domingo, 13 de abril de 2014

A medieval "agnostic" coin, in full Christian Reconquest

A medieval "agnostic" coin, in full Christian Reconquest.
Translation of an article published in Spanish: “El Eco Filatélico y Numismático
(November 2000). Vol.56 (n. 1080): p.50.

In the Middle Ages, one of the main concerns of the Christian kings in the Iberian Peninsula, was the struggle against Islam, that as a powerful blaze spreaded throughout the known world. Hence, one of the principal objectives of European kings in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries was the reconquest of the Holy Places, under pressure from a society imbued with religious feeling and Christian life, pugnacious determination stretching from the king to the humblest of his subjects.

Currencies of Sancho VII of Navarre

This motivation led to the political leaders of the time to use the figure of the cross on their more specific emblems, such as signs and seals and royal money. In this environment, at a time of exacerbation of religious feeling, it's strange for a Christian monarch not  to include the figure of the cross on their coins, as the main reason on the obverse or reverse, or as an element of separation of legend , nor in its "signature" or royal sign. Add to this the presence in the currencies of a crescent surmounted by a star (symbols commonly used in the Muslim world), and we face an unprecedented event in the numismatics of medieval Christian kingdoms. We emphasize the importance of this numismatic evidence, since at this time we could deduce the identity of the author of coinage by the symbols or legends of the same. These coins were minted in abundance, both deniers and mites in the reign of King Sancho VII of Navarre, surnamed "the Strong", during a long reign of over forty years between 1194 and 1234, and went down in history for his role in the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa against Muslims.

At this time, we can find the figure of the crescent moon and star in the emissions of Raymond VI and Raymond VII (1194-1249), the counts of Toulouse (France), although in this case on the other side of the coin features a large cross, and also a small cross marks the separation of words in the legends (text that appears on the currency). On the coins of Sancho VII, this separation is made with points.

During this time, there are some curious anecdotes of the coins, such as frequent falsification of Almohad square dirhams by some Christians, so that the same Christian bishop of Melguell (southern France) coined Arab currency with Koranic texts and professing Muslim faith, a fact which was rejected by the Pope himself. However in this case they were imitations of the prestigious Muslim coin. When in the late twelfth century Alfonso VIII of Castile minted gold coins, he included a cross on the reverse, and Christian texts, but written with Arabic legends.

The figure of the king of Navarre Sancho VII "the Strong" has entered popular mythology from his decisive intervention in the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212), where he defeated his former friend, Amir Muhammad ibn Ya'qub to Nasir (known by Christians as Miramamolín, abbreviation of its Arabic title of "Emir al-Mu'mineen") and from this historic event comes the shield of the chains of Navarre, introduced in mid-thirteenth century as a sign of identity of the Old Kingdom.

However, from the economic standpoint, this king has passed into history as the "banker to the kings”, banker as stated, minted their coins without using the cross symbol on them (an exceptional occurrence in the  medieval Christian coinage), and where it appears on the obverse the bust of the monarch, with the legend: SANCIVS REX, and on the reverse a crescent moon and star, with NAVARRORVM or NAVARRE legends. Sancho VII supported the bourgeois of Bayonne (France) and gave large sums to the king of Aragon, obtaining in return, collateral, numerous castles and villas (as Petilla of Aragon, Aragonese village that still belongs to Navarre).
Mausoleum and tomb of Sancho VII “the Strong” in Roncesvalles (Navarra)

It remains to establish the reasons why the Navarrese monarch dispensed with the use of the cross on his coins. Perhaps it could affect his friendship with the African emir (the nickname Miramamolín), with whom he spent long periods in North Africa, or perhaps the influence of Jewish bankers, who at that time controlled the economy of the kingdom and were the only capable of performing loans with interest or usury, activity prohibited to Christians because of scholastic economic ethics in those days, and only practiced by the Jews, which was precisely one of the causes of resentment against this group, source of persecution and killing of this group in the early fourteenth century.

No hay comentarios:

Publicar un comentario