Publication Year: 2009
Published by: University of Notre Dame Press
Title Page, Copyright
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Le Goff’s work is a living monument, an epically proportioned historical narrative that explores every knowable aspect of Saint Louis’ life. At the same time, this work offers a complete historical analysis, not only bringing Louis IX to life for us but distinguishing between the living king familiar to his friends and inner...
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The elaboration and composition of this book lasted roughly fifteen years. I benefited from a lot of precious assistance over this long period. My thanks first go out to the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (which succeeded the VIth section of the École pratique des hautes études in 1975). For thirty-five years the...
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Sometimes called “the century of Saint Louis,” the thirteenth century has attracted historians less than the creative and turbulent twelfth century and less than the fourteenth century that sank into the great crisis at the close of the Middle Ages. Between his grandfather Philip Augustus and his grandson Philip the Fair, who...
Part I. The Life of Saint Louis
1. From Birth to Marriage (1214 –1234)
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LIKE HIS DESTINY, THE BIRTH OF ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS KINGS of France is shrouded in uncertainties. Louis, the second known son of Louis, the elder son and heir of the king of France, Philip Augustus II,1 and of Louis’ wife, Blanche of Castile, was born on April 25, most probably in the year 1214 at Poissy...
2. From Marriage to the Crusade (1234 –1248)
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WE DO NOT KNOW WHEN LOUIS’ MAJORITY WAS FIRST RECOGNIZED. It had to have taken place in 1234 when he was twenty years old or later in 1235 when he was twenty-one. The age of majority for French kings was not set until 1375 by Charles V, and it was fixed at fourteen years of age. Louis’ case...
3. The Crusade and the Stay in the Holy Land (1248–1254)
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In his solid and brilliant book, William Jordan reaches the conclusion that Saint Louis was fascinated by the idea of the crusades and that this idea dominated his rule and his politics.1 Jean Richard, the author of another recent remarkable biography of the king, comes close to sharing this opinion. I believe that this idea is...
4. From One Crusade to the Next and Death (1254–1270)
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Louis set sail from Acre on April 24 or 25, 1254. Several days later, the king’s ship rammed a sandbar off the shores of Cyprus, which damaged the boat’s keel. They were afraid the ship would sink, and this was an occasion for the king to display his composure and sense of duty as he refused to leave the ship because the other boats...
5. Toward Sainthood: From Death to Canonization (1270 –1297)
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There was King Louis IX, dead in the land of the infidels. There was no question of leaving his remains on these hostile grounds outside of Christendom and far from his Kingdom of France. They had to repatriate his cadaver. To do this they used a procedure employed since the time of Charles the Bald in the ninth century whenever a ruler died far from the royal necropolis and either...
Part II. The Production of Royal Memory: Did Saint Louis Exist?
1. The King from the Official Documents
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HISTORY HAS RELEGATED THE USE OF ADMINISTRATIVE SOURCES TO approach rulers and governments to the background for a long time, limiting it to the secondary role of history’s so-called “auxiliary” sciences along with chronology, diplomatic history, and sigillography.Without meaning to make a bad pun, however, it constitutes a royal path to understanding the realities of power through...
The King of the Mendicant Hagiographers: A Saint King of Resurgent Christendom
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SAINT LOUIS’ LIFE WAS INTIMATELY RELATED TO A NEW CHURCH institution in the first half of the century: the Mendicant orders. Since the middle of the eleventh century the Church had attempted to react to profound changes in Western society. The most remarkable of these changes was prodigious economic expansion, which culminated in the spread of coinage in which Saint...
3. The King of Saint-Denis: A Dynastic and “National” Saint King
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THE ROYAL IMAGE THE CLERICS APPLIED TO SAINT LOUIS HAD TWO sides: the one fashioned by the friars of the Mendicant orders that presented the saint as a top model, and the one shaped by the Benedictine monks of Saint-Denis that focused on the king himself. For the first group, the king was primarily treated as...
4. The King of the Exempla
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IN THIS PERIOD HISTORY DID NOT YET ISOLATE EVENTS VERY CLEARLY in the form of human time, as a literary genre, or even less as a discipline of knowledge. For want of history, the thirteenth century was fond of stories and anecdotes.1 People at that time were also eager to learn. The Church knew this and its didactic...
5. Prefigurations of Saint Louis in the Old Testament
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When Western Christendom was born from the dissolution of the Roman Empire in the beginning of the fifth century under the influence of the “barbarian” invasions, it was split into a number of territorial groupings. A leader who held the title of king headed each of these groups.1 The medieval monarchical...
6. The King of the Mirrors of the Princes
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THE HISTORIAN CAN OFTEN IDENTIFY A HIERARCHICAL FORM THAT eventually produced a single leader in the organization of most ancient societies. We call societies like this monarchical and their leaders “kings.” Originally, this chief-king not only had a sacred character but embodied all kinds of supernatural...
7. The King of the Foreign Chroniclers
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THIRTEENTH-CENTURY FRENCH CULTURE WAS FIRST AND FOREMOST Christian and European. The collective consciousness, the sentiment of Western identity, was based on belonging to Christendom. This feeling was even stronger for individuals who participated in the common culture and its institutions. The clerics...
