Il Gigliato: an Angevin coin in the Mediterranean

by Silvio Sannino

Before Florin and before Thaler was the Lily Neapolitan the currency of choice for medieval European merchants in their international trade. Its popularity was due to much of the economic and monetary policies direction as of the peculiar geographical position of the south.

The Mediterranean, a meeting place between peoples

To fully understand the success that the Gigliato had as an international currency throughout the year 300, one cannot ignore the category of "Méditerranée" as theorized by Fernand Braudel. It is therefore necessary to tie ourselves to the vision of a Mediterranean in which the study of a single people, event or phenomenon it is not enough in itself but it must necessarily be included in a larger sphere than cultural dialogues and trade exchanges character international and intercontinental through a analytical approach with a total vision. The south of Italy, by virtue of its central geographical position in the Mediterranean, is characterized as one of the most striking examples of such historical processes.

Il Gigliato: una moneta angioina nel mediterraneo
Plate from the "Catalan Atlas" depicting the Mediterranean, c. 1375.

The role of Gigliato in Angevin economic policies

The lily is configured, together with the greeting, as the cornerstone of the Angevin economic reforms. The Anjou, being linked to France and therefore to commercial exchanges of type continental, carried out notable changes to the southern monetary structure: with this dynasty, in fact, one passes from a mainly bimetallic system focused ongold (therefore linked to eastern economies) to one focused instead onsilver (and therefore toEurope continental). The lily experienced the greatest popularity below King Robert of Anjou, also referred to as "Roberto the wise”For his well-known patronage of the arts and letters.

Unfortunately, many were common during the first years of his reign fraud in the various mints. Often the fine of the coin was deliberately reduced by the employees. This phenomenon led to popular uprisings which pushed the crown to a severe repressive policy against illicit acts during the minting. Remember the Sambon that "severe orders were given to the executioners of the provinces to curb the rasio sive demolitio currencye, assigning the prize of 20 Augustali to those who denounced the falsifiers or shearers of pugs". A reward of all respect, considering that a single Augustal probably corresponded to several months' wages of a laborer of the time.

Among the various economic maneuvers used there was even the withdrawal from the market en bloc of all the coins that did not correspond to the criteria dictated by the crown. Operation that was, in all probability, extremely expensive and widespread for the time. This commitment to the pursuit of greater economic stability it only partially yielded. If on the one hand the Gigliato became a very popular currency in the kingdom and abroad, on the other commercial and monetary fraud, especially by foreign merchants and bankers, remained a major problem for the rest of Robert's reign.

Il Gigliato: una moneta angioina nel mediterraneo
King Robert of Anjou and his wife Sancha of Mallorca. Miniature from the "Bible of Anjou", now preserved at the Katholieke Universiteit of Leuven, Belgium

Il Gigliato as an artistic expression

Part of the popularity of Roberto's Gigliato is also due to his particular artistic style: aesthetically more satisfying than that of his father, Charles II, it constitutes a distinguished example of mixture between the style of French coinage and that of portraiture and humanistic figurative arts. It is no coincidence that the Sambon reports it as the last coin in its volume "Numismatic clues of the artistic fervor of the medieval dynasts of Southern Italy". Among the engravers who worked in his production we can remember the Neapolitan Nicholas of Morone, Guglielmo Trocullo, Nicolò Rispoli and finally from Octavius, probably from a French father naturalized Neapolitan.

il gigliato roberto d'angiò
Gigliato by Roberto D'Angiò.

Il Gigliato in the Mediterranean: a great popularity

What is most remembered about Gigliato was his huge popularity. For a period of European history it was among the most widely used and recognized coins in ports and international markets. The main reason for this action has already been illustrated: the peculiar position of the south and its strong link with the Byzantine and Arab East. At that time these territories were the subject of a particular attention from Europeans: after the crusades, despite the fall of the crusader states, the European economic footprint he was stronger than ever.

Obviously the Italian merchants were no strangers to this process: just think of the story of Decameron on Landolfo Rufo to fully understand the aims of one merchant class active in the south of Italy which saw the East and the coast of North Africa as its privileged place of trade. The presence of many luxury goods linked to long-range commercial exchanges (probably also coming from the Silk Road).

A further and peculiar proof of the popularity of Gigliato is the large number of variants and falsifications to which he was subject: they are attested to him productions in Provence, several imitations by rulers and individual cities, as well as posthumous specimens, always beaten in the mint of Naples, but by subsequent rulers. The most popular and sought-after forgeries at the numismatic level are those defined as "Anatolians“: In fact they present a peculiar legend in Kufic. Since the use of Latin letters is unknown to the natives, this translates into a legend composed of signs without any meaning.

The request for Gigliati it remained in the East for a long time massive, even defined by Sambon as "a real speculation". A document of 1326, cited by Sambon himself, reports an increase in the number of employees at the mint precisely in relation to the favor enjoyed by the Gigliati "in the Latin East“.

Il Gigliato: una moneta angioina nel mediterraneo
The coronation of Robert of Anjou, Capodimonte. According to the scholar Sarah K. Kozlowski you can see "an Anatolian carpet, a pastoral of Sienese workmanship, Persian velvet and silk fabrics woven in Mongolian Central Asia"


Arthur Sambon, Numismatic clues to the artistic fervor of the medieval dynasts of Southern Italy, Naples, typography of the r. academy of archeology, literature and fine arts, 1934

Lucia Travaini: Romesinas, provesini, turonenses…: foreign coins in southern Italy and in
Sicily (11th-15th century), Printed in: “Local currency, foreign currency: Italy and Europe 11th-15th century. The Second Cambridge Numismatic Symposium: Local Coins, Foreign Coins: Italy and Europe 11th-15th Centuries, edited by L. Travaini (Italian Numismatic Society, Series of Numismatics and Related Sciences, 2), Milan 1999, pp. 113-133 - Distributed in
digital from "Reti Medievali"

Fernand Braudel: Mediterranean civilization and empires in the age of Philip II

Michele Pannuti - Vincenzo Riccio: The coins of Naples, Nummorum Auctiones S. A; Lugano

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