Abstract

This article examines the material and ideological meaning of the three relics of the True Cross acquired by Louis IX in 1241 and 1242, which were venerated, along with the Crown of Thorns, in the Sainte-Chapelle, as part of the broader project of building Capetian sacral kingship in the High Middle Ages. Although cross relics flooded Western Christendom after 1204, these three relics, acquired directly from the Byzantine emperor, were specifically associated with Constantine and Heraclius and their historic military victories against enemies of Christian empire. The article identifies one of the three relics, known to contemporaries as the crux triumphalis in Latin and the croix de victoire in French, which Byzantine emperors were said to have carried into battle, as a relic that Louis IX then brought with him on his crusade of 1249–50 to Egypt, in hopes of martialing its historic power against the infidel in battle.

Cet article examine la signification matérielle et idéologique des trois reliques de la Vraie Croix que Louis IX acquit en 1241 et 1242 et qui furent vénérées, avec la couronne d’épines, dans la Sainte Chapelle, dans le cadre du projet de construction de la royauté sacrée capétienne durant le haut Moyen Age. Bien que les reliques de la croix aient inondé la chrétienté occidentale après 1204, ces trois reliques, acquises directement auprès de l'empereur byzantin, étaient spécifiquement associées à Constantin et Héraclius et à leurs victoires militaires contre les ennemis de l'empire chrétien. De ces trois reliques, connues des contemporains sous le nom de crux triumphalis en latin et de « croix de victoire » en français, que les empereurs byzantins avaient apparemment emportées dans le combat, l'article identifie celle que Louis IX emmena par la suite lors de sa croisade de 1249–50 en Egypte, dans l'espoir de consolider son pouvoir contre l'infidèle.

In 1204, on their quest to retake Jerusalem, crusaders from the Latin West instead sacked, occupied, and then made the center of their new principality the sacred city of Constantinople. Constantinople was sacred in large part because of its immense relic collection, gathered over the centuries starting with Constantine; the most important relics were held by the Byzantine emperors in their palace, in particular in the imperial “Pharos chapel” (lighthouse chapel), a chapel that French- and Latin-speaking visitors described as the sainte capele.1 Although the crusaders sent many of the city's relics back home to be included in or to form collections in the West, the new Latin emperor initially sought to safeguard the greater part of the famed imperial collection.2 The Latin empire was immediately beset by enemies, and by the mid-1230s the leaders were in such desperate need of funds that the emperor-advocate, John of Brienne, mortgaged the collection bit by bit to support the army. The emperor's stepson and heir, Baldwin, was sent to France, Italy, and Flanders to advocate for military and financial aid in support of the ailing city and empire. Baldwin was in the West for almost two years before learning of John of Brienne's death and returning to Constantinople to take up the reins of empire.

It was in this context in 1237 that Louis IX, the young king of France (only about twenty-three at this point), entered into negotiations with Baldwin, a second cousin, to acquire the imperial relic collection and have it transferred from the Byzantine capital to Paris. He began by redeeming the Crown of Thorns from the Venetians, to whom John of Brienne had promised it as collateral. He then acquired through negotiation and redemption another twenty-two major relics, including Christic and Marian relics, relics of the saints, and three relics of the True Cross. To house his prestige collection, Louis IX built the famed Sainte-Chapelle, in imitation of or in replication of the Sancta Capella in the Bouceleon, the imperial palace in Constantinople. At this stage the young king was energetically and optimistically building the foundations for what he envisioned as a triumphantly Christian reign. The chapel was constructed within the palace precinct as a ceremonial stage for Capetian kingship, as Meredith Cohen has shown, associated now with Christ's kingship through his spiny, thorny crown, the symbolic importance of which was quickly incorporated into Capetian political theology.3

The symbolic potency of the crown relic for the monarchy, aligning as it did Christ's eternal kingship to Capetian sacral kingship, was singular and fundamental, affixing royal legitimacy directly to divine authority.4 But the cross relics also have a crucial place in the history of Capetian image making and ideology. In Byzantium the imperial cross relics, not the Crown of Thorns, were the prize of the collection, in part because of their association with the emperor Constantine and, through him, a long association with imperial military triumph and authority.5 “It was the possession of these relics,” wrote Holger A. Klein in an elegant essay on the desire of Western rulers to acquire passion relics from Byzantium, “that confirmed the emperor's close ties with the divine powers, guaranteed his victoriousness in battle, and lent his office a political and spiritual prestige that other Christian rulers could hope to acquire only if they themselves gained possession of these precious, and truly priceless, objects.”6 Between 1239 and 1242 Louis IX acquired the bulk of the imperial relic collection, including the three major cross relics and, with them, the transfer of much of the basis of the empire's political and spiritual prestige to France.

This article traces these three cross relics, the extent to which the spiritual and political associations of their Byzantine context accompanied them to Paris, and the meaning they took on once enshrined in the new chapel at the royal palace. If the crown relic showcased the sacrality of royal authority, the cross, in this period and place of intense crusading culture, was associated with the triumphalism of military victory. Not only was the cross styled as the instrument of warfare against the greatest of all Christian enemies, the devil, but these cross fragments in particular were also associated with the military victories of the two great heroes of Christian warfare: Constantine and Heraclius. For Louis and his circle, these cross relics thus held a series of imbricated histories that endowed the relics (and thus Louis) with broad powers that Louis in turn sought to harness on crusade. Louis's specific relationship to the meaning of the cross shifted in the second half of his reign following the failure of his crusade, the deeply penitential turn in his devotions, and a profound reconceptualization of his own kingship. But in the longer term, the cross relics worked alongside the Crown of Thorns to sacralize the powers of Capetian kingship and cement the status of the French kingdom, in Joseph R. Strayer's famous formulation, as a new Holy Land.7

The Cross Relics Acquired in 1241–1242

On September 14, 1241, Louis IX received thirteen important relics from the imperial collection, including a blood relic, Christ's swaddling clothes, a piece of the Holy Sepulcher, and notably, two pieces of the True Cross (fig. 1).8 September 14, then and now, is the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, an ancient feast popular in the West, explicitly centered on veneration of the material cross relic.9 Louis's reception of this group of relics was certainly choreographed to coincide with the Exaltation feast. John of Garland, the university master and a prolific author, was probably at the ceremony and reported that Louis on that day carried the cross and the Crown of Thorns with head bowed.10 Matthew Paris, who was not present, stated (in an account that has some obvious mistakes and elements of which may have been imagined) that the king raised the relic up above his head while the audience cried with a loud voice, “Behold, the Cross of the Lord” (Ecce Crucem domini), a refrain used in the liturgy of the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.11 One of the two cross relics arrived from the Greek capital in a Byzantine staurotheke (that is, a reliquary of Byzantine origin containing fragments of the True Cross) but was soon transferred to a French-style reliquary.12 In the charter of 1247 with which Baldwin would formally transfer ownership of twenty-two relics to Louis, Baldwin called this relic simply the Holy Cross (crucem sanctam), but the contemporary chronicler Gérard of Saint-Quentin, to whom we owe our best account of the transfer, specified a whole series of names by which it was known: “That most sacred standard of the Lord's cross” (sacratissimum crucis dominice vexillum), which is also called the “venerable sign of the eternal king” (eterni regis venerabile signum), the “sacred cross” (crucem sanctam), and simply the “wood of the Lord” (ligno dominico).13

The second cross relic was a block of wood that was too large to be encased in a reliquary and arrived instead wrapped up in cloth. Baldwin described this simply as “another large piece of wood of the Holy Cross” (aliam magnam partem de ligno sancte crucis).14 Gérard explained that this was a large piece of wood not rendered in the form of a cross and “from which the emperors of Constantinople were in the habit of giving out [fragments] to their friends and retainers” (Frustum magnum crucis dominice, non tamen ad formam crucis redactum, de quo imperatores Constantinopolitani amicis et familiaribus suis dare consueverant).15 At the Sainte-Chapelle this piece was stored in a silver casement or box.16

