King Louis IX Carrying the Crown of Thorns

King Louis IX Carrying the Crown of Thorns

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Louis IX of France

Louis IX (25 April 1214 – 25 August 1270), commonly known as Saint Louis or Louis the Saint, was king of France from 1226 to 1270. Louis was crowned in Reims at the age of 12, following the death of his father Louis VIII his mother, Blanche of Castile, ruled the kingdom as regent until he reached maturity, and then remained his valued adviser until her death. During Louis's childhood, Blanche dealt with the opposition of rebellious vassals and obtained a definitive victory in the Albigensian Crusade, which had started 20 years earlier.

As an adult, Louis IX faced recurring conflicts with some of his realm's most powerful nobles, such as Hugh X of Lusignan and Peter of Dreux. Simultaneously, Henry III of England attempted to restore the Angevin continental possessions, but was promptly routed at the Battle of Taillebourg. Louis annexed several provinces, notably parts of Aquitaine, Maine and Provence.

Louis IX is one of the most notable European monarchs of the Middle Ages. His reign is remembered as a medieval golden age in which the Kingdom of France reached an economic as well as political peak. His fellow European rulers esteemed him highly, not only for his pre-eminence in arms or the unmatched wealth of his kingdom, but also for his reputation of fairness and moral integrity: he was often asked to arbitrate their disputes. [1]

He was a reformer and developed French royal justice, in which the king was the supreme judge to whom anyone could in theory appeal for the amendment of a judgment. He banned trials by ordeal, tried to end the scourge of private wars, and introduced the presumption of innocence in criminal procedure. To enforce his new legal system, Louis IX created provosts and bailiffs.

Honoring a vow he had made while praying for recovery during a serious illness, Louis IX led the Seventh and Eighth crusades against the Ayyubids, Bahriyya Mamluks and Hafsid Kingdom. He was captured in the first and ransomed, and he died from dysentery during the latter. He was succeeded by his son Philip III.

His admirers through the centuries have regarded Louis IX as the ideal Christian ruler, though contemporaries occasionally rebuked him as a "monk king". [2] [3] He is seen as inspired by Christian zeal and Catholic devotion. Valuing Catholic orthodoxy, his laws punished blasphemy by mutilation of the tongue and lips, [4] and he ordered the burning of some 12,000 manuscript copies of the Talmud and other Jewish books. [5] He is the only canonized king of France, and there are consequently many places named after him.

King Louis IX Carrying the Crown of Thorns - History

The Mystery of the Crown of Thorns
by A Passionist Father
Preserving Christian Publications, Inc.
Albany, NY


"The soldiers platting a Crown of Thorns put it upon His Head." [Jn 19: 2]

Our work would be incomplete without some historical notice of the Crown of Thorns of our Savior. We trust that a brief account of it will be agreeable to Catholic piety and devotion.

In the outset we have to observe that Almighty God in His Divine wisdom, deals very differently with Christians from what He was pleased to do with the Jews. These were, by nature, and circumstances more material, and had more need of visible and. sensible objects in the practices of their religion. Moreover, being surrounded on every side by idolatrous nations, they were exposed to the temptation and danger of falling into idolatry. For these motives God gave them very explicit and detailed instructions about the nature and form of the objects and instruments of their religious worship, and sacred rites and ceremonies. This is evident to anyone who reads Exodus, Leviticus etc. Hence, Almighty God, speaking of the Tabernacle and its appurtenances said to Moses: "Look and make it according to the pattern that was shown to thee in the mount." [Exod. 25: 40] About the principal facts which are the foundation of Christianity, God has given us the most certain, and convincing proofs. Take, for instance, the Birth, Life, Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Divine Redeemer, the institution of the seven Sacraments, the holy Sacrifice of the Mass and so on. But He has been pleased to leave us in obscurity about many details, which would naturally gratify human curiosity, but are not essential to Christian Faith. We know for certain that our Savior was born, but we know not the exact year. We know not in what month His holy Mother and Saint Joseph had to flee with Him into Egypt, or in what year and month They returned thence to Palestine. We are told by the Evangelists that He was scourged, but they do not inform us what were the instruments used on that occasion, and for but they do not describe to us the nature of the wood from which the Cross was made how large it was, nor whether only three, or four nails were used. The holy Evangelists have done the same in relation to our Savior's crowning with thorns. They announce to us that He was crowned with thorns, but they neither mention the quality, nor the quantity of these thorns. This knowledge would certainly gratify a pious curiosity, but it is not essential to our faith, or devotion. One of the principal motives for their reticence may have been to induce us to seek and find out by reading, by studying, or by listening to instructions, what the Evangelists have judged best to entrust to the safe treasury of Christian tradition. Our Lord likes to see His disciples practicing humility by acknowledging their ignorance in many things, and evincing their docility by seeking information. Let us try to please our Divine Master by the practice of both these Christian virtues.

