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The kings who wore the crown during the important period of transition to the Renaissance, Charles VIII and Louis XII, benefited from the peace and prosperity that had been achieved by their immediate predecessors. They could also employ the apparatus of traditions and symbols that positioned the French monarch as especially blessed by God. The cult of French kingship had its own saints—among them Charlemagne and Saint Louis, who had reigned as Louis IX from 1226 to 1270. The miracles associated with French kingship included the gift of the Holy Ampule, which was the flask of chrism supposed to have been miraculously delivered for the baptism of Clovis, the Frankish king who converted to Christianity at the end of the fifth century. This article was considered indispensable to the royal coronation ceremony, which took place at Reims Cathedral. The custodians of this sacred history were traditionally the monks of the royal abbey of Saint Denis, outside of Paris, where the kings were buried. As expressed by generations of historians and legal scholars, these notions were embodied in the title "the very Christian king" (le roi très Chrétien) and applied to the king of France. At the time of the French incursions into Italy, these concepts were also tinged with imperial associations, reflecting the king's ambitions beyond the boundaries of the kingdom.


Panel from a Monumental Window of the Heavenly Court, 1510/1515. The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of the Antiquarian Society.