Thursday, December 2, 2010

King Louis IX, worthy of canonization

In Chronicles of the Crusade, the medieval chronicler Jean de Joinville provides many references relating to the pious character and saintly attributes of Louis XI, king of France (1214-1270). In an effort to have the late king canonized, Joinville wrote a stirring biography of his escapades during the seventh crusade. Without question, Joinville was of the opinion that their ordeals in the Holy Land alone were proof of Louis’ sainthood. As depicted in the biography, the king was very brave, honourable, and righteous throughout the crusade. Setting aside these accounts, Joinville contended that that the king displayed attributes of sainthood throughout his reign. Notwithstanding his ‘martyrdom’ in Tunisia, King Louis qualified as a candidate for canonization because of four specific personal qualities: his pious lifestyle, his charity for the poor, his patronage of the Holy Church, and his relentless efforts to ensue peace amongst Christians. Taken together, Joinville argued that these four qualities was all the proof required to justify the confirmation of Louis’ sainthood.
Rather than a lifestyle of luxury and excess, King Louis reportedly conducted his affairs in a much humbler manner. He never ordered his cooks to prepare specific meals, rather, he ate whatever was placed in front of him. The king never uttered the word Devil unless it appeared in a text being read aloud. Upon his return from the Holy Land, he instructed the prevots and baillis of the kingdom to adhere to new laws. Along with denouncing bribery, prostitution, and gambling, the king made “blasphemous oaths” illegal – referring to statements akin to “I swear to God…”(p. 318) These efforts to reform the kingdom were reflective of the king’s devout Christian beliefs. Even towards savage infidels, Louis tried to extend his love of God. After receiving officials from the distant Tartar courts, the king sent two Dominican friars as his royal envoy. And as a gift, he sent an elaborate scarlet tent shaped like a chapel, along with all the material required to practice the Christian faith.
In the words of Joinville, the king expressed “from his childhood … a compassion for the poor and needy” (p. 324). This compassion was most certainly carried on into his adulthood. The king created laws to prevent arbitrary imprisonment of debtors, fed the poor, and built shelters and leper houses. His generosity was so great, people actually referred to his acts of charity as an “extravagant expenditure”(p. 326). After crossing the Mediterranean for the last time, the king, lying on his deathbed, instructed his son Philip to support the poor with a tender and compassionate heart. Not was Louis charitable, but he encouraged others to follow his lead.
When it came to the Holy Church, the king was a great patron. Within his kingdom, he supported numerous religious organizations. Outside of Paris, he built lodgings for a sect of Augustine friars, Carmelite friars, and a nunnery organised by his sister. Along with financial assistance, Louis also closely followed the counsel of the clergy. When fellow noblemen were excommunicated, he barred them from using the secular courts until Rome had rescinded the punishment. In a now legendary incident, rather than punish a specific clergyman who had murdered three sergeants, the king decided to have the man fight alongside him in the crusades. Such an act of kindness was in keeping Louis love “of all women and men … who wore the religious habit”(p. 326).
The final persistent quality King Louis was his enduring tendency to seek out peace amongst Christians. Despite the past animosity between his kingdom and England, Louis donated territory to English king in hopes of fostering love between their children. Whenever any counts within his domain warred against one another, Louis was always the first to broker peace, even by force if necessary. While lying on his deathbed, the king instructed his son Philip “beware embarking on a war against a Christian without long deliberation” and if his subjects fought each other, “bring them to peace as quickly as possible”(p. 332).
Even without considering his escapades in the Holy Land, it is clear the Joinville felt King Louis IX was worthy of canonization. Throughout the chronicle, the author refers to his worship as “the saintly”. To verify the king’s sainthood, Joinville praised his pious lifestyle, his charity for the poor, his patronage of the Holy Church, and his relentless efforts to ensue peace amongst Christians

Is King Louis a Saint?

