Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Heart of the King

During the time of Diane de Poitiers and Henri II, it was the custom to treat the body of a monarch as a relic, in the same way as a saint. After Henri's death, his heart was removed and placed in the Church of the Celestines in Paris.  The church was demolished in 1798. It was bounded by rue du Petit-Musc to the West, rue de la Cerisaie to the North, rue de l’Arsenal to the East and rue de Sully to the South.

The monument, by Germain Pilon, can be seen in the Louvre in Paris. Three figures, standing back to back. They are holding hands, as if ready to begin a dance. The urn itself was inspired by an engraved incense burner by Raphael. 

It was commissioned by Catherine de Medici in 1561, and was intended to hold her heart as well. The inscription on the base told the reader not to wonder how so small a vessel could hold a heart as large as Henri, as his real heart beat in Catherine's breast. We can only imagine how Diane had to struggle to maintain her composure!

During the French Revolution,  Henri's heart disappeared and the urn was melted down (the one in the Louvre is a replica).

No comments:

Post a Comment