Many Christians would like to know what was the nature of the thorns with which our dear Lord was crowned by the Pagan soldiers. Upon this subject there are three opinions, which we will state on this occasion, and thus enable the devout reader to select that which best satisfies his mind.

1. Some Christian writers are of opinion that the thorns with which our Divine Lord was crowned in the hall of Pilate were taken by the soldiers from a bramble bush, or from the hawthorn tree. Other able writers sustain that the crown of our Lord was formed of Red Sea bulrushes. [See A Lapide. com. in 27 St. Matt.] Both sides have authorities and facts in their favor.

In support of the first opinion we have the well-known fact that in some churches, thorns are venerated by the faithful with the approbation and sanction of the Church, as belonging to the original crown of our suffering Savior, which are not Red Sea rushes, but have been taken from a thorny bush. The great Pope Benedict XIV states that a remarkable relic of one branch with five thorns of the crown of our Lord Jesus Christ is devoutly preserved in the Chapel of the Royal Palace in Munich, Bavaria. [De Beot. et Cann. Lib. 4 Part. 2 Chap. 14 No. 15] It is well known that bulrushes have neither branches, nor side thorns.

2. The opinion, however, of those writers who sustain that the crown of our Lord was formed of Red Sea rushes is well supported by facts. The principal portion of the Crown of Thorns preserved and venerated in the holy Chapel in Paris favors this opinion. William Durandus states that he saw this holy crown in Paris composed of Red Sea bulrushes. The pious and learned Cornelius A Lapide, the prince of biblical commentators states that: "In Rome he saw two of the sacred thorns of our Savior's crown, which by direction of the holy Empress St. Helena were preserved in the Basilica of the Holy Cross. According to his description, these thorns are long and sharp like large needles: "Sunt illae longae et acutae instar crassarum acicularum." [Com. in S. Matt. 27: 29] Again St. Vincent Ferrer says that the Crown of Thorns of our Lord was formed by the executioners in the shape of a hat, or helmet, which covered His entire head." [Serm. In Parasceve]

We know no kind of thorns that could be woven, or platted in such a form, except Red Sea rushes. Whilst the brown thorny points of these rushes are very hard and sharp, the stem itself as the name of rush implies, is sufficiently long and flexible to be twisted and shaped in the form of a cap adapted to the head of a man. This kind of thorny rushes, growing profusely on the shores of the Red Sea and about Palestine, could easily have been procured by the Roman soldiers. St. Vincent of Lerin testifies that the points of these Red Sea thorns are so hard and sharp as to pierce through the soles of travelers' shoes.

3. From what we have said we must naturally arrive at a third conclusion. It is pretty plain that the Crown of Thorns of Our Lord was partly formed of the small branches of some thorny bush, round which were woven the Red Sea bulrushes. In this supposition we embrace both the two former opinions, and are more easily satisfied about the form of the Crown of Thorns mentioned by St. Vincent Ferrer. Cornelius A. Lapide seems to incline to this third opinion. Forte in ea corona spinas junci spinis rhamni intertextae fuere. [A. Lapide in Matt. 27: 29] We should also remember that St. Anselm, St. Bernard and Tauler affirm that this horrible crown contained a thousand thorns. "Ipsa corona mille puncturis speciosum caput Jesu devulnerat." [St. Bernard]

It is generally believed that our Lord was made to wear the Crown of Thorns, during the remaining portion of His Passion. This fact is proclaimed by every picture or engraving representing the Crucifixion of our Lord. The uniformity of these images expresses the traditional belief of Christianity. Origen and Tertullian explicitly state, that our Lord on the Cross wore the Crown of Thorns on His sacred Head. This is confirmed by the revelations made to St. Bridget. This great Saint writes, that the Blessed Virgin Mary revealed to her that immediately before the Crucifixion, the Crown of Thorns was drawn violently by the executioners, out of the Head of our Lord in order to strip Him of His seamless tunic. But after the Crucifixion, the Crown of Thorns was replaced with inexpressible pain on the Head of our Lord, and pressed down to the middle of His forehead. So copious was the Blood flowing from every part of His perforated Head, that it filled His ears and especially His eyes in such a way, that when our crucified Savior wished to look at His afflicted Mother standing with St. John at the foot of the Cross, He was obliged by compressing the eye-lids to force the blood out of His eyes. [St. Bridget. Lib. 1 Revel. Chap. 10]