Joinville's Life of Saint Louis is separated into two sections, the latter being “Louis's Sanctity in Deed,” which describes in detail Louis's knightly and kingly deeds as a crusaders. The former part, “Louis's Sanctity in Word” is Joinville's testimony about all of Louis's qualities and actions that constitute him to be a Saint. The second section differs from the first a great deal, for it appears to be more of a tribute, or a eulogy of listing all the “Saintly” attributes that Louis held. It was almost like a summary of the second part with many bullet points of Saintly contributions. While the second part is more of a history of Louis's life, but also included portions of Joinville's life as well (it is also a detailed record of their relationship as chronicler and king or simply between friends). Both of these two sections combined show a brave and loyal knight who through piety and faithfulness lead many into battle in the name of Christianity. However, in comparison to other saints lives written in the Middle Ages, such as those by Gregory of Tours, Joinville paints a very different picture of a saint. Gregory of Tours shows saints as performing more “miraculous” and “mystical” actions, such as healing the sick and stopping and controlling fires, but these types of miracles seem to be absent in the life of Louis XI. Thus, the question that keeps coming to mind throughout my reading of Joinville's account is- do all of the accomplishments, deeds, and personal traits that Joinville attributes to Louis equate to Louis being a saint in the Medieval standard?

In his chapter “Louis's Sanctity in Word, ” and the prologue, Joinville praises Louis, and reflects his life as Saintly king of France, but it can be argued that he may be stretching and reaching to far when it comes to call all of these deeds Saintly. As I read them many of them seem similar to the life choices and personal characteristics that an true Christian would encompass. Louis did lead many people into battle during the crusades, but so did many other people, and they were not canonized. Joinville does argue that Louis was a martyr for Christianity because “just as God died on account of his love for his people, the king put his own life at risk on several occasions because of his love for his people. He could easily have avoided doing this so if he had wished too,”1 Joinville argues that although Louis was not officially deemed a martyr, “the great suffering he endured on the pilgrimage of the cross” does ultimately make him a martyr. 2 In his accounts, Joinville outlines four specific occasions where Louis “martyrs” himself or puts himself “in mortal peril in order to save his people from harm...”3 In the first instance, Louis “leaps” from his ship and went onto land in Damietta with the first line of men, instead of waiting for it to be safe. Joinville's second occasion where Louis “martyred” himself for the cross was when he found sailed and fought with his men even though he was severely ill, and was instructed not too. The last two occasions involve Louis staying for four extra years in the Holy Land to help save the people there, and not abandoning a grounded ship of 800 people to ensure they went home alive.4 Although, I agree these are noble and courageous deeds that Louis completed in the name of Christianity and his people from France, but I do not see how they are saintly or even the actions of a martyr. To me they seem just like the actions of righteous, loyal, and brave king and Christian, but not a martyr or a saint. There were many kings during this time who went to battle with their people, and there were many nobleman who went on the crusades as well, but what differentiates Louis from them?

After listing the four occasions that made Louis a martyr, Joinville offered a large list of attributes of Louis's character that made him a saint. These attributes included:

  • Louis was honest (even to the Saracens)5

  • He was not a picky eater (he will eat any food that is placed in front of him)6

  • Louis did not speak ill of others7

  • Louis never spoke the Devil's name8

  • He diluted his wine (he is not a drinker)9

  • Hedid not spend money on vain objects (such as embellishments on his clothing)10

  • Louis spoke against mortal sins (and never did one himself)11

  • He also washed the feet of the poor, and told Joinville that he should too 12

  • He even loved foreigners (made Giles le Brun constable of France even though he was not from France)13

Although these traits are admirable and pious, do they themselves create a saint? Joinville's accounts were the bulk of the evidence for Louis's canonization, but do they do him justice? My answer would be no, but I know Joinville would disagree with me. He sees Louis's moral dignity and desire for just rulings and actions of kings and his crusaders as being saintly. I see it as more being a good king and Christian. However, he was canonization in a short period of time after his death, which shows how devoted people were to his contributions to the crusade, as well as his role as king. In fact, Louis is the only reigning monarch in France to be given sainthood, therefore I do agree that his actions for both France and the Christianity cannot be overlook. Louis was able to balance both his religious zeal and devotions with his duties as king of France, which I do agree shows his dedication to both realms- the Holy and the worldly one. However, I am still in deliberation on whether those traits and actions are valid and great enough to deem him a saint.

1Jean de Joinville and Geoffrey of Villehardouin Chronicles of the Crusades (London: Penguin Classics, 2008), 147.

2Ibid., 142.

3Ibid., 142.

4Ibid., 142-3.

5Ibid., 147.

6Ibid., 147.

7Ibid., 147.

8Ibid., 147.

