Alexios I Byzantine coinage Coins of the Crusades Expert Columns Fatimid Caliphate Featured News grosso Islamic coinage Medieval Numismatics Mike Markowitz News Rare Coins Medieval Period Recent Articles & Video Religious Coins World Coins

Medieval Numismatics: Coins of the Crusaders


Crusaders cash survive in shocking abundance and have a lot to inform us about this distant period, which has so many parallels to modern occasions.

By Mike Markowitz for CoinWeek ….

Between 1096 and 1291, the Church of Rome, the aristocracy, and the peoples of Western Europe launched a collection of army campaigns towards the Muslim rulers of the Japanese Mediterranean. These “ Crusaders ” established short-lived feudal states: the County of Edessa, the Principality of Antioch, the County of Tripoli and the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Collectively, these Crusader states have been referred to as Outremer (“over the sea”) and their inhabitants as “Franks”, though they weren’t all French.

What type of cash did these crusaders carry to the Holy Land? The circulating coinage of eleventh-century Europe consisted of “feudal pennies” (denier, denaro, pfennig) weighing about 1.3g, made of billon, a copper alloy, with 30-40% silver. Some bore the identify of a king or emperor, however native barons, bishops, or abbots struck most of them.


Deniers had little buying energy – a rabbit may cost 5, a fats hen six. Giant sums have been reckoned in “monies of account” like the livre, equal to 240 deniers. A great warhorse may cost eighty livres – a knight’s armor, half that.

In sharp distinction, the Muslim world and the Byzantine Empire (by way of which many Crusaders handed on their option to conflict) have been on a gold commonplace. The dinars of the Fatimid dynasty (909-1171) struck in Egypt have been higher than 95% gold and weighed four grams. The Byzantine hyperpyron of Alexios Komnenos (emperor in Constantinople at the time of the first Campaign) was 85% gold and weighed four.four grams. Silver coinage was scarce in Muslim and Byzantine economies, however there was an plentiful provide of copper small change in the cities – one thing that had disappeared in the Medieval West.

Antioch (1098-1268)

Strongly walled and backed towards a mountain, the historic metropolis of Antioch on the Orontes (now Antakya, Turkey) was held by a garrison of Seljuk Turks, 16,000 robust. After a bitter nine-month siege an Armenian tower guard was bribed to let a band of Crusaders scale the wall and open a gate. On June Three, 1098, the Crusaders massacred Muslim defenders and Greek Orthodox residents of the metropolis with equal fury. A Norman knight, Bohemond of Taranto (1058 – 1111), claimed the metropolis as his personal, regardless of the Crusaders’ promise to return conquered territory to the Byzantine Empire. Bohemond based a dynasty that lasted till Antioch was taken by the Egyptian Mamluks in 1268 (in exile even after that).

The early Crusader coinage of Antioch consists of crude Three-5 gram coppers modeled on the Byzantine follis. Nameless billon deniers appeared round 1130, and the deniers of the long-lived Bohemond III (reigned 1144-1201) are comparatively widespread, with a particular mailed and helmeted knight on the obverse.


Jerusalem (1099-1291)

After storming Antioch and defeating a Muslim military from Mosul, the Crusaders slowly superior towards their objective, Jerusalem. On July 15, 1099, utilizing siege towers constructed from the timbers of dismantled Genoese ships, the partitions of the metropolis have been breached. On the Temple Mount, in line with a Frankish chronicler, “the slaughter was so great that our men waded in blood up to their ankles…” (Gesta).

Godfrey of Bouillon (c. 1060-1100), who led the Franks, refused the kingship of Jerusalem, feeling that the metropolis was too sacred for any earthly King. He took the title “Defender of the Holy Sepulcher.”

Upon Godfrey’s demise, his brother Baldwin (who had established the County of Edessa – see under) accepted the title of King of Jerusalem, which was borne by some 16 successors right down to the fall of the kingdom in 1291.


Apart from a singular copper follis attributed to Baldwin I, the earliest Crusader coinage of Jerusalem was a collection of billon deniers struck underneath Baldwin III starting in 1143.

Baldwin III’s in depth coinage is split right into a crudely executed “rough” collection and a later “smooth” collection of finer type. The obverse bears a brief cross, surrounded by the king’s identify and title: BALDVINUS REX. The reverse depicts the “Tower of David” – an historic stone citadel constructed towards the metropolis partitions that served as a fortified palace. The reverse inscription DE IERUSALEM “of Jerusalem” continues from the obverse.

Baldwin’s successor Amaury (or Amalric) modified the obverse design to a stylized picture of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, believed to be the website of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.

The Kingdom additionally produced an nameless collection of deniers generally known as “pilgrim” cash bearing a double-barred cross, flanked by palm fronds. These might have been elite presentation items or Easter souvenirs. The design recollects the uncommon “ceremonial silver” coinage of seventh century Byzantine emperors. (When numismatists don’t know the precise function of a coin, it’s typically described as “ceremonial.”)

About 1140 Jerusalem started minting “imitations” of the gold dinars of the Fatimid caliphs of Egypt. In Crusader paperwork these are referred to as “Saracenic bezants.”

