Thursday, April 24, 2014

King, Crusader, Saint and Penitent -- Today, Louis IX. Was Born 800 Years Ago in France

(Paris) "Every period of history has its representative man. Saint Louis IX. summarizes the entire Middle Ages.  He was a legislator, a hero and a saint. Marcus Aurelius embodied power united with philosophy, Louis IX.  power united with holiness. And it is just the latter that goes to the foreground for him."  The words of François-René de Chateaubriand may be slightly frenchified.  But worth considering the significance in dealing with history and representing these figures, they are nonetheless. 
This coming April 25 is the 800th birthday of a holy king, glory of the Church and of Christendom, a model of a Christian ruler, a real monarch according to the will of God:  St. Louis IX. of France (1214-1270). A king who, in the Christian Middle Ages, embodied in his person, that which is referred to as "sweet springtime of faith".
He was the son of Louis VIII of France and Blanche of Castile, daughter, granddaughter, wife, sister and aunt of kings. Blanka was the daughter of King Alfonso IX. of Castile, the stormer of the battlements in the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212) that paved the way for the reconquest of the southern Iberian Peninsula. She was the granddaughter of King Sancho III of Castile, niece of English kings Richard the Lionheart and John Lackland, wife of King Louis VIII of France, sister of King Henry of Castile, aunt of King Sancho II of Portugal and St. Ferdinand III., King of Leon and Castile and mother of King Charles I of Naples and Sicily and of Saint Louis IX., King of France. A high aristocratic, European network, in which, despite the emergence of principalities and kingdoms, possessing a population of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds still a largely intact early medieval Germanic unit was expressed on sovereign level.

Born in 1214 in the Fateful Battle of France Bouvines

St. Louis was born at Castle Poissy about 30 kilometers from Paris on 25 April 1214. At that time his grandfather  King Philip II Augustus of France still lived, the winner in the decisive Battle of Bouvines for France (1214) against the Anglo-German coalition in which he saved the fate of France, stopped the expansion of England  on the continent and the Empire let go from the Guelphs on to the Staufer.
The Childhood of St. Louis was a mirror image of honesty and wisdom. His father, who also combined chivalrous courage with the zeal for religion, was honored with the nickname "the Lion". He took pains in a special way for the education of his son and gave him excellent teachers and educators, says Matthias II of Montmorency, the Constable of France, and thus  was the highest-ranking nobleman in the service of the king; William of Barres, the Count of Rochefort, who was honored after the Battle of Bouvines as the "Bravest of the bravest" and Clement of Metz.  All three had been commanders of his grandfather and father. But they were also educated men and educated the Crown Prince in the humanistic disciplines and mediated the King above all by a love for the Church.
His mother, Blanche of Castile spared no effort to bring him to a Godly life and to be a wise king. Tradition has her sentence: "My son, I wish you would prefer  the grave, than be  stained with a single mortal sin." Towards the end of her life, Blanka moved back to the Cistercian Abbey of Maubuisson she founded, where she led a life of prayer and penance until her death in 1252.

Anointing and Coronation at the Age of Twelve

With the early death of his father, who died at the age of 40  in Montpellier on the way back from the crusade against the heretical Albigenses, the young saint came to the throne still a minor. The regency was led by his mother.  It was due to the loyalty of Matthias II of Montmorency, the commander of the army, that the throne was not lost at this critical stage to rebellious nobles who instigated internal conflicts to exploit the youth of the king for their aggrandizement.
On November 30, 1226 Louis IX was anointed in Reims at the age of twelve years as  king and crowned. Louis went from the internal struggles to victory and quickly  earned respect with his courage and prudence.

Happy Marriage with Margaret of Provence

On May 27, 1235 he married Margaret of Provence (1221-1295), the daughter of Raymond Berengar V, Count of Provence and grandson of King Alfonso II of Aragon. Her mother was Beatrice of Savoy, the daughter of Count Thomas I of Savoy and Beatrice of Geneva. "The grace of God and nature," as it is called in contemporary sources, had gifted the Queen in every respect with perfection. Throughout a long and harmonious married life the royal couple received eleven children, six sons and five daughters.
Margaret accompanied her young man on his first expedition to Africa to the  Sixth Crusade, according to the German reckoning. After the death of her husband, the queen in 1270 moved back to a Poor Clare Monastery of their native Provence, where she died on December 20, 1295 in the odor of sanctity. She became known as the "mother of the poor". Her funeral procession to the Abbey Daint Denis, where lay the graves of the Kings, where she was buried at her husband's side, was accompanied by a large crowd of beggars and poor, whom she honored.

Education of Children in the Faith

St. Louis raised his children personally together with Margaret. At the heart of his educational activity was the contempt of worldly vanities and love for "Beau Sire Dieu".The royal family took part in the daily Mass and praying the Marian hours of prayer. After dinner,  at Compline they were in the chapel praying together, then the king gathered the family in his room and gave a spiritual direction. Every Friday the royal family kept the law of fasting and abstinence from meat and alcohol. On Fridays the King never wore his crown, because Jesus Christ  had to wear the crown of thorns to ridicule.
A series of spiritual writings of the king have been preserved, including instructions to his daughter Isabella, Queen of Navarre. These texts are considered as exemplary spiritual teachings that are incorporated into some manuals of moral theology.

