Louis IX, roi de France (✝ 1270)
Grâce aux Chroniques écrites par Joinville, ami très proche du Roi, la mémoire populaire française garde de Louis IX l'image d'un souverain rendant la justice à l'ombre d'un vieux chêne proche de son château à Vincennes. Saint Louis a en effet frappé ses contemporains par son sens de la justice, sa profonde piété et sa grande charité envers les pauvres.
A vingt ans, il épouse Marguerite de Provence et leur amour sera tendre et fidèle. Quand il part pour délivrer la Terre Sainte en 1248, il s'embarque avec elle. Le roi est fait prisonnier. Une fois libéré et rentré dans son royaume, il y entreprend de grandes réformes en particulier l'interdiction du duel judiciaire.
Il fonde des hôpitaux et des monastères. Il réalise son grand projet: construire la Sainte-Chapelle (vidéo KTO) comme une châsse de lumière et de vitraux destinée à recueillir des reliques, surtout la Couronne d'épines qu'il a acquise auprès de l'empereur latin de Constantinople. Il donne à sa sœur, la bienheureuse Isabelle, le terrain de Longchamp pour y fonder une abbaye de religieuses de Sainte-Claire.
Son royaume connaît une période de plein développement culturel, intellectuel et théologique. Saint Louis aime recevoir à sa table saint Bonaventure et saint Thomas d'Aquin. Avec Robert de Sorbon, il fonde la Sorbonne (1257). Il suit avec attention l'achèvement de la cathédrale Notre-Dame et surtout les grandes rosaces (1255) et les porches.
Son plus grand souci est de pacifier, de réconcilier les ennemis et d'éteindre les conflits, en particulier entre la France et l'Angleterre (1258). Mais il rêve de retourner en Terre Sainte et de convertir le sultan d'Égypte. Il n'ira pas plus loin que Carthage, l'actuelle Tunis. La maladie a raison de lui le 25 août 1270.
- Saint Louis (1214 ou 15 - 1270), roi de France et donc, à ce titre aussi chef des Armées françaises, était un homme profondément chrétien, fier et conscient des promesses de son baptême. (diocèse aux armées)
- Né à Poissy, saint Louis (Louis IX) passe une grande partie de sa vie à Paris. Il est traditionnellement représenté sous un chêne du château de Vincennes rendant la justice.
Toute sa vie, il s’efforça de faire régner la justice et la paix dans sa vocation de saint et d’homme d’État. Les souverains d’Europe font appel à sa sagesse. (diocèse de Paris)
- "Louis IX, qui régna de 1226 à 1270, vint en Saintonge en l’année 1242, où la bataille de Taillebourg du 21 juillet allait rendre possible le futur traité de Paris qui allait mettre un terme à la première étape du conflit médiéval entre la France et l’Angleterre." (diocèse de La Rochelle Saintes - Saint Louis)
- Il est le saint patron des tertiaires franciscains:
"Saint Louis est connu pour son sens de la justice et son amour de Dieu et des pauvres. C’est ce que rappellent la croix, la main de justice et la corde des tertiaires franciscains dont il est le saint Patron."
- Voir aussi les Saints parisiens sur le site du diocèse de Paris.
- "D'après un livre trouvé par un ami rémois, Saint Louis serait patron des coiffeurs car il avait demandé à chacun de ses ministres de donner une mèche de leurs cheveux pour confectionner une perruque pour sa mère Blanche de Castille." message d'un internaute.
- "Il est le patron des ouvriers du bâtiment, des boutonniers, brodeurs et merciers, des distillateurs, des coiffeurs et barbiers, des académies françaises et des académies des sciences. On l’invoque aussi contre l’acidification de la bière." message d'un internaute.
Mémoire de saint Louis, roi de France, qui s’illustra dans son royaume et dans la guerre menée pour la défense des chrétiens par sa foi active, sa justice dans son gouvernement, son amour des pauvres et sa constance dans l’adversité. De son mariage avec Marguerite de Provence, il eut huit enfants, qu’il éleva parfaitement et avec piété. Pour honorer la croix, la couronne d’épines et le sépulcre du Seigneur, il dépensa ses biens, ses forces et jusqu’à sa vie et il mourut de la peste dans son camp aux portes de Tunis en 1270.
Si je dépense beaucoup d’argent quelquefois, j’aime mieux le faire en aumônes faites pour l’amour de Dieu que pour frivolités et choses mondaines. Dieu m’a tout donné ce que j’ai. Ce que je dépense ainsi est bien dépensé.
(Saint Louis au sire de Joinville)
Saint Louis, d'après une vignette de 1316.
Gravure tirée d'H. Duclos, L'Abbaye de Royaumont, 1867.
Saint Louis IX
Roi de France
Saint Louis fut baptisé à Poissy, et en conserva toujours religieusement le souvenir, car plus tard il signait ordinairement Louis de Poissy, marquant par là qu'il estimait la grâce du baptême comme son plus glorieux titre de noblesse. Sa mère, Blanche de Castille, voulut le nourrir elle-même. Tout le monde connaît la belle parole de cette grande reine: "Mon fils, je vous aime après Dieu plus que toutes choses; cependant, sachez-le bien, j'aimerais mieux vous voir mort que coupable d'un seul péché mortel."
Élevé à une telle école, le jeune Louis montra dès son enfance les grandes vertus qu'il devait faire éclater sur le trône, l'égalité d'âme, l'amour de la justice et une tendre piété. Comme on lui reprochait quelques fois de donner trop de temps aux pieux exercices: "Les hommes sont étranges, disait-il; on me fait un crime de mon assiduité à la prière, et on ne dirait rien si j'employais des heures plus longues à jouer aux jeux de hasard, à courir les bêtes fauves, à chasser aux oiseaux."
Devenu roi, il voulut établir avant tout le règne de Dieu, bien convaincu que c'était le meilleur moyen d'affermir sa propre autorité. On connaît sa loi condamnant les blasphémateurs à subir aux lèvres la marque d'un fer rougi au feu. Un des plus beaux jours de sa vie fut celui où, les yeux baignés de larmes, il alla au-devant des religieux qui apportaient d'Orient la sainte Couronne d'épines, et la porta, pieds nus, dans sa capitale.
A la suite d'une maladie mortelle, guéri miraculeusement, il obéit à une inspiration du Ciel qui l'appelait aux Croisades. On le vit, dans ces luttes gigantesques, qui avaient pour but la conquête des Lieux Saints, faire des prodiges de valeur qui le mettaient au rang des plus illustres guerriers. On se tromperait en croyant que le bon et pieux roi n'eût pas toute la noble fierté qui convenait à son rang. Les Sarrasins, qui le retinrent longtemps captif, après une désastreuse campagne, eurent lieu d'admirer sa grandeur d'âme, sa foi et son courage.
De retour en France, il s'appliqua plus que jamais à faire de la France un royaume puissant et chrétien; sa vertu le faisait regarder comme l'arbitre des princes d'Europe. On sait avec quelle justice paternelle il réglait les différends de ses sujets. Saint Louis fut aussi un modèle du pur amour conjugal; il avait fait graver sur son anneau cette devise: "Dieu, France et Marguerite."
Il mourut de la peste près de Tunis, en se rendant à une nouvelle Croisade, le 25 août 1270, après quarante-quatre ans de règne. Un beau monument s'élève sur le lieu de sa mort.
Abbé L. Jaud, Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, Tours, Mame, 1950
SOURCE : http://magnificat.ca/cal/fr/saints/saint_louis_ix.html
Statue de Saint Louis, Sainte-Chapelle, Paris
Louis IX est resté populaire par la scène qui le représente rendant la justice sous un chêne à Vincennes. Cette réputation est légitime : toute sa vie de roi a été marquée par la volonté d'être, selon les béatitudes du Christ, artisan de justice et de paix entre ses sujets et les royaumes voisins. Louis fut un laïc chrétien exemplaire, comme époux et père de famille - de son union avec Marguerite de Provence naquirent onze enfants - et aussi comme chef d'État marqué par l'esprit de saint François d'Assise. Le jeune roi reçut une forte éducation de la part de sa mère, la remarquable Blanche de Castille, qui était toutefois assez envahissante : les jeunes époux eurent du mal à se libérer de sa tutelle ! La personnalité de Louis IX se serait de toute façon manifestée. Il commence par s'imposer à deux rivaux inquiétants : le roi d'Aragon et Henri III d'Angleterre. Loin de profiter de sa position de force pour les humilier, il sait négocier et faire des concessions pour avoir une paix durable. Ainsi fait-il de son mieux pour réconcilier le Pape de Rome et l'empereur d'Allemagne.
Louis de France était un homme de droiture et de foi. Il creusait la vive conscience de ses devoirs de souverain dans la prière et la pénitence. Menant une vie frugale, il écarte les honneurs et se plaît à visiter les pauvres et les lépreux, en qui il reconnaît "les membres préférés du Christ son Seigneur". Homme de paix, il doit prendre une décision difficile : mener deux croisades pour libérer les Lieux saints de Palestine et "la sainte Jérusalem". Ces septième et huitième Croisades furent des échecs. Le roi chevalier meurt de la peste devant Tunis, le 25 août 1270. Saint Louis a laissé le souvenir d'un "roi aux pieds des pauvres" et d'un constructeur de l'Europe du XIIIe siècle.
On fête également saint Louis Marie le 28 avril et saint Louis de Gonzague le 21 juin.
D'origine germanique, le prénom Louis signifie "hlod" (gloire) et "combat (wig).
Pour en savoir plus, regardez le documentaire Louis IX, le roi saint
Rédacteur: Frère Bernard Pineau, OP
SOURCE : http://www.lejourduseigneur.com/index.php/Web-TV/Saints/Louis-roi-de-France
Georges Rouget (1783–1869). Saint Louis rendant la justice sous le chêne de Vincennes.
1826, 320 X 260, Palace of Versailles
La nuit qui fit basculer la vie de saint Louis
Aliénor Goudet | 24 août 2020
Justice et piété sont les deux grandes qualités que l’on attribue à Louis IX, qui régna sur la France de 1226 à 1270. Souverain bien-aimé, jamais il ne laissait Dieu en dehors de ses décisions, qu’elles soient pour son peuple ou lui-même. Redécouvrez sa piété et sa fidélité absolue envers Dieu à travers les yeux sa tendre épouse, Marguerite de Provence.
Paris, décembre 1244. Pour la dixième si ce n’est la cinquantième fois, Marguerite se retourne dans son lit, incapable de trouver le sommeil. Cela fait dix jours maintenant que Louis est malade. Il a beau garder le sourire et ne jamais se plaindre, le savoir tordu de douleur à chaque instant est insupportable. Aujourd’hui encore, les médecins ont murmuré à l’oreille de Marguerite et de sa belle-mère que le roi ne survivrait sans doute pas. Une angoisse soudaine se saisit de la jeune reine. Et s’il devait mourir cette nuit, seul avec ses souffrances ?
D’un bond, elle se lève, enfile un manteau et des chaussons, et part rejoindre son époux. Tant pis pour la bonne étiquette. Mais à peine a-t-elle pénétré dans le couloir des appartements du roi qu’elle s’arrête net. La porte de sa chambre est grande ouverte. Quel inconscient ! Il tient à peine debout et il déambule seul dans le palais ? Mais Marguerite n’a pas de doute sur l’endroit où se trouve Louis, et elle se hâte de se rendre à la chapelle royale, sous les regards ébahis des quelques serviteurs qu’elle croise.
Lire aussi :
Comme elle l’avait prédit, Louis est bien là, à genoux devant les reliques sacrées. Marguerite se fige, craignant d’interrompre un échange important entre le roi et le Très-Haut. Mais après un long moment sans mouvement, elle se décide à approcher.
– Louis, appelle-t-elle, le faisant sursauter, vous êtes fou ! Vous ne devriez pas être debout…
Elle s’interrompt, étonnée de le voir si droit et si calme, alors que quelques heures plutôt, la douleur le faisait se plier en deux et il tremblait de fièvre au fond de son lit. Doucement, elle pose une main sur son front. Il ne sue pas et son visage a repris des couleurs. Ce pourrait-il que…
Devinant les pensées de son épouse, le roi lui sourit et se relève sans vaciller.
– Le Seigneur a répondu à mon vœu, ma chère Marguerite. Ma mission dans ce monde n’est pas terminée.
Des larmes de joie et de soulagement piquent les yeux de la jeune reine. Dieu soit loué, Louis vivra ! Mais bien vite, l’angoisse revient au galop.
– Quel était votre vœu ? demande-t-elle.
– J’ai juré d’aller en Terre sainte, délivré le tombeau du Christ afin d’expier mes fautes et celles du peuple de France, s’Il m’accordait la guérison.
La joie de la reine s’évanouit bien vite et Marguerite baisse les yeux, incapable de cacher son inquiétude. Dieu a donc épargné son époux afin de l’envoyer en croisade. Les barbares infidèles, la chaleur torride du soleil d’orient, la guerre, le sang et la mort… Elle ne peut s’empêcher de penser à tout cela.
Lire aussi :
D’un geste chaste, Louis prend la main de son épouse en lui confiant ces paroles.
– J’ai vu en rêve notre Seigneur porter sur ses épaules le poids des péchés de mon peuple. Si je puis, par cette croisade, lui retirer ne serait-ce qu’une épine de la tête, je serai digne d’être son serviteur.
Un étrange sentiment mêlant douceur et amertume envahit le cœur de Marguerite. Bien sûr, son Louis ne manquerait jamais à une promesse faite au Très-Haut. Elle peut voir dans ses yeux la lueur d’une flamme aussi pieuse et pure que son désir ardent de faire la volonté de Dieu. C’est ce qu’elle aime et admire tant chez lui.
Beaucoup essaieront de l’en dissuader. Elle aussi souhaite qu’il renonce, mais comment pourrait-elle se mettre en travers du chemin sur lequel le Seigneur l’envoie ? Comment songer un seul instant que Louis se détourne de Dieu de quelconque manière?
– Puisque c’est la volonté de Dieu, je ne vous ferai jamais obstacle, lui dit-elle. Et pour cette mission, je vous accompagnerai.
Les époux se sourient et tous deux passent le reste de la nuit dans le silence de la prière.
Louis meurt le 25 août 1270 aux portes de Tunis lors de sa deuxième croisade, ne s’étant jamais détourné de Dieu. Il est canonisé par Boniface VIII en 1297. Sa piété et son sens de la justice ont séduit non-seulement son entourage, mais aussi la France entière qui le considérait comme saint même de son vivant. La popularité du nom “Saint Louis” dans le monde montre l’impact de cette sublime piété qui n’a de cesse d’inspirer même de nos jours.
Lire aussi :
Leçons des Matines avant 1960.
Au deuxième nocturne.
Quatrième leçon. Louis IX, devenu roi de France à l’âge de douze ans, par la mort de son père, fut très pieusement élevé par la reine Blanche, sa mère. Il régnait depuis vingt ans déjà, lorsque, tombé malade, la pensée lui vint de reconquérir Jérusalem. Aussitôt revenu à la santé, il reçut l’étendard des mains de l’Évêque de Paris. Puis, ayant traversé la mer avec une armée nombreuse, il mit en déroute les Sarrasins dans un premier combat. Mais beaucoup de ses soldats moururent de la peste, et lui-même fut vaincu et fait prisonnier.
Cinquième leçon. Après un traité avec les Sarrasins, le roi et son armée furent laissés libres. Il demeura pendant cinq ans en Orient, racheta de l’esclavage un grand nombre de Chrétiens, convertit beaucoup d’infidèles à la foi du Christ, et rebâtit à ses frais plusieurs villes appartenant aux Chrétiens. Sa mère étant morte sur ces entrefaites, il dut revenir en France où il s’adonna tout entier aux œuvres de piété.
Sixième leçon. Le saint roi construisit nombre de monastères et d’hospices pour les pauvres ; il secourait de ses largesses les indigents, visitait fréquemment les malades et, non content de les faire soigner à ses frais, leur donnait de ses propres mains ce dont ils avaient besoin. Simple dans ses habits, il n’épargnait pas à son corps les mortifications du ciliée et du jeûne. Louis IX traversa de nouveau la mer pour combattre les Sarrasins, mais au moment où il venait d’établir son camp en face de l’ennemi, il mourut de la peste en prononçant ces paroles : « J’entrerai dans votre maison, Seigneur, je vous adorerai dans votre saint temple et je glorifierai votre nom. » Son corps fut transporté à Paris ; il est conservé dans la célèbre église de Saint-Denis, où on le vénère. Quant à son chef, on le porta à la sainte Chapelle. Glorifié par d’éclatants miracles, il a été mis au nombre des Saints par le Pape Boniface VIII.
Au troisième nocturne.
Lecture du saint Évangile selon saint Luc. Cap. 19, 12-26.
En ce temps-là : Jésus dit cette parabole à ses disciples : Un homme de grande naissance s’en alla en un pays lointain, pour prendre possession d’un royaume et revenir ensuite. Et le reste.
Homélie de saint Ambroise, Évêque. Liber 8 in Lucam.
Septième leçon. Il était bon et dans l’ordre que, devant appeler les Gentils et décréter la perte des Juifs qui n’avaient point voulu que le Christ régnât sur eux, le Sauveur employât d’abord cette comparaison pour éviter que l’on ne vînt à dire : Il n’avait rien donné au peuple des Juifs qui pût le rendre meilleur : comment exiger quelque chose de qui n’a rien reçu ? Ce n’est vraiment pas d’une monnaie de médiocre valeur qu’il s’agit car cette femme dont l’Évangile parle plus haut, ne trouvant pas une drachme, allume sa lampe, la cherche en promenant sa lumière, et est félicitée quand elle est retrouvée.
Huitième leçon. D’une mine unique, l’un des serviteurs a gagné dix mines et l’autre cinq. Peut-être ce dernier observe-t-il les préceptes de la morale, puisque les sens corporels sont au nombre de cinq ; l’autre a le double, c’est-à-dire qu’il approfondit les mystères de la loi et pratique la justice en ses mœurs. Aussi saint Matthieu a-t-il parlé de cinq talents et de deux talents : en sorte que l’accomplissement des préceptes moraux soit indiqué par les cinq talents et qu’en les deux autres talents nous voyions figurées, la connaissance des mystères de la foi et l’observation de la morale ; ce qui est moindre en nombre, se trouvant donc plus abondant en réalité.
Neuvième leçon. Et ici, nous pouvons entendre, par les dix mines, les dix préceptes, c’est-à-dire la doctrine de la loi ; et par les cinq autres, les leçons de la morale dues au magistère. Mais je veux que celui qui enseigne, soit accompli en toutes choses : « car le royaume de Dieu ne consiste pas dans les paroles, mais dans la vertu. » Comme il parle de Juifs, c’est bien à propos qu’il dit que deux seulement ont apporté à leur maître de l’argent multiplié, non certes par l’usure, mais par les profits d’une bonne administration. Autre, en effet, est le produit usuraire de l’argent, autre le fruit retiré de la céleste doctrine.
Dom Guéranger, l’Année Liturgique
C’est la foi du chrétien qui fit en Louis, neuvième du nom, la grandeur du prince. Ayez du Seigneur des sentiments dignes de lui, vous qui gouvernez la terre, et cherchez-le dans la simplicité de votre cœur . Lorsqu’elle donnait ce précepte aux rois, l’éternelle Sagesse se complaisait dans sa prescience infinie parmi les lis de France, où notre Saint devait briller d’un éclat si pur.
Une commune loi rattache à Dieu le sujet et le prince, parce que semblable est leur naissance, et une aussi leur destinée . Celui qui crée les petits et les grands n’exempte point ces derniers des droits du domaine suprême  ; leur puissance, qui les fait ses ministres , loin de modifier pour eux la notion du devoir de tous, ne fait qu’accroître du poids de la responsabilité de chacun Celui de leur responsabilité privée. Or, le devoir universel où toute obligation morale puise son principe, la loi première du monde, sa raison d’être, est de glorifier Dieu par lé retour des créatures à leur auteur, en la manière, en la mesure qu’il a voulues. Dieu donc ayant voulu élever jusqu’à sa propre vie divine l’homme pour qui la terre n’est plus qu’un séjour de passage, la justice naturelle, Tordre du temps présent, ne suffisent pas au monde ; les rois doivent savoir que l’objet de leur civile souveraineté, n’étant pas la fin dernière de toutes choses, reste rangé comme eux-mêmes sous la direction et l’empire absolu de cette fin supérieure en face de laquelle ils ne sont que sujets. Chefs des nations, prêtez l’oreille ; comprenez quel jugement vous est réservé . Ainsi, sous l’ancienne alliance, la divine pitié remplissait de ses avertissements miséricordieux la nuit des siècles d’attente.
Mais, non contente de multiplier ses oracles aux rois , la Sagesse, exauçant la prière du plus sage des princes de ces temps , est un jour descendue de son trône du ciel . Racheté par elle, le monde, à dater de ce jour, lui appartint à double titre. Au titre de sa divine filiation, dès avant la naissance de l’aurore, elle exerçait la principauté dans les splendeurs des Saints  ; elle règne maintenant par droit de conquête sur la terre délivrée. Avant sa venue dans la chair, c’était d’elle déjà que les princes recevaient, avec leur puissance, l’équité qui devait en régler l’usage  ; par le contrat des noces sacrées qui l’unirent à notre nature, Jésus, le fils de l’homme dont le sang paya la rançon du monde, est aujourd’hui l’unique source du pouvoir , comme de toute vraie justice élevant les nations . Et maintenant derechef, comprenez, o rois, dit le Psalmiste ; ayez l’intelligence, vous qui jugez la terre .
« C’est le Christ qui parle, explique saint Augustin : maintenant que je suis roi de par Dieu mon Père, ne vous attristez pas, comme si vous étiez dépouillés en. cela d’un bien qui fût vôtre ; mais plutôt, reconnaissant qu’il vous est bon d’être soumis à celui qui vous donne sécurité dans la lumière, servez ce Seigneur de tous avec crainte, et tressaillez en lui » .
La sécurité provenant de la lumière, c’est l’Église qui continue de la donner aux rois, pour l’Homme-Dieu remonté dans les cieux : l’Église qui, sans empiéter sur le domaine des princes, leur demeure pourtant supérieure, comme mère des peuples et comme juge des consciences, comme guide unique de l’humanité voyageuse à sa destinée suprême. Écoutons, dans la précision et la plénitude qui caractérisent son infaillible enseignement, le Souverain Pontife Léon XIII :
« Comme il y a sur la terre deux grandes sociétés : l’une civile, dont la fin prochaine est de procurer au genre humain le bien temporel et terrestre ; l’autre religieuse, qui a pour objet de conduire les hommes à la félicité céleste pour laquelle ils sont faits : ainsi il y a deux puissances , entre lesquelles Dieu a divisé le gouvernement de ce monde. Chacune d’elles en son genre est souveraine ; chacune est renfermée dans des limites déterminées et tracées en conformité de sa nature et de son but spécial . Le fondateur de l’Église, Jésus-Christ, a voulu qu’elles fussent distinctes l’une de l’autre, et que toutes deux fussent libres d’entraves dans l’accomplissement de leur mission propre ; avec cette clause toutefois que dans les choses qui ressortissent simultanément à la juridiction et au jugement de l’une et de l’autre, bien qu’à un titre différent, la puissance chargée des intérêts du temps dépendrait, comme il convient, de celle qui doit veiller à ceux du ciel . Soumises au reste toutes deux à la loi éternelle et naturelle, elles doivent s’accorder réciproquement dans les choses qui tiennent à l’ordre et au gouvernement de chacune d’elles , réalisant un ensemble de rapports que l’on peut justement comparer à celui qui dans l’homme constitue l’union de l’âme et du corps  ».
Dans la sphère des intérêts éternels, dont nul ne peut légitimement se désintéresser ici-bas, c’est donc leurs peuples, et non seulement leurs propres personnes individuellement prises, que les princes doivent maintenir en la dépendance de l’Église comme en celle de Dieu. Car « les hommes unis par les liens d’une société commune ne relevant pas moins de Dieu que pris isolément, les sociétés politiques aussi bien que les particuliers ne peuvent sans crime se conduire comme si Dieu n’existait pas, ou se passer de la religion comme étrangère, ou se dispenser de suivre en cette religion les règles suivant lesquelles Dieu lui-même a déclaré vouloir être honoré. En conséquence, les chefs d’État doivent comme tels tenir pour saint le Nom de Dieu, mettre au nombre de leurs principaux devoirs celui de couvrir la religion de l’autorité des lois, ne rien statuer ou ordonner qui soit contraire à son intégrité » .
Nous pouvons maintenant reprendre avec saint Augustin l’explication du texte du psaume, et dire avec lui : « Comment les rois servent-ils le Seigneur dans la crainte, si ce n’est en prohibant et punissant avec une religieuse sévérité les actes contraires aux commandements du Seigneur ? Au double titre, en effet, d’homme et de prince, le roi sert Dieu en une double manière : homme, il le sert par la fidélité de sa vie ; roi, par la confection ou le maintien des lois qui ordonnent le bien et proscrivent le mal. Comme fit Ézéchias, et aussi Josias, en détruisant les temples des fausses divinités et ces hauts lieux que l’on avait construits contre l’ordre divin ; comme fit le roi de Ninive, en contraignant sa ville d’apaiser le Seigneur ; comme fit Darius, livrant l’idole à Daniel pour être brisée, et jetant les ennemis de celui-ci aux lions ; comme fit Nabuchodonosor, interdisant le blasphème dans tout son royaume par une loi terrible. C’est en cela donc que les rois servent le Seigneur en tant qu’ils sont rois, à savoir quand ils font pour le servir ce que peuvent seuls faire les rois » .
Qu’on ne pense pas qu’en ces développements nous ayons perdu de vue la fête de ce jour. De Louis IX aussi l’on doit dire, résumant sa vie : Il fit alliance avec le Seigneur, gardant ses commandements, les faisant observer par tous . Dieu comme but, la foi pour guide : c’est tout le secret de sa politique comme de sa sainteté. Comme chrétien, serviteur du Christ ; comme prince, son lieutenant : entre les aspirations du chrétien et celles du prince, son âme ne fut pas divisée ; cette unité fut sa force, comme elle est aujourd’hui sa gloire. Le Christ, qui régna seul en lui et par lui ici-bas, le fait régner avec lui-même aux deux. Si vous vous complaisez dans les sceptres et les trônes, rois de la terre, aimez la Sagesse pour régner à jamais .
Sacré à Reims le premier dimanche de l’Avent 1226, Louis fit siennes pour la vie les paroles de l’Antienne d’Introït en ce jour : J’ai élevé mon âme vers vous, je me confie en vous, mon Dieu ! Il n’avait que douze ans ; mais le Seigneur avait muni son enfance du plus sûr rempart, en lui donnant pour mère la noble fille des Espagnes dont la venue dans notre France, dit Guillaume de Nangis, y amena tous les biens . La mort prématurée de Louis VIII, son époux, laissait Blanche de Castille aux prises avec la plus redoutable des conspirations. Amoindris sous les règnes précédents, les grands vassaux s’étaient promis de mettre à profit la minorité du nouveau prince, et de ressaisir les droits que la féodalité ancienne leur reconnaissait au détriment de l’unité du pouvoir. Pour écarter cette mère qui se dressait seule entre la faiblesse de l’héritier du trône et leurs ambitions, les barons, partout révoltés, donnèrent la main à l’hérésie albigeoise renaissant au midi ; ils ne rougirent point de faire alliance avec le fils de Jean Sans-Terre, Henri III, épiant d’au delà de la Manche l’occasion de réparer les pertes territoriales dont Philippe-Air liste avait châtié sur le continent la perfidie du meurtrier d’Arthur de Bretagne. Forte du droit de son fils et de la protection du Pontife romain, Grégoire IX, Blanche ne s’abandonna pas ; on vit cette femme que, pour justifier leur crime de lèse-patrie, tous ces amis de l’Anglais nommaient l’étrangère, sauver par sa prudence, sa vaillante fermeté, la terre française. Après neuf ans de régence, elle remettait la nation à son roi, plus unie, plus puissante que jamais depuis Charlemagne.
Nous ne pouvons songer à faire ici l’histoire du règne qui acheva de replacer la France à la tête des peuples ; mais il convenait de rendre à qui de droit aujourd’hui cet hommage : d’autant que pour devenir l’honneur du ciel comme de la terre en cette fête, Louis eut seulement à continuer Blanche, le fils à ne point oublier les préceptes de sa mère .
De là, sur toute sa vie, le reflet de simplicité gracieuse  qui en relève d’une façon si spéciale l’héroïsme et la grandeur. On dirait que Louis ne connut jamais le labeur nécessaire à tant d’autres, élevés loin du trône, pour adapter leurs âmes à la divine parole : Si vous ne devenez comme de petits enfants, vous n’entrerez pas dans le royaume des deux . Mais aussi, selon la même parole du Seigneur , qui fut plus grand que cet humble s’honorant plus du baptême de Poissy que du sacre de Reims, disant ses Heures, jeûnant, se flagellant comme ses amis les Frères Prêcheurs et Mineurs, toujours prêt à s’abaisser devant ceux en qui le sacerdoce, l’état religieux, la souffrance ou la pauvreté lui manifestaient Les privilégiés du ciel ? Libre aux grands hommes que nous avons connus dans nos temps de sourire en présence du vaincu de Mansourah, s’affligeant plus de la perte de son bréviaire que de la captivité qui le livre aux Sarrasins. On les a trop vus ces hommes en de semblables extrémités ! Si pareille faiblesse d’esprit, comme ils pensent, n’a point chez eux déshonoré la défaite, on n’a point non plus entendu l’ennemi s’écrier d’aucun d’eux : « Vous êtes notre captif, et l’on dirait que c’est nous qui sommes vos prisonniers ». On ne les a pas vus en imposer à la cupidité féroce, à l’ivresse de sang des geôliers, dicter la paix aussi fièrement que s’ils eussent été les vainqueurs ; le pays, jeté par eux dans les aventures, n’est point, hélas ! sorti plus glorieux de l’épreuve. C’est le propre de cet admirable règne de saint Louis, que les désastres y ajoutent à sa taille de héros la hauteur qui sépare la terre du ciel même, que la France y conquiert pour des siècles, en cet Orient où son roi fut chargé de chaînes, une renommée dont nulle victoire n’aurait pu égaler le prestige.
L’humilité des saints rois n’est point l’oubli de la grandeur du rôle qu’ils remplissent pour Dieu ; leur abnégation ne saurait consister dans l’abandon de droits qui sont aussi des devoirs ; pas plus que la charité ne supprime en eux la justice, l’amour de la paix n’y fait tort aux vertus guerrières. Saint Louis sans armée ne laissait pas de traiter de toute la hauteur de son baptême avec l’infidèle victorieux ; par ailleurs en notre Occident, on le sut de bonne heure, on le sut toujours mieux à mesure qu’avec les années croissait en lui la sainteté : ce roi dont les nuits se passaient à prier Dieu, les journées à servir les pauvres, n’entendait céder à quiconque les prérogatives de la couronne qu’il tenait de ses pères. Il n’y a qu’un roi en France, dit un jour le justicier du bois de Vincennes cassant une sentence de son frère, Charles d’Anjou ; et les barons au château de Bellême, les Anglais à Taillebourg, n’avaient pas attendu jusque-là pour l’apprendre ; non plus que ce Frédéric II, qui menaçait d’écraser l’Église, cherchant chez nous des complices, et dont les hypocrites explications valurent à l’Allemand la réponse : Le royaume de France n’est mie encore si affaibli qu’il se laisse mener à vos éperons.
La mort de Louis fut simple et grande comme sa vie. Dieu l’appela vers lui dans des circonstances douloureuses et critiques, loin de la patrie, sur ce sol africain où il avait une première fois déjà tant souffert : épines sanctifiantes, qui devaient rappeler au prince croisé son joyau de prédilection, la couronne sacrée acquise par lui au trésor de France. Mû par l’espoir de convertir au christianisme le roi de Tunis, c’était plus en apôtre qu’en soldat qu’il avait abordé le rivage où l’attendait le combat suprême. Je vous dis le ban de notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ et de son sergent Louis, roi de France : sublime provocation jetée à la ville infidèle, bien digne de clore une telle vie. Après six siècles écoulés, Tunis verra les fils des Francs qui l’entourèrent alors donner suite sans le vouloir au défi du plus saint de leurs rois, appelés qu’ils seront, sans le savoir, par tous les bienheureux dont cette terre de l’antique Carthage devenue chrétienne garde la mémoire pour l’éternité.
Cependant l’armée de la Croix, victorieuse en tous les combats, était décimée par un mal terrible. Entouré de morts et de mourants, atteint lui-même parla contagion, Louis manda près de lui son fils aîné et prochain successeur, Philippe, troisième du nom, pour lui donner ses instructions dernières :
« Cher fils, la première chose que je t’enseigne, c’est que tu mettes ton cœur à aimer Dieu ; car sans ce, ne peut nul valoir nulle chose. Garde-toi défaire chose qui à Dieu déplaise, c’est à savoir mortel péché ; ains plutôt devrais souffrir toutes manières de tourments. Si Dieu t’envoie adversité, reçois-le en patience et en rends grâces à notre Seigneur, et pense que tu l’as desservi. S’il te donne prospérité, l’en remercie humblement, et ne sois pas pire ou par orgueil ou par autre manière de ce dont tu dois mieux valoir ; car l’on ne doit pas Dieu de ses dons guerroyer. Le cœur aie doux et piteux aux pauvres et aux mésaisiés, et les conforte et aide selon ce que tu pourras. Maintiens les bonnes coutumes de ton royaume, et les mauvaises abaisse. Aime tout bien, et hais tout mal en quoique ce soit. Nulle vilenie de Dieu ou de Notre-Dame ou des Saints ne souffre que l’on die devant toi, que tu n’en fasses tantôt vengeance. A justice tenir sois loyal envers tes sujets, sans tourner à dextre ni à senestre ; mais aide au droit, et soutiens la querelle du pauvre jusques à tant que la vérité soit éclaircie. Honore et aime toutes les personnes de la sainte Église, et garde qu’on ne leur soustraie leurs dons et leurs aumônes que tes devanciers leur auront donnés. Cher fils, je t’enseigne que tu sois toujours dévot à l’Église de Rome et au souverain évêque notre père, c’est le Pape, et lui portes révérence et honneur comme tu dois faire à ton père spirituel. Travaille-toi que tout vilain péché soit ôté de ta terre ; spécialement vilains serments et hérésie fais abattre à ton pouvoir... Biau cher fils, je te donne toutes les bénédictions que bon père peut donner à fils ; et la benoîte Trinité et tous les Saints te gardent et défendent de tous maux ; et Dieu te donne grâce de faire sa volonté toujours, et qu’il soit honoré par toi, et que toi et moi puissions après cette mortelle vie être ensemble avec lui et le louer sans fin » .
« Quand le bon roi, poursuit Joinville, eut enseigné son fils monseigneur Philippe, la maladie que il avait commença à croître fortement ; et demanda les sacrements de sainte Église, et les reçut en saine pensée et en droit entendement, ainsi comme il apparut ; car quand on l’enhuilait  et on disait les sept psaumes, il disait les versets d’une part. J’ai ouï conter monseigneur le comte d’Alençon son fils, que quand il approchait de la mort, il appela les Saints pour l’aider et secourir, et mêmement monseigneur saint Jacques, en disant son oraison, qui commence : Esto Domine ; c’est à dire : « Dieu, soyez sainte fieur  et garde de votre peuple ». Monseigneur saint Denis de France appela lors en s’aide, en disant son oraison qui vaut autant à dire : « Sire Dieu, donne-nous que nous puissions despire  la prospérité de ce monde, si que nous ne doutions nulle adversité ». Et ouï dire lors à monseigneur d’Alençon (que Dieu absolve !) que son père réclamait lors madame sainte Geneviève. Après se fit le saint roi coucher en un lit couvert de cendre, et mit ses mains sur sa poitrine, et en regardant vers le ciel rendit à notre Créateur son esprit, en celle heure même que le Fils de Dieu mourut pour le salut du monde en la croix ».
Jérusalem, la vraie Sion, vous ouvre enfin ses portes, à vous, ô Louis, qui pour elle avez donné vos trésors et vous-même. Du trône éternel où le Fils de Dieu vous associe à ses honneurs et à sa puissance, soyez toujours le promoteur du règne de Dieu sur terre, le zélateur de la foi, le bras de notre Mère l’Église. Sans adorer le Christ, l’Orient infidèle, grâce à vous, respecte ses adorateurs, confondant sous une même signification le nom de chrétien et de Franc. A cause de cela, nos gouvernants du jour prétendent rester dans ces contrées les protecteurs du christianisme qu’ils poursuivent sur le sol gaulois ! Contradiction non moins fatale au pays, qu’opposée à ses traditions de franchise, à sa renommée d’honneur et de loyauté. Comment connaîtraient-ils nos traditions et notre histoire, comment comprendraient-ils l’intérêt national, ceux qui méconnaissent le Dieu de Clovis, de Charlemagne et de saint Louis ? Déjà, qu’est devenu, dans cette Égypte qui eut vos plus durs labeurs, le patrimoine d’influence glorieuse que les siècles avaient maintenu à la nation ?
Vos descendants ne sont plus là pour nous garder de l’invasion de ces hommes qui exploitent la patrie et n’ont que l’exil pour ceux qui l’ont faite. Ici pourtant, combien redoutables ne se révèlent pas les justices du Seigneur ! Vous-même l’aviez dit : Plutôt un étranger que mon fils pour gouverner le peuple du royaume, si mon fils le doit mal gouverner  ! Trente années après la croisade de Tunis, un prince indigne, votre deuxième successeur, outrageait le Vicaire de l’Homme-Dieu. Rejeté d’en haut, Philippe IV, le Bel, voyait aussitôt s’arrêter dans sa race stérilisée la sève partie de votre racine. Flétri et brisé, le rameau sacrilège faisait place sur la tige auguste à une autre branche issue de vous toujours. Mais la nation, solidaire de ses rois, allait expier elle-même le forfait d’Anagni dans une guerre terrible, dont l’imprévoyance politique du même Philippe le Bel avait, par le jugement de Dieu, posé la cause  ; prince aussi funeste à l’État qu’à l’Église et à sa propre famille. Ce fut alors que, cent années durant, le pays parut à la veille de sa perte ; jusqu’à ce que, protection merveilleuse du ciel sur notre patrie ! la pucelle d’Orléans, Jeanne la Vénérable, arrachât des griffes du léopard anglais le lis de France qu’il prétendait s’unir.
D’autres fautes devaient, hélas ! compromettre encore, puis par deux fois à nouveau dessécher ou rompre les branches de l’arbre royal. Longtemps vos mérites personnels firent contre-poids devant Dieu au scandale des mœurs dont nos princes s’étaient fait comme une note de race, un privilège odieux : honte que transmirent aux Bourbons les Valois mourants, que dut expier sans parvenir à l’effacer le sang du juste Louis XVI, qu’expient toujours tant d’illustres proscrits promenant sur la terre étrangère leur déchéance et leurs souvenirs. Puissiez-vous du moins reconnaître, en ces fils qui vous restent, les imitateurs de vos vertus ! c’est en revendiquant d’abord ce premier héritage, qu’un jour peut-être ils amèneront Dieu à leur rendre l’autre . Car Dieu qui commande d’obéir au pouvoir établi dans les divers temps, reste le maître des peuples, l’arbitre immuable de leurs variables destinées. Mais c’est alors qu’instruit par l’épreuve, nul de vos descendants ne devra plus oublier, ô Louis, votre recommandation suprême : Travaille-toi que tout vilain péché soit ôté de ta terre ; spécialement vilains serments et hérésie fais abattre à ton pouvoir.
 Sap. I, I.
 Ibid. VII, 5-6.
 Ibid. VI, 8.
 Ibid. 5.
 Sap., VI, 2-9.
 Ibid. 10.
 Ibid. IX.
 Ibid. 10.
 Psalm. CIX, 3.
 Prov. VIII, 14-16.
 Matth. XXVIII, 18.
 Prov. XIV, 34.
 Psalm. II, 10.
 Psalm. II, 11 ; Aug. Enarrat. in Ps. II.
 Epist. encycl. ad Episcopos Galliae, Nobilissima Gallorum gens, 8 Febr. 1884.
 Encycl. Immortale Dei, de civitatum constitutione christiana, 1 Nov. 1885.
 Encycl. Arcanum divines sapientiae, de matrimonio christiano, 10 Febr. 1880.
 Encycl.Nobilissima Gallorum gens.
 Encycl. Immortale Dei.
 Aug. ad Bonifac. Ep. 185.
 II Paralip. XXXIV, 31-33.
 Sap. VI, 22.
 Gesta S. Ludovici.
 Prov. I, 8.
 Ibid. 9.
 Matth. XVIII, 3.
 Ibid. 4.
 GEOFFROI DE BEAULIEU ; CONFESSEUR DE LA REINE MARGUERITE ; GUILLAUME DE NANGIS ; JOINVILLE.
 Joinville, Ire partie.