9Ibid., 148.

10Ibid., 148.

11Ibid., 149.

12Ibid., 149.

13Ibid., 149.

Louis and the Clergy

The relationship that Louis has with the clergy is one of great respect, yet it is tempered with a temporal authority of a pragmatic European king. Joinville informs us that “the king loved all men and women who gave themselves to the service of God…” and that “none of them ever came to him without receiving something to support their way of life” (page 326). The king seems to have provided for multiple monkish orders and purchased numerous items for various friars, including chalices, vestments, land (for farming and living), and provided land for various sects to encircle Paris with ‘men of religion’ (page 326-327).

William Chester Jordan notes that much of the money that Louis gave to the church was seized illegally by royal officials, and any confiscations of money and property from usurers needed to be purified (Jordan, page 184). Jordan also notes that Louis was most attracted to two major orders of friars – the Franciscans and the Dominicans (page 184). Not only did Louis consider these religious men and women to be important, but their function within daily life was also considered to be a key aspect of living in France. Before his death, he encouraged his son to choose as his confessor “a preudomme who knows how to instruct you as to what you should do and what you should be aware of” (page 330). As well, deference and respect was to be placed upon the Church and its representatives amongst the French people (page 330-332).

Though Louis was respectful of the Church and clergymen, at times he treated them much like he would any other high-ranking official or nobleman. For example, during his personal and governmental reform period (1254-1267) he was asked by Bishop Guy of Auxerre to force those who have been under sentence of excommunication for a year and a day to give satisfaction to the Church (page 313-314). Louis replied that “he should be given evidence whether the sentence was justified or not” when dealing with these excommunicates. The bishops deliberated among themselves and replied to the king that they would not allow him to pass judgement in matters pertaining to religious authority, and in response Louis told them that in matters pertaining to him he would never give them such authority, or give order to his men to force excommunicates to have themselves absolved (page 314). This seems to demonstrate that Louis was interested in creating a more just system of government within France, which coincides with changes he was also making to the legal and parliamentary system of France at the time.

An intriguing interaction that is worth noting from Joinville’s account is the incident that transpired between King Louis and an abbot at the castle of Hyères in southern France (outside of Marseilles on the coast). Joinville tells us that during his stay, the king was approached by the abbot of Cluny and was given two palfreys – one for the king and one for the queen – that were worth a great deal of money (page 309). After giving them this gift the abbot informed the king that he had some business to discuss with him, and would return the following day to meet with him. So he did, and afterwards Joinville approached the king and asked if he had been more attentive to what the abbot had said since he gave the king two palfreys (page 309). The King replied ‘In truth, I did”, and Joinville advised him that it would be better to forbid councillors to receive any gifts so that they might not favour their opinions or demands more so than the needs of the King. This is interesting as the King did order his councillors to not accept gifts, but Joinville does not include what was done to the abbot afterwards – helped or hindered whatever business the king and the abbot discussed.

A final matter of Louis’ relationship to the clergy is a meeting of the king and a Franciscan friar called Brother Hugh while in Hyères (page 310-311). The king requested Hugh’s presence in order to hear him speak and meet with him. Hugh arrived, and condemned all of the men of the Church who were present in the King’s company, noting that this would not allow them to achieve salvation. Their ‘posh’ lifestyle was too much for Hugh to forgive, and insisted that they return to a more meagre lifestyle befitting them. Joinville does not note Louis’ full reaction to this charge, yet he does request that Hugh remain in his company en route to the Holy Land, which he refuses immediately. This interaction is notable as is shows Louis’ seeming enthrallment with certain aspects of abbots and friars who are not afraid to speak their minds, yet refuse the power of the king.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I Dreamed I Saw St. Louis (A play on Bob Dylan's song "I dreamed I saw St. Augustine" which is relevant since Joinville had a dream about Louis

How is Louis Saintly in his role as King?