Saracen was a medieval time period for “Muslim”, and bezant (or bexant) was the generic phrase for a gold coin–from “Byzantium”, the historic identify of Constantinople. The Saracenic bezant was lighter than the Fatimid coin and inferior in purity. The Arabic legends, rigorously executed on early items, regularly turn into blundered and ultimately only a collection of strokes, dots and circles.

Minimize gold triangular or rectangular fragments weighing a fraction of a gram typically flip up in Crusader hoards. Since no full cash bearing the similar designs are discovered, archaeologists consider that these have been made as “offering pieces” for pilgrims who wished to make a donation in gold at a holy website however couldn’t afford a whole dinar (a month’s wage for a foot soldier).


Edessa (1098-1150) and Tripoli (1104-1289)

Far inland from the Syrian coast, Edessa (now the city of Şanlıurfa, Turkey) turned the seat of a short-lived County established by Baldwin of Boulogne, who broke away from the major Crusader military to carve out his personal territory. After Baldwin turned King of Jerusalem (see above), his cousins succeeded him at Edessa.
Edessa primarily minted copper folles. The cash are often crudely struck, with a standing determine of the Rely in armor and abbreviated Greek inscriptions like BAGDOINOS DOULO STAU – “Baldwin, Servant of the Cross.” A couple of base silver deniers have been overstruck on Muslim dirhems. Edessa fell to a Muslim military in 1144. Joscelin II, the final Rely, was captured, blinded and imprisoned in a dungeon at Aleppo till he died (1159). His cash are very uncommon.


Captured by Bertrand of Toulouse in 1109, the port of Tripoli on the coast of Lebanon turned the seat of the longest-surviving Crusader state.

Bertrand struck some uncommon deniers, however the coinage of Tripoli took definitive type beneath Rely Raymond II (dominated 1137-1152) and his son Raymond III (1152-1187) — their cash are principally similar. The obverse bears a cross surrounded by the identify and title of the rely, whereas the reverse carries the Latin inscription CIVITAS TRIPOLIS (“City of Tripolis”) round an eight-rayed starburst above a crescent. The identical design seems on a collection of small coppers.

Like Jerusalem, Tripoli struck gold, together with a really uncommon “Agnus Dei” bezant with the picture of the Lamb of God. The final Counts of Tripoli, Bohemund VI (1251-75) and his son, Bohemund VII (1275-1287), struck good-looking cash in good silver on the four.2 gram normal of the new Venetian grosso.

Throughout the remaining two years of the County’s existence, Lucia, the sister of Bohemund VII, dominated over a metropolis torn by civil strife. So far as we all know, she issued no cash.

Amassing the Crusaders

Like most medieval coinage (excepting the ever-popular “hammered British” coinage) Crusader cash will not be extensively collected. Typically badly struck in poor metallic, with blundered or illegible inscriptions, few have the type of eye attraction that makes a collector’s pulse race. So, besides for nice rarities or examples in excellent situation, Crusader cash are comparatively reasonably priced, with good coppers going for underneath US$100, and common billon deniers for beneath $200. Gold Saracenic bezants could be discovered for underneath $500.

The numismatic Prime Directive–“Buy the book before you buy the coin”–applies right here. Though the normal reference by Metcalf (1983) is out of print and really pricey, the 2004 version of Malloy et al., Coins of the Crusader States, can nonetheless be bought for US$85 or much less.


Baldwin, M. W. (ed.) A Historical past of the Crusades, Quantity I: The First Hundred Years. Wisconsin. (1969)

Boas, Adrian J. “Archaeological Sources for the History of Palestine: The Frankish Period: A Unique Medieval Society Emerges.” Close to Japanese Archaeology 61: Three (1998)

Crusades: A Information to On-line Assets

Ehrenkreutz, Andrew S. “Arabic Dinars Struck by the Crusaders: A Case of Ignorance or of Economic Subversion.” Journal of the Financial and Social Historical past of the Orient 7:2 (1964)

Ehrenkreutz, Andrew S., Theresa Emington and Sālih Sārī. “Contributions to the Knowledge of the Standard of Fineness of Silver Coinage Struck in Egypt and Syria during the Period of the Crusades.” Journal of the Financial and Social Historical past of the Orient 31:Three (1988)

Gesta Francorum et aliorum Hierosolimitanorum. Rosalind Hill, editor and translator. Oxford, (1967). Latin textual content with facing-page English translation.

Grierson, Philip. Coins of Medieval Europe. Seaby (1991)

Metcalf, D.M. Coinage of the Crusades and the Latin East. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. (1983)

Malloy, A. G., Preston, I. F. and Seltman, A. J. Coins of the Crusader States 1098-1291. Second Version. Connecticut (2004)

Walker, Ralph. Studying Medieval European Coins. Attic Books (2000)

Zacour, N. P.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) The Influence of the Crusades on Europe. Wisconsin. (1989)
Chapter X: Crusader Coinage with Greek or Latin Inscriptions
Chapter XI: Crusader Coinage with Arabic Inscriptions