 En mariant sa fille Isabelle à Édouard II d’Angleterre : mariage qui, après la mort sans descendance mâle des trois fils de Philippe le Bel, Louis X, Philippe V et Charles IV, fournit la hase des prétentions du fils d’Isabelle, Édouard III, à la couronne de France.
 Matth. VI, 33.
Bhx cardinal Schuster, Liber Sacramentorum
Voici un roi sur lequel le Christ crucifié imprima profondément les stigmates de sa Passion. Pour démontrer que la vertu n’a pas toujours sa récompense en ce monde, Louis, que sa piété poussait sans cesse vers l’Orient, à la reprise des lieux sanctifiés par le sang de la Rédemption, n’y recueillit, au lieu de palmes et de lauriers, que défaites et captivité ; si bien que, racheté par les siens, il retourna à Paris, rapportant comme un trophée symbolique de ses campagnes la couronne d’épines du divin Sauveur. Il mourut victime de l’épidémie sous les murs de Tunis, qu’il se préparait à assiéger, le 25 août 1270. Rome chrétienne lui a dédié un temple insigne non loin du stadium Domitiani.
La messe est du Commun sauf ce qui suit.
La première lecture est tirée de la messe des Martyrs, et fait allusion à la dure captivité soufferte par le saint Roi à cause de son zèle pour la reprise des lieux saints. La sagesse de Dieu guide partout ses serviteurs. Elle n’abandonna pas Louis dans les chaînes, et si, durant sa vie, elle l’exposa à une dure épreuve, ce fut pour le récompenser au ciel d’une palme beaucoup plus glorieuse.
Pour la fête de ce saint roi, qui, en France, de longs siècles durant, symbolisa pour ainsi dire la monarchie très chrétienne de la fille aînée de l’Église, la lecture évangélique est celle de la parabole du monarque qui distribue son argent à ses serviteurs, pour le faire valoir jusqu’à son retour (Luc., XIX, 12-26). Le sens est presque identique à celui de la parabole du maître qui distribue un capital à ses serviteurs, pour qu’ils lui fassent produire des intérêts (Matth., XXV, 14-23.). Dans la lecture de ce jour, une phrase nous frappe surtout. Le serviteur inactif dit au Seigneur qu’il est un homo austerus, et celui-ci l’accepte et même le répète.
Dieu est avec nous ce que nous sommes avec lui. Avec ceux qui l’aiment, II est Père miséricordieux et aimant ; ceux qui renoncent à cette grâce et s’éloignent de son étreinte, II les régit et les gouverne avec le bras de sa sainteté et de sa justice très pures.
Les trois collectes sont propres.
Prière. — « Seigneur, qui avez fait passer du trône terrestre au trône céleste le bienheureux roi Louis ; par ses mérites et son intercession faites que nous aussi méritions d’avoir part à l’héritage du Christ Jésus, Roi des rois ». Aujourd’hui l’Église, dans cette première collecte, rappelle les fidèles au sens de cette dignité royale que, par notre incorporation au Christ Roi et Prêtre, nous avons obtenue dans le sacrement du Baptême. Si les chrétiens appartiennent tous à cette dynastie sacrée instituée par le Christ, — regale sacerdotium — il convient qu’ils sachent se dominer et tiennent leurs passions assujetties. On attribue à saint Colomban une belle parole qui se rapporte à cette liberté royale que doit garder intacte le chrétien. A un roi tyran, ce saint abbé dit un jour : si aufers libertatem, aufers dignitatem.
Sur les oblations. — « Comme le bienheureux confesseur Louis, ayant méprisé les délices du monde, s’efforça de plaire uniquement à Dieu ; ainsi nous vous demandons. Seigneur, que son intercession nous rende agréables à Vous ». Il n’est rien de plus vil que de transiger avec sa conscience pour ne pas déplaire aux hommes. Avec la meilleure bonne volonté, avec le tact et la prudence la plus circonspecte, il est impossible de contenter tout le monde. Saint Paul essaya de le faire, mais lui-même écrivit : Si adhuc hominibus placerem, Christi servus non essem . Le Psalmiste a un mot très fort contre ces lâches victimes du respect humain : disperdet ossa eorum qui hominibus placent, quoniam Deus sprevit eos .
Après la Communion. — « Seigneur, qui avez rendu illustre sur la terre, puis glorieux dans le ciel, le bienheureux confesseur Louis, établissez-le aussi défenseur de votre Église ». Le nombre est-il assez grand, de ceux qui évoquent avec passion les noms des souverains des anciennes dynasties françaises ? Et pourtant, le nom de saint Louis IX exprime encore, pour cette nation, tout un programme et un idéal de foi, de pureté, de valeur et d’honneur qui élève les lis de la vraie France catholique d’autant plus haut qu’est descendue davantage dans la fange la faction jacobine adverse, destructrice de sa propre patrie.
 Gal. 1, 10. Si je plaisais encore aux hommes, je ne serais pas serviteur du Christ.
 Ps. 52, 6. Dieu a brisé les os de ceux qui cherchent à plaire aux hommes, parce que Dieu les a méprisés.
Dom Pius Parsch, Le guide dans l’année liturgique
Faites-vous cohéritiers du Roi des Rois, Jésus-Christ.
1. Saint Louis. — Jour de mort : 25 aout 1270, à Tunis. Tombeau : à Paris, dans l’église Saint-Denis ; on vénère sa tête à la Sainte Chapelle. Vie : Louis IX, roi de France de 1226 à 1270, est une physionomie de saint des plus séduisantes. Époux affectueux et père de onze enfants, il fut en même temps un rigoureux ascète. Énergique et vigilant dans l’administration de son royaume, il ne négligeait en rien ses exercices de piété et recevait fréquemment les sacrements ; intrépide au combat et soucieux de son prestige dans les grandes circonstances, il s’épuisait secrètement en jeûnes et en mortifications. La stricte justice, la parfaite loyauté et l’amour absolu de la paix inspirèrent sa politique, toujours exempte néanmoins de faiblesse, et dont plusieurs siècles devaient confirmer le succès. Les ordres religieux et les monastères trouvèrent en lui un puissant ami, et les églises un généreux bienfaiteur. « Après vingt ans de règne, dit le bréviaire, au cours d’une grave maladie, il fit vœu d’entreprendre une Croisade en Terre Sainte. Sa santé à peine rétablie, il reçut l’étendard des mains de l’évêque de Paris, franchit la mer à la tête d’une grande armée (1248), et mit d’abord en déroute les Sarrasins. Mais, beaucoup de ses soldats étant morts de la peste, il fut ensuite vaincu et fait prisonnier. Au prix d’une forte rançon, l’ennemi lui rendit la liberté ainsi qu’à son armée ». Louis IX mourut de la peste pendant une seconde croisade, en prononçant ces paroles : « J’entrerai dans votre maison, j’adorerai dans votre saint temple, et je glorifierai votre nom » (Ps. V).
2. Le commun des Rois. — La liturgie, très parcimonieuse de titres et de dignités, ne mentionne dans la nomenclature des saints que les titres qui indiquent une participation au ministère du Christ ou qui impliquent une consécration spéciale. Tel le titre d’Évêque et de Pape ; tel également et pour les mêmes raisons celui de Roi. Le Roi participe à l’autorité de Dieu et du Christ, c’est pourquoi l’Église l’honore et a pour lui une prière spéciale. Lui obéir n’est pas seulement obéir à un homme, mais à Dieu. L’Église se plait à reconnaître que le roi saint Louis, parmi les soucis du gouvernement, n’a pas oublié « l’unique nécessaire », qu’il est resté fidèle à la loi de Dieu au milieu des « délices du monde » (Secr.). Sa mort a été une « translatio », un passage de la royauté terrestre à la gloire du royaume céleste. Puissions-nous donc, comme nous le demandons à Dieu, devenir tous « cohéritiers du Roi des rois, Jésus-Christ » (Oraison).
Quoique, par ses parties chantées, la messe de ce jour appartienne au Commun des Confesseurs, ses deux lectures propres lui donnent un caractère si particulier que, volontiers, nous l’appellerions « Messe du Commun des Rois ». Dans son sens littéral, l’Épître s’applique au patriarche Joseph qui « sortit » de prison, et à qui Dieu remit le « sceptre du royaume ». Souvenons-nous ici de Louis IX captif chez les Sarrasins.
C’est par allusion à la dignité royale de notre saint qu’on a choisi comme Évangile, aujourd’hui, la Parabole des mines : « Un homme de haute naissance s’en alla dans un pays lointain pour se faire investir de la royauté... » Pour bien comprendre ces paroles, rappelons-nous la situation politique des contemporains du Sauveur. En ce temps de la domination romaine, quiconque aspirait au trône dans une Province juive devait se rendre « dans un pays lointain » — Rome — « pour se faire investir de la royauté, et revenir ensuite ». Il arriva donc que les concitoyens du prince envoyèrent une ambassade derrière lui pour dire : « Nous ne voulons pas que cet homme règne sur nous ». Le prétendant ayant réussi dans sa démarche, on comprend, étant donné les mœurs orientales, ce que fut sa vengeance, — Telles sont les circonstances matérielles de la Parabole des mines. Quelle en est maintenant l’interprétation liturgique ? L’homme qui « s’en va dans un lointain pays recevoir la couronne royale » représente le Christ qui, depuis l’Ascension, « siège à la droite du Père » ; il « reviendra » au dernier jour. A nous, ses serviteurs, il confie l’administration de ses biens, grâces, talents, dont, plus tard, nous aurons à lui rendre compte. — La Parabole désigne trois catégories de chrétiens : les uns profitent éminemment de la grâce. Saint Louis fut de ce nombre ; il reçut « le gouvernement de dix villes » ; aussi sa récompense est-elle grande dans les cieux ; aujourd’hui, jour de sa fête, nous y participons à la messe. Les autres en profitent bien. Nous sommes, ou, du moins, nous voulons être de ceux-là. Les derniers, enfin — entendons cet avertissement — ce sont ceux qui ne coopèrent pas à la grâce, les mauvais chrétiens. — La nécessité pour le salut de coopérer à la grâce, telle est donc la grande leçon de cette parabole. Être chrétien, ce n’est pas seulement aller à la messe et fréquenter les sacrements, c’est vivre véritablement selon Dieu. La sainte communion reçue ce matin est une « mine » que le Seigneur nous a confiée ; à nous maintenant de la faire fructifier par notre travail, toute la journée. Demain, à la messe, le Maître reviendra ; à l’offertoire, nous lui rendrons compte de notre gestion.
SOURCE : http://www.introibo.fr/25-08-St-Louis-roi-confesseur
Roi de France
Roi de France
Cher fils, je t'enseigne premièrement que tu aimes Dieu de tout ton cœur et de tout ton pouvoir, car sans cela personne ne peut rien valoir.
Tu dois te garder de toutes choses que tu penseras devoir lui déplaire et qui sont en ton pouvoir, et spécialement tu dois avoir cette volonté que tu ne fasses un péché mortel pour nulle chose qui puisse arriver, et qu'avant de faire un péché mortel avec connaissance, que tu souffrirais que l'on te coupât les jambes et les bras et que l'on t'enlèvât la vie par le plus cruel martyre.
Si Notre Seigneur t'envoie persécution, maladie ou autre souffrance, tu dois la supporter débonnairement, et tu dois l'en remercier et lui savoir bon gré, car il faut comprendre qu'il l'a fait pour ton bien. De plus, tu dois penser que tu as mérité ceci (et encore plus s'il le voulait) parce que tu l'as peu aimé et peu servi, et parce que tu as fait beaucoup de choses contre sa volonté.
Si Notre Seigneur t'envoie prospérité, santé du corps ou autre chose, tu dois l'en remercier humblement, et puis prendre garde qu'à cause de cela il ne t'arrive pas de malheur causé par orgueil ou par une autre faute, car c'est un très grand péché de guerroyer Notre Seigneur de ses dons.
Cher fils, je t'enseigne que tu entendes volontiers le service de la sainte Église, et quand tu seras à l'église, garde-toi de perdre ton temps et de parler vaines paroles. Dis tes oraisons avec recueillement ou par bouche ou de pensée, et spécialement sois plus recueilli et plus attentif à l'oraison pendant que le corps de Notre Seigneur jésus Christ sera présent à la messe, et puis aussi pendant un petit moment avant.
Cher fils, je t'enseigne que tu aies le cour compatissant envers les pauvres et envers tous ceux que tu considéreras comme souffrants ou de cour ou de corps ; et selon ton pouvoir soulage-les volontiers ou de soutien moral ou d'aumônes.
Prends garde que tu sois si bon en toutes choses qu'il soit évident tu reconnaisses les générosités et les honneurs que Notre Seigneur t'a faits de sorte que, s'il plaisait à Notre Seigneur que tu aies l'honneur de gouverner le royaume, tu sois digne de recevoir l'onction avec laquelle les rois de France sont sacrés.
Cher fils, s'il advient que tu deviennes roi, prends soin d'avoir les qualités qui appartiennent aux rois, c'est-à-dire que tu sois si juste que, quoi qu'il arrive, tu ne t'écartes de la justice. Et s'il advient qu'il y ait querelle entre un pauvre et un riche, soutiens de préférence le pauvre contre le riche jusqu'à ce que tu saches la vérité, et quand tu la connaîtras, fais justice.
Sois bien diligent de protéger dans tes domaines toutes sortes de gens, surtout les gens de sainte Église ; défends qu'on ne leur fasse tort ni violence en leurs personnes ou en leurs biens.
Cher fils, je t'enseigne que tu sois toujours dévoué à l'Église de Rome et à notre saint-père le Pape, et lui portes respect et honneur comme tu le dois à ton père spirituel.
Mets grande peine à ce que les péchés soient supprimés en ta terre, c'est-à-dire les vilains serments et toute chose qui se fait ou se dit contre Dieu ou Notre-Dame ou les saints : péchés de corps, jeux de dés, tavernes ou autres péchés. Fais abattre tout ceci en ta terre sagement et en bonne manière.
Cher fils, je te donne toute la bénédiction qu'un père peut et doit donner à son fils, et je prie Notre Seigneur Dieu Jésus-Christ que, par grande miséricorde et par les prières et par les mérites de sa bienheureuse Mère, la Vierge Marie, et des anges et et des archanges, de tous les saints et de toutes les saintes, il te garde et te défende que tu ne fasses chose qui soit contre sa volonté, et qu'il te donne grâce de faire sa volonté afin qu'il soit servi et honoré par toi ; et puisse-t-il accorder à toi et à moi, par sa grande générosité, qu'après cette mortelle vie nous puissions venir à lui pour la vie éternelle afin de le voir, aimer et louer sans fin. Amen.
Détail du bréviaire de Saint-Louis de Poissy
Sire le Roi,
qui envoyiez vos plus beaux chevaliers
en escoutes à la pointe de l'armée chrétienne,
daignez vous souvenir d'un fils de France
qui voudrait se hausser jusqu'à vous
pour mieux servir sire Dieu et dame sainte Eglise.
Donnez-moi du péché mortel
plus d'horreur que n'en eut Joinville qui pourtant fut bon chrétien,
et gardez-moi pur comme les lys de votre blason.
Vous qui teniez votre parole, même donnée à un infidèle,
faites que jamais mensonge ne passe ma gorge,
dût franchise me coûter la vie.
Preux inhabile aux reculades,
coupez les ponts à mes feintises,
et que je marche toujours au plus dru.
O le plus fier des barons français,
inspirez-moi de mépriser les pensées des hommes
et donnez-moi le goût de me compromettre
et de me croiser pour l'honneur du Christ.
Enfin, Prince, Prince au grand coeur,
ne permettez pas
que je sois jamais médiocre,mesquin ou vulgaire,
mais partagez-moi votre coeur royal
et faites qu'à votre exemple je serve à la française, royalement.
qui envoyiez vos plus beaux chevaliers
en escoutes à la pointe de l'armée chrétienne,
daignez vous souvenir d'un fils de France
qui voudrait se hausser jusqu'à vous
pour mieux servir sire Dieu et dame sainte Eglise.
Donnez-moi du péché mortel
plus d'horreur que n'en eut Joinville qui pourtant fut bon chrétien,
et gardez-moi pur comme les lys de votre blason.
Vous qui teniez votre parole, même donnée à un infidèle,
faites que jamais mensonge ne passe ma gorge,
dût franchise me coûter la vie.
Preux inhabile aux reculades,
coupez les ponts à mes feintises,
et que je marche toujours au plus dru.
O le plus fier des barons français,
inspirez-moi de mépriser les pensées des hommes
et donnez-moi le goût de me compromettre
et de me croiser pour l'honneur du Christ.
Enfin, Prince, Prince au grand coeur,
ne permettez pas
que je sois jamais médiocre,mesquin ou vulgaire,
mais partagez-moi votre coeur royal
et faites qu'à votre exemple je serve à la française, royalement.
Communion des Louis IX de France. Enluminure du manuscrit du chroniqueur G. de St. Pathus, XIVe siècle, Vie et miracles de saint Louis, XIVe siècle, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Français 5716, fol. 61 verso
Lorsqu'on apprit que le saint roi Louis IX avait rendu son dernier soupir sous les murs de Tunis, le 25 août 1270, le conclave de Viterbe n'avait toujours pas élu de successeur à Clément IV, mort le 29 novembre 1268. Le doyen du Sacré Collège, Eudes de Châteauroux, cardinal-évêque de Tusculum (Frascati), informé personnellement des circonstances de la mort du roi de France que lui confirma une lettre de Thibaud de Champagne (datée du 24 septembre 1270), mit en deuil toute la Chrétienté.
La dépouille du Roi avait déjà été divisée. L'armée avait exigé de conserver, parmi les combattants qui restaient en Afrique, le cour du Roi, dont on ne sait trop ce qu'il devint par la suite. Sur le chemin du retour, commencé le 31 août 1270 sur la nef Porte-Joie, ses entrailles furent déposées, près de Palerme, à la cathédrale de Monreale, selon les vœux de son frère, Charles d'Anjou, roi de Sicile, arrivé au camp de Tunis après la mort de son frère. Les ossements, bouillis et renfermés dans des outres de cuir, furent ramenés par son fils, Philippe III le Hardi, à Paris où ils arrivèrent, le 21 mai 1271, après avoir traversé l'Italie, franchi les Alpes au Mont-Cenis, passé par la Savoie, le Dauphiné, le Lyonnais, la Bourgogne et la Champagne. Un service solennel fut célébré, dès le lendemain de l'arrivée (veille de la Pentecôte), à Notre-Dame de Paris et s'acheva par l'inhumation à l'abbaye royale de Saint-Denis, nécropole des rois de France depuis les Mérovingiens. Tout au long de ce voyage, avaient déjà été opérés plusieurs miracles qui se multiplièrent au tombeau du Roi où les pèlerins et les malheureux se pressaient si nombreux que l'abbé de Saint-Denis, Matthieu de Vendôme, dut organiser un service d'ordre confié à un anglais, Thomas de Histon.
Le conclave de Viterbe, après trente-quatre mois de débats, se rendant aux suggestions de saint Bonaventure, élit enfin, le 1° septembre 1271, bien qu'il ne fût ni cardinal, ni prêtre et même absent d'Europe, puisqu'il accompagnait alors le futur roi Edouard I° d'Angleterre en Terre Sainte, Thealdo Visconti, chanoine de Lyon et archidiacre de Liège, qui prit le nom de Grégoire X.
A peine arrivé à Viterbe et comme premier acte de son pontificat, Grégoire X écrivit à dominicain Geoffroy de Beaulieu qui avait été le confesseur de Louis IX et l'avait assisté dans ses derniers moments (4 mars 1272). Geoffroy de Beaulieu répondit au Pape par un petit livre de cinquante-deux chapitres : Vita et sancta conversatio piae memoriae Ludovici quondam regis Francorum où, après avoir démontré comment l'éloge du roi Josias convenait au roi Louis, il plaidait pour qu'il fut inscrit au nombre des saints. Grégoire X s'entretint avec Philippe III de la canonisation de Louis IX, lors de la préparation du deuxième concile ocuménique de Lyon, en mars 1274.
De nombreuses suppliques furent depuis adressées au Pape et au Sacré Collège en si grand nombre que Grégoire X chargea son légat en France, Simon de Brie, cardinal de Sainte-Cécile et ancien garde des Sceaux de France, de procéder à une enquête secrète dont les résultats parvinrent à la Curie alors que Grégroire X venait de mourir à Arezzo, le 10 janvier 1276.
Aucun des trois papes qui, en moins d'un an et demi, se succédèrent, après Grégoire X n'eut le temps de s'occuper de la canonisation de Louis IX et il fallut attendre que Nicolas III Orsini fût élu, le 25 novembre 1277, pour que, malgré son opposition politique à Charles d'Anjou, les travaux reprissent par une enquête publique confiée au cardinal légat Simon de Brie, (30 novembre 1278) qui se fit assister des provinciaux franciscains et dominicains de France, de l'archidiacre de Melun et du grand prieur de Saint-Denis. Les résultats furent communiqués pour examen aux cardinaux Gérard et Jourdain, mais Nicolas III mourut le 22 août 1280.
Le conclave, réuni de nouveau à Virterbe, élut pape, le 22 février 1281, le cardinal Simon de Brie qui prit le nom de Martin IV. Vint de France, signée par les archevêques de Reims, de Rouen, de Sens et de Tours et des évêques de Beauvais, de Langres, de Châlons, de Laon, de Noyon, de Senlis, d'Evreux, de Paris; de Troyes et de Meaux, une nouvelle supplique, portée par les évêques de Chartres et d'Amiens. Martin IV entendait bien faire avancer la canonisation de Louis IX, mais ne voulait en aucun cas passer outre les règlements ecclésiastiques, ce qu'il écrivit d'Orvieto aux évêques de France, le 23 décembre 1281, en leur annonçant qu'une nouvelle enquête était confiée à l'archevêque de Rouen (Guillaume de Flavacourt), à l'évêque d'Auxerre (Guillaume de Grez) et à l'évêque de Spolète (Roland de Parme). Les trois commissaires qui avaient reçu du Pape des instructions très précises, siégèrent, selon ses ordres, à l'abbaye royale de Saint-Denis où ils entendirent, enregistrés par trois notaires : trois cent trente témoignages sur les miracles dont ils ne retinrent qu'une soixantaine (mai-juin 1282) et trente-huit témoignages sur la vie (12 juin - 20 août 1282). Les dossiers furent transmis en mars 1283 à Martin IV qui créa une commission de trois cardinaux dont, une fois encore, les travaux furent interrompus par la mort du pontife qui survint le 28 mars 1285 à Pérouse.
Malgré l'action continuelle de l'ancien archidiacre de Melun, le franciscain Jean de Samois, ancien commissaire aux côtés de Simon de Brie, devenu pénitencier pontifical, la cause n'avança guère sous le pontificat d'Honorius III (1285 - 1288), en dépit des nombreuses suppliques venues de France.
Nicolas IV, élu à Rome le 15 février 1288, désigna une nouvelle commission de trois cardinaux, mais mourut avant la fin des travaux (4 avril 1292) que ne fit pas reprendre Célestin V, élu le 5 juillet 1294, qui abdiqua le 13 décembre suivant.
Benoît Caetani, cardinal au titre des Saints-Sylvestre-et-Martin, membre de la dernière commission pontificale, fut élu pape par le conclave de Naples (24 décembre 1294) et prit le nom de Boniface VIII. Il fit terminer les travaux de la commission à laquelle il avait participé et décida de canoniser Louis IX. Boniface VIII annonce sa décision, à Orvieto où il résidait, le 4 août 1297, la ratifie dans l'église des Franciscains de la ville, le 11 août suivant, après quoi il fait rédiger la bulle Gloria laus qui proclame saint Louis confesseur de la foi.
 Louis IX, fils de Louis VIII et de Blanche de Castille, né le 25 avril 1214, succède à son père le 8 novembre 1226 (sacré à Reims le 29 novembre 1226) sous la tutelle de sa mère. Déclaré majeur le 25 avril 1236. Marié à Sens, le 27 mai 1234, avec Marguerite de Provence, fille de Raymond-Bérenger IV, comte de Provence, dont naissent onze enfants (trois morts en bas âge).
 Embarqué à Aigues-Mortes le 2 juillet 1270, Louis IX arrive en Sardaigne le 8, complète son ravitaillement et part pour Tunis, le 15 ; arrivé devant Tunis le 17 juillet, il débarque le lendemain ; le 24, les croisés prennent le château de Carthage. Une épidémie de dysenterie frappe l'armée et, avant d'emporter saint Louis, emporte son fils Jean-Tristan, comte de Valois, de Crecy et de Nevers (3 août 1270).
 Le samedi 23 août, il demande l'extrême-onction qu'il reçoit en récitant les sept psaumes de la pénitence ; de quinze heures, le dimanche, au début de l'après-midi du lundi, il ne cesse de prier pour son peuple et répète souvent : Dieu, sois le sanctificateur et le gardien de notre peuple ! Le lundi 25 août, à neuf heures du matin, il avait demandé à être étendu sur un lit couvert de cendres, il croisa les mains sur la poitrine ; vers midi il dit : J'entrerai dans ta demeure, j'irai t'adorer dans ton temple ; à trois heures, il rendit l'esprit.
 Guy Foulques, né à Saint-Gilles-sur-Rhône vers 1195, fut élu à Pérouse le 5 février 1265. Fils d'un juge, il fit des études de droit à Paris et devint conseiller juridique de Louis IX. Il se maria et eut deux filles. Veuf, il entra dans les ordres et devint successivement archidiacre du Puy, évêque du Puy (1257) et archevêque de Narbonne (1259). Créé cardinal et évêque de Sabine par Urbain IV (décembre 1261), il fut envoyé comme légat en Angleterre (novembre 1263) pour soutenir Henri III (1216-1272) contre ses barons. Elu pape alors qu'il était absent.
 Originaire de Châteauroux (Berry), il vient faire ses études à Paris au début du XIII° siècle et, vers 1230, exégète et théologien, il est un des prédicateurs les plus célèbres de la capitale. Chanoine, chancelier de l'Eglise puis de l'université de Paris (1238), il est créé cardinal-évêque de Tusculum par Innocent IV, le 28 mai 1244. Présent au concile de Lyon (1245) ; il réforme les chapitre de Sens (1245) et de Meaux (1246) ; il est nommé légat en Terre Sainte (25 avril 1248), il remet, à Saint-Denis, l'étendard, le bourdon et la besace à saint Louis (15 mai 1248) et part en croisade avec lui ; rentré de Palestine en 1254, il se fixe à Rome ; il participe à l'élection d'Urbain IV (1261), il est légat à Limoges (1264), il assiste à l'érection de la nouvelle église Sainte-Claire d'Assise (1266). Il meurt le 25 janvier 1273 à Orvieto et est inhumé au couvent des Dominicains.
 Thibaut V, comte de Champagne et roi de Navarre, épouse Isabelle, fille aînée de saint Louis (1255). Il suit saint Louis à Tunis et meurt au retour (1271).
 Hameau d'origine arabe devenu une réserve de chasse pour les rois normands, Monreale, à sept kilomètres de Palerme, prit une telle importance que Guillaume II y fit construire, entre 1172 et 1176, une cathédrale, Santa Maria Nuova, où se mélangent des éléments romains, byzantins, arabes et nordiques.
 Charles I°, né en 1220, comte d'Anjou après la mort de son père (1226), il acquit la Provence par son mariage avec Béatrix, fille de Raymond-Bérenger (1245) ; prend une part brillante à la septième croisade et y fut fait prisonnier avec saint Louis. Accepte la couronne de Sicile qui lui est offerte par les papes Urbain IV et Clément IV (1264). Mort en 1285.
 Fils de saint Louis et de Marguerite de Provence, Philippe III le Hardi naquit à Poissy vers 1245. Son frère aîné, Louis, étant mort en 1260, il succéda à son père (25 août 1270) et fut sacré à Reims le 15 août 1271. De son mariage avec Isabelle d'Aragon (1247-1271) lui naquirent trois fils (Louis qui mourut en 1276, Philippe IV le Bel et Charles de Valois) et de son mariage avec Marie de Brabant (1260-131) lui naquirent Louis, comte d'Evreux qui sera roi de Navarre (mort en 1319) et Marguerite qui sera reine d'Angleterre. Philippe III le Hardi mourut à Perpignan le 5 octobre 1285.
 Les cardinaux, réunis à Viterbe, se disputèrent pendant près de trois ans au sujet de son successeur ; ils étaient divisés autant par des rivalités humaines que par leurs attitudes diverses envers Charles I°, comte d'Anjou, désormais roi de Sicile (1266-1285), mais rival du Hohenstaufen par son entreprise sur le centre et le nord de l'Italie. À mesure que l'indignation populaire montait, les autorités civiles, pour hâter une décision, commencèrent par enfermer les cardinaux dans le palais pontifical, puis ils en démolirent le toit et menacèrent de les affamer. Enfin, ayant délégué le choix à une commission de six membres, les cardinaux élurent Thealdo Visconti.
 Fils d'Henri III, né en 1239, mort en 1307, il devint roi d'Angleterre en 1272.
 Né vers 1210 à Plaisance, de famille noble, il avait été pendant des années au service du cardinal Jacques de Préneste. ll contribua à l'organisation du premier concile de Lyon (1245), il accompagna le cardinal Ottobono dans sa mission en Angleterre (1265) et devint le confident des familles royales française et anglaise. Entre 1248 et 1252 il étudia à Paris, où il connut les grands théologiens Thomas d'Aquin et Bonaventure. Ayant appris son élection a Acre, il parvint à Viterbe (10 février 1272) ; il se rendit alors à Rome, où aucun de ses deux prédécesseurs n'avait mis le pied, et, après avoir été ordonné prêtre, il fut sacré à Saint-Pierre (27 mars).
 Dominicain bourguignon, formé au couvent de Rouen, est confesseur de saint Louis qu'il accompagne pendant la croisade d'Egypte (1247-1248), pendant la captivité et pendant le voyage en Palestine. Philippe III le charge, avec son confrère Guillaume de Chartres, de porter en France la nouvelle de la mort de saint Louis. Il meurt le 10 janvier 1273. On conserve de lui deux sermons.
 Geoffroy de Beaulieu étant mort avant d'avoir achevé son oeuvre, le livre est terminé par son confrère Guillaume de Chartres.
 On conserve les suppliques des évêques de la province de Reims - juin 1275 - et de la province de Sens - juillet 1275 - et celle des Dominicains de la province de France - septembre 1275.
 (Innocent IV, mort au Latran le 28 juin 1276 ; Adrien V, mort à Viterbe le 18 août 1276 ; Jean XXI, mort à Viterbe le 20 mai 1277)
 De tous ces dossiers qui firent dire au pape Boniface VIII que dans cette affaire, on aura gratté plus de parchemins que ne pourrait en porter un âne, il ne reste guère que des fragments de la dépositions de Charles d'Anjou, le texte des Enseignements que saint Louis laissa à Philippe III, le récit de Joinville et cinq pièces relatives aux miracles.
Saint Louis, la politique d'un roi
A 800 ans de sa naissance, le règne de Saint Louis vient rappeler à notre siècle, qui l'a trop souvent oublié, que l'essence de la politique est d'abord de faire régner la justice et la paix.
Publié le 3 octobre 2014 à 06:47, mis à jour le 3 octobre 2014 à 10:42
Saint Louis, pierre, vers 1305-1310, église Saint-Pierre-Saint-Paul, Mainneville. RMN-Grand Palais (Médiathèque de l'architecture et du patrimoine/Gourbeix)
On a trop répété, peut-être, qu'il avait porté jusqu'à l'héroïsme les vertus chrétiennes, malcommodes à qui a la charge, avant tout, de régner. Trop rappelé sa charité envers les pauvres, sa dévotion et sa piété. Son amour de Dieu, sa soumission à la volonté divine, son horreur du péché. Son aspiration irrépressible à la croisade. Son inépuisable générosité.
Huit cents ans après la naissance de Saint Louis, et alors que Paris célèbre ce jubilé par une splendide exposition qui le voit revenir entre ses murs, dans le palais de la Cité, les attendus de son procès de canonisation finiraient par nous le rendre inaccessible. Par faire de lui, pour nous, un saint de vitrail, et presque un étranger.
Il est bien vrai que les Mamelouks l'avaient eux-mêmes jugé «le plus ferme chrétien qu'on pût trouver». Mais tel qu'il se révèle à la lecture de Joinville, Saint Louis nous apparaît, aussi, palpitant d'énergie, de vie, d'humanité comme le modèle même du roi chevalier.
A Taillebourg, voyant ses troupes menacées par l'Anglais, il s'était jeté dans la mêlée sans aucun égard du danger.
«Jamais je ne vis un homme en armes aussi beau, écrit le sénéchal dans son récit de la bataille de Mansourah, car il se détachait, depuis la hauteur des épaules, au-dessus de tous ses gens, un heaume doré sur la tête, une épée d'Allemagne à la main.» A Taillebourg, voyant ses troupes menacées par l'Anglais, il s'était jeté dans la mêlée sans aucun égard du danger. A Damiette, il avait mené le débarquement des croisés en conduisant l'assaut avec de l'eau jusqu'aux épaules. A Mansourah, il s'était dégagé des six Sarrasins qui avaient cru pouvoir saisir son cheval par la bride en les mettant en fuite à grands coups d'épée. Il avait ensuite refusé d'abandonner son corps de bataille pendant la retraite à laquelle l'avaient contraint la maladie et la défaite, pour rejoindre ses arrières en galère en toute sûreté. Il s'était au contraire tenu à l'endroit le plus exposé, pour protéger l'arrière-garde de son armée.
Il impressionna, prisonnier, ses geôliers, en restant insensible aux menaces de torture; ses compagnons, en refusant qu'on dupe l'ennemi lors du paiement de la rançon par quoi il avait racheté sa liberté; les barons de Terre sainte, en choisissant de rester en Palestine aussi longtemps que tous les siens n'auraient pas été à leur tour libérés.
Ce roi faisait preuve d'une équanimité singulière. Joinville le montre ensevelissant lui-même les cadavres en décomposition des victimes d'une attaque musulmane. Et l'on sait que nourrissant les pauvres, il tenait à leur laver lui-même les pieds.
Ce saint ne manqua pas de fermeté. Il lui arrivait de hausser le ton, et même de s'emporter contre les évêques avides de nourritures terrestres qui prétendaient lui dicter sa politique; de se montrer intraitable avec des vassaux indisciplinés. Apercevant son frère qui, à peine libéré, avait entrepris de jouer aux dés, il avait jeté à la mer le tapis de jeu et les dés.
Saint Louis, à l'occasion, savait rire «d'un rire très clair», dit Joinville. Il lui arriva aussi plus d'une fois de pleurer: à l'annonce de la mort de son frère Robert, comme à celle du massacre des chrétiens devant Saïda.
Ce qui rend sa figure sans pareille, c'est de n'avoir jamais perdu de vue le bien commun auquel son devoir d'Etat l'avait voué.
Mais ce qui rend sa figure sans pareille, ce qui lui donne peut-être son plus haut prix dans notre histoire, c'est d'avoir su concilier son aspiration à la sainteté avec les froides nécessités de la souveraineté. De n'avoir jamais perdu de vue le bien commun auquel son devoir d'Etat l'avait voué, quand son âme était comme aspirée par d'autres réalités.
Sa royauté vient rappeler à notre siècle, qui l'a trop souvent oublié, que l'essence de la politique, sa raison d'être, c'est d'abord de faire régner la justice et la paix. Il s'y employa par la soumission des superbes, la résolution des conflits, comme par la recherche inlassable de l'équité. Ce roi qui négligeait les atours au point de se vêtir de drap bleu sombre et terne, de cottes en lainage grossier, et ne craignait pas à Vincennes de s'asseoir, à l'occasion, par terre, avait su, plus qu'un autre, faire plier ses seigneurs devant sa majesté. Il s'était imposé aux Lorrains et aux Bourguignons, et jusqu'aux barons anglais, par l'impartialité avec laquelle il avait arbitré leurs querelles; il régla au mieux de l'intérêt national l'épineux problème du retour du comté de Toulouse dans le giron français.
Sa royauté vient rappeler à notre siècle, qui l'a trop souvent oublié, que l'essence de la politique, sa raison d'être, c'est d'abord de faire régner la justice et la paix.
Loin de toute realpolitik étrangère aux notions de droiture et d'impartialité, il porta à sa perfection la vertu de force: celle qui ne sépare pas la grandeur, le prestige, de la recherche de la justice. Rétrocédant au roi d'Angleterre une partie des terres que son grand-père, Philippe Auguste, avait arrachées aux Plantagenêts, en échange de la reconnaissance de la perte de la Normandie, de l'Anjou et du Maine, de la Touraine et du Poitou, ainsi que du lien vassalique qui faisait de lui, en Guyenne, «son homme», il avait expliqué: «La terre que je lui donne, je ne la donne pas comme quelque chose dont je serais tenu envers lui et ses héritiers, mais pour mettre amour entre mes enfants et les siens, qui sont cousins germains.» C'était tout dire de la hauteur de vue d'une politique qui n'avait délaissé un froid réalisme que pour le dominer.
Il y a 800 ans, Saint Louis
Le Figaro Magazine - 25/04/2014
Comment gouverner en sauvant son âme.
Il y a exactement huit cents ans, le 25 avril 1214, le futur Louis IX voyait le jour à Poissy. Celui qui deviendrait Saint Louis reste une des plus prestigieuses figures de notre histoire. Est-ce parce qu’il était roi et qu’il a été canonisé que la République laïque se montre si timide quand il s’agit de célébrer l’anniversaire de sa naissance ? Les historiens, en tout cas, n’ont pas de ces pudeurs. On se rappelle qu’en 1996, Jacques Le Goff, qui vient de disparaître, avait publié une biographie de Saint Louis qui avait d’autant plus marqué les esprits qu’elle était l’œuvre d’un médiéviste républicain et libre-penseur. Paraît aujourd’hui, de même, un ouvrage qui s’attaque à une facette du règne de Saint Louis du strict point de vue de la science historique, et le fait en termes particulièrement savants. Il ne faut donc pas s’arrêter aux tableaux, croquis et cartes de l’ouvrage, mais le lire en sachant qu’il ouvre des perspectives nouvelles sur l’exercice du pouvoir sous la monarchie capétienne.
Normalienne et agrégée d’histoire, Marie Dejoux a soutenu en 2012 un doctorat sur les enquêtes de Saint Louis, thèse dont est issu ce livre. Que sont ces enquêtes ? En 1247, avant de partir pour la croisade, le roi fait mener par des religieux une grande enquête à travers le royaume afin de relever quelles fautes auraient pu être commises par ses agents ou ceux de ses prédécesseurs, de déterminer quelles sanctions devaient être prises contre ces mauvais serviteurs de la couronne, et d’étudier quelles réparations pourraient être décidées en faveur des personnes lésées. Cette méthode, peu ou prou, sera maintenue et pratiquée jusqu’à la fin du règne, environ dix mille doléances alors présentées nous ayant été conservées. Ce qui revêtait initialement une portée morale, visant à la purification du roi et de la royauté avant la croisade, deviendra par conséquent une méthode de gouvernement et de communication : les envoyés du roi faisaient savoir qu’il était juste et bon, ce qui légitimait d’autant plus l’obéissance qui lui était due, a fortiori dans les provinces nouvellement conquises. Ce que montre par conséquent ce livre, c’est la conjonction, au XIIIe siècle, du processus de formation de l’Etat avec l’affirmation de la foi chrétienne. Edifiant.
Les Enquêtes de Saint Louis, de Marie Dejoux, PUF, 476 p., 27 €.
Saint Louis, roi de France (+ 1270)
Grâce aux Chroniques écrites par Joinville, ami très proche du Roi, la mémoire populaire française garde de Louis IX l'image d'un souverain rendant la justice à l'ombre d'un vieux chêne proche de son château à Vincennes. Saint Louis a en effet frappé ses contemporains par son sens de la justice, sa profonde piété et sa grande charité envers les pauvres.
A vingt ans, il épouse Marguerite de Provence et leur amour sera tendre et fidèle. Quand il part pour délivrer la Terre Sainte en 1248, il s'embarque avec elle. Le roi est fait prisonnier. Une fois libéré et rentré dans son royaume, il y entreprend de grandes réformes en particulier l'interdiction du duel judiciaire.
Il fonde des hôpitaux et des monastères. Il réalise son grand projet : construire la Sainte-Chapelle comme une châsse de lumière et de vitraux destinée à recueillir des reliques, surtout la Couronne d'épines qu'il a acquise auprès de l'empereur latin de Constantinople. Il donne à sa soeur, la bienheureuse Isabelle, le terrain de Longchamp pour y fonder une abbaye de religieuses de Sainte-Claire.
Son royaume connaît une période de plein développement culturel, intellectuel et théologique. Saint Louis aime recevoir à sa table saint Bonaventure et saint Thomas d'Aquin. Avec Robert de Sorbon, il fonde la Sorbonne (1257). Il suit avec attention l'achèvement de la cathédrale Notre-Dame et surtout les grandes rosaces (1255) et les porches.
