The most Christian King - Louis IX

The current issue of Medieval World: Culture & Conflict focuses on a fascinating figure of the Middle Ages - King Louis IX of France (r. 1226–1270), dubbed “the most Christian king”. During his long reign – guided initially by his remarkable mother Blanche of Castille – Louis instituted new reforms, expanded his kingdom, nurtured diplomatic relations at home and abroad, led two crusades, fervently promoted the Christian faith, and was a keen patron of the arts. Not all of his endeavors were successful, but each contributed to his growing reputation as “the most Christian king”. The papacy even formally canonized him as a saint in 1297 – the only such honor bestowed upon a French ruler. 

Several key "Louis scholars" contributed content to this issue, including M. Cecilia Gaposchkin and Lindy Grant. Below are their key publications on Louis IX and his important mother, if you are interested in delving deeper into the life and deeds of this fascinating figure and his influential family members! 

The Making of Saint Louis: Kingship, Sanctity, and Crusade in the Later Middle Ages

M. Cecilia Gaposchkin

Cornell University Press, 2008

ISBN: 978-0801476259

Canonized in 1297 as Saint Louis, King Louis IX of France (r. 1226–1270) was one of the most important kings of medieval history and also one of the foremost saints of the later Middle Ages. As a saint, Louis became the centerpiece of an ideological program that buttressed the ongoing political consolidation of France and underscored Capetian claims of sacred kingship. M. Cecilia Gaposchkin reconstructs and analyzes the process that led to the monarch's canonization and the consolidation and spread of his cult.

Differing political and religious ideals produced competing images of the sanctity of Louis in late-thirteenth and early fourteenth-century France. Drawing on hagiography, sermons, and liturgical evidence―the latter a rich but little-explored historical source―Gaposchkin shows how various groups (including Dominicans, Cistercians, and Franciscans) and individuals (such as Philip the Fair and Joinville) used commemoration of the saint-king to sanctify their own politics and notions of identity and religious virtue. Louis' cult was disseminated to a wider, nonelite public through sermons in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and then revived by the Bourbon kings in the seventeenth century. In deepening our knowledge of this royal saint, this elegantly written book opens the curtain on the religious sensibilities and secular politics of a transitional period in European history.

Blanche of Castile, Queen of France

Lindy Grant

Yale University Press, 2016

ISBN: 978-0300219265

This is the first modern scholarly biography of Blanche of Castile, whose identity has until now been subsumed in that of her son, the saintly Louis IX. A central figure in the politics of medieval Europe, Blanche was a sophisticated patron of religion and culture. Through Lindy Grant’s engaging account, based on a close analysis of Blanche’s household accounts and of the social and religious networks on which her power and agency depended, Blanche is revealed as a vibrant and intellectually questioning personality.

Make sure to check out the current issue of MWCC, with exciting theme-featured content on Louis:

  • M. Cecilia Gaposchkin, "'The most Christian king': The World of Louis IX," 16-23.
  • William E. Welsh, "Disaster in the Delta: Louis' Seventh Crusade," 24-27.
  • Nicholas Morton, "Louis and the Mongols: Eurasian Geopolitics and the Tides of War and Diplomacy," 28-33.
  • Sean L. Field, "Louis IX's Large Family: Powerful Women of the Capetian Court," 34-37.
  • Lindy Grant, "Blanche of Castile: The Mother of Louis IX," 38-41.

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