The third cross relic arrived about a year later. Following further negotiations, and the work of two Franciscan envoys sent to Constantinople initially to secure the relics that had arrived in 1241, Louis received the final big installment of relics on September 30, 1242, which included the lance, sponge, shroud, scarlet robe, and other relics. This third cross relic was quite small, and it was preserved in a small pearled reliquary that could be hung around the neck.17 In the 1247 charter Baldwin stated that the forefathers called this “the triumphal cross” (crucem triumphalem) because emperors had carried it out to war in hopes of victory.18 Baldwin was a Latin emperor from French and Flemish stock, whose grandfather had been one of the Latin leaders of the Fourth Crusade and the Latin empire's first emperor. He was not talking about his own forefathers, since his family had broken the tradition of Greek leadership. This means that the relic's reputation had somehow, in some form, survived the chaotic transfer of power in Constantinople, and its ability to defeat enemies remained an important point in its pedigree.19 Gérard also spoke of the relic's potency, reporting that that this “small piece of the cross . . . was not lesser in power, and was called ‘triumphal.’”20 In the Latin sources this relic is called the crux triumphalis; in French it was referred to as the croix de victoire. In the chapel's later inventories it was specifically associated with Constantine: “La croix de victoire de Constantin.21

The Histories These Cross Relics Brought with Them to Paris

Narratives by nature inhered in all relics, and relics of the cross by their very existence signified the story of Christ's passion, his victory over death and the devil, and salvation.22 But more than with most cross relics that circulated in the West, these three could be specifically associated with the long narrative of imperial history and military victory. That is, these fragments, given their provenance, could be credibly associated with the stories of Constantine, Helena, and Heraclius. After her discovery of the True Cross in Jerusalem, Helena was said to have sent one large fragment of the newly discovered cross to Constantine in Constantinople but also to have left another in Jerusalem.23 It was the fragment still in Jerusalem that the emperor Heraclius recovered from the Sassanian king Khoesroes II in 629 and ordered brought to Constantinople in 641 in the face of the Arab invasions. These histories were all known at the Capetian court. For one, Vincent of Beauvais, a Dominican historian known to the Capetians who wrote a series of tracts for Louis, included each of these details in his Speculum historiale, written in the 1240s during the same years that Louis was constructing the Sainte-Chapelle.24 Gérard of Saint-Quentin also associated the cross relics brought in 1242 with Constantine's initial vision and victory and Helena's subsequent inventio.25 A contemporary monastic author from Soissons, sometimes identified as Gobert of Coinci (thirteenth century), associated the relic Louis received in 1241 and that he placed in the Sainte-Chapelle specifically with Helena, Constantine, the imperial palace in the Bouceleon, and ultimately the military victories of the Byzantine emperors.26 Writing for the year 1241 (the last entry is for 1249), he recorded the following:

In the same year, on the day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a very large part of the dominical cross [maxima pars dominice crucis], that is to say, the one, as many men of good testimony bear witness, that Helena, mother of Constantine, after the discovery of the same Holy Cross, had brought with her in honor from Jerusalem to Constantinople, and had placed in the chapel of the most glorious emperor Constantine, her most beloved son; and indeed the aforesaid Constantine had that part of the dominical cross carried with him on his military expeditions in glory and honor, the cause of victory. And indeed on the aforesaid day [of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross], that part of the dominical cross was placed [reponitur, preserved, or stored away] by Louis, king of the French, with great honor and the very great humility of the aforesaid king and his brothers (in such a way that everyone who was there, or who had seen or heard of it, greatly marveled), in a procession with bared heads and feet, legs and arms, in the city of Paris in the chapel of the aforesaid king, which he was constructing with remarkable efforts and expenses in honor of the same Holy Cross and the most precious Crown of Thorns of Jesus Christ our Lord, truly God and truly man.27

The chronicler specifically linked the relics that Louis acquired on September 14, 1241, and put in his chapel with the relic Constantine had carried into battle and rendered victory. In this way, the relic brought with it to Paris its long Byzantine association with imperial military victory. The imperial practice of marching out to battle behind a relic of the True Cross was attested in the sixth century and well established in Byzantium and its military by the tenth century.28 In Byzantium the cross relic was predominantly associated with imperial might and victory. A tenth-century liturgical trope that was sung on September 14 for the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross—a feast focused on the relic itself in which the emperor participated—emphasized the cross's powers of victory over enemies: “You, having willingly been raised up high on the cross, give to the realm that bears your name, even now grant your mercy, O Christ God. In your power make joyous our faithful kings, furnish them with victories over their enemies, they who have charge of your covenant, weapon of peace, unconquered trophy.”29 Palace ceremonial included a yearly ritual in which the relic of the True Cross was installed on the imperial throne.30

Byzantine sources speak of at least three important cross relics that were incorporated into imperial ceremonial.31 It is possible that but unclear whether those three relics were the same three cross relics transferred to Paris in 1241 and 1242.32 In the charter of 1247 in which Baldwin carefully identified each of the twenty-two relics ceded to Louis's ownership he described the third, small, cross relic as “the other, smaller piece of the cross, which the forefathers (veteres) had called the triumphal cross, because emperors used to carry it out to war in hope of victory.”33 One possibility is that the cross referred to was one associated in Byzantium not with Constantine I but with Constantine VII, known as Constantine Porphyrogenitus (d. 959).34 In Porphyrogenitus's De Ceremoniis, a treatise that describes the imperial practices of battle, he writes of “the holy and life-giving wood of the cross,” which was hung “in a case [theka] around [the] neck” of one of the koubikoularios (a palace dignitary) during the military march.35 If, as Michael F. Hendy proposed, this was the triumphal cross Baldwin ceded to Louis, in the transfer from Byzantium to France, from Greek ownership to Latin, the association with Constantine VII was lost and the cross became identified with Constantine I, the Great.

Whatever its pedigree, this relic was sold to Louis as the cross that brought victory to Byzantine emperors. It is also likely that one of these cross relics was further associated with Heraclius, the seventh-century Byzantine emperor who retrieved a relic of the True Cross from its capture by the Sassanian king Khoesroes II (Coesroes in the Latin sources). Tradition held that after her discovery of the True Cross in the fourth century, Helena had divided the relic in two pieces, installing one part in the Holy Sepulcher and sending the other to her son in Constantinople. In 614 Khoesroes sacked Jerusalem, captured the relic of the True Cross, and took it away with him back to Ctesiphon. In 622 Heraclius mounted a counteroffensive. The story as it was received in the West (largely through the liturgy) related that Heraclius defeated Khoesroes, reestablished control over Byzantine territory (including Jerusalem), and restored the Holy Cross to the Holy Sepulcher.36 In the face of the Arab invasions of the seventh century, Heraclius subsequently had the relic transferred from Jerusalem to Constantinople for safekeeping. In Paris in the 1240s and 1250s, this much was known. Baldwin himself may well have told Louis, Blanche, and others about the function and received history of the relics. We already noted that Vincent of Beauvais included these facts in the Speculum historiale, written in exactly the years during which Louis acquired these relics and built the chapel.37 Louis and the court thus presumably understood themselves to possess relics associated with Heraclius's victory over the Sassanians, Constantine's victory over Maxentius, and above all, Christ's victory over the devil.

By 1242 Louis thus possessed the three most prestigious cross relics in all Christendom. The imperial relic collection boasted an unimpeachable pedigree, with authenticating lineages, translated under cover of imperial seal, and confirmed by Baldwin's charter of 1247. These were all the more prized because of the loss sixty years earlier of Jerusalem's True Cross, the relic that the Frankish Army had carried out to battle against Saladin's forces as the general and founder of the Ayyubid sultanate swept through Syria and recaptured lands from Frankish control.38 The emperor Heraclius may have brought a relic of the True Cross to Constantinople in the seventh century, but other pieces venerated at the Holy Sepulcher remained in Jerusalem.39 When the crusaders took Jerusalem in 1099, it took them a while to “discover” the True Cross, which had been hidden a decade earlier, they said, in the face of the Turkish invasions.40 The Franks believed this relic to be the one that Heraclius had recovered in 629.41 From 1099 on, as in Byzantium, the Frankish army carried the relic out into battle, for the last time in 1187, when it was captured by Saladin at the Battle of Hattin.42 Matthew Paris actually believed that the cross Louis acquired was the one lost to Saladin.43 No one else did, and it is pretty clear that the Jerusalem fragment was lost or destroyed in 1187 or shortly thereafter. This fact was not made public so that Saladin could continue to use its return as a bargaining chip in negotiations, and its recuperation continued to be evoked in crusade recruiting well into the thirteenth century.44 Yet by the 1240s two generations on, the urgency of the return of the Jerusalem cross seems to have faded. A rare exception, perhaps, was John of Garland, writing about Louis's crusading ventures in the 1250s, who evoked it in reference to the Third Crusade.45

