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Saint Louis IX
File:Louis9 profilebust.JPG
Representation of Saint Louis considered to be true to life—Early-14th-century statue from the church of Mainneville, Eure, France
King of France (more...)
Reign8 November 1226 – 25 August 1270
Coronation29 November 1226 in Rheims Cathedral
PredecessorLouis VIII
SuccessorPhilip III
Born(1214-04-25)25 April 1214
Poissy, France
Died25 August 1270(1270-08-25) (aged 56)
Tunis, North Africa
SpouseMargaret of Provence
among others...
Isabella, Queen of Navarre
Louis of France
Philip III of France
John Tristan, Count of Valois
Peter, Count of Perche and Alençon
Blanche, Infanta of Castile
Margaret, Duchess of Brabant
Robert, Count of Clermont
Agnes, Duchess of Burgundy
HouseHouse of Capet
FatherLouis VIII of France
MotherBlanche of Castile
ReligionRoman Catholicism

Louis IX (25 April 1214 – 25 August 1270), commonly Saint Louis, was King of France from 1226 until his death. He was also styled Louis II, Count of Artois from 1226 to 1237. Born at Poissy, near Paris, he was an eighth-generation descendant of Hugh Capet, and thus a member of the House of Capet, and the son of Louis VIII and Blanche of Castile. He worked with the Parliament of Paris in order to improve the professionalism of his legal administration.

He is the only canonised king of France; consequently, there are many places named after him, most notably St. Louis, Missouri, Île Saint-Louis in Paris, Saint-Louis, Haut-Rhin and Mission San Luis Rey de Francia in the United States, São Luís do Maranhão, Brazil and both the state and city of San Luis Potosí in Mexico. Saint Louis was also a tertiary of the Trinitarians.[citation needed]


Much of what is known of Louis's life comes from Jean de Joinville's famous Life of Saint Louis. Joinville was a close friend, confidant, and counsellor to the king, and also participated as a witness in the papal inquest into Louis' life that ended with his canonisation in 1297 by Pope Boniface VIII.

Two other important biographies were written by the king's confessor, Geoffrey of Beaulieu, and his chaplain, William of Chartres. The fourth important source of information is William of Saint-Parthus' biography,[1] which he wrote using the papal inquest mentioned above. While several individuals wrote biographies in the decades following the king's death, only Jean of Joinville, Geoffrey of Beaulieu, and William of Chartres wrote from personal knowledge of the king.

Early life

Coin of Saint Louis, Cabinet des Médailles. – The Latin inscription reads LVDOVICVS (i.e. "Louis") DEI GRACIA (i.e. "by the Grace of God", where Latin gratia was spelt gracia) FRANCOR REX (i.e. "King of the Franks", where Francor. is the abbreviation of Francorum).

Louis was born on 25 April 1214 at Poissy, near Paris, the son of Prince Louis the Lion and Princess Blanche, and baptised in La Collégiale Notre-Dame church. His grandfather was King Philip II of France. Tutors of Blanche's choosing taught him most of what a king must know -- Latin, public speaking, writing, military arts, and government.[2] He was 9 years old when his grandfather died and his father ascended as Louis VIII.[3] A member of the House of Capet, Louis was twelve years old when his father died on 8 November 1226. He was crowned king within the month at Reims cathedral. Because of Louis's youth, his mother ruled France as regent during his minority.

His younger brother Charles I of Sicily (1227–85) was created count of Anjou, thus founding the second Angevin dynasty.

No date is given for the beginning of Louis's personal rule. His contemporaries viewed his reign as co-rule between the king and his mother, though historians generally view the year 1234 as the year in which Louis began ruling personally, with his mother assuming a more advisory role.[4] She continued as an important counselor to the king until her death in 1252.

On 27 May 1234, Louis married Margaret of Provence (1221 – 21 December 1295), whose sister Eleanor later became the wife of Henry III of England.


