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  5. The Gold Maravedí: From Imitation to Sovereignty


The Gold Maravedí: From Imitation to Sovereignty

Room 27, showcase 6 Maravedí of Alfonso VIII of Castile. Toledo, Safar Era 1237 (AD 1199). Gold. Pulse para ampliar Maravedí of Alfonso VIII of Castile. Toledo, Safar Era 1237 (AD 1199). Gold.

Until the late 12th century, when Christian kingdoms needed higher denominations than billon dineros, they would usually resort to using Hispano-Islamic coins. However, this solution became a problem when Al-Andalus went into decline.

As Almoravid power waned and hard currency grew scarce, Alfonso VIII of Castile (1158–1214) had no choice but to mint gold coins of his own. He did what the Counts of Barcelona had done one century earlier: imitate Islamic coins, specifically the Almoravid issues that had supplied Castile with gold throughout the first half of the 12th century.

The maravedí (from morabetí, meaning “Almoravid”) had an entirely Islamic weight and appearance, with correctly written legends in Arabic that conveyed Christian messages, mentioning the pope and king of Castile, and a cross and the Latin initials ALF on the obverse. Additionally, the date of issue was calculated not according to the Hijri calendar used in Al-Andalus but to the Safar Era, the Arabic name for the Spanish Era, the Christian year numbering system.

These early series soon gave way to a proudly Christian maravedí, minted by Ferdinand II of Leon (1214–1217). Although it maintained the old Hispano-Islamic weight, this coin exhibited the bust of the monarch, the lion representing the kingdom of Leon, and legends in Latin.


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