With Jerusalem shorn of its relics and the city itself now in Muslim hands, the other solution was to recenter the Holy Land in Paris. In his account of the reception of the third installment in 1242—the transfer that included the crux triumphalis—Gérard calls the city of Paris an ipsa civitas quasi altera Ierusalem: a new or a second Jerusalem. The author of the Chronique anonyme stated that the transfer showed just how much God loved the kingdom of France.46 As early as 1242 or 1243 the English poet Henry of Avranches wrote a remarkable poem on Louis's new relics in which he argued boldly that Paris, on account of the cross, had actually replaced Jerusalem as the new site of blessed holiness.47 The poem opened with a rubric, “On the exaltation of the cross and the place of its exaltation.”48 The first rubric underscored precisely the question of “place” (loco) as the poem's principal concern. The opening stanza praised Paris not merely as “another Jerusalem” but truly as the place, or site, of sacrality that had replaced or even surpassed Jerusalem. He wrote, “The exaltation of the cross grew immeasurably, very much reaching to the end of the world; revered formerly in Jerusalem, now in Paris; for the vision of peace [visio pacis] is here now, where it had formerly been there.”49 The visio pacis, derived from Ezekiel 13:16, was a standard liturgical and poetic image of heaven, frequently associated with “the heavenly Jerusalem” and thus, in turn, Jerusalem itself.50 Jerusalem, the poem continues, bears only the image (figuram), where Paris bears the real thing (rem gerit). Christ, who is the true peace (vera pax, rather than merely the visio pacis), sees the vision of peace now in Paris, whereas he saw (before) the vision of peace in Jerusalem. Indeed, he saw in Jerusalem only the carnal vision of peace, which is fleeting. The vision of peace he sees now in Paris is in the mind (mentalis) and will persist in time. “And therefore, the victor, the king of Paradise, transferred his emblems from Jerusalem to Paris.”51 Henry twice compares Paris to Paradise (Parisius to Paridisius) and says that God has bestowed on Paris the sign of the church, the wood by which we live, which keeps demons away, and which saves humanity—he is speaking here specifically of the Holy Cross. Thus, reports Henry, does France, with joyful countenance, become tranquil and at peace—a further nod to the visio pacis that was now located in France. For Henry, Christ had transferred the visio pacis, the place of his most immanent presence among men, to Paris. In somewhat the same vein, the well-known evidence from the liturgy for the Crown of Thorns (not the cross, admittedly) said famously that, whereas God had chosen Jerusalem for the mystery of his redemption, so he now chose Paris for its material veneration, and that God would return at the Last Judgement to Paris to retrieve his crown.52 Not only had the visio pacis moved to Paris, but it would remain there until the Second Coming.

The Meaning of the Cross and of the Relics of the Cross at Louis's Court

The royal chapel built for these relics was formally dedicated on April 26, 1248. The lower chapel was consecrated to the Virgin Mary, and the glorious upper chapel, which held the Passion relics, to the Crown of Thorns and the Holy Cross.53 Regardless of its overflowing number of relics, the crown and the cross were the two principal devotional foci at the royal chapel. In the foundation charter for the chapel, Louis himself explained that he had constructed a chapel “within the walls of our house in Paris” in which “the holy crown of the Lord, the sacred cross, and many other relics” were safeguarded.54 An extraordinary reliquary known as the Grande Châsse was fabricated to hold and display the expansive relic collection (fig. 1).55 The first of the three cross relics was placed in a double-armed (“patriarchal”) cross-shaped reliquary (fig. 2) signaling its Constantinopolitan origin and thus its authenticity. Significantly, contemporary images of Louis worshipping the cross at the Sainte-Chapelle and in Matthew Paris's autograph also show him worshipping a cross explicitly of that form, as do all subsequent images of the reliquary (figs. 5, 6, 8). The second cross relic, Baldwin's “large piece of the wood of the Holy Cross,” in its silver box, was also kept in the Grande Châsse, as was the third, the triumphal cross. The triumphal cross was left in its original Byzantine casing,56 a small gold cross reliquary encrusted with pearls and gems, shown in some images hanging from a tether or a chain (figs. 3, 4, 8).57

The relics were immediately incorporated into and honored in the yearly liturgical cycle.58 A feast day was established throughout the diocese to commemorate the anniversary of the Crown of Thorns on August 11, the day Louis took possession of the crown relic in 1239; another feast was established at the Sainte-Chapelle commemorating the reception of all twenty-three relics on September 30, the anniversary of the arrival of the third installment. The cross relics were celebrated with existing cross feasts: the feast of the Invention of the Cross on May 3, Good Friday (moveable), and especially the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on September 14, the anniversary of two of the relics' reception in Paris.59 These universal feasts in honor of the cross were for all intents and purposes turned over to the veneration of the Sainte-Chapelle's own cross relics. Good Friday commemorated the scriptural story of Christ's passion. The feasts of the Invention and the Exaltation of the Cross pushed sacred history forward in time. The feast of the Invention of the Cross on May 3 celebrated Constantine's victory by the cross and Helena's subsequent discovery of the True Cross in Jerusalem in the fourth century. The feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on September 14 commemorated Heraclius's recovery of the True Cross from Khoesroes in the seventh century. Scholars agree that Heraclius's recovery of the True Cross was actually the impetus for the spread of both the Invention and the Exaltation feasts throughout the West in the seventh and eighth centuries.60 In the crusading period, Heraclius was celebrated as a heroic military leader—he has been called a protocrusader61—fighting the infidel (infideles) and recovering the True Cross. By 1242, at the Sainte-Chapelle, they held, they believed, the very relic that Helena had discovered, Heraclius had recovered, and Louis had brought to Paris.

We have already noted that the reception of the relic in 1241 was arranged to coincide with the September feast for the Exaltation. At the Sainte-Chapelle, around the time of the chapel's consecration in 1248, liturgists composed new liturgical materials, including no fewer than five proper sequences for the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. (Sequences are special hymns inserted into the daily Mass that often had local references and resonance.) The sequences made reference to both Constantine and Heraclius, and also to the cross as the “standard of victory” (vexillis victorie), the standard of kings (vexillum regium), and the invincible cross (crux invicta).62 A new sequence in the relics liturgy, Nos oportet gloriari, evoked the crux triumphalis, which was a reference not to the cross in general but to the specific cross relic acquired in 1242 identified with imperial Byzantine military victories.63 The triumphal cross was also singled out in the September 30 liturgy, which assigned it a dedicated responsory—the responsorium de cruce triumphali—that spoke, in a direct reference to its Byzantine history, of enemies fleeing before it (fugite!).64 At some point after 1248 a full octave was added at the Sainte-Chapelle for the feast of the Exaltation. The lections that spread out over the week following the feast of September 14 recounted the story of Louis's acquisition of the relics of the True Cross in 1241 and 1242. The fact thus turned Louis into a new Heraclius—something that Matthew Paris had said explicitly in his accounts of the reception and that resonated in the crusade-heavy culture of the Capetian court.65

A passage taken from the end of the octave lections tells us exactly what was being said at court about the power and importance of that small triumphal cross relic held in Paris by the new Heraclius:

Indeed, there was [another] cross, made from the most sacred wood of the Lord's cross. [This] cross was of middling size but wondrous power, by whose power emperors rejoiced at the many victories they had obtained, their enemies laid low and terrified by their presence, whose effect was also demonstrated in other ways to mortals. When Constantine, that emperor invincible and most pleasing to God, was once preparing himself to do battle against unbelievers and was carefully thinking about how his armies would advance, the Lord gave to him the sure and unmistakable sign in heaven of the victorious cross, showing that he would attain victory and achieve salvation. A voice sent from heaven immediately followed this revelation, and it said, “In this sign you will conquer.” Gladdened by the revelation of this object and the vision of this wondrous portent, the knight of Christ securely approached the enemy lines, conquered them, and returned victorious in peace. Thus it happened that afterward his most holy mother Helena, yearning to have the standard of the Lord's Cross, went to Jerusalem, and when—holding steadfast to her plan—as a testimony and memorial of the divine vision and of the victory granted by God, she discovered it in the place, where were affixed the arms of the most holy Savior as he hung on the wood, the cross was proclaimed, and they named it (as if in antonomasia) “the triumphant and victorious cross [triumphalem atque victricem crucem].” Afterward, when the emperors, in regular succession, marched out to war, they customarily bore it with them in hopes of attaining victory. . . . Hence it is said through the prophet [Isa. 30:31]: For from the face of the Lord the Assyrian shall quake struck by the rod. For struck by the power of the Lord's Cross, the enemy is terrified and driven far away. For this reason, I adore the Lord's Cross, because of how emperors carry it in their battles and how they have experienced its power, which is called “triumphal” [triumphalis], countless times in their conquests of enemies.66

The passage was composed by stitching together the relevant portions from Gérard of Saint-Quentin's account of the third reception of relics, discussed above and probably written after 1247, and a long liturgical sermon that was also written around the time of the chapel's consecration in 1248 for the September 30 feast for the Reception of the Relics.67 The author had clearly tried to pull together all the stories circling around court about the cross relic(s) the chapel now held. It relates the cross's wondrous power and the many victories it had given emperors, recalling the story of Constantine and the heavenly vision promising and delivering him victory, as well as Helena's subsequent discovery of the True Cross in Jerusalem. The author explains that the cross relic was named “as if in antonomasia [i.e., an epithet] the triumphant and victorious cross [triumphalem atque victricem crucem].” In turn, he explains that the smaller fragment is called “triumphal [triumphalis]” because of its countless conquests of enemies, since emperors thereafter carried it into battle against enemies to secure victory.

