The Cult of Saint Louis and Capetian Interests in the Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux

The Cult of Saint Louis and Capetian Interests in the Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux

Paula Mae Carns

Peregrinations, Vol.2:1 (2006)


By the late Middle Ages the Capetian kings of France developed an elaborate political ideology that was intended both to assert their power as rulers and to affirm their right to rule. The sanctification of Louis IX in 1297 ended a longtime wish of these kings to elevate to sainthood one of their own members. Throughout the Middle Ages the Capetians labeled themselves as the ‘Most Christian of Kings,’ and to have a saint in the family legitimated their claim. Saint Louis was more than a symbol of dynastic holiness to his descendents, however; his sainthood acted a vehicle through which they could promote dynastic and personal ideologies. Inserting pictorialized Offices of Saint Louis into Books of Hours was one way that family members used the saint’s biography to serve their own ends. The Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters, 54.1.2) is such an example and features an illustrated Office of Saint Louis along with a Calendar, the Office of the Virgin and the Penitential Psalms.

Scholars generally hold that the miniaturist Jean Pucelle painted the book’s magnificent grisaille images. A consideration of image and text in the Office of Saint Louis, hagiographic convention, and iconographic tradition for the saint’s life reveals that the illustrations more than simply chronicle the life of this holy man: they promote Capetian family interests as well as the roles of Queen Jeanne d’Evreux (1324-1328) and King Charles IV (1322-1328) in the family. Charles probably gave the book to Jeanne on the occasion of their wedding in 1324. Both were the grandchildren of Saint Louis and their union would have been the perfect occasion to celebrate the life of their illustrious grandfather.

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