August 25: Louis, King of France, 1270

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

About this commemoration

Louis IX
Louis IX

Louis IX of France was canonized by the Church in 1297. A man of unusual purity of life and manners, he was sincerely committed to his faith and to its moral demands. Courageous and fearless in battle, patient and uncomplaining in adversity, he was an impartial, just, and compassionate sovereign. The one word that summarizes his character is integrity.

Louis’ crusading adventures in the Middle East and in North Africa were of little historical consequence. Such ventures were part of the piety of his time. Throughout his life he was diligent in attending divine worship, and constant in his charities, both open and secret. Unusually free of the bigotry of his age, Louis had an intelligent interest in the theological issues of his day. But his primary concern was to put Christian ethics into practice in both his personal and his public life.

Louis was born at Poissy, April 25, 1214, and was crowned King at Rheims on November 29, 1226. His early religious exercises of devotion and asceticism were inspired by his mother, Blanche of Castile. He died August 25, 1270, while on crusade at Tunis, and was buried with his royal peers in the basilica of St. Denis near Paris.

After his canonization, his relics were transferred to the Sainte Chapelle, the lovely Gothic chapel in Paris which he built as a shrine for relics of our Lord’s passion. The building is itself a fitting monument to his genuine piety and beautiful character.

Because of his determined effort to live a personal life of Franciscan poverty and self-denial in the midst of worldly power and splendor— he wore a hair shirt under his royal dress—Louis is honored as patron saint of the Third Order of St. Francis.

Collect of the Day

O God, you called your servant Louis of France to an earthly throne that he might advance your heavenly kingdom, and gave him zeal for your Church and love for your people: Mercifully grant that we who commemorate him this day may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown of your saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Wisdom 3:1–9

Colossians 2:6–10

Luke 12:22–31

Psalm 21:1–7

Preface of Baptism

We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

11 thoughts on “August 25: Louis, King of France, 1270

  1. All together, the entry looks very good. I am curious about this:

    Louis’ crusading adventures in the Middle East and in North Africa were of little historical consequence. Such ventures were part of the piety of his time.

    What does it matter that it was of little historical consequence? It makes me curious to hear more about crusades that might have been more consequential and distracts me from Louis. Something like this might be less distracting:

    Like many of his contemporaries, Louis participated in crusading adventures in the Middle East and North Africa. While his ventures accomplished little, they were an expression of the piety of his time.

  2. I’ve always been dismayed by the inclusion of Louis IX in the Calendar. In a time when we are aware that personal piety does not excuse us from the more compelling demands of justice, I think we should reconsider honoring a monarch whose oppression of the Jews included confiscation of their property and burning thousands of copies of the Talmud.

    These, too, were acts typical of the “piety of his time” but they ought not to be glossed over, and especially ought not to be forgotten in a man described as “unusually free of the bigotry of his age.” Knowledge of these deeds makes me wince at the word “zeal” in his collect.


  3. My previous comment was entered more than three weeks ago when the blog inadvertently listed Louis on August 4th. I apologize for the confusion.

    Bio. “Louis IX of France was canonized by the Church …” As a previous commenter noted, we don’t canonize anyone. Inclusion in The Episcopal Church’s calendar does not occur by canonization. This sentence gives that impression. Instead the first sentence needs a strong ‘”who he is’ and ‘why he is important’ statement. In the 4th paragraph ‘his canonization’ is mentioned again. This only adds to the confusion.

  4. About treatment of the Jews: Martin Luther and possibly others on the proposed calendar were unjust to our spiritual forebears. “Canonization,” as Michael says above, isn’t something that is done in the Episcopal Church and with good reason, I think. Although all the people proposed for the calendar contributed significantly in a positive way to Christian witness and action, quite a few of the people we’ve discussed so far had major flaws in their attitudes toward other peoples: DuBose in his support of the KKK in the post-reconstruction South, Lord Shaftesbury in his call to dispossess the Palestinians (see Wikipedia article: “in 1839 Shaftesbury published an article under the title «The State and the rebirth of the Jews». In it he urged the Jews to return to Palestine in order, according to him, to seize the lands of Galilee and Judea”) and others. John Calvin burned religious dissenters in Geneva. Perhaps the bios of many of our candidates should include a few sentences about their failings. We honor them for what they have done that was good, and learn from that. We also learn from their grievous errors.

  5. Forgive me, but I found the bio on Louis IX not helpful. So here is a somewhat longer bio which is not intended to point of Louis’ saintliness, only some of hte facts of his life.

    Louis IX was born at Poissy, April 25, 1214, to King Louis VIII and Queen Blache of Castille. His father, Louis VIII, died when Louis IX was 11 years old and he was crowned King at Rheims on November 29, 1226, with his mother as regant. His early religious exercises of devotion and asceticism were inspired by his mother, Blanche of Castile. At aged 20, Louis married Margaret of Provence who bore him 11 children, 9 of whom lived past infancy. Blanche remained an major influence on her son Louis XI until her death in 1252.

    A man of unusual purity of life and manners, he was sincerely committed to his faith and to its moral demands. He did not act like a king, living simply, dressing plainly, visiting hospitals, helping the poor and acting with integrity and honesty. Louis IX believed that the crown was given him by God and God would hold him accounatble for his reign. Louis IX developed the reputation as being the most Christian of rulers.