Louis on Crusade

It is thus perhaps not surprising that Louis brought his triumphal cross on crusade with him. The use of relics during battle was a long-standing practice both in Byzantium and in the West.68 The story developed within a few decades of the victory at Milvian Bridge that Constantine himself had relics placed in his helmet and in his horse's gear.69 It was basic imperial practice by the end of the sixth century for the army's battle standard to contain a relic of the True Cross.70 In the Frankish kingdoms of the Latin East, the armies of Jerusalem carried the great Jerusalem cross relic into battle until their devastating loss to Saladin in 1187.71 During the Albigensian campaigns, Simon of Montfort marched into battle behind a relic of the True Cross and a battle standard.72 In 1212 at Las Navas de Tolosa Alfonso VIII of Castile also marched out to battle behind a relic of the cross and the battle standard.73 Relics of any sort were powerful, but the True Cross, as Christ's own weapon and the means of his victory over death and devil, was especially so. The Holy Cross was not merely a symbol or an emblem in this regard but the actual mechanism of that eschatological triumph.74 The eschatological battle between God and devil slipped into the temporal battle fought between God's army and devil's minions.75

On April 26, 1248, Louis's sublime new chapel was formally consecrated by his friend and ally the papal legate Eudes of Châteauroux. One month later, Eudes himself issued a bull granting indulgences to the faithful who visited the chapel, referring on two occasions to the “standard of the most victorious cross” (vexillo victoriosissime crucis).76 The chapel's glazing cycle featured a bay that recounted Louis's reception of the relics and included an image of Louis venerating the True Cross (fig. 5).77 A month later, after years of preparation, Louis departed Paris. An admiring author at Saint-Germain-des-Prés would later write that, as Louis departed for his journey, “the clergy of Paris were able to see a new Constantine, not elevated by the swelling of pride, but crucified in the heart, signed on the shoulder, going forth in bare feet, and holding in his hands the wood of the Lord's cross.”78 Taking with him the relic that had been Constantine's own causa victorie, Louis set out for Aigues Mortes, the newly built port in the South of France. From there, Louis sailed east to Cyprus, where he and his army wintered in preparation before making an attack on Damietta, the coastal city that stood at the mouth of the Nile. With him was Eudes of Châteauroux, Louis's friend and confidante, who as cardinal legate served as the ecclesiastical and spiritual leader of the crusade. On June 6, 1249, the army disembarked and captured the city of Damietta. The capture of the coastal fort was the one great victory in an otherwise catastrophic campaign that would end with the king's own captivity. But in June 1249 the seemingly bloodless victory over Damietta seemed to foretell a broadly victorious outcome, one in keeping with the exuberant enthusiasm of Louis's early reign.

We have two—possibly three—letters written home between the victory at Damietta and the catastrophe of Mansurah several months later that state that, on disembarking at Damietta, Eudes of Châteauroux bore aloft a relic of the True Cross. As the claim of the relic's use on the crusade rests on this evidence, it is worth examining piece by piece.

Jean Sarrasin, Louis's chamberlain, wrote a vernacular letter to his friend Nicholas Arrode that he specifically asked be disseminated broadly.79 Arrode was a wealthy Parisian bourgeois; his family was associated with the prévôte of Paris and well positioned to spread news.80 The letter was subsequently incorporated into the so-called Rothelin continuation of William of Tyre's History of Deeds Done beyond the Sea.81 Describing the disembarkation, the chamberlain says that the king attended religious services, armed himself, and then “embarked in a lighter Normandy [a small vessel] with us and our companions; and the legate, who held the True Cross [vraie crois] and blessed the armed men, had entered the boats for the landing.”82 In another boat, Louis put three of his great lieutenants (Jean of Beaumont, marshal of France; Geoffrey of Sergines, who would be named commander of the French Army in Acre; and Matthew of Marly, constable of France),83 “and with them he put the standard of my lord Saint Denis.” The lighter vessel, he says, had in it “the king with the legate at his side holding the holy True Cross [sainte vraie crois].”84 Two paragraphs later Jean Sarrasin states that the successful landing was accomplished “through the grace of Jesus Christ and of the holy True Cross, which the legate held aloft over his head in the face of the infidels.”85

Jean Sarrasin's letter was apparently part of a broader propaganda campaign designed to showcase early success to constituencies back home. Louis himself had written Blanche of Castile, his mother and regent, a letter about the events at Damietta that is now lost but that we know about because Blanche mentions the fact in her own letter to Henry III.86 Blanche did not specifically repeat the detail about the triumphal cross but otherwise relates in broad terms the events of November 1249 known from other sources. And Matthew Paris, in his Addidamenta, preserves the letter that Robert of Artois (Louis's brother) also wrote to Blanche. Dated June 23, 1249, Robert's letter described the current status of the campaign: how the army wintered in Cyprus, sailed to the port of Damietta facing a huge Turkish force, and took the decision to land. Then he wrote that, as ordered, on Saturday morning the Christian army descended from their ships, “and, confident in the Lord's mercy, and with the aid of the triumphal cross [crucis triumphalis], which the Lord Legate [i.e., Eudes of Châteauroux] carried in the vessel next to the lord king, happy and consoled in the Lord, they withdrew themselves toward the land against the enemy.”87

Vincent of Beauvais, in the section of his Speculum historiale reporting the Crusade of 1249–50, which was composed by 1253,88 says that “the king was in a vessel together with the Legate, who carried the holy triumphal cross [crucem domini triumphalem] of the Lord, bare and on display, and the standard of the blessed martyr Denis, ahead in another vessel close to hand,” and that they took the city “by the power of the Holy Cross.”89 The detail may have been derived from Robert's letter, or possibly a copy of Jean Sarrasin's, but I think it more likely, given Vincent's practice of hewing so closely to the precise language of his sources, that the language derives from Louis's lost letter.90 Either Vincent's account or Louis's original lost letter was in turn the basis for William (Guillaume) of Nangis's version in the Gesta Sancti Ludovici, in his account of the Egyptian campaign, when he explained that the “king, with the legate before him carrying the sacrosanct triumphal cross of the Lord,” came ashore and that they then prevailed by the very power of that cross.91 William had also said that, because of the acquisition of the Passion relics and the building of the Sainte-Chapelle, Louis had “found favor in the eyes of the Lord king of kings, by which he merited to either convert his enemies to peace or to thoroughly vanquish those who hated peace.”92 That is, Louis's reception of the relics was linked to the legitimacy of his own crusade and its aims.

These accounts make it clear that Eudes of Châteauroux was bearing forth an actual relic rather than just an image or symbol of the cross—that, in fact, Eudes was carrying the triumphal cross preserved in the small pearled reliquary that Louis had acquired in 1242. Robert of Artois—Louis's brother who had participated in the ceremonial reception of the relics in Paris as part of the procession and certainly would have known of its pedigree—had in his letter specifically called it the triumphal cross (crucem triumphalem), the precise name that Baldwin used in the cessation charter two years earlier.93 So did Vincent of Beauvais, who I suspect drew on Louis's own lost account. Despite the many superlatives that often describe the True Cross (victoriosissima crux being the most commonly attested), this nomenclature of “triumphal cross” (crux triumphalis) does seem to have been fairly specific to this particular relic. All but one of the citations that Charles Fresne DuCange, in his massive Glossary of Medieval Latin, furnishes in his entry for the phrase Crux Triumphalis refer to the fragment that Louis acquired in 1242.94 This means that in November 1249, as Louis's crusade was undertaking its first engagement against the infidel enemy, we find Eudes of Châteauroux, the papal legate and the ecclesiastical leader of the crusade, a friend of Louis who had preached his crusade and consecrated the Sainte-Chapelle, bearing the relic of the triumphal cross that had been Constantine's own cross relic, which Byzantine emperors had carried out into battle, which Louis had obtained and brought to Paris, and for which he had built a chapel that Eudes had consecrated less than a year before.

