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

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