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A mid 11th century 'obole' of Chateaudun, possibly from the Middle East


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The halves of Chateaudun prior to the time when the coinage became vicomtal instead of belonging to the counts of Blois, to whom Chateaudun was dependent, are rather scarce. It seems that this minting center was one of the mints that stuck with a larger module 'grand denier' specific to the 10th century in the general area, together with the mints at Blois proper and Chartres (for the other part of the family) throughout the 11th century. The high mintage in this general area plus the overall prestige of the bleso-chartraine coinage in general might account for at least part of the reason it was selected as 'nostra moneta' for the barons, soldiers and pilgrims coming to the First Crusade from around Ile de France-Champagne.


Anonymous under the suzerainty of Thibaut III as Count of Blois (1037-1089)
AR16mm 0.51g obole bléso-chartrain minted at Chateaudun cca. 1040-1080.
anepigraphic; stylized bléso-chartrain head between two crosses; cross in the middle
cf. Poey d'Avant 1825

The coinage of Chateaudun is not one of the 'preferred currencies' of the crusaders as noted by Raymond d'Aguilers, and the fractionary types from this period are scarce (or rather rare as this one) -- for instance this 'obole' is not recorded by Poey d'Avant although the full grand denier with these characteristics is present at #1825. But the dating of the type ca. 1040-1080 would allow for it to have been carried over during the late 1090s to Syria, while the design with the 'bleso-chartrain tete' - very similar to one of the 'preferred coinages' the grand denier of Chartres - provides a rather competent argument for why this might have actually happened.


A denier of Chartres, 'denarius Cartense' cf. Raymond d'Aguilers
Anonymous during the reign of Eudes I de Blois (1004-1037) or his heirs in the first half of the 11th century
AR20mm 1.17g grand denier, minted in the city of Chartres around 1010-1050.
+ CARTIS CIVITAS; cross, pellet in 4th quarter
Chartraine tete/monogramme de Raoul degeneree, with three besants
cf. Poey d'Avant 1737 Pl. 34 8 (obole), cf. Boudeau 206, cf. Duplessy 431

Also a middle-eastern discovery very likely.

The rarity of the Chateaudun type in Middle Eastern finds is attested by Ingrid and Wolfgang Schulze (A coin hoard from the time of the First Crusade, found in the Near-East with remarks by Marc Bompaire and with contributions by Peter Northover and D. Michael Metcalf p. 341) where a single find was noted, from a similar issue (grand denier Poey d'Avant 1824ff) dated ca. 1050-1080. Both coins (this one and the denier from Ingrid and Wolfgang Schulze's article) were possibly mixed with the regular deniers and fractions of Chartres and likely circulated as 'Cartenses' during the period of 1096/7-1100+ although they are not from Chartres.

This issue seems to be rare and likely one of the earliest issues for Chateaudun in the bleso-chartrain style in the 11th century. From the same issue but a denier, here.


Together with the Chateaudun 'obole' came a denier of Le Puy -- both likely finds from the Middle East considering the general material that the auctioneer has been offering in his auctions.


AR18mm 0.70g billon denier, 300-350/1000, minted at Le Puy-en-Velay , cca. 1080-1100(?)
+ SCE MANVE(?); star-shaped X I (chi-iota) monogram (or chrismon?)
MONETA; cross pattee
Boudeau 375, cf. Poey d'Avant 2231, Olivier groupe V, 1er type, Revue Numismatique 1927, Pl. VIII no. 12-19

The coinage of Le Puy-en-Velay is in fact one of the 'preferred coinages' of the crusaders during the First Crusade, according to Raymond d'Aguilers -- but worth half what the other types 'duo pogesi pro unum istarum.' In this style, with the cross and chrismon (or chi-iota) the coinage is present from around early 11th century, but the rounded bars on the cross and chrismon appear a bit later, around 1080 (cf. Olivier - Études de numismatique régionale, les monnaies féodales du Puy, RN 1927, p. 170-217 et 1928, pp. 83-100). So this specimen is very likely related to the First Crusade, considering also that the other medieval material offered by this dealer seems to point to the Middle East. 407 similar specs were researched by Ingrid and Wolfgang Schulze (A coin hoard from the time of the First Crusade, found in the Near-East with remarks by Marc Bompaire and with contributions by Peter Northover and D. Michael Metcalf) -- and more importantly, related to the 'obole' of Chateaudun presented above, at the very least chronologically. With the overall details, size and weight, this specimen seems to have been minted earlier during Olivier's 'groupe V' and the wear could indicate that it did circulate for some time before being carried over to the Middle East.

Edited by seth77
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@seth77 many thanks for a terrific post!  I'm especially liking your trademark fluency in segueing from numismatic evidence to the finer details of the historical context.  

...You succeeded in inspiring me to resurrect the principal one I did about the Chateaudun series on other forum.  As divergent as our respective emphases are, it eventually seemed appropriate to do that on a separate post.  (Warning: yep, there's another favorite castle.)  But your remarkably early obole --with the needed reminder that, for sheer (granted, relative) comprehensiveness, Poey d'Avant will never stop running circles around Boudeau or Duplessy-- is Fantastic.

...Just getting my initial post transferred to Google Docs (screen by screen) was enough to take more of the day than it was supposed to.  I might just post it as is ...or sit on it, for a minute, to see where it could use some expansion.  In either event, thanks Lots.

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  • 2 months later...

Going to use this under-appreciated thread to add another, this time earlier Chartres grand denier:


Anonymous during the reign of Eudes I de Blois (975-996)
AR22x21mm 1.20g grand denier, minted in the city of Chartres around 985-995
Chartraine tete/monogramme de Raoul degeneree, with three besants
Poey d'Avant 1731 Pl. 34 2, Boudeau 204, Duplessy 431

This is the issue that stabilizes the feudal coinage at Chartres, under Eudes I, marking the typology that would continue off and on until the early 14th century.

These grand deniers are specific of the late 10th century (tresor de Fecamp ca. 985) to early 11th (tresor du Puy ca. 1005 or Chateau-du-Loir ca. early 11th century) and served as blueprints for countless immobilizations on lower flans and weights. Both Poey d'Avant and Boudeau place this issue at the beginning of the series for feudal Chartres.

A discussion about the origin of the reverse design with the controversy between the "bleso-chartraine tete" (a stylized effigy of a royal bust, stemming likely from Chinon) and the premeditated degeneration of the monogram of King Raoul (923-936) can be read here.

This specimen is very likely a Levantine find, brought to the Middle East by the knights of the First Crusade. The deniers of Chartres (perhaps these early grand deniers) are mentioned by Raymond d'Aguilers as 'nostra moneta' -- "Erat haec nostra moneta: Pictavini, Cartenses, Manses, Luccenses, Valenziani, Melgorienses, et duo pogesi pro unum istarum." So the type must have had a long lifespan, possibly to at least 1050 for it to endure in large enough quantities as to become one of the prefered currencies carried over to Outremer. It is also possible that coinage used around the First Crusade was of the 11th century lighter immobilization -- although according to the "Near East Hoard" presented by I. and W. Schulze (with remarks from M. Bompaire, P. Northover, M. Metcalf - A coin hoard from the time of the First Crusade found in the Near East, Revue Numismatique, 2003, 156, pp. 323-353) p. 327 the median specimen of the Cartense was the grand denier that originated before 1000. A longer production and an immobilization of the grand denier to around 1050 is very likely.

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When we visited Jerusalem in 2011, I believe it was in the "Room of the Last Supper" over King David's Tomb that there was a hoard of 20 or so of these "Blois" types in a frame on the wall. The thought crossed my mind that very few of the tourists would appreciate the historical significance of these coins in context.

France, Feudal. Blois (Comté), time of Thibaut III. Circa AD 1037-1089/1090. AR Denier (19mm, 1.27g, 5h). Obv: Stylized Blois-style head right; pellet to right. Rev: + BEISIS CΛSTRO; Cross pattée. Ref: Poey D'Avant 1690; Boudeau 193; Roberts 5056; Duplessy 578.


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Thanks yet again, @seth77 and @Edessa, for reviving this thread! 

I've been feeling as if I owe someone an apology for having 'dropped the ball' so badly where medieval threads are concerned.  I've been sitting on three drafts (including a major expansion of a post from the old forum, about Chateaudun).  My problem is that I don't know when to shut up.  In Google Docs, the shortest one (granted, with a font size comparable to this) is 10 pages.  If the aim is to get more people interested in the field, that strikes me as, um, kind of counterproductive.

Meanwhile, though, I've had some really good luck finding relatively (!) early examples of a couple of the 'usual suspects.'  @Edessa, your example of Thibaut III of Blois renders mine redundant, independently of the frankly lousy dealer's pics.  But not so long ago, I fell into this example, 'vers 980-1030,' corresponding to Eudes I (son of Thibaut 'le Tricheur'), c. 974-996, and Eudes II, 996-1037.  Eudes II is known for having been on the losing end of a sustained rivalry with Count Fulk Nerra of Anjou.  Fulk in turn is conspicuous for his remarkably precocious, extensive program of castle building (involving early, rectangular donjons), and for being a lineal ancestor of Henry II of England.  (...Try finding a denier of him!  Best of Luck.)


Duplessy 575; given the decrepid reverse legend, my take is that it's the initial variant, '+BI-ESANIS CATO,' versus 'CSTO.'

This is my earliest example of Chateaudun, c. 1040-1080, corresponding to the vicecomital reign of Rotrou I, also count of Mortagne and Perche.



Reverse: 'DVNCIS: ASTII-I- (a blundering of 'DVNIS CASTRI').  Duplessy 464.

Just for fun, here's a picture of Fulk Nerra's best-known castle, Loches.  The rectangular donjon is his work; the later curtain walls run to the 12th century.

Loches dungeon, aerial view from West.jpg

By Lieven Smits - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,  https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8239026

And here's an even earlier donjon, built by Thibaut I 'le Tricheur' of Blois around the middle of the 10th century.  Regarded as the earliest stone castle in France, it involved the modification of an initially unfortified Carolingian aula, going back to the 9th century.

W0436-DoueLaFontaine MoteCarolingienne 63340.JPG

By Llann Wé² - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,  https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26294015

Edited by JeandAcre
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