The cross failed to live up to the promise of its reputation and deliver victory. This may be why the detail of the triumphal cross falls out of view after the defeat of Mansurah, the Ayyubid defensive outpost north of Cairo, and Louis's subsequent capture. It is hard to know what happened during the tumult of the campaign itself: whether the cross was held in Damietta or accompanied Louis up the Nile. We know from Jean de Joinville that at one point the seneschal threw his own relics into the river to spare them from capture.95 Did Louis keep his relic with him during the retreat from Mansurah, or had Eudes of Châteauroux, who made it back to Damietta, taken it with him?96 No one mentions it.

One way or another, the failure of Constantine's cross to bring the king his hoped-for triumph must have reinforced Louis's notion that he did not deserve to be the agent of God's will. At this point, the tenor of references to Louis's relationship with the cross became penitential, related to suffering, not victory. During his month-long captivity, every time he left his lodgings Louis “prostrated himself on the ground in the shape of the cross, and made the sign of the cross all over his body.”97 He requested specifically that the Mass for the cross be recited daily by the chaplain who was permitted to remain with him.98 The Mass for the cross, as it was celebrated at the Sainte-Chapelle, beseeched, “Let this offering, O Lord, purge us from all adversities, as on the altar of the cross, it took away the sins of the whole world.”99 Rather than military triumph, Louis needed the cross to foster his particular repentance.

Epilogue

The cross somehow made it back to France with Louis and was reinstalled in the Grand Châsse in the Sainte-Chapelle. The croix de victoire is pictured and clearly labeled in the later engravings of the Grande Châsse and appears repeatedly in the inventories for the chapel.100 Joinville recalls finding Louis in the Sainte-Chapelle in March 1267 bringing down “the True Cross” (fesoit aporter la vraie Croiz aval) from the reliquary platform, perhaps, hints Joinville, in preparation for his ceremonial taking of the cross the next day.101 Joinville does not specify which of the three cross relics Louis brought down from the tribune, although clearly the triumphal cross was the most portable of the three. During Louis's own lifetime, a series of liturgical rituals developed around the king at the Sainte-Chapelle, particularly the Adoration of the Cross on Good Friday, in which the king would prostrate himself before the cross relic.102 Although neither states specifically whether the practice developed before or after Louis's First Crusade, both William of Chartres, writing in the 1270s, and William of Saint-Pathus, writing in 1302–3 on the basis of the testimony from the canonization inquest, dedicated sections to Louis's devotion to the True Cross on Good Friday.103 The famous illuminated copy of William of Saint-Pathus (BNF Français 7156, fol. 63r) illustrates the passage with an image of the haloed king prostrate and kissing an image of the crucifix (fig. 7). Another image from the same manuscript (fol. 67r) depicts Louis in prayer before the Grande Châsse, showing two of the three crosses (fig. 8)—the smaller one on the right is the triumphal cross. These images, both textual and visual, represented the performative inversion of the Exaltation feast's triumphalism and the confident tone of Louis's early reign. They are also in line with the influential interpretation spearheaded four decades ago by William Chester Jordan, which saw Louis's postcrusade period as deeply ascetic and penitential and, above all, striving toward what Jordan calls the “redemptive kingship” of a king seeking to embody the Gospel through his rule.104 That aspiration was symbolized by the cross fragment Louis kept in a small reliquary on his very body, likely splintered off from one of the larger pieces kept in the Grande Châsse.105

Notwithstanding Louis IX's own penitential engagement with the cross, and his cross relics, in his postcrusade career the arrival of the three relics of the True Cross to Paris to the royal court in the middle of the thirteenth century was part of the broader project of structuring Capetian kingship as christianissimus, heir to Constantine and Heraclius and the prestige of Christian empire.106 It soon became the habit of the French kings to dress in full regalia and display the cross relic to Parisians on Good Friday. Although no evidence survives of Louis himself ever doing so, the practice was soon associated with him.107 Christine de Pisan says that Charles V did so, recalling Louis's devotions at the Sainte-Chapelle,108 and Charles's personal inventory lists a cross “which emperor Constantine carried in battle.”109 In the fourteenth century a display balcony was added on the south flank of the Sainte-Chapelle for Louis's successors to display the relic and perform other public ostentations (fig. 9).110 The Good Friday display of the relic of the True Cross became such an expectation of kingship that in 1423 John of Lancaster, the Duke of Bedford who served as the Anglo-Burgundian regent occupying Paris during the Hundred Years' War, moved into the Palais de la Cité and on Good Friday “displayed from the Sainte-Chapelle the True Cross just as the kings of France had always done.”111 A fifteenth-century liturgical calendar indicated that the king would further display the True Cross relic in the palace on the feast of the Reception of the Relics (September 30).112 Sauveur-Jérôme Morand states that the relic of the cross was also displayed on Quinquagesima Sunday (the Sunday preceding Ash Wednesday) for four hours “before the window at the chevet of the church,” at the end of which the treasurer blessed the people with it.113

The triumphal cross, what became known in later accounts in French as the croix de victoire, could, because of its portability, be carried in procession. Starting around 1400 (at least in the records), it was processed with increasing frequency for the sake of the king and the kingdom.114 In 1411, during the Hundred Years' War and the civil war between the Armagnacs and the Burgundians, the True Cross was carried in procession “to ask God for tranquility in the kingdom and the reconciliation among princes.”115 It was so borne in 1417, 1418, and 1429. The relic was processed from the Sainte-Chapelle to Notre Dame on the feast of the Invention of the Cross and to other churches in supplication rituals. In 1465 Louis XI ordered that an extraordinary Mass be said daily for thirteen weeks straight, for which the cross of victory was taken out of the Grande Châsse and during which time the king himself attended the celebration of the Exaltation of the Cross.116 In the years around 1500, one of the Sainte-Chapelle's cross relics—the croix de victoire was often specified—was processed for the health (santé), well-being (prosperité), or victory (victoire) of the king. In 1507, 1510, 1511, and 1512 the True Cross was processed in supplication for the “conquest of Genoa,” the “wars in Italy,” and “protection on the kingdom against the [Holy] League advancing against France.”117 The relics of the Sainte-Chapelle, and in particular the True Cross, were thus intimately implicated in the strength and protection of the king and the realm. In 1575, at the height of the Wars of Religion and on his succession to the throne, King Henri III removed the cross of victory, and it appears it was never returned.118

By this point, the Capetian cross relics were, like the Crown of Thorns, a core component in the broader material and intellectual apparatus of French kingship. Although historians have tended to focus on the ideological importance of the crown relic, contemporaries most often specified the Crown of Thorns and the True Cross together when discussing Louis's acquisition project or the building of the glorious royal chapel.119 (If a third relic was specified, it was the Holy Lance.)120 If the crown made material the Christic nature of kingship, the cross relics linked the Capetians to the military prestige of empire and the imperial heroes of Christian victories against the enemies of Christ. The association long outlasted Louis IX's own reign. The True Cross relics were thus part of the process by which the cult of relics in Paris was refocused on the king's chapel, and thus on the monarchy, associating the French crown with the aura of Constantine's Christian triumphalism as the heir to the tradition of imperial might, with France as the new Holy Land, and Paris, now the site of the Cult of Christ's passion, the new Jerusalem.

Acknowledgments

The author thanks Elizabeth A. R. Brown, Sean Field, Anne Lester, Walter Simons, and the members of the Vermont Medieval Summit for reading this article in draft; Anne Lester for taking photos of LL 633 at the Archives Nationales; and Emilie Bowerman for her careful editorial work. The author presented earlier versions of this article (virtually) at the Centre for War and Diplomacy, University of Lancaster, in March 2021 at the invitation of Sophie Ambler and at the (virtual) Meetings of the Medieval Academy in April 2021.

Notes

1.

Robert of Clari, La conquete de Constantinople, 81; Rigord, Histoire de Philippe Auguste, 392 (chap. 153). Now translated in Rigord, Deeds of Philip Augustus, 161 (chap. 153).

2.

The standard work on the despoliation of Constantinople's relic collection is Riant, Exuviae sacrae. See also Perry, Sacred Plunder; Lester, “Translation and Appropriation”; and Lester, “Tasks of the Translators.” Certainly the first emperor, Baldwin I, did disperse some of his collection to allies in the Latin West, sending, for instance, several relics to Philip Augustus in 1205.

3.

Cohen, Sainte-Chapelle; Jordan, Visualizing Kingship; Weiss, Art and Crusade; Brenk, “Ste.-Chapelle as a Capetian Political Program”; Mercuri, Corona di Cristo; Hahn, “‘Sting of Death Is the Thorn.”