Son plus grand souci est de pacifier, de réconcilier les ennemis et d'éteindre les conflits, en particulier entre la France et l'Angleterre (1258). Mais il rêve de retourner en Terre Sainte et de convertir le sultan d'Egypte. Il n'ira pas plus loin que Carthage, l'actuelle Tunis. La maladie a raison de lui le 25 août 1270.
- "D'après un livre trouvé par un ami rémois, Saint Louis serait patron des coiffeurs car il avait demandé à chacun de ses ministres de donner une mêche de leurs cheveux pour confectionner une perruque pour sa mère Blanche de Castille." message d'un internaute.
- "Il est le patron des ouvriers du bâtiment, des boutonniers, brodeurs et merciers, des distillateurs, des coiffeurs et barbiers, des académies françaises et des académies des sciences. On l’invoque aussi contre l’acidification de la bière."
Louis IX, un roi empreint de sainteté
Blanche de Castille, sa mère, l’éleva tout petit sur le chemin de la sainteté. Un chemin que Louis IX a continué de suivre lorsqu’il est devenu roi de France, faisant de lui un exemple à travers l’Europe.
Saint Louis régna pendant 43 ans. De la branche capétienne, il est le deuxième fils de Louis VIII et de Blanche de Castille. Louis IX doit beaucoup à sa mère. C’est elle qui forge le caractère du jeune Saint Louis en lui donnant une éducation très stricte et en devenant son tuteur spirituel, se montrant intraitable en ce qui concerne les préceptes de l’Eglise. Princesse espagnole, nièce de Richard Coeur de Lion et petite fille d’Aliénor d’Aquitaine, Blanche de Castille est une femme au tempérament bien trempée et qui a d’immense ambition pour son fils : qu’il devienne un grand roi de France et pourquoi pas un Saint. C’est sa piété qu’elle va transmettre à Louis, elle est d’une grande exigence avec son fils comme le rapporte le biographe de Saint Louis, Jean de Joinville, lorsqu’elle s’adresse à lui : « Mon fils, je vous aime énormément mais je préférerais vous voir mort à mes pieds plutôt que de vous voir commettre un seul péché mortel« .
Le jeune Louis est baptisé juste après sa naissance dans la collégiale de Poissy, où le baptistère est encore visible. Au Moyen Âge, la mortalité infantile est telle que le baptême est la première urgence. Les historiens ne connaissent que très peu de choses des premières années de Louis IX car ce n’est pas l’aîné de la fratrie, il devient l’héritier de la couronne à 4 ans, à la mort de Philippe, son frère aîné. Comme tout futur chevalier, il apprend le maniement des armes mais il est également éduqué par un précepteur, car on considère que l’éducation est primordiale si l’on veut éviter cette célèbre maxime de l’époque « un roi illettré n’est qu’un âne couronné « .
Autre influence très importante, celle de son grand-père Philippe Auguste. Toujours monarque pendant les jeunes années de Louis. Connu pour avoir multiplié, par quatre, la surface du Royaume de France, lui proférant sa puissance de l’époque. Il va apprendre à Louis IX, comment gouverner un royaume et y consacrer les deux dernières années de sa vie. Puis c’est au tour de Louis VIII, père de Saint Louis, de monter sur le trône, pour 3 ans. Pour les historiens, c’était aussi un modèle d’homme pour le futur saint.
Louis VIII le Lion, son père, décède lorsqu’il a 12 ans en revenant de croisade contre les Albigeois. Il doit alors monter sur le trône mais il est bien trop jeune pour gouverner seul. C’est Blanche de Castille qui va réussir à convaincre les conseillers de son défunt mari, pour qu’elle devienne gardienne du Royaume de France jusqu’à ce que Saint Louis soit en âge de le devenir à son tour. Une fois la régente désignée, il faut aller très vite parce que les barons sont prêts à fomenter un coup d’état pour l’écarter. Louis IX est alors sacré le 29 novembre 1226 en la cathédrale de Reims.
« Si je dépense beaucoup d’argent quelquefois, j’aime mieux le faire en aumônes faites pour
l’amour de Dieu que pour frivolités et choses mondaines.
Dieu m’a tout donné ce que j’ai. Ce que je dépense ainsi est bien dépensé. »
L’abbaye de Royaumont, une promesse à son père
Dans son testament, le père de Saint Louis souhaite que l’on vende sa couronne et ses bijoux pour construire un monastère dédié à la Vierge Marie. Mais Blanche de Castille préfère confier la construction de l’abbaye à des moines cisterciens. Il a quinze ans lors de la construction de l’abbaye de Royaumont, il s’investit physiquement sur le chantier allant jusqu’à porter des pierres et harcelant ses petits frères pour qu’ils travaillent durement, en silence et sans repos. Pendant la construction, Louis IX prend ses repas comme tout le monde, au milieu des frères cisterciens allant jusqu’à servir les moines et les pauvres à table. La légende raconte que le roi aurait voulu laver les pieds des moines de l’abbaye dans le cloitre. C’est l’abbé qui l’en empêcha, jugeant indigne d’un roi de laver les pieds. Saint Louis prie jusqu’à huit heures par jour, mettant le chant au cœur de sa pratique religieuse. C’est également le premier à obtenir d’un pape un confesseur particulier. D’ailleurs après chaque confession, il se flagelle. Ses traces sont encore visibles sur la sainte chemise exposée à la cathédrale de Notre Dame de Paris, s’inspirant de la Passion du Christ
Mais la radicalité de sa foi sera plus visible en grandissant. Il donne aux pauvres, se dépouille de ses richesses : « Si je dépense beaucoup d’argent quelquefois, j’aime mieux le faire en aumônes faites pour l’amour de Dieu que pour frivolités et choses mondaines. Dieu m’a tout donné ce que j’ai. Ce que je dépense ainsi est bien dépensé. » Mais ses grands yeux bleus et sa tignasse blonde sont parfois enclins à de grandes colères dès que l’on bafoue la parole de Dieu et sa dureté est sans égal contre les blasphémateurs.
Il épouse Marguerite de Provence le 27 mai 1234. Là encore, la légende dit que la toute jeune reine aurait raconté à Guillaume de Saint-Pathus, son confesseur et confident que le roi aurait passé ses trois premières nuits de jeune marié à prier, respectant ainsi les trois « nuits de Tobie » recommandées par l’Église. Ils formeront tous les deux, un des couples les plus puissants d’Europe. Plus tard, Saint Louis se démarque par son grand sens de la justice et son attachement à la droiture, se laissant guider par le message du Christ. En 1238, il rachètera la sainte couronne d’épine à des vénitiens, une couronne visible tous les vendredis à la Cathédrale de Notre Dame. Il acquiert d’autres reliques et construira la Sainte Chapelle pour abriter tous ces trésors.
Célèbre pour rendre la justice sous un chêne, il va réformer le système judiciaire, atténuant les excès de la féodalité au profit de la notion de bien commun et s’inspire des valeurs du christianisme. Le Royaume de France se transforme en monarchie moderne puisque désormais le roi est chef d’état et entretient des rapports personnels avec ses sujets. Le roi Louis apaise aussi les tensions avec Henri III mettant fin à de vieux conflits entre Capétiens et Plantagenêt. Des princes et des Rois d’Europe le consultent comme arbitre dans les conflits. Le Royaume de France est prospère et en paix. Temps d’épanouissement intellectuel et culturel, c’est aussi le temps des cathédrales. Les trois quarts des trésors gothiques d’aujourd’hui sont arrivés à maturité au temps de Saint Louis : Notre Dame de Paris, Saint-Denis, Reims, le lancement de la cathédrale d’Amiens, l’achèvement de celle de Chartres.
Revenu malade, après une campagne militaire, il est miraculeusement guéri et veut partir en croisade. La dysenterie, le typhus et le scorbut auront raison de son armée. La 8 ème croisade sera également un échec. Saint Louis mourra à Tunis le 25 août 1270. Sa fidélité à la chrétienté, sa vie exemplaire, les efforts qu’il déploya pour arracher aux sarrasins le tombeau du Christ lui valurent d’être canonisé en 1297. Louis IX a été canonisé seulement 30 ans après sa mort, laissant à ses successeurs un cadeau inestimable : le prestige d’une ascendance sacrée qui va rejaillir pendant cinq siècles sur toute la monarchie française.
Prière de Saint Louis
Dieu Tout-Puissant et éternel,
Qui avez établi l'empire des Francs pour être dans le monde
L'instrument de vos divines volontés,
Le glaive et le bouclier de votre sainte Eglise,
Nous vous en prions, prévenez toujours et partout de votre céleste lumière,
Les fils suppliants des Francs,
Afin qu'ils voient ce qu'il faut faire pour réaliser votre règne en ce monde,
Et que pour accomplir ce qu'ils ont vu,
Ils soient remplis de charité, de force et de persévérance,
Par Jésus-Christ Notre-Seigneur.
Oraison tirée d'un missel Carolingien,
Prière favorite du Père de Foucauld,
Prière officielle des scouts de France.
Saint Louis, le roi chrétien
Par Lecomte Bernard,publié le 11/01/1996 à 00:00
Le médiéviste Jacques Le Goff publie une biographie de Louis IX. Il nous dit ici pourquoi il a préféré le fils de Blanche de Castille à tout autre souverain.
- L'EXPRESS: Pourquoi avoir choisi de passer dix années de votre vie avec Saint Louis?
JACQUES LE GOFF: D'abord, j'ai eu envie d'écrire une biographie. Ensuite, j'ai choisi un personnage qu'il soit possible d'approcher véritablement, au-delà de son image mythique ou des suppositions historiques.
- Pourquoi celui-là, pourquoi pas Clovis?
Sur Clovis, on ne sait rien: c'eût été un autre exercice. Avant le xive siècle, en Occident, il n'y a que trois personnages sur lesquels on puisse écrire une vraie biographie: l'empereur Frédéric II et saint François d'Assise, qui ont suscité plusieurs excellents livres; et Saint Louis, à propos duquel, m'a-t-il semblé, il restait encore à faire - ses deux meilleurs biographes, l'Américain William Jordan et le Français Jean Richard, ayant choisi de raconter plutôt l'homme de la croisade. Or Saint Louis, par sa personne, son oeuvre, son témoignage, déborde très largement ce thème. Ajoutez que le personnage est fascinant et qu'il a joué un rôle immense: parler de lui, c'est évoquer toute la Chrétienté de l'époque. Enfin, nous disposons sur lui de sources exceptionnelles: d'abord, comme il fut canonisé, on a écrit beaucoup de choses, hagiographiques mais intéressantes, sur sa vie; et, surtout, il y a l'extraordinaire témoignage de Joinville, son ami et chroniqueur, qui l'a accompagné partout, y compris en Terre sainte. La biographie de Joinville est d'ailleurs la première à être écrite par un laïque, et en langue française. Pour la première fois, grâce à lui, nous entendons un roi parler en français!
- Louis IX a été à la fois roi et saint. Est-il possible de concilier à ce point politique et religion?
Il y a eu d'autres rois saints avant lui: dans le haut Moyen Age, lors de l'installation des royaumes barbares, comme le Burgonde Sigismond; puis autour de l'an mille, lors de la conversion de peuples entiers au christianisme, comme le Hongrois Etienne ou le Norvégien Olav. Mais Saint Louis est un roi saint d'un type nouveau, car c'est sa conduite personnelle, d'abord, qui lui vaut d'être saint. Il sera d'ailleurs le dernier du genre.
- L'historien William Jordan l'a décrit déchiré entre son devoir royal et sa dévotion...
Je soulignerais plutôt, quant à moi, la cohérence entre son aspiration à la sainteté et sa conduite en politique, ce qui n'occulte nullement difficultés et contradictions. Un exemple? Saint Louis, à table, a un statut spécial et un cérémonial royal à respecter, mais, très attaché à la tradition monastique, il pratique aussi jeûne et abstinence, il ne boit pas de vin pur, il invite des pauvres, etc. Cela est également vrai de son comportement politique.
- Evoquons d'abord le roi Louis IX. Comment le situer?
A mi-chemin entre le règne de son grand-père Philippe Auguste et celui de son propre petit-fils Philippe le Bel, Saint Louis incarne le passage de la monarchie féodale à la monarchie moderne: celle-ci ne repose plus sur les rapports personnels du roi avec ses vassaux, mais sur ceux du roi en tant que chef de l'Etat (on dit alors le royaume ou la Couronne) avec ses «sujets». Cette construction de l'Etat moderne se fait selon des formes transitoires, progressivement, évitant tout traumatisme institutionnel...
- Cela tient peut-être aussi à la longueur de son règne, commencé à l'âge de 12 ans?
Non. Robert le Pieux, Philippe Ier ou Philippe Auguste ont fait preuve d'une même longévité. Qui dira à quel point le hasard biologique - les morts prématurées, le sexe des descendants - a déterminé le destin de la France! Et si le père de Saint Louis n'était pas mort à 39 ans? Et si son frère aîné avait vécu? N'oublions pas que Louis IX fut d'abord un roi enfant. Or, même si l'on observe actuellement une tendance à réhabiliter l'enfant au Moyen Age, celui-ci, en réalité, est quantité négligeable au xiiie: un roi mineur, c'est un handicap énorme. On cite à l'envi l'Ecclésiaste: «Malheur à la ville dont le prince est un enfant!» Un roi enfant est incapable de se défendre dans les affaires terrestres et d'être un intermédiaire valable pour ses barons auprès de Dieu...
- Heureusement, il y a Blanche de Castille...
Certes. Et le caractère exceptionnel des relations du roi et de sa mère, sur le plan tant personnel que politique. Mère possessive, «régente» avant la lettre, cette étrangère - elle est Espagnole - se révèle un très grand politique. Jusqu'au départ de Louis pour la Terre sainte, en 1248, on peut parler d'une double monarchie, exercée en réelle affection et en remarquable intelligence.
- Louis IX modernise donc l'Etat?
Il consolide la monarchie: il double notamment les baillis et les sénéchaux - les préfets de l'époque - d' «enquêteurs» désignés pour relever les abus de l'administration royale, pour faire régner la justice et la paix. Saint Louis veut faire du roi le garant de la justice: tous les sujets du royaume (sauf dans les affaires religieuses, d'ailleurs étroitement contrôlées) peuvent en appeler désormais à la justice royale. Voilà le fondement des futures cours d'appel. A partir de 1254, cette section de la cour qui administre la justice en son nom va prendre le nom de Parlement...
- Révolutionnaire, Saint Louis?
On ne peut pas dire cela. Le roi est moderne, certes, mais l'homme reste enraciné dans la tradition. Il est le premier roi de France qui ait connu son grand-père, cela compte! Sa dévotion, sa foi procèdent plutôt du XIIe siècle.
Comment un roi peut-il accéder à la sainteté en commençant par lutter contre les cathares, en exécutant les préceptes de l'Inquisition et en réprimant les juifs?
Attention à ne pas verser dans l'anachronisme! Faisons un effort de compréhension de l'époque, et de mise en perspective. Les cathares? C'est davantage son père, Louis VIII, qui a lutté contre les albigeois. Louis IX a poursuivi son action, mais il ne s'est pas beaucoup intéressé au midi de la France, sur lequel régnera son frère Alphonse de Poitiers. Sa responsabilité n'est pas nulle, mais il faut donc la relativiser. L'Inquisition? D'abord, un roi si pieux ne pouvait pas aimer les hérétiques, coupables de mettre en péril aussi bien l'orthodoxie de la foi que la cohésion du royaume. Ensuite, dans la tradition chrétienne du xiiie, le roi est le bras séculier de l'Eglise dans son royaume: si celle-ci ordonne au souverain d'exécuter les sentences de ses tribunaux, celui-ci doit obéir.
- Et ses mesures antisémites?
Prenons d'abord garde aux mots: il ne s'agit pas d'antisémitisme (celui-ci n'apparaîtra qu'au xixe), mais d'un antijudaïsme, de nature essentiellement religieuse. Louis IX, profondément chrétien, n'aime pas ces juifs qui ont refusé de reconnaître le Christ. Il condamne le Talmud parce que celui-ci, à ses yeux, dit des horreurs sur Jésus et présente la Vierge comme une gourgandine! Le roi, par ailleurs, n'aime pas ces gens qui constituent un corps étranger à l'intérieur du royaume qu'il cherche à unifier. Il est vrai que Saint Louis a été déconcerté par ce problème. «Les chrétiens ont un chef, se dit-il, c'est l'évêque. Les juifs n'ont personne, je dois donc être l'évêque des juifs: les punir quand ils se comportent mal, mais aussi les protéger quand ils sont injustement attaqués...» Il reste que Saint Louis a bien été un persécuteur des juifs.
- Au point de leur imposer, en 1269, le port de la rouelle?
C'est l'Eglise qui a pris cette décision au quatrième concile du Latran, en 1215. Saint Louis a longtemps refusé de l'appliquer, notamment par souci d'intégration des juifs à la communauté nationale. Mais il a cédé, à la fin de son règne, à la pression des juifs convertis de son entourage, dont le rôle fut extrêmement néfaste.
- Ce saint roi fut, par ailleurs, celui de la construction des plus belles cathédrales: Reims, Chartres, Notre-Dame...
Pas du tout! Il n'y est pour rien. Mis à part la Sainte-Chapelle, qui n'en est pas une, les cathédrales sont uniquement l'oeuvre de l'Eglise, et non de la monarchie.
Il fut bien, en revanche, l'instigateur des dernières croisades!
Certes. Il est même remarquable que Saint Louis se soit croisé à une époque où cela se faisait de moins en moins. Les croisades sont liées à la féodalité, l'échec de celles-là annonçant déjà la fin de celle-ci. Quand il se croise, Saint Louis scandalise, il s'oppose à sa propre mère - qui mourra avant son retour. Mais, tout croisé archaïque qu'il soit, il tente de changer l'esprit de la croisade, mêlant objectifs militaires et souci de conversion religieuse. François d'Assise ne l'a pas précédé en vain en Terre sainte! Un exemple: parti avec tous les préjugés antimusulmans de l'époque, le roi de France se rend compte que ces gens-là sont des religieux, il est frappé par leur piété, il est sidéré par la bibliothèque religieuse que l'émir emporte avec lui sous sa tente, même à la guerre. Enfin, l'individu Saint Louis allait aussi chercher en Terre sainte, plus ou moins, le martyre.
- Est-ce pour cela que l'Eglise a canonisé Louis IX en 1297, soit vingt-sept ans après sa mort?
Il y a une raison politique: le nouveau pape Boniface VIII veut alors se ménager de bonnes relations avec le roi de France. Mais il y a une raison plus profonde et plus novatrice: Saint Louis fut d'abord un roi chrétien idéal; or, dans son cas, les miracles attachés à sa personne comptèrent moins que les vertus de l'individu lui-même.
- Justement, l'individu, dites-vous, est une invention de son époque...
Au Moyen Age, ce qui compte, ce sont les groupes, les communautés: ordres religieux, confréries, lignages, dynasties, communautés de village, etc. A partir de la fin du xiie, l'individu apparaît, notamment dans les ordres religieux: saint Bernard est le premier à émerger de son ordre, comme saint François d'Assise se distinguera au xiiie siècle. Saint Louis a intéressé comme homme. Son caractère, son humilité s'y prêtaient. Son sens du vedettariat, aussi: le chêne de Vincennes, sous lequel il rendait la justice, quelle formidable mise en scène! De nos jours, ce roi-là aurait crevé l'écran!
Jacques Le Goff, 72 ans, professeur à l'Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), est l'un des plus grands médiévistes européens. On lui doit de nombreux ouvrages, dont Pour un autre Moyen Age, L'Imaginaire médiéval, La Naissance du purgatoire, etc. Outre son monumental Saint Louis, il publie ce mois-ci Une vie pour l'Histoire (entretiens avec Marc Heurgon, La Découverte), préfacé par François Furet.
Vie et mirales de Saint Louis : Bataille de Mansurah, BnF, Ms.Fr. 5716
- Louis Capet
- Most Christian King
Son of King Louis VIII and Blanche of Castile. King of France and Count of Artois at age eleven; his mother ruled as regent until he reached 22, and then he reigned for 44 years. Louis made numerous judicial and legislative reforms, promoted Christianity in France, established religious foundations, aided mendicant orders, propagated synodal decrees of the Church, built leper hospitals, and collected relics. Married Marguerite of Provence at age 19, and was the father of eleven children. Supported Pope Innocent IV in war against Emperor Frederick II of Germany. Trinitarian tertiary. Led two Crusades and died on one.
- 25 August 1270 at Tunis (in modern Tunisia) of natural causes
- relics in the Basilica of Saint Denis, Paris, France
- relics destroyed in 1793 during the French Revolution
- famous warrior
- against the death of children
- button makers
- construction workers
- difficult marriages
- French monarchs
- hair stylists
- needle workers
- parents of large families
- sick people
- stone masons
- trimming makers
- Québec, Québec, archdiocese of
- Saint Louis, Missouri, archdiocese of
- Versailles, France, diocese of
- Blois, France
- Carthage, Tunisia
- La Rochelle, France
- New Orleans, Louisiana
- Oran, Algeria
- Saint-Louis, Haut-Rhin, France
- Saint Louis, Missouri, city of
- Versailles, France
- Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Louis
In order to avoid discord, never contradict anyone except in case of sin or some danger to a neighbor; and when necessary to contradict others, do it with tact and not with temper. Saint Louis
In prosperity, give thanks to God with humility and fear lest by pride you abuse God’s benefits and so offend him. Saint Louis IX
My dearest son, my first instruction is that you should love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your strength. Without this there is no salvation. Keep yourself, my son, from everything that you know displeases God, that is to say, from every mortal sin. You should permit yourself to be tormented by every kind of martyrdom before you would allow yourself to commit a mortal sin. If the Lord has permitted you to have some trial, bear it willingly and with gratitude, considering that it has happened for your good and that perhaps you well deserved it. If the Lord bestows upon you any kind of prosperity, thank him humbly and see that you become no worse for it, either though vain pride or anything else, because you ought not to oppose God or offend him in the matter of his gifts. Be kindhearted to the poor, the unfortunate and the afflicted. Give them as much help and consolation as you can. Thank God for all the benefits he has bestowed upon you, that you may be worthy to receive greater. Always side with the poor rather than with the rich, until you are certain of the truth. Be devout and obedient to our mother the Church of Rome and the Supreme Pontiff as your spiritual father. In conclusion, dearest son, I give you every blessing that a loving father can give a sons. May the three Persons of the Holy Trinity and all the saints protect you from every evil. And may the Lord give you the grace to do his will so that he may be served and honored through you, that in the next life we may together come to see him, love him and praise him unceasingly. Amen. – from a spiritual testament by King Saint Louis IX to his son
- “Saint Louis IX“. CatholicSaints.Info. 24 March 2020. Web. 25 August 2020. <https://catholicsaints.info/saint-louis-ix/>
SOURCE : https://catholicsaints.info/saint-louis-ix/
Vie et mirales de Saint Louis : Mort de Saint Louis, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Français 5716, fol. 277
Saint Louis, sometime the noble king of France, had to his father a king right christian, named Louis. This Louis father battled and fought against the heretics and Albigenses and of the country of Toulouse, and extirpated their heresy, and as he returned into France he passed unto our Lord. Then the child of holy childhood fatherless, abode and dwelled under the keeping of the queen Blanche his mother, sometime daughter to the king of Castile, and as she that loved him tenderly betook him for to be learned and taught under the cure and governance of a special master in conditions and in letters, and he also, as the young Solomon child, wise and disposed to have a good soul, profited right greatly in all things, more than any child of his age. Of which good life and childhood his debonair mother enjoying herself, said ofttimes to him in this manner: Right dear son, rather I would see the death coming on thee than to see thee fall into a deadly sin against thy creator. The which word the devout child took and shut it so within his courage, that, by the grace of God which defended and kept him, it is not found that ever he felt any atouchment, tache or spot of mortal crime. In the end, by the purveyance of his mother, and of the barons of the land, to the end that so noble a realm should not fail of succession royal, the holy man took a wife, of the which he received and gat on her fair children, which by sovereign cure he made to be nourished, endoctrined, and taught to the love of God and despite of the world, and to know themselves by holy admonishing and ensamples. And when he might tend secretly to them, visiting them and requiring of their profit as the ancient Tobias, gave to them admonishing of salute, teaching them over all things to dread God and to keep and abstain them assiduously from all sin. Garlands made of roses and of other flowers he forbade and defended them to wear on the Friday, for the crown of thorns that was on such a day put on the head of our Lord. And because that he wist well and knew that chastity in delices, pity in riches, and humility in honour often perish, he took and gave his courage to sobriety and good diet, to humility and misericorde, keeping himself right curiously from the pricking sautes and watch of the world, the flesh and the devil, and chastised his body and brought it to servitude by the ensample of the apostles. He forced himself to serve his spirit by diverse castigation or chastising, he used the hair many times next his flesh, and when he left it for cause of over feebleness of his body, at the instance of his own confessor, he ordained the said confessor to give to the poor folk, as for recompensation of every day that he failed of it, forty shillings. He fasted always the Friday, and namely in time of lent and advent he abstained him in those days from all manner of fish and from fruits, and continually travailed and pained his body by watchings, orisons, and other secret abstinences and disciplines.
Humility, beauty of all virtues, replenished so strong in him, that the more better he waxed, so, as David, the more he showed himself meek and humble, and more foul he reputed him before God. For he was accustomed on every Saturday to wash with his own hands, in a secret place, the feet of some poor folk, and after dried them with a fair towel, and kissed much humbly and semblably their hands, distributing or dealing to every one of them a certain sum of silver, also to seven score poor men which daily came to his court, he administered meat and drink with his own hands, and were fed abundantly on the vigils solemn. And on some certain days in the year to two hundred poor, before that he ate or drank, he with his own hands administered and cerved them both of meat and drink. He ever had, both at his dinner and supper, three ancient poor, which ate nigh to him, to whom he charitably sent of such meats as were brought before him, and sometimes the dishes and meats that the poor of our Lord had touched with their hands, and special the sops of which he fain ate, made their remnant or relief to be brought before him, to the end that he should eat it; and yet again to honour and worship the name of our Lord on the poor folk, he was not ashamed to eat their relief. Also he would not use scarlet, ne gowns of rich cloth, ne also furring of over great price and cost, and namely sith he came from the parts of beyond sea the first time again, he coveted by great desire the growing up of the faith. Wherefore he, as very lover of the faith and covetous for to enhance it, as he yet that of late convalesced and issued out of a grievous sickness, Iying at Pontoise, took the cross with great devotion from the hands of the bishop of Paris, led with him three of his brethren with the greatest lords and barons in his realm, and many a knight and other people with him, appliked on his way, and with right great host arrived into Egypt, the which, setting foot on ground, occupied and took by force of men of arms that same city renowned which is called Damietta, and all the region about. Then after, the christian host, esprised and beat with a much great and wonderful sickness by the just judgment of God, many christian men died there, insomuch that of the number of two and thirty thousand fighting men, ne was there left on live but six thousand men. And God, father of misericorde, willing himself showed wonderful and marvellous on his saint, gave and betook the same king, champion, or defensor of the faith, into the hands of the evil paymms, to the end that he should appear more marvellous. And as the debonair king might have escaped by the next ship nigh thence, always he yielded himself with his good gree, to the end that he might deliver his people through the encheson of him.
He was put to great ransom, which paid, he would yet abide prisoner for the payment or ransom of other his lords and barons, and then after, he put and left so as Joseph out of the chartre or prison of Egypt, not as fleeing or dreadful returned anon unto the proper or own parts, but first abode continually by the space of five years in Syria, where he converted many paynims to the faith, and he being there, the christians out of the paynim hands ditched and fortified many towns and castles with strong walls. He found then about Sidon many dead bodies of christian men, of which many one was dismembered and eaten with beasts and stank over much; the which he gathered and assembled with his own hands, with the aid and help of his meiny, which unnethe might endure ne sufler the stench of them, and humbly and devoutly betook them to the burying of holy church.
And after this, understanding the sickness of the queen his mother, by the cousel of his barons he assented to return into France. And as he was upon the sea, on the third night after, nigh the rising of Aurora, the ship where the king was in, hurted and smote twice against the rock so strongly that the mariners and other there weened that the ship should have broken and been plunged in the sea. And then the priests, clerks, and the other folk there, abashed with so great hurting of the said ship, found the holy king devoutly praying before the body of our Lord, wherefore they firmly believed that God Almighty, by the merits and prayers of this holy king, had saved them from the foresaid peril of death. Then the said saint, so returned into France, was received of all there with great joy, and the more ardently or burningly profiting from virtue into virtue, became to all manner perfection of life. And howbeit that miseration and pity was growing in him from his youth, nevertheless he showed then more evidently his charitable deeds on the poor folk, succouring them profitably, so as he might at their need.
He began then to build and found hospitals or houses for poor people to lie in, edified minsters of religion, and gave yearly to other poor sufferers in divers places in the realm much money, pecunies or silver. He founded many convents of the order of friars preachers, and to many other poor religious builded churches, cloisters, dortoirs, and other edifices convenable, gave for God largely alms to the blind, beguines, daughters of God, and releved the minster of many a poor nunnery. He enriched many a church founded by him with great revenues and rente, in which he many times exercised the office of charity and of marvellous humility, humbly and devoutly serving the poor The with his own hands by great misericorde.
When he came in Paris, or in other cities, he visited the hospitals and other small houses where poor people lay in, and without abomination of deformity ne of ordure or filth of some patient or sick, administered, many times kneeling, giving meat to the poor with his own hands. In the abbey of Royalmont, which he founded and endowed with great revenue and rents, is showed notorily that such and semblable alms he made there many times.
And yet greater marvel, a monk of the said abbey, a leper, an abominable, and as then deprived both of nose and eyes by corruption of the said sickness, the blessed Saint Louis administered, humbly putting, kneeling, with his own hands both meat and drink within the mouth of the said leper without any abomination. The abbot there present which unnethe might see that, wept and sighed piteously. And howbeit that to all indigent he opened the bosom of misericorde, nevertheless to them that watched in divine services, and that prayed for souls, he made greater alms and ofter. And by the great alms that he dealt every year to the convents in Paris, both of the friars predicators and minors, said sometime to his familiars: O God, how this alms is well set or bestowed on so much and so great number of friars affluing and coming to Paris out from all lands for to learn the divine scriptures, and to the end they might show and utter them through all the world to the cure and salvation of souls.
Other alms that he did through the year, no tongue should suffice for to rehearse it. He worshipped the holy relics with much great devotion, and assiduously grew the cultiving of God and the honour of the saints. He builded in Paris a fair chapel within the palace royal, in which he purposed and put right diligently the holy crown of thorns of our Lord, with a great part of the holy cross. Also the iron or head of the spear wherewith the side of our Lord was opened, with many other relics which he received of the emperor of Constantinople. He would speak to nobody while that he was at church hearing the divine service, without it were for great need or great utility of the commonweal, and then with short and substantious words uttered that he would say, to the end that his devotion should not be letted. He might not hear, ne forbear the reproaches or blasphemies done to the christian faith, but he, enamoured of the love of God, as Phineas, punished them right grievously.
Whereof it befell that a citizen of Paris who loathly swearing had blasphemed Jesus Christ, against the act or statute royal, which Saint Louis by the counsel of the prelates and princes had ordained and made for the swearers and blasphemers, at the commandment of the said saint he was marked or tokened, at the lips of him with a hot and burning iron, in sign of punition of his sin, and terror and dreadfulness to all others. And how for cause of that, he hearing some say and cast in on him many cursings, said: I would fain sustain on my lips such laidure or shame as long as I shall live, so that all the evil vice of swearing were left and cast out from all our realm.
He had the signacle or figure of the holy cross in so great reverence that he eschewed to tread on it, and required of many religious that, within their churchyard and tombs they ne should from thence forthon portray ne depict the form or figure of the cross and that the crosses so portrayed and figured, they should make to be planed. O how great reverence he had! He also went every year on the good Friday to the chapel within the palace royal for to worship there the holy cross, kneeling, both feet and head bare.
Of diligent discussing of causes and matters he rendered or yielded just judgment. Of very dilection or love, he doubting that the strife, actions and pleadings of the poor should come only to the presence and knowledge of his councillors, he went and presided among them at the least twice in a week for to hear the plaints which lightly he made to be discussed and soon after justly urged. He stablished also, for to have away the burning covetise of the usurers, that no justicer should compel ne constrain them that were bounden to the Jews or to other public usurers by letters, ne by none other manner, to pay or yield to them their usury or growing.
In the end, after the course or running of many years, understanding that by true report knowing the desolation and perplexity and perils of the holy land, as another Maccabeus with his sons, not willing that the christian folk and holy persons should sustain ne bear any longer evil or pain, inspired with the Holy Ghost, he passed and sailed again over the high sea unto the Holy Land accompanied with the nobles and much commonalty of his realm; and when the ships were ready for to sail, Saint Louis, beholding his three sons and specially dressing his words towards the eldest, said: Son, consider thou must, how as now I am farforth in age, and that once I have passed over the sea, also how that the Queen thy mother is of great age, proceeding nigh her last days, how now, blessed be God, we possess peaceably our realm, without any war, in delices, riches and honours, as much as pleaseth to us or appertaineth, look then that for the love of Jesu Christ and his church I ne spare mine old age, and have no pity of thy discomforted and woeful mother, but I leave both delices and honours, and expose mine own self to peril for Jesu Christ. Which things I will thou hear and know, to the end that when thou comest to the succession of the realm thou do so. The ships then ready, sailed on the sea so long that the host arrived at the haven of Carthage in Africa, where by force of arms the christian men took the castle, and enjoyed the land thereabout. And betwixt Tunis and Carthage they dressed their tents for to dwell there a little time. And in this meanwhile Saint Louis after so many virtuous works, after so many pains and labours which he had suffered for the faith of Jesu Christ, God, that would benewrely consume his life for to yield to him fruit glorious for his labours and benefits, sent to him an axes continual, and then the holy enseignments or teachings, which before he had written in French, exposed diligently to Philip his eldest son and commanded that soon they should be accomplished. And then, he being thought of sight and hearing whole, saying his seven psalms and calling on all the saints devoutly, took all the sacraments of the church, and at the last, he coming to the last hour, stretching his arms in manner of a cross, and proffering the last words: I commend my soul into thine hands, died and passed unto our Lord, the year twelve hundred and seventy. The corpse of the glorious Saint Louis was transporte unto the sepulchre of his fathers and predecessors at Saint Denis in France, there to be buried. In which place, also in divers others, this glorious saint resplendisseth of many miracles.
On that day that Saint Louis was buried, a woman of the diocese of Sens recovered her sight, which she had lost and saw nothing, by the merits and prayers of the said debonair and meedful king. Not long after, a young child of Burgundy both dumb and deaf of kind, coming with others to the sepulchre or grave of the saint, beseeching him of help, kneeling as he saw that the others did, and after a little while that he thus kneeled were his ears opened and heard, and his tongue redressed and spake well. In the same year a woman blind was led to the said sepulchre, and by the merits of the saint recovered her sight. Also that same year two men and five women, beseeching Saint Louis of help, recovered the use of going, which they had lost by divers sickness and languors.
In the year that Saint Louis was put or written in the catalogue of the holy confessors, many miracles worthy to be prised, befell in divers parts of the world at the invocation of him, by his merits and by his prayers. Another time at Evreux a child fell under the wheel of a water-mill. Great multitude of people came thither, and supposing to have kept him from drowning, invoked God, our Lady and his saints to help the said child, but our Lord willing his saint to be enhanced among so great multitude of people, was there heard a voice saying that the said child, named John, should be vowed unto Saint Louis. He then, taken out of the water, was by his mother borne to the grave of the saint, and after her prayer done to Saint Louis, her son began to sigh and was raised on life. It befell the same time in the diocese of Beauvais that ten men were broken within a quarry there, as they did fetch out great stones for to build withal, for on them fell a great quantity of earth insomuch that they were covered with it. A clerk then that passed there foreby, heard their sighing, and having pity on them that were nigh dead, kneeled down to the earth, and remembering the new canonisation of the blessed Saint Louis, sore weeping, made for the foresaid men his prayer to him, and after his prayer was done he saw folk coming that way. He called them, and forthwith they delved with such staves as they had, so much that by the merits of the saint to whom they trusted much, they had out of the quarry the foresaid ten men, the which were found unhurt, and as whole as ever they were before, howbeit that in certain they were dead.
It happed on another time that a great wall fell on a child which was reputed as dead by all the folk, his mother vowed him to the said saint, made the stones that covered him to be had away, and found her child laughing, and whole of all his members. A woman aggrieved with a sickness which men call the fire of Saint Anthony came to Poissy, thereas Saint Louis was born, and before the font wherein the said saint was baptized, she kneeled, and sore weeping made her prayer there to God and to the saint, by the merits of whom her body was clean delivered from the foresaid sickness. Item two days after this, a worshipful man which of long time had been oppressed and beaten with sickness of feet, that he could not go ne stand without he had two crutches or staves under his arms, came unto the said font, made there his prayer, left his staves there, and home he returned as whole as ever he was. And yet sithe were there, and are as now done, many other miracles through the prayers and merits of Saint Louis to the glory and praising of our redeemer.
Saint Louis IX
King of France, son of Louis VIII and Blanche of Castile, born at Poissy, 25 April, 1215; died near Tunis, 25 August, 1270.
He was eleven years of age when the death of Louis VIII made him king, and nineteen when he marriedMarguerite of Provence by whom he had eleven children. The regency of Blanche of Castile (1226-1234) was marked by the victorious struggle of the Crown against Raymond VII in Languedoc, against Pierre Mauclerc inBrittany, against Philip Hurepel in the Ile de France, and by indecisive combats against Henry III of England. In this period of disturbances the queen was powerfully supported by the legate Frangipani. Accredited toLouis VIII by Honorius III as early as 1225, Frangipani won over to the French cause the sympathies ofGregory IX, who was inclined to listen to Henry III, and through his intervention it was decreed that all thechapters of the dioceses should pay to Blanche of Castile tithes for the southern crusade. It was the legatewho received the submission of Raymond VII, Count of Languedoc, at Paris, in front of Notre-Dame, and this submission put an end to the Albigensian war and prepared the union of the southern provinces to France by the Treaty of Paris (April 1229). The influence of Blanche de Castile over the government extended far beyondSt. Louis's minority. Even later, in public business and when ambassadors were officially received, she appeared at his side. She died in 1253.
In the first years of the king's personal government, the Crown had to combat a fresh rebellion against feudalism, led by the Count de la Marche, in league with Henry III. St. Louis's victory over this coalition atTaillebourg, 1242, was followed by the Peace of Bordeaux which annexed to the French realm a part of Saintonge.
It was one of St. Louis's chief characteristics to carry on abreast his administration as national sovereign and the performance of his duties towards Christendom; and taking advantage of the respite which the Peace of Bordeaux afforded, he turned his thoughts towards a crusade. Stricken down with a fierce malady in 1244, he resolved to take the cross when news came that Turcomans had defeated the Christians and the Moslems and invaded Jerusalem. (On the two crusades of St. Louis [1248-1249 and 1270] see CRUSADES.) Between the twocrusades he opened negotiations with Henry III, which he thought would prevent new conflicts between Franceand England. The Treaty of Paris (28 May, 1258) which St. Louis concluded with the King of England after five years' parley, has been very much discussed. By this treaty St. Louis gave Henry III all the fiefs and domains belonging to the King of France in the Dioceses of Limoges, Cahors, and Périgueux; and in the event ofAlphonsus of Poitiers dying without issue, Saintonge and Agenais would escheat to Henry III. On the other hand Henry III renounced his claims to Normandy, Anjou, Touraine, Maine, Poitou, and promised to do homage for the Duchy of Guyenne. It was generally considered and Joinville voiced the opinion of the people, that St. Louis made too many territorial concessions to Henry III; and many historians held that if, on the contrary, St. Louis had carried the war against Henry III further, the Hundred Years War would have been averted. But St. Louis considered that by making the Duchy of Guyenne a fief of the Crown of France he was gaining a moraladvantage; and it is an undoubted fact that the Treaty of Paris, was as displeasing to the English as it was to the French. In 1263, St. Louis was chosen as arbitrator in a difference which separated Henry III and theEnglish barons: by the Dit d'Amiens (24 January, 1264) he declared himself for Henry III against the barons, and annulled the Provisions of Oxford, by which the barons had attempted to restrict the authority of the king. It was also in the period between the two crusades that St. Louis, by the Treaty of Corbeil, imposed upon the King of Aragon the abandonment of his claims to all the fiefs in Languedoc excepting Montpellier, and the surrender of his rights to Provence (11 May, 1258). Treaties and arbitrations prove St. Louis to have been above all a lover of peace, a king who desired not only to put an end to conflicts, but also to remove thecauses for fresh wars, and this spirit of peace rested upon the Christian conception.
