The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem
One of the goals of the First Crusade was the liberation of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem – the site of Christ’s burial and one of the most important Christian pilgrimage destinations. The crusaders reached their goal in June of 1099, and Jerusalem was captured after five weeks of assault on 15 July.
A council was held at the Holy Sepulchre shortly after the conquest to declare the establishment of the kingdom of Jerusalem and Godfrey of Bouillon was named as ruler of the new settlement. A year later Baldwin I became the second ruler and first king of Jerusalem. The early monetary affairs of this new kingdom did not follow the same pattern as the Latin settlements of Antioch and Edessa in the north, where copper coins were minted in some quantities. For the first forty years the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem utilised the imported western coinages of Lucca and Valence that were ubiquitous in the Holy Land at the time.[i] From the 1140s the Latin kings of Jerusalem began to strike imitative dinars, as those at Tripoli, and western style billon deniers.
Like the counts of Tripoli, the Latin kings of Jerusalem minted imitation Islamic gold dinars which were based on the dinars of the Fatimid caliph al-Amir (AH 495–524/AD 1101–30). These coins were minted on two standards, with a debasement occurring around the years 1187 and 1188, the time of Saladin’s conquests.[ii] These debased coins continued until around 1250 when a papal legate was scandalised to discover coins being used that
bore the name Mohammed and the number of years from his nativity. The practice was banned under the threat of excommunication by Pope Innocent IV, and the design of the coins was duly changed to incorporate a cross.[iii] The issue of where these gold coins were minted is a difficult one. Documentary evidence reveals that there were mints at Tripoli, Acre and Tyre.[iv] The Tripoli examples are based on a different prototype and discussed here. For the southern mints, it is difficult to assign the actual coins to individual places. The post-1250 coins with Christian legends and cross were struck at Acre, and it seems that the other specimens were minted either at Acre or Tyre, perhaps even Jerusalem itself.[v]
Two large series of billon deniers were minted in Jerusalem. The first, which emerged at around the same time as the Antioch billon deniers in around 1140, bears the name of Baldwin with an image often identified as the Tower of David on the reverse. The second, in the name of Amaury issued after 1163, featured another landmark of Jerusalem: the Holy Sepulchre. Both of these were created with the purpose of serving as a royal coinage, as expressed in both type’s use of the title REX.[vi]
The choice to use images of these monuments in Jerusalem was a deliberate and meaningful one.[vii] It is interesting that the use of such specific and identifiable monument on coins was rare at this time.[viii] It appears to be a local tradition, and can also be seen on the royal seals of Baldwin I soon after his coronation on 25 December 1100. On the seal we see in the centre the Tower of David, flanked either side by the oculus of the Holy Sepulchre and the Dome of the Rock.[ix] This design remained influential, as evidenced by the fact that it also features on Amaury’s seals, and there is no doubt that it influenced the choice of imagery for the deniers issued from the 1140s on.[x] The first series, issued in the name of Baldwin, features a stylised representation of the Tower of David. This was one of the main defensive structures in Jerusalem, and became the centre of civic administration under Frankish rule.[xi] Its connection with the biblical King David gave it a special significance and it became a symbol of royal power. The use of this monument on coins acted as vehicle for displaying and enhancing the status of the Latin kings of Jerusalem and legitimising their position though portraying them as ‘the successors of the biblical kings of Israel’.[xii]
Amaury and his successors’ use of the Holy Sepulchre as the obverse image for the deniers was motivated by similar concerns. The Holy Sepulchre had become closely connected to the crusader movement. The crusaders initiated extensive rebuilding and extension works through the twelfth century, and the kings of Jerusalem were both crowned and buried there.[xiii] The use of this building on a coin of the kingdom of Jerusalem seems a natural choice, and acted to strengthen and proclaim the link between the kings of Jerusalem, the church, and the city itself, thus reinforcing the legitimacy of the dynasty’s claims to rule the kingdom.[xiv]
There are also several types of anonymous deniers minted in the kingdom. One rare type is a coin with the legend MONETA REGIS and +REX IERL’M. This type of coin has a northerly distribution, probably associated with Acre, and appears to be quite isolated from the general currency.[xv] Dating these coins is difficult, but hoard evidence may indicate that they were minted before Baldwin’s coins of the 1140s, perhaps as a parallel to the earliest Tripolitan coins of Bertram.[xvi]
The Baronial Coinages
Although the right to mint coins had been a royal privilege in the Latin kingdom in the twelfth century, there are a number of coins that were minted by smaller baronies and fiefdoms. At the Museum of the Order of St John two of these baronial coinages are represented in the collection: Sidon and Beirut.
The earliest coins in Sidon were minted by Raynald of Sidon from the 1170s. On the reverse is an arrow – a pun on the French name for the city, saiette. More plentiful are those coins issued on the authority of Balian from 1204 until his death in 1240. Following the established crusader practice of featuring buildings on their coins, these coins feature a three-storied building with arched colonnades and dome.
It has been argued that these building perhaps represent a former mosque converted to use as a church by the crusaders – a powerful political statement. [xvii] John of Ibelin, a well-connected noble who served as regent for the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem between 1205 and 1210, was lord of Beirut and minted coins in his own name, perhaps as early as 1205 thus infringing the royal prerogative.[xviii]
Biddle, M., 1999, The Tomb of Christ (Stroud: Sutton Publishing).
Boas, A., 2001, Jerusalem in the Time of the Crusades: Society, Landscape, and Art in the Holy City under Frankish Rule (London: Routledge).
Kool, R., 2013, The Circulation and Use of Coins in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem 1099–1291 CE, unpublished PhD thesis submitted to the Senate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Malloy, A., Preston, I., and Seltman, A., 1994, Coins of the Crusader States, 1098–1291 (New York: Attic Books).
Metcalf, D. M., 1995, Coinage of the Crusades and the Latin East in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (London: Royal Numismatic Society and the Society for the Study of the Crusades and the Latin East).
Nesbitt, J.W., McGeer, E., and Oikonomidès, N., 2005, Catalogue of Byzantine Seals at Dumbarton Oaks and in the Fogg Museum of Art: The East (continued), Constantinople and Environs, Unknown Locations, Addenda, Uncertain Readings (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection).
Spaer, A., 1982, ‘A Seal of Baldwin I, King of Jerusalem’ in The Numismatic Chronicle (1966-), 142, 157–59.
 Metcalf 1994, 44
[i] Metcalf 1995, 14–18
[ii] Malloy et al., 101–102
[iii] Malloy et al., 92
[iv] Malloy et al., 91
[v] Metcalf 1995, 47–50
[vi] Kool 2013, 78
[vii] This topic has been in explored in detail in Robert Kool’s 2013 PhD thesis, and the discussion that follows owes much to his work.
[viii] Kool 2013, 95
[ix] Spaer 1982
[x] Kool 2013, 98
[xi] Boas 2001, 75
[xii] Kool 2013, 100
[xiii] Biddle 1999, 92–98
[xiv] Kool 2013, 112
[xv] Metcalf 1995, 76
[xvi] Metcalf 1995, 77
[xvii] Metcalf 1995, 91
[xviii] Metcalf 1995,93