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Gloriosus igitur et famosus rex Francorum Ludovcus, Regis magnifici Phylippi filius, primeve flore etatis, fere adhuc duodennis seu tredennis, elegans et formosus, tanta morum probabilium venerabili industriam, tanta amenissimi corporis proceritate proficiebat, ut et sceptris futuris reipsa amplificatioinem honorificam incunctanter promitteret et ecclesiarum et pauperum tuicioni spem votivam generaret. Altus puerulus, antiqua regum Karoli Magni et aliorum excellentiorum, hoc ipsum testamentis imperialibus testificantium, consuetudine, apud Sanctum Dyonisium tanta et quasi nativa dulcedine ipsis Natam a puero eorum ecclesie amiciciam toto tempore Vite sue multa liberalitate et honorificentia continuaret74 (To begin, the splendid and renowned Louis, king of the French as son of the stately King Philip, was distingiuished and handsome in the very flower of early Suger, The Deeds of Louis the Fat, trans. with introduction Richard Cusimano and John Moorhead, (Washington, D.C., The Catholic University of America Press, 1992), p. 8.

Andrew Lewis, “Suger’s Views on Kingship,” Abbot Suger and Saint-Denis: A Symposium, (New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1986), p. 49.

Suger, Vie de Louis vi Le Gros, Éditée et Traduite par Henri Waquet, (Les Belles Lettres, Paris, 1964), p.


age, when he was hardly twelve or thirteen years old. He showed so much zeal in forming virtuous habits, and his graceful body was growing so tall that this future reign held immediate promise that the kingdom would be honorably enlarged, fostering hope that our prayers for the protection of the churches and the poor would be answered. This highborn stripling followed the ancient custom of Charles the Great and other excellent kings, evidence of which is contained in the imperial charters,75 and clung to the holy martyrs of St. Denis and the monks with innate tenderness.76) When discussing the youth and lineage of Louis VI, Suger is careful to place the King in the same line as Charlemagne. It is not entirely clear what Suger meant by saying that Louis, “followed the ancient custom of Charles the Great.” He is not saying that Louis is a descendant of Charlemagne. He is making the case for the legitimacy of Louis’ reign based on custom and precedent. Louis is legitimate in Suger’s eyes, because like Charlemagne, he is a friend of the Church. One of the major themes of the book is to put the life of Louis in the same category as important kings from the Carolingian period.

This, by extension, then places the Capetian monarchy of the twelfth-century directly in line with the perceived legitimacy of the Carolingian past.77 In addition, it is important to note that Charlemagne is the only name mentioned among the ‘excellent’ kings who preceded Louis. This is clearly because of the forged charter housed at Saint-Denis.

More than any other Carolingian or Merovingian king, Charlemagne, in the eyes of twelfth-century society, embodied the true countenance of French kingship.

In another instance, Suger is describing the conflict between Pope Pascal and the Emperor Henry. King Philip and his son Louis visit the Pope and Suger says, These charters were supposedly deposited at the Abbey of Saint-Denis.

Suger, The Deeds of Louis the Fat, Trans. with introduction Richard Cusimano and John Moorhead, (Washington, D.C., The Catholic University of America Press, 1992), p. 24.

Jean-Francis Lemarignier, Le Gouvernement royal aux premiers temps capétiens, 987-1108, (Paris, 1965), pp. 160-175.