    During a compaign in 1242 against the English king, Henry III, in Angevin, King Louis became very ill. He vowed if he recovered that he would lead a Crusade against the Muslim. In order to finance his first crusade Louis ordered the expulsion of all Jews engaged in usury and the confiscation of their property, for use in his crusade. However, he did not cancel the debts owed by Christians. One-third of the debts was forgiven, but the other two-thirds was to be remitted to the royal treasury. 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. Also before the Crusade, Louis IX increased the power and authority of the Inquisition in France. He left his mother Blanche is charge of the kingdom.

    With 36 ships and 15,000 soldiers including two of his brothers, Louis’ Seventh Crusade attacked Damietta in Egypt where he won as easy victory in June 1249. But the march to Cairo proved disaterous, The Egyptian army raised was numerically superior. The French troops were ravaged with famine and diarrheal disease. The Crusaders were eventually forced back to Damietta. But on the way, the Epyptians defeated Louis at Battle of Fariskur on 6 April 1250 when he was taken captive. He was released only after paying a very large ransom. (400,000 livres tournois or 800,000 bezants) Louis then went to Acre where he engaged in a series of fruitless negotiations. When the money ran out, and learning of the death of his mother, Louis IX went home to France.

    Back in France, Louis IX was apparently a patron of the arts and encouraged the spread of Gothic architecture. Louis commissioned “Sainte-Chapelle” (“Holy Chapel”), located within the royal palace complex in the center of Paris. The Sainte Chapelle 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 for the exorbitant sum of 135,000 livres (the chapel, on the other hand, cost only 60,000 livres to build).

    The Eight crusade was launched by Louis XI in 1270 in response to the Mamluk attacks against the Christian outposts in Syria. Louis landed in Tunis in July 1270. Already most of the soldiers had developed diarrheal diseases from poor drinking water. Louis developed “flux of the stomach” and died August 25, 1270, three weeks after the death of his son Jean Tristan who had been born in Damietta in 1250. Louis’ brother, Charles of Anjou continued the crusade to a negotiated settlement. Louis’ son, Philip III, became king.

    Two sentences in the bio given for Louis IX really cannot be supported by the facts of Louis’ life. “Unusually free of the bigotry of his age, Louis had an intelligent interest in the theological issues of his day. But his primary concern was to put Christian ethics into practice in both his personal and his public life.” Christian ethics in the 13th century included oppression of Jews and Muslims but this is not something which can be supported at this time. Nor is it something which should be raised up for praise as has been noted by other writers.

    As Michael Hartney has pointed out so frequently, why is Louis important to the liturgical calendar? He may have been a model in his time and his life was used by many centuries of French kings to support the “divine right.” But I fail completely to understand his importance in the beginning of the 21st century.

  6. Histories of French kings contrast Louis IX with kings who came before and after who were not pious, and who did not care about the poor. He is honored by the French for his piety and charity. — The “Sainte Chapelle” is beautiful; most people who visit Paris try to find time to see it and are moved by it. Despite his role in the crusades and how they were financed, and our 21st century sensitivity to those wrongs, I would be sorry to see him removed from those suggested for our new calendar, which obviously has as a goal to include Christians from times and cultures not our own.

    • King Louis is not being considered for removal from HWHM. He was added many General Conventions ago (by the required two successive Conventions). Removal of anyone requires that two successive General Convention vote to do so.

      In the published volume, HWHM, those being considered for Trial Use (after the 1st General Convention vote) are identified by brackets (ex: [Catherine Winkworth]).

      Many of those already in the calendar have some (or all) of these changes that are being considered: Titles, appointed Psalm, a third reading (either from the Hebrew Scripture or New Testament), a change in an already appointed reading, or the wording of the collect.

      However, the SCLM is welcoming comments on all of the material, regardless of Trial Use of not.

      The exception is that Feasts appointed in the Book of Common Prayer 1979 with their own collect and readings are not included in the blog, even though they appear in HWHM for convenience .

  7. Thanks, Michael, for reminding us of the ground rules. About what Louis IX did to merit his having been put on the calendar long ago: James Kiefer on the Satucket website mentions the following: “He largely eliminated the feuding and wars among French nobles and vassals that had ravaged France before his time. He protected vassals from oppression, and required their lords to fulfill their obligations. He reformed the system of taxation. He reformed the courts, so that every man in France, regardless of his station, had a far better chance of receiving justice than had previously been the case. He promoted the writing down of the law, so that it was clear what the laws were, and made major strides toward eliminating trial by combat in favor of trial by jury.'” Kiefer goes on to say that foreign monarchs asked him to mediate their disputes because of his reputation for integrity. Kiefer mentions a couple of sources for his information.

  8. I find the characterization of his role in the last two disgraceful crusades offensive. “Such ventures were part of the piety of his times” is deeply offensive. “adventures?'” See Karen Armstrong’s book on the Crusades. He was a vicious antiSemite. And yes, I know others in this book were racists or antiSemites. But why gloss over these sins? How aboujt something like, “Although he/she did not transcend his/her times’ ignornace and prejudices regarding ________, he/she none the less ….” And maybe a little reminder that all of us have some bigoted bones. That seems to me healthier.

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