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Constructing KingshipThe Capetian Monarchs of France and the Early Crusades$
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James Naus

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780719090974

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719090974.001.0001

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Suger of Saint-Denis and the ideology of crusade

Suger of Saint-Denis and the ideology of crusade

(p.59) 3 Suger of Saint-Denis and the ideology of crusade
Constructing Kingship

James Naus

Manchester University Press

Chapter three focuses on Abbot Suger of Saint-Denis’ close relationship with the French royal court and his hitherto neglected concerned for a lack of crusading prestige. Virtually none of the vast literature on the abbot has considered his attitude toward the early crusading movement, which, this chapter argues, is long overdue. In particular, this chapter focuses on Suger’s well-known biography of Louis VI, the Gesta Ludovici Grossi, a text that combined Carolingian notions of kingship with the newer crusade ideology to fashion a highly selective narrative of Louis’ reign that, at once, casts doubts on the value of many crusaders and their exploits while also asserting that the French king possessed such virtues. The text, in short, if rife with inconsistency, which has been a difficult point for scholars to reconcile. By setting the text within the context of the crusades, however, the contradictions begin to make more sense. Far from supporting an image of Suger as the quintessential ideologist and progenitor of French royalist propaganda, his attitude towards the crusade instead demonstrates the traditional and flexible way he worked to create a smooth, positive account of the Capetian dynasty as at time of major political and cultural transformation. This image was crucial in the evolution of the Capetian image and power structure, and reinforces the important connection that existed between French kings and the crusading movement, even in the years before they took the cross themselves.

Keywords:   Suger, Saint-Denis, Louis VI, Gesta Ludovici, Bohemond

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