When looking at Louis IX as presented by Joinville, one gets the notion that King Louis is indeed a saint, due to his “martyrdom” as a Christian warrior, and his saintly role as a king. We are already aware about Louis’ religious devotion in the crusades, how he carried the cross, and was seen as a “martyr” since he was held captive, and endured many cruelties in the name of Christianity. In the crusades, he was also a man who refused to give into temptation of loose women (187), knowing that it constituted a moral sin. Louis abstained from carnal lust, knowing if he were to die in battle, he would be sent to hell for his mischievous deeds. He also removed many of his men for easily falling prey to the seductive women, and not staying moral and dedicated to the religious cause. Apart from his martyrdom, and his efforts in the first crusade, Louis’ personality, and his deeds as King, Joinville argues, allows him to be remembered in the pages of history as a saint.
During the crusades, Louis is predicted as a man who is most charitable in regards of wealth and rewards.

Joinville stated that the King personally gave rewards in his campaigns against the King of England and against the barons. But while he was generous with his offerings, he also refused to ask for or take contributions from his own barons, knights and men (172). There was also the story about how Louis broke the custom of separating the spoils of the city. The tradition stated that the King was entitled to one-third of the plunder, but Louis refused to take all the rewards, stating that the 6,000 livres should be given to the Lord of Vallery to divide as he thought best. This is quite contradictory on Joinville’s part, as originally he praised Louis for refusing to take any offerings from his people, but also accuses him of breaking with tradition.

Aside from the crusades, Louis as King is depicted by Joinville as a saint, as seen through his governmental reforms as well as his personal leadership qualities. He is first off praised by Joinville for bringing the conflict between Count Thibault of Bar and Count Henry of Luxembourg to a peaceful end, which Louis responded to by saying if he wouldn’t have stopped it “I would have won the hatred of God, who says, Blessed are the peacemakers” (317). Louis is also seen as saint worthy by Joinville that he would punish those who spoke ill of God, his mother, or his saints. Joinville notes that in the twenty-two years he knew Louis, he never once heard the King swear by God, his mother, or his saints, or mutter the name of the Devil unless it was written in a book (318). Louis is depicted as a man who loves God more than anything else in the world, and as seen with his rejection of the easy women, makes sacrifices in order to spend eternity with the Lord.

A major part of Louis as a King that makes him worthy of sainthood is how he interacts with all people, including the poor and helpless, and how he takes an interest in making their lives better. He devoted himself, his time and money to helping those devoted to God have a better day than they were accustomed to. The King personally asked by Joinville did not care to bother washing the feet of the poor on Maundy Thursday, stating that he should not despise doing so since God had done so (318). Louis was attempting to follow in the footsteps of the Lord, as since he was a child, he set about providing care for the weak and needy. Joinville points out that every day Louis would feed 120 people each day with quantities of bread, wine, meat and fish (things he ate himself) and during Lent and Advent would drastically increase that number. Louis would also personally serve those poor and needy people, and after dinner would make sure they left with a generous amount of money (325).

On top of all this, Louis would give numerous amounts of alms (a religious rite in material form) to those needy religious people, to impoverished hospitals, poor sick people and needy communities, as well as the poor, prostitutes, and the sick and elderly. (325) Also, Louis built numerous churches and religious houses, as well as almshouses, and hospitals for the blind (with a chapel so they could hear the Divine Office)(325). And he also created the “House of the Daughters of God” to house poor stricken women, and prostitutes as a way for them to stop living sinfully and begin living anew with a commitment to chastity (326).

Louis is presented by Joinville as a very generous and saintly man who courteously gave charity to all those in need purely for the love of God, rather than looking for pride or recognition. The King, a man with deep love for God, would also take extra time to help those who shared the love of the Lord as a way to support their way of life. By setting up so many churches, Louis would be able to install religious men all around the city of Paris, all showing a love of God. For a King to spend so much time and money on poor men and women who have fallen on hard times is astounding, as surely not many prior or after him have ever done anything similar. To care for everyone in need shows how saintly Louis was not only as a King, but as a person, in trying to make the people he governed enjoy a better life.

Another aspect that made Louis saintly was how he reformed France, to end corruption, and allow for a more prosperous country. He was concerned with dealing fairly with all people of France, whether rich and poor, friend or stranger (320), and not giving any special allowances or privileges to a certain group of people. In the reformed France people would not be allowed to receive gifts of gold and silver, or to send any gifts to a member of a council (which could be seen as a bribe). People would also not be allowed to swear against God, his mother, or the saints (rules that Louis lived by), and sinful temptations such as dice, taverns, and prostitutes should be avoided completely (321). On top of that Louis also added that good people should not be oppressed with unfair penalties, offices may not be sold to greedy individuals, and no man should be deprived of his possessions or unfairly taxed (323).