St. Louis's relations with the Church of France and the papal Court have excited widely divergent interpretations and opinions. However, all historians agree that St. Louis and the successive popes united to protect the clergy of France from the encroachments or molestations of the barons and royal officers. It is equally recognized that during the absence of St. Louis at the crusade, Blanche of Castile protected the clergyin 1251 from the plunder and ill-treatment of a mysterious old marauder called the "Hungarian Master" who was followed by a mob of armed men — called the "Pastoureaux." The "Hungarian Master" who was said to be in league with the Moslems died in an engagement near Villaneuve and the entire band pursued in every direction was dispersed and annihilated.
But did St. Louis take measures also to defend the independence of the clergy against the papacy? A number of historians once claimed he did. They attributed to St. Louis a certain "pragmatic sanction" of March 1269, prohibiting irregular collations of ecclesiastical benefices, prohibiting simony, and interdicting the tributes which the papal Court received from the French clergy. The Gallicans of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries often made use of this measure against the Holy See; the truth is that it was a forgery fabricated in the fourteenth century by juris-consults desirous of giving to the Pragmatic Sanction of Charles VII a precedent worthy of respect. This so-called pragmatic of Louis IX is presented as a royal decree for the reformation of the Church; never would St. Louis thus have taken upon himself the right to proceed authoritatively with this reformation. When in 1246, a great number of barons from the north and the west leagued against the clergy whom they accused of amassing too great wealth and of encroaching upon theirrights, Innocent IV called upon Louis to dissolve this league; how the king acted in the matter is not definitelyknown. On 2 May, 1247, when the Bishops of Soissons and of Troyes, the archdeacon of Tours, and theprovost of the cathedral of Rouen, despatched to the pope a remonstrance against his taxations, his preferment of Italians in the distribution of benefices, against the conflicts between papal jurisdiction and thejurisdiction of the ordinaries, Marshal Ferri Pasté seconded their complaints in the name of St. Louis. Shortly after, these complaints were reiterated and detailed in a lengthy memorandum, the text of which has been preserved by Mathieu Paris, the historian. It is not known whether St. Louis affixed his signature to it, but in any case, this document was simply a request asking for the suppression of the abuses, with no pretensions to laying down principles of public right, as was claimed by the Pragmatic Sanction.
Documents prove that St. Louis did not lend an ear to the grievances of his clergy against the emissaries ofUrban IV and Clement IV; he even allowed Clement IV to generalize a custom in 1265 according to which thebenefices the titularies of which died while sojourning in Rome, should be disposed of by the pope. Docile to the decrees of the Lateran Council (1215), according to which kings were not to tax the churches of their realm without authority from the pope, St. Louis claimed and obtained from successive popes, in view of thecrusade, the right to levy quite heavy taxes from the clergy. It is again this fundamental idea of the crusade, ever present in St. Louis's thoughts that prompted his attitude generally in the struggle between the empire and the pope. While the Emperor Frederick II and the successive popes sought and contended for France'ssupport, St. Louis's attitude was at once decided and reserved. On the one hand he did not accept for his brother Robert of Artois, the imperial crown offered him by Gregory IX in 1240. In his correspondence withFrederick he continued to treat him as a sovereign, even after Frederick had been excommunicated and declared dispossessed of his realms by Innocent IV at the Council of Lyons, 17 July, 1245. But on the other hand, in 1251, the king compelled Frederick to release the French archbishops taken prisoners by the Pisans, the emperor's auxiliaries, when on their way in a Genoese fleet to attend a general council at Rome. In 1245, he conferred at length, at Cluny, with Innocent IV who had taken refuge in Lyons in December, 1244, to escape the threats of the emperor, and it was at this meeting that the papal dispensation for the marriage ofCharles Anjou, brother of Louis IX, to Beatrix, heiress of Provençe was granted and it was then that Louis IX and Blanche of Castile promised Innocent IV their support. Finally, when in 1247 Frederick II took steps to capture Innocent IV at Lyons, the measures Louis took to defend the pope were one of the reasons whichcaused the emperor to withdraw. St. Louis looked upon every act of hostility from either power as an obstacle to accomplishing the crusade. In the quarrel over investitures, the king kept on friendly terms with both, not allowing the emperor to harass the pope and never exciting the pope against the emperor. In 1262 whenUrban offered St. Louis, the Kingdom of Sicily, a fief of the Apostolic See, for one of his sons, St. Louis refused it, through consideration for the Swabian dynasty then reigning; but when Charles of Anjou accepted Urban IV's offer and went to conquer the Kingdom of Sicily, St. Louis allowed the bravest knights of France to join the expedition which destroyed the power of the Hohenstaufens in Sicily. The king hoped, doubtless, that thepossession of Sicily by Charles of Anjou would be advantageous to the crusade.
St. Louis led an exemplary life, bearing constantly in mind his mother's words: "I would rather see you dead at my feet than guilty of a mortal sin." His biographers have told us of the long hours he spent in prayer, fasting, and penance, without the knowledge of his subjects. The French king was a great lover of justice. French fancy still pictures him delivering judgements under the oak of Vincennes. It was during his reign that the "court of the king" (curia regis) was organized into a regular court of justice, having competent experts, and judicial commissions acting at regular periods. These commissions were called parlements and the history of the "Dit d'Amiens" proves that entire Christendom willingly looked upon him as an international judiciary. It is an error, however, to represent him as a great legislator; the document known as "Etablissements de St. Louis" was not a code drawn up by order of the king, but merely a collection of customs, written out before 1273 by a jurist who set forth in this book the customs of Orléans, Anjou, and Maine, to which he added a few ordinances ofSt. Louis.
St. Louis was a patron of architecture. The Sainte Chappelle, an architectural gem, was constructed in his reign, and it was under his patronage that Robert of Sorbonne founded the "Collège de la Sorbonne," which became the seat of the theological faculty of Paris.
He was renowned for his charity. The peace and blessings of the realm come to us through the poor he would say. Beggars were fed from his table, he ate their leavings, washed their feet, ministered to the wants of thelepers, and daily fed over one hundred poor. He founded many hospitals and houses: the House of the Felles-Dieu for reformed prostitutes; the Quinze-Vingt for 300 blind men (1254), hospitals at Pontoise, Vernon, Compiégne.
The Enseignements (written instructions) which he left to his son Philip and to his daughter Isabel, the discourses preserved by the witnesses at judicial investigations preparatory to his canonization and Joinville'sanecdotes show St. Louis to have been a man of sound common sense, possessing indefatigable energy, graciously kind and of playful humour, and constantly guarding against the temptation to be imperious. The caricature made of him by the envoy of the Count of Gueldre: "worthless devotee, hypocritical king" was very far from the truth. On the contrary, St. Louis, through his personal qualities as well as his saintliness, increased for many centuries the prestige of the French monarchy (see FRANCE). St. Louis's canonization was proclaimed at Orvieto in 1297, by Boniface VIII. Of the inquiries in view of canonization, carried on from 1273 till 1297, we have only fragmentary reports published by Delaborde ("Mémoires de la société de l'histoire de Paris et de l'Ilea de France," XXIII, 1896) and a series of extracts compiled by Guillaume de St. Pathus, QueenMarguerite's confessor, under the title of "Vie Monseigneur Saint Loys" (Paris, 1899).
Goyau, Georges. "St. Louis IX." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 25 Aug. 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09368a.htm>.
Goyau, Georges. "St. Louis IX." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 25 Aug. 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09368a.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Paul T. Crowley. In Memoriam, Mrs. Margaret McHugh & Miss Jeanette Farrell, Third Order of St. Francis, Cap.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.
Copyright © 2020 by Kevin Knight. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
SOURCE : http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09368a.htm
Detail of the reliquary of the Holy Crown with the French king Saint-Louis (Louis IX) holding the Crown in his hands. Treasury of the cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris (France) Réf. NDP68.
Died A.D. 1270.
Saint Louis is one of the very few names in history that recall the great saint, the perfect hero, the able statesman, the skillful general, and the illustrious monarch. Such a noble combination of rare qualities we find in the beautiful character of this king of France.
Louis was born at Polssey on the 25th of April, 1215. His father was Louis VIII and his mother, Blanche, a princess of Castile. She was a woman of extraordinary beauty, virtue, and ability.
This good mother never allowed the Saint to suckle any other breasts than her own. With the most careful care she attended to every part of his education. She taught him to be pure in thought, word, and action.
“My dear son,” she would often say to the little Louis, “I love you with all the tenderness of a mother; but I would rather a thousand times see you fall down dead at my feet than that you should ever be guilty of one mortal sin.”
These golden words as the King himself relates, made a deep and lasting impression on his mind.
Louis was an excellent student. He became a perfect master of the Latin tongue, a good public speaker, and a writer of grace and dignity. He was thoroughly instructed in the art of war, the best maxims of government, and all the accomplishments of one destined to rule a great kingdom He was also a good historian, and often read the Fathers and Doctors of the Church.
He came to the throne while a mere boy. His father, Louis VIII, died in 1226; and Queen Blanche was declared regent for her son, then only twelve years old. Fearing seditions, she hastened the coronation of Louis. The ceremony was performed at Rheims by the Bishop of Soisson.
The toscin of rebellion now sounded in various parts of. the kingdom; but the rebels soon found they had made a mistake. Queen Blanche and the young Saint headed the army of France, and the leaders of revolt were speedily brought to terms. The whole period of the king’s minority, however, was disturbed by some form of rebellion.
Modesty, the most amiable of virtues, diffused its radiance over the royal Saint’s character. He loved music and singing. But if any one, in song or speech, let slip a word in the least indecent before him, he was for ever banished from the king’s presence.
When the time came to choose a fair companion, he sought the most worthy, and was rewarded with the hand of Margaret, eldest daughter of the Count of Provence. She was a lady of surpassing wit, beauty, and virtue. Louis met her at Sens, where they were married in May, 1234. God blessed the Saint and his lovely bride with a constant union of hearts and a family of noble, virtuous children.
This good King never thought himself so happy as when enjoying the conversation of learned and religious men. But he knew how to observe times and seasons with 8a becoming liberty. Once when a certain monk started a grave religious subject at table, he gently turned the discourse to another topic, saying: “All things have their time.” On such occasions his words were cheerful without levity or impertinence, and instructive without stiffness or austerity.
His piety was admirable. He allotted several hours in the day to the recitation of the divine office and other prayers, and when he appeared at the foot of the altar it was with surpassing humility and recollection. But his devotions never made him forget any part of the care which he owed to the state. He knew well that the piety must be false which neglects any duty that we owe to others or to ourselves. The same lofty motive that animated him in the churches made him most diligent in every branch of his high charge. It was his greatest support in all secular employments.
He scarcely allowed himself any time for amusement. His temperance and mortification were such that he practised both with extreme austerity, amid the dainties of a royal table. It was observed, that he never touched any fruit when it was first served in season. He had the happy ingenuity of often abstaining from delicacies and of practising many self-denials without attracting notice. He wore a hair-shirt, often used disciplines, and went to confession two or three times a week.
Thus this great king made the exercise of penance easy and familiar, and kept his senses and inclinations ever under the rule of reason and good government. “There is no king,” said an ancient saint,” like him who is king of himself.”
But his severity was all towards himself. Virtue did not make him morose. He was the soul of kindness, and very agreeable in conversation. The inward peace of his mind, and the joy which overflowed his pure heart from the continued thought of God’s holy presence, enhanced the natural sweetness and liveliness of his temper. Coming from his closet or from the church, he appeared in a moment conversing upon business, or at the head of his army, with the countenance of a hero fighting battles, enduring the greatest fatigues and daring the most trying dangers.
He was scrupulously faithful in keeping his word and in observing all treaties. In negotiations this gave Louis vast advantage over his adversaries, who often by frivolous evasions eluded their most solemn oaths and engagements. The reputation of his rare and inflexible integrity soon made all parties rejoice to put their affairs into his hands and to have him for their arbiter. Joinville assures us that the king’s head was the best and wisest in his council. In sudden emergencies his clear, powerful mind readily resolved the most knotty difficulties.
Frederick II, the wicked and faithless Emperor of Germany, though he often broke his engagements with Louis, as well as with other powers, could never provoke him to war, so dexterous was the Saint in maintaining both his honor and his interests without appealing to the sword.
In truth, being exempt from those passions which commonly blow the coals, he had a happy advantage in the pursuit of justice and necessary defence. While his foresight and magnanimity kept him ever in readiness, his love of peace and the nobility of his nature inclined him rather to sacrifice some petty consideration than to see the spilling of one drop of Christian blood.
Saint Louis was the author of several excellent laws; justice flourished in his reign, and the people loved him as a wise and tender father. He forbade usury, and restrained the Jews from its practice. He ordered that every one convicted of blasphemy should be marked upon the lips – some say on the forehead – with a red-hot iron. He even caused this sentence to be carried out on a wealthy citizen of Paris, a man of great consideration; and when some of the courtiers murmured at this seeming severity, he said that he would rather undergo the punishment himself than omit anything which might put a stop to a crime so horrible.
The father of our Saint had ordered in his will that the price of his jewels should be laid out in founding a monastery. Saint Louis very much increased the sum, and the structure was truly royal and magnificent. It was the Abbey of Royaumont. Out of devotion, he sometimes worked with his own hands in building the church. This was afterwards one of the places to which he often retired to breathe the air of holy solitude.
He founded the Chartreuse at Paris, and built many other religious houses and hospitals.
In 1239 Saint Louis received a remarkable present from the Emperor of Constantinople. It was the crown of thorns that had pressed the sacred head of Jesus Christ. He sent two Dominican Fathers to bring this precious treasure into France. He met it himself five leagues beyond Sens, attended by his whole court and a great number of clergy. He and his brother Robert, walking in their bare feet, carried it into Sens, and afterwards in the same manner into Paris. This holy crown was deposited by the king in the royal chapel of Saint Nicholas.
Saint Louis was obliged to declare war against Henry III of England, whom he defeated in 1242. The English king concluded a peace by promising to pay a stated sum of money in five years.
At this time the restless barbarians of Asia were raising a great commotion. A band of Saracen desperadoes, in the mountains of Phoenicia, was under the command of a leader called the “Old Man of the Mountains.” These ruffians were sworn to take the life of all who opposed the spread of Mahometanism
The chiefs word was their sole law, and they carried out his will with reckless energy in any part of the world. The “Old Man” fixed his evil eye on Saint Louis, and sent two resolute soldiers disguised into France. They had strict orders to assassinate the Saint. But the Almighty watched over His servant. The king was warned of the diabolical scheme, had the fanatical wretches arrested, and courteously sent them back to their master in the mountains.
Hordes of Tartars, under the fierce and roving successors of Genghis-Khan, spread desolation through Hungary, Poland, and Bohemia. Europe was filled with terror. Queen Blanche expressed her fears; but Saint Louis calmly viewed the situation. “Madame,” said he, “what have we to fear? It these barbarians come to us, we shall either conquer or shall die martyrs.” The haughty leader of the Tartars went so far as to send a letter to the Saint commanding him to deliver up his kingdom But the brave ruler of France took no notice of such insolence.
A violent illness brought the King to the very brink of the grave in the year 1244. In vain, it seemed, was Heaven solicited for the preservation of his life. For some days he lay as one dead. Then a piece of the true Cross and other relics were applied to his person. He slowly recovered. By his first words he expressed his resolution to take the cross as a Crusader, and, calling for the Bishop of Paris, who was present, Louis desired him to receive his vow and put the badge of the cross on his shoulder.
His wife and his mother fell weeping at his feet, and conjured him not to think of such a vast and perilous enterprise. But it was all to no purpose: he received the red cross. He wrote to the sadly-oppressed Christians of Palestine that he would make all haste to their assistance.
Four years, however, were required to complete the preparations for this expedition. He proclaimed his mother, Blanche, regent of the kingdom Queen Margaret declared that she would accompany her husband, and bravely she kept her word. Accompanied by the flower of his nobility, Louis sailed for Cyprus in the summer of 1248. Thus, in brief, began the sixth Crusade.
Louis invaded Egypt, and took the strong city of Damietta. But calamity soon frowned. Disease seized his hardy veterans. The French gallantly advanced from the sea-coast towards the capital of Egypt, and strove to surmount the unseasonable inundation of the Nile which opposed their progress.
It was in vain the fearless king did all that a hero and great commander could accomplish. Disease, the waters of the Nile, and the hosts of Mahomet conquered. Louis was made prisoner and loaded with chains. The greater part of his nobles were captured. All who could not redeem their lives by service or ransom were inhumanly massacred, and a circle of Christian heads decorated the worse than pagan walls of Cairo.
The true hero is at all times a hero. It was so with our Saint. Though in chains and battling with disease, he every day recited the Breviary with his two chaplains. Daily he had the prayers of Mass – except the words of consecration – read to him, that he might the better join in spirit with the Church in her Sacrifice.
In the midst of insults he preserved an air of calm, majestic dignity which awed the rude infidels by whom he was surrounded. Never did he appear so great as in those dark days of trial and adversity.
The sultan demanded $450,000 for the king’s ransom and that of the other prisoners. Louis answered that a ruler of France ought not to redeem himself for money; but he agreed to give the city for his own freedom, and the sum of money for the ransom of all the other prisoners. The sultan, charmed with such noble generosity, at once gave him his freedom, and remitted a fifth part of the amount demanded. A truce was concluded for ten years. It comprehended the Christians of Palestine.
After many perils the Saint journeyed to Palestine. The very sight of his piety was a moving sermon. On one occasion he converted forty Mahometans to the true faith. Fasting, and on foot, he visited Nazareth. He adored the secret judgments of God and referred all to his greater glory.
While rebuilding Caesarea, and strengthening some strongholds still in the hands of the Christians, Louis received the sad news that his mother, the noble Queen Blanche, was no longer in this world. He burst into tears. “O Lord!” he exclaimed, throwing himself at the foot of the altar in his chapel, “I thank Thee for having preserved to me so long the best of mothers. Truly there was nothing among creatures on earth that I loved with such tenderness. Thou takest her from me. It is Thy almighty will. May Thy holy name be for ever blessed!”
The great King showed his deep affection for his mother by having the holy sacrifice of the Mass offered up in his presence every day to the end of his life for the eternal repose of her soul.
Taking on board his queen, family, and officers, the Saint now sailed for France. After an absence of almost six years he made his public entry into Paris.
Shortly after Henry III of England visited Saint Louis. The English monarch was deeply edified. The Saint assured this royal friend that he felt infinitely more happy that God had given him patience in suffering than if he had conquered the whole world.
Saint Louis was a man of unceasing labor. Every hour and every action of life were for the honor and glory of God. He founded the celebrated college of the Sorbonne. He established a large hospital for poor blind men. Every day one hundred and twenty paupers dined at a table provided for them near his own palace. He often served them in person. He kept lists of reduced gentlemen, distressed widows and young women, whom he regularly relieved in all parts of his dominions.
Sixteen years had passed away since he had last battled for the tomb of Christ, and again the cries of the oppressed Christians in the East found a willing echo in the kind, heroic heart of Louis. He made two spiritual retreats as a preparation, and with a splendidly-equipped force sailed for Africa in the summer of 1270. It was his design to begin the war by taking Tunis. The siege proved disastrous. The French, scorched by oppressive heat and decimated by deadly fevers, fought and died like brave men in the burning sands of a foreign climate.
The pestilence seized the king. He called his eldest son, Philip, to his bedside. He gave him instructions wise and beautiful. Among other things he said: “My son,” I recommend you above all to love God. Be ready to suffer everything rather than commit a mortal sin. When you are sick or afflicted return thanks to Heaven. Bear it bravely. Be persuaded that you deserve to suffer much for having so poorly served God, and that all tribulation will be your gain.
“Confess your sins often. Choose a wise and pious spiritual father. Be bountiful. Be compassionate. Be kind to the poor. Punish all who speak ill of God or His saints. In the administration of justice be upright and severe. Ever have a great respect for the Church and the Pope.
“To the utmost of your power oppose all blasphemy, oaths, games of chance, impurity, and drunkenness. Never lay any heavy burdens on your people. Take care to have many Masses said for the repose of my soul. Give me a share in all your good works. I bless you, and may Jesus Christ ever bless and protect you, my beloved son!”
The great King had a majestic cross erected so that he might keep his eyes fixed on it in his sufferings. “Into thy hands, O Lord! I commend my spirit,” he whispered, and expired in his camp at the age of fifty-five, on the 25th of August, in the year of 1250. Twenty-five years after he was solemnly canonized by Pope Boniface VIII.
Saint Louis was the last and greatest in the line of glorious heroes that drew the sword in defence of the tomb of Jesus Christ. He possessed a rare combination of personal accomplishments, and even of apparently opposite qualities, which made him not only superior to his age, but in truth one of the most extraordinary men that ever wore a crown. His heroic virtue shone brighter in his afflictions than it could have done amidst the most splendid triumphs. A fearless knight, a resolute warrior, and a true Catholic, he was as willing to risk his life as to bow his head to the will of Almighty God. He was a lover of danger, and penance, and humiliation. He was the indefatigable champion of justice, of the weak and the oppressed. He was the sublime personification of Christian chivalry in all its purity and grandeur.
- John O’Kane Murray, M.A., M.D. “Saint Louis, King of France”. , 1879. CatholicSaints.Info. 25 September 2018. Web. 25 August 2020. <https://catholicsaints.info/little-lives-of-the-great-saints-saint-louis-king-of-france/>
King Louis sailing from Cyprus about the 24th day of May, 1249, came with a fair wind to Egypt in some four days, having a great fleet of ships, numbering in all, it was said, some eighteen hundred, great and small. And now there fell upon him the first stroke of misfortune. There arose a strong wind from the south which scattered the fleet, so that not more than a third part remained with the King. As for the others, they were blown far to the north, even to the town of Acre, and, though none were cast away, it was many days before they could return. Now the King’s purpose was to lay siege to the town of Damietta, a town which is built on the midmost of the seven mouths of the Nile. It was commonly agreed that whoever should hold possession of this said town of Damietta might go whithersoever he would in the whole land of Egypt, and further, that whosoever should be master of Egypt could do what he would in the land of Palestine.
When the King came with what was left to him over against the city of Damietta there was much debate between him and his counsellors as to what might best be done. “I have no mind,” said he, “to turn back, having, by the grace of God, come so far. Say you that I should do well to wait for those who have been separated from us? That I would gladly do, for it grieves me much that they lose, so far, their share in this great enterprise. But two reasons constrain me to do otherwise. First, it would put the infidel in great heart if they should see me so delay to make trial of them; and, second, there is here no harbour or safe anchorage where I might wait. Nay, my lords, it is my purpose to attack the enemy without delay, for the Lord our God can save by few or by many.”
The King being thus steadfastly resolved to have no more delay, his nobles and knights could not choose but obey him. This being so, they strove among themselves who should be the first to come to blows with the enemy. There were small boats with the larger of the ships, and these were filled with men and rowed to the shore. This was not done wholly without loss, for some slipped as they descended from the ships, or missed their feet, the boat moving from under them with the motion of the waves, so that some were drowned and others hardly saved.
Meanwhile they took the great flag of Saint Denys, from the ship in which it was, and carried it to the shore. But when the King saw the flag on the shore he would tarry no longer, but leapt into the sea, accoutred as he was, and the water came up to his armpits. When he saw the Saracens, he said to the knight that followed him, “Who are these?” And the knight answered, “These, sir, are the Saracens.” When he heard this he put his lance in rest, and held his shield before him, and would have charged them, but his counsellors would not suffer it.
When the enemy saw that the King and his men had landed, they sent a message to the Sultan by carrier-pigeons; this they did three times. But it so chanced that the Sultan was in a fit of the fever which troubled him in the summer time, and he sent no answer. Then his men, thinking that he was dead, for they knew already that he was sick, fled straightway from the town of Damietta. When the King knew this for certain, the bishops that were in the army sang the Te Deum with great joy. The army which King Louis brought with him numbered thirty thousand men.
The army being thus established in the town of Damietta, there was much debate as to what should be done. The King was set upon assailing the enemy without delay. “It is by delay,” he said, and said truly, “that these enterprises have been ruined heretofore, for not only does an army grow less and less with every day by sickness- -keep it as carefully as you will, such loss must needs happen—but the first fire of zeal begins to burn low.” To such purpose the King spoke to his counsellors, nor could they gainsay his words. Yet they had to urge on the other part reasons so weighty that they could not be resisted.
The truth is that there could not have been chosen a worse time for the waging of war in Egypt than that at which the King arrived. Whereas other rivers overflow their banks in the winier season, the Nile overflows his in summer, and this he does because his stream is swollen, not by rains that fall in the land of Egypt, for such rains are more scanty than in any other country of the world, but by those that fall in countries far inland and, haply, by the melting of snows. So it is that in that part of Egypt which is nearest to the sea the river begins to rise in the month of June, and for a quarter of a year or so thereafter an army must rest perforce. The King was very ill served in his ministers when he was suffered to remain in ignorance of these things. Nevertheless, the case being so, he had no choice but to accept the counsel of delay. It was agreed, therefore, that the army should tarry in Damietta till the floods of the river should have ceased.
In the beginning of the month of December the King set out for Cairo with his army. Now the Sultan had sent five hundred of his knights, the bravest warriors and the best mounted that he could find in his whole army, to the end that they should harass the King’s army as much as might be. Now the King being very careful of the lives of his men, as knowing that a soldier lost could not be replaced, had given a strict commandment that no one should presume to leave the line of march and charge the enemy. When the Turks saw this, or, haply, had learnt from their spies that the King had given this commandment, they grew bolder and bolder, till one of them, riding up to the line, overthrew one of the Knights Templar. This was done under the very eyes of the Master of the Temple, who, when he saw it, could no longer endure to be quiet. So he cried to his brethren, “At them, good sirs, for this is more than can be borne.” So he spurred his horse, and the other Templars with him, and charged the Turks. And because their horses were fresh and the horses of the Turks weary, they bore them down. It was said that not one of the five hundred escaped, many being ridden down, and the rest being drowned in the river.
After this the King encamped between the two branches of the Nile, that which flows by Damietta and that which is the next to it toward the sunsetting. On the other side of this branch was ranged the army of the Sultan, to hinder the Christians from passing, an easy thing seeing that there was no ford, nor any place where a man might cross save by swimming.
While they were in this strait there came a Bedouin to the camp, who said that for five hundred pieces of gold he would show them a good ford. When the Constable Imbert, to whom the Bedouin had spoken of this ford, told the matter to the King, the King said, “I will give the gold right willingly; only be sure that the man perform his part of the bargain.” So the constable parleyed with the man; but the Bedouin would not depart from his purpose. “Give me the gold,” said he, “and I will show you the ford.” And because the King was in a strait, he consented; so the man received the five hundred pieces, and he showed the ford to certain that were sent with him.
It was agreed that the Duke of Burgundy and other nobles who were not of France should keep guard in the camp, and that the King with his brothers should ford the river at the place which the Arab should show. So, all being ready, at daybreak they came down to the water. A ford there was, but not such as a man would choose save in the greatest need.
The King, having with him the main body of the army, crossed amidst a great sounding of horns and trumpets. It was a noble sight to see, and nothing in it nobler and more admirable than the King himself. A fairer knight there never was, and he stood with a gilded helmet on his head, and a long German sword in his hand, being by his head and shoulders taller than the crowd. Then he and his knights charged the Saracens, who by this time had taken a stand again on the river bank. It was a great feat of arms. No man drew long-bow that day or plied cross-bow. The Crusaders and the Saracens fought with mace and sword, neither keeping their ranks, but all being confused together.
But the Crusaders, for all their valour, could scarce hold their own, because the enemy outnumbered them by much. Also there was a division of counsel among them. Also there came a messenger from them that were shut up in Mansoura, telling the King how hard pressed they were, and in what instant need of succour.
And now the Sacarens grew more and more confident, for they were greatly the better in numbers; and if, man for man and in the matter of arms and armour, they were scarce equal to the Crusaders, yet the difference was not so great. They pushed on, therefore, and drove the Christians back to the river. These were very hard pressed, and some were for swimming across the river to the camp, but by this time their horses were weary, and not a few perished by drowning.
Nevertheless as time passed the Crusaders fared somewhat better, for they drew more together, and the enemy, seeing that they still held their ground, and being themselves not a little weary, drew back. In the end the King and such of the chiefs as were left got back into the camp. Right glad they were to rest, for the battle had been long and fierce.
But they had but little peace, for that very night the Saracens made an attack upon the camp. A great disturbance they made, and most unwelcome to men who had been fighting all the day. But they did not work much harm. Many valiant deeds were done by the Christians.
But the Saracens were making ready for attacking the camp with more force than before. And their leader could be seen from the camp, taking account of the Crusaders, and strengthening his battalions where he thought that the King’s camp might be most conveniently assailed.
The first attack was made on the Count of Anjou. He held that part of the camp that was nearest to the city of Cairo. Some of the enemy were on horseback and some on foot; there were some also that threw Greek fire among the count’s men. Between them they pressed the count so sorely that he was fain to send to the King for help. This the King gave without loss of time; he led the men himself, and it was not long before they chased the Saracens from this part of the field.
When the battle was over the King called the barons to his tent, and thanked them for all that they had done, and gave them great encouragement, saying that as they had driven back the Saracens over and again, it would, beyond doubt, go well with them in the end.
And now the army was sore distressed for want both of food and of water. In Damietta, indeed, there were yet stores of barley, rice, and other grains; but in the camp scarce anything that could be eaten. Some small fishes were caught in the river; but these were very ill savoured, and all the more so—so, at least, it seemed to such as eat them under constraint of hunger—because they fed on dead bodies, of which many were thrown into the river. For a while some portion of the stores that were in the city were carried across the river to the camp. But this the Saracens hindered, for by this time their ships had the mastery over the ships of the Christians. They kept, therefore, the river, suffering nothing to pass. If anything was carried across, it was but a trifle. Some things the country people brought into the camp, but these were not to be purchased save for large sums of money, and money was by this time scarce even among the richer sort. And when it was judged expedient that the King’s army should cross the river again and return to the camp, things were worse rather than better, so far as victuals were concerned. It was well that the army should be brought together, both for attack and for defence, but with the greater multitude the famine grew worse and worse.
After a while there was a treating for peace between the King and the Saracens; and for a while it seemed as if they might come to an agreement, and this not without advantage to the King. But the matter came to naught, because the Saracens would have the King himself as a hostage for the due performance of the treaty. The Christians would have given the King’s brothers, and these were willing to go; but the King they could not give. “It would be better,” said one of the bravest knights in the army, and in this matter he spake the mind of all, “that we should all be taken captive or slain, than that we should leave the King in pledge.”
The King, seeing that the condition of the army still grew from bad to worse, and that if they tarried they would all be dead men, commanded that they should make their way into the town of Damietta. And this the army began to do the very next night. Now the first thing to be cared for was the taking of the sick, of whom there was a great multitude, on board the ships. But while this was being done, the Saracens entered the camp on the other side. When the sailors who were busy in embarking the sick saw this, they loosed the cables by which they were moored to the shore, and made as if they would fly. Now the King was on the bank of the river, and there was a galley in waiting for him, whereon, if he had been so minded, he might easily have escaped. Nor could he have been blamed therefor, because he was afflicted with the dysentery that prevailed in the camp. But this he would not do; “Nay,” he said, “I will stay with my people.” But when there was now no hope of safety, one of his officers took him, mounted as he was on a pony, to a village hard by, defending him all the way from such as chanced to fall in with him—but none knew that he was the King. When he was come to the village they took him into a house that there was, and laid him down almost dead. A good woman of Paris that was there took his head upon her lap, and there was no one but thought that he would die before nightfall. Then one of the nobles coming in asked the King whether he should not go to the chief of the Saracens, and see whether a treaty might not yet be made on such terms as they would. The King said yes; so he went. Now there was a company of the Saracens round the house, whither by this time not a few of the Christians had assembled. And one of the King’s officers cried- whether from fear or with traitorous intent cannot be said—”Sir knights, surrender yourselves! The King will have it so; if you do not, the King will perish.” So the knights gave up their swords, and the Saracens took them as prisoners. When the chief of the Saracens, with whom the noble aforesaid was talking, saw them, he said, “There can be no talk of truce and agreement with these men; they are prisoners.”
And now the question was not of a treaty but a ransom. About this there was no little debate between the Sultan and the King. First the Sultan required that the King should surrender to him the castles of the Knights Templars and of the Hospitallers of Saint John. “Nay,” said the King, “that I cannot do, for they are not mine to give.” This answer greatly provoked the Sultan, and he threatened to put the King to the torture, to which the King answered this only, that he was a prisoner in their hands, and that they could do with him as they would.
When they saw that they could not turn him from his purpose by threats or by fear, they asked him how much money he was willing to pay to the Sultan for his ransom, such money being over and above the rendering up of the town of Damietta. Then the King made answer: “If the Sultan will take a reasonable sum in money for ransom, I will recommend it to the Queen that she should pay the same.” “Nay,” said the envoy of the Sultan, “why do you not say outright that you will have it so?” “Because,” answered the King, “in this matter it is for the Queen to say yea or nay. I am a prisoner, and my royal power is gone from me.” So it was agreed that if the Queen would pay a thousand thousand gold pieces by way of ransom, the King should go free. Said the King, “Will the Sultan swear to this bargain?” They said that he would. So it was agreed that the King should pay for the ransom of his army a thousand thousand gold pieces, and for his own ransom the town of Damietta, “for,” said he, “a King cannot be bought and sold for money.” When the Sultan heard this, he said, “On my word, this is a noble thing of the Frenchman that he makes no bargaining concerning so great a thing. Tell him that I give him as a free gift the fifth part of the sum which he has covenanted to pay.”
All things were now settled, and there were but four days before the fulfilling of the treaty, when the King should give up Damietta to the Sultan, and the Sultan, on his part, should suffer the King and his people to go free. But lo! there came to pass that which was like to bring the whole matter to nothing. The emirs of the Sultan made a conspiracy against him. “Know this,” they said one to another, “that so soon as he shall find himself master of Damietta, he will slay us. Let us therefore be beforehand with him.” And it was agreed that this should be done. First, when the Sultan was going to his chamber after a banquet which he had given to the emirs, one, who was, indeed, his sword-bearer, dealt him a blow and struck off his hand. But the Sultan, being young and nimble, escaped into a strong tower that was hard by his chamber, and three of his priests were with him. The emirs called upon him to give himself up. “That,” said he, “I will do, if you will give me a promise of my life.” “Nay,” they answered, “we will give you no promises. If you surrender not of your own free will, then will we compel you.” Then they threw Greek fire at the tower, and the tower, which was built of pine-wood, caught fire on the instant. When the Sultan saw this he ran down with all the speed that he could, seeking to reach the river, if so be he could find a ship. But the emirs and their men were ranged along the way, nor was it long before they slew him. And he that dealt him the last blow came to the King, his hand yet dripping with blood, and said, “What will you give me? I have slain your enemy, who would assuredly have done you to death had he lived.” But the King answered him not a word.
Now the covenant between the King and the Saracen chiefs was renewed, nor was any change made in the conditions; only the payment was differently ordered; that is to say, one-half of the ransom was to be paid before the King left the place where he was, and the other half in the town of Acre.
Then the emirs on the one part and the King on the other took the oaths that were held to be the most binding on them. The King indeed held staunchly by his faith, and when the emirs would have had him swear in a way that he thought to be unseemly to him as a Christian man he would not. And the emirs paid him the more honour and reverence for this very cause. It was said, indeed, that they would have made him Sultan of Cairo, if he had been minded to receive that dignity at their hands; furthermore, some that knew the King affirmed that he was not altogether set against it. But none knew for certain the truth in the matter. Yet it was well said by one of the emirs, “There surely never was better or more steadfast Christian than this King Louis. Verily if he had been made our sultan he would never have been content till he had either made us all Christians, or, failing this, had put us all to the sword.”
And now there came a time of great peril to the prisoners. First the town of Damietta was given up to the Saracens, the gates being opened and their flag hoisted On the towers.
On the next day the paying of the ransom was begun. When the money was counted it was found to be short by some thirty thousand pieces. These were taken from the treasury of the Templars much against their will, but the necessities of the prisoners prevailed.
As for the King, there could not have been a man more loyal in the fulfilling of his promise. When one of those that counted the money said that the Saracens had received less than their due by some ten thousand pieces, the King would not suffer but that the whole matter should be looked into, lest the Saracens should have wrong. The counter, indeed, averred that this thing was said in jest; but the King answered that such a jest was out of season, and that above all things it was necessary that a Christian should show good faith.
Not many days after the paying of the ransom the King sent for his chief counsellors and opened his mind to them in the matter of his return to France. He said, “The Queen, my mother, begs me to come back to France, saying that my kingdom is in great peril seeing, that I have no peace, nor even a truce, with England. Tell me, then, what you think. And because it is a great matter, I give you eight days to consider it.”
After this the King went to Acre, where he tarried till what was left over of the ransom was paid.
On the day appointed the counsellors came before the King, who said to them, “What do you advise? Shall I go, or shall I stay?” They said that they had chosen one from among them, a certain Guy Malvoisin, to speak for them. Thereupon this Guy said, “These lords have taken counsel together, and are agreed that you cannot tarry in this country without damage to yourself and your kingdom. For think how that of all the knights whom you had in Cyprus, two thousand eight hundred in number, there remain with you here in Acre scarce one hundred. Our counsel, therefore, is that you return to France, and there gather another army, with which you may come hither again and take vengeance on your enemies for their trespasses against God and against you.”
Then the King turned to a certain John, who was Count of Jaffa, and asked him for his judgment. Count John answered: “Ask me not, sire; my domain is here, and if I bid you stay, then it will be said that I did this for my own profit.” But when the King was urgent for his advice he said, “If you stay for a year it will be for your honour.” And one other of the counsellors gave the same judgment; but all the rest were urgent for the King’s return. Then the King said, “I will tell you eight days hence what it is my pleasure to do.”
On the day appointed they all came together again, and the King said, “I thank you, my lords, for your counsel—both those who have advised my going back and those who have advised my staying. Now I hold that if I stay, my kingdom of France will be in no peril, seeing that the Queen, my mother, is well able to keep it in charge; but that if I depart, then the kingdom of Jerusalem will most certainly be lost, because no man will be bold enough to stay after I am gone. Now, it was for the sake of this same kingdom of Jerusalem that I have come hither. My purpose, therefore, is to stay.” There was no little trouble among the barons when they heard these words. There were some among them who could not hold back their tears. But though the King resolved himself to stay, yet he commanded his brothers to depart. And this they did before many days.
While the King tarried at Acre there came to him messengers from the Old Man of the Mountain. One of the messengers was the spokesman, and had his place in front; the second had in his hand three daggers, to signify what danger threatened him who should not listen to the message; the third carried a shroud of buckram for him who should be smitten with the daggers. The King said to the first envoy, “Speak on.” Then the envoy said, “My master says, ‘Know you me?'” The King answered, “I know him not, for I have never seen him; yet I have often heard others talk of him.” “Why, then,” went on the envoy, “have you not sent him such gifts as would have gained his friendship, even as the Emperor of Germany and the King of Hungary and other princes have done, yea, and do now year after year, knowing well that they cannot live save by my lord’s pleasure?” The King made no answer, but bade the envoys come again in the afternoon. When they came they found the King sitting with the Master of the Templars on one side and the Master of the Hospitallers on the other. Now the Old Man is in great awe of these two, for he knows that if he slay them there will be put in their place other two as good or better. The envoys were not a little disturbed when they saw the two. And the Master of the Templars said, “Your lord is over bold to send you with such a message for the King. Now be sure that we would have drowned you in the sea, but that so doing might be a wrong to him. Go now to your lord, and come again in fourteen days with such a token and such gifts as may suffice for the making of peace.”
So the envoys departed, and came again in the time appointed, and they brought with them the shirt of the Old Man and his ring, which was of the finest gold, and with these things this message: “As man wears no garment that is nearer to him than his shirt, so the Old Man would have the King nearer to him than any other King upon earth; and as a ring is the sign of marriage by which two are made one, so the Old Man would have himself and the King to be one.” Other gifts there were, an elephant of crystal, very cunningly wrought, and a monster which they call a giraffe, also of crystal, and draughts and chessmen, all finely made. The King, on his part, sent to the Old Man a great store of newels, and scarlet cloth, and dishes of gold and bridles of silver.
While the King was at Jaffa it was told him that if he desired to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem the Sultan of Damascus would give him a safe-conduct. The King consulted his nobles on the matter, and both he and they were of one mind in the matter, to wit, that he should not go. “For,” said they, “if the King should go as a pilgrim, when he has not been able to take the Holy City itself out of the hands of the infidel, then will other Kings in time to come do the same. They will be content to go as pilgrims, but will take no thought as to the city, whether it be held by Christian or infidel.”
