A legate, a pope, and an issue of identity in thirteenth-century crusader coinage

Oplægget ved James Schyver finder sted mandag d. 9. marts i lokale 27.0.49 på KUA1 kl. 17.15.

This research focuses on the fact that sometime between 1250 and 1252, the papal legate Odo of Châteauroux wrote what must have been a very strong letter of complaint to pope Innocent IV regarding the behavior of those nobles governing the remains of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.  Although his original letter does not survive, the pope’s response indicates Odo had taken offense at the use Muslim coins as models for Crusader gold bezants and silver dirhems or drachmas, complete with Arabic script and phrases invoking Mohammed, and had threatened excommunication unless changes were made.  The pope, for his part, wholeheartedly agreed with both the judgement and threatened punishment.  The situation Innocent’s letter reveals raises a number of interesting questions that form the backbone of this research project:  Why on earth did the Crusaders decide to copy their enemy’s coins for their most valuable denominations?  Why was it only in the mid-thirteenth century that someone complained?  What effect did the legate’s threat have?  Most importantly however, what might this exchange say about the various understandings of the function of Crusader coinage as an expression of Christian identity that were at play on both sides of the thirteenth-century Mediterranean?

In brief, I propose to use the answers to these questions to explore the complicated issue of Crusader identity.  My argument boils down to one simple observation:  that not every single object of material culture serves as a marker of identity.  This is a very important argument because many of the studies of both Crusader identity and archaeological traces of identity in general are still operating with an understanding of the material expression of identity wherein every piece of material culture plays an equal role in the expression of said identity. I am arguing against this understanding.

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