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Three A Coronation Program for the Age of Saint Louis: The Ordo of 1250
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A Coronation Program for the Age of Saint Louis: The Ordo of 1250

Jacques Le Goff

In memoriam Pierre Fénot

This essay is one of two contributions in this volume discussing the Latin manuscript no. 1246 of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, containing a liturgical text of great importance. As mentioned in the preface, in our seminar devoted to the problem of medieval systems of gestures and rituals, there of us worked as a team on this manuscript, which has the unique quality of containing a description of a ceremony accompanied by a series of images. But alas, the part that would have been the contribution of our colleague, Pierre Fénot, will never be written: he was struck down by a cruel illness a few months ago; it is to his memory that we dedicate our essays.

Jean-Claude Bonne will discuss the text and illuminations and provide a codicological analysis, as far as it relates to our interests. My study emphasizes the unity of the manuscript in form, in content, and the ideological themes that underlie all other elements. This unity reflects that precarious balance between royal and ecclesiastical power achieved in the kingdom of France under Saint Louis which came to benefit both the monarchy and the church, and for which this ordo is a prime symbolic piece of evidence.

We have little new to say about when and where the manuscript was made. Although the style of the miniatures is almost certainly Parisian, as Robert Branner and François Avril have indicated,[1] the manuscript's presence in Reims for many centuries permits us to assume that it was produced in that city. Its dating still depends essentially on that of the miniatures, because the reference to the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) in the ordo of Reims,[2] certainly preceding our ordo, gives only a terminus post quem . François Avril, who is a leading expert on French miniatures of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, dates the pictorial cycle around (probably before) 1250; we accept this dating, as does Richard Jackson.[3] Finally, the book was certainly made for the bishop of Châlons-sur-Marne, suffragan of the


archbishop of Reims and one of the ecclesiastical peers, but, contrary to the opinion of Leroquais,[4] it cannot have been part of a pontifical from Châlons. J.-C. Bonne will present our arguments for this decision. Although we had originally called it "the ordo of Châlons," since it exists only in the sole manuscript that was made for Châlons, we now agree with the name that Jackson has given it: the "ordo of 1250." Both the Godefroys' title, "ordo of Louis VIII,"[5] and Schramm's, "Compilation of 1300,"[6] are to be rejected in the light of recent study.

As Richard Jackson recently summed up in his Vive le Roi! , there are three types of documents that inform us about consecrations and coronations: ordines, that is, liturgical works containing the text of prayers, hymns, and antiphons for the office connected to the consecration and coronation of a ruler; directories, which are normative works prescribing what is to be done in such a ceremony; and narrative records describing actual ceremonies. Paris, B.N., ms. lat. 1246 is closely related to a slightly older text, most probably dating from the first years of the reign of Saint Louis. That text, the so-called ordo of Reims (in fact a directory) is, despite its brevity, an important piece of evidence, for we find in it the earliest references to certain innovations of ritual and to some kings of France which also appear in our text. Paris, B.N., ms. lat. 1246 adds the liturgical texts to the "ordo of Reims" and thus constitutes a true ordo. This ordo of 1250 is an heir to the western Frankish ordines, with borrowings from and allusions to the European corpus of ordines from the early Middle Ages, both Anglo-Saxon and Continental. We see it as a dossier, just as Schramm called it, a compilation, a document that not only marks a stage in the evolution of a ceremony, but one that others later built upon.

Jackson also reminds us of another important rule: unless there is explicit proof, an ordo should not be too closely linked to the actual coronation of any particular king. The ordo of 1250 probably never served as the sole or even the preferred text for any one consecration. It was certainly not used for that of Louis VIII in 1223 or for that of Saint Louis in 1226, but in all likelihood it was influenced by these ceremonies. It was not employed for the consecration of Philip III in 1271, since for that the "last Capetian ordo" must have been used; however, the ritual in our ordo and the spirit of its ideology had a strong impact on the coronation ceremonies of subsequent French kings, expressing a program as well as containing a "mirror for the prince."