To Louis, these things not only oppressed the majority of the poor and powerless people, but they also made France an uncivilized place of corruption and vice. Louis would strive to make sure that the common man was looked after, and would establish God as the dominant factor in everyday life, replacing gambling, alcoholism and prostitution. By preventing unlawful abuse of power in offices, Louis would allow for a more egalitarian country, with everyone being protected....Too bad Louis XVI didn’t do the same thing.

Towards the end of his life, proving himself a man devoted to God, Louis tried once more to take up the cross for another crusade. Unfortunately it was short lived, and within a short amount of time Louis was on his deathbed. In his last note, looking at his legacy, Louis told his son to follow his path, and perform the same things he had done as ruler. This included love God and avoid sin, uphold justice and be fair to all your citizens, maintain peace, and love all representatives of the holy church (331).

Upon his death, Joinville pointed out that Louis was a “saintly priest” who maintained his kingdom in so saintly and honest a manner, and who gave such great alms and ordinances there (333). He was also a man who brightened his kingdom with the warm embrace of God with many beautiful abbeys as well as hospitals and houses. Joinville testified, as did others, of the greatness and saintliness of Louis IX, and the deceased king for all his glories as ruler, was placed among the number of great confessors....Saintly indeed. The “saintly king” (334) stood as a symbol for those who wished to act virtuously, and to spurn those who acted with wicked behaviour. A man who once made sure 10,000 livres were paid to the enemy Saracens because of his loyalty and his word, had an alter built and dedicated to both him and God by Joinville where mass would be sung regularly. The man, the king, the saint, Louis IX.

The Saintly Aspects of Louis IX's Rule

When looking at the rule of King Louis IX, as presented by Joinville in The Life of Saint Louis, it is made perfectly clear that Louis IX is to be venerated to the position of saint. This blog entry will address the role of Louis IX as King, and the aspects of his rule that encourage his future veneration. It is obvious, based on the title of the book, The Life of Saint Louis, that King Louis IX will reach sainthood, but his actions inform this progression as well. To justify his actions while ruling as “saintly” there must be a discussion on “what saintly actions are” and then, a discussion evaluating whether the actions of Louis IX in his rule, fall into the categorization of “saintly”.

First, we have to define “saintly” and what actions a saint is likely to perform. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “saint” as, One of those persons who are formally recognized by the Church as having by their exceptional holiness of life attained an exalted station in heaven, and as being entitled in an eminent degree to the veneration of the faithful; a canonized person. In Pre-Reformation use, the term implies that the persons so designated may be lawfully addressed in prayer for their intercession with God, and that miracles have been wrought through their aid after death.” (OED, “saint”) The question then becomes: did Louis IX, in his rule, live a life of exceptional holiness? Again, we must establish a definition of “holiness”, which the OED succinctly provides: “The quality of being holy; spiritual perfection or purity; sanctity, saintliness; sacredness.” (OED, “holiness”) One may consider adding the term “virtuous” or “morally upright” to the definition of holiness. Based on the definitions provided on saintly, and holiness, we can make the assessment of Louis IX rule, and whether or not it falls into the category of “saintly”. This blog entry, enthusiastically says: yes, the rule of Louis IX is indicative of his veneration to sainthood.

Not only was the rule of Louis IX saintly in nature, it also showcased an enthusiasm in both his actions in battle, and actions regarding charity and religion. Consider the instance whereby Louis IX out of eagerness to engage in battle (and support his noble religious cause) leapt off of his ship, while in full armor, into the sea. Luckily, the water was only up to his armpits and he did not drown. (Joinville, 185) While some could argue that this is an unnecessarily risky act and boarders on stupidity, one cannot deny the religious zeal that this act relied upon. To expand upon his religious zeal consider the instance where a noble action on the behalf of a clerk had denied him the possibility of a priestly life, and King Louis IX forgiving response. Louis IX says, “your bravery has lost you the chance of priesthood, but because of it, I will retain you in my pay and you will come with me overseas. I would have you know that this is because I strongly desire my people to see that I will not uphold them in any of their wrongdoings.” (Joinville, 175) This is a very humbling gesture, because the King acknowledges himself as not the highest form of judgment (after all, and above all, is God), and it also conveys a pragmatic sense of reality that maybe would not be present in the church alone. Consider the religious limitations of killing three men who wronged this clerk; the retaliation is an act of “bravery” that is, in the eyes of Louis IX, morally justifiable but in the eyes of the church: wrong.