4.

The claim that there was only one Crown of Thorns was not strictly true, as other houses, most notably Saint-Denis, claimed to have the Crown of Thorns or part of it. But the Crown of Thorns was billed as the Crown of Thorns, in comparison to a fragment of the True Cross. Frolow counts 1,150 fragments of the True Cross (La relique de la Vraie Croix). Beginning with Louis, however, the Capetians did disseminate thorns from the Crown of Thorns, resulting in a new dispersal. See Dor, Les épines de la Sainte Couronne.

5.

Excellent work has been done on this subject recently: Flusin, “Le culte de la Croix au palais de Constantinople”; Klein, Byzanz, der Westen und das “wahre” Kreuz; Klein, “Constantine, Helena, and the Cult of the True Cross”; Klein, “Sacred Relics and Imperial Ceremonies.” Still valuable are Deér, “Das Kaiserbild im Kreuz”; and Moorhead, “Iconoclasm, the Cross, and the Imperial Image,” 173–76.

6.

Klein, “Eastern Objects and Western Desires,” 284. In this passage Klein groups the cross relics with all the Passion relics, including the Byzantine possession of the Crown of Thorns. But Klein's essay as a whole traces primarily the exchange and bestowal of cross relics to Western rulers and other elites. Certainly, the association with military victory was singularly associated with relics of the True Cross. See also Mergiali-Sahas, “Byzantine Emperors and Holy Relics.”

7.

Strayer, “France.”

8.

For dating, see Gaposchkin, Vexilla Regis Glorie, 31–36.

9.

Tongeren, Exaltation of the Cross.

10.

Paetow, Morale Scolarium of John of Garland, 2:164 (translation), 216 (original).

11.

Paris, Matthæi Parisiensis, 4:90–91: “Incipientibus qui præsentes errant prælatis voce altissima, ‘Ecce crucem Domini.’ Et cum omnes veneranter ac devote ipsam adorassent, rex nudus pedes in laneis, discinctus, capite discooperto, triduano jejunio anticipato edoctus.” Cf. Cantus 002500 (http://cantusindex.org/), “Ecce crucem domini fugite partes adversae vicit leo de tribu Juda radix David alleluia” (Behold the cross of the Lord; enemy forces, begone! The root of David has conquered the lion from the tribe of Judah. Alleluia). In the Frankish liturgy for Good Friday, the bishop is supposed to sing “Ecce lignum crucis Excelsa voce.” Jensen, Cross, 115. See also Andrieu, Les Ordines Romani, 3:498 (Ordo 31.47). On the reliability of Paris, see Pysiak, King and the Crown of Thorns, 347–48.

12.

Durand, “La relique et les reliquaires de la Vraie Croix,” 347–49.

13.

Miller, “Review of Exuviae Sacrae,” 297–99. There is a single discrepancy between Baldwin's list and Gérard's list: Baldwin does not mention the veil (peplum) of the Virgin, which Gérard puts in penultimate place. Gaposchkin, Vexilla Regis Glorie, 106. On Gérard, see Krafft, “Gerhard von St-Quentin und die h. Elisabeth,” which questions whether the translation text is actually by Gérard of Saint-Quentin.

14.

Riant, Exuviae sacrae, 2:134.

15.

Miller, “Review of Exuviae Sacrae,” 299.

16.

Durand, “La relique et les reliquaires de la Vraie Croix,” 351–53.

17.

Morand, Histoire de la Sainte-Chapelle, 193; Durand, “La relique et les reliquaires de la Vraie Croix.”

18.

Riant, Exuviae sacrae, 2:135.

19.

For evidence of this reputation immediately after 1204, see Ralph Coggeshall, in Andrea, Contemporary Sources, 288–89. At the Battle of Adrianople, Baldwin I sends his chaplain to fetch the relic “which the emperors had customarily carried into battle when fighting their enemies, so that they might triumph over their foes by reason of the power of the holy cross” (289).

20.

Miller, “Review of Exuviae Sacrae Constantinopolitanae,” 300.

21.

Vidier, Le trésor de la Sainte-Chapelle, 329 (267). Presumably it was a fragment from this relic that Charles V placed in a reliquary, which he kept always with him and which was described in the inventory as “une bourse à cinq petiz boutons, où dedens est la croix que l'empereur Constantin portoit en bataille” (A bag with five little buttons, within which is the cross that the emperor Constantine carried into battle). Labarte, Inventaire du mobilier, 91 (no. 605).

22.

Hahn, Strange Beauty, 73–102; Hahn, Passion Relics and the Medieval Imagination, 7–50. For the way relics take on new narratives, see Smith, “Old Saints, New Cults.”

23.

Baert, Heritage of Holy Wood; Borgehammar, How the Holy Cross Was Found; Drijvers, Helena Augusta; Wortley, “Wood of the True Cross”; Jensen, Cross, 49–73.

24.

Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum historiale, 14.43 (for Constantine's victory by the cross), 14.23, 94–95, 15.41 (for Helena's discovery of the cross), 24.68 (for Heraclius bringing the True Cross to Constantinople); Miller, “Review of Exuviae Sacrae,” 299–300.

25.

Miller, “Review of Exuviae Sacrae,” 300.

26.

Delisle, Histoire litteraire de la France, 32:235–38; Rech, “Chronicon S. Medardi Suessionensis.”

27.

Riant, Exuviae sacrae, 2:250–51: “MCCXLI . . . Eodem anno, in die exaltationis sancte crucis, maxima pars dominice crucis, illa scilicet, ut multi boni testimonii viri testantur, quam Helena, Constantini mater, post inventionem eiusdem sancte crucis a Iersolymis Constantinopolim secum honorifice fecit deferri, et in capella gloriosissimi Constantini imperatoris, dilectissimi filii sui, fecit honorifice reponi; predictus vero Constantinus illam partem Dominice crucis in expeditionibus suis, causa victorie, faciebat secum gloriose et honorifice deferii. Illa vero pars dominice crucis Ludovico, rege Francorum, die predicto, cum magno honore et maxima humilitate predicti regis, et fratrum suorum, ita ut omnes qui aderant, viderant, et audierant multum nimis mirarentur, processionaliter nudis capitibus et pedibus, cruribus et brachiis, in civitate Parisius in capella prediciti regis, quam miris operibus et sumptibus in honorore eiusdem sancte crucis et pretiosissime spine corone Iesu Christi Domini nostri, veri dei et veri hominis fabricabat, honorifice reponitur.” The source is Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France (hereafter BNF), Latin 4998, 118v (alternate foliation, 30v), and was printed in D'Achery, Spicilegium, 2:798. This passage does not appear in the Waitz edition of the manuscript, which gives only excerpts. See Waitz, “Ex annalibus S. Medardi Suessionensibus.”

28.

Pozo, “Cross-Standard of Emperor Maurice”; Dennis, “Religious Services in the Byzantine Army,” 108; Thierry, “Le culte de la Croix dans l'empire byzantin.”

29.

Greek and French translation found in Flusin, “Le culte de la Croix au palais de Constantinople,” 102. Paul Christesen and Andrew Jotischky helped with the translation into English.

30.

Klein, “Sacred Relics and Imperial Ceremonies,” 91.

31.

Klein, “Sacred Relics and Imperial Ceremonies,” 90.

32.

For an effort to identify relics received in Paris with relics from the imperial collections identified in Byzantine and Western textual sources, see Durand and Laffitte, Le trésor de la Sainte-Chapelle, 32–33.

33.

Riant, Exuviae sacrae, 2:135.

34.

Hendy, Catalogue of the Byzantine Coins, 172–73.

35.

Haldon, Constantine Porphyrogenitus, 125. Haldon notes that “the term kouboukleion [signifies] collectively the group of dignities originally associated with the cubiculum,” that is, the imperial bed chamber (244).

36.

Borgehammar, “Heraclius Learns Humility.” Jacob of Voragine included both the Invention legend (of May 3) and the Exaltation legend (of September 14) in the Golden Legend, compiled around 1260. The legends were used in the liturgies of the two feast days probably dating back to the seventh century. For a survey, see Tongeren, “Cult of the Cross.”

37.

As cited above, in Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum historiale, 24.68. This detail is copied from Sigibert's Tripartite Chronicle.

38.

Frolow, La relique de la Vraie Croix, 287–88 (no. 259).

39.