My commentary on the ceremony described in Paris, B.N., ms. lat. 1246 will be organized around two ideas. The first is that the structure of the ceremony should be read as the unfolding of a definite rite. I prefer to liken it to a rite of passage[7] rather than to an "inauguration ritual," which, of course it is also. (Therefore, references that Ralph Giesey, Janet Nelson, and Sarah Hanley, among others, make to Meyer Fortes and Clifford Geertz are pertinent.) The second idea is that whereas one of the major concerns of the two


protagonists of the ceremony, the king and the clergy—standing for royal and ecclesiastical power, was to establish between them a balance as near perfect as possible, at the end of the ceremony the advantage shifted to the king.

First, let us consider the elements of this rite of passage: the subjects, the place, the time, and the procedure. Who plays a role in the ritual? The hero of the ceremony is, of course, the king, who in the course of the ceremony will pass from one state to another. (I leave aside the queen, whose coronation is described at the end of the ordo. Although the king is the main hero of the ceremony, the normal royal coronation in medieval France applied to a couple, including a queen and future mother.)

At the beginning of the ceremony the king is already king, but not yet entirely king. When he arrives at Reims, the king is king because he has already satisfied two of three conditions. First of all, he has been chosen by God. This is made clear from the beginning of the opening prayer of our ordo, which is pronounced by one of the two bishops who goes to fetch the king from his bed: Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui famulum tuum N. regni fastigio dignatus es sublimare . . . . As the king enters the cathedral, the antiphon Domine salvum fac regem . . . is sung. The second condition, succession birthright, necessary in the thirteenth century, is only suggested in our ordo through the words spoken by the archbishop of Reims before the throne, between the coronation and enthronization: Sta et retine locum amodo quem hucusque paterna successione tenuisti haereditario iure tibi delegatum. To these words is added a reminder of the king's divine election, per auctoritatem Dei omnipotentis . But it is the third step in the ritual that makes the prince truly king. At the anointing, the archbishop says ungo te in regem . Now, in with the accusative indicates an action toward a goal, but also and especially, a consequence, the end of a transformation. Finally the third condition is spelled out when the text of the ordo states: et per praesentem traditionem nostram, omnium scilicet episcoporum, caeterorumque Dei servorum .

Opposite the king stand the clergy. Their role is a complex one. The clergy are a collective personage who hold a sacred power giving them the monopoly to transform the king and with that transformation grant him access to a portion of sacred power. Although our ordo says nothing of this, it is from the anointment that the magical power of the king to cure the King's Evil proceeds. But the clergy also negotiate with the king in their own interests, those of the Church and the ministry. They propose or even impose a contract, that in exchange for his anointment and coronation, the king must swear to protect the Church and his people and to be a good Christian king. Contracts often accompany rites of passage, for example engagements and marriages. In another respect, the clergy are also regarded as spokesmen for the sovereign people and as such grant the king political power that emanated from the populus in Roman tradition. Finally, the clergy, mediators be-


tween God and man, constitute the king as mediator between themselves and the people: Quatenus mediator Dei et homimum te mediatorem cleri et plebis constituat .

The clergy are not a homogeneous group. The ceremony of the ordo of 1250 (and its predecessor, the ordo of Reims) sets up a subtle balance among the various ecclesiastical participants. To begin with, there are the cathedral clergy, those, so to speak, on home ground. The clerical protagonist as coronator and principal partner in dialogue with the king is the archbishop of Reims. After him come the bishops according to rank: the six ecclesiastical peers, then the archbishop's suffragans, and finally the rest of the bishops. Next, and yet to one side in this complex hierarchy, come the canons of the cathedral chapter; they are not bishops but are "at home" in the church. On another level, there are the regular clergy, represented by two groups: the abbot of St. Rémi, guardian and bearer of the Holy Ampulla, together with his monks; and the abbot of St. Denis, guardian and bearer of the royal insignia. At the outset of the ceremony the archbishop must promise them to return the borrowed objects necessary for the rite. The attempt at a triple equilibrium is noteworthy: between secular and regular clergy; between the two kinds of representatives of Reims, archbishop and the cathedral clergy on the one hand, abbot and monks of St. Rémi on the other; and between the two monasteries so intimately linked to the French monarchy, St. Rémi of Reims and St. Denis. The former was the church of that holy bishop who had consecrated Clovis, the first Christian king of France, whose baptism was subsequently interpreted as the first royal anointing. The relics of St. Remigius and the most important object used in the royal consecration, the Holy Ampulla, were kept in the abbey. The other monastery, St. Denis, had become the necropolis of the dynasty, its historical focal point and memorial. Its abbot was the guardian of the royal insignia, the most significant of which was the sword and crown. Although our text says nothing on this, the insignia might have already been attributed to Charlemagne.