After these things the King went to the city of Sidon and fortified it with strong walls, for he was greatly unwilling to give up his hope of winning the whole land out of the hands of the infidel. But when he had brought this work to an end, there came news to him from his own country that the Queen his mother, who was charged with the government thereof, was dead. Then he took counsel with his nobles what he should do, and it seemed to them that he must of necessity return to France. One among them put the case before the King as follows:
“Sire, we see that it will not profit the kingdom of Jerusalem that you tarry longer here. You have done what was in your power. You have fortified the city of Sidon, and Cassarea, and Jaffa, and you have made the city of Acre much stronger than it was. And now for your own kingdom’s sake, you must needs depart.” And to this the King gave his consent, though with an unwilling heart. So he departed, and this, as it chanced, on his birthday. As the ship went forth from the harbour he said to the Lord of Joinville, who stood by him, “On this day I was born.” And the Lord of Joinville said to him, “Truly, sire, I should say that you are beginning another life, now that you are safely quit of this land of death.”
Some seventeen years after the things last recorded, I took a journey to the Island of Sardinia, and made my abode at a town on the west coast, called Neapolis. When I had sojourned there two months there came in sight on a certain day a great fleet of ships, which those who were acquainted with such things declared to be from the land of France. As for the crowd that came ashore that day, it were best to say little. It is more to the purpose to say that I met with one whom I knew, having consorted with him in time past, and this the more constantly because he followed the same occupation as I. I asked him, “How came you hither? If you are bound for Palestine, this is but a short stage in your journey.” He answered me with something of a smile in his eye, though his mouth was set, “Where could we more conveniently halt than here, for we are bound for Tunis?” “For Tunis?” said I; “but how shall this help you for the taking of Jerusalem?” “That,” said he, “you must ask of some one that has more wisdom than I. But this I know that the King was told, by whom I know not, that the Bey of Tunis desired to be baptised. This, then, is cause sufficient for him. Are you minded to come with me? If so, I can find you a place in the King’s ship, for it is in it that I sail.”
When I heard that, I consented without delay. So that night I gave my friend the shelter of my lodging; and the next day he took me with him, and commended me to one of the chief officers of the ship, bearing witness to my skill as a physician. On the fourth day we sailed, and came in two days, the wind blowing from the north, to the harbour of Tunis. As for the King, I saw him but once. His valets carried him up on the deck; and, to tell the truth, he looked as little fit for doing feats of arms as man could look. But I thought that the sickness which takes many men upon the sea might be the cause.
Scarce had the army landed than there began a most grievous sickness. In truth the place for the camp had been ill chosen, for there was a little stream into which much of the filth of the city was wont to run. From this there came a most evil smell. Many also, for want of good water, would drink of the stream, than which there could be no more deadly thing.
On the very day after he landed from his ship the King fell sick. His physician being disabled by the same malady, I was called in to the King’s help; and from the first I saw that, save by a miracle, he could not live. On the fourth day he died, making as good and devout an end as any that I have ever seen. He would know the truth, for he was not one of those who buoy themselves up with false hopes. And when he knew it, then first with the help of the priests that attended him he prepared his soul, and afterward he gave what time remained to teaching the son who should be King after him how he should best do his duty to God and man.
I heard much from him who had put it in my mind to come from the island of Sardinia concerning King Louis. Never, he told me, was a King more bent on doing justice and judgment. These he maintained with his whole heart and strength, not having any respect of persons, or having regard to his own profit. Though he held bishops and priests in great reverence, being most careful of all the offices of religion, yet he would withstand even these when they seemed to seek that which was not fair and just. He was a lover of peace far beyond the wont of Kings, who indeed, for the most part, care but little for it, so that men say in a proverb, “War is the game of Kings.” Of the poor he was a great and constant favourer. Every day he had a multitude of them fed at his cost in his palace, and sometimes he would serve himself, and it was his custom on a certain day to wash the feet of poor men. In his eating and drinking he was as temperate as man could be, drinking, for example, but one cup of wine, and that largely mingled with water. In all things wherein great men ofttimes offend he was wholly blameless and beyond reproach. Of all men that I had any knowledge of, whether by sight or by hearing, in this business of the Crusades there was not one who could be so much as named in comparison with King Louis. To King Louis religion was as life itself. It filled, as it were, his whole soul; he judged of all things by it; he hungered and thirsted after it. And yet of all who bore the cross this man, being, as he was, so much the most faithful to his vow, by far the truest cross-bearer of all, yet failed the most utterly. Of such things I have not the wit to judge; yet this, methinks, is manifest, that the Kingdom of God is not set forward by the power of armies. I do believe that if King Louis, being what he was, a man after God’s own heart, had come, not with the sword, but preaching the truth by his life, he had done more for the cause that he had at heart. As it was, he furthered it not at all, so far as I can discern, but rather set it back. That he did not gain for Christendom so much as a single foot of earth is not so much to be lamented, as that he made wider the breach between Christian men and the followers of Mahomet. And this he did, though he was in very truth the most Christlike of all the men that I have ever seen.
In Louis IX of France were united the qualities of a just and upright sovereign, a fearless warrior, and a saint. This crusading king was a living embodiment of the Christianity of the time: he lived for the welfare of his subjects and the glory of God. His father was Louis VIII, of the Capet line, and his mother was the redoubtable Queen Blanche, daughter of King Alfonso of Castile and Eleanor of England. Louis, the oldest son, was born at Poissy on the Seine, a little below Paris, on April 25,1214, and there was christened.
Much of his virtue is attributed to his mother’s care, for the Queen devoted herself to her children’s education. Louis had tutors who made him a master of Latin, taught him to speak easily in public and write with dignity and grace. He was instructed in the arts of war and government and all other kingly accomplishments. But Blanche’s primary concern was to implant in him a deep regard and awe for everything related to religion. She used often to say to him as he was growing up, “I love you my dear son, as much as a mother can love her child; but I would rather see you dead at my feet than that you should commit a mortal sin.”
Louis never forgot his upbringing. His friend and biographer, the Sieur de Joinville, who accompanied him on his first crusade to the Holy Land, relates that the King once asked him, “What is God?” Joinville replied, “Sire, it is that which is so good that there can be nothing better.” “Well,” said the King, “now tell me, would You rather be a leper or commit a mortal sin?” The spectacle of the wretched lepers who wandered along the highways of medieval Europe might well have prompted a sensitive conscience to ask such a question. “I would rather commit thirty mortal sins,” answered Joinville, in all candor, “than be a leper.” Louis expostulated with him earnestly for making such a reply. “When a man dies,” he said, “he is healed of leprosy in his body; but when a man who has committed a mortal sin dies he cannot know of a certainty that he has in his lifetime repented in such sort that God has forgiven him; wherefore he must stand in great fear lest that leprosy of sin last as long as God is in Paradise.”
After a reign of only three years, Louis VIII died, and Queen Blanche was declared regent for her eleven-year-old son. To forestall an uprising of restless nobles, she hastened the ceremony of Louis’ coronation, which took place at Rheims on the first Sunday of Advent, 1226. The boy was tall, and mature for his age, yet he trembled as he took the solemn oath; he asked of God courage, light, and strength to use his authority well, to uphold the divine honor, defend the Church, and serve the good of his people. The ambitious barons, who were not present at the coronation, were soon making extravagant demands for more privileges and lands, thinking to take advantage of the King’s youth. But they reckoned without the Queen; by making clever alliances, she succeeded in overcoming them on the battlefield, so that when Louis assumed control some years later, his position was strong.
In May, 1234, Louis, then twenty, married Margaret, the oldest daughter of Raymond Beranger, Count of Provence. They had eleven children, five sons and six daughters. This line continued in power in France for five hundred years. In 1793, as the guillotine fell on Louis XVI, it will be recalled that the Abbe Edgeworth murmured: “Son of St. Louis, ascend to Heaven!”
After taking the government of the realm into his hands, one of the young King’s first acts was to build the famous monastery of Royaumont, with funds left for the purpose by his father. Louis gave encouragement to the religious orders, installing the Carthusians in the palace of Vauvert in Paris, and assisting his mother in founding the convent of Maubuisson. Ambitious to make France foremost among Christian nations, Louis was overjoyed at the opportunity to buy the Crown of Thorns and other holy relics from the Eastern Emperor at Constantinople. He sent two Dominican friars to bring these sacred objects to France, and, attended by an impressive train, he met them at Sens on their return. To house the relics, he built on the island in the Seine named for him, the shrine of Sainte-Chapelle, one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic architecture in existence. Since the French Revolution it stands empty of its treasure.
Louis loved sermons, heard two Masses daily, and was surrounded, even while traveling, with priests chanting the hours. Though he was happy in the company of priests and other men of wisdom and experience, he did not hesitate to oppose churchmen when they proved unworthy. The usual tourneys and festivities at the creation of new knights were magnificently celebrated, but Louis forbade at his court any diversion dangerous to morals. He allowed no obscenity or profanity. “I was a good twenty-two years in the King’s company,” writes Joinville, “and never once did I hear him swear, either by God, or His Mother, or His saints. I did not even hear him name the Devil, except if he met the word when reading aloud, or when discussing what had been read.” A Dominican who knew Louis well declared that he had never heard him speak ill of anyone. When urged to put to death the rebel son of Hugh de la Marche, he would not do so, saying, “A son cannot refuse to obey his father’s orders.”
In 1230 the King forbade all forms of usury, in accordance with the teachings of the Christian religion. Where the profits of the Jewish and Lombard money-lenders had been exorbitant, and the original borrowers could not be found, Louis exacted from the usurers a contribution towards the crusade which Pope Gregory was then trying to launch. He issued an edict that any man guilty of blasphemy should be branded. Even the clergy objected to the harshness of this penalty, and later, on the advice of Pope Clement IV, it was reduced to a fine, or flogging, or imprisonment, depending on circumstances. Louis protected vassals and tenants from cruel lords. When a Flemish count hanged three children for hunting rabbits in his woods, he had the man imprisoned, and tried, not by his peers, as was the custom, but by ordinary civil judges, who condemned him to death. Louis spared the count’s life, but fined him heavily and ordered the money spent on religious and charitable works. He forbade private wars between his feudal vassals. In his dealings with other great princes, he was careful not to be drawn into their quarrels. If, when putting down a rebellion, he heard of damage inflicted on innocent people, by his or the enemy’s forces, he invariably had the matter examined and full restitution paid. Barons, prelates, and foreign princes often chose him to arbitrate their disputes. A rising of the nobles in the southwest occurred in 1242, but the King’s armies quickly put it down, although Henry III of England had come to their aid.
After recovering from a violent fever in 1244, Louis announced his long-cherished intention of undertaking a crusade to the East. Although his advisers urged him to abandon the idea, he was not to be moved from his decision. Elaborate preparations for the journey and settling certain disturbances in the kingdom caused him to postpone his departure for three and a half years. All benefices in Christendom were ordered taxed a twentieth of their income for three years for the relief of the Holy Land. Blanche was to be regent during the King’s absence. On June 12, 1248, Louis left Paris, accompanied by his wife and three brothers. Their immediate objective was Egypt, whose Sultan, Melek Selah, had been overrunning Palestine. Damietta, at the mouth of one of the branches of the Nile, was easily taken. Louis and the Queen, accompanied by his brothers, the nobles, and prelates, made a solemn entry into the city, singing <Te Deum>. The King issued orders that all acts of violence committed by his soldiers should be punished and restitution made to the persons injured. He forbade the killing of any infidel taken prisoner, and gave directions that all who might desire to embrace the Christian faith should be given instruction, and, if they wished it, baptized. Yet as long as the army was quartered around Damietta, many of his soldiers fell into debauchery and lawlessness. The rising of the Nile and the summer heat made it impossible for them to advance and follow up their success. After six months they moved forward to attack the Saracens on the opposite side of the river, in Mansourah. The ranks of the crusaders were thinned more by disease than by combat. In April, 1250, Louis himself, weakened by dysentery, was taken prisoner, and his army was routed.
During his captivity. the King recited the Divine Office every day with two chaplains and had the prayers of the Mass read to him. He met insults with an air of majesty which awed his guards. In the course of negotiations for his liberation, the Sultan was murdered by his emirs. The King and his fellow prisoners were released, though the sick and wounded crusaders left in Damietta were slain. With the remnant of his army Louis then sailed to the Syrian coast and remained in that region until 1254, fortifying the cities of Acre, Jaffa, Caesarea, and Tyre, which as yet remained in Christian hands. He visited the Holy Places that were in the possession of Christians, encouraging their garrisons, and doing what he could to strengthen their defenses. Not until news was brought him of the death of his mother did he feel that he must return to France. He had now been away almost six years, and even after his return, he continued to wear the cross on his shoulder to show his intention of going back to succor the Eastern Christians. Their position worsened, and within a few years Nazareth, Caesarea, Jaffa, and Antioch had been captured.
The foundations for the famous college of theology which was later known as the Sorbonne were laid in Paris about the year 1257 Its head, Master Robert de Sorbon, a learned canon and doctor, was the King’s friend and sometimes his confessor. Louis helped to endow the college and obtained for it the approval of Pope Clement IV. It was perhaps the most famous theological school of Europe. The King himself founded in Paris the hospital of Quinze-vingt, so named because it had beds for three hundred patients. He also received indigent persons daily and saw that they were fed; in Lent and Advent he cared for all who came, often waiting on them in person. He had, as we have said, a passion for justice, and changed the “King’s court” of his ancestors into a popular court, where, seated in his palace or under a spreading oak in the forest of Vincennes, he listened to any of his subjects who came with grievances and gave what seemed to them wise and impartial judgments. The feudal method of settling disputes by combat he tried to replace by peaceful arbitration or the judicial process of trial, with the presentation of testimony. In later times, whenever the French complained of oppression, their cry was for justice to be meted out impartially, as it had been in the reign of St. Louis.
In I258 Louis concluded the Peace of Paris with his old enemy Henry III of England. Though Louis had been victorious in most of the battles, he now voluntarily surrendered to England the provinces of Limousin, Quercy, and Perigord, while Henry renounced all claim to recover Normandy, Anjou, Maine, Touraine, and Poitou. The French nobility were outraged by their King’s concessions, but Louis explained that he hoped thus to cement a lasting friendship between the two nations. Unfortunately, peace did not ensue; the Hundred Years’ War was still to come. A similar compromise was made with the King of-Aragon, by which France secured Provence and most of Languedoc, and gave up claims to Roussillon and Barcelona.
One day, after standing godfather to a Jewish convert who had been baptized at St. Denis, Louis remarked to an ambassador from the emir of Tunis that to see the emir baptized he would himself joyfully spend the rest of his life in Saracen chains. The King was determined to go on another crusade, and in 1267 he announced his intention. His people objected, fearing they would lose their excellent and revered ruler, who, though only fifty-two years old, was worn with toil, illness, and austerities. The Pope supported the crusade, and granted Louis one-tenth of all Church revenues to help meet the expense. A toll-tax was also levied on the French people. Louis appointed the abbot of St. Denis and Simon de Clermont as regents. His three eldest sons, Philip, John, and Peter, accompanied him. The worthy Joinville disapproved the enterprise and stayed at home.
Louis sailed with his forces from Aigues-Mortes, at the mouth of the Rhone, on July 1, 1270, heading for Tunis, where, he had been told, the emir was ready to be converted and join the expedition to win back the Holy Places. The crusade was a dismal failure. On landing at Carthage, Louis learned to his dismay that the information about the emir was false. He decided to wait there for reinforcements from the King of Sicily. Dysentery and other diseases broke out among the crusaders, and Louis’ second son, who had been born at Damietta during the earlier crusade, died. That same day the King and his eldest son, Philip, sickened, and it was soon apparent that Louis would not recover. He was speechless all the next morning, but at three in the afternoon he said, “Into Thy hands I commend my spirit,” and quickly breathed his last. His bones and heart were taken back to France and kept enshrined in the abbey-church of St. Denis, until they were scattered at the time of the Revolution. Louis was strong, idealistic, austere, just; his charities and foundations were notable, and he went on two crusades. Little wonder that a quarter of a century after his death the process of canonization was started and quickly completed the man who was “every inch a king” became a saint of the Church in 1297, twenty-seven years after his death.
SOURCE : http://www.ucatholic.com/saints/louis/
Statue de Saint-Louis retrouvée dans l'Oise et placée dans le jardin de l'église Sainte-Maxence
Louis IX, King of France, a perfect model of virtue to all princes, was born at Poissy, in 1215. Having early lost his father, Louis VIII, his mother, Blanche, a matron celebrated for her virtues and great mind, had him anointed king, when he was hardly twelve years old. Important reasons induced her to this step, although she remained regent during the king’s minority. To this pious queen and mother Saint Louis was greatly indebted for his piety; for, she led him in the path of true fidelity to God, knowing that the welfare of the whole land depended upon it. In the first years of his childhood she instilled into his mind the fear of the Lord and a great aversion for sin, by saying to him: “Beloved child, I would rather see thee in thine innocence fall dead at my feet, than that you should ever commit a mortal sin.” These words Louis engraved so deeply into his heart, that he always abhorred sin more than all other evils, which is sufficiently illustrated by the fact that, according to the testimonials of his confessors, he never stained his soul with a mortal sin. The same fear he endeavored to impress upon others. One day, seeing a man afflicted with leprosy, he asked one. of his courtiers whether he would rather suffer this disease or commit a mortal sin. The courtier having answered that he would rather have a hundred mortal sins on his soul than leprosy on his body, the holy king was indignant, and replied: “Truly, you do not understand what it means to be in disgrace with the Almighty. Learn that a mortal sin is more to be dreaded than all the evils on earth.” Equal to his fear of sin was his zeal in performing good deeds and practising Christian virtues. He daily attended holy Mass, and always with the greatest devotion, and he never suffered any levity at church, in his courtiers or domestics. He appointed certain hours during the day for prayers. The grace of holy baptism and of the Christian faith he esteemed more highly than his crown. To be a Christian was for him a higher title than to be king of France; hence he generally called himself Louis of Poissy, because he had been baptised in that city. His faith was so well established, that when he was one day informed that Christ was visible in the Blessed Eucharist, in the form of a lovely child, he answered: “I believe that Christ, our Lord, is present in the Blessed Eucharist, and so firm is this my belief, that I need not see Him with my eyes.” To holy relics he showed great honor: hence, when the Emperor Constantine presented to him the crown of thorns of our Saviour, he went, with his whole court and all the clergy, five miles to meet it, and then accompanied it with great devotion to Paris. He carried the holy treasure, barefoot and with uncovered head, to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and thence into the chapel of Saint Nicholas, where it was deposited with all due reverence. Towards himself he showed an austerity hardly surpassed in the convents. He wore, almost constantly, a rough hair-shirt, fasted every Friday and during the whole of Advent. He never permitted himself a dispensation in Lent. Before his fifteenth year, he was very fond of hunting, fishing, and other harmless amusements, but afterwards he renounced them all, in order to give all his time to prayer and the care of his government. His love for the poor was so great, that he not only gave them large alms, but also visited them in their sickness, washed the feet of some every Saturday, fed daily 120 in his palace, and always entertained three of them at his own table, serving them with his own hands. Some of his courtiers maintained that this was not suitable for a king; but he replied; “I recognize and honor in the poor, Christ Himself, who has said: ‘What you do to the least of them you have done to Me.'” On another occasion, he said: “The poor must gain heaven by their patience, the rich, by giving alms.” He built many asylums and other houses for the maintenance of the poor, and erected a still larger number of churches and convents for the honor of God and the salvation of souls.
But as Saint Louis thus proved himself a pious king, so also he showed himself a worthy ruler, by being indefatigable where the welfare of his people, or where justice and the protection of the church were concerned. He made laws and ordinances commanding all officials of the State to deal justice without any delay and to take all possible care of his subjects. Those who disobeyed these laws were severely punished. He appointed two days in the week on which every body, even the lowest and poorest had free admittance to him and could bring him his complaints. He labored especially to uproot those vices which prevent the blessing of God, and call down the Divine wrath upon a land. Hence he ordained by law that blasphemers should be branded by the public executioner, and when, one day, his pardon was asked for a nobleman who had been guilty of this crime, the holy king refused it, saying: “I would let my own lips be pierced with a red hot iron, if, by this means, I could prevent all blasphemy in my domains.” His valor in war was as great as his zeal for justice and his endeavors to destroy all vice. The whole world had, in this pious and heroic king, a proof that piety and valor can well be united in the human heart. Over the Albigenses, the most bitter enemies of the State and Church, he gained a decisive victory, completely vanquishing them. Some rebellious subjects, who had made war against him when he first ascended the throne, and who were aided by a foreign power, were conquered and brought again under his sceptre. These and many other victories made him greatly esteemed and respected by all foreign monarchs.
But nothing more effectually proves the great zeal of this holy king for the true church, than the crusades which he undertook to recover the Holy Land and to assist the oppressed Christians who lived in it. His first expedition, at the outset, promised great success, but in the course of time, by the inscrutable decrees of Providence, the greater part of his army fell victims to disease, and the holy king himself was taken prisoner. In this misfortune, his patience was so great and heroic, that even his enemies admired it. He submitted, without any complaint, to the Divine will, and continued his prayers, fasts and pious exercises, as if he were in his palace at Paris. He was at length released on payment of a ransom of 800,000 ducats, and the surrender of the cities he had taken. He thus concluded a truce of ten years with the Saracens. Having, under these conditions obtained his liberty, he remained some time longer in the Holy Land, visited with great devotion, the places made sacred by the presence of our Saviour, ransomed many prisoners, gave abundant alms, and fortified the few cities that remained in the hands of the Christians.
Meanwhile the holy queen, Blanche, his mother, died at Paris, and when the news reached the Saint, he returned at once to France. Some years later, when it was reported that the Christians in the East were more oppressed than ever by the infidels, he resolved to undertake a second crusade to assist them. At first, success followed the king’s army, but the great heat of the climate, the want of wholesome water and provisions, infected the whole army with an epidemic, so that a large number died, among whom was a son of the king. At last, Saint Louis himself was seized with the disease, and without being disturbed by it, he prepared himself for his last hour by prayer and by devoutly receiving the holy Sacraments. After this he gave to the Crown Prince, who was with him, instructions, partly verbal, partly in writing, which were dictated by Christian and royal wisdom, and which will be given below. After this he desired to dispense with all worldly affairs, and to occupy himself only with God, to whose holy will he had entirely submitted. When his last hour had come, he desired to be robed in a penitential garment, and to be laid on a bed strewn with ashes. When this had been done, he took the Crucifix, kissed it most devoutly, and continued in prayer and acts of devotion, until he calmly expired, in the year of our Lord 1270, in the fifty-sixth year of his age. His last words were those of the Psalmist: “Lord, I will enter into Thy house: I will adore Thee in Thy holy temple, and will give glory to Thy name.” Thus did Saint Louis pass from a temporal into an eternal kingdom. Truly, he had been a great and holy king; great, on account of his valor in war; still greater, for his Christian magnanimity in adversity, but greatest, for the many exalted virtues by which he shone before the whole world from his childhood to the last hour of his life, and which prevented him from ever committing a mortal sin.
The instructions which he gave to the heir of his crown, and which he had constantly observed himself, testify his great holiness. They are as follows:
1. Love God, the Almighty, above everything.
2. Flee sin more quickly than you would a serpent.
3. Become not fainthearted in adversity.
4. Become not elevated in the days of prosperity.
5. Show the wounds of your soul frequently to your spiritual physician, and refuse no remedies, however bitter, to heal them.
6. Pray diligently.
7. Be compassionate and generous to the poor.
8. If your mind is harassed with doubt, consult a devout man.
9. Keep faithful and pious counsellors around you, and dismiss those who are wicked.
10. All that is good hold fast: all that is bad discard.
11. Lend a willing ear to those who speak of God.
12. Listen not to calumniators and slanderers.
13. So long as you reign, leave not unpunished those who blaspheme God and the Saints.
14. First be grateful to God, then to men.
15. Love and protect justice, and neither neglect nor despise the complaints of the needy.
16. In your own affairs, when they are not perfectly clear, speak and act against yourself.
17. Refund immediately the possessions of others.
18. Protect the clergy.
19. Love and honor your parents.
20. If you are obliged to war against Christians, spare the churches and the convents.
21. Endeavor to terminate all contentions with kindness.
22. Guard all your officials with a watchful eye.
23. Ever show due reverence to the Pope.
24. Overstep not the bounds of moderation in your expenses.
25. When I have departed, let prayers and Masses be said for the repose of my soul.
These were the last admonitions of the holy king.
How many glorious examples of the most noble virtues are to be found in the life of this admirable king! Consider them well and endeavor to imitate some of them; especially, his reverence in Church, his devotion in attending Holy Mass, his great esteem for the true faith, his firm belief in the presence of the Lord in the most Holy Sacrament, his continual zeal in prayer, his veneration for holy relics, his penance, his exactness in observing the fasts, his generous charity to the poor and prisoners, his zeal for the honor of God, manifested by the founding of Churches and convents, by the uprooting of vice, and by his protection of the true faith. Consider also his invincible patience in adversity, his perfect resignation to the Divine will, in the many unfortunate events of his life, and finally his holy preparation to leave this world. All these are examples which may serve to cover you with confusion, as well as to excite you to emulation. Of all these points, however, I will only place two more particularly before your eyes.
• “You do not understand what it is to be in disfavor with God. Learn that a mortal sin is more to be feared than all the evils of the world,” said the holy king. Recognize from this the perfect perception and horror that Saint Louis had of sin. For this he was indebted to his holy mother, who had repeatedly said to him, that she would rather see him dead than polluted by a mortal sin; by which she desired to say, that sin was more to be feared than death. Oh! that all parents would impress this truth on the hearts of their children! But most people do not or will not comprehend the amount of wickedness that a single sin contains. And yet it is certain that sin is a greater evil than all others in this world; for, there is none that can so hurt us in soul and body as this. Should we lose nothing by sin but the friendship and favor of God, this alone ought to be sufficient to restrain us from committing it. Perhaps you do not regard this, because you do not understand what it is to be in disfavor with the Great God, or to have Him for an enemy. Surely, the greatest unhappiness of the damned is, that they have God as an enemy; for, this is the source of all their other misery. Why are you so little concerned about being in disgrace with God? Why do you draw His displeasure upon yourself so frivolously by committing great iniquities? Why do you remain in this state of disfavor so long, without any effort to reconcile yourself with God? Pray fervently to the Almighty, to give you a right perception of the wickedness of sin, as this perception will soon be followed by hatred of it and by penance.
• In early youth the holy king was fond of hunting and fishing, and going to plays; but after his fifteenth year he refrained from these amusements, which he might have enjoyed without offending heaven, and sacrificed them to the Almighty. The holy Fathers regard the sacrifice which king David made to God, when he refused to appease his thirst with water that was brought to him from the cistern at Bethlehem, as more precious than many other sacrifices and victories with which this holy king had honored the Most High. Just so high! ly ought the act of Saint Louis to be esteemed. He could have enjoyed these entertainments without sin; but he conquered himself, and, actuated by holy intentions, he refrained from them. In this manner, all true servants of God, all true penitents should act. They should not only refrain from unlawful pleasures, but also from such as are innocent, and thus offer to God a pleasing sacrifice. You have surely many opportunities, though perhaps only in small things, to make such sacrifices: do not let them pass without making use of them. You have more reason to do this than the holy king, as by committing sin you have sought and tasted unlawful pleasures. “Whoever remembers,” says Saint Gregory, “that he has tasted unlawful pleasures, should sometimes abstain from those permitted to him, in order to give, at least in part, satisfaction to his Creator.”
- Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Louis, King of France”. , 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 28 April 2018. Web. 25 August 2020. <https://catholicsaints.info/weningers-lives-of-the-saints-saint-louis-king-of-france/>
The mother of Louis told him she would rather see him die than commit a mortal sin, and he never forgot her words. King of France at the age of twelve, he made the defence of God’s honor the aim of his life. Before two years, he had crushed the Albigensian heretics, and forced them by stringent penalties to respect the Catholic faith. Amidst the cares of government, he daily recited the Divine Office and heard two Masses, and the most glorious churches in France are still monuments of his piety. When his courtiers remonstrated with Louis for his law that blasphemers should be branded on the lips, he replied, “I would willingly have my own lips branded to root out blasphemy from my kingdom.” The fearless protector of the weak and the oppressed, he was chosen to arbitrate in all the great feuds of his age between the Pope and the Emperor, between Henry III and the English barons. In 1248, to rescue the land which Christ had trod, he gathered round him the chivalry of France, and embarked for the East. There, before the infidel, in victory or defeat, on the bed of sickness or a captive in chains, Louis showed himself ever the same, the first, the best, and the bravest of Christian knights. When a captive at Damietta, an Emir rushed into his tent brandishing a dagger red with the blood of the Sultan, and threatened to stab him also unless he would make him a knight, as the Emperor Frederick had Facardin. Louis calmly replied that no unbeliever could perform the duties of a Christian knight. In the same captivity, he was offered his liberty on terms lawful in themselves, but enforced by an oath which implied a blasphemy, and though the infidels held their swords’ points at his throat, and threatened a massacre of the Christians, Louis inflexibly refused. The death of his mother recalled him to France; but when order was re-established, he again set forth on a second crusade. In August, 1270, his army landed at Tunis, and, though victorious over the enemy, succumbed to a malignant fever. Louis was one of the victims. He received the Viaticum kneeling by his camp-bed, and gave up his life with the same joy that he had given all else for the honor of God.
Reflection – If we cannot imitate St. Louis in dying for the honor of God, we can at least resemble him in resenting the blasphemies offered against God by the infidel, the heretic, and the scoffer.
This child of benediction was the ninth of his name, among the kings of France. He was the son of Louis VIII and Queen Blanche of Castile, a pious and saintly woman, who was untiring in her efforts to train him in the practice of every virtue. It was her custom to say to him, “My son, I would rather see you dead at my feet, than guilty of a single mortal sin.” It was not strange that Louis, while still very young, displayed great piety and zeal for religion, combined with a horror of sin, the natural result of his good mother’s early training. Queen Blanche was regent of France during the long minority of her son, and she directed the affairs of the government with so much wisdom and prudence, that Louis, after assuming the reins of government, often sought her advice and deferred to her judgment in the management of his kingdom.
In the wars conducted by Louis’ ancestors, many innocent persons had lost their estates, which became, by right of victory, the property of the crown. The young king’s first care, after attaining his majority, was to seek out the former owners of these estates, or their descendants, and to restore to them all their property which had reverted to the crown. In the instructions left by him to his son, Philippe, he says, “If thou art given to understand that thou boldest anything wrongfully, either in thy own time, or, in that of thy ancestors, quickly restore it, no matter how great the thing may be, either in land, or money, or otherwise.”
Louis had not long been crowned, when Christendom, and, indeed, not only Christendom, but the entire civilized world was suddenly called upon to defend itself from total destruction. The Mongols, a barbarian tribe from the north of China had become so strong and so numerous, that they left the sterile plains, which had been their home, spread over the whole of Asia and marked their path with the ashes of ruined buildings and the bones of murdered men. It was the ambition of these savages to reduce the whole known world to a plain, or free prairie, where they could roam at will on their small shaggy ponies. So much were these Mongols feared and dreaded, that the people of Europe said they would one day descend upon Rome, and feed their horses on the high-altar of Saint Peter’s. The Emperor of Constantinople sent to ask Louis’ aid against the invaders, and promised to give him a precious relic – the crown of thorns worn by Our Blessed Lord during his passion. Louis was overjoyed, and directed that a chapel, the Sainte Chapelle should be built at Vincennes for its reception. When the precious relic arrived, Louis walked after it, barefoot from Paris to Vincennes, where it was installed in the Sainte Chapelle, with many pious ceremonies. Louis wished to show his gratitude to the Emperor of Constantinople, by starting at once to his assistance, but was detained at home by a war with England. This war finally ended in a truce brought about through the efforts of Richard Coeur de Lion, whom Louis revered for the part he had taken in the last crusade. Our saint detested war, and always tried to avoid it, if at all possible. It was his custom to arbitrate quarrels between his nobles, in order to prevent the duels which were commonly regarded, at that time, as the only way of settling a dispute.
The kingdom being at peace, Louis prepared to put into execution his darling project, the rescue of Jerusalem, but, once more, the saint had need of exercising the virtue of patience. He fell ill, and was almost at the point of death, when the news reached France, that the Mongols had swept down upon the city of Bagdad, which they had left almost entirely In ruins. Then, pushing on towards the Holy Land, they gained a victory at Gaza, where a large number of Christians were slain. The Mongols next entered Jerusalem, which had been deserted by its inhabitants, and lured them back by a cunningly-contrived plan. They displayed crosses on the walls, and when the inhabitants returned, massacred them without mercy.
The tidings of all these disasters reached Paris, when the king was thought to be at the point of death. In fact, one of the watchers by Louis , bed-side, had already covered his face, thinking that he had breathed his last. He rallied, however, and, as soon as he could speak, directed that the red cross of the crusader be placed upon his bed, and upon his tunic. His mother begged him to renounce his intention of going to the Holy Land. She represented to him, that, in his feeble condition, the trying climate of Syria would probably prove fatal. But Louis was firm in his resolve. When told that Queen Blanche had said her son might not have been in full possession of his senses, when, during his illness, he took the vow of the crusader, he sent for her and for the bishop of Paris, and said to them, u Since you believe I was not perfectly myself when I took my vows, I now pluck my cross off my shoulders and give it into your hands. But now, since you see that I am in full possession of all my faculties, then give me back my cross, for He who knows all things, also knows that no food shall enter my mouth until I have been marked with this sign.”
“It is the finger of God,” said his mother, “Let us no longer oppose his will.”
As soon as Saint Louis had recovered his strength, he set sail for Cyprus, where he spent several months, stocking his ships with provisions, and training himself and his soldiers to resist the ill-effects of the severe Eastern climate. While Louis was in Cyprus, he received envoys from several Asiatic princes, who wished to make the acquaintance of the great French king. One Mussulman ruler, called the Old Man of the Mountain, afforded great amusement to the Frenchmen. He sent to beg of Louis, exemption from a certain tribute which he had hitherto been forced to pay to the templars. Behind the ambassador presenting the petition, stood two envoys, one bearing three swords, cunningly fitted together. These swords would have been presented, in token of defiance, with the points towards the French king, had he refused the request. The other envoy held on his arm a white cotton cloth which would have been handed to the king as his winding-sheet had he not granted the petition of the Old Man of the Mountain.
Louis sailed from Cyprus for Egypt, and, being undecided where to land, was driven by a storm towards Damietta. He was so eager to disembark, that he leaped into the water, sword in hand, before his boat touched shore. The troops of Saracens drawn up to oppose the landing of the French, fled, after a slight skirmish, and Louis found himself in possession of the city of Damietta. He then pushed on, with his army towards Cairo, but ignorance of the roads caused the Frenchmen to take a round-about route, and fifty days were consumed in making a journey which should have occupied only ten. During this terrible march, the French suffered severely, in their heavy armor, from the Greek fire rained on them by the enemy. When Louis saw the sufferings of his troops, he knelt down, and raising his hands toward heaven prayed fervently, saying “O gracious God, preserve my people to me.”
At length, the minarets and domes of Cairo were seen in the distance, by the weary Frenchmen, and soon the vanguard of the army reached the city gates. The king’s brother, Robert, was so impatient to enter, that he refused to wait for the main body of the army and, setting spurs to his horse, dashed in at the open gate. The templars who were with him, followed, and immediately upon entering the city, were slain by the Saracens. The king fought valiantly when he learned of this disaster. One of his knights writes of him, “Where I was on foot with my men, the king came with all his army, and with great noise and sound of trumpets, halted on a raised place. Never was so goodly a man-at-arms seen, for he topped all his people from the shoulders upward, and had a golden helmet on his head, and a German sword in his hand.”
In the evening, some one came to inquire about the king’s brother. “All that I know,” said he, “is that my brother is now in Paradise.”
The battle raged until after nightfall, Louis performing prodigies of valor. When the Count of Anjou was surrounded and attacked by two bodies of Saracens, one on horseback, the other on foot, the king saved him by dashing through the ranks of the enemy, his horse’s mane afire. The Saracens finally retreated and Louis said aloud, before the whole army, a prayer of thanksgiving to Almighty God for the victory. It was considered almost miraculous to have defeated with infantry, most of whom were wounded, a powerful body of cavalry.
Louis had not escaped unhurt, from the conflict, and wished to retire with the armv to Damietta. So many were disabled, however, that this plan had to be abandoned for a time. Soon sickness added to the sufferings of the French, who, breathing the unwholesome mists and drinking the polluted water of the Nile, were soon attacked with strange and terrible diseases. The deaths grew daily more numerous. One day, a knight of the king’s household named Joinville, who was ill, was hearing Mass in bed, when he noticed that the priest was on the point of fainting. Rising from his couch, he supported him until the holy sacrifice was ended, when the priest breathed his last.
The people, panic-stricken, and fearing the contagion, had a dread and horror of touching the dead, or of burying them. Ring Louis had recovered from his wound, and he set the example of Christian charity, to the army, by digging the graves and burying with his own hands those who had fallen victims to the pestilence. But the work was too great for his strength, Louis fell ill, and it was then determined to move the army to Damietta. Some of the troops were embarked on boats on the Rile, others went by land. Louis was so weak that he had to be carried on a litter. The march was soon stopped by the Saracens, and a fearful massacre of the Christians took place. Louis was taken prisoner, and the French, anxious to ransom their beloved king, desired to make terms with the enemy. The sultan finally consented to deliver the royal prisoner to the French, taking in return the city of Damietta and a large sum of money, but before the terms of the agreement could be carried out, the Saracen ruler was killed by his own subjects, who then attacked the French prisoners. The king escaped and finally returned to France with the remnant of his army which had escaped the pestilence and the Saracen prison. His wife, Margaret, who had bravely accompanied him to Egypt, also returned home taking with her the little prince John, who was born in the Holy Land while his father was the prisoner of the sultan.
Queen Blanche had died during the absence of Louis, who was thus deprived of the melancholy, satisfaction of soothing her last hours on earth, by his presence.
Soon after the return home of the French from Egypt, reports began to reach Europe that the Mongols were committing terrible ravages in Syria. These savages had been joined by the Mamelukes, a band of Turkish outlaws; and one Christian stronghold after another fell into their hands. Thousands of Christians were slaughtered for refusing to deny the Faith. In Antioch alone, seventeen thousand of these martyrs were put to the sword, and one hundred thousand sold into slavery.
The terrible tidings of these events set on fire the ardent and pious spirit of Louis. At night, while at prayer in the Sainte Chapelle, his imagination pictured the sufferings of the helpless Christians in Svria, and he fancied he could hear their cries for deliverance. On May 25, 1267, he assembled his barons in the great hall of the Louvre. Louis entered, bearing in his hands the holy crown of thorns from the Sainte Chapelle. Then, in the presence of all the court, he solemnly took the cross of the crusader, his example being followed by his two brothers, his sons and many barons. A second time, the brave king prepared for the dangerous expedition to the Holy Land. It was decided to land the army at Tunis, because the ruler of that country was friendly to the French. A Jew from Tunis had been converted and baptized in Paris. Louis invited the Tunisian ambassadors to the ceremony, and said to them; “Tell your master, that so strong is my longing for his conversion, that I would be willing to enter a Saracen prison for the rest of my life, and never again see the light of day, if, by so doing, I could make your king and his people Christians.” This kind message was so pleasing to the ruler of Tunis, that he resolved to serve the French king whenever it should be in his power to do so. His friendship proved most valuable, for the French landed in Tunis without opposition, and started on the trying march across the desert. The fierce summer sun of that tropical climate beat down pitilessly on the soldiers in their heavy armor. No shade, no trees nor grass, nothing but the burning yellow sands of the desert into which their struggling horses plunged deep at every step. The only water obtainable was taken from stagnant pools, or cisterns full of insects. In a few days, the plague broke out. The king and his sons fell ill, the youngest died. As this prince was Louis’ favorite child, his confessor dared not acquaint the bereaved father with the sad news for one entire week, and by that time, Louis was himself preparing to go to his eternal reward. The saintly king, in the midst of his pains, dictated a beautiful instruction to his son and successor, and even received an ambassador of the Greek king, who sent to beg a favor of the king of France.
On the ninth day of his illness, in the evening, Louis felt that his end was near, and ordered his attendants to lift him from his bed and place him upon a cross of ashes on the floor. He was heard to pray for his people, begging Almighty God to grant them a safe return to France. Several times he murmured “O Jerusalem, O Jerusalem!” On August 25, 1270, Louis breathed his last, an exile from his native land for the love of God.
Saint Louis was canonized twenty-seven years after his death, and his feast is celebrated by the church on the twenty-fifth of August
The character of this holy king is one of the most attractive and lovable among the saints of the Church. We delight to think of him, walking in the early morning after mass, in the forest of Vincennes, reading the office of the church – a devotion which was often interrupted, perhaps to arbitrate between two quarreling barons, or to settle the claim of a poor peasant, for all his subjects were allowed to appear before the good king, whenever it suited them. He punished infringement of the law, when necessary, but always preferred to deal leniently with offenders. He gave orders to his soldiers in Syria, that all Saracen captives should be kindly treated, and that the children should be brought to the priest for baptism. Even among those infidels he was called the “Saint King”. Louis was a member of the third order of Saint Francis, to whom he had a great devotion, and whose ardent love of God he imitated. In a letter to his daughter, he wrote, “My dear daughter, the measure in which we should love God, is to love him beyond measure.”
