Saint After Death: Joan of Arc

Biography

Jeanne d’Arc, Joan of Arc in English, is a female military leader who ruled thousands of French troops during the Hundred Years’ War against the English. Her young but ambitious soul was enough to change the destiny of both sides.



Sometime in 1412, Joan of Arc was born in Domremy, France into a modest family. Her pious mother fostered her in a deep love for the Catholic church and taught her to pray, despite being illiterate. Joan’s father was a sage farmer and led her to become a head seamstress.

In one of her testimonies, she mentions a divine phenomenon that happened to her at the age of 13: hearing the voices of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, Saint Margeret of Antioch, and Archangel Micheal. At that time, English forces compromised with the Burgundians, a political party against the French, and gained the upper hand in the battle. Supposedly, the Saints were right on time and encouraged Joan to save the French from the British and enthrone Charles VII.


Charles VII

Charles VII, known as the Well-Served, is the son of Charles VI and Isabeau de Baviere. In 1420, Isabeau signed a treaty with the English. She disowned Charles VII and married her daughter Catherine to Henry V of England. Two years later, Charles VI and Henry died a few months apart leaving their thrones empty. France would have been taken under control by the English if the next heir of England wasn’t an 11-year-old baby. That slowed down the process. Moreover, Charles VII was a weak man without enough soldiers to take over England and looks for a sign of hope. Who knew it would be the sixteen-year-old Joan of Arc?


Hundred Years’ War

The Hundred Years’ War was a series of conflicts between France and England, which in fact, it lasted 116 years, not 100. It became one of the most significant events of the Middle Age with lasting historical effects. The war is also important for our heroine, Joan of Arc, since she was born in this destructive conflict.


The Figure of Female Heroism in Middle Age

What made Charles VII have faith in this young girl? How come he ended up providing armor and a handful of men to Joan who doesn’t have any military training? But most importantly to answer, how did Middle Age mentality, which had defined women as representatives of the devil and incapable beings, allow Joan of Arc to lead the French soldiers?

Just like Joan the Arc, many women of the Middle Age claimed to communicate with God. Both the Church and the kings were afraid of mystic women. According to their view, women were difficult beings to control, and if they are engaged in dangerous behavior, they should be destroyed. Women who rebelled against this idea were either tortured or executed. Joan of Arc, unlike these women, did not rebel against the church or the king. On the contrary, she wanted to help Charles get on the throne and concurrently stayed loyal to her religion. She even cut her hair short and dressed like a man to blend in more. Her act might show the need for a male figure to be taken under consideration. Frankly, the troops of France, tired of fighting, needed a new motivation to revolt whether it was a woman or not.


She, indeed, accomplished her one and only mission. She won her first battle at the age of 17. On the other hand, Charles became the official king of France.


“I am not afraid. I was born to do this.”

After her countless successes, unfortunately, when her job was done, King Charles deport Joan from France. The Burgundians took her captive, then sold her to the English. There she was accused of heresy, witchcraft, and many wrongdoings, more like excuses to punish her, including wearing man’s clothes. The French king, Charles, made no attempt to save Joan. She was once asked, “You have one chance to acknowledge your sins and deny everything. Will you?”, but she answered “I am not afraid. I was born to do this.”

Later, taking advantage of her being illiterate, the English signed her off a confession. On May 30, 1431, at the age of 19, Joan was burned at the stake. Her last words were “Jesus, Jesus!”


In 1456, King Charles VII declared Joan of Arc to be officially innocent of all charges. 500 years later, in 1920, she was canonized as a saint. A statue inside the famous Notre Dame cathedral pays respect to her legacy.


 

Melis Ata