The third protagonist, after the king and the clergy, were the peers of France. After the ordo of Reims, our document is the second to mention the involvement of the peers in the coronation. The notion of the peers was a relatively recent one, dating, at the earliest, from the end of the twelfth century. They were the incarnation of a literary creation, as Ferdinard Lot has shown, of the imaginary peers of Charlemagne in the chansons de geste.[8] Their first participation in a royal inauguration might have been at the coronation of Louis VIII in 1223, or perhaps only that of Louis IX in 1226. The peers, who help support the crown after the coronation and who accompany the crowned king to his throne, express in this ceremony the participation of the feudal lords and their submission to the royal power. This feature is demonstrated immediately after the coronation proper in the rite of the kiss of peace which is related to the kiss of homage and fealty. Once again there is a conspicuous numerical balance between six ecclesiastical and six lay peers,


however, the former have the advantage of being on the right-hand side of the king, the place of privilege.

Secondary figures are the feudal lords and the high officers of the crown. (For now "historical" problems connected with the person of the duke of Burgundy and with the disappearance of the seneschal in the thirteenth century should be put aside.) These important lay personages feature in that part of the ceremony, which is, in fact, the rite of knighting, inserted between the royal promises and the crowning. The grand chamberlain (magnus camerarius ) puts the sandals embroidered with golden fleurs-de-lis on the king's feet; the duke of Burgundy fits him with the golden spurs, the seneschal (or his representative) receives the sword once it has been conferred on the king. He bears it unsheathed before the king for the rest of the ceremony, during the mass, and finally in the procession returning to the palace which marks the end of the rite of passage.

Finally, there are those whom one might think should be the most important participants, but whose presence is marginal: the people. Several allusions are made to them in the king's oaths and in certain prayers, but the people's actual presence is only fleeting. At the very beginning of the ceremony, after the king's first oath, two bishops ask for their assent: (postea inquirant alii duo episcopi assensum populi). After the king's third promise, a bishop (or archbishop) asks the people whether they want to be the subjects of this very prince (ipse episcopus affatur populum, si tali Principi ac rectori se subjicere, ipsiusque Regnum forma fide stabilire atque iussionibus illus obtemperate velint), to which clergy and people are to respond unanimously: Fiat, fiat. The final promise of the king in front of his throne is made "before God, the clergy, and the people" (coram Deo, clero et populo). And last, during the closing Te Deum , the people are to sing Kyrie eleison while all the bells are ringing. Thus the people's presence is mostly passive, a mere symbol of the masses; probably only a few lay nobles and burghers were admitted into the nave of the church, while the rest crowded the entrance of the cathedral, as is suggested in the preamble of the ordo of Reims.

The second consideration is: where does the rite take place? Here, the significance of the rite's location, the cathedral of Reims, must be stressed. It does not matter that at the time of the three ordines—the ordo of Reims, the ordo of 1250, and the last Capetian ordo—the actual church in which the consecration of Louis VIII in 1223, Louis IX in 1226, and Philip II in 1271 occurred was still unfinished. The cathedral is more than a locale for the ceremony: it plays a large part in determining the topography of its phases; it participates actively in the ceremony in that (although this is not mentioned in the text) it is dressed up, walls, pillars, and floor covered with tapestries, drapery, and carpets in the same way as the king himself will be clothed in new robes. The church space is neither static nor homogeneous. Certain parts of the church are more important than others: the choir and especially


