Canonization of Jeanne d’Arc

She remains the only figure in history ever to be both condemned and canonized by the Catholic Church

Beatified 11 April 1909 by Pope Saint Pius X. – Canonized 16 May 1920 by Pope Benedict XV

Saint Jeanne d’Arc, The Maid of Orleans is a recognized Saint of the Roman Catholic Church. 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.

Course to sainthood

Death and 15th century

Cathédrale Sainte-Croix d’Orléans

As with other saints who were excommunicated or investigated by ecclesiastic courts, such as St. Athanasius, St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, Jeanne d’Arc was put on trial by an Inquisitorial court. In Jeanne’s case, the court was controlled by the English government in occupied northern France, leading to her burning at the stake at Rouen. When the French regained Rouen in 1449, a series of investigations were launched which led to a formal appeal run by the Inquisitor-General in 1455. She was declared innocent on July 7, 1456. The Inquisitor’s summary of evidence for the case describes her as a martyr who had been executed by a court which was itself in violation of the Church’s rules.

She had always been considered innocent by those of her own faction. The city of Orléans commemorated her death each year beginning in 1432, and from 1435 onward performed a religious play centered around her victories. The play represented her as a divinely sent saviour guided by angels.

In 1452, during one of the postwar investigations into her execution, Cardinal d’Estouteville declared that this religious play would merit qualification as a pilgrimage site by which attendees could gain an indulgence. Not long after the appeal, Pope Pius II wrote an approving piece about her in his memoirs.

16th century

During the 16th century, Jeanne d’Arc was utilized as a symbol of the Catholic League, a group organized to fight against Protestantism during the Wars of Religion of that era.

19th century to present

Paradoxically, it was the publication of works by secular historians in the mid-19th century which seems to have sparked widespread public efforts to ask the Church to officially canonize her. Félix Dupanloup, Bishop of Orléans from 1849 to 1878, led the efforts which culminated in Jeanne d’Arc’s beatification in 1909, held in Notre Dame de Paris. During the subsequent fighting in France during World War I, Allied troops carried her image into battle with them. During one battle, French troops interpreted a German searchlight image projected onto low-lying clouds as an appearance by Jeanne, which greatly bolstered their morale.

Her canonization came on 16 May 1920. Over 30,000 people attended the ceremony in Rome, including 140 descendants of Jeanne d’Arc’s family. Pope Benedict XV presided over the rite, for which the interior of St. Peter’s Basilica was richly decorated (Associated Press, 16 May 1920).

Her beatification approximately coincided with the French invention of the Janvier transfer engraving machine (also called a die engraving pantograph) which facilitates the creation of minted coins and commemorative medallions. This invention, together with the already well-established French sculptural tradition, added another element to Saint Jeanne’s beatification: a series of well-made religious art medals featuring Saint Jeanne d’Arc with scenes from her life.

Her feast day is 30 May. Although changes to the Church-wide calendar in 1968 moved many medieval European saints’ days off the general calendar in order to make room for more non-Europeans, her feast day is still celebrated on many local and regional Church calendars, especially in France. Many Catholic churches around the globe have been named after her in the decades since her canonization.

She has become especially popular among Traditional Catholics, particularly in France – both because of her obvious connection to this country as well as the fact that the Traditional Catholic movement is strongest in France. This branch of Catholicism, which has refused to accept the changes made by the Second Vatican Council, has compared the 1988 excommunication of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (one of the founders of the Traditional Catholic movement) to Jeanne d’Arc’s excommunication by a corrupt pro-English Bishop in 1431. Traditional Catholic parishes sometimes perform plays in Jeanne d’Arc’s honor.

Newspaper 1920
Newspaper 1920
Original Rotogravure 1922
Original Rotogravure 1922
La Béatification de Jeanne d'Arc, par Pie X, en 1909
La Béatification de Jeanne d'Arc, par Pie X, en 1909
1909 Vaticaan, Rome Pius X, Paus, Jeanne d'Arc
1909 Vaticaan, Rome Pius X, Paus, Jeanne d'Arc

Glory of the Universal Church

Jeanne was canonized with great festivity on May 16, 1920, in Saint Peter’s Basilica, finally restoring her reputation among the faithful. That same year, the French government officially made May 8 a national holiday. Her celebrated feast day is May 30, the day of her death.

Whether one is Catholic or not, Saint Jeanne d’Arc serves as an example of a holy soul who conformed herself to God’s will. She was then given all necessary means to accomplish the tremendous tasks appointed to her. In the words of Pope Pius X, “Jeanne has shone like a new star destined to be the glory not only of France but of the Universal Church as well.”

English Translation of the Canonization of Saint Jeanne d’Arc

Pius XI, Pope, for perpetual memory

The Roman Pontiffs Our predecessors have always, over the centuries, loaded with special marks of their paternal affection France, justly called the eldest daughter of the Church. Our predecessor of blessed memory, Pope Benedict XV, who was deeply committed to the spiritual welfare of France, was thought give to this nation, noble of all, a pledge special benevolence.

