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Some Medieval French (and other) Saints, Kings and Queens, and Two Wars


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Château de Beauregard



The Château de Beauregard is just south of Blois in the Loire Valley.  It contains a gallery of 327 copies of portraits of Kings and famous people from the early 1300s to the mid 1600s which Maria de'Medici was instrumental in organizing.  The Uffizi in Florence houses the Giovio collection - a similar project of 484 copies of portraits of the famous organized by Duke Cosimo de'Medici I in the 1500s.





St-Julien de Brioude


Late 200s


A soldier martyr who was in the army of Diocletian, the last and most vicious of the Christian persecutor Emperors.  A relic from his tomb is in the beautiful Auvergne Romanesque Basilica St-Julien de Brioude, and there is a medieval memorial window celebrating his life in the Cathedral St-Gatien in Tours.



Patron Saint of France

? - c258


St-Denis (Dionysious in  Latin) is thought to have been one of a group of seven or so Roman bishops sent by Pope Fabian to convert Gaul to Christianity.  He became Bishop of Paris, was later martyred there by execution and, legend has it, walked, carrying his head in the fashion of San Miniato of Florence,  from the execution site in  Paris to what is now the site of the Basilique (then Abbeye) St-Denis just north of town.  This led to a grizzly iconographic tradition in the sculptures of cathedral portals (like Reims) and frescos (like Lavardin), and even an English roof boss, which portray the standing saint in full bishop's kit holding his severed head in front of him and with a few bits of artery and gunk jagging out of his neck stump.





First half 200s - 301


Gatianus was another of the Bishops sent to Gaul (Tours) along with St-Denis.  Others in the group included Trophimus (Arles), Paul (Narbonne), Saturnin (Toulouse), Austromoine (Clermont), Martial (Limoges) and they joined Irenaeus who was already in Lyon.



c290 - 303 (13)


Teenage girl martyr from Agen, whose relics were "discreetly transferred" (code for stolen and removed) to Conques in 866.  "Sainte Foy" translates as "Saint Faith" in English and, much more romantically, "Santa Fe" in Spanish.


St-Hilaire de Poitiers

Early 300s - 368


A son of Poitiers who became Bishop of Poitiers c350 and died there in 368.  In between times he travelled widely, mainly to preach against Aryanism.  The "Hilary Term" in some older English Universities and Legal Institutions is the one beginning in January, the month of his Saints' Day.


St-Martin de Tours Patron Saint of France





c316 - 397 (81)


A Hungarian who unusually survived life in the Roman army as a declared Christian, and went on to an apprenticeship in Poitiers under its bishop St-Hilaire before very reluctantly accepting the role of Bishop of Tours in 371.  Whilst he was still a Roman soldier, Martin established what was to become his image in numerous frescos and sculptures across Europe, when he stopped at the gates of Amiens to cut his cloak in half and give one half to a poor pilgrim. 



Capital showing St-Martin cutting up his cloak - Moissac.


At heart, like many of his medieval ilk, he was an aesthetic hermit monk with a lot in common with the late 1100s St-Francis.  Amongst other foundations he was responsible for building up Marmoutier into one of the greatest early medieval abbeys.  On the way he got a reputation for having visions and doing miracles, and after his death soon became widely venerated as a saint (like St-Hilaire, one of the earliest non-martyr saints).



St-Remi (or Remy)


c437 - c533 (96)


Bishop of Reims whose main claim to fame was the conversion and baptism of the powerful King Clovis I (below), along with 3,000 of his Frankish warriors, on the site of a predecessor to the present Reims Cathedral on Christmas Eve 496 (or maybe 498). 


The huge Romanesque Abbey Church of St-Remi is about half an hour's unmemorable walk from Reims Cathedral, and thus never visited (in fact it's not difficult to drive there and there is plenty of parking).  The most impressive of the surviving Romanesque pilgrimage churches of northern France, it has a magnificent nave space, and the adjoining monastic buildings house a chapter house of Cistercian beauty, and one of the best regional museums.


Clovis I - First Merovingian King of the Franks

c466 - 481 - 511 (44)


United most of the Frankish tribes under his kingship, then converted to Christianity and according to tradition was baptized c498 by St-Remy in a church which was where Reims Cathedral now stands.