the altar, the sacred (though not the topographical) center. It is here that the royal insignia are laid out, where they take on the sacred power that will be transmitted to the king upon receiving them, where the principal actors in the ritual, the main transmitters of the religious power, the archbishop and the prelates, are seated (et debent esse sedes dispositae circa altare ubi honorifice sedeant ad oppositum altaris). It is before the altar that the king will prostrate himself and be anointed, and where he will receive the royal insignia, in particular, the crown. For the most part, the king will be seated in a prominent position that the ordo of Reims alone describes in detail: a slightly elevated platform, accessible by a few steps, situated in the center, reaching the edge of the choir, that is, touching the line that separates the laity from the clergy (paratur primo solium in modum eschafeudi aliquantulum eminens, contiguum exterius choro ecclesie inter utrumque chorum in quod per gradus ascenditur). The ordo of 1250 indicates that, when the king has received his insignia and has been crowned, the archbishop is to install him on the throne placed on the platform "in a prominent seat where he may be seen by all" (in sede eminente unde ab omnibus possit videri). The desire to exhibit the king was finally fulfilled after the construction in 1416 of a jube on which the throne could be mounted.

The ordo of 1250 mentions, besides the cathedral, another essential locus and within it a particular space. On the day of his consecration, the king leaves from his palace (palatium), and he returns to it after the ceremony. The palatium is, of course, the archbishop's palace where the king resides when he is in Reims. He is, however, not the guest of the archbishop. By virtue of the right of purveyance, he is "at home." At the beginning of the ceremonies, he is in his bed: exeunte autem rege de thalamo . For once I disagree with Jackson, who maintains that "before the ordo of Charles V, none contains any hint of a bed."[9] But the bed is here, for thalamus means "bed" rather than "bedroom," and in fact, there is also mention of two bishops who, according to the ordo of Charles V, take hold of the king, one on the right, one on the left. True, the ordo of 1250 says nothing of the king sleeping or being seized by two bishops, but it does say that when the king quits his bed, one of the bishops (not "a bishop," but "one of the bishops") is to say a prayer: dicitur haec oratio ab uno episcoporum . It seems reasonable to advance the hypothesis that the system of the two bishops—if not as rousers, at least as witnesses to the rising—was already in place.

I do not know whether Jackson is correct in saying that the rite of the sleeping king, which is documented for the fourteenth century, originated in the use of a bed in the knightly initiation ceremony and that the two bishops who wake and rouse the king are like the two godparents in the baptismal ceremony. It seems important to me not to construct an interpretation of the coronation which, through too rigid a logic and false historicism, makes of it a "combination of three ceremonies: coronation, baptism, and knighting."[10]


One could, after all, add an even more similar fourth ceremony: the ordination of a priest, or a bishop. Although it is true that the royal consecration owes something to each of these rites, I think that these analogies stem from the necessary resemblance between different rites of passage—such as baptism or knighting, as well as marriage, ordination, and, of course, funeral—and royal consecration.

Let me argue here why do I not like the term inauguration. Royal consecration is much more than mere inauguration, for it implies a change, more precisely, an increase, in status and power. If we need comparisons, then the wide category of rites of passage appears to be the most suitable, with many parallels to the royal accession ceremony. In the latter there is, for example, if not sleep, at least an awakening. Sleep is one of the rites of purification in preparation for a passage; and awakening is one of the rites of separation that is a prelude to passage, as Arnold Van Gennep has shown. Better yet, it is one of those "liminal" stages that Victor Turner defined so well. As for the two bishops, they are among the helpers in separation rites who take on many different forms, including the perverted ones, such as the mock rape of the bride in her bed practiced among certain peoples on the wedding morning by two men to whom tradition has allotted this role. The rising of the king is, compared to a rising of a cadaver, an inverted rite of the funeral. The rising is not that of a corpse going to its last resting place, but of a body awakened to a new life.

In a rite of passage there are not only fixed loci—the one where one comes from in the separation phase, the one where the transformation takes place, and the one where one goes to assume the new and higher power that one has received. There are also the movements from one place to another or within a defined space: from the palace to the cathedral; in slow motion within the cathedral from the door (a "liminal" point par excellence, the threshold of the sacred space where the king and his retinue pause) to the choir and the altar; and finally from the cathedral to the palace. One word comes up again and again in text and image: processionaliter . The circuits are processions, cortèges that are religious if not sacred. The space and the movements within it are, if not religious, like the altar, certainly magical. All these features resemble elements of rites of passage rather than inaugurations in the simple sense of the opening of a building or unveiling a monument.

