The Pilgrimage of Louis VII from France

Louis VII (1120 – 1180) was an heir to the crown of France. From the start of his childhood, he was very pious, to the point that he wanted to be a monk. However, at 17 years old  he married a woman with a very strong character: the wealthy heiress Eleanor of Aquitania. With her by his side, he started the Second Crusade to Palestine. He later annulled his marriage, despite having been married for many years and having two daughters.

In 1134, he married Constance of Castile, daughter of Alfonso VII. He was a very powerful king, and the following year, during the wedding of his daughter, he was crowned in León as the “Emperor of the Spains”. Shortly after his marriage, Louis VII began to hear rumors that his wife was not the emperor’s legitimate daughter, but was the daughter of one of the emperor’s mistresses. He also heard that his father-in-law’s behavior was so promiscuous that his mother-in-law would not sleep with him.

Due to his deep religious beliefs and his desire to set straight the rumors about his family, he decided to dress up as a pilgrim in disguise and walk the path of Santiago to Compostela, thus beginning the Pilgrimage of Luis VII. He crossed the Pyrenees and went down the French road to Burgos, but failed to remain incognito. Alfonso VII called all his nobles, as well as the king of Navarra and the high clergy, offering him a apotheosis welcome as he approached the city. Thus the “Pilgrim King” ended up making a triumphal entrance in Burgos, accompanied by an entourage more grand than he could have imagined. During many days, tournaments and all kinds of shows and banquets were held in his honor. Luis begged to continue the pilgrimage, and he had no choice but to allow the company of his father-in-law and the king of Navarra, as well as the impressive courtship of nobles who had received him. Therefore, the banquets and entertainment continued on during the pilgrimage of Louis VII, even in Compostela. They were only interrupted by the prescriptive vigils and prayers. His companions accompanied him on his return to Toledo.

In Toledo, all the authorities of the Kingdom were summoned to meet the parliament. The Count of Barcelona, Ramón Berenguer IV, was also joined by the Kings of Castile and Navarra. The French king was so impressed by the royal treatment that he swore he had never seen anything like it. Then the King of France explained why he had made such a display of magnificence during the pilgrimage of Luis VII. He told them that the rumors of mistrust had come to his attention about whether Constance was actually the daughter of the empress his wife, sister of the Count of Barcelona. The Count wanted to confirm himself the true origin of his niece. Then, the Count of Barcelona added that if Luis did not believe him, he would defy him in mourning at the ‘Small Bridge’ in Paris. The French king proclaimed his joy at having acquired such great lords through his wedding. Then, the emperor offered him all kinds of gifts after returning to France, but he only accepted a ruby that would be given away to the Monastery of Saint Denis.

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