When he was 15, Louis' mother brought an end to the Albigensian Crusade in 1229 after signing an agreement with Count Raymond VII of Toulouse that cleared the latter's father of wrongdoing. Raymond VI of Toulouse had been suspected of murdering a preacher on a mission to convert the Cathars.

Louis went on two crusades, in his mid-30s in 1248 (Seventh Crusade) and then again in his mid-50s in 1270 (Eighth Crusade).

The seventh crusade

He had begun with the rapid capture of the port of Damietta in June 1249,[5] an attack which did cause some disruption in the Muslim Ayyubid empire, especially as the current sultan, Al-Malik as-Salih Najm al-Din Ayyub was on his deathbed. But the march from Damietta toward Cairo through the Nile River Delta went slowly. The rising of the Nile and the summer heat made it impossible for them to advance and follow up their success.[6] During this time, the Ayyubid sultan died, and a sudden power shift took place, as the sultan's wife Shajar al-Durr set events in motion which were to make her Queen, and eventually place the Egyptian army of the Mamluks in power. On 6 April 1250 Louis lost his army at the Battle of Fariskur[7] and was captured by the Egyptians. His release was eventually negotiated, in return for a ransom of 400,000 livres tournois (at the time France's annual revenue was only about 1,250,000 livres tournois), and the surrender of the city of Damietta.[8]

Following his release from Egyptian captivity, Louis spent four years in the Crusader kingdoms of Acre, Caesarea, and Jaffa. Louis used his wealth to assist the Crusaders in rebuilding their defences[9] and conducting diplomacy with the Islamic powers of Syria and Egypt. Upon his departure from the Middle East, Louis left a significant garrison in the city of Acre for its defence against Islamic attacks. The historic presence of this French garrison in the Middle East was later used as a justification for the French Mandate.[citation needed]

Louis exchanged multiple letters and emissaries with Mongol rulers of the period. During his first crusade in 1248, Louis was approached by envoys from Eljigidei, the Mongol ruler of Armenia and Persia.[10] Eljigidei suggested that King Louis should land in Egypt, while Eljigidei attacked Baghdad, to prevent the Saracens of Egypt and those of Syria from joining forces. Louis sent André de Longjumeau, a Dominican priest, as an emissary to the Great Khan Güyük Khan in Mongolia. However, Güyük died before the emissary arrived at his court, and nothing concrete occurred. Louis dispatched another envoy to the Mongol court, the Franciscan William of Rubruck, who went to visit the Great Khan Möngke Khan in Mongolia.

The eighth crusade

In a parliament held at Paris, 24 March, 1267, he and his three sons took the cross. On hearing the reports of the missionaries, Louis resolved to land at Tunis. Louis ordered his younger brother, Charles of Anjou, to join him at Tunis. The crusaders, among whom was Prince Edward of England, landed at Carthage 17 July, 1270, but the disease broke out in the camp, and on 25 August, Louis himself was carried off by the scourge.[9]

Patron of arts and arbiter of Europe

Pope Innocent IV with Louis IX at Cluny

Louis' patronage of the arts drove much innovation in Gothic art and architecture, and the style of his court radiated throughout Europe by both the purchase of art objects from Parisian masters for export and by the marriage of the king's daughters and female relatives to foreign husbands and their subsequent introduction of Parisian models elsewhere. Louis' personal chapel, the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, was copied more than once by his descendants elsewhere. Louis most likely ordered the production of the Morgan Bible, a masterpiece of medieval painting.