Also, King Louis IX speaks often of chivalry, charity and the foundation of new religious centers. This could be talked about extensively, but I am not going to. The sections read over the week showcase individual instances of charity, from feeding the poor personally, and even kissing the feet of poor lepers. Also mentioned are the financial supports given to religious centers. These actions combined, I believe constitute a saintly life in the rule of Louis IX, and arguably the church agrees because he is a saint now. However, one never expects a life of such saintly endeavors to end with the terrible affliction that is “diarrhea”. This isn’t the death of poetic dignity that one would expect from a saint – but he did die on a “bed of ashes” and “called on the saints to help and comfort him”, so I guess there is that.

Sterling versus Joinville III: The Final Bloggle (Blog Battle)

Due to my being ahead of the assignments last week, I have re-posted my previous blog (albeit edited) and made additions based on further readings done this week.

The Life of St. Louis is a religious work as much as anything, but the emphasis of the writing is as much about two separate incarnations of Louis as it is about his sainthood. Joinville writes of Louis as a king, and as a saint, a unity which is at odds.

The underlying facet of the narrative is that Joinville is one of Louis’ intimate friends and advisers. As a result, it would be assumed that Joinville would portray the dichotomy of kingliness and saintliness in the most intimate details of Louis’s life and the men’s life together. Moreover, Joinville wishes to portray King Louis in such a way which might be an example to his readers and to Louis’ heirs (specifically Philip IV). Joinville’s work is ultimately his own reflection both on Louis’ position as king of France and his status as a saint. Joinville provides an interesting account on how saintliness can indeed be secular – how it does not have to play out beyond the living world but rather can exist within. This insistence on reflecting how sainthood ought to be practiced in the world makes Joinville a product of his time. Thus, while many of Joinville’s writing can be seen as a chronicle, it could also be classified as a religious text above all.

Joinville’s two characters are explored with different views of Louis. This first section will look at Louis as a king.

For Joinville, to be kingly is very similar to being knightly – that is, knights do not automatically receive respect due to their position, rather they earn it through moral merit. Honour, justice and chivalry are traits of the knight which also demonstrate the secular role of the good Christian king on Earth. Episodes which Joinville depicts the king putting his life in danger could be seen as sacrificial saintly behaviour were potentially not so – three of the four episodes involve the safety of his people marking the episodes as signifiers of chivalry instead. A closer examination of Louis’s relationship to the people for whom he is risking his life shows that it is not a simple matter of his dying so that they might live. In all of the episodes, the relationship might best be described as one of solidarity: one for all and all for one. A telling example is Louis’ refusal to escape Damietta (against advice) by ship – seeing his fate as bound to that of his people and is therefore, unable to take selfish action. Another example is found in the decision to remain in the Holy Land (again) against the advice of his council. Here, the reason given for the king’s staying is related to his people’s salvation; however, Joinville does not provide much information surrounding the king’s decision. Instead, he insists on the past successes of the French; and furthermore, expresses his growing relationship with the king and his close association with the king’s suffering.

Joinville’s proof of the king’s justice is the way in which he judges. Even though Joinville distinguishes religious and state activity, piety remains the basis for human deeds. Joinville presents the reader with a kind of dialectic: the meaning of Louis’s religious practice is renewed because he adds justice, and true justice is possible when grounded in faith. Through his narrative, Joinville, in a sense, brings his own answers to debates about the relationship between theological and cardinal virtues. For Joinville, the Catholic virtues remain empty if not manifested in the world through the political.

Recalling that part of Joinville’s aim is to distinguish for Louis’ heirs what was properly kingly about the king’s life and behavior, and what happened when saintliness affected his actions as a ruler. An aspect of Louis’s saintliness is that his choices are incomprehensible and often appear misguided to those around him, including Joinville – i.e. when Louis decided to ignore the custom presented to him by Jean de Valery to provide 2/3 of the goods to the Crusader’s. However, while Joinville expresses frustration at this incident, he earlier applauds Louis habit of never demanding monetary aid or gifts from his barons, knights, or men which is also depicted as an odd trait for a ruler. An example I explored a couple of weeks ago was that of Louis’ apparent cold nature towards his family and wife. For Joinville this was distasteful and confusing. But John Mundy argues, borrowing from Joinville’s own account, that it is due to Louis’ mother, Isabella, that this is so: “she so dominated her son that he could scarce call his mind his own and hardly dared lend his body to his wife.” Overall, Joinville’s ultimate faith in Louis leads him to trust in these decisions even if they are irreconcilable to others.