Wise Ruler

Louis was not only a wise educator of his children, but also an admirable ruler who led government affairs with great prudence. During his reign, France experienced a long period of peace and prosperity. He managed provide for the moral renewal of his country by trying to lift  its way of life and customs. He punished misconduct by severely, especially cursing. The penalties for this were so severe that Pope Clement IV requested the king to mitigate them. He tried to eliminate the bad habit of the duel, which cost much senseless blood because of vanity and other trifles. The same he tried against the gambling, the whole family fell into the worst trouble, against the brothels and other evils by which he saw poisoned the souls of his sub-aunts.

Chief Justice and Fair Administrator

Saint Louis IX. placed special emphasis on honesty in the administration of the state and the application of  laws.The judges appointed by him and officials prohibited the acquisition of state owned enterprises and the employment of children and close relatives. The king created a new Court of judges selected by him, whose task was to examine judgments of the ordinary courts in order to avoid injustice. If an error or an abuse happened, he gave himself at first  a penance as chief judge of the kingdom, and then punished the culprits. He forced a possible res furtiva refund or a restoration for those damages that had been wrongly convicted. Guilt was for the king always a personal guilt. If a judge or an official hired impeccable behavior in his office to prove he was reciprocated well  and rewarded by the king.
When he came to an area, it happened more than once that the king himself sat in judgment, to show his judges what a just and wise judge is.

Zeal for the True Faith

The king tried not just to fix a moral breakdown, but also to eradicate  heresy and to defend the faith. Louis was a great friend and supporter of the young Order of the Dominicans and the Franciscans, he looked for an instrument of Providence to save the soul of the people from apostasy. He joined the Franciscan Order as a Tertiary. In secret without showing outward visibility, he wore under the royal robes up to his death, the gross habit of Saint Francis of Assisi. Frequently and happily he invited great theologians and saints for dinner like St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure.
He acquired by Emperor Baldwin II of Constantinople the relic of the Crown of Thorns. In Paris he had the Sainte Chapelle built for their dignified storage.  It is a jewel of Gothic architecture.

The Sixth Crusade (Seventh)

 In 1245 Ludwig was so severely ill that his speedy death was already considered certain. Throughout France prayers were intoned for the king. With Holy Mass, prayer vigils, processions and other spiritual exercises assailed heaven for the king's health. The king himself lived to swear a vow to  break into the Holy Land and liberate the Holy Sepulcher. In fact, he experienced his unexpected recovery and  set out for Lyons on 1248, where he met Pope Innocent IV and received his  Apostolic Blessing. From Aigues-Mortes he drove  with his crusade army in the direction Lake Orient. It was the 25th of August.
His wife Margaret  accompanied Louis IX. in 1249 and his two brothers, Robert of Artois and Charles of Anjou. In 1249 he succeeded in conquering the important Egyptian port city of Damietta in the Nile Delta. However, 1250 was followed by the defeat in al-Mansura, which had been caused by an awkward maneuver by his brother Robert of Artois.The king suffered  humiliating captivity. After 31 days he was released by payment of 200,000 gold ducats, favored by the unexpected death of Sultan Turan Shah, who had been murdered by his Mamluk bodyguard. King Louis IX.remained another four years in the Orient, where he also won the Muslim's high esteem due to his wisdom and his incomparable bearing.  Some Muslim parties even  wanted to raise him to  Sultan. His wife Margaret was always at his side. Because of the birth of a son and the news of his mother Blanka's death, the King and Queen returned from Acre  to France, where they arrived on September 5, 1254. In the Holy Land his crusade had not changed the status quo  in favor of the Christians.

Seventh Crusade and death of the King [Eighth]

In July 1270 Louis struck out again from Aigues-Mortes on a crusade that led him to Tunis. However, plague and dysentery decimated the Christian army before it could be used properly. On August 25, the king also fell victim. Before his brother Charles of Anjou led back the remains of the Crusader army to Sicily, he concluded a treaty with the Muslim Caliph of Tunis that secured him the possession of Malta and the island of Pantelleria located off the Tunisian coast.

The Relics of St. Louis IX.

The mortal remains of the king were brought from Sicily to France and ready to collect there by his son Philip III. His heart, however, remained in Sicily and was buried at Palermo in the Cathedral of Monreale. In 1297 Louis IX was canonized by Pope Boniface VIII. the difference was made primarily by the testimony of John of Joinville, Seneschal of Normandy. Johann was a confidant and companion in arms of Louis. In 1299 he published at the request of Louis's great-niece, Queen Joan of Navarre, a biography of the holy King, considered the first French-language biography in the modern sense.
While Chateaubriand looked at the connection of sovereign power and philosophy in Marcus Aurelius, he wrote that Louis IX. had a combination of sovereign power and holiness. This makes for Louis the emblematic figure of the Middle Ages.  Pope Leo XIII. said that at that time "the philosophy of the Gospel governed the States." The inserts Hélio Viana in his life image of St. Louis added: "Never was the state greater than when it is at the service of the Church. Never so much does the Church complete its mission, as when it forms a culture."
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
image: Wikicommons / Ars Cristiana
Trans: Tancred

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