The question "when?" is easy to answer. The ordo says that the ceremony should be celebrated preferably on a Sunday, clearly to reinforce the religious and sacred character of the ceremony.

The question "how?" is best answered by analyzing the structure of the ceremony in respect to the objects used and the different rites performed in its successive phases. While there is no allusion to a watch or a vigil or to early morning preparations, as in the ordo of Reims, there are brief references to two preparatory phases of the rite of passage. First, there is the setting up of


the sedes in the church in order to mark the achievement of the king's transformation, placing him on a special seat, "both sign and repository of the magico-religious royal power."[11] This seat, as a symbol, can be compared to the empty throne in ancient India, or to the hetimasia (empty seat of God or of the cross) in early Christian and Byzantine art. Second, the acts of waking the king, helping him out of bed, and leaving the palace demonstrate a separation from the profane and, with the procession to the cathedral, a movement toward the sacred.

The ceremony inside the church can be broken down into eight phases, not equal in significance.

1. Entry . The king, with the two bishops, enters into the church after a pause on the threshold; there is a procession up to the choir; the king makes contact with the most sacred part of this holy space reserved for the altar; and the important secondary agents of the ritual (bishops and peers) are seated.

2. Holly Ampulla . Next is the processional delivery of the Holy Ampulla carried by abbot and monks of St. Rémi; their solemn procession continues within the church with the holy oil under the canopy—in other words, this phase is the arrival of the holiest object of the ceremony. This is the culmination of the sacralizing process; the Holy Chrism, its vessel, and the relic of the Holy Ampulla, also emphasize the national character of the cult of St. Remigius.[12] (The ordo of Reims and the ordo of 1250 mark the promotion of this relic within the ritual of the anointing and coronation.)

3. Contracts . Royal promises and oaths to the clergy[13] from formulae used in royal consecration ceremonies in Anglo-Saxon England, in Germany, and in the imperial coronations are made.

a. The king first pronounces the petitio-promissio , which is addressed directly to the church, and reinforces it with an oath. The formula of the promise is the one of the Erdmann-ordo (c. 900) that was used in the consecration of Philip I in 1059.

b. After they have asked the people for assent and Te Deum has been sung, the two bishops help the king to his feet in order for him to pronounce the tria precepta ,[14] peace, justice, and mercy, which directly concern the people. Their text is quite similar to the promises included in the ritual of the consecration for bishops and to the scrutinium in the German coronations in Aachen/Aix-la-Chapelle ever since the late tenth century. The ordo of 1250 did not retain the fourth praeceptum that had been added to the ordo of Reims after the Fourth Lateran Council about the prosecution of heretics.

c. After the king, the bishops, and the priests have prostrated themselves (note the dialectic of seated, standing, kneeling, prostrate!) and a litany has been sung, a bishop asks the people whether they accept this prince, which they affirm. He then asks the king, back on his feet, to swear an oath concerning


God (to defend holy Catholic faith), the Church (to uphold and defend the churches and their ministers), and the people (to govern and defend the regnum granted him by God according to the tradition of justice of his fathers). The assent of the clergy and the people (by Fiat! fiat! ) seals this pact between the king and the clergy, who are also seen as acting on behalf of the populus .

At this point the first phase of the ritual proper is virtually completed. The objects that will grant the king his true status and power have been placed by the abbot of St. Denis on the altar, the physical contact of which confers sacred power on them. The king, standing before the altar, takes off his old outer robes: this act marks the end of the separation rite.

4. Knighting . The king receives from the grand chamberlain the sandals on which, for the first time, the fleurs-de-lis, characteristic of the French monarchy, appear. From the Duke of Burgundy, the king receives the golden spurs; from the archbishop, he receives, in a complex rite involving the altar and the scabbard, the sword that makes him the secular arm of the Church and which he entrusts to be borne unsheathed by the seneschal of France.

