Rare survivors of one of the most pivotal times in world history, these delicate, hand-hammered silver pennies portray a medieval angel on one side, and on the other, the Cross of Christ - the holy symbol of Christian Crusaders.
“Angel” denier hoards are found along the crusader and pilgrims trails to the Holy Land, especially in Syria, Palestine and more recently in Cilicia (southern Turkey). The coins in our collection were part of a hoard discovered near Jerusalem many years ago. They had been in a private collection until we acquired them. These coins were used by one of the crusading knights or pilgrims, and amazingly, they have survived to tell us their story.
When a coin is discovered in a land far from where it was minted, we always ask, “How did it get there, and who carried it?” And for these “Angel” deniers, answers to these questions are fascinating ones.
As historians and numismatists, we see the 8th Century as one of the most important in European monetary history. Charlemagne (768-814), also called Charles the Great, and sometimes the “Father of Europe,” was King of the Franks, and the land over which he ruled became known as the Carolingian Empire. In just a few short years, he united most of Western Europe for the first time since the Roman Empire, and laid the foundations for modern France and Germany.
Charlemagne’s reign saw a substantial restoration of European political authority along with a complete redesign of its coins. During his reign, the Frankish (French) denier came into being and it (along with the British silver penny) went on to dominate European currency for 500 years.
The angel denier is one of the silver coins minted during this time by the Bishops of Valence, France between 1157-1276. The deniers of Valance were one of the main currencies of the Rhone Valley, and Valance was on the main route followed by pilgrims from northern or central France making the pilgrimage by way of Provence or Italy. They were carried not only by the pilgrims, but by the Provencal army on its way to the Holy Land as well. The coins of the day often had the king’s name on them, or the name of the local nobleman who authorized the minting of the coins.
The angel deniers are unique in that they were minted with St. Apollinaris on them - a Saint legendary for miraculous healing. So, like the crusaders and pilgrams, if you are going to carry a coin, why not carry one dedicated to a saint, especially a saint known for miraculous healing?
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