The Crown of Thorns came in possession of St. Helena , mother of the Emperor Constantine, when she visited Jerusalem in the Spring of the year 326. The object of her journey was to find the Cross of our Savior and some of the principal instruments of His Passion. Jews and Gentiles had combined in a common effort to conceal from Christian devotion, these venerated relics. It was an invariable custom among the Jews, to bury near the body of a public criminal, whatever instrument had been used at his execution. In conformity with this practice, they buried near the Sepulcher of our Lord on Mount Calvary, the Cross and other instruments of His Passion. Large numbers of fervent Christians, however, often visited this hallowed spot to commemorate the sufferings of their Redeemer and to venerate, in the best manner they could, the hidden instruments of His Passion and Death. The heathens, from an aversion to Christianity, did everything in their power to prevent this manifestation of Christian faith and devotion. For this end they heaped on this place a large quantity of stones and earth and erected near it a temple in honor of the impure Venus that those who came thither to adore our Lord, might appear to worship, in the marble idol, the false and degrading goddess of Paganism. Pious Christians had addressed many fervent prayers to God, for the removal of these Pagan abominations, and for the public and complete triumph of the Christian religion. Three hundred years of persecution, had well tried the invincible firmness of Christian faith and devotion. God was determined to reward, even upon earth the fidelity of His servants. He miraculously. converted the brave and youthful Emperor Constantine to the sacred standard of His crucified Son and inspired him with the determination of abolishing idolatry throughout all his vast dominions. His pious mother, St. Helena, by word and example urged Constantine to the execution of these good works. Though eighty years of age, this holy empress in the Spring of the year 326, undertook a journey from Constantinople to Jerusalem. The principal object of her pious pilgrimage was to find out the place of our Lord's Sepulcher with His Cross and the instruments of His Passion and then build there a magnificent church for the worship of the true living God and of His Incarnate Son. After her arrival in Jerusalem, St. Helena made every prudent inquiry in order to discover the place of our Lord's Sepulcher. Her Christian piety was horrified when she beheld with her own eyes Mount Calvary and the Sepulcher of our Lord profaned by the temple and statue of the impure Venus. Fired with a holy zeal, she gave orders for their immediate demolition and destruction. Under her direction the heap of stones and earth was removed and a large and deep l hole was dug until the sacred instruments of our Savior's Passion were unearthed. With her heart overflowing with joy and with sentiments of profound gratitude to God for the recovery of these precious treasures of Christian devotion, the holy and generous Empress built in the city of Jerusalem some churches, the most magnificent of which was that of the Holy Sepulcher. This she enriched with a good portion of the sacred relics of our Lord's Passion. Some others she sent to Rome, and the remainder she took with her to Constantinople. Among the sacred relics of the Passion taken by this holy empress to the latter imperial city, was the Crown of Thorns of our blessed Lord, which she highly valued and deeply venerated. Out of respect for the Chair of St. Peter, she sent to the Pope in Rome two thorns of the sacred crown. This precious discovery was made May 3rd, when the Church commemorates the finding of the Holy Cross. This pious empress was called by God to her eternal crown of glory in Heaven Aug. 18, 326.

The sacred Crown of our Lord remained in Constantinople about nine hundred years. Baldwin the II, the Latin Emperor of the East had many and powerful enemies to contend with. The Greek Christians disliked him, and turned against his government. They treacherously enticed the Saracens, or Turks to attack him. Harassed by both parties, Baldwin had serious fears that Constantinople would soon fall into their hands. In his spirit of Christian devotion, being anxious to protect from infidel desecration, the principal relics of our Lord's Passion, he sent them to France to his relative, the holy King St. Louis. Baldwin by these sacred presents wished to testify his esteem for the great virtue of St. Louis and his profound gratitude for the magnanimous efforts of the pious King of France in defending the holy places of Palestine and the Eastern Empire. The first relic sent by the Emperor Baldwin to the holy King of France was, according to Genebrard, the Crown of Thorns of our blessed Lord. It was carefully sealed in a rich case and taken by two Dominican Fathers, James and Andrew from Constantinople to Venice. Thence, it was brought through Italy into France. This was in August of the year 1239. St. Louis accompanied by his pious mother Blanche, by his brother Robert of Artois, and by many princes and prelates, went in procession to meet the sacred treasure fifteen miles beyond the ancient city of Sens. Arrived at the appointed place, the holy king knelt before it in profound veneration, and the remainder of the numerous procession imitated his example. Dressed in sack cloth and in his bare feet, this most Christian monarch with his pious brother reverently took the sacred relic and returned in solemn procession to Sens shedding tears of devotion through sentiments of religious gratitude to our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings. From Sens the holy crown was soon conveyed to Paris, where it was received with extraordinary solemnity and devotion. St. Louis built a beautiful new church for its reception, which on account of the many precious relics wherewith it is enriched, is called the Holy Chapel, La Sainte Chapelle. From the holy Crown of our Lord in Paris, some sacred thorns have been distributed to other churches. They are usually very long. [See Butler's Lives of Saints, May 3]

