As the Christian kingdoms grew and evolved, it became clear that they needed their own currency to meet the demands of their economies and trade relations. Reflecting the ties, influences and needs of each realm, the silver and billon issues were inspired by European models, but the first gold coins imitated those of Al-Andalus.
At a time when any major transaction involved gold coins, the Christian rulers’ decision to copy Islamic pieces gave them a tool that was not only useful at the local level, where Hispano-Islamic currency was regularly employed, but also in Mediterranean trade circuits, which also used these coins.
And so the first Christian gold coin of the peninsula was born: the mancuso, minted in the County of Barcelona throughout the 11th century. The mancuso was first issued in the days of Count Berenguer Ramón I (1018–1035), inspired by the dinars of his Hammudid contemporary Yahya al-Mu’tali, probably due to a shortage of Hispano-Islamic coins in circulation.
Mancusos, whose name came from the Arabic manqus (meaning “engraved” or “coined”), bore legends in what looked like Arabic script, imitated more or less accurately but with no real meaning. Users able to read Arabic would have been wary, but they circulated without a problem in Christian lands, mixed with the originals.