Bernini’s Louis XIV

Louis XIV by Bernini (1665)

Louis XIV by Bernini (1665)

Some aristocrats were lounging around Louis XIV’s court, watching the old Italian artist, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, sculpt their king.

‘You are a great talent, sir,’ said one of the aristocrats, ‘but here, you have made the eyes too big and the forehead too high. Your depiction of my king is surely not accurate!’

Bernini turned to the aristocrat and shrugged. ‘My king will last longer than yours,’ he said.

Leaders of the First Crusade: Godfrey of Bouillon

Godfrey of Bouillon, from a fresco painted by Giacomo Jaquerio in Saluzzo, northern Italy, in 1420 ca.

Godfrey of Bouillon, from a fresco painted by Giacomo Jaquerio in Saluzzo, northern Italy, in 1420 ca.

Godfrey of Bouillon (c. 1060 – 18 July 1100) was the first ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and one of the main leaders of the First Crusade. He was a second son, born in an area now France and then part of the Holy Roman Empire. When Urban II preached the crusade, Godfrey and his brothers, Eustace and Baldwin, decided to gather armies and march for the Holy Land.

Godfrey played minor but consistent roles in the battles of the First Crusade. He was present at the siege of Nicaea and the battle of Dorylaeum and at the capturing of Antioch. Meanwhile, Godfrey’s landless younger brother Baldwin was making a name for himself by becoming Count of Edessa.

Godfrey of Bouillon became a crusading legend when he was one of the first over the walls at the taking of Jerusalem in 1099.

Godfrey of Bouillon

Godfrey of Bouillon

He was offered the crown and according to the later historian William of Tyre, he refused to wear a crown of gold where Christ had worn a crown of thorns. Godfrey faced difficulties in his leadership at Jerusalem, first from the Fatimids of Egypt, whom he defeated, and then from Dagobert of Pisa.

Dagebert of Pisa sailing with the other crusade leader Bohemond

Dagobert of Pisa sailing with the other crusade leader Bohemond

Dagobert of Pisa had been chosen as patriarch of Jerusalem, effectively the church authority in the new Latin kingdoms. Dagobert pushed Godfrey to concede Jerusalem to his rule and there was a ceremony held on Easter, 1100, at which Godfrey allowed Dagobert to be his heir upon Godfrey’s death. Dagobert went campaigning with the other Crusader leader, Tancred (who was Bohemond of Antioch’s nephew) and unfortunately for the Patriarch, while he was gone Godfrey died. There are conflicting accounts of how Godfrey died, probably of some kind of illness, but his death prompted the knights of Jerusalem to offer the rulership to Baldwin, Godfrey’s younger brother, instead of Dagobert.

Stained glass window of Godfrey of Bouillon in the Belfry of Boulogne-sur-Mer, France.

Stained glass window of Godfrey of Bouillon in the Belfry of Boulogne-sur-Mer, France.

Baldwin would become the first King of Jerusalem, but Godfrey would long be remembered as a crusading hero, showing up in Dante’s Divine Comedy as a warrior of Mars and in one of Tasso’s works of crusading romance.

Saint Lazare Cathedral

The Magi

The Romanesque Cathedral of Saint Lazare/Autun contains several unique and intriguing carvings, including the Magi sleeping – although notice the angel touches one of them, and his eyes have just popped open!

The nude figure of Eve is also fascinating. Notice how the vines and foliage of the garden have a distinctly serpentine quality to them.

Eve

Childeric III, last of the Merovingians

The Last of the Merovingians by Evariste-Vital Luminais (1822-1896)

A weak king, whose lineage itself is questionable, Childeric III (c.717-c.754) was placed on the throne by the men known as the ‘mayors of the palace’, who by the eighth century held the power over the Merovingian line.

Together, Pope Zachary and one of the mayors of the palace, Pepin the Short, conspired to remove Childeric from the throne. In a deeply symbolic act, they had Childeric’s long, flowing hair cut. A Merovingian king’s hair was a crowning symbol of his majesty. Tonsured, he was visually transformed into a monk – and that was what they forced him to become.

Pepin the Short took the throne with the support of Pope Zachary. Pepin would be the father of Charlemagne. A shady background to the great Carolingian dynasty! Interestingly, the Carolingians began wearing their hair short. Perhaps they were trying to differentiate themselves from their predecessors. Or perhaps they were afraid someone might shave them and take away all their glory…

Clovis I, king of the Franks

Clovis I by François-Louis Dejuinne (1786-1844)

Clovis (c. 466-511) was the man who united the Franks under a single king rather than a group of chieftains.

Clovis’s wife Clotilde was a Catholic and converted Clovis to Catholicism, even though the ruling elite of the Franks were ordinarily Arians. Catholics believe that Jesus Christ is equal to God the Father in divinity whereas Arians believed that Christ was divine but not equal to God. Clovis’s baptism into Catholicism meant that the inhabitants of Gaul would become Catholic and the decline of Arianism commenced.

Clovis was the son of Childeric I, who is considered the founder of the Merovingian dynasty, although it was Clovis who united Gaul.