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Work Coronation sword and scabbard of the Kings of France

Department of Decorative Arts: Early Middle Ages

Epée du sacre dite "de Charlemagne" ou "Joyeuse"

© 2011 Musée du Louvre / Philippe Fuzeau

Decorative Arts
Early Middle Ages

Author(s):
Barbier Muriel

The coronation sword of the Kings of France entered the collections of the Louvre following the French Revolution, together with the other ceremonial items previously held in the treasury of the abbey of Saint-Denis. With some of the ornaments on the pommel dating as far back as the tenth and eleventh centuries, this sword is one of the oldest surviving examples of French regalia.

Regalia

Kept in the royal abbey of Saint-Denis, items of regalia were used during the coronation ceremonies of the Kings of France, which took place at Reims. In the first part of the celebration, the king received the insignia of knighthood, consisting of spurs and the sword. Throughout the rest of the ceremony, the sword was entrusted to the "Connétable", who held it with the blade pointing upwards. The treasury of Saint-Denis possessed several medieval swords, but of these only the one in the Louvre seems to be the celebrated "Joyeuse".

"La Joyeuse"

The sword of Charlemagne is the only one known to have served as the coronation sword of the Kings of France. Dubbed "La Joyeuse", it was already celebrated in early medieval chansons de geste. It is possible that it was first used for the coronation of Philippe Auguste in 1179, but it is first mentioned at the coronation of Philippe III the Bold in 1271.

Different techniques, different periods

The sword is composed of a great variety of elements. Both sides of the pommel are decorated with a repoussé motif representing birds affrontee, similar to Scandinavian ornaments of the tenth and eleventh centuries. The two cross-guards, in the form of stylized winged dragon figures, can be dated to the twelfth century. The gold spindle, covered with a diamond net pattern, seems to be from the thirteenth or fourteenth century. The scabbard, a long velvet sheath embroidered with fleur-de-lis, was added much later, for the coronation of Charles X in 1825. The oldest elements of this scabbard are, on the one hand, the large metal plate adorned with gemstones mounted on filigree bezels, characteristic of the second half of the thirteenth century, and, on the other hand, the buckle and buckle plate. Despite these extensive additions and alterations, the sword remains a valuable example of the magnificent regalia used for the coronation of the Kings of France.

Bibliography

Regalia: les instruments du sacre des rois de France, les honneurs de Charlemagne, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1987, pp. 91-2.

Technical description

  • Epée du sacre dite "de Charlemagne" ou "Joyeuse"

    Pommeau : Xe - XIe siècle ?Quillons : XIIe siècle

    Provient du trésor de l'abbaye de Saint-Denis

  • Or et acier

    H. 1.05 m; W. 0.22 m.

  • Known as "La Joyeuse" or the "Sword of Charlemagne"

    MS 84

  • Decorative Arts

    Richelieu wing
    1st floor
    Suger
    Room 2
    Vitrine 32

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