Eat like the locals: How scurvy undid last crusader king

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Thursday, September 21, 2023


Eat like the locals: How scurvy undid last crusader king
In this file photo taken on January 30, 2019 French forensic doctor Philippe Charlier speaks during an interview with AFP at a hotel in Quito. When one speaks of Saint Louis, one thinks of two images: this king rendered justice under his oak tree and the king who died of the plague. Researchers say that the second is not true and that his death in 1270 is linked to scurvy. "St. Louis did not die of the plague, but a complication of scurvy (an acute vitamin C deficiency) that attacked the gums, then the bones," according to researchers, who examined a piece of jaw of the king conserved in the cathedral Notre-Dame of Paris. "Scurvy is a certainty, but a cause of death may be another ," according to Philippe Charlier, who led the work published on June 18, 2019 in the Journal of Stomatology, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Rodrigo BUENDIA / AFP.

by Paul Ricard and Fiachra Gibbons



PARIS (AFP).- He was the last of the crusader kings who was thought to have died of the plague as he made one last -- rather roundabout -- attempt to recover the Holy Land for the Christianity.

But it now appears that France's King Louis IX -- better known as Saint Louis -- died because he committed the cardinal error of many a colonial invader: not eating the local food.

An international team of researchers led by a celebrated French forensic pathologist Philippe Charlier, whose Twitter handle translates as Doctor Too Late, now believe he fell prey to scurvy.

Caused by a lack of vitamin C, the painful and potentially fatal disease was the scourge of sailors until the turn of the 19th century.

While the local food in Tunisia where the Eighth Crusade landed in 1270 contained lots of vitamin-C rich salads and citrus fruit, the crusaders' meat-heavy diet and Saint Louis' extreme piety appears to have been his undoing.

"His diet wasn't very balanced," said Charlier, who has also examined the heart of Richard the Lionheart and confirmed that a jawbone held in Moscow belonged to Adolf Hitler.

"He put himself through all manner of penances, and fasting. Nor was the crusade as well prepared as it should have been," he told AFP.

"They did not take water with them or fruit and vegetables."

'Scurvy is certain'
Charlier and his team used carbon 14 dating to authenticate that the jawbone held in a reliquary at Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris belonged to the king, who died five weeks after landing at Carthage.

Examining the bone, he said it was clear that Saint Louis suffered from scurvy, "which attacks the gums and then the bone".

"Saint Louis did not die from plague," as historians had always thought, Charlier added.

"The scurvy is certain, but one cause of death can also hide another," said the paleopathologist.

Chroniclers at the time recounted in gory detail how "Saint Louis lost his teeth, spitting out bits of his gums, which is consistent with what we see on his mandible," the pathologist told AFP.

As much as a sixth of the French army may have perished from disease -- including Louis' son John Tristan -- as they besieged Tunis in the summer of 1270.

Howling like 'women in labour'
A contemporary accounts by the king's friend Jean de Joinville describe how soldiers howled like "women in labour... as barbers (doctors) had to cut (away) the dead tissue to allow them to chew their meat".

King Louis, however, lived on fish, a more humble food associated with abstinence in the Middle Ages.

The new scientific report in the Journal of Stomatology, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery said that weakened by the scurvy, Louis could have succumbed to another condition.

"Tradition has conserved a cause of death as plague but this could be related to a bad translation of the ancient word 'pestilence'," it added.

"That he died of the plague is still there in the history books," Charlier said, "and modern science is there to rectify that."

Other accounts maintain that he died of dysentery, and experts are now examining his stomach, which was cut up and boiled in wine and spices to preserve it before being shipped back to Europe.

But the French were not the only ones to suffer during the crusade. De Joinville described both armies were decimated by trench disease, a louse-born illness that also hit soldiers fighting in World War I and II, with the river separating the French and besieged "Saracens filled with corpses".

Saint Louis was an inveterate crusader leading both the Seventh and Eighth Crusades.

The Seventh Crusade, was a disaster, too. After initial success following his landing in Egypt in 1249, it ended with him being captured and ransomed by Cairo's Mamluk rulers.

While Muslims might have a different view, Saint Louis was regarded as a model for medieval Christian rulers.

An ascetic who tended to lepers, fed beggars from his table and washed their feet, he brought to Paris the Crown of Thorns and a fragment of the True Cross on which Christ was said to have been crucified.

De Joinville, who was with him to Tunis, is also the source of the apocryphal story of the good king dispensing justice under an oak tree.

© Agence France-Presse










Today's News

June 23, 2019

Exhibition at the Fonds Helene et Edouard Leclerc focuses on cabinets of curiosities

Exhibition explores 300 years of lunar and celestial cartography

Yorkshire Sculpture Park opens a major exhibition of over 40 works by David Smith

Mexican artisans want credit for designs behind Carolina Herrera dresses

New Bouguereau exhibition reexamines artist's popularity in Gilded Age America

Exhibition highlights a selection of contemporary artists who work with ceramics

Lehmann Maupin opens a group exhibition that spans both of the gallery's Chelsea locations

Rare ancient funerary plaque with corrections goes to auction

Major art exhibition addresses representations of the global refugee crisis

Thought-provoking Jim Carrey exhibition opens at the Phi Centre as a world premiere

James Cohan opens an exhibition of new paintings by Scott Olson

Frist Art Museum opens "Monsters & Myths: Surrealism and War in the 1930s and 1940s"

Georgia Museum of Art displays minimal works in "Color, Form and Light"

Stephen Shore curates show of his Bard students at Howard Greenberg Gallery

Museum of Cycladic Art presents a rare and original exhibition entitled Picasso and Antiquity: Line and Clay

Hake's July 10-11 auction a pop culture feast with rare original comic art, comic books, Star Wars & more

Material Culture Auctions sets record prices for Outsider Art

Fashion world shaken by cultural appropriation claims

Bolshoi ballet star pays tribute to Coco Chanel in new show

Tretyakov Gallery opens exhibition program at a brand new venue

High Museum of Art celebrates Maira Kalman's book art with summer retrospective

Eat like the locals: How scurvy undid last crusader king

Exhibition of new work by Anne-Karin Furunes opens at Ryan Lee

Olivia Newton-John's Grease leather jacket and pants + more head to Julien's Auctions

How accurate is zodiac compatibility

3 Lessons from J.K. Rowling to Make Your Writing Richer

Tips and suggestions for paper writing

Here are your new income tax slab brackets for 2019




Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .

 



Founder:
Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
produces:

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.
Hommage
       

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful