Maravedí of Alfonso VIII

Type: Coins
Date: 1172–1218
Location or Findspot (Modern-Day Country): Spain
Medium: Gold
Dimensions: 2.6 cm
Description: The gold coins called maravedís first minted for King Alfonso VIII of Castile (r. 1158–1214) closely resemble earlier dinars made for the Almoravid rulers of southern Spain (the word "maravedí" derives from "Almoravid"). Like those Islamicate coins, Alfonso's bear texts in Arabic, except for three letters in Latin (AIF) that refer to the king's name. Yet the contents are very different. On the obverse of Alfonso's coin, a central cross surmounts two lines that say, "The imam of the Christian Church, the pope"; around the circumference is inscribed "In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, the One God. He who believes and is baptized will be saved." On the reverse, the central text exhorts, "The emir of the Catholics, Alfonso son of Sancho, may God aid him and protect him." The inscription on the rim gives the date according to the "Safar" era, the Arabic name for the Spanish (i.e., Christian) era. It also indicates location of the mint, the cosmopolitan city of Toledo, which had a population of Christians, Jews, and Muslims. A Latin translation of the Qur'an was completed in Toledo in 1210.

Maravedís were produced between 1172 and 1218, a period of intense religious conflict in the Iberian Peninsula. The Christians were fighting the Almohads, Indigenous Imazighen from North Africa who had overthrown the Almoravids and extended their power northward. The Almohads had won a major victory against Alfonso VIII in 1195, but after losing to a Christian coalition at Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, they were pushed out of the peninsula. Targeted at Muslims who knew Arabic, in Toledo and beyond, Alfonso VIII's maravedís were invitations to convert to the Christian faith.
Relevant Textbook Chapter(s): 8
Image Credits: © The Trustees of the British Museum

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