Occurrit itaque ei ibidem rex phylippus et dominus Ludovicus filius ejus grantaner et votic, amore Dei majestatem regiam pedibus ejus incurvantes, quemadmodum consueverunt ad sepulchrum piscatoris Petri reges submisso idademate inclinari, quos dominus papa manu erigens, tanquam devotissimos apostolorum filios ante se residere fecit. Cum quibus de statu ecclesie, ut sapiens sapienter agens, familiariter contulit sosque blande demucens, beato Petro sibique ejus vicario supplicat opem ferre, ecclesiam manutenere, et, sicut antesessorum regum Francorum Karoloi Magni et aliorum mos inolevit, tyrannis et ecclesie hostibus et potissimum Henrico imperatori audacter resistere Qui amicicie, auxilii et consilii dextras dederunt, regnum esposuerunt, et qui cum eo Catalaunum imperatoris legatis occurrere festinent, archiepiscopos et episcopos et abbatem Sanct Dionissi Adam, cum quo et nos fuimus, conjunxerunt.78 (King Philip and his son the lord Louis came there with joy to meet him as they had promised. For the love of God they humbled their royal majesty before his feet, in the way that kings bow down with lowered diadem before the tomb of the fisherman Peter. The lord pope lifted them up and made them sit before him like devout sons of the apostles. In the manner of a wise man acting wisely, he conferred with them privately on the present condition of the church. Softening them with compliments, he petitioned them to bring aid to the blessed Peter and to himself, his vicar, and to lend support to the church. He asked that they follow the established custom of their predecessors, Charles the Great and other kings of the French, and make a bold stand against tyrants, enemies of the church, and above all the emperor Henry. They extended their right hands to him as a sign of alliance, aid, and council, and put the kingdom at his disposal.79) Custom and precedent are only rhetorical devices here. Charlemagne, because of the forged charter, is the only former king mentioned by name. Suger’s point is that Philip and his son were friends and protectors of the Church and ‘enemies of his enemies.’ Perhaps more importantly, Suger recognizes Charlemagne as a defender of Church. He also recognizes that Louis has inherited that role as the king of France. This is an Suger, Vie de Louis vi Le Gros, pp. 55-56.

Suger, The Deeds of Louis the Fat. Trans. with introduction Richard Cusimano and John Moorhead, p.


important indication that the idea of the King of France being the defender of the Church is not individual, but is a standard expectation of the position.80 In other words, the King of France, no matter who it is, is expected to be the defender of the Church. This is probably not just Suger’s position, but an indication of broader views on the king’s roles.

Charlemagne had begun the tradition, but now it has fallen to the Capetians of the twelfth-century. Much of the ideology concerning kingship and political power is present in the chanson de geste. However, in Suger’s work, the political dogma is greatly enhanced.81 On one last occasion, Suger invokes the image of Charlemagne. This time the reference is associated with legal issues concerning the monastery of Argenteuil.

Speaking of the new Pope Honorius II, Suger says;

… Qui cum justiciam nostram de monasterio Argentoilensi, puellarum miserrima conversacione infamato, tum legati sui Mathei, Albanesnsis episcopi, tum domini Carnotensis, Parisiensism, Suessionis, domini etiam archiepiscopi Remensis Rainaldi et multorum virorum testimonio cognovisset, precepta regum antiquorum Pipini, Karoli Magni, Ludovici Pii et aliorum de jure loci prefati nunciis nostris oblata perlegisset, curie tocius persuasione, tam pro nostra justicia quam pro earum fetida enormitate, beato Dyonisio et restituit et confirmavit.82 … He recognized the justice of our claim over the monastery of Argenteuil which had been disgraced by the very wretched behavior of its young women. He examined the evidence presented by his own legate, Matthew, bishop of Albano, and by the lord bishops of Chartres, Paris, and Soissons in addition to archbishop Rainald of Reims and many other men. He also read through the charters of kings Georges Duby, “Le gouvernement royal aux premiers temps capétiens: À Propos d’un livre récent,” Le Moyan Age, 72 (1966), pp. 543-550.

Michel Bur, “A Note on Suger’s Understanding of Political Power,” Abbot Suger and Saint-Denis: A Symposium, (New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1986), p. 75.

Suger, Vie de Louis vi Le Gros, pp. 216-218.

old – Pepin, Charles the Great, and Louis the Pious, and others – concerning our right over the place, which our messengers had presented to him. Then, aware of the justice of our cause and the enormously bad conduct of those women, he confirmed and restored the monastery to St. Denis on the advice of his entire curia.83 This time a succession of kings is mentioned including Pepin, Charlemagne, and his son Louis. However, the invocation of charters and legal precedents that include some association with Charlemagne tended to be more forceful.

