The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Louis IX of France

King Louis IX of France or Saint Louis (April 25, 1214/1215August 25, 1270) was King of France from 1226 until his death. Born at Poissy, France, he was a member of the Capetian dynasty and the son of King Louis VIII and Blanche of Castile.



Louis was eleven years old when his father died in 1226. He was crowned king the same year in the cathedral at Reims.

Because of Louis' youth, his mother, Blanche of Castile, ruled France as regent until 1234, when Louis was deemed of age to rule himself. She continued as an important counsellor to the king until her death 1252.

Louis married on May 27, 1234, Marguerite de Provence (1221December 21, 1295), the sister of Eleanor, the wife of Henry III.

Louis was the elder brother of Charles I of Sicily (1227–1285), whom he created count of Anjou, thus founding the second Angevin dynasty.

Louis brought an end to the Albigensian Crusade in 1229 after signing an agreement with Count Raymond VII of Toulouse that cleared his father of wrong-doing. Raymond VI had been suspected of murdering a preacher on a mission to convert the Cathars.

Louis's piety and kindness towards the poor were much celebrated. He went on crusade twice, in 1248 (Seventh Crusade) and then in 1270 (Eighth Crusade). Both crusades were total failures. After initial success in his first attempt, Louis's army was met by overwhelming resistance from the Egyptian army and citizens. In 1249, Louis was eventually defeated and taken prisoner in Mansoura, Egypt. Louis and his companions were then released in return for the surrender of the French army and a large ransom. He died near Tunis during the latter expedition on August 25, 1270 during an outbreak of plague. His finger is interred at Saint Denis Basilica, but most of his body is buried in Tunisia.

Pope Boniface VIII proclaimed the canonization of Louis in 1297; he is the only French monarch ever to be made a saint.

Louis IX was succeeded by his son, Philippe III.

Patron of arts and arbiter of Europe

Louis' patronage of the arts drove much innovation in Gothic art and architecture, and the style of his court radiated throughout Europe by both the purchase of art objects from Parisian masters for export and by the marriage of the king's many daughters to foreign husbands and their subsequent introduction of Parisian models elsewhere. Louis' personal chapel, the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, was copied more than once by his descendants elsewhere. Louis most likely ordered the production of the Morgan Bible, a masterpiece of medieval painting.

Saint Louis ruled during the so-called "golden century of Saint Louis", when the kingdom of France was at its height in Europe, both politically and economically. The king of France was regarded as a primus inter pares among the kings and rulers of Europe. He commanded the largest army, and ruled the largest and most wealthy kingdom of Europe, a kingdom which was the European center of arts and intellectual thought (La Sorbonne) at the time. For many, King Louis IX embodied the whole of Christendom in his person. His reputation of saintliness and fairness was already well established while he was alive, and on many occasions he was chosen as an arbiter in the quarrels opposing the rulers of Europe.

It should be noted that the prestige and respect felt in Europe for King Louis IX was due more to the attraction that his benevolent personality created rather than to military domination. For his contemporaries, he was the quintessential example of the Christian prince.

Religious zeal

This perception of Louis IX as the quintessential Christian prince was reinforced by his religious zeal. Saint Louis was a devout Christian, and he built the Sainte Chapelle ("Holy Chapel"), located within the royal palace complex (now the Paris Hall of Justice), on the Île de la Cité in the center of Paris. The Sainte Chapelle, a perfect example of the Rayonnant style of Gothic architecture, 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 1239-1241 from the Byzantine emperor Baldwin II, for the exorbitant sum of 135,000 livres (the chapel, on the other hand, only cost 60,000 livres to build). This purchase should be understood in the context of extreme religious fervor that existed in Europe in the 13th century. The purchase contributed a lot to reinforce the central position of the king of France in western Christendom, as well as to further increase the renown of Paris, then the largest city of western Europe. It was a time when cities and rulers vied for relics, trying to increase their reputation and fame, and Louis IX had succeeded in securing the most prized of all relics in his capital. The purchase was thus not only an act of devotion, but also a political gesture: the French monarchy was trying to establish the kingdom of France as the "new Jerusalem".

Louis IX took very seriously his mission of "lieutenant of God on Earth", with which he had been invested when he had been crowned in Reims. Thus, in order to fulfill his duty, he conducted several crusades, and even though they were unsuccessful, it contributed to the prestige that he enjoyed. Contemporaries would not have understood that the king of France do not lead a crusade to the Holy Land. In the same vein, he also ordered the expulsion of the Jews from France, although the loose control of the central government over the kingdom meant that many Jews actually remained in the provinces. Again, this needs to be understood in the context of the 13th century: the dislike of the Jews was general in Europe, based on a literal reading of the New Testament, as the Christians held the Jews responsible for the death of Jesus Christ. The decision to expel the Jews was largely welcome in all spheres of society.

In all these deeds, Louis IX tried to fulfill the duty of France, which was seen as "the eldest daughter of the Church" (la fille aînée de l'Église), a tradition of protector of the Church going back to the Franks and Charlemagne, who had been crowned in Rome in 800. Indeed, the official Latin title of the kings of France was Rex Francorum, i.e. "king of the Franks", and the kings of France were also known by the title "very Christian king" (Rex Christianissimus). The relationship between France and the papacy was at its peak in the 12th and 13th centuries, and most of the crusades were actually called by the popes from French soil. Eventually, in 1309, the popes even left Rome and relocated to the French city of Avignon.

Veneration as a saint

Saint Louis, King of France
Canonized 1297
Feast August 25
Attributes Depicted as King of France, generally with a crown, holding a scepter with a fleur-de-lys on the end, possibly with blue clothing with a spread of white fleur-de-lys (coat of arms of the French monarchy)
Patronage France, French monarchy; hairdressers; passementiers

Louis IX is often considered the model of the ideal Christian monarch. Because of the aura of holiness attached to the memory of Louis IX, many Kings of France were called Louis, especially in the Bourbon dynasty (Louis XIII to Louis XVIII).


  1. Blanche (1240April 29, 1243)
  2. Isabelle (March 2, 1241January 28, 1271), married Theobald V of Champagne
  3. Louis (February 25, 1244–January 1260)
  4. Philippe III (May 1, 1245October 5, 1285)
  5. Jean (born and died in 1248)
  6. Jean Tristan (1250August 3, 1270)
  7. Pierre (12511284)
  8. Blanche (12531323), married Ferdinand de la Cerda
  9. Marguerite (12541271), married John I, Duke of Brabant
  10. Robert, Count of Clermont (1256February 7, 1317). He was the ancestor of King Henry IV of France.
  11. Agnès (c. 1260December 19, 1327), married Robert II, Duke of Burgundy

Places named after Saint Louis

The cities of Saint Louis, Missouri, Saint-Louis du Sénégal in Senegal, Saint-Louis in Alsace, as well as Lac Saint-Louis in Quebec, and the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia in California are among the many places named after the king.

The Cathedral Saint-Louis in Versailles and the French royal Order of Saint Louis (1693-1790 and 1814-1830) were also created after the king.

External links

Site about The Saintonge War between Louis IX of France and Henry III of England


Joinville, Jean de, The History of St. Louis (Trans. Joan Evans).
The Colombia Encyclopedia by the Colombia University Press.
And many books written on the middle age, the history of the crusades.

Preceded by:
Louis VIII
King of France Succeeded by:
Philip III

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