We will close this chapter with another account of the Crown of Thorns, given in the "Illustrated Catholic Family Almanac," 1877, from which some other interesting details about this precious object of Catholic devotion will be learned. It bears the following title:


. . . The branches of thorns [in the original publication of the book there was an illustration but it was not reproduced with the newer printing] were twined alternately within and without, and twisted across in such a manner, as to form not only a circlet, but a cap, as it were, of torture, which covered our Redeemer's Head. The authentic history of this sacred relic is of great interest:

In the year 1204 the French and the Venetians, having captured Constantinople, established there as emperor Baldwin, Count of Flanders. On the division of the booty this prince requested for his share the sacred crown of our Savior, which was found among the treasure of the emperors of the East. His successor, Baldwin II, finding his empire in the year 1238, threatened by the Greeks on the one side, and on the other by the Bulgarians, came into the West to seek aid and protection against his enemies. Whilst at the court of France, whither he had gone to entreat the assistance of St. Louis, tidings reached him that the nobles whom he had left at Constantinople, finding their resources completely exhausted, were on the point of pledging the holy crown to the Venetians, for a sum of money. The young emperor, strongly disapproving of this measure, offered as a free gift to St. Louis, the precious relic which the lords of Byzantium were wishing to sell. St. Louis eagerly accepted such a gift as this, and immediately at the same time that Baldwin dispatched one of his officers with letters-patent, commanding the holy crown should be sent to him, the French monarch sent two of the Friars Preachers named James and Andrew, to receive it in his name. On the arrival of the messengers at Constantinople, they found the sacred relic gone from the treasury and pledged to the Venetians for 13,075 hyperperia or about £157,000 sterling. It had been deposited by their chamberlain, Pancratius Caverson in the church of Fanta Craton, that of his nation at Byzantium. On receiving the emperor's orders, the Latin lords rearranged the matter with the Venetians, and it was agreed that, if within a reasonably short time, the latter did not receive the reimbursement of the sum they had paid, the sacred crown should become their undoubted property. Meanwhile, it was to be carried to Venice, accompanied by the envoys of the King of France, one of whom, Father Andrew, had formerly been guardian of the convent of his order at Constantinople and, having on several occasions seen the crown, knew its appearance perfectly well. Every possible precaution was taken to secure the identification of the holy crown, which was enclosed in three chests, the first of gold the second of silver on which the Venetian lords affixed their seals, the third of wood which was sealed by the French nobles. On the arrival of the envoys at Venice, the holy crown was at once borne to St. Mark's and there placed among the treasures in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, where reposed the body of the Evangelist, between the two columns of alabaster which are said to have been brought from the Temple of Solomon. At the same time one of the Dominican Fathers set out for France to acquaint St. Louis with the terms agreed upon. These were approved by the king who directed the French merchants to repay the Venetians the sum they had advanced. The sacred relic was then delivered into the hands of the French envoys who after assuring themselves that the seals were intact, started homewards with their treasure on the road to France. Safely arrived in Paris, the crown, amid great solemnities was deposited in the palace chapel. Besides all the precautions taken to render any substitution impossible, we may add that Baldwin, on being required to examine and identify the relic, declared its authenticity in a document written on parchment, which was in existence until the Revolution of 1793, signed with his own hand in Greek characters traced in cinnabar, and having his own seal of lead covered with gold, affixed. On one side of the seal the emperor was represented enthroned, with the inscription: "Balduinus Imperator Romaniae semper Augustus." On the other he was on horseback with the inscription in Greek letters: "Baudoin, Empereur, Comte de Flandre." It must also be borne in mind that the Venetians, before lending so considerable a sum for such a pledge, would be certain to satisfy themselves beyond all doubts as to its authenticity. It is certain too that a century and a half before the reign of St. Louis, at the time of the First Crusade, all the world admitted that a very large portion of the crown was preserved at Constantinople in the chapel of the Greek emperors. When Alexis Comnenus wished to induce the Christian princes to go to his assistance, he spoke to them of the very precious relics which they would help to save, amongst which he especially designated the Crown of Thorns. Also in the time of Charlemagne, all the West had the certainty that Constantinople possessed this treasure, of which a considerable part was equally known to be at Jerusalem. Towards the year 800, according to Aimoin, the Patriarch of Jerusalem had detached some of the thorns which he sent to Charlemagne, who deposited them at Aix-la-Chapelle, with one of the nails of the True Cross, and it was these relics which were afterwards given by Charles le Chauve to the Abbey of St. Denis. The existence of the crown is a fact constantly alluded to in the sixth century by St. Gregory of Tours amongst others and about the year 409, St. Paulinus of Nola knew of its preservation. He writes: "The thorns with which the Savior was crowned, and the other relics of His Passion, recall to us the living remembrance of His presence."