Saint Louis ruled during the so-called "golden century of Saint Louis", when the kingdom of France was at its height in Europe, both politically and economically. The king of France was regarded as a primus inter pares among the kings and rulers of the continent. He commanded the largest army, and ruled the largest and most wealthy kingdom of Europe, a kingdom which was the European centre of arts and intellectual thought at the time. The foundations for the famous college of theology which was later known as the Sorbonne were laid in Paris about the year 1257. [6] The prestige and respect felt in Europe for King Louis IX was due more to the attraction that his benevolent personality created rather than to military domination. For his contemporaries, he was the quintessential example of the Christian prince, and embodied the whole of Christendom in his person. His reputation of saintliness and fairness was already well established while he was alive, and on many occasions he was chosen as an arbiter in the quarrels opposing the rulers of Europe.[4]

Shortly before 1256 Enguerrand IV of Coucy[disambiguation needed] arrested and without trial hanged three young squires of Laon whom he accused of poaching in his forest. In 1256 Louis had him arrested and brought to the Louvre by his sergeants. Enguerrand demanded judgment by his peers and trial by battle which was refused by the king because Louis thought it obsolete. Enguerrand was tried, sentenced and ordered to pay 12,000 livres. Part of the money was to pay for masses in perpetuity for the men he had hanged.

In 1258, Louis and James I of Aragon signed the Treaty of Corbeil, under which Louis renounced his feudal overlordship over the County of Barcelona, which was held by the King of Aragon. James in turn renounced his feudal overlordship over several counties in southern France.

Religious nature

The Holy Crown of Jesus Christ was bought by Louis IX from Baldwin II of Constantinople. It is preserved today in a 19th-century reliquary, in Notre Dame de Paris.

The perception of Louis IX as the exemplary Christian prince was reinforced by his religious zeal. Louis was a devout Catholic, and he built the Sainte-Chapelle ("Holy Chapel"),[4] located within the royal palace complex (now the Paris Hall of Justice), on the Île de la Cité in the centre of Paris. The Sainte Chapelle, a perfect example of the Rayonnant style of Gothic architecture, was erected as a shrine for the Crown of Thorns and a fragment of the True Cross, precious relics of the Passion of Jesus. Louis purchased these in 1239–41 from Emperor Baldwin II of the Latin Empire of Constantinople, for the exorbitant sum of 135,000 livres (the chapel, however, cost only 60,000 livres to build).

Louis IX took very seriously his mission as "lieutenant of God on Earth", with which he had been invested when he was crowned in Rheims. To fulfill his duty, he conducted two crusades, and even though they were unsuccessful, they contributed to his prestige. In 1230 the King forbade all forms of usury. 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.[6] Louis also ordered, at the urging of Pope Gregory IX, the burning in Paris in 1243 of some 12,000 manuscript copies of the Talmud and other Jewish books. Legislation against the Talmud in European courts resulted from concerns that its circulation would weaken Christians' faith and threaten the Christian basis of society, the preservation of which was the monarch's duty.[11]

Tunique and cilice of Louis IX. Treasury of Notre-Dame de Paris.

In addition to Louis' legislation against Jews and usury, he expanded the scope of the Inquisition in France. The area most affected by this expansion was southern France where the Cathar heresy had been strongest. The rate of these confiscations reached its highest levels in the years before his first crusade, and slowed upon his return to France in 1254.

Louis IX allowing himself to be whipped as penance.

In all these deeds, Louis IX tried to fulfill the duty of France, which was seen as "the eldest daughter of the Church" (la fille aînée de l'Église), a tradition of protector of the Church going back to the Franks and Charlemagne, who had been crowned by the Pope in Rome in 800. Indeed, the official Latin title of the kings of France was Rex Francorum, i.e. "king of the Franks" (until Louis' grand-father's reign, Philip II whose seal reads Rex Franciae, i.e. "king of France"), and the kings of France were also known by the title "most Christian king" (Rex Christianissimus). The relationship between France and the papacy was at its peak in the 12th and 13th centuries, and most of the crusades were actually called by the popes from French soil. Eventually, in 1309, Pope Clement V even left Rome and relocated to the French city of Avignon, beginning the era known as the Avignon Papacy (or, more disparagingly, the "Babylonian captivity").


