In the late 12th century, Castile’s burgeoning economy required high-value coins. This led to the creation of the gold maravedí, an imitation of the Almoravid dinar with which the Hispano-Islamic kingdoms paid their parias (tributes). In fact, the term maravedí comes from the word morabetí (pertaining to the Almoravids), although this currency began to be issued at a later date, in the Almohad period, between 1174 and 1217.
The first maravedís were struck by Alfonso VIII in Toledo and bear legends in Arabic, although the message is Christian: on the obverse, which even has a cross and the king’s Latin initials, ALF, the pope is mentioned as the imam of the church, and the Bible verse (Mark 16:16) along the border is a reminder that only those who believe in God and are baptised will be saved. The reverse names “Alfonso, son of Sancho” as “prince of the Catholics”, while the border, following the Islamic model, indicates the mint and date of issue, although the latter is calculated according to the Safar Era rather than the Hijri calendar (Safar 1249 = AD 1211).