5. Unction . The anointing is performed by the archbishop, upon the head (as in the case of the high priest and the king in ancient Israel, and of bishops), on the chest, between the shoulders, on the shoulders, at the elbows, and, finally, somewhat later, on the hands. The commentary of the ordo points out that of all the kings on earth the king of France alone has the glorious privilege of being anointed with an oil from heaven. Although, as the title of the manuscript indicates, the ordo of 1250 contains the ritual of the consecration and coronation of the king, the emphasis in this part of the rite of passage is placed on the procession of the Holy Ampulla and on the anointing. As the archbishop states, the king, after his hands have been anointed, has become like the kings and prophets of the Old Testament, like David anointed by Samuel (benedictus et constitutus Rex in regno isto, super populum istum ). He then asks God to look with equanimity upon hunc gloriosum regem N .

6. Conferring the insignia .[15] The grand chamberlain drapes the king in the hyacintine tunic, the color worn by the high priests of Israel which became the color of the kings of France, (making blue the color of power, of the sacred, and, along with pastel blue, the color à la mode). Above the tunic he places a cloak or surcoat, turned up on the left arm like a priest's chasuble. Next, the archbishop puts the ring on the king's finger, symbol of royal dignity, the Catholic faith, and perhaps the marriage that God contracts with his people. Into his right hand the king receives the scepter and into his left the rod, which represents—this document offers the oldest evidence for this interpretation—"a


hand of justice" (virga ad mensuram unius cubiti vel amplius habente disuper manum eburneam ); and justice, of course, is the most sacred of all royal duties. At the end follow the two principal insignia of power: the crown, which the peers are called upon to place on the king's head, and the throne, on which he is seated, thereby establishing the fullness of his dignity and power. The king pronounces a last vow, which he speaks as a sort of collective address, coram Deo, clero et populo , following the German imperial formula professionis , by which, even without reference to the pope or the Roman Church, the king of France takes upon himself the commitments of the emperors. The last phase of the rite of consecration and coronation ends with the kiss of peace and fealty given to the king by the archbishop and by the peers. Now, the bells are rung, the clergy sings the Te Deum , and the people reply with Kyrie eleison .

7. Mass . The high mass that follows seems to have been an appendage tacked on to the principal rite of anointment and coronation (as was later the case with marriage). It contains however, one important event that is indicative of the king's new state and his passage into an estate in which the royal office takes on a priestly character: the king partakes of the communion under both kinds as would a cleric.

8. Final "rites of aggregation ."[16] The king, now wholly king, leaves the sacred place, having exchanged the heavy ceremonial crown for a lighter one, and returns to the palace; but he returns with a greater dignity with new powers embodied in the unsheathed sword that precedes him. The ordo does not tell us whether the day ends with a ritual banquet, but it is quite likely. It would be fittingly one of those communal meals, which, as Van Gennep pointed out, frequently end rites of passage.

Although it has borrowed much from Christian traditions of the early Middle Ages and bears the basic imprint of the Old Testament model revived in 751 and 754 for the two consecrations of Pepin the Short, the ordo of 1250, as a successor of the ordo of Reims, marks the beginning of a series of ordines and coronation ceremonies that were thoroughly French. The emphasis on the Holy Ampulla, the display of the fleurs-de-lis, and the appearance of the main de justice—all innovations of the French court—as well as the harmonious collaboration of the catherdral clergy of Reims and the abbots of St. Rémi and St. Denis and the specific role of the peers of France indicate in ritual and liturgical language that the ideology of French monarchy became autonomous and even contained a certain claim of superiority over all other Christian rulers.

These ceremonies expressed the equilibrium between king and church achieved by the kingdom of France under Saint Louis. By reexamining step


by step the ceremony it can be demonstrated how carefully—through the places occupied by the participants, the rites, the texts of the royal oaths, the prayers and songs, the processions, the movements from place to place, and the gestures—these rites avoided placing one power higher than the other; each time one of the two seems to dominate, there is an effort to reestablish the balance. Only at the moment when the king takes his place on the throne does he finally outweigh the prelates and lay lords. The archbishop doffs his miter before the crowned king and respectfully kisses him, and the peers follow suit. When the king leaves the church, the unsheathed sword borne before him overshadows the croziers of the bishops and abbots.

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