If you ever travel in France, you will see, at Vincennes, the Sainte Chapelle, which the good king built, and where he was wont to retire for his devotions. The dim little chapel in the forest is filled with memories of the great King Louis, and, as we think of him, there comes to our mind a verse of his favorite psalm which fittingly describes this holy saint of God, “Happy are they who observe justice and who execute it at all times.”
– text taken from , by Josephine Portuondo, 1907
Saint Lewis, King of France
From his life written by the Lord of Joinville, seneschal or chief justice, treasurer, and general of Champagne, who attended him in his first crusade. His history of St. Lewis is written with the most agreeable natural simplicity, which has justly procured him the title of Naïf. The best edition is that published by Du Cange, and printed in Cramoisy, in 1668, in folio. Also from the life of this saint compiled by Geoffrey of Beaulieu, a Dominican friar, who was his confessor during twenty years; and another life written by William of Chartres, also a Dominican, his chaplain; and William de Nangis, a monk of St. Denis, in 1320, who wrote the lives of St. Lewis, and his son and successor Philip III. See his modern life compiled in two volumes by Mons. de la Chaise, from memoirs prepared by Sacy, or rather by Tillemont. See also Fontenai and Brumoi, Hist. de l’Eglise de Fr. t. 11
IN the person of St. Lewis IX. were eminently united the qualities which form a great king, and a perfect hero, no less than those which make up the character of a wonderful saint. Endowed with all qualifications for government, he excelled equally in the arts of peace and in those of war; and his courage, intrepidity, and greatness of mind received from his virtue the highest lustre; for ambition, or a view to his own glory, had no share in his great enterprises, his only motive in them being religion, zeal for the glory of God, or the good of his subjects. Though the two crusades in which he was engaged, were attended with ill success, he is certainly to be ranked among the most valiant princes, and understood war the best of any general of the age in which he lived; in the most dangerous battles which he fought he beat the enemy, how much soever superior to him in numbers and strength: and his afflictions set his piety and virtue in the brightest light.
This great king was son of Lewis VIII. and was eight years old when the death of his grandfather Philip II. surnamed Augustus, put his father, who was then in the thirty-sixth year of his age, in possession of the crown of France, in 1223. The saint was born at Poïssy, in the diocess of Chartres, on the 25th of April 1215; and, because he had been there raised to the dignity of a Christian by the grace of baptism, he afterwards honoured this place above others, to show how much he esteemed this spiritual dignity above that of his temporal crown. He made this his favourite place, took singular pleasure in bestowing charities, and doing other good actions there: and in his familiar letters and private transactions, several copies whereof are still extant, he signed himself Lewis of Poïssy. His mother was Blanche, daughter to Alphonsus IX. or as some call him the VIII. king of Castile, the great conqueror, who in the battle of Muradal defeated Mahomet Emir, called the Green, with an army of above two hundred thousand Moors. She was a princess of extraordinary beauty and prudence, was endued with zeal for religion, and other virtues, and had great talents for government. Some have charged her with ambition and craft; but others call these accusations mere slanders, raised by her enemies during her regency. To her care and attention in the education of St. Lewis, we are indebted, under God, for the great example of his virtues. From his birth she would never suffer him to suck any other breasts but her own, and gave all possible attention to every part of his education, and that of her other children. By her care he was perfectly master of the Latin tongue, learned to speak in public, and to write with elegance, grace, and dignity, and was instructed in the art of war, the wisest maxims of government, and all the accomplishments of a king. He was a good historian, and often read the works of the fathers. It was his mother’s first care to instil into his tender soul the highest esteem and awe for every thing that regarded the divine worship, the strongest sentiments of religion and virtue, and a particular love of holy chastity. She used often to say to him, when he was a child: “I love you my dear son, with all the tenderness a mother is capable of; but I would infinitely rather see you fall down dead at my feet, than that you should ever commit a mortal sin.” The king frequently said to others, that the strong impression which this important lesson made on his mind, was never effaced during his whole life, and that no day passed in which it did not recur, and excite him vigorously to arm himself afresh against all snares and dangers of surprise, He was placed very young on the throne. 1
Lewis VIII. died on the 7th of November, 1226. Blanche, the queen mother, was declared regent for her son who was then only twelve years old. To prevent seditions, she hastened the ceremony of his coronation, which was performed at Rheims, on the first Sunday of Advent, by the bishop of Soissons, the archbishopric of Rheims being then vacant. The young king did not look upon this action as a mere ceremony, but prepared himself by the most fervent exercises of devotion, in order to move God to accompany the exterior unction which he then received, with the invisible anointing of his grace, by which he might be made truly the anointed of the Lord. He considered the pomp of that day with fear and humility, saying to God in his heart with David: To thee, O Lord, have I raised my soul; and in thee do I place my confidence. He trembled on taking the coronation oath, begging of God resolution, light, and strength, to employ his authority, according to his obligations, only for the divine honour, the defence of the church, and the good of his people. Several of the greatest lords of the kingdom, thinking to lay hold of the opportunity of the king’s minority, entered into a confederacy together, and made many extravagant demands. None of these princes would be present at the coronation, and they appeared in arms soon after it was over. The chief were Philip count of Boulogne, a natural son of Philip Augustus; Peter of Dreux, a prince of the royal blood, who was also count of Britanny, having married the daughter of Constantia countess of Britanny, after the death of count Arthur, whom our king John is accused of having murdered; Hugh of Lusignan, count of La Marche, who, after the death of king John, had married his widow, who had been queen of England, and was therefore called the countess queen; but the most powerful of all these lords was Theobald, or Thibault, count of Champagne, afterwards also king of Navarre. 2 The queen regent put herself, with her son, at the head of his troops, and finding means to bring over the count of Champagne to his duty, struck the rest with such consternation, that they all retired. They were soon after again in arms, and would have seized the king’s person near Orleans, had not the count of Champagne given the regent notice, and the whole country taken arms to escort him hastily to Paris. The whole time of the king’s minority was disturbed by these rebels; but the regent, by several alliances and negotiations, and chiefly by her courage and diligence, by which she always prevented them in the field, continually dissipated their cabals. By her generals she pushed on the war against the Albigenses; and, in the third year of her regency, obliged Raymund count of Toulouse, and duke of Narbonne, to receive her conditions, these were, that he should marry his daughter Jane to Alphonsus the king’s brother, who should inherit the county of Toulouse, and that in case they should have no children by this marriage, that whole inheritance should revert to the crown; which accordingly happened. Henry III. king of England, had not taken advantage of these disturbances in France, to recover what his father had lost in Aquitain, which some attributed to his irresolution, and to the counsels of his favourite, Robert of Burgh or Burk. In 1230 he sailed into Brittany, to succour the count, who was pressed by the regent, but he undertook nothing; and being returned to London in 1231, he concluded a truce between the two crowns for three years, and Peter count of Brittany threw himself at the feet of king Lewis with a rope about his neck, and obtained his pardon, engaging to serve five years in Palestine at his own expense. Lewis rejoiced in his victories only because he saw he had procured by them the advantages of peace to his subjects. He was merciful even to rebels; and, by his readiness to receive any proposals of agreement, gave the most evident proofs that he neither sought revenge nor conquests by his arms. Never had any man a greater love for the church, or a greater veneration for its ministers than this good king; yet this was not blind; and he opposed the injustices of bishops, when he saw them betrayed into any, and he listened not to their complaints till he had given a full hearing to the other party, as he showed in the violent contests of the bishops of Beauvais and Metz with the corporations of those cities
Pope Gregory IX. (who had succeeded Honorius III.) in the broils which the emperor Frederic II. had raised about the investitures of bishops, wrote to St. Lewis, that he had deprived Frederic of the empire, and had proposed Robert, the king’s brother, in his place. But the king showed no other regard to those letters than to interest himself in procuring a reconciliation of the emperor to the holy see. Gregory IX. died in 1241, and Celestine IV. who succeeded him, filled the pontifical throne only eighteen days. After him cardinal Fieschi, a Genoese, was elected under the name of Innocent IV. in whose time these struggles were the most dangerous; with which St. Lewis never interfered but to sue for peace.
This good king never thought himself so happy as when he enjoyed the conversation of some priests or religious men of eminent sanctity; and he often invited such to his royal table. He appeared at the foot of the altars more humble and recollected than the most devout hermit, and he allotted several hours in the day to prayer. When some people said of him, that he spent too much time in his usual devotions, he only answered, that if he employed that time in hunting, tournaments, gaming, or plays, they would not take so exact an account of the time which he lost at them. He hardly allowed himself any time for diversion, and so great was his temperance and mortification, that he had the art of practising it with great austerity, amidst the dainties of a royal table. Amongst other rules which for this purpose he privately prescribed to himself, it was observed that he never touched any fruit when it was first served in season, and was extremely ingenious in abstaining often from dainties, and in practising self-denials, without being taken notice of; by such means shunning the dangers of offending by intemperance, making the exercise of penance familiar and easy, and keeping his senses always docile to reason, and under government. Yet, how much Christian severity soever he exercised upon himself, his virtue never made him morose. He was extremely humane, and very agreeable in conversation. The inward peace of his mind, and the joy with which his pure soul overflowed from the presence of the Holy Ghost, enhanced the natural liveliness and cheerfulness of his temper. Coming from his closet, or from the church, he in a moment appeared conversing upon business; or at the head of an army with the countenance of a hero fighting battles, enduring the greatest fatigues, and daring the most alarming dangers. He knew how to observe seasons, but with a decent liberty. Once when a certain friar had started a grave religious subject at table, he agreeably turned the discourse to another subject, saying: “All things have their time.” His discourse at such times was cheerful without levity or impertinence, and instructive without stiffness or austerity. He celebrated feasts and rejoicings on the creation of knights, and other such public occasions, with great magnificence, some of which Joinville has given us a description of; but he banished from his court all diversions which are dangerous to morals. As for himself he gave the greater part of his time to the business of the state, and his devotion never in the least took off his care of the government. He was exact in holding councils, often gave both public and private audiences, and sometimes to people of the lowest rank; and was indefatigable in applying himself to the regulation of his army and kingdom. He was naturally bountiful. Nothing was more edifying than his sweetness, his moderation in dress and equipage, and the Christian humility in which he exercised himself more than in any other virtue, and which he practised more particularly towards the poor, often serving them at table, washing their feet, and visiting them in the hospitals. Such actions, when blended with certain faults, and degraded by an inconsistency, or meanness of conduct, would bring contempt upon persons of high rank; but they were done by our saint with so perfect and sincere humility and charity, and supported with such admirable dignity, that they had an opposite effect upon the minds of his nobles and people; and it is the remark of William de Nangis, that there never was seen more submission paid to a sovereign than this great king met with from all ranks after his subjects had experienced his virtue, and the happiness of his government; and that it continued all the rest of his reign.
Modesty, the most amiable of virtues, was not the least part of our saint’s character. It was such in him, that its awful sovereignty, which appeared in his very blushes, sufficed to check all loose thoughts in others. He was a lover of music and singing; but if any one in a song or otherwise, let slip the least indecent word before him, he was for ever banished his presence. When it was expedient for the king to marry, the most virtuous lady was his choice. This was Margaret, the eldest daughter of Raymund Berenger, count of Provence, of which sovereignty his ancestors had received the investiture from the emperors of Germany. They were descended from the counts of Barcelona, who were a younger family of the royal house of Arragon. This count’s second daughter, Eleanor, was married to Henry III. king of England; his third, Sancia, to his brother Richard, afterwards king of the Romans: and Beatrice, the fourth and youngest, to Charles, brother to St. Lewis, to whom she brought for her dower the county of Provence. Margaret, the eldest, surpassed the rest in beauty, wit, and her extraordinary piety and virtue. St. Lewis met her at Sens, where the marriage was celebrated on the 27th of May, 1234. God blessed it with a constant happy union of hearts, and an offspring which has given kings to France ever since. They imitated young Toby in their preparation for this state, and always observed continency in Lent, all other fast-days, all festivals, and in other seasons prescribed by the ancient canons, which St. Charles Borromæo, and the Roman catechism order to be recommended, though by disuse they are not now esteemed as precepts, but counsels. 3 King Lewis being before innured to government, took the reins into his own hands in April 1236, having completed the twenty-first year of his age. 4 But he continued to show the greatest deference to his mother, and still to govern by her counsels which were always wise and virtuous. He had every day regular hours for reciting the divine office, and for his other devotions, in which he was constant and exact. He wore a hair-cloth, often used disciplines, and went to confession two or three times a week. The first monument of piety which he erected was the abbey of Royaumont. His father had ordered in his will, that the price of his jewels should be laid out in founding a monastery. St. Lewis very much increased that sum, and made the foundation truly royal and magnificent. Out of devotion he sometimes worked with his own hands in building the church. This was afterwards one of those places to which he frequently retired to breathe the air of holy solitude, and to attend to God with more perfect recollection of soul. He founded the Chartreuse at Paris, to which he gave the palace of Vauvert: and he built many other religious places and hospitals.
Baldwin II. the Latin emperor of Constantinople in 1239, made St. Lewis (in gratitude for his great largesses to the Christians in Palestine, and other parts of the East) a present of the holy crown of thorns, which was formerly kept in the imperial palace, but was then put in the hands of the Venetians, as a pledge for a considerable loan of money borrowed of them, which the saint discharged. He sent two Dominican friars to bring this sacred treasure into France; and met it himself five leagues beyond Sens, attended with his whole court, and a numerous clergy. He and his brother Robert, walking barefoot, carried it into that city, and after the same manner into Paris, in a most pompous and devout procession, all the streets being magnificently adorned. The king deposited it in the old chapel of St. Nicholas, in his own palace in Paris; but gave some thorns of it to the church of Toledo, to that of the Franciscans at Seez, and to the abbey of St. Eloi, near Arras. The abbey of St. Denis was possessed of some before this time, as Rigord, the physician and historian of Philip Augustus, testifies in his reign. In 1241 St. Lewis received from Constantinople, with other precious relics, a very large piece of the true cross, probably the same which St. Helen brought thither from Jerusalem. The year following he pulled down the chapel of St. Nicholas in his palace, and built on the same spot that which is now called, from these relics, the Holy Chapel. 5 It is justly admired for the elegance, correctness, and sumptuous finishings of the architecture, and cost in building forty thousand livres, which, according to the most probable estimation, would amount at this time, to the sum of eight hundred thousand livres, says F. Fontenai, 6 that is, about forty thousand pounds sterling. 7 The chapel was dedicated with great solemnity, and the holy king, when he resided at Paris, used to spend a considerable part of his time, and sometimes to pass whole nights in it in prayer, which he also frequently did in a favourite private chapel in the Chateau de Vincennes. In 1242 Queen Blanche founded the nunnery of Maubuisson, designing at the time to put on a habit of penance, and divest herself of her royal robes, before she should be stripped of them by death. Her son would needs contribute to this foundation, that he might have a share in her good work. His frugal manner of living, his economy, and his care to retrench every thing which he did not owe to the dignity of his crown, supplied him always with abundant resources when charity or religion called for any extraordinary expenses. When we consider his devotion, and take a view in detail of his religious exercises, we are not to imagine that on this account he forgot any part of the care which he owed to the state. He was too well apprized that piety must be false which neglects any duty which we owe to others, or to ourselves; and the same motive which animated him in the churches, made him most diligent in every branch of his high charge, and was not only the strongest spur to diligence, but also the greatest assistance and support in all his secular employments.
Several ordinances of this good prince, still extant, are so many monuments which show us how much he applied himself to see justice well administered. It is his eulogium, in this respect, that in succeeding reigns, whenever complaints were raised among the people, the cry of those who were dissatisfied was only to demand that abuses should be reformed, and justice impartially administered, as was done in the reign of St. Lewis. In 1230, he, by severe laws, forbade all manner of usury, and restrained the Jews in particular from practising it, by many rigorous clauses. He afterwards compelled them to restore what they had exacted by that iniquitous oppression; and where the creditors could not be found, to give such gains towards the holy war, which Gregory IX. was endeavouring to set on foot. He published an ordinance, commanding all who should be guilty of blasphemy to be marked upon the lips, some say upon the forehead, with a red hot iron; and he caused this to be executed on a rich citizen of Paris, a person of great consideration; and to some of his courtiers who murmured at this severity, he said that he would rather undergo that punishment himself, than admit any thing that might put a stop to so horrible a crime, as William de Nangis tells us. 8 Some moderns say, he ordered the tongues of blasphemers to be bored through; but this is not mentioned by contemporary writers. This king set himself to protect vassals from the oppression of the lords, and took such effectual methods, that they were delivered from the hardest part of their servitude. When Engueran de Coucy, one of the greatest lords in Flanders, had hanged three children for hunting rabbits in his woods, the king caused him to be imprisoned in the castle of the Louvre, and to be tried, not by his peers, as he demanded, but, as a flaw was found in his peerage, by the ordinary judges, who condemned him to death. He afterwards spared his life, at the earnest suit of the peers of his realm, but subjected him to an amercement which deprived him of the greater part of his estates. This money the king ordered to be employed partly in building and endowing two chapels, in which mass should be said for ever for the souls of the three children; partly in founding several hospitals, and two monasteries of the Franciscans and Dominicans in Paris. He forbade enfeoffed lords ever to make war upon one another, which custom had been the occasion of continual bloodshed and disorder. The scholars and doctors of the university of Paris, upon a complaint of an infraction of their privileges by the execution of certain students for murder, forsook the university for two years. When mutual animosities were worked up to the highest pitch, the prudence of St. Lewis appeased them to the satisfaction of both parties. In like manner, when the count of La Marche and several other princes were set out with an armed force to lay the city of Orleans in ashes, in revenge for a sedition and the murder of some students, the king, by his admirable sweetness, wisdom, and justice, stopped their fury, and gave satisfaction to all parties. His scrupulous fidelity in inviolably keeping his word, and observing all treaties, gave him infinite advantages in all negotiations, and other affairs over his adversaries, who often, by frivolous evasions, eluded their most solemn oaths and engagements. The reputation of his impartial and inflexible integrity, made all parties and often foreign kings to rejoice to have him for their judge and arbitrator, and to put their affairs into his hands. Joinville assures us, that he was the wisest and best head in his council. Upon all sudden emergencies he resolved the most knotty difficulties readily and prudently.
During the minority of this good prince the kingdom was entangled in many domestic broils, and distracted with intestine seditions and wars in every part, insomuch, that it seems a miracle of providence that the queen, with all her prudence and diligence, should have been able to preserve the state entire, or that the king should be able afterwards to compose and settle it in the manner he did, reigning for some years with his sword always in his hand, yet almost without bloodshed. Frederic II., the impious and faithless emperor of Germany, though he often broke his engagements with St. Lewis, as well as with other powers, could never provoke him to war; so dexterous was the saint in maintaining both his honour and his interests without it. Indeed, being exempt from those passions which usually blow the coals, he had an uncommon advantage in the pursuit of justice and necessary defence; and, whilst his magnanimity and foresight kept him always in readiness, his love of peace inclined him rather to sacrifice petty considerations than to see one drop of Christian blood spilt, if possible.
He was extremely careful, in his engagements with other princes, never to be drawn into their quarrels, though he used all possible good offices to reconcile their differences. In his wars to reduce rebels he caused the damages which innocent persons had received even by his enemy’s forces, to be diligently inquired into, and full restitution to be made for them. The Count of La Marche and Xaintogne, whose estates were a fief of Poitou, refused to pay homage to the Count of Poitiers, the brother of St. Lewis; through the instigation of his wife, Isabel, the widow of the late King John, and mother of Henry III., then king of England, whom she called over to support his independency. The King of France marched against the Count of La Marche, and took Fontenai, in which he made the governor, who was the Count of La Marche’s son, prisoner, with forty knights. Some advised the king to hang them as rebels, or at least the governor; but this counsel he rejected with horror, saying, the son had been obliged to obey his father. He defeated King Henry III. (who was never born to be a soldier) at Taillebourg, upon the Charente, and the city of Saintes opened its gates to him in 1242. He again vanquished the Count of La Marche, who thereupon made his submission. Henry III. fled to Bourdeaux, and the next year returned to England, having made a truce with the French, for which he obliged himself to pay them five thousand pounds sterling in five years. The counsellors of St. Lewis called it bad policy, that he neglected that opportunity of conquering Guienne, and driving the English out of all France. But his views were very opposite, as appeared after his first Crusade, when he concluded a peace with the English in 1258. On this occasion he yielded to England Limousin, Quercy, and Perigord, and the reversion of Agenois and Xaintogne; King Henry III. renouncing, on his side, all pretensions to Normandy, Anjou, Maine, Touraine, and Poitou. The French called the delicacy of their king’s conscience a scrupulosity which was contrary to good policy; but to satisfy them he answered, he did not doubt but King John had justly forfeited those dominions, for refusing to clear himself of the charge brought against him for the murder of his nephew, Arthur, count of Brittany; but that he hoped by this cession to cement a lasting peace between the two nations, and that it was very honourable to his crown to have so great a king for vassal. In like manner, to satisfy his conscience as to some territories in Languedoc, to which the kings of Arragon pretended a right, which they founded upon alliances by marriages, he came to an agreement with James I., king of Arragon, in 1254, by which that prince renounced for himself and his successors all pretensions to any territories situated in Languedoc and Provence, and Lewis made a like renunciation with regard to Barcelona, and many other lordships in Arragon, to which the French then laid claim.
At this time the barbarians raised great commotions in the East. A band of desperate Saracen ruffians in the mountains of Phœnicia obeyed one whose dignity was elective, and who was called the Ancient of the Mountain, or Prince of the Assassins. He had men among his banditti always ready to execute his orders in any part of the world, and to poison or stab whomsoever he should point out to them as obstructing the propagation of the Mahometan superstition. Hearing much of the power and zeal of St. Lewis before he had taken the cross, he sent two resolute soldiers disguised into France, with an order to assassinate the king. St. Lewis, by the special providence of God, was advertised of this hellish design, and the assassins being apprehended, he courteously sent them home to their master. This visible protection of heaven was a new motive to make him redouble his piety and fervour. The great conqueror in Great and Little Tartary, and the Indies, named Gingis Chan, or king of kings, after he had vanquished the famous Tartar prince called Ung Chan, who is thought to have been the Nestorian king who was surnamed Prester-jan, and was in priest’s orders, formed an extravagant design of subduing the whole world to his empire. Some of his successors pursued the same; and in this view, Octaï, one of them, sent out three numberless swarms of Tartar forces, which spread desolation through Hungary, Poland, and Bohemia, and filled all Europe with dread and consternation. Queen Blanche, and the whole French nation trembled; the king alone was undaunted, and said cheerfully to his mother, expressing the true motive of his confidence: “Madam, what have we to fear? If these barbarians come to us, we shall either be conquerors, or shall die martyrs?” By the resolution with which he spoke this, he calmed the alarms of his mother, and of the whole state. Whilst he was preparing for his first crusade, he received a haughty letter from this Octaï, who styled himself the Immortal, pretended that his Tartars were the sons of men to whom the whole earth was promised, and required that he should deliver up his kingdom into his hands, and receive laws from him. But of this insolence the good king took no notice. Our saint afterwards sent persons into Great Tartary to inform him of the true situation of religion in those vast countries, and hearing that a daughter of Prester-jan was a zealous Christian, with some others, he entreated the pope to confer episcopal orders on certain Dominican and Franciscan friars, and to send them with proper faculties into those parts; for which mission he furnished the expenses. But the progress of the arms of the Mahometans in the Holy Land was what chiefly drew the attention of this zealous king. 9 An extraordinary accident gave occasion to his undertaking in person a holy war for the relief of the Christians in those parts.
In the year 1244 St. Lewis was seized at Pontoise with a violent dysentery and fever, which soon seemed to have brought him to the very brink of the grave. The grief and consternation into which this accident cast the whole kingdom, and the ardour with which all persons solicited heaven by their vows, tears, and almsdeeds for the life of their good king, are not to be expressed. The distemper still increasing, he fell into convulsions, and afterwards into a coma, and a kind of trance, in which he lay some days in such a condition that he was judged already dead; and his face would have been covered, had not a lady prevented it, affirming she perceived him still to breathe a little. Then the piece of the true cross and other relics that had been sent him by the Emperor Baldwin, were brought to his bedside, and applied to his body. Soon after this he recovered from his insensibility, began to move his arms and legs, and spoke with some difficulty. By his first words he expressed his resolution to take the cross, as the badge of enrolling himself to serve in the holy war, and calling for William, the bishop of Paris, who was present, he desired him to receive his vow for that expedition, and to put the badge of the cross on his shoulder. At this the two queens, his mother and wife, fell at his feet weeping, and the Bishops of Paris and Meaux, by his bedside with others, conjured him that he would not entertain such a thought; but he was not by any means to be satisfied, and gave great signs of joy in receiving the cross, which the Bishop of Paris gave him with tears. The king continued still in a lingering state of health for some time, but in the beginning of the following year grew stronger than he had been before his illness. He then renewed his vow, and, by letters, assured the Christians in Palestine that he would make all possible haste to their assistance. But the preparations for such an expedition, and the settling of his kingdom obliged him to defer his departure for two years and a half. He built a new seaport at Aiguesmortes, upon the Mediterranean, made several donations to religious places, and commanded a diligent inquiry to be made over all his dominions into the grievances of particular persons, all complaints to be received, and ample restitution to be made to every one who should even seem to have suffered any injustice or prejudice through his officers, magistrates, or judges; and by this means much restitution was made through all the provinces of his kingdom.
At that time the king suffered a great loss by the death of William, the most learned, wise, and pious Bishop of Paris, who governed that see from 1228 to 1245. He had exceedingly promoted the studies in that university, and his works, which have been several times reprinted, in two volumes, are standing monuments of his great judgment, piety, and erudition. He had thoroughly read and digested the holy scriptures, and very well understood Aristotle and Plato, the latter of whom he often prefers to the former. In his writings, in a plain, intelligible style, he keeps close to what concerns morality, discipline, and piety, and does not run out upon metaphysical notions, like many divines of his time.
In 1245 Pope Innocent IV. retired from Italy to Lyons, in France, which was at that time a free city, subject to its own archbishop, though held in fief of the emperor. This city seemed to him the most secure place, it being most remote from the arms of the Emperor Frederic II., from whom he had already suffered much, and had every thing to fear. Here he assembled that year the first general council of Lyons, in which he summoned Frederic to appear; and, upon his refusal, accused him of having often broken his word and his oath; of having arrested and imprisoned several bishops who were going to Rome to a council called by Gregory IX.; of having obstructed the regular elections of pastors, robbed the churches, invaded their possessions, and those of the holy see; of having made a league with the Saracens, and made use of them in his armies against Christians. For these irregularities, and because he refused to make satisfaction, the pope pronounced against him a sentence of excommunication and deposition. St. Lewis, to whom strong application was made both by the emperor and pope, endeavoured to reconcile them; and as he, with many others, disapproved of the step which the latter had taken, so he very much condemned Frederic’s injustices and passionate behaviour. 10 He was better pleased with the measures taken by the pope in this council for the holy war, to which his holiness allotted the twentieth part of all the revenues of benefices for three years, and the tenth of the revenues of the apostolic see and of the cardinals. Three of the king’s brothers took the cross to accompany him, Alphonsus, count of Poitiers; Robert, count of Artois, and Charles, count of Anjou and Provence; as did also Peter, count of Brittany; Hugh, duke of Burgundy; William of Dampierre, count of Flanders; Hugh of Lusignan, count of La Marche; the counts of Dreux, Bar, Soissons, Retel, Vendome, Montfort; and a great number of other lords. The king declared his mother, Blanche, regent of the kingdom; but the queen consort would absolutely bear him company. The king went to the abbey of St. Denis to take the Oriflame, 11 and set sail from Aiguesmortes, with his fleet, on the 27th of August, 1248, towards Cyprus, where he had caused large magazines to be laid up. He arrived there in three weeks, and held a great council concerning the operations of the expedition. The Christians had still in Palestine and Syria four principalities, namely, that of Acre or Ptolemais, that of Tripoli, that of Tyre, and that of Antioch. Saladin had dismantled the city of Jerusalem; from which time it had fallen again sometimes into the hands of the Christians, whenever they happened to be stronger in the field. At that time the Corasmins, the most fierce and warlike of all the Mahometan nations, were masters of it. They had been driven out of their own country, probably that of Coarsem, by an incursion of Tartars; and Saleh, sultan of Egypt, taking twenty thousand of them into his pay, promised them the plunder and lands they could win of the Christians in Palestine. They defeated and massacred them in many places, especially at Jerusalem, which city they found in the hands of the Christians, who had never since recovered it. These rapacious barbarians had spared nothing even in the churches, but had sent the richest vessels and ornaments to the tomb of their false prophet Mahomet. Saladin had been succeeded in Egypt by his eldest son, Eladel, and in Syria by his younger, called Elaziz, who was slain with his family by his uncle, Sephradin, who made himself sultan of Syria or Aleppo; but in the time of this expedition of St. Lewis, Ismael was sultan of Aleppo, who, being alarmed at the great power of the Egyptian sultan, became an ally of the Christians. In Egypt, Eladel had been succeeded by Elchamul, and he by Melech-Saleh, in whose reign St. Lewis arrived in Cyprus. The holy king passed the winter in that island, being honourably received by King Henry of Lusignan. He determined to attack the sultan of Egypt, who at that time threatened to swallow up all Palestine; he therefore sent him from Cyprus a declaration of war, unless he consented to restore the lands he had unjustly seized in Palestine. Saleh, who was sick with a sore in one of his legs which threatened a mortification, wept as he read this letter, but sent back a haughty answer, and made all preparations possible for war. He employed spies to poison the victualling-houses of the Christian army; but they were discovered, and confessed the fact. William, the valiant earl of Salisbury, surnamed Longsword, brought to St. Lewis, in Cyprus, two hundred gallant knights. The lord of Joinville, his historian, joined him there with a fresh reinforcement from France. The king’s fleet consisted of one hundred and twenty great vessels, and one thousand six hundred and fifty small ones, carrying on board twelve thousand eight hundred French, English, and Cypriot knights, and above sixty thousand chosen soldiers. 12
After having waited eight months in Cyprus, the fleet put to sea on Trinity Sunday, and though a violent storm had dispersed several of the ships, they arrived in four days before Damiata, a strong fortress of Egypt, situated in an island formed by two of the mouths of the Nile, and built upon the eastern channel, on the shore opposite to the ruins of the ancient Pelusium. The sultan had filled the Nile with his fleet, and lined the shore with a numerous army, appearing himself at their head. At this sight of the Saracens St. Lewis cried out: “Who am I but a wretched man, whose life belongs to God! He hath a sovereign right to dispose of it as it pleaseth him. Whether we are conquerors or martyrs we shall glorify him either by the prosperity of our arms, or by the sacrifice of our lives.” The fear of a storm rising in a place where they had no port to shelter them, determined the king to make a descent the next morning, which was Friday, though the vessels which had been dispersed were not yet come up. The next day the sultan, finding his sickness much increased, had ordered himself to be carried to a house of pleasure, a league above Damiata. The vessels in the centre, in which was Joinville, were carried the swiftest, and the men landed safe; then they covered themselves with their bucklers, and presented the point of their lances, which were in that age very long. The Saracen horse came upon the gallop towards them, but durst not attempt to break the kind of rampart which their lances formed. The left wing, commanded by the Count of Jaffe, and the right, in which the king was, being all prosperously got on shore, and in good order, the whole army marched towards the Saracens, who made a stand; but having lost the governor of Damiata, and two emirs, took to their heels, and their fleet sailed up the Nile. The inhabitants and garrison of Damiata were in the utmost consternation upon a report that the sultan was dead, and, setting fire to the place, fled. The French immediately took possession of that strong city, and put out the fire. The king, full of pious and religious sentiments, made his entry, not with the pomp of a conqueror, but with the humility of a truly Christian prince, walking barefoot with the queen, the princes, (his brothers,) the King of Cyprus, and other great lords, preceded by the legate, the patriarch of Jerusalem, the bishops, and all the clergy of the camp. Returning humble thanks to God, they went in this manner to the principal mosque, which the legate purified and consecrated with the usual ceremonies of the church, dedicating it under the name of the Mother of God. The sultan, though half dead, in his rage commanded fifty-four captains of the garrison to be hanged upon the spot; then was carried up the eastern channel of the Nile to Massour or Mazour, a city which his father had built in the midway between Damiata and Grand Cairo; and was followed by his army. The Nile begins to rise in May, from the rains which fall in the torrid zone on the north side of the equator, as the sun, which raises thick clouds under it, departs from that point of the zodiac; from the same cause the flood of this river continues from June to the middle of September. This, and the excessive heats, obliged the Christian army to stay till the end of summer at Damiata. The king, to prevent as much as possible all plunders and injustices, took all care possible that such crimes should be strictly inquired into and punished, and that ample restitution should be made for any such that should happen to be committed. Not content to have given this severe charge to the officers, he appointed certain religious men, in whom he could confide, to watch over the officers, and to receive all complaints. He forbade any infidel to be slain whom it was possible to make prisoner; and he took great care that all who desired to embrace the faith (as many did, moved by the pious example of this great king,) should be perfectly instructed and baptized. But, notwithstanding all his watchfulness, whilst the army staid about Damiata, many, to his extreme grief, gave themselves up to debauchery and outrageous acts of violence.
In November the king, leaving the queen and other princesses at Damiata with a strong garrison, set out with his army, intending to march to Grand Cairo, the capital. When he came to the place which separates the two arms of the Nile near Massour, he stopped, the Mahometan camp being on the other side of the river. In the meantime the sultan died on the 26th of November, 1249, leaving his son Almoadon very young; but he had appointed Facardin, who was the general of his army, and passed for the wisest and most valiant man in Egypt, regent of the kingdom, and his conduct justified the choice which his master had made of him. He constantly kept the Christians at bay, and often cut off their convoys at Damiata, and harassed all that stirred from their camp; in which he employed the Bedwins, or Bedouins, a tribe of Arabs, accustomed to live by plunder. The French were extremely perplexed how to pass this arm of the Nile called Thanis, in sight of the enemy. To do it in boats, or to throw any kind of bridges over, they found equally impossible, unless they could first clear the opposite shore. They endeavoured to fill up part of the channel by a new bank, but the Saracens widened it on the other side. They built several wooden towers to cover their workmen; but the Saracens destroyed them by throwing great stones upon them from sixteen large machines, or burnt them by throwing gregeois, or Greek fire, which was a kind of wildfire, made principally of naphtha, a bituminous liquid substance, easily inflammable, and not to be extinguished. The Greeks are sometimes mentioned to have used this wildfire in war, and its effects were dreadful. The Saracens had learned it from the Greeks, and St. Lewis never heard the horrible noise of it flying in the air, but, falling on the ground, he besought God to have pity on those who fought for the glory of his holy name. Things stood thus for near three months, when a Bedwin came to one of the French commanders, and offered for five hundred besants of gold to show them a ford which might be passed on horseback. The price, though excessive, was readily paid him, and the ford was found, though a dangerous one, and false in one place, where the horses were forced to swim. In the frequent skirmishes which had been fought, the French had always been victorious, and in them the Counts of Anjou and Poitiers had gained a great deal of reputation. On this occasion the Count of Artois, by repeated instances, obtained leave of the king to pass the ford at the head of the vanguard. The king, fearing his warmth would draw him into some rash attempt, was unwilling, and only consented upon his solemn promise not to do any thing without his order. The army crossed the river on Shrove-Tuesday in 1250; the van easily repulsed a body of infidels which disputed the passage, and the whole army got safe over, formed itself on the other side, and attacked the camp of the infidels, who were routed, and Facardin himself, fighting like a desperado, was run through the body with a lance, and killed. But the rashness of Robert, Count of Artois, overturned all these glorious advantages. Having driven before him a body of Saracens, he too eagerly pursued them with two thousand men that were under his command, among whom were the Earl of Salisbury and the English knights. They entered Massour, intermixed with the fugitives, and became at once masters of the town. This success might in some degree have atoned for the count’s rashness, had he stopped here, as the Earl of Salisbury and others earnestly besought him; but he laughed at their prudence, and pursued the enemy a great way beyond the town, till they grew too numerous and strong for him. They then drove him back into Massour, and besieged him in their turn in a house. He defended himself with incredible valour, till, exhausted with fatigue and wounds, he fell upon a heap of infidels whom he had slain with his own hands. The great Earl of Salisbury, and the two hundred brave English knights were also cut off, and their loss was extremely regretted by St. Lewis, though he said we ought to envy the glory and happiness of a death which he called equal to martyrdom. Being asked about the Count of Artois, he said, some tears beginning to run from his eyes: “He is in paradise; we ought to praise God for every thing, and adore his profound judgments.” The king had in the battle performed prodigies of valour and conduct. Joinville saw him once in the midst of six hardy Saracens, all aiming their blows to kill him; but he freed himself by his own valour, killing some of them, and putting the rest to flight. The most formidable body in the Saracens’ army was that of twenty thousand Mammelus, or Mammalukes, a savage people of Turkish extraction, whom the sultan had hired out of Turcomania, and of these was his body guard composed. Bondocdar, their general, after the slaughter of the Count of Artois, in Massour, assembled together this troop, and was soon joined by the rest of the Mahometans of Egypt, who unanimously put themselves under his banner, and chose him their general; though the regency, after the death of Facardin, was devolved on Sajareldor, Saleh’s widow, and mother-in-law to the young sultan.
The Christian army, after having been twice victorious, was worsted in an engagement with Bondocdar, chiefly by his wildfire, which took hold of their clothes and the caparisons of the horses, and strangely disconcerted the soldiers, who had never seen it used in battles. After this combat the Christians were almost all seized with a violent scurvy, which ate away their gums and jaws with incredible pain, and subjected them to terrible operations of surgeons; a grievous dysentery at length came on, and a bleeding of the nose was the symptom of approaching death. Great numbers died, and the king himself was sick, and his body reduced to a mere skeleton; yet he obliged his army to keep Lent. He led it over the ford to his old camp, repulsed the Saracens as often as they attacked him, and marched towards Damiata, till he arrived at a little town called by Joinville Cassal, by others Charmasach. Here the Christians, whilst they were treating with the sultan, who still offered them advantageous conditions, by a mistake of some of their leaders, threw down their arms, and surrendered themselves prisoners. The infidels massacred all the poorer sort that were sick, or wounded; but, by a certain drink, cured in a couple of days the prisoners who were persons of rank, though they were in the last stage of their fatal distemper; for only the Egyptians knew the remedy, which seems to have consisted in a decoction of certain herbs. Thus Joinville, the historian, and the king himself recovered their health by means of their captivity. The queen at Damiata, upon receiving this melancholy news, was brought to bed of her third son, who was named John, and from the sorrowful time of his birth was surnamed Tristan. The prisoners were conducted to Massour, and the king was treated with respect. His conduct, resolution, and behaviour filled the Mahometans with admiration and astonishment. Under his sickness and misfortunes, he never let fall one impatient or angry word.
As soon as he was taken he desired to be attended by his two chaplains, with whom he recited the breviary every day with as much sedateness as if he had been in perfect health in his palace. He had the prayers of the mass read to him every day, (except the words of consecration,) that he might the better join in spirit and desire with the church in her daily sacrifice. In the midst of the insults that were sometimes offered him by those that guarded him, he preserved a certain air of majesty and authority which kept them in awe. When he was threatened with the most ignominious treatment, and with the torture of the bernicles, (a wooden engine, by which every limb of the body was pressed and bruised, and the bones broken,) he beheld the terrible machine without so much as changing colour, and answered coolly, that they were masters of his body, and might do with it what they pleased; the sultan sent to him a proposal, by which he demanded a million of besants of gold, 13 and the city of Damiata for his ransom, and that of the other prisoners. He answered, that a king of France ought not to redeem himself for money, but that he would give the city for his own releasement, and the million of besants for that of all the other prisoners. The sultan, charmed with his generosity and sincerity, said he had a noble soul, and sent him word, that out of the esteem he had for him he freely gave him his liberty, and remitted a fifth part of the sum demanded for the others. A truce was concluded for ten years, in which the Christians of Palestine were comprehended.