Family of Louis IX of France


The remains of Louis, the firstborn son who died at the age of 15.
  1. Blanche (12 July/4 December[12] 1240 – 29 April 1243), died young
  2. Isabella (2 March 1241 – 28 January 1271), married Theobald II of Navarre
  3. Louis of France (23 September 1243 or 24 February 1244[12] – 11 January or 2 February January 1260). Betrothed to Infanta doña Berenguela of Castile in Paris on 20 August 1255.[12]
  4. Philip III (1 May 1245 – 5 October 1285), married firstly to Isabella of Aragon in 1262 and secondly to Maria of Brabant in 1274
  5. John (1246/1247[12]–1248), died young
  6. John Tristan of Valois (1250 – 3 August 1270), married Yolande of Burgundy
  7. Peter I of Alençon (1251–84), married Joanne of Châtillon
  8. Blanche of France, Infanta of Castile, married Ferdinand de la Cerda, Infante of Castille
  9. Margaret of France (1254–71), married John I, Duke of Brabant
  10. Robert, Count of Clermont (1256 – 7 February 1317), married Beatrice of Burgundy. Henry IV of France was his direct male-line descendant.
  11. Agnes of France (c. 1260 – 19 December 1327), married Robert II, Duke of Burgundy

Louis had his children that predeceased him buried at the Cisterian abbey of Royaumont.[13]

Death and legacy

Saint Louis
Louis IX of France was revered as a saint and painted in portraiture well after his death (such portraits may not accurately reflect his appearance). This portrait was painted by El Greco c. 1592–95.
King of France, Confessor
Born(1214-04-25)25 April 1214
Poissy, France
Died25 August 1270(1270-08-25) (aged 56)
Tunis in what is now Tunisia
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church, Anglican Communion
Canonized1297 by Pope Boniface VIII
Feast25 August
AttributesDepicted as King of France, generally with a crown, holding a sceptre with a fleur-de-lys on the end, possibly with blue clothing with a spread of white fleur-de-lys (coat of arms of the French monarchy)
PatronageThird Order of St. Francis, France, French monarchy; hairdressers; passementiers (lacemakers)
Reliquary of Saint Louis (end 13th c.) Basilica of Saint Dominic, Bologna, Italy

During his second crusade, Louis died at Tunis, 25 August 1270. As Tunis was Muslim territory, his body was subject to the process known as mos Teutonicus (a postmortem funerary custom used in mediæval Europe whereby the flesh was boiled from the body, so that the bones of the deceased could be transported hygienically from distant lands back home.[14]) for its transportation back to France.[14] He was succeeded by his son, Philip III. Louis was traditionally believed to have died from the bubonic plague but the cause is thought by modern scholars to have been dysentery. The bubonic plague did not strike Europe until 1348, so the likelihood of his contracting and ultimately dying from the bubonic plague was very slim.

Christian tradition states that some of his entrails were buried directly on the spot in Tunisia, where a Tomb of Saint-Louis can still be visited today,[citation needed] whereas his heart and other parts of his entrails were sealed in an urn and placed in the Basilica of Monreale, Palermo, where they still remain. (Sicily was at that time ruled by his younger brother, Charles of Anjou, and the French army returned to France through the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily.) His corpse was taken, after a short stay at the Basilica of Saint Dominic in Bologna, to the French royal necropolis at Saint-Denis, resting in Lyon on the way. His tomb at Saint-Denis was a magnificent gilt brass monument designed in the late 14th century. It was melted down during the French Wars of Religion, at which time the body of the king disappeared. Only one finger was rescued and is kept at Saint-Denis.

Veneration as a saint

Equestrian statue of King Saint Louis at the Sacré-Cœur.

Pope Boniface VIII proclaimed the canonization of Louis in 1297;[15] he is the only French monarch to be declared a saint.

Louis IX is often considered the model of the ideal Christian monarch.[16] Because of the aura of holiness attached to his memory, many kings of France were called Louis, especially in the Bourbon dynasty, which directly descended from one of his younger sons.

The Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Louis is a Roman Catholic religious order founded in 1842 and named in his honor.

