Featured Another obscure 12th century lordship in Berry: Seigneurie de Saint Aignan

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by seth77, Oct 22, 2019.

  1. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    Following the entries that I have written this early summer about Vierzon (and its 12th century coinage, which can be read here) and Nogent-le-Roi (and its 11th century coinage, which can be read here), here is another obscure autonomous realm of middle medieval France.

    350px-Carte_du_Berry.svg.png Saint Aignan, Celles-sur-Cher, Vierzon, Gien in Berry.

    The castle and territory of Saint Aignan was awarded by Odo II (Eudes) of Blois as Count of Champagne to his vassal Geoffroi de Donzy sometime around 1000/1010 to become his fief and power base in Berry. Geoffroi, who started the Maison de Donzy, involved himself in the Blois-Normandy war of 1008-14 and was eventually murdered as a result of the conflict between Blois and Anjou, after being captured by Fulk III Nerra of Anjou around 1037.

    His descendants are mentioned in Histoire de Berry, but barely. Under their rule in the 11th and 12th century, the lordships of Saint Aignan and Gien became powerful enough to allow a scion of Donzy to ultimately accede to the County of Nevers and be invited to participate in the Albigensian campaigns. Also, during the early period, in 11th-12th centuries, the medieval fortress -- of which parts are still visible today -- was built to protect the mint, baronial hall and secretariat.

    Tour Hagar and the fortifications built in the 11th century.

    At the same time, during this early formation period, the church Collegiale de Saint Aignan was built and used to house the tombs of the Donzys in its crypt. According to Histoire de Berry, it is the final resting place of Geoffroi I, after his body was returned from Angevin captivity in Loches or Amboise.

    saintaignan41.jpg L'eglise collegiale Saint Aignan, with its apse and the naves of the transept built in the early Romanesque phase of the church.
    ob_8bf687_st-aignan-2016-91.JPG And its interior crypt with a fresco painted at the end of the 11th century.

    The coinage of Saint Aignan is completely anonymous and rather scarce if not downright rare. It starts possibly in the first half of the 11th century with grand deniers of chinonaise or bleso-chartraine design, which gradually decrease in diameter and weight in parallel with the prototypes of Blois and Chartres in the 12th century. The change from this generic type to a new and very interesting billon issue struck to a lower diameter and weight (perhaps to the standard of the Angevin deniers of Fulk V and their imitations started by Geoffroi II or III at Gien) came around 1160, under the rule of Herve III.

    saint aignan.jpg The new denier of Saint Aignan, issued anonymous under the rule of Herve III, starting around 1160:
    + SANCTI ANIAI (S couchee); cross pattee with pellets in all 4 quarters
    + CAS - . T . - RVM (S couchee); castle with cross above, resting on two spikes which cross into the legend field at 5 and 7 o'clock.
    Boudeau 322, Poey d'Avant 2054 Pl. XLIV 24, Duplessy 610

    Herve III de Donzy is one of those feudal lords known more through the coinage that is assigned to his rule -- the immobilized deniers of Gien continued very likely throughout the rule of Herve III and the anonymous deniers of Saint Aignan -- than anything else. For instance Histoire de Berry just passingly mentions him, and it even confuses him with his son Herve IV, who ruled as Sire de Donzy (after 1187) and as Count of Nevers (after 1199). His reign is remarkably uneventful as far as literary sources go, thus very similar to other lordships in Berry in the second half of the 12th century, like that of Robert de Celles-sur-Cher or Herve I de Vierzon.

    hist de berry.jpg
    The paragraph in Histoire de Berry which mentions Herve III but confuses him with his son Herve IV.

    Three of his sons did however go crusading:

    1. Guillaume, his heir as Sire de Gien died in the Third Crusade at Acre in 1191
    2. Reynald(?)/Bernard, Sire de Montmirail, was part of the host of Louis de Blois and died in the Battle of Adrianople in 1205, following the conquest of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade, together with his liege lord Louis.
    3. Herve IV, Sire of Donzy (and Saint Aignan) and Count of Nevers, took part in the Albigensian Crusade in 1208/9 at Beziers and Carcassonne as required by his feudal duty towards Pierre de Courtenai, his liege lord.

    The coinage assigned to Herve III at the chateau of Saint Aignan is scarce and extremely interesting. The design of the reverse -- the "castle" or "cathedral" surmounted by the cross -- is inspired by both the earlier carolingian "temple deniers" and the "chateau" deniers of Saint Martin de Tours and of Fulk of Anjou (1109-1129), a type that would become in the early 1200s the royal denier tournois. Spikes like the ones piercing the field and separating the reverse legend are seen, in smaller dimensions, on the deniers of Jerusalem from the 1140s and 1150s (under Baldwin III) and are probably there to suggest the strong foundations of either the chateau de Saint Aignan or Herve's own roots as Sire of Berry, or very likely, both. As a stylistic and calligraphic detail, the S couchee on both obverse and reverse is also a feature most common on the baronial and royal coinages of the second half of the 12th century.