After this the king and the principal lords of the army were put on board four vessels to go down the river towards Damiata, and to have an interview with the sultan in the way. But all this was overturned by the murder of the sultan Moadan. He had treated some emirs of the Mammelus with severity, and threatened to displace others among them, when they should arrive at Damiata, and he was determined to set aside his mother-in-law Sajareldor. Hereupon a conspiracy was laid to take away his life in a public assembly of the emirs. Bondocdar first struck him on the hand with his sword. At this signal other emirs rushed towards him, whilst the whole army stood looking idly on. Moaden fled to a neighbouring tower; but it was set on fire. He then ran from one of his emirs to another, falling on his knees to entreat each of them; but every one pushed him violently from him. He therefore cried out: “What Mussulmans! is there not one man out of a hundred thousand that will defend me? I beg only my life. Let who will reign in Egypt.” Several arrows were let fly at him, and he threw himself into the Nile, hoping to escape by swimming; but was stabbed in the water by nine Mammelus. Octai, one of the principal emirs and murderers of the sultan, ran from this barbarous action to the tent in which king Lewis was, and showing him his dagger all bloody, told him he was now master of his person, and would kill him unless he created him knight, as the emperor Frederic had made Facardin. But the good king remembered how much that action had been condemned, and refused to do it, looking upon it that seeing an unbeliever is incapable of discharging the duties of the Christian knighthood, that honour could not be conferred on such a one. The barbarian was exceedingly moved by the king’s modest courage, and his fury was converted into admiration. Some of the emirs even suggested that he would be the most worthy person to be raised to the dignity of sultan, had he not been an enemy to their religion. They therefore set the crown on the head of the widow Sajareldor, and appointed a Mammelu, surnamed the Turcoman, to be her general and prime minister. The former treaty with the king was confirmed with a few alterations on the 4th of May. The infidels ratified it by various strong forms of oaths. Among those which they proposed to the king, this was one, that he would be regarded to have denied God, his baptism, and the divine law, and to have spit and trampled upon the cross, if he should ever violate the treaty. The good king was shocked at the recital of such an imprecation, and would by no means consent to repeat it, saying, that it implied a blasphemy. The barbarians hereupon threatened to cut off his head, or to crucify him with all his people, and held the points of their swords to his throat; yet he was inflexible, and they at length contented themselves with his oath in the usual form. Nevertheless, after the treaty was signed, the emirs debated among themselves whether they should not behead the king and all the Christians they had in their power. Many were of this opinion, but a spark of honour animated one of the emirs, and he spoke so handsomely on this subject, that he prevented the barbarous execution. The king was detained prisoner thirty-two days. At last, after having been perplexed with many cavils, treacheries, and alarms from the emirs, after having paid them a quarter of the ransom, and given his brother the earl of Poitiers as a hostage till the payment of the rest, (which was made in a few days,) having moreover surrendered Damiata, which he had held eleven months, he was set at liberty. He embarked at Damiata with his two brothers (who were released upon the payment of the ransom) and the Counts of Flanders and Brittany, the lord of Joinville, and the marshal of France. 14 The perfidious infidels, contrary to their treaty, confirmed by oath, murdered all the sick and wounded among the Christians in Damiata, and in many other things violated the articles of the agreement. Yet the king, when it was in his power, used no reprisals, and was most scrupulously faithful in fulfilling every point on his side, as he was in all his other treaties.
Out of a desire of comforting the Christians in Palestine, and of visiting the holy places, he sailed thither with the remains of his army, and in six days landed at Acre. In this voyage, hearing that his brother Charles was playing at tables upon deck, he went to him, and threw the dice overboard into the sea. The tears and entreaties of the Christians in those parts who saw themselves lost without resource if forsaken by the king in their present distress, moved him to stay some time among them. But he sent back his brothers Alphonsus and Charles into France to comfort his mother, and most of the French nobility went with them. In Palestine the saint acted the part of a zealous missionary, strengthening many in their faith, and inspiring them with courage and resolution to suffer torments and death rather than to offend God. He often told them that as they lived on the ground on which Christ had so long conversed with men, and had wrought all the wonderful mysteries of our redemption, their lives ought in a particular manner to be as much as possible the living copies of his holy conversation and spirit. The very sight of his devotion and piety was a moving sermon; forty Saracens at Acre were by it converted to the faith all at once, and others in other places; and among these several emirs. He visited Nazareth fasting and on foot. Not only France but all Europe had expressed the greatest affliction upon the news of his captivity. Pope Innocent IV. sent him a pathetic letter of comfort which the king received in Palestine. In it the pope, among other beautiful sentiments of condolence and piety wrote as follows: 15 “O Father of mercy, unfold to us the mystery of the severity with which thou hast treated the most Christian of princes, whilst animated with fervent zeal he generously sacrificed his own person, and the strength of his kingdom. If this disgrace was a trial to render thy servants worthy of heaven, what thanks do they not owe thee for such a favour! If it be a temporal chastisement to preserve sinners from the more dreadful punishments of thy justice in the other world, who will dare to call so advantageous a mercy severe?”
The king being in Palestine wrote a circular letter to all his subjects in France, full of excellent maxims of zeal, piety, patience, and Christian prudence. He speaks of the death of the count of Artois with the tenderness of a most affectionate brother; but expresses a holy joy that he was gone to take possession of the eternal recompence of martyrs. He discovers an entire but humble confidence in the divine mercy, and in the intercession of the martyrs; gives due praise to the actions of others; and is himself the only person of whom he says nothing. Not the least tittle savours of vain glory. In his afflictions he acknowledges the secret judgments of God, the punishment of his sins, and the holy order of providence, in whose will we are bound to acquiesce with perfect confidence and resignation; and in all advantages, he gives the whole glory to God. 16 This true martyr of Christ in spirit, far from blushing at his humiliation, caused his chains to be engraved in the stamp of his coin, and used to say that the highest honour which a Christian can receive is to suffer for Christ. He was rigorous in doing justice to all others; but seemed to forget himself; so much did he dissemble personal affronts. He seemed not to hear injurious words spoken against him in his presence, and heaped benefits on those who, by an extravagance of temper, had conceived an antipathy against him, and expressed it by the insolence of their carriage. When a page let burning wax drop from a candle on his leg, which was at that time inflamed and sore, he never complained of his negligence.
Moadan, the murdered sultan of Egypt, was the last of the race of Saladin who reigned in that country. Saphradin the Younger, surnamed Nazer, the sultan of Syria, was his cousin, and to revenge his death, declared war against the Mammelus in Egypt; and, in the beginning of the year 1251, sent an embassy to St. Lewis, offering to make him master of the whole kingdom of Jerusalem, if he would join him against the Egyptians. St. Lewis answered that he should be willing to treat with him if the emirs in Egypt continued to break the treaty which he had made with them. He sent John of Valence into Egypt, who spoke boldly to the emirs of the Mammelus, concerning their infractions of the treaty. The emirs promised to make amends, and to give the king the most favourable conditions he could desire if he would not make a league with the sultan of Syria; and they released upon the spot two hundred knights and other Christian prisoners whom they had detained. St. Lewis took this opportunity to rebuild the walls of Cæsarea, to fortify the port of Jaffa or Joppe, and to put other places of defence in the best condition he was able. In the mean time queen Blanche being struck with a palsy, in the sixtieth year of her age, put on the Cistercian habit, and made her religious vows, having sent for the abbess of Maubuisson to receive them. From that time she would only be laid on a bed of straw, and would suffer no rich ornaments in her chamber; she expired, lying on ashes, upon the 1st day of December in 1252. The king when he received this melancholy news burst into floods of tears, and throwing himself on his knees at the foot of the altar in his chapel, addressed himself to God in these words: “Lord, I thank thee for having preserved to me so long the best of mothers. I confess there was nothing among creatures on earth that I loved with equal affection and tenderness. Thou takest her from me; and it is thy absolute will; may thy holy name for ever be blessed for it!” He showed his filial regard for her by having the sacrifice of the mass offered for her soul in his presence every day of his life afterwards. 17 He appointed his two brothers in France regents of the kingdom till he could arrive, and began to prepare for his departure; but was obliged to stay a year longer to finish the fortifications which he had begun. He visited Tyre, Sidon, and other places, and put them in a posture of defence; with his small army he put to flight the Mahometans of Syria, and took from them in a wonderful manner the strong city of Naplosa, the ancient Samaria. Nothing could be more tender than the last adieus of the Christians of those parts, who, with abundance of tears, testified their sincere gratitude, and called him their father. His gracious looks testified the regret with which he left them in the midst of enemies and dangers; he gave them strong assurances of his constant affection and attention for them, and pathetically exhorted them to be in their manners faithful imitators of their blessed Redeemer. He embarked at Acre with the queen, his little children, officers, and troops, in fourteen vessels, on the 24th of April, 1254.
St. Lewis made each vessel of his fleet, especially his own ship, a kind of church. He obtained leave from the legate that the blessed eucharist should be carried in his vessel on a rich altar for the sick. The divine office was celebrated before it, at which and at mass he never failed to assist. Three sermons were preached every week, besides public catechism, and particular instructions of the sailors and soldiers; in which the king would have his part. He visited the sick every day, and exercised his zeal and charity all manner of ways, and with such success as gave him a great deal of comfort. They did not land at Cyprus, but only took in fresh water and some provisions. After a voyage of ten weeks the fleet arrived upon the 18th of July at the castle of Hieres, which belonged to the Duke of Anjou, count of Provence. After resting some days, the king left Hieres, visited La Ste. Baume, and other places of devotion on his road, and came to Vincennes on the 5th of September, in 1254. From thence he went to the abbey of St. Denis to return thanks to God, after which he made his public entry into Paris, after an absence of almost six years.
Joinville relates, that in their voyage at sea, the king went to land at Lampedusa, a small uninhabited island lying between Malta and Africa, and was strongly affected at the sight of a beautiful grove and garden with a cave or hermitage marked with crosses. They found there the bones of two hermits who had lately lived there. One of the company chose to stay behind, and succeeded the hermits in their anchoretical life. In this same voyage a gentleman falling overboard, invoked the intercession of the Mother of God, and was preserved floating upon the waves, though he was not able to swim, till the king’s ship, which was half a league behind, came up, and the company finding him in that posture, took him in. Joinville, who was an eye-witness with all others on board the king’s vessel, afterwards had this miracle painted in his chapel, and in the windows of his church at Blecour. The holy king seemed to be little affected with the universal joy which the people expressed for his return. He had always before his eyes the dangerous condition of the Christians in the East, and he wore the cross upon his clothes, to show that he had not quitted his design of returning to their assistance; but his affliction, and the care which he took more than ever to sanctify himself by austerities and other good works, did not at all take off the application he owed to the good of his realm. He, in the manner related above, secured its tranquillity by a firm peace with England and Spain, with both which there was always danger of a sudden rupture.
In 1254, Henry III., king of England, visited the shrine of St. Edmund of Canterbury, at Pontigni, and coming to Paris, passed there eight days with St. Lewis. Interviews of kings usually produce quarrels, which spring from jealousy, pride, and other passions; but here nothing reigned but harmony and piety. St. Lewis told Henry that he esteemed himself infinitely more happy that God had given him patience in suffering, than if he had conquered the world. Some time after this, King Henry and his barons in England, having exhausted the realm by an obstinate civil war, agreed on both sides to make St. Lewis their judge, and signed a compromise, by which they engaged themselves to submit to his decision; so great was the universal opinion of his wisdom, equity, and uprightness. The King and Queen of England, Prince Edmund, and many bishops and lords of their party, and a great number of the confederate barons on the other side, came to Amiens. St. Lewis repaired thither also; and after both parties had pleaded a long time, he, by a definitive absolute sentence, annulled all the articles granted by the king to the barons in the parliament or assembly at Oxford, 18 as being extorted by compulsion, and as innovations injurious to the royal majesty; but he confirmed to the barons their ancient privileges. 19 Though several of the confederates went over to the king upon this decision, yet the Earl of Leicester afterwards renewed the war against him with more fury than ever; and in the battle of Lewes took King Henry, Prince Edward, his eldest son, and his brother Richard, king of the Romans, prisoners; but young Prince Edward, having made his escape out of prison, raised a new army, defeated the confederate barons near Evesham, and killed the Earl of Leicester. 20 By this victory King Henry recovered his liberty and crown.
St. Lewis had no share in the transactions of his brother in Naples and Sicily, making it a rule never to interfere in the concerns of others unless in works of religion or charity; but he never lost sight of the distressed Christians in the East, and the news of their calamities always made deep wounds in his heart. In 1262, Haalon, a Mahometan Tartar commander in Syria, slew the last descendant of Saladin’s brother, extinguished that Turkish branch, and made himself sultan of Damascus. In Egypt, Bondocdar, general of the Mammelus, after having embrued his hands in the blood of two sultans, he, in 1261, set the crown upon his own head. From this time the Mammelus reigned sultans in Egypt, though always elected out of their own body, till, in 1517, the last was defeated by Selim I., emperor of the Turks, and, after many insults, publicly strangled at Grand Cairo. This Bondocdar was one of the most perfidious and cruel of men, and a most implacable enemy of the Christians. He spent the two first years of his reign in settling his government; he encouraged learning, though himself an illiterate barbarian, and he is said to be the first who established regular posts for correspondence, though the ancient Persian kings had royal messengers placed at proper distances to succeed one another, and carry the king’s despatches with expedition to all parts of their empire. This tyrant, in the year 1266, the fifth of his reign, resolved to extirpate the Christians in the East. He took and demolished Tripoli, Cæsarea, Tyre, and other places in Syria and Palestine, and without having any regard to his capitulations and oaths, massacred all the captives who refused to embrace the Mahometan superstition. These calamities awakened the compassion and zeal of St. Lewis, and he again took the cross with great solemnity, in a public assembly of princes and prelates, at Paris, on the 25th of March, 1267; but before he set out, he put the finishing hand to several pious establishments at home, among which we must reckon the house of Sorbon.
Robert Sorbon, a canon and learned doctor at Paris, whom St. Lewis honoured with his particular friendship, and often made use of for his confessor, first began this community of Masters of Arts, who were the ablest students or professors in theology. The king was so pleased with the design, that he founded this college in the most magnificent manner in 1252, and obtained the confirmation of it by Pope Clement IV. 21 This house has long been the most renowned college in that university; and by raising the present magnificent building, Cardinal Richelieu has erected a monument to his own memory. St. Lewis founded in Paris, for poor blind men, the hospital of Quinze Vingt, so called because he placed in it at the first foundation three hundred such patients. He likewise made provisions before his departure for the other poor, whom he maintained out of his private purse; for he had every day one hundred and twenty indigent persons at a table near his own palace, and in Lent and Advent all who presented themselves; and these he often served in person. He kept lists of decayed gentlemen, and distressed widows, and young women, whom he regularly relieved in every province of his dominions. The saint made his will, in which, having left legacies to almost all the great monasteries of his kingdom, he settled and regulated all the affairs of his own family, and those of the state. He brought the kings of England and Navarre to an accommodation upon some differences that were between them relating to the city of Bayonne; for he always applied himself to do justice, to preserve peace in his own dominions, and to prevent war among his neighbours. 22 Having one day stood godfather to a Jew who was baptized at St. Denis, he said, with an affecting energy to the ambassador of the Mahometan king of Tunis, that to see his master receive that sacrament, he would consent with joy to pass the rest of his life in chains under the Saracens. To prepare himself for the crusade he made two retreats at Maubuisson. Towards the expenses of that expedition the pope granted him the tenth penny of all ecclesiastical revenues, and he levied a capitation upon his subjects. He nominated to the regency of the kingdom during his absence, Matthew, abbot of St. Denis, a man of quality, of the family of the counts of Vendome, and Simon of Clermont, count of Nesle, both persons of known probity and singular prudence. The king’s three eldest sons, Philip; John, count of Nevers; and Peter, count of Alençon, took the cross to accompany him; as did also Theobald, king of Navarre; Robert, count of Artois, son to him who was killed at Massour; Guy, count of Flanders, and many other lords. Joinville excused himself to the king, urging the necessity of his staying at home to protect his vassals from the oppression of the Count of Champagne, lord paramount. He even endeavoured to dissuade the king from the expedition, but was not able to prevail. St. Lewis and his brother, the King of Sicily, had privately concerted measures to begin the war by the conquest of Tunis, which seemed easy, and would exceedingly further the expedition in Egypt.
The king embarked with his army at Aiguesmortes upon the 1st of July, 1270; and when the fleet was over-against Cagliari, in Sardinia, a great council was held, in which it was resolved to attack Tunis. 23 The French fleet accordingly proceeded towards Africa and entered the gulf of Tunis, at the head of which that city stands, upon a lake which communicates with it. The Saracens, who lined the shore, immediately fled, and the descent being made without opposition, the French encamped upon an isthmus which separates the gulf of Tunis from another little gulf. They attacked the castle of Carthage, seated fifteen miles from Tunis, and carried it sword in hand. Tunis, Tripoli, Algiers, and many other principalities were erected in Barbary in the eleventh age; for till then that country had been subject to the sultan of Egypt. Muley Moztanza was at that time king of Tunis, and he prepared to make a vigorous defence; but his troops only showed themselves, and after slight skirmishes retired. The French waited for the arrival of the King of Sicily with his fleet, to lay siege to Tunis; and his delay was the cause of all their misfortunes; for the heats being excessive in those burning sands, the camp was soon filled with malignant fevers and other epidemical diseases, which were contagious like a pestilence. The king’s beloved son John Tristan, count of Nevers, a prince of admirable innocence and sanctity, was the first person of distinction that was attacked. He was born at Damiata, in Egypt, and was in the twenty-first year of his age when he died in Africa of a dysentery and fever. On the very day of his death, in the beginning of August, the king himself and his eldest son, Philip, were seized with the same disorder. The king’s delicate constitution, and weak emaciated body, made the distemper more dangerous to him. He continued, however, for some days to act, and to give all necessary orders; and particularly to treat with the ambassadors of the Greek emperor, Michael Palæologus, about the reunion of that church with the Latins; and by his pathetic exhortations he made both these ambassadors afterwards zealous advocates for the union. The principal person was Veccus, chancellor of the church of Constantinople, afterwards patriarch. When the fever and weakness confined him to his bed, he still caused his chaplains to come to his bed-side, and he recited with them the whole Church office as long as he was able. He had a great cross set near him, so that he could easily turn his eyes upon it. He communicated very often during his illness, which continued one-and-twenty days.
Finding his distemper increase he called for his eldest son Philip, and gave him certain pious instructions which he had drawn up in writing before he left Paris. Two copies hereof are still kept in the Chamber of Accounts at Paris under this title: Instructions of king Lewis the saint to Philip his eldest son. The dying admonitions of this great king to him are here inserted in abstract. “My son, before all things I recommend to you that you love God. Be always ready rather to suffer all manner of torments than to commit any mortal sin. When sickness or any other affliction befalls you, return thanks to God for it, and bear it courageously, being persuaded that you deserve to suffer much more for having served God ill, and that such tribulations will be your gain. In prosperity give thanks to God with humility, and fear lest by pride you abuse God’s benefits and so offend him by those very means by which you ought particularly to improve yourself in his service. Confess your sins frequently, and choose a wise and pious ghostly father, who will teach you what to follow and what to shun; let him be one who will boldly reprehend you, and make you understand the grievousness of your faults. Hear the divine office devoutly; meditate affectionately what you ask of God with your mouth; do this with more than ordinary application during the holy sacrifice of the mass, especially after the consecration. Be bountiful, compassionate, and courteous to the poor, and relieve and favour them as much as you can. If any thing trouble your mind, reveal it to your ghostly father, or to some other grave and discreet person; for by the comfort you will receive you will bear it more patiently. Love to converse with pious persons; never admit any among your familiar friends but such as are virtuous and of good reputation; shun and banish from you the vicious. Make it your delight to hear profitable sermons and discourses of piety. Endeavour to gain the benefit of indulgences, and to get the prayers of others. Love all good, and abhor all evil. Wherever you are, never suffer any one to detract or say any thing sinful in your presence. Punish all who speak ill of God or his saints. Give often thanks to God for all his benefits. In the administration of justice be upright and severe; hear patiently the complaints of the poor; and in all controversies where your interests are concerned, stand for your adversary against yourself, till the truth be certainly found out. Whatever you find not to belong to you, restore it without delay to the owner, if the case be clear; if doubtful, appoint prudent men to examine diligently into it. Endeavour to procure peace and justice to all your subjects. Protect the clergy and religious who pray for you and your kingdom. Follow the maxim of my grandfather king Philip, that it is sometimes better to dissemble certain things in ecclesiastics than to repress them with too great violence and scandal. Love and honour the queen your mother, and follow her counsels. Make no war, especially against Christians, without great cause and good advice. If necessity force you to it, let it be carried on without damage to those who are not in fault, and spare the innocent subjects of your enemy as much as possible. Use all your authority to hinder wars among your vassals. Be scrupulous in the choice of good judges and magistrates. Have always a great respect for the Roman church, and the pope, and honour him as your spiritual father. Hinder, to the utmost of your power, all blasphemies, rash oaths, games of chance, drunkenness, and impurity. Never make any extravagant expenses, and never lay on your subjects any heavy or unjust burdens. After my death take care to have a great many masses and prayers said for me in all churches and religious communities in France; and give me a share in all the good works which you shall do. I give you my blessing with the most tender affection that any father can give to a son; and I pray our Lord Jesus Christ to protect and strengthen you in his service, and always to increase his grace in you that you never do anything against his holy will, and that he may be ever faithfully honoured and served by you. I beg this same grace for myself, that we may together see, laud, and honour him for all eternity.”
The holy king gave other instructions to his daughter the queen of Navarre. Having settled his affairs and acquitted himself of his duties to others, he desired that no more mention should be made to him of temporal concerns, and applied himself wholly to think only of that great affair which was to be decided between himself and God alone. He scarcely spoke any more to any one but his confessor. He praised and thanked God for having placed him in his present situation; he prayed, with many tears, that he would enlighten and show mercy to infidels and sinners, and that his army might be conducted back into their own country without falling into the hands of the enemy, that none of them might be tempted through weakness to deny Christ. His charity, zeal, compunction, humility, and perfect resignation increased in his last moments, and in the fervent exercise of these virtues he prepared his soul to go forth and meet his judge and Redeemer. On the 24th of August, which was Sunday, he received first extreme unction, according to the discipline of that age, and afterwards the viaticum. It was his custom whilst in health, and as long as he was able in his sickness, to creep on his knees from his place in the church up to the altar when he went to communion; he was then too weak to do this; but he would needs get up, and he received the blessed sacrament kneeling by his bed-side. He again that day called for the Greek ambassadors, and renewed, in the most pathetic manner, his exhortations to union with the Roman church. He continued the rest of his time in ardent prayer, especially in acts of the divine love and praise. He lost his speech the next day from nine till twelve o’clock! then, recovering it again, and lifting up his eyes towards heaven, he repeated aloud those words of the psalmist: Lord, I will enter into thine house; I will adore in thy holy temple, and will give glory to thy name. He spoke again at three in the afternoon, but only said, “Into thy hands I commend my soul.” Immediately after which he breathed his last in his camp, on the 25th of August, in the year of Christ 1270, being fifty-five years and four months old, and having reigned forty-three years, nine months, and eighteen days.
His brother Charles, king of Sicily, whose delays had thrown this expedition into the heats, arrived with his fleet a few minutes after the death of St. Lewis. The Christian army defeated again the Moors and the Saracens in two great battles, and on the 30th of October concluded a peace with the infidels on the following conditions: That all prisoners should be released, and the Christian slaves set at liberty; that Christians should be allowed to build churches, and to preach the faith in the territories of these Mahometans, and that the Mahometans should be allowed to embrace it; that the king of Tunis should pay a yearly tribute of five thousand crowns to the king of Sicily, and that the king of France and his barons should receive two hundred and ten thousand ounces of gold to defray their expenses in this war; which was a larger sum than St. Lewis had paid for his ransom. Such was the issue of the eighth and last of the crusades which were undertaken for the recovery of Palestine, and which employed Europe for almost two hundred years. Many things were great obstacles to the success of these enterprises, as the distance of the countries, difference of climates, repeated treacheries of the Greeks: and in the Christian armies the feodal jurisdiction, the mixture of different nations, the opposite views of particulars, and consequently the want of military subordination and obedience. Nor can it be denied that some engaged in these expeditions to screen themselves from public justice, or from their creditors; and many of them were seduced by the passions of ambition, avarice, vanity, jealousy, and revenge, which have often so great a share in wars. The unwarrantable injustices and plunders that were committed by many of the crusards are a sufficient proof of this reproach and scandal; and St. Bernard shows upon what motives many went on these expeditions from the tyranny and oppression which they exercised over their vassals immediately after their return. Such armies were not proper instruments to avert divine scourges from sinful nations; to persons engaged in them whose views were perfectly pure, and conduct holy, the temporal calamities which they suffered, and the contagion of vice over which they triumphed, were occasions of the most heroic virtues.
This praise no historian ever refused to St. Lewis, whose views in war were exempt from the usual passions of ambition, avarice, and revenge, and whose martial dispositions were truly great because entirely subordinate to virtue and religion. Voltaire himself is the admirer and panegyrist of his courage, prudence, and piety in these expeditions. 24 This last crusade, notwithstanding it failed of success, was some check to the progress of Bondocdar’s arms; but his son and successor Seraf or Sait took Acre after an obstinate siege, and dispossessed the Christians of all the places which remained in their hands in Palestine: Prince Edward, who was their last support, being before returned to England upon the death of his father Henry III. in 1272. The body of St. Lewis after his death was parboiled in water and wine to separate the flesh from the bones, the art of embalming bodies, so famous among the ancients, having been then lost by disuse. King Charles carried the bowels and the flesh to Sicily, and interred them under the stately monument in the great abbey of Monte-Reale, four miles from that city. This monastery was built by King William, and being made an archbishopric was called a cathedral abbey. The saint’s bones and heart were carried into France by his son Philip, and deposited in the church of St. Denis. Many miracles wrought by the intercession of St. Lewis, especially at both these sepulchral monuments, were juridically proved; and he was canonized by Boniface VIII. in 1297, in the reign of his grandson, Philip the Fair, by whose order one of his ribs was placed in the cathedral of Paris, and his head in the holy chapel, in 1305. 25
The heroic virtue of St. Lewis shone brighter in his afflictions than it could have done amidst the greatest triumphs. He desired to see the faith of Christ and his holy love reign throughout the whole world, especially in that country which he had sanctified by his corporal presence on earth, and which was unjustly usurped by barbarous infidels; but God was pleased that he should rather glorify him by his sufferings. The saint found his comfort in the accomplishment of his holy will; and seeing his pious designs defeated, his army almost all destroyed, and himself in the hands of perfidious barbarians, he declared to his friends that he found more joy in his chains than he could have done in the conquest of the whole world. The sovereign will of God is the indispensable rule of the universe; resignation to it is the essential obligation of all creatures, and impatience is a crime of rebellion. It is also a base distrust in his goodness. His will is always most holy, tender, and merciful towards his servants; always guided by infinite love and wisdom. What can be more just and reasonable, than for us earnestly to commend ourselves to his mercy, and to acquiesce with thanksgiving and confidence in all his appointments. This conformity to his holy will, if it be courageous, constant, and universal, is the most perfect sacrifice of our will, of ourselves, and of all that we possess to him; it is the entire reign of his grace in our souls, 26 the victory over most dangerous spiritual enemies, the firm anchor of our souls amidst the inconstancy of human affairs, and a source of unalterable peace and secure joy, with which the heart rests in the sweet bosom of divine providence, and drowns in it all distrustful and disquieting fears which passions are so apt to raise.
Note 1. The power of the kings of France had been much confined by that of the counts and barons, who, from the time of the first successors of Charlemagne, had commenced petty sovereigns, paying only a homage, and a limited obedience to the king. Joinville, who was certainly a faithful subject, refused to take an oath of allegiance to St. Lewis, saying, he could not swear allegiance to any other than to his immediate liege lord, the Count of Champagne. To so narrow a compass were the royal demesnes reduced, that the kings of France were less powerful than some of their subjects, when Philip II. began to reign. That prince, whose great achievements procured him the surname of Augustus, availing himself of the disturbances in England, under the reign of our unhappy King John, conquered Normandy, Maine, Anjou, Touraine, and Poitou; and, in 1214, defeated the Emperor Otho IV., the Counts of Flanders and Holland, the Duke of Lorrain, and other confederate princes in the famous battle of Bouvines, a village situated between Lisle and Tournay. Being thus strengthened, he began, (by taking every occasion to diminish the number and power of the feudatory lords) to re-establish the royal authority, which scheme his successors pursued till all such subordinate sovereignties were abolished in the kingdom; but this king stained his character by his ambition, by his unjust quarrel with our great King Richard, and his hostilities against him whilst he was absent in the holy war; by the criminal divorce of his pious Queen Indelberga of Denmark, an adulterous marriage with the fair Agnes, and his contempt of the censures of the church which this scandalous action drew upon him. He did justice, however, to his injured wife several years before his death, and applied himself to adorn and polish his dominions.
Lewis VIII. succeeded him in 1223, and though in his youth he had given proofs of his ambition in joining the rebellious barons against King John in England, whither his father had sent him; yet, from his accession to the throne, he showed himself a chaste, virtuous, and religious prince. He took Rochelle from the English, and conquered all those feudatory lords in Aquitain, who had formerly sworn allegiance to the King of England, as far as the Garonne; so that only the Gascons on the other side of that river, and the city of Bourdeaux, continued faithful to England. He then turned his arms against the Albigenses, whom he vanquished in Languedoc, having taken Avignon, Beziers, Carcassone, Pamiers, and Albi; but died in his return at the castle of Montpensier in Auvergne, in the fortieth year of his age, having reigned only three years and three months. William of Puy-Laurens, a contemporary historian, assures us, that Archambauld of Bourbon, this king’s great confidant, told him, that he died a martyr to chastity; for when physicians proposed to him a remedy which is forbidden by the laws of God, he rejected it with horror, saying, “It is better to die than to save my life by a mortal sin.” He left five sons, St. Lewis, Robert, earl of Artois, Charles, earl of Anjou and Maine, afterwards count of Provence, and lastly, king of Sicily; Alphonsus, earl of Poitou and Auvergne, and John, of whom we find no further mention. This was the posture of affairs when St. Lewis began to reign, Frederic II., son of Henry VI. and successor of Otho IV., being emperor of Germany ever since the year 1215, Henry III. being king of England from the year 1216, Honorius III. being pope, who died the following year; and in the East, Robert of Courtney being the Latin emperor at Constantinople, who, in 1228, was succeeded by Baldwin II. John Ducas, son-in-law to the late Theodoras Lascharis, being the second Greek emperor of Adrianople and Nice, whilst the Latins held Constantinople; and Nicephorus Comnenus being second duke of Trebizond, whose successors were styled emperors. [back]
Note 2. M. de la Ravaliere, in several dissertations in 1737 and 1742, has abundantly justified Queen Blanche with regard to the aspersion which some authors have cast upon her memory, as if she was engaged in an intrigue with Theobold, count of Champagne. Her innocence is further cleared in the Mémoires de Trevoux, July, 1757, p. 471. [back]
Note 3. See Villefore, Devoirs des Gens Marlés, &c. [back]
Note 4. Anciently, no distinction was made with regard to the age of majority between kings and others; consequently this was determined according to the Roman laws, or those of particular kingdoms, to be of twenty-five or twenty-one years. Afterwards, in France, Philip II. declared, that with respect to kings, the age of majority should commence at the expiration of their fourteenth year. Charles V. brought it to the beginning of their fourteenth year. See Henault. [back]
Note 5. Du Bois, Hist. Ecclés. Paris, l. 15, c. 4. [back]
Note 6. Hist. de l’Eglise Gallicane, t. 11, l. 31. [back]
Note 7. The judicious Felibien remarks (Entret. sur l’Archit.) that it is incredible what a number of churches St. Lewis built; and that though they are all Gothic, they are costly, and finely wrought. Those of the Jacobins and Cordeliers, in Paris, may serve for examples, the rest being built much in the same manner. The stately cathedrals at Rheims, four hundred and twenty feet long, were both rebuilt in the age in which he lived. The carving, and other curious decorations, with which every window and least part in these buildings were embellished, rendered them very costly; and they are solid and majestic; the materials were very good, and the mortar extremely well prepared. The same is observable of the churches built in England by Edward the Confessor, and under our first Norman kings. The true taste in regular architecture has followed the fate of other polite arts in all ages. The Romans learned it of the Greeks two hundred years before Christ, but it began to be neglected and depraved among them in the reign of Gallien, as appears by his triumphal arch in Rome. It was sometimes retrieved by great men, especially in the reign of Justinian, who endeavoured to vie with Augustus in the number and magnificence of the edifices with which he adorned the empire. After the inundation of barbarians, except in the reigns of Theodoric, and his daughter Amalasunta, in Italy, true architecture gave way in the West to the Gothic, in which no certain rules, proportions, or measures were observed; yet, in ages wherein encouragement was given, it is not to be imagined with what wonderful success it was executed merely by the dint of genius in masons or architects. This we observe in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth ages. But the ancient regular, light, convenient, and beautiful manner of building, which effects its purposes with less space and material, forms bold arches, and observes the rules of justness and proportion in all parts, was revived with other sciences. Buschetto, a Greek, restored it in the eleventh age, in raising the wonderful cathedral of Pisa, and left scholars behind him. In the thirteenth century, Nicholas of Pisa built the Dominican convent at Bologna, an edifice so much admired, and several edifices at Pisa. His son, John of Pisa, erected the cathedral of Sienna, the most finished Gothic building in the world, surpassing in beauty the rich and vast Gothic cathedral of Milan; but its builders understood perfectly true regular architecture, from that time, excellent artists, by studying the best models of ancient architecture still standing in Italy, by reading its rules laid down by Vitruvius, in the reign of Augustus, and by conversing with Cardinal Bessarion and other learned Greeks, have restored, principally in Italy, the true taste of regular architecture; though we still admire the sumptuous and majestic Gothic piles that were raised in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth ages, at the time of the first revival of sciences; and we loathe, amidst our improvements, many disgustful sights, public monuments of the proprietor’s want of delicacy and judgment, no less than Clodius’s mad vast piles of stone, insanæ moles, with which he was reproached by Cicero. See Basari, and Hist. Littér. t. 9. [back]
Note 8. See Lauriere, Ordon. des Rois de France, t. 1, pp. 99, 100; and Velly, t. 5, p. 159. [back]
Note 9. Asredin or Sarracon, a Turkish general, being sent by Noradin, sultan of Damascus, against the Saracens of Egypt, took and dashed out the brains of Elphaiz, the sixteenth and last Saracen caliph, and possessed himself of all Egypt. He was succeeded by his nephew Saladin, surnamed the Great; who, after the death of Noradin, whose son was set aside on account of his youth, got himself to be received also Sultan of Syria, or of Damascus. He immediately bent his force against the Christians in Palestine, but was defeated near Ascalon by Baldwin IV. king of Jerusalem. This Baldwin died without issue in 1185. His successor, named also Baldwin, reigned only eight months, dying in 1186. The kingdom then fell to Guy of Lusignan, son of Hugh, lord of Lusignan in France, by the right of Sybil his wife. In 1187, the second year of his reign, Saladin took Jerusalem, and put an end to that kingdom, after it had subsisted about eighty-seven years, under nine kings from Godfrey of Bou
Richard I., surnamed Heart of Lion, (who had lately succeeded his father Henry II. in England,) and Philip Augustus of France, to shun the treacherous Greeks, transported their troops into Palestine by sea from Marseilles. Philip arrived first before the strong city of Acre, anciently called Ptolemais, which the Christians of Palestine had then been besieging three years, under the command of Guy of Lusignan, the expelled king of Jerusalem. Richard set sail fifteen days after the King of France, and arrived before the same place, which surrendered to these kings in July, 1191. Richard and Philip, from continual bickerings, came at length to an open rupture, and Philip returned to France. Richard staid a year longer in Palestine, defeated Saladin in a great battle, and gained many advantages; but the news that the King of France had invaded Normandy, and that his brother John had openly rebelled in England, obliged him, when he was within sight of Jerusalem, in 1192, to abandon that expedition, after making Guy of Lusignan, king Cyprus, and having obtained of Saladin very favourable conditions for the Christians, whom he left in Palestine possessed of all the coasts from Joppa to Tyre, with free liberty to go to Jerusalem in small companies, to pay their devotions there.
Whilst Philip Augustus was busy in the war which he had perfidiously undertaken in Normandy, several princes, chiefly French, raised an army with a view to assist the Christians in Palestine. The chiefs of this expedition were Baldwin, earl of Flanders, Theobald, earl of Champagne, Hugh, duke of Burgundy, Lewis, earl of Blois, and Boniface, marquis of Montserrat. This last was chosed generalissimo. Upon their arrival at Venice, they changed their resolution on the following occasion. Alexius or Alexis Angelus, son of Isaac Angelus, emperor of Constantinople, met them, and implored their aid against his uncle Alexius III. (Angelus) who had overthrown and imprisoned his father Isaac, put out his eyes, and usurped his throne. The princes undertook to do him justice, upon his promise to join them with the forces of the Greek empire, against the Saracens in Palestine. Henry Dandolo, doge of Venice, with the fleet of that republic, would also share in the expedition. Constantinople was taken in six days, the tyrant imprisoned, and Isaac restored; and he dying in a few days, his son Alexius succeeded him, but did not fulfil the conditions he and his father had promised the French. These were no sooner departed, but Alexius Ducas, surnamed Myrtillus or Murzuphilus, a man of mean extraction, then general of the Greek troops, persuaded the army and people that the throne required a more vigorous prince, dethroned Alexius IV. who died in prison, and seized upon the empire. He immediately declared war against the Latins, who returning, took Constantinople again by assault in 1194, threw Myrtillus down from a tower, and abandoned him to be cut in pieces by the mob: and, among four candidates, chose by lot Baldwin, earl of Flanders, emperor of Constantinople, who made Boniface king of Thessaly, and gave Crete to the Venetians. The Greeks without the city constituted Theodorus Lascharis, son-in-law to the Emperor Alexius III. (Angelus) the usurper, emperor; and he and his successors resided partly at Adrianople, and partly at Nice, during fifty-eight years, whilst five Latin emperors reigned at Constantinople. The last of these, Baldwin II. was expelled by the Greeks in 1261, and Michael VIII. (Palæologus) by his mother a descendant of the Laschares, removed from Nice to Constantinople. These Palæologi reigned about two hundred years, till, under Constantine IX. Constantinople was taken by the Turks in 1453.
The Greeks had at that time another race of emperors who possessed Colchis, and resided at Trebizond in Cappadocia, descending from the Comneni. Alexius II. (Comnenus) emperor of Constantinople, was strangled in the 15th year of his age, in 1183, by the command of Andronicus Comnenus, surnamed the Tyrant, who usurped the empire, but after two years was dethroned, and put to a cruel death by Isaac Angelus, who was saluted emperor, but, after ten years, dispossessed by his brother Alexius III. (Angelus) as is mentioned above. When the Latins took Constantinople, Alexius Comnenus, the chief surviving prince of that family, got possession of Sinope, Trebizond, and the country of Colchis. The two first of these princes were only styled dukes of the Lazi and Colchis; but the third, John Comnenus, took the title of emperor, which subsisted in his family till David Comnenus, the last emperor, was vanquished by Mahomet II. and slain with all his children at Byzantium, in 1461. Thus was the eastern empire divided and weakened in the twelfth century, in which the fourth crusade was set on foot, in 1195, by Henry IV. emperor of Germany, son of Frederic Barbarossa. He sent an army, under the command of the Duke of Austria, by land, to Acre in Palestine, whilst he, with extreme cruelty, extirpated the Normans out of Naples and Sicily, and seized that kingdom. Upon the news that he was dead at Messina, in 1197, his forces in Palestine made haste back into Germany.