511 - Clovis' 4 sons each get a kingdom - map in the Musée St-Remi, Reims


Clotaire I (aka Lothair)

 c496 - 511 - 561 (65)


One of four sons amongst whom Clovis divided his kingdom in the tradition of Merovingian succession - a tradition that ensured that the succesees spent the rest of their lives fighting each other for territory, with the "last one standing" becoming King of all or most of the Franks (although the alternative English system often had just as many problems).  In this case Clotaire was the last one standing, andf eventually became "King of all the Franks" after the death of his brother Childebert I.


Childebert I

 496 - 511 - 558 (62)


Another of the four sons amongst whom Clovis divided his kingdom.  Childebert expanded from his Paris base into Burgundy and Provence, took over Chartres and other western places, and also had an unsuccessful go at Spain - which is how the tunic of St-Vincent arrived back in Paris and was ensconced in the purpose built abbey of St-Vincent (now called St-Germain-des-Prés), which was dedicated by Bishop Germain on 23 December 558 - ironically the day on which Childebert died.  The three images of Childebert I below were produced 600 to 700 years after his death.




   St-Germain & Childebert I Stained Glass Panel from V & A


Left:  Childebert I - a c1240 trumeau statue originally part of the portal of the St-Germain-des-Prés (Paris) monastery refectory - now in the Louvre Museum.


Right:  St-Germain and Childebert I in a stained glass panel from St-Germain-des-Prés (Paris) c1240 which somehow ended up in the V & A (London)

from "Medieval Stained Glass in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London"

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This 1163 gisant of Childebert I from / holding the Abbey of St-Germain-des-Prés (Paris) is said to be the oldest surviving gisant in the north of France - it was moved to St-Denis in 1816 when they were "rebuilding" their smashed up royal collection.



 ? - c558


A shepherd boy from Poitiers, who became Bishop of Chartres.  His window in Chartres Cathedral (which we have yet to photograph) was donated by Wine Merchants' Guild and includes no less than 23 medallions illustrating wine and its uses!



 496 - 576 (80)


Appointed by Childebert I as Bishop of Paris, he was said to have exerted a "good influence" on the excesses of the king and his subjects (ie he was a wowser).



 ? - c558


A shepherd boy from Poitiers, who became Bishop of Chartres.  His window in Chartres Cathedral (which we have yet to photograph) was donated by Wine Merchants' Guild and includes no less than 23 medallions illustrating wine and its uses!


St-Gregory de Tours

 c538 - c593 (55)


A less ambitious French version of the English Venerable Saint Bede, Gregory was Bishop of Tours but is remembered mainly for his historical writings and in particular for his accounts of the Miracles of St-Martin (see earlier), whose tomb in Tours became the happening westie pilgrimage place of the 600s in Gaul.



 c519 - 587 (68)


One of the Queen Consorts of King Clovis' son Clotaire I (see above).  Faced down a dragon (la Grand-Goule) in the medieval swamps around Poitiers, and in Poitiers itself founded the first known nunnery / abbey (Saint Croix), where her tomb still lies in the church dedicated to her.


Clotaire II (aka Lothair)

584 - 613 - 629 (45)


aka The Great and The Young ... became a comparatively long serving Merovingian King of all the Franks, but ceded most of his powers to his nobles (the 615 Edict of Paris was a sort of early run of Magna Carta) and the Pope.  One of his queens, Arégonde, left behind these beautiful jewels in her tomb, which was discovered during excavations in the Abbey Church of St-Denis in the latter 1900s.






Jewels of Queen Arégonde (early 600s)

Photo from guidebook to the Royal Tombs of St-Denis


King Dagobert I

c603 - 629 - 639 (36)


Another one of a team of brothers who eventually became King of all the Franks.  The first king to be buried in the Abbey Church of St-Denis, and the last effective king of the Merovingian Dynasty.



c608–684 (76)


Abbot of Jumièges (Normandy) and founder of several other monasteries.  His remains finally (875) ended up in the great South Burgundy Abbey Church of St-Philibert, Tournus.





Bishop of Clermont (now Clermont-Ferrand).  Dedicatee of painted church at Lavardin on the River Loir.





Poitiers' St-Porchaire was the Abbot of the Community of St-Hilaire at the end of the 500s.  His sarcophagus was later incorporated into a pilgrimage shrine, and nowadays can be found in the church bearing his name in the centre of Poitiers.  There is another more famous St-Porchaire (aka Saint Porcarius), who was abbot of the large island abbey of Lérins (just off the French Riviera - now known as Île de Saint-Honorat) when it and he was overrun and extinguished by Saracens.


Charles Martel

688 - 741 (53)


Although called a "Mayor" he was a bit different to today's grey civic leaders, being in all but name the King of the bulk of the Frankish Kingdoms.  A more than competent soldier and strong leader, he is mainly known today for turning back the Islamic advance on north western France in 732 in a series of skirmishes in the area between Tours and Poitiers in 732 (called the Battle of Poitiers if you came from Poitou or Aquitaine, or the Battle of Tours if you were a Frank, but either way it was not the big set piece battle it is often portrayed as) and then further south, after which the Muslim threat faded away back across the Pyrenees into Al-Andalus.



Pepin I (The Short) - First King of the Carolingian Dynasty.


714 - 751 - 768 (54)


Son of Charles Martel and father of Charlemagne the Great.




Holy Roman Emperors of the House of Pepin and Charlemagne

c745 - 768 - 814 (69)


AKA King Charles the Great.  In addition to significant territorial expansion, Charlemagne established schools, reformed and developed legal, administrative, agricultural and commercial systems, promoted the arts and enforced Christianity.  A by-product of this and the accompanying military stability, was the re-emergence of stronger inter town trade. 


It is interesting that Charlemagne's long reign was paralleled by two outstanding long reigned Popes - Hadrian I (Pope 772 - 795) and S Leo III (Pope 795 - 816), and also by a long reigned Baghdad based Abbasid Caliph, the famous Harun al-Rashid (763 - 786 - 809 (46)), who at one stage sent Charlemagne an elephant called Abul Abbas and was also the featured Sultan in "A Thousand and One (Arabian) Nights".



Equestrian Statue of Emperor Charlemagne, Louvre, Paris

Link to maps showing Charlemagne's huge empire and the constantly moving court which ran it



This little statuette, only 27 cm high, is dwarfed by its display case and surroundings in the Louvre in Paris (see left photo).  The horse has been shown to be much younger than the rider, and there is also a school of thought that the king is in fact Charlemagne's grandson - but whoever it is it's the only contemporaneous lifelike image of anyone from the early Middle Ages still in existence.  Interestingly our man was not using stirrups, which probably originated in China in the early ADs, and spread across Asia to Europe in the 500s and 600s.  By the 700s they were in much more general use in Europe and one would have expected a serious frequent traveller to have discovered their advantages.  The big stirrup leap forward came with the Mongol cavalry and bowmen in the 1100s.   


Louis the Pious

778 - 814 - 840 (68)


Served as King of Aquitaine when his father Charlemagne was Emperor then un-notably took over the main gig on Charlemagne's death in 814.  In 816 passed a law making the Rule of Benedict compulsory in Frankish monasteries.



c795 - 855 (60)


Son of Louis, grandson of Charlemagne - not your memorable Emperor (/ King of italy) except that he left his portrait behind in a psalter.



The Emperor Lothair - from "Faces of Power and Piety" - Buy from Amazon USA   Buy from Amazon UK



855 - 909 (54)


St-Gerald of Aurillac.



Cluny Abbey


Founded 910





c962 - 1048 (86)

A nobleman from the Auvergne who became the 5th Abbot of Cluny c994.  He established All Saints (/Souls) Day (in Italy Ognissanti - nowadays November 1) in the church calendar in the early 1000s. 


First Crusade


1095 - 1099

The 1st Crusade (1095 - 1099) was launched with a fiery speech by the French Clunaic Pope Urban II (1042 - 1088 - 1099) on Nov 27 1095 in a field in Clermont (France).  The era of the crusades lasted for 200 years. 


Cistercian Order


Founded 1098

Link to Paradoxplace pages on the Cistercian order.


Abbot Suger






1081 - 1151 (70)


Abbot of St-Denis (10km North of Paris) from 1122, Suger, a small energetic man like his larger than life Euro-contemporary St-Bernard, knocked down and rebuilt the west and east ends of the monastery's great abbey church into the first soaring Gothic church structure in Europe (the nave followed a century later).  His interest extended to the beauty of all church furnishings - stained glass, sculptures, artefacts and furnishings.  Suger, who was also worldly and bright (and the only non saint / king member of this page),  got on well with King Louis VII, and was appointed Regent of France whilst Louis and Eleanor of Aquitaine were off at the Second Crusade (1147 - 1149)




Stained glass representation of Abbot Suger in the Jesse Window of the Basilique St-Denis.  Contrary to most descriptors you will encounter, this replacement panel is not contemporary, but an 1800s product of the restoration work by Viollet-le-Duc.  Photo from "Stained Glass" by Lawrence Lee et al.




Porphyry, gold and silver eagle vase from either ancient Rome or Egypt, acquired by Abbot Suger for St Denis - a man of taste - and now in the Louvre Museum. 


St-Bernard of Clairvaux


1190 - 1153 (63)


Abbot of Clairvaux and Chief Traveller and Spruiker for the Cistercian Order (successfully), who rose to become a major figure on the international stage and particularly in the Second Crusade (not so successfully).



Portrait of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux in the Cathedral Treasury, Troyes. 



Eleanor  of Aquitaine

(Aliénor d'Aqiitaine)


1122 - 1204 (82)

Link to Eleanor of Aquitaine entry in Paradoxplace's "World of the Middle Ages"


King Louis VIII



Queen Blanche of Castile



1187 - 1223 - 1226 (39)


1188 - 1252 (64)



Louis "The Lion" did not get to roar as king for very long, but his Queen Consort, Blanche (Blanca) of Castile (and also a Plantagenet), grand-daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine, was made of sterner and longer lasting stuff.  As well as having a (failed) shot at becoming Queen of England, she acted as regent for the young Louis IX for ten years.  Her lasting memorial is the magnificent North Rose ensemble in Chartres Cathedral.

King Louis IX

Saint Louis of Toulouse

(San Ludovico in Italiano)

1214 - 1226 - 1270 (56)


Capetian King Louis IX of France had a dynasty of strong women behind him - he was great grandson of Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122 - 1204 (82)), grandson of her daughter Queen Leonora of Castile and son of Blanche of Castile.  A holy man with a strong sense of justice and duty, he (or his mother as she was still regent) brought an end to the debilitating Albigensian Crusade in 1229 by making peace with the very nasty Count Raymond VII of Toulouse.  Raymond VII was born at Fontevraud, whence his mother Joan, also a daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine, had fled to escape his equally nasty and abusive father Raymond VI.


Louis dabbled in crusading, though heaven only knows why as he was useless at it and eventually it did for him.  At one stage he had to be bailed out by a massive loan from the Knights Templar, and his death was due to something nasty he picked up crusading in Tunis.  He was canonized by the Anagni Pope Boniface VIII in 1297.



Philippe IV le Bon and the Suppression of the Knights Templar


1268 - 1285 - 1314 (46)


Philippe IV was a talented administrator who reformed the machinery of government, inter alia including removing the Knights Templar from the role of managing the French treasury, getting in Italian bankers to do this, then giving the job back to the Templars in 1303.  Meantime "le Bon" also helped in the demise of the last Anagni Pope Boniface VIII, and no doubt encouraged his successor Clement V to relocate to France (see below).


Then the king went one big step further and removed the Templars altogether - they were all arrested and banged up in a coordinated set of raids across the country on October 13 1307.  200 Templars were arraigned post torture before the Inquisition in Paris, and before the Pope in Poitiers.  More trials followed, followed by burnings at the stake, and in 1312 the Templar Order was formally suppressed.  


On 11 March 1314 the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar - Jacques de Molay, was famously burned at the stake in Paris and equally famously as the flames gathered strength called down a curse on Philippe and Clement that they would appear with him at the court of God within the year.  Clement died on April 20, and Philippe on November 29, and legend and myth took over the Templar brand.


Interestingly the Templar seal showed two armoured knights riding on one horse - illustrating their vow of poverty and lack of consideration for horse welfare.  The monk knights also ate in pairs - using one bowl between two.  The lads also agreed, in addition to the usual vows of poverty chastity and obedience, not to wash.  This, together with their raw sheepskin underwear, would have made encountering them a moving on the nose experience.



Matthew Paris (c1200 - 1259 (59)), Benedictine monk illustrator, sketches the Templar seal and piebald pennant (which later became the more marketable red cross).

Illustration from "Illustrated History of the Knights Templar" by James Wasserman

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The Popes move to France




French Pope Clement V (Raymond Bertrand de Got) (1264 - 1305 - 1314 (50)) goes all the way and moves the seat of the Papacy to France - firstly Poitiers then Avignon, where it stayed until tentatively returning to Rome in 1376, then seesawing during the multi poped Great Schism until definitely settling in Rome following the Council of Konstanz in 1417.



The Hundred Years' War


Wikipedia Page on the 100 Years War


1337 - 1453


Paradoxplace Insight Page on the Hundred Years' War.  The war was interrupted for a surprisingly short time by the Black Death (1348), which killed off two thirds or so of the population of Europe.