Frolow, La relique de la Vraie Croix, 62–65. The story of the cross's distribution, and the pieces that remained in Jerusalem, was also told in two letters that the former canon Ansellus wrote to the canons at Notre Dame of Paris in 1120. See Bautier, “L'envoi de la relique.” The letters have been reedited by the Telma project, “Chartes originales antérieures à 1121 conservées en France,” http://telma.irht.cnrs.fr/outils/originaux/index/, and bear the reference numbers 2162 and 2167. They are translated in Barber and Bate, Letters from the East, 39–42. The account was incorporated into the liturgy in Paris in the mid-thirteenth century.

40.

Fulcher of Chartres, Fulcheri Carnotensis Historia Hierosolymitana, 309–10. For a translation, see Peters, First Crusade, 93. On the tradition of the True Cross in the crusader states, see Kirschberger, “Kingdom of the Cross.”

41.

Ligato, “Political Meanings of the Relic of the Holy Cross,” 317.

42.

Murray, “‘Mighty against the Enemies of Christ.’”

43.

Paris, Matthew Paris's English History, 1:323–24; Paris, Matthæi Parisiensis, 4:90.

44.

In the encyclical calling the Third Crusade, Audita Tremendi. Roger of Hoveden, Chronica magistri Rogeri de Houedene, 2:326; Chroust, Historia de expeditione Friderici, 7; translated in Bird, Peters, and Powell, Crusade and Christendom, 6. The theme was picked up elsewhere, for example, in Phillips, “Thief's Cross,” 147. For the encyclical calling the Fourth Crusade, see Hageneder, Die Register Innocenz’ III, 336; translated in Andrea, Contemporary Sources, 10; Migne, Patrologia Latina, 214:133a; translation in Powell, Deeds of Pope Innocent III, 133. See also Rigord, Histoire de Philippe Auguste, 242–43 (chap. 61), 304–5 (chap. 88), 306–7 (chap. 89); Rigord, Deeds of Philip Augustus, 101 (chap. 61), 126 (chap. 88), 127 (chap. 89); and Andrea and Rachlin, “Holy War, Holy Relics, Holy Theft,” 157 (Latin), 165 (English). For the Fifth Crusade, see Oliver of Paderborn, Die Schriften, 222; translated in Bird, Peters, and Powell, Crusade and Christendom, 185; and Roger of Wendover, Chronica sive Flores historiarum, 4:194–97; translated in Bird, Peters, and Powell, Crusade and Christendom, 244–46. In general, see Tyerman, God's War, 379–83 and esp. 384.

45.

Hall, John of Garland's “De triumphis Ecclesie,” 203 (bk. 3, 169).

46.

Bouquet et al., Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France, 21:84.

47.

Townsend, “‘Versus de Corona Spinea,’” 156–57; Ruff, “‘Versus de Corona Spinea,’” 383.

48.

Townsend, “‘Versus de Corona Spinea,’” 159: “De exaltacione crucis et loco exaltacionis eiusdem.” In the manuscript (Cambridge University Library MS Dd.XI.78, fol. 38r), the rubric is actually in the right margin, in line with the first line of the poem, “Crevit in inmensum crucis exaltacio . . . ,” written in black. All the rubrics appear this way, in the margins, aligned with a colored initial that offsets a new section of the poem.

49.

Townsend, “‘Versus de Corona Spinea,’” 159: “Creuit in inmensum crucis exaltacio, fines / fortiter attingens mundi celebrataque quondam / Ierusalem, modo Parisius. Nam visio pacis / Hic est, ille fuit; locus immo verius hic est, / Ille uocabatur, hic rem gerit, ille figuram.”

50.

Blaise, Le vocabulaire latin des principaux thèmes liturgiques, 455.

51.

Townsend, “‘Versus de Corona Spinea,’” 159: “Iccirco de Ierusalem sua transtulit usque / Parisi us uictor insignia rex paradisi.”

52.

Gaposchkin, “Between Historical Narrative and Liturgical Celebrations,” 125: “Sicut igitur Dominus Ihesus Christus ad sue redemptionis exhibenda mysteria, terram promissionis elegit, sic ad passionis sue triumphum devotius venerandum, nostrum Galliam videtur et creditor specialiter elegisse” (Just as Lord Jesus Christ chose the Promised Land for exhibiting the mysteries of His Redemption, so Christ seems and is believed to have chosen our Gaul specially for the more devoted veneration of the triumph of His Passion). See also p. 132, in which the liturgy states that Louis rejoiced “gavisus est in hoc, quod ille qui coronam eandem pro nobis gesserat in opprobrium, volebat eam a suis fidelibus, pie et reverenter honorari in terris, donec ad iudicium veniens, eam suo rursus imponeret capiti, iudicandis omnibus ostendendam” (because he who wore that same crown for us in disgrace was willing that it be piously and reverently honored by his faithful on earth, until at the Day of Judgment he would place it again on his own head and display it to all those being judged). See also the Lauds hymn for the liturgy for the Crown of Thorns, which stated that Christ would return to nostra regio to retrieve the crown in advance of the Day of Judgment: Gaposchkin, Vexilla Regis Glorie, 92. Emily Guerry first drew my attention to these passages.

53.

Du Breul, Le theatre des antiquitez de Paris, 237.

54.

Cohen, Sainte-Chapelle, 212–16.

55.

Branner, “Grande Chasse of the Sainte-Chapelle.”

56.

Durand, “La relique et les reliquaires de la Vraie Croix,” 352.

57.

Paris, Archives Nationales (hereafter AN) LL 633, 14, 17. (The image of the cross of victory hanging from a cord is on p. 11.) Durand, “La relique et les reliquaires de la Vraie Croix,” 353–57.

58.

Gaposchkin, Vexilla Regis Glorie, 28–38.

59.

A good introduction to the different feasts of the cross in the Latin West can be found in Tongeren, “Cult of the Cross.”

60.

Tongeren, Exaltation of the Cross; Borgehammar, “Heraclius Learns Humility,” 148–60.

61.

Bergamo, “Expeditio Persica of Heraclius”; Souza, “Heraclius, Emperor of Byzantium.”

62.

Hesbert, Le prosaire de la Sainte-Chapelle, 62–65. Hesbert has rendered the first as vexillis victoriae.

63.

Hesbert, Le prosaire de la Sainte-Chapelle, 67 (Bari Archivio della Basilica di San Nicola MS 5, 273 v. stanza 1b). See the discussion in Maurey, Liturgy and Sequences of the Sainte-Chapelle, 129–34.

64.

Brussels, KBR IV.472, 42v (the fifth Matins Responsory), edited in Gaposchkin, Vexilla Regis Glorie, 261–62.

65.

Gaposchkin, “Louis IX, Heraclius, and the True Cross,” 279.

66.

The text as found in the liturgy is edited in Gaposchkin, “Louis IX, Heraclius, and the True Cross,” 291–94.

67.

Gaposchkin, Vexilla Regis Glorie, 300–301.

68.

Bachrach, Religion and the Conduct of War, 90–93, 172–75.

69.

McCormick, Eternal Victory, 245; Mergiali-Sahas, “Byzantine Emperors and Holy Relics,” 49.

70.

McCormick, Eternal Victory, 247; Mergiali-Sahas, “Byzantine Emperors and Holy Relics,” 49–51.

71.

Frolow, La relique de la Vraie Croix, 287–90; Murray, “‘Mighty against the Enemies of Christ.’”

72.

Vaux-de-Cernay, History of the Albigensian Crusade, 84 (chap. 155), 164 (chap. 351).

73.

Bird, Peters, and Powell, Crusade and Christendom, 93.

74.

On the cross as a weapon, see Gaposchkin, Invisible Weapons, 53–62, 101–5. For a relic of the True Cross framed as a weapon, see Paul, “Possession,” 526–28; and Paul and Müller, How the Holy Cross Was Brought.

75.

On this point, essential reading now includes Buc, Holy War, Martyrdom, and Terror, 67–111.

76.

Teulet, Layettes, 3:30–31 (no. 3666, May 27, 1248); translated in Cohen, Sainte-Chapelle, 222.

77.

Aubert et al., Les vitraux de Notre-Dame, 308 (A-44); Jordan, Visualizing Kingship, 125–26 (A-46).

78.

BNF Latin 11754. Bouquet et al., Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France, 23:172. The account postdates Louis's canonization.

79.

Foulet, Lettres françaises du XIIIe siècle, 9; translated in Bird, Peters, and Powell, Crusade and Christendom, 360.

80.

Bove, Dominer la ville, 184–86, 304, 500–501 (and see the index).

81.

