"at the beautiful Saint Chapelle you can’t avoid the enigma that was Louie IX.. The creator of this beautiful place was also responsible for mass murders and abuses that, although common in his time , seem no less excusable 800 years on."
Saint Chapelle, Beauty has a Dark Side
64 Rue Saint Louise en L’Ile
18 September 2107
Louis IX became King of France in 1226 at the age of 12. His mother Blanche of Castile ruled as Queen Regent until Louie attained his majority. Apparently he feared God and his mother in almost equal proportions and devoted his earthly existence to ensuring his resurrection to eternal life. By all accounts he was an able king, a good administrator and fair judge. Unfortunately either a childhood influenced by Christian dogmas or a lack of pragmatic though processes (probably a bit of both) saw this otherwise fair man perpetrate or oversee some of histories most heinous massacres.
Today we visited Saint Chapelle on the Ile de City (the island in the Seine which was the home of the Kings of France for over 500 years). Saint Chappelle was built by Louie IX as his private Chapel. It was completed in 1248 and is renowned as one of the most impressive surviving examples of Gothic architecture. The lower chapel that was for the servants and staff was impressive enough but the upper chapel which was for the King and his family was spectacular. The chapel is over 40 metres high and has 15 stain glass windows each towering upwards for 15 metres. The sun shining through the acres of stained glass depicting the stories from the Old and New Testaments invests the chapel with a glow that could almost be heavenly. No doubt that is what it's creator was attempting to achieve. It is truly a thing of beauty especially when you realise it was created almost 800 years ago.
At one stage it housed an impressive collection of religious relics including parts of the true cross and the crown of thorns worn by Jesus at the first Easter Parade. I assume that Louie did his due diligence on theses purchases but one would have to have some small doubts as to there authenticity knowing they were bought from a Turk who was in financial difficulties
Louie IX was a devote man who wore a hair shirt, and genuflected 50 times before bed. Although he apparently slept alone (his wife sleeping in a chamber a floor below) he still managed at least 11 children. It is said they were all conceived on the stairway between the respective bedchambers for fear of his mother's unannounced nocturnal visits to his bedroom.
His faith however led to some of histories greatest atrocities. Influenced by the Pope in Rome he raised an army of criminals, vagabonds and mercenaries and sent them to wipe out the so called Albigensian heretics. Called Cathars in the south they were are a peaceful, unique and enlightened branch of Christianity who had universal suffrage (women were often ordained as priests), education for all and a thriving economy, mainly due to the fact that they didn't waste money on armies and refused to pay taxes to the Church in Rome. When the ragtag crusade managed to open the gates of Beziers, it is reported that between 12,000 and 19,000 people were murdered in one night, many of them were not Cathars but Catholics. It is said that when the knights of the crusade realised what was happening they went to the Pope's Bishop and asked whether they should stop the slaughter. He replied "kill them all, in God will work it out".
Over the next century the Cathars were systematically wiped out with the last 400 being burnt at the stake at Monseigneur.
The Cathars were not the only people persecuted at the hand of Louie IX. Like Adolf Hitler (and many others) he was no lover of Jewish people. First burning their books, over 12,000 sacred hand copied texts, and then either murdering them or expelling them from Paris.
Eventually his religious folly bought about his downfall when he died of typhus whilst settling off on a crusade to drive the infidel Moslems from the holy lands. Presumably God was distracted at the moment his champion most needed him. However he got the consolation prize when his supporter, Pope Boniface XIII, a man not adverse to sanctioning genocide himself, sanctified him a few years later and King Louie, murderer of thousands became Saint Louie of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.
Returning to the beautiful Saint Chapelle you can’t avoid the enigma that was Louie IX. On the tour guide audio there is no mention of the murders overseen by its builder yet not more than 500 metres from the stunning stain glass windows there are any number of plaques and memorials to the Jewish men, women and particularly children, living in the Morais and transported to their death just over 70 years ago.
Are some murders more excusable or just more easily forgotten?