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The Cult of Saint-Denis and Capetian Kingship 43 - As the home of the principal Apostle of Gaul and the first

bishop of Paris, it had a symbolic importance for the whole of France, independent of the monarchy itself. The representation of Saint Denis as a national saint, guiding, protecting and promoting the well-being of the monarchy, was a monastic theme from the ninth-century forward. The cult of Saint Denis helped make possible the fusion of the two streams of national consciousness that might otherwise have remained distinct. Bernard Guenee noted recently that the emerging states of western Europe invoked God as their patron less frequently than their own national saints...God could not be monopolized....the first stirrings of national sentiment among the young states of Europe are expressed, strengthened, and given specific content through the choice of a protective saint whose special responsibility is to oversee the destinies of his people and to preserve the realm from threat....Guenee called attention to the status of Saint-Denis as the principal protector of the French realm under the Capetians. Throughout its history, the monastery...sought to establish a tie to the ruling house, to make the abbey indispensible to the crown. Saint Denis became the first bishop of Gaul. According to Gregory of Tours he was beheaded during the persecution which occurred under Decius and Gratus, receiving his martyrdom in 251. 44 - Writings by Hilduin and Hincmar fixed the history of the saint in the form that it would continue to be known for the rest of the middle ages. While Hilduins primary purpose was to confirm the apostolic date of Saint-Denis mission, and hence of the monasterys origin, he also embellished the legend with a series of details that evolved into its most distinctive characteristics and added charm and persuasiveness to his fabrications. 46 - SD born in Athens. Instructed by Saint Paul before being made Bishop of Athens. Pope Clement commissioned him as Apostle of Gaul. Established a place in small town spreading the word of God. Pagans made them the object of a special attack. Denis was commanded to abjure his faith and tortured when he would not. Executed at Monmartre according to HIlduin. 48 - Saint Denis reached down picked up his severed head and, accompanied by a host of angels and singing Gods praises, walked five miles to his chosen burial place, the site of the present church deicated to him. 50 - When Louis the Pious commissioned Hilduin to write a life of Denis, he requested him to base his account on all available Greek and Latin sources. Cult built up, shrine existed as early as the fourth century. 475, earliest church built by Sainte Genevieve. 51 - The grant of the Fair of Saint Denis by Dagobert in 635 or 636, the first royal concession of its kind, testifies to the growth of the cult in Merovingian France and the increasing homage paid to the Saint.

Hincmar wrote about it in the 9th century, elaborated a series of miracles, added a significantly new dimension to the legend of Saint Denis. Served to explain Dagoberts extraordinary devotion, established the Saints protective capacity over all those who seek his aids in times of stress.

52 - The two miracles clearly aim at providing a fabulous background to explain and make plausible the history of the translation and new foundation of the abbey church which Hincmar actually invented. They also constituted a dramatic episode in the Saints legend and signalled his protective alliance with a Frankish monarch. Increasingly became a centre of pilgrimage in N. France. However, at the time Saint Denis was just one of lots of local saints, even the miracle involving his decapitation is attributed to at least four other local saints. What does distinguish the cult of S-D is the saints subsequent elevation as a national saint of France and, more specifically, the patron saint of the monarchy. 53 - Two types of documents and two stages in which monks promoted their special relationship to the throne: By means of false charters designed to support legal claims to territories, restore lost economic privileges. S-D was not alone in this although the prolificness of its monks efforts does somewhat set it apart. Created historiographical traditions of the present S-D as the supreme patron of the royal house by consistently underlining his protective role in all circumstances when Capetian kings found themselves in danger.