For manuscript sources, see Folda, “Manuscripts of the History of Outremer by William of Tyre,” 94–95. For more information, see Shirley, Crusader Syria, 2 and nn. These include BNF Français MSS 352, 2634, 2825, 9083, 22495, 22496–7, and 24209. The earliest manuscript listed is Brussels, KBR MS 9492-r, dating to the last quarter of the thirteenth century.

82.

Foulet, Lettres françaises du XIIIe siècle, 4; translated in Bird, Peters, and Powell, Crusade and Christendom, 357.

83.

On these men, see Richard, Saint Louis, 254, 148–49; and Tillemont, Vie de Saint Louis, 3:262–63.

84.

Foulet, Lettres françaises du XIIIe siècle, 4; translated in Bird, Peters, and Powell, Crusade and Christendom, 357. Jean de Joinville confirms that the standard of Saint-Denis—the famed Oriflamme—was brought ashore ahead of the king (Vie de Saint Louis, §§155, 161).

85.

Foulet, Lettres françaises du XIIIe siècle, 5; translated in Bird, Peters, and Powell, Crusade and Christendom, 358.

86.

Paris, Matthæi Parisiensis, 6:166.

87.

Paris, Matthew Paris's English History, Addidamenta, 152–54; translated in Jackson, Seventh Crusade, 84–85. The Latin reads: “Et confidentes de Dei misericordia, ac auxilio crucis triumphalis, quam dominus legatus in vexillo juxta dominum regem gestabat, laeti et confortati de Deo, versus terram contra hostes sese retraxerunt.”

88.

Jackson, Seventh Crusade, 3–4.

89.

Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum historiale, 32.97: “Rex cum legato sacrosanctam crucem domini triumphalem deferentem nudam et apertam erat in quodam vasello, precedente quoque in alio vasello iuxta ipsos beati Dyonisii martyris vexillo, fratribus regis ac ceteris baronibus et balistariis ac militibus circumquaque concomitantibus. Deinde processerunt viriliter in nomine domini versus terram, de dei quoque misericordia et virtute sancte crucis non modicam habentes fiduciam et insultus plurimos, tam sagittarum emissionibus quam aliis facientes contra hostium ferociam.”

90.

Vincent's texts are usually more compilations than original compositions, and his language stays close to his sources. Although the ordering and the events are clearly recognizable from the other two letters, they are not verbatim or translations, leading me to believe that he was probably working from a third source.

91.

Bouquet et al., Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France, 20:370: “Rex cum legato sacrosanctam crucem Domini triumphalem deferente nudam et apertam.” From here it passed into the Grandes chroniques tradition. Viard, Les grandes chroniques de France, 7:142: “Le roy fu en une petite galie avoec le cardinal qui tenoit le fust de la sainte croiz mout hautement et dignement.” At the start of the fourteenth century, perhaps after consulting the library at Saint-Denis, where the Dionysian histories were kept, the poet Guillaume de Guiart further recalled that Louis, on a vessel, was preceded by the cardinal, carrying the Holy Cross, and that the Oriflamme was carried as well in a separate ship. See Bouquet et al., Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France, 22:187 (line 9843).

92.

Bouquet et al., Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France, 20:328: “Meruit hostes suos vel ad pacem convertere, vel hos qui pacem oderant penitus debellare.”

93.

Riant, Exuviae sacrae, 2:135.

94.

DuCange, Glossarium, 2:636. William Durandus, writing a generation later, did refer to something called a crux triumphalis that was placed in the middle of the church, apparently referring to the cross on top of the jubé, but it was not one of the common names by which the cross was referred to in the period. The key here is the rarity of the “triumphal cross” (any version of crux triumphalis) in the actual language across the sources. The newly discovered text of the Holy Cross of Brogne refers to that relic as a triumphalem lignum, and one of Adam of Saint-Victor's sequences calls the crux the lignum triumphale. See Paul and Müller, How the Holy Cross Was Brought; and Grosfillier, Les séquences d'Adam de Saint-Victor, 478. Crux victoriossima is common, but crux triumphalis is not, as far as I can tell and after many types of searches, and when it does appear, it is in considerably later sources.

95.

Joinville, Vie de Saint Louis, §320.

96.

For Eudes's retreat to Damietta, see Jackson, Seventh Crusade, 104–5; and Shirley, Crusader Syria, 103.

97.

Joinville, Vie de Saint Louis, §366.

98.

Riant, “Déposition,” 172.

99.

“Hec oblatio domine ab omnibus nos purget adversis que in ara crucis immolata etiam totius mundi tulit offensam.” London, British Library Harley 2891, fol. 324r–v; Lyon, Bibliothèque Municipale 5122, fol. 350r. This is the standard secret from the Mass for the Holy Cross. See Lippe, Missale Romanum Mediolani, 454.

100.

AN LL 633, 11 (no. 6), 17 (no. 8); Vidier, Le trésor de la Sainte-Chapelle, 128, 131, 233, 262, 267, 271.

101.

Joinville, Vie de Saint Louis, §733.

102.

For a summary of the ritual, see Tongeren, “Crux Mihi Certa Salus,” 363.

103.

Geoffrey of Beaulieu and William of Chartres, Sanctity of Louis IX, 133–34; William of Saint-Pathus, Vie de Saint Louis, 39–40. Tillemont, drawing on a larger source base than apparently is now available, expanded on the information provided by William of Saint-Pathus (Vie de Saint Louis, 361–63).

104.

Jordan, Louis IX and the Challenge of the Crusade; Jordan, Men at the Center.

105.

Jordan, “Etiam Reges,” 624–25, drawing on Brown, “Testamentary Strategies of Jeanne d'Evreux,” 220, 241n25.

106.

On the role of these relics generally, see Gaude-Ferragu, Le trésor des rois, esp. 73–123.

107.

Many, both medieval and modern, thought that Louis IX established the practice of displaying the relic in full regalia to the populace on Good Friday. See, e.g., Bozóky, “Saint Louis, ordonnateur et acteur,” 22, drawing on Félibien and Lobineau, Histoire de la ville de Paris, 1:296. But there is no explicit evidence that Louis IX did so. See Gaposchkin, “Liturgy and Kingship at the Sainte Chapelle,” 281n20.

108.

Christine de Pisan, Le livre des fais et bonnes meurs du sage roy Charles V, 94–97.

109.

Labarte, Inventaire du mobilier de Charles V, 91 (no. 605).

110.

Leniaud and Perrot, La Sainte Chapelle, 88–92. On the practice, see Morand, Histoire de la Sainte-Chapelle, 171.

111.

AN LL 631, 309.

112.

Morand, Histoire de la Sainte-Chapelle, 171.

113.

Morand, Histoire de la Sainte-Chapelle, 259. The practice of showing (“ostensing”) relics before a window was documented by 1421. See Billot, “Le collège des chanoines,” 304.

114.

Billot, “Le message spirituel et politique,” 127–30.

115.

AN LL 631, 304.

116.

AN LL 631, 317.

117.

AN LL 631, 337–39; “la prise de Gennes,” “guerres d'Italie,” and “protection sur le Royaume contre la Ligue saille contre la France.” The relics were often carried along with the relic of the head of Saint Louis, and sometimes also the head of Saint Clement.

118.

Durand, “La relique et les reliquaires de la Vraie Croix,” 355–56. This episode is murky. Gilles Dongois reports two interesting events for the year 1575: the first is that a relic of the True Cross was stolen from the Sainte-Chapelle; the second is that Henri III had the Grande Châsse opened, “cut a portion of the True Cross,” and had pieces refashioned in new reliquaries. AN LL 631, 377–78. Morand states that the relic was sent to Italy for surety on a loan (Histoire de la Sainte-Chapelle, 193).

119.

This occurs in the earliest documents, including the 1244 charter issued by Innocent IV, reproduced and translated in Cohen, Sainte-Chapelle, 209–10. Louis's own such statement is cited above; see Cohen, Sainte-Chapelle, 212–16. Louis's foundation charters, singling out crown and cross, are reproduced in Cohen, Sainte-Chapelle, 212–19, 223–26. See also Riant, Exuviae sacrae, 2:137 (Eudes of Châteauroux's indulgence), 2:250–51 (the Chronicle of Saint Medard de Soissons), 2:255 (Caen Chronicle), 2:256 (John of Ipra). Recently, Julia Oswald has argued that by 1500 the relics constituted a group, represented by an iconographic type that signaled an “indivisible whole” (“Packaging the Sainte-Chapelle Relic Treasury”).

120.

E.g., William of Chartres, “On the Life and Deeds of Louis,” 133; William of Saint-Pathus, Vie de Saint Louis, 41. Next in importance after the lance seems to have been the sponge.

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