In Defense of King Louis IX, by Thomas F. Madden

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France's King Louis IX Statue Statue of King Louis IX of France, namesake of the city of Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

By Thomas F. Madden, First Things, July 7, 2020

The current iconoclastic moment in the U.S. has taken an odd turn here in the city of St. Louis. As protesters across the nation tear down or deface statues of Confederate generals and American founders who owned slaves (among others), the statue that has drawn the most attention in St. Louis is one depicting a medieval man who did not know that America existed.

The Apotheosis of St. Louis is a massive equestrian statue inspired by the city’s namesake, King Louis IX, who ruled France from 1226 until 1270. It portrays the king seated on his horse and adorned in a Romantic imagining of a triumphant Crusader’s garb. In 1764, the French founders of the city of St. Louis gave it that name to honor their king, Louis XV, and his patron saint. Like Joan of Arc, St. Louis was revered by the French of the eighteenth century as a person of heroic virtue. The modern statue was originally a plaster sculpture executed by Charles Henry Niehaus for the 1904 World’s Fair, hosted by St. Louis. After the fair had concluded, the organizers recast the sculpture in bronze and placed it prominently on Art Hill in Forest Park, the site of the fair. It immediately became the beloved symbol of the city, only edged out slightly in the 1960s by the new St. Louis Arch.  ….

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