For the reception of the crown and other precious relics of the passion, St. Louis caused to be erected in Paris, the elegant Sainte Chapelle, at a cost of about $3,500,000, and there they remained till the Revolution, when this, as so many other churches, was desecrated, the interior being nearly destroyed. Fortunately, the holy treasures belonging to the Sainte Chapelle were rescued, the sacred crown having been deposited in the National Library, where it was preserved with the utmost care by the Abbe Barthelemy. On the 10th of August, 1806, the holy crown was deposited in Notre Dame where it is now.

How the Crown of Thorns Ended Up at Notre Dame Cathedral

The Crown came to Paris from Constantinople through the efforts of King St. Louis IX.

Maître du Cardinal de Bourbon, “Louis IX Brings the Crown of Thorns,” 1480s (photo: Public Domain)

During the recent tragic fire in Notre Dame Cathedral one of the relics rescued was the Crown of Thorns. It one of the most revered of Christian relics having been worn by Our Lord during His passion.

There is a fascinating story of how the Crown of Thorns came to be in Notre Dame.

Saint Louis, King of France, decided to end usury in his kingdom. He forced the money lenders to pay back all the gold extorted by unjust means and returned to their rightful owners. After returning the gold to those he could find he had quite a bit remaining. The pope at the time urged him to give it to Emperor Baldwin of Constantinople. Since there was some strife between Constantinople and Rome this seemed like a good idea. Baldwin was known as Baldwin the Broke, who was constantly in desperate need of money. Baldwin had something King Louis wanted, and that was the Crown of Thorns. Baldwin, thankful for the gold, decided to send the Crown of Thorns to King Louis.

There was a snag, however, as the Venetians had it in their possession. After much negotiation and the handing over of a large sum of money, the Crown made its way to France.

Hearing news of its arrival in France, in August 1239, King Louis fasted for many days in preparation to receive the holy relic. Near the town of Sens, about 50 miles from Paris, King Louis, barefoot and bareheaded, met the precious bundle. It was enclosed in a wooden chest which, on the king’s command, was opened. A silver coffer lay inside bearing the seals of the Emperor of Constantinople and the Doge of Venice. After breaking the seals a case of pure gold containing the holy relic was lifted out. King St. Louis was overcome with emotion. After some moments of silent prayer, the royal seals were put in place.

The king and his brother carried the relic on a litter. They walked barefoot to the town of Sens where they were greeted by joyous throngs of people, bells tolling, and draperies hanging from windows. The trip to Paris was accompanied by immense crowds of people lining the route. After eight days the Crown of Thorns reached a jubilant Paris. Crowds flocked to venerate the holy relic. A great pulpit had been erected outside the city walls so everyone could see it. Then, accompanied by white robed priests, perfumed censers and singing of hymns, the Crown of Thorns made its way to Notre Dame Cathedral. It must have been quite a spectacle to witness.

King St. Louis built a special chapel to house the holy relic worn by Our Lord. It was called La Sainte Chapelle.

Louis generously sent thorns of the Holy Crown to different churches. Otherwise it is the same as it was when it first arrived almost 800 years ago.

During the French Revolution it was put in the Paris National Library. In 1806 the Crown of Thorns was returned to Notre Dame Cathedral.

