Sunday 2 November 2014

Saint Louis

This week I had an unexpected Parisian pleasure when I went along to the Saint Louis exhibition at The Conciergerie. It's a completely amazing exhibition brought together to commemorate the 800th anniversary of Louis' birth.

I wasn't aware of the exhibition before I left Australia, but began seeing posters everywhere as soon as I arrived in Paris, and was immediately keen to go.

It's on pretty much every bus

Then I found a brochure listing tours in English, and I knew I would go. Indeed I felt compelled to go. I'm so glad that I did. It was fascinating, I learnt so much, and saw so much really cool stuff.

Saint Louis, more likely known as Louis IX to the English speaking world, became king when his father Louis XIII the Lion died when he was 12. His mother, Blanche de Castile, a Spanish princess, ruled as Regent until Louis came of age at 20. He was to be King of France until his death in 1270. He was apparently very handsome.

The most famous statue of Louis,
or possibly his grandson- if only he still had hands we'd know
early 14th century, from Normandie

Louis was extremely religious man. He wore a (goat) hair shirt, and liked to be whipped so that he could suffer as Jesus did. They were made of sterner stuff in the 13th century.

Louis's shirt, blood spattered

Louis' whip- the cause of the blood spattering

The first section of the exhibition is about the myth and legend of Saint Louis, canonised a mere 27 years after his death. The cult of Saint Louis became very popular in the 18th century, and there were many paintings done at that time. Saint Louis died in Africa, and his body was boiled in vinegar to allow the transport back to France. He was initially interred at the Basilica of Saint Denis.

Later sections show more of Louis and his times. Thirteenth century France was the wealthiest and most populous country in Europe, before the many troubles of the 14th century- plague and the 100 year war. Saint Louis Day (August 25) was the French national day in pre-Revolutionary times. There are many astonishing paintings, sculptures, artefacts, bibles on display.

They use spooky gothic lighting too

Saint Louis accompanied by his mother
Blanche de Castille

Louis landing in Egypt for the start
of his 6 year crusade

St Louis delivering justice under an oak tree at Vincennes
Stained Glass from 1841
It had never occurred to me that bible illustrations informed stained glass windows, but it makes sense. I did know that the windows formed a visual instructive medium for the illiterate masses.

La Reine Blanche de Castille freeing the prisoners
Detail of a painting from 1821

The original charter proclaiming Saint Chapelle from 1246

Boiling folks in hell
Bourges, about 1240

Saint Louis
8 October 2014- 11 January 2015

Group tours in English conducted twice a week, on selected Monday and Friday mornings at 10.30am
November 3, 17, 21, 24, 28 (also November 7 at 14.30)
December 1, 5, 8, 12, 15
January 2

Our guide from the Centre Des Monuments Nationaux was extremely knowledgeable. We were particularly lucky and had a private tour for the two of us! I think the exhibition would be great without an English speaking guide, if you can't make one of the tours. (Tours 15 euros, regular admission 12.50 = bargain). There's a great free brochure at the entry available in English (or French).


Paulita said...

Louise, It's perfect that you would go to an exhibit on St. Louis! This was really educational and made me long to book my trip to Paris. Thanks for playing along.

Sally Tharpe Rowles said...

This was so interesting. I love learning about history & myth especially through art. Thank you for sharing this in so much detail. Very interesting!