8. The King of Commonplace Ideas
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WE KNOW THE EVENTS, THE NAMES OF THE PEOPLE, AND THE PLACES in his life, but Louis IX’s personality still seems to escape us. The producers of his memory dissolved it in commonplace ideas that they needed to make their points. They made the king into a model, a model of sainthood and more specifically...
9. The "Real" Louis IX of Joinville
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ONCE IT SEEMED LIKE EVERYTHING NEEDED FOR THE PRODUCTION of Saint Louis’ memory had been completed, once he had been canonized, and once Boniface VIII had drawn up his official image as it was meant to exist for all time in his bull and two sermons, once the hagiographers who knew him or who collected...
10. Saint Louis
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IF WE WANT TO UNDERSTAND SAINT LOUIS AS AN INDIVIDUAL, THE production of his memory then condemns us to put aside the record of hagiographical commonplace ideas and information manipulated by the sovereign’s clerical and official entourage. Must we then privilege the exceptional testimony that...
Part III. Saint Louis, The Unique and Ideal King
1. Saint Louis in Space and Time
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A Christian’s salvation plays out first of all in his management of space and time. Homo viator, the “man of the road”: did he know how to carry out his pilgrimage on earth by following material and spiritual paths appropriate to his vocation and by choosing the right places to stop and stay along the way? As the king of a kingdom...
2. Words and Images
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WORDS AND IMAGES WERE HIGHLY SIGNIFICANT IN A THIRTEENTHcentury king’s environment.Words were still almost always oral and spoken. We will listen to Saint Louis speak later on, but thanks to the considerable progress made by writing in this century we will naturally pay close attention to texts....
3. Words and Gestures: The Prud’homme
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The thirteenth century was a period when institutions, collective groups, and even individuals granted more and more importance to writing and when memory based on oral transmission retreated before the document fixed in writing.1 Writing in particular became more and more of a tool of government. Since...
4. The King's Three Functions
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Roughly thirty years ago, some medievalists came to recognize that George Dumézil’s hypotheses about the existence of a general organizing principle of thought in Indo-European societies according to three basic functions could be applied to medieval Western society.1 From the tenth century on (and already in the ninth...
5. Saint Louis: Feudal King or Modern King?
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I HAVE DISCUSSED THE TYPE OF KING SAINT LOUIS WAS IN RELATION to the evolution of the medieval French monarchy several times now in this book. What voluntary or involuntary mark did he make on this road that split up into so many diverging paths whose overall coherence is only discovered by the...
6. Saint Louis and His Family
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MEN—AND ESPECIALLY THE MEN OF THE MIDDLE AGES—DID NOT live alone. Familial and kinship networks bound men together even tighter at the summit of the social pyramid than at its base. Their carnal family, the blood family, was also a family of alliances in which the powerful more than any others had...
7. Saint Louis' Religion
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SAINT LOUIS’ RELIGION CONSISTED FIRST OF ALL IN HIS PRACTICE of worship. It was expressed through gestures and rituals that were regularly and frequently repeated throughout the day and even at night. His religion, however, was also a faith, a piety in harmony with the evolving religious practice of his time...
8. Conflicts and Criticisms
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FOR SAINT LOUIS, THE UNIVERSE OF RELIGION WAS NOT LIMITED TO worship. He had the Church before him first of all. He respected it and acted as its servant and supporter in the realm of faith, although he quite often came into conflict with it over the temporal chapter, the jurisdiction, and the pretensions...
9. Saint Louis, Sacred King, Thaumaturge, and Saint
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SAINT LOUIS WAS A CHARISMATIC PERSON.1 FOR THOSE WHO HAD been around the king, insofar as it could be defined this charisma had its source in the aura that surrounded his person. For those who knew him only through hearsay, it originated in the extraordinary character of the image of him that had been transmitted to them. To describe this image, his contemporaries...
10. The Suffering King, The Christ King
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CERTAINLY, MORE THAN SHAKESPEARE’S RICHARD II, LOUIS WAS A “king of sorrows” in the medieval context. However, his image as a suffering king presented his contemporaries with large and difficult problems. Was suffering a kind of value? Could it have a positive image? Could it help people attain salvation like work which was given by God to Adam as a punishment for his sin and as it evolved from a concept of work as penance to a concept of work...
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IN A WORK BUILT AROUND A GREAT HISTORICAL FIGURE, IT IS FIRST of all hard to escape making some kind of confidence to one’s readers. At different more or less lengthy moments over the course of the last ten years or more in Saint Louis’ company, what were my relations with him and how did they evolve? I certainly do not have the presumptuousness to write up an essay on...
Appendix 1. Saint Louis’ “Somatic Formula” According to Dr. Auguste Brachet (1894)
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AUGUSTE BRACHET WAS A REMARKABLE CHARACTER. HE HAD TO LIVE off modest occupations including a subordinate position in the catalogue office of the Bibliothèque nationale (at that time, the Bibliothèque impériale) and as a tutor to Empress Eugénie. He was born in Tours in 1844 and died of tuberculosis...
Appendix 2. Louis IX’s Letter to His Subjects from the Holy Land (1250)
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LOUIS, BY THE GRACE OF GOD, KING OF THE FRENCH, TO HIS DEAR and faithful prelates, barons, warriors, citizens, bourgeois, and all other inhabitants of his kingdom that these present letters reach, salute:...
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List of Abridged Titles
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Page Count: 952
Publication Year: 2009