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10 Things To Know About Saint Louis, Himself, On His 800th Birthday

(photo illustration via Flickr user Tim Hamilton)

Friday is the 800th anniversary of the birth of St. Louis' namesake, King Louis IX of France. You might be familiar with Louis' silhouette from the prominent sculpture on Art Hill in Forest Park. You know, this one:

Pretty epic image, right? But we thought we'd give you a few more facts about the man, king and later, saint.

1. Louis was born in 1214.

What else was going on in the world then? The Emperor Xuanzong of Jin China was in tremendous conflict with Genghis Khan.

2. King Louis IX was the only French king to become a saint, but not the only French royal.

​In fact, his younger sister, Isabelle, is alsorecognized as a saint by the Franciscan Order. King Louis became Saint Louis when he was canonized in 1297, 27 years after his death.

​3. Following his father's death from dysentery while crusading, Louis became King Louis IX of France at the age of 12.

Because they couldn't possibly let a pre-teen run a country, Louis' mother, Blanche of Castile, served as his regent until he reached adulthood. The relationship between Louis and his mother is known as a particularly excellent one.

4. King Louis IX commissioned the construction of the Sainte-Chapellein Paris.

The stunning example of French gothic architecture was consecrated in 1248 and was built to house King Louis' collection of relics of Jesus Christ. Check out this panorama of its incredible ceiling:

Looking up at the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, France.
Credit (via Wikimedia Commons/Javi Masa)
Looking up at the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, France.

5. He and his wife, Margaret of Provence, had 11 children.

However, only seven of them made it to adulthood. Four of those surviving were sons, and one, Phillip III, succeeded his father to the throne.

6. His wife and his mother didn't get along. At all.

Thomas Madden, professor of medieval history at Saint Louis University says that Louis' mother seemed to be of the opinion that Margaret's sole function should be bearing and rearing children. This was in spite of King Louis' and Margaret's reportedly loving relationship. (Learn more from Madden about Saint Louis bylistening to our segment from St. Louis on the Air).

7. He changed the process of trials in France.

This was, according to Madden, "a major thing." No longer would trials be settled by ordeal or combat, but by evidence and Roman law. The move, Madden says, was part of his Great Edict of 1254. He also issued an edict against gambling.

8. He was a tremendous patron of the arts.

And you can see pieces influenced by Louis IX right here in St. Louis this summer.

9. He founded several hospitals in France.

Including one for the blind, and one, Madden says, for ex-prostitutes.

10. Crusading was the "main event" of Saint Louis' life, though it would end up being the death of him.

On one occasion, Louis became severely ill. There, in his bed, he decided that he would become a crusader in the tradition of his father (remember, who died during a crusade), his grandfather and his great-grandfather. Louis brought his family (including his wife and children) with him on some of his journeys - with several children born while on crusade. Eventually, an excursion to what is now Tunisia would be the final journey for King Louis. Illness again befell him and he died on August 25, 1270.