St. Louis of Anjou

Franciscan Bishop (1274–1297)
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Detail depicting Saint Louis from a fresco (c. 1320) by Simone Martini in the lower Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. Public domain.

For Louis of Anjou, the son of Charles II, king of Naples and Sicily, his royal birth was not entirely to his advantage. When Charles was taken prisoner in a battle with the king of Aragon, he was released on condition that he surrender his three sons as hostages. Thus, Louis remained a prisoner in Barcelona for seven years. He did not find this arrangement uncongenial. Impressed by the Franciscan friars who tutored him, he vowed one day to join their order. 

Upon Louis’s release in 1295, his father tried to arrange a politically advantageous marriage for him with the daughter of his former captor, but Louis refused. Surrendering his title, he proclaimed, “Jesus Christ is my kingdom. If he is all I have, I shall have everything. If I don’t have him, I lose everything.” 

At the age of twenty-three, though not yet a priest, Louis found himself appointed bishop of Toulouse. He agreed on condition that he could first make a religious profession among the Friars Minor. Thus, he appeared on foot in his new bishopric, clothed in a tattered habit. He stripped the episcopal palace of all luxury and set an example of simplicity. But he hated the burden of office and in three months asked to resign. Though permission was denied, he soon fell ill and died on August 19, 1297. He was canonized in 1317. The famous mission of San Luis Obispo in California was named for him. 

“After a dangerous voyage, at last I am in sight of the port I have been trying to get to for so long. I shall now be able to enjoy my God . . . and I shall be freed from a heavy load which I just can’t bear.” 

—St. Louis of Anjou, on his deathbed 

© Liturgical Press.

Robert Ellsberg

Robert Ellsberg is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Orbis Books and the author of several award-winning books, including All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time; Blessed Among All Women; and The Saints' Guide to Happiness.

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