Jean le Bon (King)


1319 - 1350 - 1364 (45)


A multidimensionally dysfunctional spender who alienated his own courtiers and ended up being soundly beaten by England's Black Prince on 19 September 1356 at Nouaillé-Maupertuis ("maupertuis" means a bad route) near Poitiers.  He ended up dying in London after the conditions of his ransom were broken and the English would not give him back. 



The earliest (non-book) portrait of a French King, now in the Louvre Museum.  It was done before 1350 (before he was king and had a crown) and therefore before the first portrait of an English King (Richard II) (who had his crown on for his sitting).



Charles V the Wise


1338 - 1364 - 1380 (42)


Charles the Wise got French things together again after the "le Bon" disaster, cleared out the Mercenary Companies (into Italy in part) and set about the English in a winning way.  He even saw off the Pope.  When he died in 1380 only Calais, Bordeaux and a couple of other ports were still in English hands.  Mind you, Henry V of England and Agincourt (1415) were still to happen.



Contemporaneous statues of Charles V and his Queen Jeanne de Bourbon, with replacement limbs / accessories after minor revolutionary monstering in the late 1700s.  Then and now in the Louvre, Paris.



Ste-Jeanne d'Arc Patron Saint of France


Link to a website about Joan's life


c1412 - 1431 (19)


La Pucelle (the Maid) - virgin saviour of France towards the end of the Hundred Years' war, or a 19 year old witch and heretic who heard voices and was justifiably burned at the stake by the English (masquerading as the church).  Although her conviction by the English was overturned by the church in 1456 after a six year "Trial of Nullification", it was a difficult to explain 500 years before she was canonized in 1920.



Francis I


Link to "an Emperor, two Kings, a Banker, a Priest, a Medici Pope and a Sultan launch the Age of European Nation States"

1494 - 1515 - 1547 (53)


Valois French King contemporary of Emperor Charles V, King Henry VIII, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, Medici Pope Clemente VII, Martin Luther and Megabanker Jacob Fugger in the opening act of "The Nation States of Europe".



François I c1520, by Jean Clouet, Louvre



Henri II


1519 - 1547 - 1559 (40)


Son of Francis and husband of Caterina de' Medici, Henri came to a gory end as a result of a jousting accident.



Henri II, Musée Condé, Chantilly


Three of his sons - Francis II, Charles IX and Henri III - succeeded each other as Kings of France, the last of the Valois Line which ended with the death of Henri III in 1589.



The French Wars of Religion


Wikipedia Page on the Wars of Religion


1562 - 1598


Stop start wars of attrition between Catholics and Protestants (aka Calvinists and Hugenots) across France, which can be broken down into 8 sub-wars, numerous battles, ineffective treaties and edicts, and an unbelievable half century of self inflicted misery and suffering for people and church buildings and furnishings.


The wars hit their low low point in August 1472 with the St-Bartholomew's Day Massacres.


In very general terms the north and east of France, and the south coast states, were dominantly Catholic, whilst the Huguenots were strongest in the west and south west.



Henri IV


1553 - 1589 - 1610 (57)


Imported from Navarre (he became a Catholic after previously being the Huguenot / Protestant King Henry III of Navarre and was crowned at Chartres on his way to Paris after famously saying "Paris is well worth a mass"), Henry IV, the first Bourbon King of France, first married Marguerite de Valois, daughter of Catherine de'Medici and Henri II, and after she died, Maria de Medici, fresh from the Medici base in Florence.



Henri IV, Frans Pourbus the Younger, Louvre


Maria was then Queen Regent for their 9 year old son Louis XIII (1601 - 1610 - 1643 (42)) after Henry was assassinated in 1610.  After getting even with Henry's mistresses and various courtiers, and advised by the improbably named "unscrupulous Italian" Concino Concini and later the emergingly famous Cardinal Richelieu (1585 - 1642 (57)), Maria managed to dissipate the healthy coffers left by Henry and overstay her regency to 1617 -  three years beyond its due date.   


Then son Louis XIII took over, Concini got assassinated, Richelieu went from strength to strength, and the half Habsburg half Medici Maria was exiled, then reconciled with her son, then exiled for good to the Netherlands in 1631 as Bourbon France took on Habsburg Spain. 


Maria's grandson Louis XIV - “Louis the Great” and “the Sun King” (1638 - 1643 - 1715 (77)) - became the longest reigning king in French history.



Louis XIV in 1701 - by Hyacinthe Rigaud in  the Louvre Museum



Link to Wikipedia page on French Monarchs




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