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Berengar of Narbonne, Viscount and Righteous Among the Nations avant la lettre


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This is a note from CoinTalk that was mostly overlooked in 2019, with some minor corrections. As I said in other threads, I'm going to slowly be sharing my older topics from CT here too.


Berengar, also recorded as Raymond-Berengar, was the son of Raymond I of Narbonne. His reign as Viscount (1023-1067) was announced by his father by 1019/1020, when coins start being minted in his name. In 1023 when Raymond dies, Berengar is left in charge of the city of Narbonne, which made him one of the most powerful barons of Languedoc. While the overlords, mostly the Counts and "Consuls" of Toulouse, would often style themselves as Dukes of Narbonne during the 11 to 13th centuries, the actual power was held in the city and the realm by the Viscounts, who ruled as autonomous lords.


AR18mm, 1.15g, silver grand denier, minted at Narbonne cca. 1060.
NARBONA C; four annulets, dot in middle of the field.
Poey d'Avant #3749 Pl. LXXXII 8, Boudeau #736 p. 91.


The coinage of Narbonne by these independent Viscounts starts after 1000 with Raymond I. According to M. B. Fillon (apud Poey d'Avant p. 263) the minting of coins naming Berengar started in the last years of his rule, around 1060. His coinage is scarce today -- like all the issues of Narbonne -- so probably the type with its variations was minted in small quantities or for a rather short period. As Lord and Viscount of Narbonne, Berengar used his power to mostly keep Narbonne as a safe haven for the Jews of Languedoc and Barcelona and defend his influence and sovereignty as a senior lord over the Archbishop Guifred of Narbonne, a former protege turned frenemy. During this whole local turmoil, Berengar was praised by Pope Alexander II for "defending the innocent and defenseless" and for offering protection to the Jews of Languedoc. In his letters to Guifred, Berengar's challenger in Narbonne, the Pope advises the Archbishop to learn by the example of the Viscount and keep his heart open to the innocents in peril of persecution and molestation. These letters, dated as late as 1063, as the conflict between the Viscount and Archbishop was dying down, show a very interesting relationship between the Holy See and the local prelates in Languedoc and a distinct interest by the Pope in the well-being of the Occitan Jews. An interest that was shared and acted upon not by the high prelate of Narbonne but rather the secular lord, who was in an open conflict with the prelate (the skirmishes between the forces loyal to Berengar and those loyal to Guifred had made almost 1000 casualties by 1063, a rather large number for such a civil conflict). Berengar died in 1067, but his legacy of religious tolerance lived on and became a sort of tradition in Languedoc, lasting up until the Albigensian Crusade.


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@seth77, the coin and your writeup are equally Brilliant.

I've been forlornly half-wanting an example of Narbonne, from any time into the 12th century, for a while now.  The Robertian prototypes and Melgueilan imitations are enough to put one off for a minute, aside from this being one of those Reeeeally early examples of an issue in the count's own name.  Especially for this part of France, that's making me sit up in my chair, all by itself.

And I'm really liking your mention of Berenger's religious tolerance, with Papal endorsement, no less.  This ties directly into an eventual OP of mine, criminally languishing as a draft, about the similar dynamics during the early phases of the Spanish Reconquista.

...Just, Dang, Keep Doing This!!!  I wish I had a hat with a helium balloon in it, so that when I threw it in the air, it wouldn't come down.

(Edit:) Granted, often enough,  Duplessy is reducible to an update of Boudeau.  But for what it's worth, this is 1537 of Tome 1 of his Féodales.  Citing Poey, but nos. 7-9 from the same plate you cite.  (See? at this level, not a lot to write home about....)

Edited by JeandAcre
Citation of Duplessy
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Oh yes, the more successful denier of Maguelone-Melgueil left the coinage of Narbonne behind in terms of circulation and volume in the 11th century and clearly in the 13th century. An interesting twist of history considering that the coinage of Raymond I (Berengar's father) is probably the prototype for the 'denier melgorien' -- a twist that most likely had to do with the First Crusade and the better financial network and infrastructure that the Church had over the more atomized secular lords.



AR16mm, 1.08g, billon denier melgorien, ca. 540-400/1000, minted at Mauguio-Maguelone, immobilise ca. 1100 or a little earlier(?) to around 1125(?)
R A M V N O ⧜; Cross made up of large pointed I and two standards or bishop mithres(?); bezant in first quarter
N A I D O N A; four annulets dot in center
Boudeau #753, Poey d'Avant #3842.

This specimen from a collection of coins of Valence, Lucca, Poitou and 'helmeted knight' of Antioch is likely coming from the Middle East.

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