Louis IX was born in Poissy, France on April 25, 1215, His father, Louis VIII, died in 1226 when he was only eleven years old and he was crowned king although his mother Blanche of Castile ruled as regent in his stead until 1234 when Louis IX came of age. His mother was instrumental in guiding him towards a Christian life having told him in his youth, "I love you, my dear son, with as much love as any mother can love her child: but I would rather see you dead at my feet than that you should offend God by mortal sin." After her regency ended, she remained an important part of his public life until her death in 1253.
Renowned for his charity, Louis IX founded hospitals and homes for the poor and disabled throughout France and cared for many lepers. He daily fed over 100 poor and was known for feeding beggars from his table, washing their feet, and keeping the leftovers for himself. His private life was also spent in long hours of prayer, fasting and penance. He is credited with starting the custom during the Mass of genuflecting during the Creed when the priest would recite the words "et Homo, factus est" (and [He] was made man).
As king, Louis IX was acknowledged through much of Christendom as a respected and popular ruler. He worked to improve the courts throughout France and was asked to help arbitrate in a series of differences between other rulers in Europe and England. Although a successful soldier, he was known for seeking peace and negotiated with Henry III of England for a truce (He concluded the Treaty of Paris with England in May of 1258) that he hoped would prevent future hostilities.
Around 1244, news came of the capture of Jerusalem by the Saracens. King Louis IX had a strong desire to free Jerusalem and this affected much of his reign. He fought in the last two of the Crusades against them, first in 1248 and again in 1270.
His firstCrusade ended in defeat when he was taken prisoner and his armies scattered. He bought the crown of thorns from the emperor of Constantinople, however, and brought it home to France where he had a shrine, the Saint Chapelle, built for it in Paris. Many statues and pictures of Saint Louis depict him holding the crown of thorns. During his second Crusade, he and his second son (he had eleven children) became ill while sailing to Tunis. He died at the age of 55, on August 25, 1270; and his last words are said to have been "Into Thy hands I commend my spirit." His remains were brought back to France and enshrined in the Abbey of St. Denis. During the French Revolution, 500 years later, these remains were scattered throughout Europe.
[b]Shortly after his death, the Church recognized him as a "King and a Crusader for God". He was canonized 27 years after his death in 1297. Having been a popular king, he quickly became a favorite saint of the people and many churches and shrines have been named after him. The city of St. Louis, Missouri is one of the many places named after him by the Catholic immigrants who colonized America. His feast day is celebrated on August 25.