Daily Reading for August 25 • Louis, King of France, 1270
The King was so liberal an almsgiver, that wherever he went throughout his kingdom, he made gifts to poor churches, to lazar-houses, to alms houses, to asylums, and to poor gentlemen and gentlewomen. From his childhood up, he was compassionate towards the poor and the suffering; and it was the custom that, wherever he went, six score poor should always be replenished in his house with bread and wine, and meat or fish every day. In Lent and Advent, the number was increased, and many a time the King would wait on them, and place their meat before them, and would carve their meat before them, and with his own hand would give them money when they went away. Likewise on the high vigils of solemn feasts, he would serve the poor with all these things, before he either ate or drank. Besides all this, he had every day old broken-down men to dine and sup with him, and had them served with the same food that he himself was eating. And when they had feasted, they took away with them a certain sum of silver.
Over and above all these things, the King used every day to give large and liberal alms to poor men of religion, to poor asylums, to the sick poor, and all sorts of poor colleges, to poor gentlemen and married women and spinsters, to fallen women, to poor widows, and to women in child-bed, and to such poor as by reason of old age or sickness were unable to labour or pursue their trade in number past all telling.
In all the towns of his realm where he had never been before, he would seek out the Preachers and Grey Friars, if there were any, and desire their prayers. From the very first, when he came into his kingdom and to years of discretion, he began building monasteries and various religious houses, amongst which the Abbey of Royaumont bears the palm for eminence and renown. He founded the Abbey of St. Anthony near Paris; and the Abbey of St. Matthew of Rouen, into which he put women of the order of Preaching Friars; and that of Longchamp for women of the Minorite order; and endowed them highly. He allowed his mother to found the Abbey of Liz by Melun-sur-Seine, and that of Pontoise, which is called Maubuisson.
He founded several almshouses; also he founded the Blind Asylum near Paris to receive the blind of the city of Paris, and had a chapel built for them to hear divine service. And the good King built the Charterhouse outside Paris, and assigned sufficient revenues to the monks who dwelt there for the service of Our Lord. Shortly afterwards he had another house built outside Paris, which was called the House of the Daughters of God, and caused a great number of women to be boarded there, who by reason of poverty had fallen into the sin of wantonness, and granted them four hundred pounds’ worth of revenue to support them. Also in many places of his kingdom he founded houses of female Begouins, and gave them revenues to live upon, and gave orders to admit such as gave promise of a chaste life.
Some of his kindred used to grumble at his liberal almsgiving, and because he spent so much on this kind of thing; but he used to say: “I would much rather be extravagant in alms, for the love of God, than in the pomp and vainglories of this world.”
From The Memoirs of the Lord of Joinville by Ethel Wedgwood (New York: E.P. Dutton and Co., 1906).