I can’t help but think it is more than a coincidence that the Crown of Thorns has become once more a topic of conversation — all because of a ferocious fire during the holiest week of the Christian year.

Guest Writers Inquiries and comments regarding Guest Bloggers should be directed to the Register's Blog Editor, Kevin Knight ([email protected]).

A symbol of royalty gone wrong

A true symbol of the monarchy, the Sainte-Chapelle was one of the first targets of French Revolutionaries in 1789. While two-thirds of its stained glass windows are original, different restorations throughout the chapel’s history have removed some of its panels. Similarly, among the twelve statues of the apostles located at the base of the ogive arches, only those that adorn the stage in front of the apse are genuine. The other statues are replicas of the originals, which were badly damaged during the French Revolution and are now stored at the Cluny Museum.

The furniture, stalls, the rood screen and all the regalia were also destroyed during the Revolution. At this time, reliquaries and boxes were sent to the mint to be melted down. Only the Crown of Thorns was saved from the destruction. In order to accommodate shelving, 2 metres of stained glass was removed from the upper chapel and it was temporarily converted into archival storage. The removed stained glass windows were, for the most part sold to England.

Between 1840 and 1868, the chapel finally underwent works to restore it to its authentic original appearance and preserve its historical value for future generations.


On payment to the Italians and to Baldwin himself, the bargain was closed. There were, however, certain difficulties to be overcome.

The Abbey of St. Denis already boasted one Crown of Thorns, the genuineness of which had been proved by miracles. Some people thought this obstacle by no means insuperable, while others of the present day consider that it condemns the verity of both relics. But a morsel of a true relic inserted into a model of the whole always assumed the full title, and doubtless the Crown already possessed by the Abbey of St. Denis consisted of those thorns given to the abbey by Charles the Bald.

Another obstacle was the conscientious scruples of Louis against the commission of simony, a sin that included the bartering of relics, yet which received the countenance of many of the highest ecclesiastics. Baldwin, however, evaded this by making over the Crown of Thorns to the French king “freely and gratuitously” and by receiving equally gratuitously a free gift of money sufficient to meet his wants.

Louis IX

He didn't act like a king. He wore hair shirts and visited hospitals, sometimes emptying the bedpans. He collected relics and built a chapel to house them.

Such unkingly behavior was one reason Louis IX developed the reputation as the most Christian of rulers.


Waldensian movement begins

Death of Joachim of Fiore

Francis of Assisi renounces wealth

Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica

Teenage Christian king

Born the fourth of 11 children to King Louis VIII and Queen Blanche, Louis became heir to the throne after his three older siblings died. Blanche raised her son to be strictly religious: "I love you, my dear son, as much as a mother can love her child," she once said to him, "but I would rather see you dead at my feet than that you should ever commit a mortal sin." At age 12, prepubescent Louis found himself king, with a devout but smothering mother at his side.

At 20 he married Margaret of Provence ("a girl of pretty face, but prettier faith"), to whom he quickly became devoted. She bore him 11 children. When he left on a crusade, he took his wife and children along.

Louis lived his faith, and his reputation spread. The Latin emperor of Constantinople gave Louis the Crown of Thorns in 1238, and Louis built the magnificent Sainte Chapelle to house this relic of Christ's crucifixion.

In 1242 Henry III of England invaded Angevin. Louis managed to drive off the English king but contracted an infection that almost killed him. He vowed if he got well, he would do what men of nearly every generation in his family had done for 150 years: he would lead a crusade.

Failed crusade

With 36 ships loaded with 15,000 men, their horses, and supplies, Louis headed for Egypt, the center of Muslim power and the doorway to Jerusalem. After capturing Damietta, he led his army inland toward Cairo. But an epidemic forced Louis to retreat. The king suffered so badly from dysentery that he cut a hole in the back of his pants and marched with the rear guard.

Louis and part of the army were captured before making it back to the ships. Their ransom was so high, it reportedly took two days to count the gold. When one of Louis's officials bragged about cheating the Muslims, the king angrily ordered the ransom paid in full.

The defeat plunged him into despair and deeper piety. He blamed himself for the loss, believing God was punishing him for his sins. He began dressing plainly, eating simply, and helping the poor. Instead of going home, Louis took his army to Palestine, where they built walls and towers around several coastal cities. He stayed four years, returning to France only upon hearing of the death of his mother, who had been ruling in his absence.

