The Life of Saint Louis of Toulouse

Simone Martini
Altar of St Louis of Toulouse: predella
c. 1317
Tempera on wood, 56 x 38 cm (each scene)
Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples
The five scenes of the predella depict the life of Saint Louis.

Louis accepts nomination to the post of Bishop of Toulouse on condition that he be allowed to enter the Franciscan Order. This event took place in secret in Rome in December 1296, in the presence of Boniface VIII; Louis's father, Charles II, for political reasons wanted his son to become Bishop of Toulouse, an area important to the French crown. But Louis had already vowed to follow the example of St. Francis, which would seem to conflict with his father's ambitions. However, it is typical of this period that individual wishes must be reconciled with family needs. Ironically, Louis will serve his family better in pious sainthood than through ecclesiastical administration.
On February 5, 1297, Louis publicly takes his vows and is consecrated Bishop.
As bishop, Louis serves and feeds the hungry, acts which were detailed in the 1308 proceedings for canonization. Here humility, modesty and poverty contrast with the richness of the life he renounced.
Louis's funeral is depicted as a magnificent ceremony (although it was probably, in fact, an austere and simple service.)
St. Louis restores the life of a small child, whose father prays for intervention to a statuette of the saint. Similar miracles are depicted on the altarpiece of the Blessed Agostino Novello, apparently favorites of the Franciscans.
Image from: the Web Gallery
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Last update: July 3, 2003
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