On May 17, 1306, the skull of Saint Louis was placed in a sumptuous reliquary in the shape of a head and transferred from the abbey of Saint Denis to the Sainte Chapelle. From then on, Philippe le Bel and his successors generously distributed the relics of their ancestor. The skeleton of the pious Louis IX would eventually be reduced into multiple fragments, which would be scattered and mostly destroyed under the Revolution.
On August 25, 1298, Saint Louis Day, Philippe le Bel had the body of his illustrious grandfather lifted in Saint Denis: the bones were placed in a golden shrine, which was installed behind the main altar of the basilica. On May 17, 1306, the skull of Louis IX was placed in a sumptuous reliquary and transferred to the Sainte Chapelle. On this occasion, the king donated a rib from his ancestor to Notre Dame Cathedral.
The monks of Saint Denis, who are responsible for the rest of the skeleton, fought hard to preserve the lower jaw, for which they had a magnificent reliquary made, which was solemnly inaugurated on August 25 of the following year. From then on, Philippe le Bel and his successors generously distributed and scattered the precious relics of Saint Louis.
Since the High Middle Ages, the relics (from the Latin word reliquiae, which means "remains") of saints have been the subject of a particularly fervent cult. Thousands of pilgrims come to admire or touch them to benefit from their miracles, they are above all an extraordinary source of wealth for the churches and abbeys which hold them. Died in the service of God, even as a martyr, Louis IX was canonized by Pope Boniface VIII on August 6, 1297, so it is particularly beneficial, or lucrative, to hold even the fragment of a bone of this saint among all saints.
From the last Capetians, the King of Norway Haakon Magnuson receives the phalanges of Saint Louis, intended for the church on the island of Tysoën, near Bergen. Like the Benedictine monks of Paris and Reims, the abbeys of Royaumont and Poissy are also endowed with relics. Around 1335, Queen White of Sweden obtained bone fragments for the monastery of Saint Bridget in Vadstena, near Stockholm. In 1378, Emperor Charles IV was granted the same privilege for Prague Cathedral.
In 1392, in Saint Denis, the bones of Saint Louis were placed with great pomp in a new shrine. On the occasion of this ceremony, Charles VI offered a coast to Pope Boniface IX and made the same gift to his uncles, Duke Jean de Berry and the Duke of Burgundy, Philip III the Bold. To their greatest joy, the prelates present were rewarded with a bone, which they nevertheless had to share.
Over the following centuries, the dispersal of the remains of the pious Capetian continued. In 1430, Duke Ludwig VII of Bavaria received a bone for his church in Ingolstadt, near Munich. In September 1610, the queen mother Marie de Medici also obtained one, which she returned to the abbey of Saint Denis the following month during the coronation ceremonies of the young Louis XIII.
In 1616, Anne of Austria was granted a piece of coast: judging that this was very little considering her status as Queen of France, she managed to obtain an entire coast the following year. She is also working to have another rib and an arm bone attributed to the Jesuits of Paris and Rome respectively.
Today, virtually nothing remains of the holy king's skeleton. The reliquary of the head of Saint Louis, commissioned in 1306 by Philippe le Bel, was melted down during the revolutionary era, probably at the same time as the skull was destroyed; undoubtedly taken at this time as a sample, only a small sheet of enamel has been kept in the Medals cabinet of the National Library since 1796.
The 1392 shrine was destroyed, as were its contents. The lower jaw and a rib are on display at Notre Dame Cathedral; and in 1926, the Archbishop of Paris donated a piece of this coast to the Saint Louis Church in Montreal, Canada. As for the bone presented to Saint Denis, in the apse chapel of the Virgin, its origin remains mysterious.