In Brignoles, Provence, the burial of St. Louis, of the Order of [Friars] Minor, Bishop of Toulouse. He was famous for his miracles and for the sanctity of his life. His body was translated Translation is a liturgical process in which a saint's body is moved to a more appropriate location such as a major church or chapel. from Brignoles to Marseille and reverently laid down in the Franciscan Church there. Later it was moved to Valencia, Spain, and placed in the cathedral. – Roman Martyrology for August 19
This saint died at age 24 after less than eight months as Bishop of Toulouse. For this reason he is always portrayed as a beardless youth in sumptuous "pontificals," the formal garb worn by medieval bishops on the most solemn occasions. This is ironic, because as bishop of Toulouse he lived and dressed very humbly and encouraged his clergy to do the same. Once when he came upon a naked beggar, he even took off his own Franciscan habit and gave it to the man.1
I have combed through a great deal of original material regarding Louis and found nothing that would explain portraying him in sumptuous garments. It may be that they signify his spiritual habiliments. For that possibility, note the verse from a hymn for his feast day, "The one whom modesty, piety, and humble life bedeck (decorate) / God exalts and crowns with royal honor" (Dreves and Blume, XXVI, 265).
The pontificals in the saint's images include silk gloves and a richly embroidered cope with a jeweled clasp at the neck. The image at right allows Louis's simple gray habit to show through the pontificals. Other images do not.
Before entering the clergy Louis renounced his position as heir to the crown of Naples (Butler, III, 358). In the church dedicated to him in Venice, his statue shows a crown at his feet, a conventional symbol of renunciation, and a painting has putti descending with a crown to place on his head.
Prepared in 2016 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University. Revised 2018-10-02.