    Unlike Vierzon, the local coinage of Saint Aignan stops around 1190.
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2019
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  3. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    We are lucky to have you as a member on this board. Another excellent write up
    spirityoda, Stevearino and seth77 like this.
  4. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

  5. Robidoux Pass

    Robidoux Pass Well-Known Member

    Impressive scholarship! My French collections generally start in the 16th century. Reading your work tells me I ought to look earlier.
    seth77 likes this.
  6. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    The variation and general output of the baronial coinage in Berry is outstanding in the 11the to 13th centuries. You have plenty to pick and choose, but this particular coinage of Saint Aignan is of particular interest to me as my primary focus area in medieval/early renaissance numismatics is the denier tournois.

    PS: If you missed it, here is another thread about a realm of Berry, the County of Sancerre and an overview of its feudal coinage in the 12th to 13th centuries.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2019
    Jwt708 likes this.
  7. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Love it! Great post @seth77 . One of these days your posts are going to tempt me into getting more serious about my medieval purchases :happy:
    seth77 likes this.
  8. Jwt708

    Jwt708 Well-Known Member

    Great post Seth!
  9. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    There is always need for more pairs of eyes focused on medievals.
  10. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    This is brilliant stuff, Seth. Your citation and (re)interpretation of that one old history of Berry is especially impressive.
    (...About which, bibliographic details, especially in reference to Google Books --?-- would be keenly appreciated. I can read French only at the level of "Coin Latin," and still have trouble navigating the website of La Bibliotheque Nationale. ...Whoah, and the website is inactive for now.)
    And, Rats, I can't find a .jpg of the one example I found, several years ago. But ...well, Okay, it's Maybe Just That Little Bit better than yours.
    Fun story about it. It was on French ebay, unattributed, and the side with the castle was upside down! Kind of looked like a Punk /representational Expressionist version of Mickey Mouse.
    Except, Bet you knew this, on that side, the diagonal line on the lower right is, in fact, repeated on the lower left.
    Now it gets fun. Time to back up a minute. Anyone familiar with Roberts gets to know that, for representations of castles anywhere in the French feudal series, this is Crazy Early. It's almost ironic, until you take into consideration the limitations of the engraving technolology, particularly relative to ancient coins. (Kind of, All Punches, All the Time.)
    The two diagonal lines, going into the legend, denote a motte. Thank you, as in English (and, before that, French) motte-and-bailey castles. Many of whose 'keeps,' on both sides of the Channel, were rebuilt in stone, especially over the course of the 12th century.
    In the case of St.-Aignan, as elsewhere, this was only easier if the castle began life on a natural hill, instead of an artificial 'motte,' which, especially in Norman England, usually involved corralling the local Saxons to do a whole (expl. del.) lot of digging.
    ...Right, here's the punch line. And for anyone who got this far, sorry for keeping you waiting this long. Here are two pictures of the castle that I found online. (Problem with St.-Aignan is that the medieval castle --to all appearances, c. 12th to 13th centuries --is dwarfed by the subsequent, renaissance chateau to the right. Even more nefariously, the chateau is for our purposes, with lots of augmentation up to the 19th century. Some of it, especially that late, is in Voillet-le-Duc-ian"neo-Gothic," which complicates the whole effect.) CASTLES, FRANCE, ST. AIGNAN  chateau_ruines.jpg CASTLES, FRANCE, ST.AIGNAN,AERIALVIEW.jpg
  11. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Seth, sorry for missing your comprehensive description of the operant side of the coin before now. Thank you, you covered all the details of the motif.
  12. Cachecoins

    Cachecoins Historia Moneta Supporter

    Agreed, I thoroughly enjoy your posts.
  13. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Just found two old, self-taken, correspingly lousy .jpgs of my example. COINS, FRANCE, ST.-AIGNAN, HERVE III, REV. JPG.JPG COINS, FRANCE, ST.-AIGNAN, HERVE III, OBV. .JPG
    Is this one that much better than Seth's? You decide.
    Except, Seth's comments about the couchant "S" are as evocative as they are on point.
    From what I've seen, this variation in the lettering shows up most conspicuously in the coins of Richard I, Couer de Lion, variously from Bordeaux, as Duke of Aquitaine, and Poitiers, to the north, as count of Poitou. There's at least some precedent from the county of Toulouse, earlier in the 12th c.
    Richard's upbringing leaned more to the south, thanks to his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. He was probably literate both in Provencal and Occitan. Fast forward a little, and you get this same feature in issues of the neighboring county of Toulouse and marquisate of Provence, as late as the mid 13th century.
    Looking at the operant geography, it's easy to imagine the progression of the the S couchee having migrated to the north and east, conspicuously including Berry, maybe starting with the issues of Richard I from Poitou.
    Anyway, thanks, Seth, for this post ...and for sticking a finger in my eye until I found the pics of my example.
    Johndakerftw, Bing and seth77 like this.
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