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My first Really, Honest, feudal coin from the Kingdom of Jerusalem


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Balian de Grenier (lord of Sidon 1202-1240), who issued this, was maternally descended from the Ibelins, the most prominent, powerful, and consequential baronial family within the kingdom of Frankish Jerusalem.  He was named after the Balian de Ibelin who had defended Jerusalem during the successful (and remarkably brief) siege of Jerusalem by Saladin, immediately following Saladin’s decisive victory at the Battle of Hattin in 1187.

That Balian’s 13th-century namesake proceeded to have his own long, storied career.  This comprised key roles in the Fifth Crusade of Jean de Brienne (1217-1221); support of Friedrich II’s effective usurpation of the kingdom of Jerusalem from Jean, during and after the former’s 6th Crusade (1228-1229); and participation in the mysteriously unnumbered ‘Barons’ Crusade’ (1239-1241).

But in the interests of evading the sum total of that –involving coins of other participants, and an OP of 15 (...or 25) pages– I’m going to emphasize this coin, which is resonant enough in its own right.



Kingdom of Jerusalem; seigneurie of Sidon.  Balian de Grenier.  Billon denier, issued late in his reign; c. before 1235-1240. 

Obv. +:D·E·N·I·E·R:  (Denominations are very uncommon in Western legends of the High Medieval period, but show up in the Frankish Levant  more often than elsewhere, notably in AE fractions.)

Rev. Church with dome; possibly adapted from a mosque. 

+:D·E· S·E·E·T·E:  Metcalf 213-214 var.; Schl. V, 8 var.; CCS 4 var.


Numismatically speaking, the architectural motif was likely inspired by the well-known deniers of Amaury /Amalric I, King of Jerusalem 1163-1174.  These include a similarly stylized rendering of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, whose original Byzantine fabric saw significant reconstruction during Amaury’s reign.  (In the dealer’s pics below, Amaury’s issue is in the upper left, with examples of his elder brother, Baldwin III, ‘rough’ and ‘smooth’ styles, featuring the ‘Tower of David,’ to the left and below.  …Which was endlessly rebuilt, but remained a key element of Jerusalem’s defences, at least down to the 1947-8 war of Israeli independence.)




The fact that in Balian’s example, the building is unmistakably domed (in conspicuous contrast to Amaury’s rendering of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre –yes, given the ubiquitous level of stylization for all of this), steers me toward the thesis that Balian’s church was a mosque, briefly adapted as a church.

I haven’t been able to find anything online about mosques in Sidon (/Saida, in modern Lebanon), apart from civic and tourist-related websites.  But they do mention the earliest extant mosque dating to c. 1201 CE, with a conspicuous dome. 



If this had been adapted as a church, however briefly, I, for one, can’t blame anyone for not mentioning that little detail.  The Crusades were their own, medieval foreshadowing of colonialism; comparable to the invasion of Ireland by Anglo-Norman aristocrats, from 1170; quickly appropriated by the reigning Angevins.  In either case, it’s not rocket science to think that the wounds run deep.


…Back to castles (from the ‘Tower of David’), there’s this one, a ‘sea castle,’ built off the coast of Sidon during 1227-8, effectively in the middle of Balian’s seigneurial reign.  Having yet to find a plan online, and having only one reference in print on crusader castles (Nicolle, Osprey, 2008), I still think it’s kind of cool.  The substantial cylindrical tower to the left is very reminiscent of contemporaneous French (and, for one, Welsh) donjons.




Edited by JeandAcre
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Sadly enough for the immediate context, that's likely to date to later contexts; Ottoman, for one possible instance.  It would be terrific fun if it was as early as the 13th c. CE --evoking a level of pluralism that the Crusaders were only selectively capable of, even in the later phases of occupation-- but I have to doubt it.  

When looking at the existing fabric of medieval castles, you really have to maintain a relentless focus on the exterior elements.  Merely because those are likely to have changed the least --even, thank you, by relative margins-- of any part of a given structure.

(Edit:) Sorry, @Etcherdude, if your initial observation was predicated on both of us being well acquainted with most or all of my ensuing drivel.

Edited by JeandAcre
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