuous expansion of the castle to become a fortified town and eventually to expand way beyond the medieval fortifications, thus rendering them obsolete.

    This unfortunately means that much of the old Vierzon is now lost.
    Last edited: May 27, 2019
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  3. Justin Lee

    Justin Lee I learn by doing


    Oh... not the Verizon guy. o_O:woot::sorry:

    Very fascinating! I love that reverse with fleur de lis!
    Last edited: May 27, 2019
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  4. Theodosius

    Theodosius Fine Style Seeker

    Cool coin and nice write-up. It is great when you can link coins to historical figures and places.

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  5. Jwt708

    Jwt708 Well-Known Member

    Very nice Seth!
  6. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    Next in line about the relationship between Seigneurie de Verizon and the Duchy of At&T.
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  7. Justin Lee

    Justin Lee I learn by doing

    @seth77 wondering if you could shed some medieval enlightenment for me, a medieval noob.

    So a seigneurie is an autonomous (free?) area of land and not a person. Am I interpreting that correctly? When I was first reading it my brain pronounced it like the Spanish senor and connected it to a person. But I realized we are talking about France and a (male) person is monsieur, which doesn't then relate well with seigneurie.

    So Seigneurie de Vierzon was the "autonomous realm of Vierzon"?

    And a Sire is the person in charge of leading the land and those within it? And being a hereditary realm, the Sire-ship was passed to kin?
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  8. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    A seigneurie is basically a land (and castle) grant from a feudal lord to his feudal vassal. After this grant the area becomes autonomous under the rule of the receiving vassal. So the seigneurie is basically what you have in english as lordship = the territory that is granted and received through a feudal alliance and/or vassalage. The ruler (person) is the Seigneur or Sire or Lord, and depending on the nature of the land grant, he is either given this right for life or (more often than not) ownes it as a hereditary fief, thus leaving it (and the title) to his heirs. This is also how new aristocratic houses appear, like for instance at Vierzon, when de Blois gave Humbaud le Tortu the ramparts and the adjacent villages of Vierzon, thus marking the birth of Maison de Vierzon.
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  9. TheRed

    TheRed Supporter! Supporter

    Once again another great write-up and coin Seth. Thank you for sharing. What made Berry so decentralized as compared to other regions of France?
  10. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    This is such a difficult question to answer and I don't presume to have the complete answer to it. One aspect to keep in mind is that a large majority of these seigneuries were founded in the 900s, so very early in the history of feudal relations, some of them, like Gien, being individualized as early as Charlemagne. So one could say that they were born at pretty much the same time as feudalism.

    Another aspect has to do with the overlordship over these seigneuries, that was so diverse, from the Dukes of Aquitaine and the Counts of Anjou in Gien or Issoudun to the Counts of Champagne and/or Blois in Vierzon, Celles-sur-Cher or Saint Aignan. And then there were the monastical lands that by the Third Crusade were already massive, stemming from all the land grants that the many Sires of Berry had bestowed upon the local chapters almost as a matter of habit. Reading Histoire de Berry for instance one becomes really fast acquainted with the many land grants and favors that the lords give to an Abbey or another, especially in the 12th century, as crusading becomes almost a requirement.

    This whole dynamic is probably at the forefront of the rapid and diversified development of the area in the 12 to early 14th centuries, as coinages competed with each other, the barons and counts enjoyed extended autonomy on the basis of their very old lineages and feudal relations, and thus could afford pushing the envelope on many things, from cathedral-building, to experimenting with new steels or to abolishing serfdom.
    Last edited: May 28, 2019
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  11. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    And a full denier of Vierzon, very likely from the same deposit:

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  12. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & Eccentric Moderator

    My brain did the same thing when reading the title! :hilarious:

    Interesting reverse design on those coins. Neat looking place, too.
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