There are only three instances that Suger invokes the image of Charlemagne in this work. However, those particular passages are quite telling as to how Suger, and to an extent how some churchmen may have viewed Charlemagne in the twelfth-century. In each of the three instances, a specific theme or issue warrants the use of Charlemagne as an important precedent. The first episode deals with connections between the Capetian and Carolingian monarchies. This was a constant battle for a number of Capetian kings who often ruled amidst constant questions of illegitimacy. This perceived connection through Charlemagne acts as a legitimizing factor for twelfth-century French kings such as Louis VI. The second episode emphasizes one of the traditional roles of the monarchy as the defender of the Church. Again, Charlemagne is used as an ideal example to illustrate how a king should behave and what his priorities should be. Service to the Church is probably the most prevalent theme within literary and historical sources dealing with kingship. The last episode in which Charlemagne is referenced deals with a legal issue concerning the Abby of St. Denis and the Pope. Here false charters (probably produced by Suger) are referenced in an attempt to demonstrate legal rights over another monastery. Charlemagne is a primary reference for Suger’s argument for an established Suger, The Deeds of Louis the Fat. Trans. with introduction Richard Cusimano and John Moorhead, pp.


legal precedent concerning the role of the Abby of Saint- Denis. It should also be noted that Suger’s tendency to use the memory of Charlemagne as both a model and legitimizing factor is not unique to the French sources. Otto of Freising in his Gesta Friderici I imperatoris (The Deeds of Frederick Barbarossa) makes a number of similar references to Charlemagne as well.84

–  –  –

There are a number of conclusions to be drawn about the image of Charlemagne and the political make-up of the twelfth- and thirteenth-centuries. The relationship between Regnum and Sacrodotium was always a complex one in the Middle Ages and the twelfth- and thirteenth-centuries are no exceptions to this phenomenon. Monarchs in a number of different areas attempted repeatedly to separate themselves from the Church.

However, perhaps more that any other period, the expectations of kings were closely tied to religion. This is particularly true for the French kings who looked to Charlemagne as their progenitor and to his reign as king and emperor as a guiding principle for their own.

Politically, this period was in constant flux. In particular, in the later part of the period in question here, the twelfth- and thirteenth-centuries witnessed the emergence of the French state. This process was accelerated by “the union of the two ideas of the sacred king and the holy country ….”85 This process is invariably linked with the image and memory of Charlemagne. The memory of Charlemagne is paramount in the Otto of Freising and his continuator, Rahewin, The Deeds of Frederick Barbarossa, trans. Charles Christopher Mierow, (Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1994), p. 117.

Joseph Strayer, “France: The Holy Land, the Chosen People, and the Most Christian King,” In Medieval Statecraft and the Perspectives of History: Essays by Joseph Strayer, (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1971), p. 302.

development of the beliefs that solidified the king as a ‘sacred ruler.’ Elements such as “the coronation oil [being] brought down from heaven, the healing of the scrofulous, the possession of the relics of Charlemagne, [and] the crusade tradition” all defined twelfthcentury kingship and linked Charlemagne to that tradition.86 In addition, throughout this period, there was a building sentiment in France that the French were God’s new chosen people and that God favored the French king above all others, which is Suger’s main theme. According to the tradition (and propaganda) created in the twelfth-century, the people of France have tended to be more devout and pious than most others and the French Kings have always acted as defenders of the faith gaining them special privilege in God’s eyes.87 The image of kings in this period comes from both historical and literary sources.

In addition, the representation of Charlemagne is a composite of a number of different elements. However, the prevailing image and memory of Charlemagne in this period is that of the warrior king and defender of the Church. The idea that the king is the defender of the Church is the most prevalent characteristic displayed in the sources. This is an idea that, by the time of the crusades, became an institutionalized aspect of the crown. King Louis VII of France who issued a crusade charter in 1164 exemplifies this.

The first part of the charter reads;

In nomine sanctae et individuae Trinitatis. Amen. Ego Ludovicus Dei gratia Francorum Rex. Ad regiae dignitatis officium dignoscitur pertinere, Ecclesias Dei quae in regno nostro sunt constitutae, vigilanter custodire, ut quantum in nobis est praecaveamus ne interior quies, exterioribus molestiis vacillet, et his quorum manus celeres sunt ad rapiendum, murum deffensionis apponamus.

Strayer, “France: The Holy Land, the Chosen People, and the Most Christian King,” pp. 302-303.

Francoise Gasparri, L’Ecriture des actes de Louis VI, Louis VII, et Philippe Auguste, (Geneva, 1973), pp.


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