Joinville represents events of Louis’ life which are highly symbolic as prophecy to Louis’ destiny as a saint. The dominant symbol of the cross shows that it is not just the story of a king, but the story of one destined to become a saint. On the one hand, the cross represents the crusade and the life-long importance for the king of the effort to protect and take back the Holy Land from the Muslims. On the other, the cross, and by extension the Crusade, elucidate parallels to Christ’s passion and to Louis’ passion as a crusader and a martyr. For Joinville, Louis is not among the confessors, he dies a crusader for Christ – a martyr.

The symbol of the cross crops up on various occasions in Louis’ life:
1. Joinville begins his section on Louis’s deeds by indicating that he was born on the feast of Saint Mark the evangelist. The prophetic sign of the black crosses attending Louis’s birth points not just to his individual martyrdom and glorification but to that of those suffering alongside him. Individual heroics are not as important to Joinville as the actions which are able to transform a reluctant group of crusaders - to redeem them and open for them the doors of paradise. For Joinville, Louis’s lowering of himself to being one small, suffering part of the group in the end exalts the whole group, just as Christ’s final humiliation on the cross led to the salvation and exaltation of humanity.

2. The account of how Louis took his crusader’s vow: We have all read this story in Matthew Paris and discussed the difference in how Joinville presents it. Several aspects of Joinville’s narrative of this episode distinguish it as being important in his portrait of Louis as a crusader and saint. The first aspect that may be noticed is that Joinville marks the story as a point in time at which Louis breaks both with his past as king and with his past as a son and heir continuing on in the family tradition. Louis’s rulerly destiny is halted, turned around and the meaning of his life on earth radically modified. He could have continued on as a good son and good king; instead, through his symbolic death and resurrection, he experiences a conversion where he is willing to give up his kingdom to take up his cross.

Overall, Joinville is preoccupied with the truth of his story and careful to indicate when he himself was an eye-witness and when he wasn’t. He was not with Louis at the time of his sickness and his decision to take the cross; yet it was essential to his sainthood so he relies on the account of Louis himself. The immediateness of Louis’s healing--he was about to die and then, he was well--is obviously the miracle, but the wealth of biblical or religious symbolism in this passage also emphasizes its importance. The two women taking care of Louis become of importance - the first thinks that Louis is dead and wants to cover his face. The two women argue almost as if it were the argument of a devil and angel over Louis’ soul.

Another of the themes in Joinville is of the saintly virtue of love. In short, the most important trait is love, not just love, but love of God. This signifies that for Joinville, Louis’ love of God is not to be seen so much in his obedience to commandments, but in his imitation of God’s own works, and in particular his work of sacrifice and martyrdom for his people.

In the latter section of the Chronicles, Joinville tells of Louis’s alms giving, his churchgoing, and especially of his acts of humility. Joinville’s representation of the king shows that he was striving to live according to his beliefs, dictating his actions with the ethic of the gospel. Saintliness, which is linked to the future, benefits Christendom after the saint’s death, by providing an example of someone who indeed follows Christ’s command by giving up everything in order to follow him. Even more importantly, the saint is seen as reenacting Christ’s earthly life and suffering, thereby reminding Christians that their life has an eternal significance. Being a king, even a pious king, involves making do with the present, with the means at one’s disposal, and with the temporal demands of one’s subjects. Joinville appears to use himself as the grounded, comparative measure. He (Joinville) is fearful and flawed, in spite of this, God smiles upon his mission; provides for him and his knights and ultimately unites Joinville with his mentor and idol.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Religion and the Clergy in Joinville's Chronicles

Within his chronicles, Jean de Joinville does not make many frank or direct comments regarding the clergy. He does refer on a number of occasions of having his own priests, which shows that although he is not a religious figure himself that he does have direct connections to the church. Joinville showed great pride one of his priests, John of Voisey who took one eight Saracens in a battle by himself. Joinville almost then brags about the accomplishment of his priest in his chronicle stating that “From that time onwards my priest was well known in the camp, and people pointed him out to one another and said, 'Look! There's my lord of Joinville's priest, who routed eight Saracens.'”1 Joinville pride in his priest's actions demonstrates the reliance and trust that he puts in the clergy, especially those close to him.

