Born in 1214, Louis IX became King of France at the age of twelve, when his father, Louis VIII, known as the Lion, died. Entrusted for his education to his mother, Queen Blanche of Castile, he learned from her to prefer to die rather than commit a single mortal sin.
His extraordinary piety, crowned with great charity for the poor and destitute, in no way yielded to the exercise of wise prudence and perfect justice in the government of the kingdom.
He had the Sainte-Chapelle built in Paris to serve as a reliquary for the crown of thorns. He undertook two crusades to help the Christians of the Holy Land.
They first left Aigues-Mortes on August 25, 1248, 772 years ago. It was the fruit of three years of preparation. Launched by Pope Innocent IV at the Council of Lyons in 1245, it responds to the capture by the Turks of Tiberias and Jerusalem, two Christian cities that fell under the Mohammedan yoke.
The Crusader fleet landed in Egypt and seized Damietta after a six-month siege on June 6, 1249. This victory, however, had no future, since the capture of Mansoura the following year ended in failure: the army was decimated by the plague, Robert d'Artois, brother of the king, was killed while the king himself was taken prisoner with his two other brothers, Alphonse de Poitiers and Charles d'Anjou. Released after payment of a large ransom, the King of France remained in the Holy Land where he fortified the cities of St. Jean d'Acre, Jaffa, Sidon, and Caesarea. He redeems thousands of Christian knights held prisoner. On his return to France, he founded the Quinze-Vingts hospital in Paris to treat the 300 knights who had had their eyes gouged out.
The second Crusade led by St. Louis took place in 1270. It headed for Tunis, which was to serve as a base for attacking Mamluk Egypt. The army of the King of France conquered Carthage but contracted dysentery and typhus. Affected by illness and exhaustion, St. Louis piously died on August 25, 1270. Arms outstretched, he gave his soul to God on a bed of ashes.
“Grant, O Almighty God, that your blessed Confessor St. Louis, who despised the attractions of the world in order to attach himself to pleasing Christ, the only King, also make us, by his prayer, pleasing to Thy eyes. By the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son.”