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Does anyone else like to associate medieval coins with castles?


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(Disclaimer, of sorts: this is effectively a complete rewrite of a post on the other forum, expanding the content.)


Humbert II, ‘le Renforce’ (lit. 'the Reinforced;' i. e., 'the Fat'), Comte de Savoie 1080-1103.

AR denier of Susa (variant unknown).

Obv.  Cross, pellets in upper angles.  +VMBERTVS.

Rev. [Star and pellets, indistinguishable on this example].  +SECVSIA.

Boudeau 1108; Cudazzo (pp. 17-20 :) 6-11, I-VI Tipo; Roberts 9601-2, 9603-5 (see esp. 9602, 9605).

I am greatly indebted to Vincent Borrell (https://independent.academia.edu/VincentBorrel) for the operant pages of Cudazzo, sent via email.  (--Ouch, sans title page, so I can't cite him in the references!  The only edition I can find online is greatly expanded.)  Meanwhile, Susa, just within the modern border of Italy, northwest of Turin, is well south of the castle in question, which is on the eastern shore of Lake Geneva.

Amedeus III, Comte de Savoie 1103-1148.

image.jpeg.dbb988fc5b357194dbc31ac80adf7357.jpeg image.jpeg.256f9445fd616d6fb2e8ebf9f085c52c.jpeg

AR denier of Susa.  Obv.  Cross, pellets in upper angles.  [From 11 o’clock:]  O AIIEDEVS.

Rev.  Vertical arrangement of three pellets (the central one not struck up).  From 11 o’clock: O SE[VSIA  (Susa).  

Biaggi 9 (cited solely from online listings of the coin); Cudazzo (p. 23:) 15a; Boudeau 1109, Roberts 9606.  I am again greatly indebted to Vincent Borrell for the operant page of Cudazzo.

Frankly, the coins aren't a lot to write home about.  And for numismatic references, apart from Boudeau and Roberts, I remain, um, challenged.  Boudeau and Roberts are --to paraphrase Johnson's dictionary, when he got tired of defining the likes of cows, horses and sheep-- two 'beasts well known;' variously dated and less than comprehensive.

But with the castle, you get some serious, compensatory fireworks.  Le château de Chillon, on the eastern shore of Lake Geneva, was a principal seat of the counts of Savoy.  From the beginning of the 11th century, they held it in fief from the lords of Alinge, who had already built and given their name to the imposing and remarkably early central keep (Gravett 98).  But by the time of Amadeus III, the castle is an integral part of the Savoyard demesne (Previté-Orton 297-8), and the lord of Alinge is of record as a vassal of Amadeus (ibid. 306-7). 

View from the southeast, with the bridge and main gate (from Wikimedia Commons:  http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:Schweiz_Schloss_Chillon_Gesamtansicht.jpg).   

Fichier:Schweiz Schloss Chillon Gesamtansicht.jpg

This shows all but one of the key components of the military architecture.  Looming above is the original keep, the Tour d'Alinge, dating to the 10th century.  (Gravett 98.  Cf. Creighton for the appearance of stone keeps across Europe, "with early seminal examples in the 10th [century] (50)."  While not referencing Chillon, he notes (28, 76-8) a small, late-10th example in the neighboring region of Provence, already with a fully realized stone keep and curtain wall.) 

In the foreground, the large, rectangular tower guarding the bridge is, a little counterintuitively, the latest part of the defensive works, dating to the 15th century (Gravett 99).  The machicolation along the top is one hint of its being significantly later than the keep.  The same feature can be seen in the three semi-circular towers facing the eastern, landward side, built in the mid-13th century "in [by now well-established] Anglo-French style" (98).

Below is an aerial reconstruction from the official Swiss website.  Here, North is to the right, with the eastern end of Lake Geneva (west) in the background.  ( http://www.chillon.ch/fr/index-plan-0-0.html.)


This finally gives you a view of the other primary, intervening element, the 'Tower of the Dukes,' built by the counts over the 11th century, during their vassalage to the lords of Alinge.  While somewhat anachronistically named, the rectangular design is typical of this still very early stage in the architecture.  Gravett notes that it was "heightend in the 14th century, as was Alinge's Tower" (98).  This practice is reminiscent of numerous Anglo-Norman and French keeps, which were heightened as early as the 12h century, notably by Henry II, who was as active in modifying existing castles as he was in building new ones.

Here are a couple more views, variously a high enough aerial shot to show you the entire layout; one from the north, showing how the 'Dukes' Tower' has been obscured, even from its own angle, by intervening domestic buildings; and one from the southwest, emphasizing how, as on the north side, the original outer curtain wall was gradually heightened and expanded to incorporate more residential space.




Works consulted and occasionally cited, specifically for the history and the castle.

Creighton, Oliver.  Early European Castles: Aristocracy and Authority, AD 800-1200.  London: Bloomsbury Academic /Bristol Classical Press, 2012. 

Gravett, Christopher.  The History of Castles: Fortifications Around the World.  Guildford, Conn.: Globe Pequot /Lyons Press, 2001.

Guignard, Auguste.  The Castle of Chillon.  "Adapted into English by Daniélle Lampieti."  Neuchatel: Editions du Griffon, 1971.