Another instance where Joinville specifically mentioned his relationship with the clergy was when he was trying to take control of an Abbey that resided on land that he controlled. After Joinville returned from a crusade overseas, monks at the abbey of Saint- Urban elected two new abbots, but they were rejected by the Bishop. He wanted them to select an abbot of his own choosing- John of Mymeri (who had done an injustice to another abbott close to Joinville).2 Following these proceedings, Joinville took it upon himself to take control of the Abbey from the Bishop and the abbots. His justification was that it resided on the land that he ruled over, therefore it was his for the taking. Unfortunately, this led to the Church excommunicating Joinville. There was a subsequent debate over who controlled the land that the abbey resided on, was it Joinville or the King who was the guardian of the abbey. The abbots wanted the King to be the guardian of the abbey, and not someone for the sole reason that they owned the lands that the building stood on. However, Joinville was adamant that it was he who controlled it.3 King Louis articulated to Joinville that “It may well be that you are lord of the abbey's lands, but that does not mean you have the right to the guardianship of the abbey.”4 Thus, the King decided that this matter was not to go to the courts, and he would take guardianship of the abbey away from Joinville. This incident brings to light, although not explicitly, Joinville's opinions of the clergy. He is very cordial and accepting of the Church, their decisions, and their presence in France- except, when it interferes with his land holdings and areas of control. Joinville does go on crusades for the Church and in the name of religion, but this does not affect his home and property, which it appears he highly covets. Also, he is loyal to clergy who are close to him, but if another member of the clergy were to attack or had wronged those he was loyal to he would do almost anything to stand up for them.

Although Joinville didn't explicitly state his opinion about the clergy, by his writings about King Louis- the King had a strong opinion about religion, the Church, and how to be a good Christian leader. Near the end of the chronicles, Joinville reports how before King Louis died he gave Joinville advice on how live one's life religiously. Louis tells Joinville to make many confessions and to “Listen devotedly to the services of the Holy Church without mocking or making light of them. Pray with both your heart and tongue, especially when the consecration is preformed during the Mass.”5 On a similar note, King Louis instructed Joinville to “Honour and love all the representatives of the Holy Church, and make sure that no one may diminish or deprive them of the gifts and alms offered to them by your ancestors...(also) Beware of embarking on a war against a Christian without long deliberation. If it is necessary to do so, then protect the Holy Church and those who have done no wrong. If wars or disputes arise among your subjects, bring them to peace as quickly as possible.”6 These comments and instructions that King Louis gave Joinville demonstrates that Louis knew that Joinville was a very argumentative person who also was ready to put up a fight for his land and property. Louis warns Joinville of these actions for one should not disrespect the Church or other Christians in a volatile manner. This advice also shows that Louis may have realized that Joinville cares more about his own affairs and less about the church, which is why he tells him directed to listen to the Church and to be a good Christian, for that is the proper way of living ones life. If Joinville already did these thing it would be less likely that King Louis would have given him this advice at the end of his life.

It is evident throughout Joinville's chronicle that he does have a relationship with the Church and the clergy, but it does not appear to be the sole topic for his writings, or the predominant influence in his affairs and life choices. King Louis makes this quite clear at the end of the chronicles, but Joinville is man of his times, and religion was an important factor in society at the time- which helps explain why he went on the crusades. However, there might be other reasons why he “took up the cross,” and those could be in part connected to his relationship with and connection to Louis- who by all accounts looked up to, and whose life is the basis of his chronicle. Thus, it is unclear whether it was chronicling Louis's life, a desire to protect his lands for incoming foreigners, or a devotion to Christianity that drove him to become a crusader.

1Jean de Joinville and Geoffrey of Villehardouin, Chronicles of the Crusades (New York: Penguin Classics, 2008), 211.

2Ibid., 314.

3Ibid., 315.

4Ibid., 316.

5Ibid., 330.

6Ibid., 332.