Reflection on “Life of Luis VI” from “Codex Lindellensis” essay

“Life of Luis VI” is a panegyric writing by Abbot Suger devoted to Luis VI, king of France. It reflects the Medieval idea of a perfect Christian ruler, demonstrating Luis’s life and virtues in development. At the beginning Luis is a faithful son “illustrious and courageous defender of his father’s realm”. As Luis becomes king himself he starts acting in the way a perfect ruler should act, in other words he reflects the Medieval metaphysical ideal of a king.

Since at that time ruler was seen as a centre of the earthly world and a guarantor of harmony and prosperity, Luis “strove to secure peace for those who pray, for those who work, and for the poor” thus fulfilling the function of a ruler in the Medieval sense as an arranging and protective force, head of the “Second estate” (those who fight), which is to protect the two other estates of clergy (those who pray) and a productive class of peasants, artisans and merchants (those who work).

As a good son of Church Luis in his rule adheres to the advices of the clergy, and it is Roman Catholic Church that blesses his rule and makes it legitimate to all his subjects. Disobedience to the king is thus disobedience to God in whose name the Church speaks. The king remains king until he is able to support common harmony and well-being and until he is able to reflect divine harmony on earth. Not every rule is blessed and justified by the Church, since as soon as the ruler breaks the divine harmony, he fells into the hand of a Devil.

Sugar’s text includes strong warning against unjust rulers who “vex the state with endless wars, rejoice in rapine, oppress the poor, destroy the churches give themselves over to lawlessness”. Such conduct can only be explained by a Medieval man by the interference of evil demons, and thus combating evil rulers is a religious obligation of a king, and this struggle is seen as a reflection of everlasting battle between good and evil in which the king has to lead the armies of God to the victory over Devil.

Sugar explains triumph over rebellious Thomas of Marle exactly in this light. Perhaps exaggerating the vices of the latter and the hardships that the royal army had to face during the war, Sugar greets Luis’s victory and explains success with the fact that the king fought with the sword of Saint Peter in his hand and “because the hand of the Lord fought for him”.

Having got the victory Luis restores the order by awarding the virtuous, punishing the guilty, comforting the innocent victims of despotism and returning churches to the clergy. This is the most just thing a king can do, as he “fulfilled most worthily the duty of a king who beareth the sword not in vain”. In these actions Luis proved himself to be king not by right of birth but by right granted by his merit.