He is honored as co-patron of the Third Order of St. Francis, which claims him as a member of the Order. Even in childhood, his compassion for the poor and suffering people had been obvious to all who knew him and when he became king, over a hundred poor people ate in his house on ordinary days. Often the king served these guests himself. Such acts of charity, coupled with Louis' devout religious practices, gave rise to the legend that he joined the Third Order of St. Francis. Though it is unlikely that Louis did join the order, his life and actions proclaimed him one of them in spirit.[2]

Places named after Saint Louis

The cities of San Luis Potosí in Mexico; St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis, Michigan; San Luis, Arizona; San Luis, Colorado; Saint-Louis du Sénégal; Saint-Louis in Alsace; as well as Lake Saint-Louis in Quebec, the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia in California and rue Saint Louis of Pondicherry are among the many places named after the king and saint.

The Cathedral Saint-Louis in Versailles; the Basilica of St. Louis, King of France and the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, both in St. Louis, Missouri; and the St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans were also named for the king. The French royal Order of Saint Louis (1693–1790 and 1814–1830), the Île Saint-Louis as well as a hospital in the 10th arrondissement of Paris also bear his name. The national church of France in Rome also carries his name: San Luigi dei Francesi in Italian or Saint Louis of France in English.

Many places in Brazil called São Luís in Portuguese are named after the French Saint Louis.

Port-Louis, the capital city of Mauritius, as well as its cathedral are also named after St. Louis, who is the patron saint of the island.

Famous portraits

A statue of Louis IX stands in the lower chapel of the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.

A bas-relief of St. Louis is one of the carved portraits of historic lawmakers that adorns the chamber of the United States House of Representatives.

Saint Louis is also portrayed on a frieze depicting a timeline of important lawgivers throughout world history in the Courtroom at the Supreme Court of the United States.

A statue of St. Louis by the sculptor John Donoghue stands on the roofline of the New York State Appellate Division Court at 27 Madison Avenue in New York City.

The Apotheosis of St. Louis is an equestrian statue of the saint, by Charles Henry Niehaus, that stands in front of the Saint Louis Art Museum in Forest Park.

In fiction


  1. ^ Vie de St Louis, ed. H.-F. Delaborde, Paris, 1899
  2. ^ a b "Saint Louis, King of France", Archdiocese of St. Louis, MO.
  3. ^ Plaque in the church, Collégiale Notre-Dame, Poissy, France.
  4. ^ a b c Goyau, Georges. "St. Louis IX." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 24 Feb. 2013
  5. ^ Tyerman, p. 787
  6. ^ a b c "Lives of Saints", John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.
  7. ^ Trevor N Dupuy (1993). The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History. HarperCollins. p. 417.
  8. ^ Tyerman, pp. 789–798
  9. ^ a b Bréhier, Louis. "Crusades." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 24 Feb. 2013
  10. ^ Peter Jackson (1980). "The Crisis in the Holy Land in 1260". The English Historical Review. 95 (376): 481–513. doi:10.1093/ehr/XCV.CCCLXXVI.481. ISSN 0013-8266. JSTOR 568054. ((cite journal)): Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  11. ^ Gigot, Francis E. (1910). "Judaism". The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. VIII. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 13 August 2007.
  12. ^ a b c d Capetian Kings
  13. ^ Authority, the Family, and the Dead in Late Medieval France, Elizabeth A. R. Brown, French Historical Studies, Vol. 16, No. 4 (Autumn, 1990), 810.
  14. ^ a b Westerhof, Danielle (16 October 2008,). Death and the Noble Body in Medieval England. Boydell Press. p. 79. ISBN 1843834162. ((cite book)): Check date values in: |date= (help)CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  15. ^ Louis IX, Oxford Dictionary of Saints, (Oxford University Press, 2004), 326.
  16. ^ Louis IX, Oxford Dictionary of Saints, 326.


Louis IX of France House of CapetBorn: 25 April 1214 Died: 25 August 1270 Regnal titles Preceded byLouis VIII King of France 8 November 1226 – 25 August 1270 Succeeded byPhilip III Count of Artois 8 November 1226–1237 Succeeded byRobert I


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