The origins of the feast of St. Louis

Fort Chambly National Historic Site

The origins of the Feast of St. Louis
King Louis IX
© King Louis IX/History of the Kings of France, edition Morena, 1998

In 1684, the bishop of Quebec, François de Laval, decreed that St. Louis would become a compulsory feast for all inhabitants of New France. After that, August 25 became a day off work, marked by particular observances. But the origins of the Feast of St. Louis are much older and go back to the late 13th century.

Pope Boniface VIII added this celebration to the liturgical calendar when publishing a bull canonizing Louis IX in 1297. The Very Christian Louis IX, the ninth sovereign of the Capetian dynasty, ascended the throne of France in 1226 and died of the plague in 1270, during the eighth crusade aimed at converting the Sultan of Tunisia and delivering the Holy Land.

Louis IX, called St. Louis, was the first sovereign to confer divine right on the French monarchy. Masters after God in their kingdom, the kings of France would then be the depositories of absolute power.

Celebrated on August 25, St. Louis was the occasion for the kings of France to receive the homages of their court and their military troops. In New France, it was the governor, as the most illustrious representative of royal authority in the colony, who was at the centre of the celebrations.

In Chambly, the Feast of St. Louis took on a particular character, because an initial wooden fort was erected at the foot of the rapids during the third week of August 1665, when people were preparing to celebrate this feast. It was in honour of the kings of France that Jacques de Chambly, captain of the Carignan-Salières regiment, named this first fort St. Louis.

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