Joan of Arc - Jeanne d'Arc (1412 - 1431)
Saint of the Roman Catholic church and French national heroine.
Although she was excommunicated and burned at the stake for heresy by local officials in 1431, central Church officials would later nullify her excommunication, declaring her a martyr unjustly executed for a secular vendetta. Her legend would grow from there, leading to her beatification in 1909 and her canonization in 1920. The details of the life of Jeanne d’Arc form a biography which is unique among the world’s biographies in one respect: It is the only story of a human life which comes to us under oath, the only one which comes to us from the witness-stand.
Girl and soldier, saint and heretic, savior
Since the time of her death, Jeanne has inspired thousands of historians, poets, and painters. Each of them tells a different story. Guided by what she thought were divine voices, Jeanne revived French fortunes in the Hundred Years’ War.
She played a major (and somewhat mysterious) role in rallying the flagging forces of Charles VII against the English occupier in 1429, leading her troops to breaking the siege of Orléans and having Charles VII, the Seventh, the king of France officially crowned king in Reims the same year. Girl and soldier, saint and heretic, savior – since the time of her death, Jeanne has inspired thousands of historians, poets, and painters. Each of them tells a different story.
Guided by what she thought were divine voices, Jeanne revived French fortunes in the Hundred Years’ War. She was later captured and sold to the English, who burned her at the stake for heresy and perjury in 1431, in Rouen France.
Her death only made her more powerful.
She was only 19 years old
The role she played in the Hundred Years' War.
This war started, with interruptions, from 1337-1453, and began as a dynastic conflict between the English and French royal houses which both laid claim to the French throne. Initially this war went badly for France; the Dauphin, later King Charles VII, had to withdraw for safety to the Castle of Chinon from the English and their allies, the Burgundians. In 1429, the country lass Jeanne d’Arc, managed to reach him at the castle, led by divine inspiration. This started her military successes: with a small army she marched on Orleans which she managed to rid of the English.
Her success was a powerful momentum for French national consciousness. New successes at Patay and Reims followed. The performance of the Pucelle (Virgin) d’ Orleans led to a change in the war in favour of the French. It culminated in the coronation of Charles VII in Reims cathedral on 17 July 1429, in which Jeanne d’Arc held her standard above Charles’s head. A complete English defeat seemed unavoidable, but the siege of Paris in September failed, due to lack of the necessary means. In May 1430, she fell into the hands of the Burgundians, who delivered her to the English. In February 1431, a trial began against her in which she was condemned as a witch.
On 30 May 1431, she died at the stake on the Place du Vieux Marché in Rouen.
Sixteenth-century France made her a national heroine.
Cultural depictions of Jeanne d'Arc
Jeanne d’Arc has inspired artistic and cultural works for nearly six centuries. Portrayals of Jeanne d’Arc are numerous. For example, in 1979 the Bibliothèque Municipale in Rouen, France held a gallery containing over 500 images and other items related to Jeanne d’Arc and Schiller’s play inspired at least 82 different dramatic works during the nineteenth century, and Verdi’s and Tchaikovsky’s operatic adaptations are still recorded and performed. Most of the others survive only in research libraries.
As another example, in 1894, Émile Huet listed over 400 plays and musical works about Jeanne d’Arc. Despite a great deal of scholarly interest in Jeanne d’Arc no complete list of artistic works about her exists, although a 1989 doctoral dissertation did identify all relevant films including ones for which no copy survives. Examples of fine art
“We declare you of right excommunicate and heretic, being stubborn and obstinate in your crimes, excesses and errors; and we pronounce it meet to abandon you to the secular justice as a limb of Satan, infected with the leprosy of heresy, cut off from the Church, in order to prevent the infection of the other members of
Christ …” last words addressed to Joan of Arc, Wednesday 30 May 1431