Thursday, December 2, 2010

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.

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