The fifth crusade amused themselves in assisting the Venetians in taking Zara, a town in Dalmatia which belonged to Andrew, king of Hungary; for which, at the strong remonstrance of Pope Innocent III. the princes all did penance, except the Venetians. This crusade was stopped by the expedition against Constantinople, and few of the soldiers reached the Holy Land. The sixth crusade, in 1221, consisted of seventy thousand men, under the command of John of Brienne, who, after the house of Lusignan was settled in Cyprus, obtained, by right of his wife Iolanta, or Yolande, the title of king of Jerusalem, and possessed some territories in Palestine, though he was never master of that city. They landed in Egypt, and took Damiata; but, besieging Grand Cairo, lost the greater part of their troops by a very high flood of the Nile, want of provisions and sickness; insomuch that Eladel, sultan of Egypt, eldest son of Saladin, was moved to compassion at the sight of their miseries. John of Brienne returned, not to Palestine, but to Rome, where he was entertained by Pope Honorius III. The sultan, after ten months, recovered Damiata. Frederic II. son and successor of Henry VI. in the empire of Germany, married at Rome Yolande, the daughter and heiress of John of Brienne, and, in 1228, sailed with an army to Ptolemais or Acre; but, without undertaking anything, accepted the conditions offered him by the Saracens, by which they yielded to him the city of Jerusalem, and he caused himself to be crowned king thereof; and then hastened back to Naples, but was much blamed for having done so little, having only made a truce with the Mahometans for ten years. From him the kings of Sicily long took the title of kings of Jerusalem. About the year 1240, Richard, the brave earl of Cornwall, brother to Henry III. king of England, arrived in Palestine with an English crusade, but found the Christians there at variance among themselves, so that he could do no more than conclude an advantageous peace with Saphradin, sultan of Aleppo, who exchanged all the prisoners taken in former wars, and yielded some towns to the Christians settled in those parts. After these articles were executed, Richard, in 1241, set sail, and returned to Italy. See Gesta Dei per Francos, Hannoviæ, 1611, two vols. folio, and Maimbourg, Hist. des Croisades, a work much more exact, and not less elegant, than the other histories of that author, and in request among the learned. On the first crusades, see the life of St. Bernard, p. 272. [back]
Note 10. F. Daniel in S. Lewis, p. 482. [back]
Note 11. The Oriflame was anciently the chief standard borne by the kings of France in war, and was so called from its being of a red or flame colour. It was originally the ensign of the abbey of St. Denis, and borne by the counts of Vexin, who held that earldom as a fief of this abbey, with the obligation of leading its vassals to war, and defending its lands, under the title of Advocate, which was given to some prince or nobleman who took upon him the defence of the lands belonging to the church or abbey. (See Du Cange, Gloss. Lat. v. Advocati Ecclesiarum.) Vexin being in process of time united to the crown, the kings took upon them this obligation, and out of devotion to St. Denis, looked upon this as a sacred ensign, and made it their principal standard. They also made the cry of war Mont-joie St. Denys, the general cry of the French in battle, though every lord or prince had a particular cry of arms for his vassals. See Challon’s Hist. of Fr. in Philip II. [back]
Note 12. The mariner’s compass is thought to have been made use of by the Christians in this crusade; it is expressly mentioned and described by Cardinal James of Vitri, in 1220, (Hist. Orient. l. 1, c. 89,) and by Goyot of Provence in 1200, under the name of the magnetic needle. The French pretend, from the flower de luce marked upon it, that it was their invention. (See Hist. Littéraire de France, t. 9, p. 199.) This symbol might be added, and its use rendered general by the French in these crusades; though it was discovered a little before: not by John Goias of Malfi in the fourteenth age, (as some have mistaken,) but by Flavius Gioias of Malfi in 1013, as is proved by others. (See Musantius Tab. Chronol. sæc. 12.) This Amalfi or Malfi is an archiepiscopal city on the sea-coast, sixteen miles from Salerno. Echard and many others, by mistake, confound it with Melfi, a town situated between Naples and Tarento, ninety miles from each. See Martiniere, Musantius, &c. [back]
Note 13. A million of besants of gold amounted to five hundred thousand livres French; that is, according to the present valuation of money, about two millions French, says M. de la Chaise, or about ninety thousand pounds English. Though the difference of money between that and the present age is rather as of one to twenty, according to F. Fontenai, (Hist. de l’Eglise de France, l. 31; Du Cange, Diss. 20, and principally Le Blanc, Tr. Historique des Monoies de France.) A besant was a gold coin first struck by the Christian emperors at Constantinople or Byzantium; whence its name is derived. See Du Cange, Diss. De Nummis Imper. [back]
Note 14. The marshal’s duty was to command the army under the constable or comes stabuli. Both officers are first mentioned in the reign of Philip Augustus, and originally had only care of the king’s stables and horses; but soon after their institution, the conduct of the armies was intrusted to them. [back]
Note 15. Ep. Innoc. IV. apud Duchesne, p. 413. [back]
Note 16. Epist. S. Ludovici de Captiv. apud Duchesne, p. 428. [back]
Note 17. Gul. de Nangis. et Gaufridus de Bello-loco. [back]
Note 18. Matthew Paris, and Compromissum Regis et Baronum Angliæ, in D’Achery, Spicileg, t. 2. [back]
Note 19. From this parliament of Oxford some date the origin of the house of commons; but that it was only a revival of the assembly of the people held under the Saxons, appears from the statutes of the kingdom concerning it, which were enacted by Edward the son of Ethelred, confirmed by William the Conqueror, in D’Achery, Spicileg. t. 12, p. 557, &c. See Gourdon, Drake, &c. [back]
Note 20. Affairs in Germany and Italy were at that time in great confusion. The Emperor Frederic II. after a reign of forty years, died at Naples in December, 1249, leaving to Conrad, his eldest son, the kingdoms of Naples, Jerusalem, and Lombardy; to Henry, his second son, Sicily; and to Frederic, his third son, Austria; to Entius, a natural son, the kingdom of Sardinia; and to Manfred or Manfroy, another natural son, the principality of Tarento. William II., count of Holland, a prince endowed with great virtues, and this Conrad, surnamed the Fourth, were competitors for the empire. The former was drowned in Friesland in 1256, and Richard, duke of Cornwall, brother to Henry III. king of England, was chosen in his place. He was crowned at Aix-la-Chapelle, but thinking the expense and difficulties too great, returned to England, and died there in 1271.
On the other side, Conrad IV. died at Naples in 1254, after he had reigned but four years, leaving a young son, named Conradin, who was educated by his mother in Suabia. The wicked prince Manfred, who is said by some to have poisoned both his brother Conrad IV. and his father Frederic II., usurped the regency of Naples and Sicily for his nephew Conradin; and soon after, pretending he was dead in Germany, took the title of king. Pope Urban IV. alleging that Frederic II. and Conrad IV. had, by refusing homage, forfeited that kingdom, which was a fief of the holy see, and that Manfred was a usurper, made a present of it to Charles, duke of Anjou and Provence. That prince, who was religious and chaste, like his brothers, but ambitious, through incredible difficulties made himself master of all that kingdom on this side the Pharos of Messina, and defeated and slew Manfred near Benevento in 1266. Also almost all the towns in the island of Sicily recognised him by their deputies; and when Conradin and his brother came out of Germany with an army to challenge that kingdom, Charles, after some losses, discomfited them, took them prisoners, and caused them to be put to death in 1268. Peter, king of Arragon, who had married Constantina, Manfred’s daughter, occasioned afterwards great revolutions in Sicily. The inhabitants, in revenge for the death of Conradin, and provoked by severe usage, formed a conspiracy, and at the time of even-song on Easter-day, in 1281, cut the throats of all the Frenchmen in the island; which massacre has been since called the Sicilian Vespers. In 1283, king Charles had the affliction to see his son made prisoner by the Admiral of Arragon.
By the death of Conradin, and his brother Frederic, duke of Austria, who were both beheaded together at Naples, the house of Suabia became extinct; but the house of Austria soon succeeded it in power; for Rodolph, count of Hapsburg, after the death of Richard duke of Cornwall, and a short interregnum, was chosen emperor in 1273; and being a religious, wise, and valiant prince, retrieved the empire, which he found plunged in the utmost confusion and disorders. Ottocar, king of Bohemia, had seized on Austria, Stiria, Carniola, and Carinthia; but Rodolph, who had married Anne, the heiress of Suabia, conquered them, and invested his son Albert with the duchy of Austria: and Rodolph, another son, with the county of Suabia. Albert was afterwards emperor; and his posterity took their title from Austria as a more illustrious principality than that of Hapsburg. [back]
Note 21. See Diction. Historique Portatif, V. Sorbonne. [back]
Note 22. The excellent laws of this king are extant under the title of The Ordinances established by St. Lewis. The French Pragmatic Sanction, made to secure the canonical elections to benefices, is by some ascribed originally to St. Lewis; but it has undergone so many alterations, that little stress can be laid on this circumstance. (See Spondan. ad an. 1268, et FF. Fontenai et Brumoi, Hist. de l’Eglise de France, t. 11, l. 33, p. 201.) Some attribute to St. Lewis only the five first articles of this Pragmatic Sanction, because the sixth is wanting in several manuscript copies. F. Natalis Alexander maintains, in an express dissertation, that St. Lewis was the founder of this famous constitution: Thomassin contends at large that it is not so ancient. The Bollandists, in their Commentary on the life of St. Lewis, (25 Augusti,) adopt the sentiment of Thomassin, and set off his arguments with new force. F. Griffet, who has very much enhanced the value of the late edition of F. Daniel’s History of France, in 1755, by additional curious notes and dissertations, does not presume to decide this controversy; but lays down principles which lead the attentive reader to join issue with Thomassin. [back]
Note 23. The crusards till that time imagined they were going for Egypt or Palestine; and Prince Edward, afterwards King Edward I. with several English lords, who joined this crusade, sailed to Palestine. Prince Edward, after many gallant achievements against the Saracens, was stabbed with a poisoned dagger by a Mahometan at Acre, and was wonderfully cured; Speed and some moderns say by his affectionate wife Eleanor sucking the poison out of the wound; but, according to contemporary writers, by the extraordinary skill of the surgeon. [back]
Note 24. Voltaire’s History of the Crusades is more superficial, if possible, than his other historical performances, in which a blaze of empty wit was the author’s chief aim and ambition. To give a satisfactory account of events, or an inquiry after truth, are seldom any part of this author’s concern; and the reflections which he intersperses are frequently false, and have the most impious and pernicious tendency. [back]
Note 25. St. Lewis often touched for the cure of the disease of scrofulous schirrhous tumours, called the king’s evil. Before this time, it is related by the French historians that King Philip I. was deprived of the gift which his predecessors had enjoyed of healing that distemper on account of the irregularity of his life. The origin of this custom in France is ascribed to the learned and pious King Robert, or at least to some of the first kings of the third race. The French kings usually only perform this ceremony on the day they have received the holy communion.
St. Lewis had five sons; but of these none left issue except Philip III. surnamed the Hardy or the Bold, and Robert, count of Clermont, who, having married Beatrice, the heiress of Bourbon, was the founder of the royal branch of Bourbon. [back]
Note 26. Isa. lxii. 4. [back]
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume VIII: August. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
SOURCE : http://www.bartleby.com/210/8/251.html
San Ludovico (Luigi IX) Re di Francia
- Memoria Facoltativa
Poissy, Francia, 25 aprile 1214 - Tunisi, 25 agosto 1270
Luigi IX, sovrano di Francia, nacque il 25 aprile 1214 in Poissy. Incoronato re di Francia, Luigi si assunse il compito, davanti a Dio e agli uomini, di diffondere il Vangelo. Nell'anno 1244 fu sorpreso da una fortissima febbre. Guarito, volle di persona guidare una crociata per la liberazione della Terra Santa. Sbarcato in Egitto, presso la città di Damietta, attaccò con successo i Saraceni. Ma una terribile pestilenza decimò l'esercito crociato, colpendo lo stesso re. Assalito nuovamente dai Turchi, venne sconfitto e fatto prigioniero. Dopo essere stato rilasciato, proseguì come pellegrino per la Terra Santa, dove compì numerose opere di bene. Tornato in Francia, governò con giustizia e cristiana pietà, fondando la Sorbona e preparando una nuova crociata. Ma a Tunisi una nuova epidemia colpì l'esercito. Luigi IX, sentendosi morire, si fece adagiare con le braccia incrociate sopra un letto coperto di cenere e cilicio, dove spirò. Era il 25 agosto del 1270. (Avvenire)
Patronato: Re, Ordine Francescano Secolare
Etimologia: Ludovico = variante di Clodoveo
Emblema: Corona, Globo
Martirologio Romano: San Luigi IX, re di Francia, che la fede attiva sia in tempo di pace sia nel corso delle guerre intraprese per la difesa dei cristiani, la giustizia nel governo, l’amore verso i poveri e la costanza nelle avversità resero celebre. Unitosi in matrimonio, ebbe undici figli che educò ottimamente e nella pietà. Per onorare la croce, la corona di spine e il sepolcro del Signore impegnò mezzi, forze e la vita stessa. Morì presso Tunisi sulla costa dell’Africa settentrionale colpito dalla peste nel suo accampamento.
Il re santo
Luigi, secondo figlio conosciuto di Luigi, figlio primogenito ed erede del re di Francia Filippo II Augusto, e della moglie di Luigi, Bianca di Castiglia, nasce molto probabilmente nel 1214 a Poissy il 25 del mese di aprile. Ed ecco che già da questa semplice nota biografica possiamo cogliere un indizio della personalità del futuro santo, egli, infatti, amava farsi chiamare “Luigi di Poissy”, non tanto perché era abitudine dei grandi personaggi dell’epoca aggiungere al proprio nome il luogo di nascita, ma perché, da buon cristiano, riteneva che la sua vera nascita fosse avvenuta il giorno del suo Battesimo a Poissy.
Se l’anno di nascita non fu ritenuto dai biografi contemporanei degno di particolare nota, lo fu, invece, il giorno come attesta il carissimo amico di san Luigi, Joinville, in piena conformità con l’abitudine medievale di ricavare presagi per la vita dalle caratteristiche del giorno della nascita di una persona: “Secondo che gli ho inteso dire, nacque egli il giorno di San Marco Evangelista, dopo la Pasqua. In questo giorno si portano croci in processione in molti luoghi e in Francia sono chiamate croci nere. E ciò fu quasi una profezia della gran copia di persone che morirono in quelle due crociate, cioè in quella d’Egitto e nell’altra in cui egli stesso morì a Cartagine; chè molti grandi lutti vi furono in questo mondo, e molte grandi gioie vi sono ora in paradiso, per coloro che in quei due pellegrinaggi morirono da veri crociati” (Joinville, Histoire de Saint Louis).
Nonostante Luigi, a soli quattro anni, sia divenuto erede al trono subentrando alla morte del fratello maggiore Filippo, non ci sono notizie di lui fino almeno al 1226; certamente è stato educato in modo particolarmente accurato inizialmente da parte della madre e poi, in età militare, dal padre (secondo la massima enunciata da Giovanni di Salisbury nel suo Policraticus: “Rex illitteratus quasi asinus coronatus” cioè: un re illetterato non è che un asino coronato). È certo anche che di una parte considerevole della sua educazione si sia occupato il nonno Filippo Augusto, il quale, dopo la prestigiosa vittoria di Bouvines, si era ritirato dalla pratica dell’arte della guerra. Luigi può, quindi, fregiarsi anche di un piccolo primato: quello di essere il primo re di Francia ad aver conosciuto il proprio nonno, cosa che avrà un alto valore per il senso dinastico del futuro re. Una particolare attenzione nel panorama educativo del futuro re è stata certamente riservata all’educazione religiosa e morale al fine di esercitare la funzione regia, proteggere la Chiesa e seguirne i consigli. L’ambiente che circondava il giovane Luigi svolge una funzione determinante per la fioritura della sua esemplare vita cristiana, non bisogna, infatti, dimenticare che la madre, Bianca di Castiglia, sarà anch’essa proclamata santa e la sorella, Isabella di Francia, beata.
Alla morte di Filippo Augusto, molti contemporanei tentano di riconoscere nella sua persona un santo grazie ai racconti orali dei prodigi che avevano accompagnato tanto la sua nascita (tra cui la comparsa di una cometa) quanto la sua morte (per lo più guarigioni). Ma nel Duecento avviene, in seno alla Chiesa, un cambiamento radicale nella concezione della santità e il papa Innocenzo III ne prende atto formalmente regolarizzando i processi di canonizzazione, in particolare, stabilendo che i miracoli da considerare in tale processo sono solo quelli avvenuti post mortem e dichiarando la santità della vita quotidiana quale nuovo imprescindibile criterio. Per questo motivo, Luigi riuscirà dove il nonno fallì a causa della sua vita coniugale ritenuta scandalosa da Roma e può essere a buon diritto definito un santo moderno.
Il re cristiano
Del mondo di San Luigi, è importante tenerlo presente, fa parte, insieme alla Francia, la “Christianitas”: egli governa da sovrano la prima ed è una delle teste della seconda che ingloba anche il suo regno. La Cristianità si riferisce essenzialmente all’Europa che nel XIII secolo stava vivendo un particolare momento di sviluppo economico: san Luigi sarà anche il primo re di Francia a battere una moneta d’oro, lo Scudo, nel 1226, pratica cessata da Carlo Magno in poi.
All’epoca di san Luigi, la Cristianità è ancora turbata dalle lotte tra papato e impero, ma il vero interesse politico è tutto rivolto all’irresistibile ascesa delle monarchie nazionali. Anche in questo campo san Luigi sarà in grado di far compiere all’amministrazione dello stato alcuni decisivi passi verso il consolidamento della monarchia francese: essa diventerà uno stato moderno unito attorno alla persona del suo re. L’eredità che il nonno Filippo Augusto lascia al giovane san Luigi è notevole sotto ogni aspetto, vale la pena, però, di approfondire quello dell’eredità morale fondata sullo sviluppo della “religione regia”. Attraverso la consacrazione, il deposito dei regalia nell’abbazia di Saint Denis e i nuovi riti funebri la monarchia e la persona del monarca vanno assumendo un carattere spiccatamente sacro. Lo stesso papa Innocenzo III nel 1202 con la decretale Per venerabilem dichiara che il re di Francia non riconosce alcun superiore nella sfera temporale e con Luigi IX si definisce che il re di Francia deriva il suo potere “solo da Dio e da se stesso”.
La storia della Cristianità del XIII secolo è caratterizzata dalle numerose eresie pauperiste di cui la più pervasiva è l’eresia catara, nota in Francia con il nome di “eresia degli aubigeois (albigesi)”. Il grande fermento religioso di questo secolo è, però, ben più allargato e comprende almeno altre due manifestazioni importantissime rimaste, tuttavia, nell’ortodossia. La prima è la nascita di nuovi ordini religiosi che rispondono ai nuovi bisogni spirituali dei fedeli e tentano di reagire alla decadenza del monachesimo: sono i nuovi Ordini Mendicanti che intendono portare la pratica della vita cristiana nella vita quotidiana degli uomini delle città e fanno della predicazione la loro arma. Il maggior impulso a questa nascita avviene per opera dei due santi Domenico di Calaruega, fondatore dei frati Predicatori, e Francesco d’Assisi, fondatore dei frati Minori. Determinante nella vita di san Luigi sarà la presenza degli Ordini Mendicanti, tanto che sarà non senza malizia definito “il re degli Ordini Mendicanti” e in qualcuno nascerà il sincero sospetto che voglia egli stesso farsi frate mendicante. L’altra manifestazione del grande movimento religioso del XIII secolo è l’ascesa dei laici all’interno della Chiesa, soprattutto attraverso la fondazione dei cosiddetti “Terz’ordini laicali” degli Ordini Mendicanti. Di conseguenza, anche la santità, che precedentemente pareva essere monopolio di chierici e monaci, si estende anche ai laici, uomini e donne. Se sant’Omobono, un mercante di Cremona, è il primo laico canonizzato nel 1199 da Innocenzo III solo due anni dopo la morte, san Luigi è sicuramente il più famoso.
Il re fanciullo
Il 3 novembre 1226, durante la crociata contro il conte di Tolosa, protettore degli eretici, Luigi VIII muore a Montpensier lasciando un primogenito la cui tenera età pone immediatamente dei seri problemi dinastici, soprattutto considerando che Luigi VIII ha un fratellastro venticinquenne alleato con gli immancabili baroni poco sottomessi all’autorità regia. Ma Bianca di Castiglia, la cui reggenza è confermata da un documento firmato dai vescovi più importanti del regno e depositato nel “Tresor des charter” (l’archivio regio), una volta sepolto Luigi VIII si dedica interamente alla difesa e all’affermazione di suo figlio, il re fanciullo, al mantenimento e al rafforzamento della potenza della monarchia francese.
Alla guida della Francia c’è, come non accadeva da un secolo e mezzo, un dodicenne e un sentimento d’angoscia si diffonde in tutto il regno. Bisogna, infatti, considerare che la funzione principale di un re medievale è quella di mettere in rapporto con la divinità la società di cui è capo. Ora, un fanciullo, per quanto re legittimo e unto, è un fragile intermediario, tanto più che l’infanzia nel Medioevo è concepita soltanto come un non-valore; l’infanzia dell’uomo modello del Medioevo, il santo, viene negata: un futuro santo manifesta la sua santità mostrandosi precocemente adulto. Né la legge dello stato né il diritto canonico stabilivano leggi riguardo alla maggiore età e la consuetudine la fissava a ventuno anni, eccezion fatta proprio per i sovrani che la raggiungevano a quattordici. Nel caso di san Luigi, la forza e il desiderio di governare di Bianca di Castiglia è molto probabile che lo abbiano fatto attendere, inoltre c’è un periodo di passaggio in cui è chiaro dagli atti che entrambi siano sullo stesso piano. Ma alla fine del 1226, Luigi è, per quanto precipitosamente, consacrato re.
L’attività di governo per Luigi inizia subito con alcune questioni della massima urgenza ma ben presto tutto barcolla: il sovrano è un fanciullo e sua madre una donna straniera, così un numero importante di baroni si riunisce a Corbeil e decide di impadronirsi del giovane re, non per detronizzarlo ma per governare in suo nome al posto di sua madre e dei suoi consiglieri aggiudicandosi, inoltre, terre e ricchezze. Ma ecco che per la prima volta il popolo di Parigi si stringe attorno al suo re scortandolo e proteggendolo dai suoi attentatori. Un secondo tentativo di impadronirsi della mente del re avviene in modo più sottile allorché gli stessi baroni iniziano a diffondere false dicerie sui presunti cattivi costumi morali di Bianca di Castiglia. I primi anni di regno di Luigi, che gli storici si limitano a presentare come anni di rischi e difficoltà, sono anche per il giovane re anni di progressi decisivi del potere regio e del suo prestigio personale grazie, soprattutto, alla sapiente presenza del re in molte operazioni militari vincenti.
Nel 1234, ottavo anno di regno, Luigi sposa, in seguito ad un accordo tra i genitori, Margherita, figlia primogenita di Raimondo Breringhieri V conte di Provenza. Luigi e Margherita sono parenti di quarto grado, ma il papa Gregorio IX concede loro la dispensa a causa della “urgente ed evidente utilità” di un unione che contribuirà a riportare la pace in una terra sconvolta dalle eresie e dalla guerra contro gli eretici. Il matrimonio viene celebrato dal vescovo di Valence e zio di Margherita Guglielmo di Savoia a Sens, facilmente raggiungibile da Parigi e dalla Provenza, il 27 maggio, vigilia della domenica che precede l’Ascensione.
Sappiamo, da una confidenza fatta molto tempo dopo dalla regina Margherita, che il giovane sposo regale non toccò sua moglie nella prima notte di nozze, rispettando, come gli sposi cristiani molto pii, le “tre notti di Tobia” raccomandate dalla Chiesa sulla scorta dell’esempio di Tobia nell’Antico Testamento. I figli iniziano a coronare il matrimonio solo sei anni dopo, saranno undici di cui, però, solo sette sopravvivranno al padre.
Il re devoto
Molti sono gli aspetti per cui san Luigi si è facilmente prestato ad essere definito “il re devoto”, di seguito ne analizzerò solo alcuni tra i più significativi.
Già Filippo Augusto e ancor più san Luigi intuiscono l’importanza per la monarchia francese di avere a Parigi, nonostante non sia ancora una vera capitale, un focolaio di studi superiori che sia in grado di apportare gloria, sapere e alti funzionari chierici e laici alla regalità. I re di Francia non hanno ancora in quell’epoca una vera e propria politica universitaria, tuttavia, capiscono che, come Roma era la capitale politica della Cristianità, così Parigi poteva esserne la capitale intellettuale in quanto sede della facoltà di teologia.
Moderno e tradizionale allo stesso tempo si presenta l’atteggiamento di san Luigi nei confronti dell’Impero: pur nel solco della tradizione capetingia, ormai affrancata dalla giurisdizione imperiale, san Luigi manterrà sempre un devoto rispetto per la figura dell’Imperatore, all’epoca Federico II, perché da buon medievale si sente membro di un corpo, la Cristianità, che ha due teste: il Papa e l’Imperatore. La possibilità di mantenere questo equilibrio reverenziale nei confronti dell’assodata bicefalia della Cristianità è permessa anche dal fatto che da tempo, ormai, tanto l’Impero quanto la Chiesa non possono più vantare diritti o poteri giuridici nel regno di Francia, come già descritto. Inoltre, Luigi IX mette in atto per molto tempo e in molti modi diversi una grande opera di pacificazione nei confronti delle due massime autorità della Cristianità.
I dissidi che san Luigi si trova ad affrontare con i vescovi di Reims e, soprattutto, di Beauvais, ci mostrano un re che, pur nella sua personale religiosità e sottomissione alla Chiesa, tanto da essere chiamato dai contemporanei “il re devoto”, nelle questioni temporali che riguardano lo Stato è inflessibile sostenitore dei diritti e doveri di quest’ultimo, fulgido esempio sempre attuale di quanto sia possibile mantenere il giusto equilibrio tra la religione e la politica.
E proprio l’aspetto della devozione che preannuncia il futuro san Luigi si rivela non solo nel suo personale interessamento, riferito esplicitamente dall’amico Joinville, nella costruzione dell’abbazia di Royaumont, dando compimento ad una delle ultime volontà del defunto Luigi VIII che aveva lasciato un’ingente somma a tal fine, ma anche nel lavoro manuale che, come alcune biografie riferiscono, il re prodigò in tale iniziativa coinvolgendo anche i fratelli e alcuni cavalieri del suo seguito. In realtà, il padre aveva indicato anche quale avrebbe dovuto essere l’Ordine religioso affidatario della struttura, ma l’attrazione che il monachesimo riformato cistercense esercita su Luigi e che tornerà altre volte nella sua vita sarà più forte.
È innegabile che nella Cristianità del XIII secolo una grande manifestazione di devozione e, pari tempo, fonte di grande prestigio è il possesso di insigni reliquie e anche per san Luigi si presenta ben presto la possibilità di ottenerne alcune davvero molto preziose allorché, nel 1237, Baldovino, il giovane imperatore dell’Impero Latino di Costantinopoli viene in Francia per cercare aiuto contro i greci che volevano riprendersi la loro capitale. Egli, proprio mentre si trova presso la corte francese, viene raggiunto dalla notizia che i baroni dell’Impero Latino, in preda alla necessità di denaro, hanno deciso di vendere la più preziosa reliquia conservata a Costantinopoli: la Corona di spine di Gesù. Il re di Francia e sua madre si infiammano subito si santo zelo per ottenrla: emblema di umiltà, la Corona di spine è, nonostante tutto, una corona, cioè una reliquia con una forte caratterizzazione regale. Essa incarna quella regalità sofferente e umile che è diventata l’immagine di Cristo nella devozione del XIII secolo e che l’immaginario collettivo trasferisce sul capo del re, immagine di Gesù sulla terra. Tra molti perigli e trattative la sacra Reliquia giunge nei pressi della Francia e, come cinque anni prima era corso incontro alla fidanzata, Luigi ora corre a ricevere il sacro acquisto; egli porta con sé la madre, i fratelli, molti vescovi e cavalieri; l’incontro avviene a Villeneuve-l’Archeveque: i testimoni oculari spenderanno in seguito pagine e pagine per descrivere l’intensa emozione dimostrata dai reali. Segue poi la processione penitenziale che accompagna la Reliquia nella cattedrale di Sens: sono il re e suo fratello Roberto, a piedi nudi e con una sola tunica, a trasportare la cassa. Di là, dopo la rituale esposizione, riprende il viaggio verso Parigi dove viene esposta nella cattedrale di Notre Dame e poi definitivamente deposta nella cappella palatina di Saint Nicolas.Poiché il bisogno di denaro da parte dell’imperatore di Costantinopoli continua, Luigi ben presto completa, non senza grandi spese, la sua collezione di reliquie della Beata Passione (parti della Croce, la sacra Spugna, il ferro della Lancia di Longino). La cappella del palazzo reale si dimostra ben presto indegna di accogliere e custodire simili tesori, Luigi si rende conto che occorre una chiesa che possa essere essa stessa un reliquario glorioso e, a questo scopo, inizia la costruzione della Sainte Chapelle. Già nel 1243 papa Innocenzo IV concede alcuni privilegi alla futura cappella, nel 1246 Luigi fonda un collegio di canonici che ne assicurino l’officiatura e nel 1248 alcune risorse dello Stato vengono destinate alla sua manutenzione. La consacrazione solenne, alla presenza del re, avviene il 26 aprile 1248, due mesi prima che Luigi parta per la crociata. Fin dall’epoca di Luigi IX la cappella era considerata un capolavoro dell’arte gotica.
Un altro evento devozionale del regno di san Luigi degno di una speciale nota è il famoso smarrimento e ritrovamento dell’insigne reliquia del Santo Chiodo presso Saint Denis: durante una solenne ostensione, tale reliquia va misteriosamente perduta e le cronache si prodigano a descrivere tanto la disperazione di san Luigi, manifestata anche dalla sua personale ricerca, quanto la sua somma gioia dopo il casuale rinvenimento. Va, anzitutto, ricordato che nel Medioevo nell’animo dei più semplici come in quello dei più saggi e potenti esiste, incrollabile, la credenza nella virtù sacra di taluni oggetti che garantiscono la prosperità di un regno e la cui perdita occasionale può presagirne inequivocabilmente la rovina: il giovane Luigi condivide e stimola la religiosità più profonda del suo popolo e comincia a costruire la sua immagine e la sua politica sull’espressione pubblica e intensa di questi sentimenti. Nel suo entourage, tuttavia, quelle manifestazioni di devozione sono ritenute eccessive e indegne di un re che deve sempre dimostrare un grande senso della misura e dare esempio di ragionevolezza. Ma per Luigi non c’è alcun problema intimo: egli vuol essere, al tempo stesso e senza contraddizione, re di Francia cosciente dei suoi doveri, compresi quelli che concernono apparenza e simbologia, e buon cristiano, il quale, per essere di buon esempio e assicurare la salvezza sua e del suo popolo, deve manifestare la sua fede secondo le antiche e nuove pratiche con un comportamento sensibile.
Un episodio apparentemente irrilevante della vita di san Luigi ma che risulta importante per capire la sua spiritualità di re santo si verifica nel momento in cui i mongoli sembrano invadere l’Europa da est. Dalle lettere che invia alla madre, emerge un santo escatologico che vede in essi l’invasione dei popoli di Gog e Magog annunciati dall’Apocalisse come preludio alla fine del mondo. San Luigi aspira a due possibili destini: il martirio o la fine del mondo, egli si affida confidente a Dio ed è pronto ad abbracciare entrambi.
Tutto il regno di san Luigi sarà segnato da una forte discordanza tra la sua personale pietà e l’opinione pubblica; forse anche il re stesso avrà qualche periodo di dubbio, in particolare dopo il fallimento della crociata, ma ne uscirà sempre più convinto di trovarsi sulla retta via nella necessaria fusione delle sue due principali occupazioni: il bene del regno e del popolo e la sua salvezza personale, che in quanto re, coinvolge inevitabilmente quella di tutto il popolo. In un’epoca in cui non occupare il proprio posto secondo lo status dato da Dio a ciascuno è cosa assolutamente scandalosa, è percepito come problematico un re a più riprese definito re-monaco o re-frate, ma, alla fine, la soluzione giusta sarà trovata dalla maggioranza dell’opinione pubblica e sancita dalla Chiesa: egli sarà un re-santo, un re laico e santo.
Il re crociato
Nel 1244, san Luigi cade in un forte attacco di una malattia che già lo perseguitava da tempo ed arriva a perdere conoscenza tanto che molti lo credono morto e la regina madre invia a Pontoise, dove egli si trova, le Reliquie reali affinché il re le possa toccare. Appena ripreso da quello stato e appena è in grado di parlare, racconta sempre l’amico Joinville, chiede soltanto di diventare crociato. Le reazioni all’annuncio di questo voto sono di diversa natura, come, del resto, in quel secolo era in fase di mutamento lo spirito stesso con cui si affrontava l’argomento delle crociate dopo che i numerosi fallimenti avevano portato ad un forte scoraggiamento nella classe politica. Un trovatore, invece, interpreta l’entusiasmo popolare per un san Luigi crociato e, nei testi della sua propaganda si meraviglia che un uomo “leale e integro, esempio di saggezza e di rettitudine” che conduce “una vita santa, linda, pura, senza peccato e senza macchia” si sia fatto crociato quando i più intraprendevano le crociate per fare penitenza. Ma per Luigi, che spinge all’estremo la fede che gli è stata inculcata, la crociata non è che il coronamento della retta condotta di un principe cristiano. Così, il 12 giugno 1248, Luigi va a Saint Denis a prendere l’orifiamma, la tracolla e il bordone dalle mani del cardinale legato, segni della sua intima convinzione dell’identità tra crociata e pellegrinaggio. Poi si reca a piedi nudi e seguito da una grande processione di popolo all’abbazia reale di Saint Antoin de Champs e, prima di partire, nomina sua madre reggente del regno. Da notare il lavoro silenzioso e paziente di questa santa regina che per tutta la vita ha degnamente preparato e sostituito nelle necessità il figlio al timone del regno di Francia. La partenza da Parigi segna anche, nella vita di san Luigi, una svolta che colpisce molto gli appartenenti al suo entourage. Le norme regolatrici della crociata ingiungono ai crociati la modestia nel vestire; si può facilmente immaginare che il rigoroso Luigi rispettò e fece rispettare quelle prescrizioni, ma Luigi, per quanto riguarda la sua persona, non si accontenta di applicare rigorosamente le prescrizioni della Chiesa e, secondo la sua abitudine, va molto oltre conservando tale austerità anche al ritorno dalla crociata fino alla morte. Questa rinuncia è il segno di una svolta nella vita di san Luigi, il passaggio da un genere di vita e di governo semplicemente conformi alle raccomandazioni della Chiesa a una condotta personale e politica autenticamente religiosa, da un semplice conformismo ad un vero ordine morale.
La crociata si apre in Egitto con alcune piccole vittorie ma ben presto sopraggiungono le sconfitte e Luigi stesso viene fatto prigioniero dai musulmani e questa è la disgrazia peggiore per un re, ancor più lo è per un re cristiano essere fatto prigioniero dagli infedeli. Alla liberazione, avvenuta un mese dopo la cattura, il cappellano reale racconta la dignità e il coraggio dimostrati dal re durante la prigionia: Luigi pensa anzitutto agli altri crociati prigionieri, rifiuta qualsiasi dichiarazione contraria alla propria fede cristiana e sfida perciò la tortura e la morte. Anche quando viene a sapere che i suoi sono riusciti a frodare i musulmani versando un cifra inferiore rispetto a quella pattuita per il suo riscatto, si infuria, convinto che la sua parola debba essere sempre mantenuta e onorata anche se prestata a dei miscredenti.La crociata termina con un nulla di fatto e, mentre si trova in Terra Santa, Luigi vede svanire anche un altro dei suoi più grandi sogni: la conversione dei mongoli. Infatti, i missionari da lui inviati al gran Khan ritornano sconfitti. Infine, è un terribile evento a mettere fine alla sua permanenza in Terrasanta: nella primavera del 1253, Luigi riceve la notizia della morte dell’amata madre che era deceduta il 27 novembre del 1252. L’amico Joinville racconta le scomposte manifestazioni di dolore che accompagnano l’apprensione della notizia da parte di san Luigi e i rimproveri da parte dei contemporanei per l’esagerata reazione.
Ma qualche cosa, sebbene a livello spirituale, san Luigi la sa guadagnare da queste dolorose sconfitte. Infatti, discutendo con i suoi interlocutori musulmani, pur continuando a detestare la loro falsa religione, si rende conto che il dialogo con questi ultimi è possibile; inoltre, è in grado di imparare qualcosa di utile dai musulmani, infatti, tornato in patria, è il primo re che costruisce una biblioteca di manoscritti di opere religiose sul modello di quella del sultano.
Il re escatologico
Premeditato o improvvisato, l’incontro tra Ugo di Digne, appartenente alla corrente rigorista degli Spirituali francescani, e il re santo avrà grande importanza nella vita di quest’ultimo. In preda allo sconforto per gli eventi appena elencati, san Luigi ne ricerca le cause e si domanda cosa debba fare per piacere a Dio, assicurare la propria salvezza e quella del suo popolo e servire la Chiesa, Ugo gli mostrerà la via: far regnare sulla terra la giustizia nella prospettiva del momento in cui “i tempi saranno compiuti”, promuovere una città terrestre evangelica, in breve, diventare un re escatologico. Questa proposta, che probabilmente interpretava i desideri profondi di Luigi, diventerà il programma dell’ultimo periodo del suo regno.
Joinville testimonia il passaggio dalla semplicità all’austerità che contrassegna la vita di san Luigi dopo il ritorno dalla Terrasanta e il suo confessore, consigliere e primo biografo, Goffredo di Beaulieu, ne racconta i sentimenti in modo mirabile: “Dopo il suo felice ritorno in Francia, i testimoni della sua vita e i confidenti della sua coscienza videro fino a qual punto egli cercò di essere devoto verso Dio, giusto verso i suoi sudditi, misericordioso verso gli infelici, umile verso se stesso e come fece ogni sforzo per progredire in tutte le virtù. Come l’oro è superiore in valore all’argento, così il suo nuovo modo di vivere, portato con sé dalla Terrasanta, superava in santità la sua vita precedente; eppure in gioventù, egli era sempre stato buono, innocente ed esemplare”.
Tutto questo fervore si riflette nelle sue decisioni politiche e in ogni ordinanza regia non trascura di aggiungere provvedimenti riguardanti la moralità, tra cui misure repressive della bestemmia, del gioco, della prostituzione, della frequentazione delle taverne, prescrizioni contro gli ebrei e la propagazione del principio della presunzione d’innocenza per gli imputati richiamando i giudici all’esempio del Giudice supremo, Dio di giustizia e di misericordia. Oltre alla giustizia, l’altro dovere che si impone ad un re cristiano è la pace e Luigi saprà essere arbitro oltre i confini del suo regno dando l’esempio a molti, tanto da arrivare ad essere definito “arbitro e pacificatore della Cristianità”.
Nel 1267, Luigi decide di intraprendere una nuova crociata e da inizio ad un nuovo periodo di preparazione e purificazione emanando nuove leggi contro la bestemmie, reato equiparato alla lesa maestà, e gli ebrei e facendo intensificare la predicazione. Partito come nel 1248, il 14 marzo 1270, l’esercito sbarca a Tunisi per raggiungere l’Egitto, ma la via di Tunisi si rivela ben presto una vera e propria Via Crucis. Sfumata la possibilità di convertire l’Emiro musulmano che si rivela immediatamente illusoria ancorché san Luigi non vi voglia rinunciare e, di nuovo, il flagello del Mediterraneo, l’epidemia di tifo, si abbatte sull’esercito regio. Dopo suo figlio Giovanni Tristano, anche san Luigi muore il 25 agosto assistito dal suo inseparabile confessore. È lui che racconta che sul letto di morte, pur sentendo la fine avvicinarsi, san Luigi non ha altra preoccupazione che le cose di Dio e l’esaltazione della fede cristiana. Così, a fatica e a bassa voce, proferisce le sue ultime parole: “Cerchiamo, per l’amor di Dio, di far predicare e di introdurre la fede cattolica a Tunisi”. Benché la forza del suo corpo e della sua voce si affievoliscano a poco a poco, egli non cessa di chiedere i suffragi dei Santi a cui era più devoto, in particolare san Dionigi patrono del suo regno. Più volte mormora le ultime parole della preghiera a san Dionigi: “Noi ti preghiamo, Signore, per l’amore che abbiamo per te, di darci la grazia di disprezzare i beni terreni e di non temere le avversità”. Poi ripete l’inizio della preghiera a san Giacomo: “Sii, o Signore, il santificatore e il custode del tuo popolo”. Ancora il Beaulieu riferisce che Luigi muore all’ora stessa della morte del Signore su un letto “di ceneri sparse in forma di croce”. Così il re-Cristo muore nell’eterno presente della morte salvatrice di Gesù. Secondo una certa tradizione, egli avrebbe mormorato nella notte precedente alla sua morte: “Andremo a Gerusalemme”.
La bara con le ossa di Luigi IX, debitamente trattate, viene portata ed esposta a Parigi nella chiesa di Notre Dame e i funerali hanno luogo a Saint Denis il 22 maggio, quasi nove mesi dopo la morte del re. Attorno ai sacri resti, i visceri in Sicilia e lo scheletro a Saint Denis, si verificano numerosi miracoli sin da subito, ma ormai la fama non è più sufficiente per creare dei santi, la curia romana si è riservata tale diritto ed inizia il processo di canonizzazione la cui prima iniziativa risale a papa Gregorio X. Sarà però papa Bonifacio VIII con la bolla Gloria, laus a pronunciare la canonizzazione solenne di Luigi IX e a fissarne la festa nel giorno della sua morte, il 25 agosto.
Ed è così che il re, nato sotto il sego del lutto e morto in terra straniera e infedele, fa il suo ingresso nella gloria eterna.
Autore: Emanuele Borserini
Jehans de Joinville. Livre des saintes paroles et des bons faiz nostre roy saint Looys, v.1308 : http://users.skynet.be/antoine.mechelynck/chroniq/joinv/JV000.htm
Louis IX roi, chevalier et saint :
Jacques Le Goff.« La sainteté de saint Louis : sa place dans la typologie et l'évolution chronologique des rois saints . Actes du colloque de Rome (27-29 octobre 1988). Publications de l'École Française de Rome Année 1991 149 pp. 285-293 : https://www.persee.fr/doc/efr_0000-0000_1991_act_149_1_4202
Géraldine Lavieille. « Les Jésuites et la dévotion à saint Louis au xviie siècle : la célébration du Roi très chrétien » : https://journals.openedition.org/framespa/2025