It functions almost as an organising principle of the monasterys vast historical works. 54 - Vita et actus, written in the 12th C, bringing together Hincmar and Hilduin to set forth the history of the protection extended by S-D to the kings of France Phillip the Fair commissioned Ivo to write a history presented in 1317 56 - what all these works have in common is their desire to develop and spread the cult of Saint Denis while at the same time, as Delisle remarked, imposing upon it a national and patriotic character ... they sought to persuade the reader that the history of the Saint and that of the kingdom were inextricably linked. Both Louis IX and Phillip V called on Saint Denis to protect them. Of all the saints invoked by chansons de geste, S-D is mentioned the most. 58 - As the Vita et actus reminds us, it was customary to turn to the saints in times of urgent necessity, of death, pestilence and war. A banner originally given by Pope Leo to Charlemagne was given by Hugh Capet to the abbey. It became the banner of both Montjoie and Saint Denis.

Its fame and importance as a royal standard was sealed when, in 1124, Louis VI, threatened by the invasion of Henry V of Germany, approached the altar of Saint Denis and pronounced him the special patron and, after God, special protector of the realm. 59 - Originally called the Oriflamme by Charlemagne, its importance was two-fold. It recalled the tie between the Capetians and this illustrious ancestor and was a physical embodiment of the imperial pretensions which French kings inherited from their Carolingian predecessors. The Oriflamme represented his spiritual leadership, as Suger declared, over all France which followed it into battle. The Oriflamme preceded even the holy cross during Louis IXs attack on the port of Damietta on his second crusade. Forgeries by monks including the Donation made by Charlemagne which instructs his successors to recognise the abbot as Primate of France and henceforth should be crowned at S-D and leave the insignia of their office at the abbey. The King was essentially seen as a vassal of the Saint. 61 - Not only had the monks of Saint- Denis persuaded the kings of France to accept their banner as the national standard: they had convinced them to perform an act of servitude to the Saint. No clearer evidence of the status of Saint Denis as the patron saint of the monarchy can be imagined. Church reasons: A tie with the royal house was a lucrative and important business connection. It led to such obvious economic privileges as the Fair of Lendit, granted to the monastery by a grateful Louis VI in 1124, continuous donations of lands, rents and the like. Even less directly remunerative marks of favor, such as the fact that Saint-Denis became the normal burial place of Capetian kings, should be turned to profit. And one should not, of course, underestimate the importance to men of this age of purely honorific signs of prestige and status. What did they hope to gain by acknowledging their debt to Saint Denis, by symbolically placing themselves in the position of his vassal and servitor, and by addressing him as their patron and protector? Bossuat suggests that it furnished French kings a defensive arm in times when legitimacy of their power was contested, and this explains their interest in advancing the cult. Certainly, the patronage o Frances leading national saint buttressed the sense of royal legitimacy and contributed to the creation of a mystique of kingship with enormous potential for th future of the monarchy. 62 - Karol Gorski proposed that the notion of a Roi-Saint, a holy king b used as a comparative measure of royal power. Strayers recent article France: the holy land, the chosen people and the most Christian king argues that combined with the union of the ideas of the sacred king and the holy country, accelerated the emergence of the French state at the end of the thirteenth century. Confidence in the king was very important in the middle ages. Schramm once remarked, belief in the state and the people means in the high middle ages belief in the king.

As Strayer points out, the 13C Capetians, had to invent the France they claimed to rule. The language of the chronicles is filled with references to France and li Franceis which reveal a new consciousness of the nation as a historical personality, bound together in devotion to a national saint. Precisely because of his position as both national saint and patron of the monarchy, the cult of Saint Denis could bind together king and people, rex and regnum. 63 - The Cult had a specific importance for the monarchy as such, and for the transition from feudal forms of rulership to a more expansive concept of the state. 64 - From Louis VI on, the kings of France carried the banner of Saint Denis into war with them and exhorted their followers to battle with the cry Montjoie Saint Denis. In taking the Saints symbols as their own, were they not seeking to demonstrate that they, like him, bore the responsibility for the preservation and protection of the entire realm? As a Venetian ambassador remarked at the beginning of the sixteenth century; there are states more fertile and richer than France, such as Hungary and Italy. There are greater and more powerful ones, such as Germany and Spain: but none is so thoroughly unified 65 - If the monks promoted the kings of France for their own economic benefit, perhaps the return to the king on his investment in the monastery was in the end, though different, no less profitable.