Famous French People:  Sainte-Jeanne d'Arc

Saint Joan of Arc
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Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc) is a national heroine of France.  She was a country-girl, born in Domrémy, Northern France, around the year 1412.  Joan was the youngest of five brothers and sisters.
Her village was in the area now known as Lorraine. 
Her parents were Jacques and Isabelle d'Arc. 
D'Arc was the family surname.  Below is a photo of the house where she was born and lived.

Joan of arc home

During Joan's childhood, the English were invading Northern France.  In fact, even Joan's village had been attacked by English soldiers.  It must have been very frightening for everyone living in this area of France.

Then, from about the age of twelve years, Joan said that Saint Margaret, Saint Catherine of Alexandria and the Archangel Michael spoke to her in visions and told her to lead the French soldiers into battle against the English!

(Above:- a painting by
Eugène Thirion, depicting The Archangel Michael speaking to Joan.)

During the next four years, the voices continued to speak to Joan.  It was always the same message that she heard:- to lead the French soldiers against the English army!  Eventually, the voices became more desperate for Joan's help and they urged her more strongly to obey their command.  Joan replied to the voices, "I am a poor girl. I do not know how to ride or to fight." 
The voices replied, "It is God who commands it."

  It was decided that Joan should inform the future French King, Charles VII, about the voices and the messages.  So, she travelled to his castle in Chinon, accompanied by three guards.  It took eleven days to arrive there.  Joan was sixteen years old.

She must have felt very nervous going to a royal palace to speak to such important people!  She had only ever experienced a simple life in the countryside.
  
After tests and discussions, Charles decided that Joan was speaking the truth, so, he agreed to let her lead his army against the English soldiers who had seized
the city of Orléans. 

A suit of white-coloured armour was made for Joan.
A special war banner was made for her and she was given a sword.  The banner was decorated with the words Jesus, Maria, an image of God, and kneeling angels holding a lily.

In those times, it was almost unimaginable that a woman, especially a teenage girl, could fight as a soldier.  It must have seemed impossible that she could actually lead the army into battle!
Below is a photo of the ruined castle at Chinon where Joan visited the future king.  You can see the outline of the fireplace belonging to what was once 'the great hall'
(la grande salle).

French castle

So, Joan led the French army into battle at Orléans and won! 
Now it really did seem that Joan was correct about what the voices had told her to do!   She continued to lead the French army over a period of two years and all her campaigns were successful!   As a result, Charles was crowned King of France. 

Below is a portrait of King Charles VII. This portrait can be seen at Le Musée du Louvre, Paris.  Below, there is also a painting by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1854) depicting Joan at the king's coronation.

French King   Joan of Arc

Below, is a portrait of Joan (painted around 1485) dressed as a soldier.  This portrait is kept at Le Centre Historique des Archives Nationales in Paris.  Below, you can also see her signature. 


Joan of Arc         Signature of Joan of Arc


Unfortunately, when Joan was nineteen years old, she was captured by enemies called the Burgundians.  After being held prisoner for four months, she was handed over to the English soldiers who were based in the city of Rouen. 
They paid a price of 10,000 livres to have Joan handed over to them.

  The English accused her of witchcraft, of dressing as a man and of heresy.  During the period of her trial, she was imprisoned in the tower below.  This tower is called

La Tour Jeanne d'Arc.

Joan of Arc tower

 On 30 May 1431, she was executed by being burned at the stake in the city of Rouen in Normandy. 
The date of her death is her feast day - meaning that every year, on 30 May, she is remembered.  A church has been built in Rouen on the very spot where Joan died.
Below is a photo of that church.

Joan of Arc church, Rouen

She was canonized (made a saint) in 1920 by
Pope Benedict XV.   Saint Joan of Arc is the protector of soldiers and prisoners. 
She is also known as The Maid of Orléans or La Pucelle in French, meaning 'the maiden.'
Below is a sketch of Jeanne d'Arc.  It is the earliest known image of her.  It was drawn during her lifetime in 1429 by Clément de Fauquembergue. She carries her army's banner  in one hand and her sword in the other hand. 

Joan of Arc Sketch

     Below is a famous painting of the inquisition of Joan of Arc after her capture. This painting, by Paul Delaroche, can be seen at Le Musée des Beaux Arts in Rouen.

Joan of Arc interrogation   

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