Prestwich, Michael and Coulson, Charles.  "Special Consultant Professor R. Allen Brown."  Castles: A History and Guide.  Poole, Dorset: Blandford Press, 1980.

Previté-Orton, C. W.  The Early History of the House of Savoy (1000-1233).  1912.  Cambridge UP: "First paperback edition," 2013.


Edited by JeandAcre
Um, two citations of the sme book....
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Your very castely thread reminded me of my CT thread that I will post here. Being a post about Amadeus III, it is complementary to yours.

With Amadeus III, the Savoy family was recognized de jure by the Holy Roman Emperor, Heinrich V at that time, as hereditary counts of the whole area of Savoy, not just Maurienne, Chablais and the territories of Tarentaise, as was the traditional center of power of the family from cca. 1000. In the 1120s we know of him as a pilgrim in the Holy Land (in 1122 he was perhaps part of an envoy of Pope Calixtus II).

Then, returned to his realm, he extended his dominion in Italy, and in 1131 he was recognized as Sire of Turin and throughout the 1130s he styled himself Marquis of Italy. At the same time during the 1130s, he had a series of conflicts with his brother-in-law King Louis VI of France, who at at least one point, tried to invade and annex parts of the county to his domain but died before managing to do so in 1137. In 1140, Guy d'Albon, Dauphin de Vienne, invaded Savoy along the Isere, but was met in battle by Amadeus at Montmelian, where Guy was defeated and succumbed to the wounds received in combat. Despite these conflicts on the Frankish side, King Louis VII, nephew of Amadeus, sought to squash all previous bad blood and even after the death of Guy, he reached out to Amadeus and made peace, also tightening his relations with Savoy and his uncle. By 1147 Amadeus was ready to join Louis in the Second Crusade.

His retinue involved knights from both Frankish territories (including Dauphine Viennois) and Piemontese and Italian knights and barons as well. In the autumn of 1147 the forces of Savoy met the army and entourage of Louis at Constantinople, where Amadeus received the command of the vanguard. In 1148, while in Asia Minor, the Crusader expeditionary force decided to continue towards Antioch, where Raymond of Poitiers, uncle of Alienor d'Aquitaine (who was still wife of Louis at that time) ruled as Prince, by sea. In April 1148 the campaign reached Cyprus, where Amadeus became incapacitated by an unknown illness and died soon after. The news of his death only reached the territories of Savoy a year later, when his son was instated as Count Humbert III.

He would pursue an ambivalent policy towards the ambitions of Frederic Barbarossa in Italy. The baronial mint of Susa was even destroyed by Frederic in 1174, in punishment for Savoy's rebellion against Imperial authority. The coinage of Amadeus III of Savoy consists of a single type of denier and obole, in the traditional style of the denarii secusini: 



These were probably minted at Susa since the early 1110s, but they were certainly regular coinage in the realms of Savoy and around by 1130-1140, being of good title and widely accepted by the local markets. A long minting and acceptance of this type is quite likely considering that, although scarce today, they seem to be very well spread out in Europe and the Mediterranean and that many of the specimens known are well worn from circulation. To finance his army and retinue during the Crusade, Amadeus contracted a loan from Saint Maurice Abbey in 1147, from which it is very likely that a large number of coins were minted. It is very possible that along with the good quality billon, what made the deniers of Susa popular during the rule of Amadeus was the rather easily recognizable design, with the obverse reading AMEDEVS o with cross and pellets and the reverse reading o SECVSIA with three pellets in the middle field. With the recognition of the Savoy family by Emperor Heinrich V as rulers of an Imperial countship begins the history of one of the most important European families.



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This doesn't feature a castle and isn't even medieval, but I associate it with castles. It's a contemporary imitation, and nearly all examples were found dumped in the well at Scarborough Castle. They survived the Great Siege of Scarborough Castle in 1645, a focal point of the English Civil War.

Charles I Richmond Type 2 Contemporary Imitation Farthing, 1625-1631image.png.2bd759c83ece89dca46ff1cff7e00821.pngLondon Token House. Copper, 0.51g. Crown with crossed sceptres; CARA . D G MAG : BRIT :, privy mark dagger. FRA : ET : HIB : REX . (Everson Richmond C31; BMC 125; S 3183A). It’s thought these CARA counterfeits were made with stolen official punches, but the counterfeiter didn’t have the O (so repeated A) or the E (so modified F). Note the punctuation errors (‘.’ after CARA, ‘:’after ET).

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Thanks for the historical and numismatic context, @seth77!  More proof that by the time I joined the old forum, you'd already covered everything!  ...Maybe someday I'll summon the nerve to finish and post the stuff on Jean de Brienne that's been sitting in draft for a few years.

@John Conduitt, that counterfeit is Terrific!  It's always been a matter of wonder to me how long some of the Royalist castles lasted, with artillery and all.  Or even that they were so vital, never mind relevant, to the prosecution of the war.  The saddest part of that episode is the slighting the Parliamentarians did to them afterward.  

Edited by JeandAcre
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I didn't have the chateau presentation nor the denier of Humbert II tho, which is scarcer than Amadeus, if only because Amadeus struck lots of coin prior to his involvement in the Second Crusade.

Edited by seth77
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