It is the 25th of August 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1270.
Today we will cast our gaze to the Middle Ages once again, this time to Medieval France. To put the late 13th century in context (you could also call it the late 1200s and we wouldn’t be mad), you can remember the following time as the beginning of the Gothic period in architecture. It was called Gothic as it resembled the architecture of the Goth and Vandal barbarians. Once derided as fantastical, heavy, dark, and melancholic, it has come to become shorthand for Medieval buildings made up of arches and buttresses.
It was the era of Dante and Aquinas. It was the beginning of the university system, as they replaced the old cathedral schools. In France, the 13th century saw the end of the Carolingian dynasty, which goes back through Charlemagne. It was now the House of Capet that would rule what would become a distinct “French” region. The development of innovations in farming, such as crop rotation, created a booming economy that led to the development of guilds and flourishing trade routes. Regional markets sold work in metal, leather, wood, and glass. These markets required the development of a currency.
Furthermore, the Peace of God had helped to create relative peace. This Peace, combined with the Crusades, led to the development of the idea of knighthood and chivalry. In short, France was emerging on the European scene. And perhaps no other character epitomizes the emergence of Medieval France than King Louis IX, who died on this, the 25th of August, in the year 1270.
He was born in 1227 to King Louis VIII and Blanche of Castille. His father died when he was twelve, and the crown came under the regency of Louis’ mom, Blanche. Unlike other monarchs, Louis was not sent off to tutors but was raised by his mother, who personally oversaw his education. Particularly fond of theology and history, Louis was said to be both keen and pious. Once he was crowned, he continued his father’s crusade against the Cathars (or Albigensians). These were Gnostics, or Manichaeans, or dualists. They have been called many names. Their chief offense was the rejection of the teachings regarding Christ’s full humanity. It was the response to these heretics that would lead to the development of the Dominican order. Louis also supported the founding of the Sorbonne, one of the leading academic centers of its day.
He also passed laws against blasphemy, usury, and prostitution. But his piety was seen, especially in his treatment of the poor. One chronicler reported that Louis would regularly feed up to 100 peasants an evening, and he would symbolically wait to eat their leftovers once they had finished. It’s a remarkable story, one that might be held with a little suspicion based on the source. But evil kings usually don’t have these kinds of stories floating around. The king could be criticized for a misguided zeal. He led the 7th Crusade to Egypt, and not only was it a failure, but he was also captured and ransomed for an amount that enriched his Egyptian foes. By 1269, he was eyeing another Crusade, this time to Tunisia. It went even worse than the last one. Louis’ army was stricken with a plague to which Louis succumbed.
Despite his quixotic attempts at Crusading glory, his hot temper, and sometimes heavy hand, he was praised as a model Christian ruler. He was canonized by Pope Boniface VIII and remains the only French monarch to be sainted. St. Louis IX died on this, the 25th of August, in 1270.
The reading for today comes from the 18th-century poet John Byrom, his “My Spirit Longs For Thee.”
My spirit longs for thee
Within my troubled breast,
Though I unworthy be
Of so divine a Guest.
Of so divine a Guest
Unworthy though I be,
Yet has my heart no rest
Unless it come from thee.
Unless it come from thee,
In vain I look around;
In all that I can see
No rest is to be found.
No rest is to be found
But in thy blessed love:
O, let my wish be crowned,
And send it from above
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 25th of August 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man who loves pork steaks, and yeast-less pizza cut into squares, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.