Dying on a bed of ashes

Back home, Louis redoubled his penance and his efforts to create a holy nation. He systematized customary law, recorded cases as precedents, and replaced trial by combat with the examination of witnesses under oath. He outlawed usury (lending money at an excessively high rate), ordered blasphemers to be branded on the lips, and forbade feudal lords to make private war on one another.

All feudal lords made a show of charity and good works. What made Louis different was his humility and perseverance. Every year, he went to the abbey of Saint Denis barefoot and bareheaded. Louis not only served the poor at his table, but he and his sons washed the feet of the beggars. He was especially generous to the widows of crusaders. Louis had a special passion for sermons, then just coming into vogue, and he encouraged the preaching friars, repeating his favorite homilies to those at his table. Queen Marguerite's confessor records that she would often get up at night and cover the king with a cloak while he was at his lengthy prayers, because he did not notice the cold.

Twenty-two years after his first crusade, Louis tried to redeem himself with another. He landed in Tunis, in northern Africa, in the heat of the summer of 1270. Dysentery or typhoid quickly swept through the unsanitary camp. Louis fell ill and died while lying penitently on a bed of ashes, whispering the name of the city he never won: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem." He soon became the only king of France named a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.

Here's what was saved — and what was lost — in the Notre Dame fire

PARIS — More than simply an iconic cathedral and jewel of Gothic architecture, Notre Dame is a treasure trove, housing priceless and irreplaceable marvels of immense religious, artistic, musical, historical and architectural value.

Some were lost to humanity forever in the blaze that ravaged the Paris cathedral Monday. Others were spared, at least in part, or saved before the flames consumed the roof and spire.

A look at what is known about Notre Dame's treasures and their fate.


Regarded as the cathedral's most sacred relic, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo says the Crown of Thorns was saved. It is purported to be a relic of the crown placed on the head of Jesus Christ at his crucifixion, obtained and brought to Paris by King Louis IX in the 13th century. It is made of rushes wrapped into a wreath and tied with gold filament. Since 1896 it has been kept under glass and only occasionally displayed. Paris Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire said it was among pieces quickly transported to a "secret location" by officials after the fire. Hidalgo also said on Twitter that the tunic of St. Louis, a long shirtlike garment from the 13th century and believed to have belonged to King Louis IX, was also rescued.


The 9.45-inch piece of wood and 3.5-inch-long nail are purported to be from the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. The wood fragment is kept in a glass case. The fate of the two relics is not known.


The impressive organ dating to the 1730s and boasting an estimated 8,000 pipes did not burn and is intact, but nobody knows yet whether it was damaged by the heat or water. "The organ is a very fragile instrument," Bertrand de Feydeau, vice president of the Fondation du Patrimoine that protects France's cultural heritage, told The Associated Press. He said the organ has "incredible" sound, with "very rich colors," and there is a waiting list of more than two years of organists wanting to play it. Each pipe was individually cleaned during a 2013 refurbishment.


The cathedral's roof was built using a lattice of giant beams cut from trees in primeval forests in the 12th and 13th centuries. Experts say France no longer has trees big enough to replace the ancient wooden beams that burned in the Notre Dame fire. Feydeau told France Info radio that the cathedral's roof cannot be rebuilt exactly as it was before the fire because "we don't, at the moment, have trees on our territory of the size that were cut in the 13th century." He said the restoration work will have to use new technology to rebuild the roof.


In the wake of the French Revolution, the cathedral was declared a "Temple of Reason" as part of an anti-clerical movement. All of the original bells were destroyed and replaced — except for one, called Emmanuel and weighing 13 tons. In 2013, as the cathedral celebrated its 850 years with a refurbishment, nine huge new bells replaced the 19th-century ones. The peal of the cathedral's bells has long been famous. Quasimodo was the cathedral's bell-ringer in Victor Hugo's 1831 novel "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." The extent of any damage to the bells and their support structure is unclear.


The cathedral's three famed rose windows date to the 13th century. The director of the United Nations cultural organization says it's too early to tell whether they are unscathed. Audrey Azoulay told The Associated Press art experts haven't yet been able to assess the site after the blaze, though she has received encouraging reports. Notre Dame is part of a UNESCO heritage site.


About a dozen large paintings of religious scenes, called "Mays" and dating from between 1630 and 1708, hung in Notre Dame. French Culture Minister Franck Riester said the cathedral's greatest paintings will be removed starting Friday. "We assume they have not been damaged by the fire, but there may be damage from the smoke," he said.


