Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Was the historic Sainte-Chappelle in Paris really named after a baseball team?

This May, I am one of the hosts on a French Impressionists riverboat cruise and tour of Paris which includes a special concert in the Sainte-Chappelle. This is a note for my guests:

In May we will be visiting the famed Sainte-Chappelle in the historical heart of Paris. At the same time America’s baseball season will be in full swing with everyone’s eye on last year’s surprise World Series champions, the St. Louis Cardinals.

So why will you be thinking about a little red North-American song bird as you gawk at 764-year old stain-glass windows? Why will you be humming Take Me Out to the Ballgame while the chapel orchestra plays La Marseillaise?

Because there really was a Saint Louis.

He was France’s king, Louis IX. Since its confusing with so many French kings named Louis, remember this guy as the one with nine innings of baseball in his name and you will never forget. In French the "s" at the end of a word is silent so pronounce it "lu-ee" like the French and American Southerners do.

Representation of Saint Louis
considered to be true to life
After his death the Church canonized him, the only French monarch to become a saint. He was a very pious ruler, known to wear a “hair shirt” by day  (so uncomfortable it made one pray constantly!) and perform fifty genuflections along with fifty “Ave Marias” before going to bed.

He was the guy who installed the Inquisition in France and embarked on the Seventh Crusade. One historian called him, “…one of the great neurotics of history.”

While on that crusade of killing in the name of divinity, he made the most fantastic purchase, the “Crown of Thorns” worn by Jesus. The Emperor of Constantinople (now Istanbul) saw the religious sucker coming and sold the “priceless relic” to him for a ridiculously high price!

So to house and protect this unique purchase, and prove to others that France was at the forefront of Christianity, Louis IX built the Sainte Chappelle. It was completed in 1248 and to the amazement of every historian, still survives completely intact today!

Back in the 1776 era, the United States became a free republic in part because of the tremendous financial support of the French. By recognizing that Louis is the name of many French monarchs, we know something of the entomology of American names like Louisiana, Louisville and St. Louis. Also worthy of note, New Orleans is named after the French Dynasty of the Orleans family and Bourbon whiskey gets it name from the Dynasty of the Bourbon family.

It’s no surprise then that the beautiful songbird got named “cardinal” for the bright red color that matches the robes worn by the highest Catholics priests. And no surprise a sports team in a town called Saint Louis should have a mascot named after a religious rank.

So when you are rooting for last year’s baseball champs, give the same cheer that ol’ pious Louis IX, sitting in his brand new Sainte Chappelle, would have shouted way back in the 13th century: “Go Cardinals!”

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