Last week, 16 religious statues got a lucky escape from Monday's blaze: They were removed from the top of Notre Dame for the first time in over a century to be taken for cleaning. The removal was part of a restoration of the cathedral's towering spire, now gone. The 3-meter-tall copper statues represent the 12 apostles and four evangelists.

Rose Windows

Among the most famous architectural features of the Gothic masterpiece, the stained glass rose windows are treasured artworks in their own right.

The three rose windows, which date back to the 13th century, adorn the north, south and west facades.

There were hopes the windows had escaped being destroyed by the fire after firefighters stopped its spread.

Crown of Thorns and a royal tunic: Notre-Dame relics firefighters rushed to save

Some world famous relics are associated with the towering jewel of Western architecture which has survived wars and revolutions.

By Sunita Patel-Carstairs, news reporter

Tuesday 16 April 2019 15:27, UK

Firefighters risked their lives to save Notre-Dame's priceless historical artefacts of religious and cultural significance from the raging inferno that engulfed the 12th century cathedral.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo confirmed most artworks and several of the most sacred relics had been saved from the fire which ravaged much of the building's roof and caused its iconic spire to collapse.

Police officers and other city officials raced to recover what treasures they could from the 850-year-old structure and formed what she described as a "tremendous human chain" to save the relics.

Culture minister Franck Riester posted photos on social media of people loading art onto trucks and said other treasures were being held under lock and key at city hall.

Here are some of the most famous items associated with the towering jewel of Western architecture which has survived wars and revolutions:

:: Crown of Thorns

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Jean-Marc Fournier, chaplain of the Paris Fire Brigade, saved the Crown of Thorns from the burning cathedral when he bravely went in with firefighters.

Purported to be a relic of the wreath of thorns placed on the head of Jesus Christ at his crucifixion, the crown was brought to Paris in 1238 by French monarch Louis IX.

The hallowed object was contained in an elaborate gold case which was stored in the cathedral's treasury and is only occasionally displayed for people to see.

Ms Hidalgo said the Crown of Thorns had been taken into safekeeping.

:: Tunic of Saint Louis

The garment was said to have been worn by Louis IX as he brought the Crown of Thorns to Paris.

The mayor said it had also been saved from the flames which devastated the Parisian landmark.

:: Rose Windows

These are among the most famous architectural features of the Gothic masterpiece - the construction of which began in 1163, during the reign of King Louis VII - and was completed in 1345.

The three stained glass rose windows, which date back to the 13th century, are treasured artworks in their own right.

They adorn the north, south and west facades of the cathedral and have been described as "irreplaceable" by experts.

There are hopes that they have escaped catastrophic damage after firefighters managed to stop the blaze from spreading.

The enormous circular window of the nave appeared to be intact.

:: Great Organ

Notre-Dame's master organ is one of the largest in the world and boasts nearly 8,000 pipes, some dating back to the 1730s.

Each individual pipe of the monumental instrument, the largest in France, was cleaned when the organ was fully restored six years ago.

The city's deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire expressed his "enormous relief" that the organ, which was constructed by Francois Thierry, remains intact.

The bells that have rung out at key moments in France's history are thought to be safe after the fire was prevented from spreading to the cathedral's two western towers where they are housed.

Ms Hidalgo tweeted: "I want to say thank you to @PompiersParis, they saved the towers. I could not imagine Paris without the towers of Notre Dame."

Emmanuel, the largest bell, weighing more than 23 tonnes, was lifted into the south tower in 1685.

The monument featured prominently in Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame in which Quasimodo was the cathedral's bell-ringer.

The place of worship fell into neglect during the French Revolution, but the renewed attention it received following the publication of the novel in 1831 led to two decades of restoration works.

:: The Descent from the Cross

A marble statue still believed to be intact is Pieta, also known as The Descent from the Cross, by sculptor Nicolas Coustou.

Footage from inside the cathedral appeared to show the work still standing, in front of the crucifix, at the altar.

The image of the cross, taken by the first photographers allowed inside the smouldering ruin after the fire, has become a symbol of hope for France.

The "Mays" of Notre Dame are large paintings that were commissioned almost every year, from 1630 to 1707.

Also on display at the time the fire broke out was The Visitation, by Jean Jouvenet in 1716.

Mr Riester said surviving paintings would be transferred to the Louvre.

"We assume they have not been damaged by the fire but there will eventually be damage from the smoke and we will transport them securely to the Louvre where they will be dehumidified and where they will be protected, conserved and restored."

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