Indeed, when recently, Our Venerable Brothers the cardinals, archbishops and bishops of France, by unanimous consent, had sent him by Our Venerable Brother Stanislas Touchet, bishop of Orleans, ardent and fervent supplications to that deign proclaim principal patron of the French nation received the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven, and second celestial patron Saint Jeanne, Maid of Orleans, Our predecessor was of the opinion to respond sympathetically to such requests pious. Prevented by death, he could not carry out the plan he had conceived. But we, who have just been elevated by divine grace to the Chair of the Sublime Prince of the Apostles, he is sweet and pleasant We fulfill the wish of our predecessor and greatly missed by our supreme authority to declare what may become for France a good cause, prosperity and happiness.

Certainly, as an old saying that the kingdom of France was called the kingdom of Mary, and rightly so. For since the first centuries of the Church until our time, and Eucher Irenaeus of Lyon, Hilary of Poitiers, Anselm, who, in France, went to England as Archbishop Bernard of Clairvaux, Francis de Sales, and number of other holy doctors, celebrated Mary and helped promote and extend across France the cult of the Virgin Mother of God. In Paris, the famous Sorbonne University, it is historically proven that from the thirteenth century was proclaimed the Virgin conceived without sin.

Even the sacred monuments attest to how bright the old people’s devotion towards the Virgin: Thirty-four churches cathedrals have the title of the Virgin Mother of God, among which we like to remember him as the most famous ones amounting to Reims, Paris, Amiens, Chartres, Coutances and Rouen. The huge crowds of faithful rushing to further each year, even in our time, the Shrine of Mary, clearly demonstrates what can the people of piety towards the Mother of God several times a year and the Basilica of Lourdes, so vast that it is apparently unable to contain the huge crowds of pilgrims.

The Madonna in person, Treasurer God of all grace, seemed, by repeated appearances, approve and confirm the devotion of the French nation.

Moreover, the principal and heads of the nation have long been proud to claim and defend its devotion to the Virgin.

Converted to the true faith of Christ, Clovis hastened, on the ruins of a temple druid lay the foundations of the Church of Our Lady, a completion Childebert his son.

Several temples are dedicated to Mary by Charlemagne. The Dukes of Normandy proclaim Mary Queen of the nation. The Saint Louis devoutly recite daily the Office of the Virgin. Louis XI, for the fulfillment of a vow, builds a temple to Clery at Notre Dame. Finally, Louis XIII establishes the kingdom of France to Mary and ordered that every year the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin is celebrated in all dioceses of France solemn functions and solemn these pumps, we are aware they continue to occur each year.

Regarding the Maid of Orleans that Our predecessor elevated to the supreme honor of the saints, nobody can question whether under the auspices of the Virgin that she has received and fulfilled the mission of saving France, for First, it is under the patronage of Our Lady of Bermont, then under that of the Virgin of Orleans, and finally the Virgin of Reims, she undertook a manly heart so much work, that She remained fearless in the face with swords unsheathed and spotless in the midst of the license camps, she freed his country from the supreme peril and restored the fortunes of France. After having received the advice of his heavenly voice she added on her glorious banner of the name Mary of Jesus, the true King of France. Mounted on the stake, it is whispering in flames in a final scream, the names of Jesus and Mary, she flew to heaven. So, having experienced the obvious relief of the Maid of Orleans, that France receives the favor of the second heavenly patron: it demanding that the clergy and people, which was already better in our predecessor and we are pleased to Ourselves.

Therefore, after taking the advice of our venerable brothers the cardinals of the Holy Roman Church attendants Rites motu proprio, With certain knowledge and after careful deliberation, in the fullness of our apostolic power, by force of the present and in perpetuity, We declare and confirm that the Virgin Mary Mother of God under the title of her Assumption into heaven, has been regularly chosen as the principal patron of all France with God, with all the privileges and honors that include the noble title and dignity.

Furthermore, listening to the wishes of pressing bishops, clergy and faithful of the dioceses and missions of France, we declare with the greatest joy and establish the illustrious Maid of Orleans, especially admired and revered by all Catholics France as the heroine of religion and the homeland, St. Jeanne d’Arc, virgin, secondary patroness of France, selected by the full vote of the people, and it even after our supreme apostolic authority, also granting all the honors and privileges under the law includes this as a second patron.

Accordingly, we pray God, the author of any property that, by the intercession of two celestial patrons, the Mother of God assumed into Heaven and St. Jeanne d’Arc, virgin, and other patron saints of places and holders churches, dioceses that both missions, Catholic France, hopes strained towards true liberty and its ancient dignity, is really the first-born daughter of the Roman Church, it warms, guard, developed by thinking, action, love, its ancient and glorious traditions for the good of religion and the homeland.

We grant these privileges, determining that these letters are still firm and remain valid and effective, that they obtain and retain their full force and effect, both now and in the future for the entire French nation, the pledge broader relief heavenly way it should be judged definitively, and that is now held vain and void for future development which would adversely affect these decisions, because of any authority either knowingly or unknowingly. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary.

Given at Rome, at St. Peter, under the seal of the Fisherman, the 2nd of March of 1922, the first of Our Pontificate years.

Press Photos

Basilique Jeanne d'Arc pose de la première pierre par Monseigneur Verdier
Basilique Jeanne d'Arc pose de la première pierre par Monseigneur Verdier
La canonisation de Jeanne d'Arc à Rome députés français à l'Eglise Saint Louis des Français
La canonisation de Jeanne d'Arc à Rome église Saint Pierre de Rome
La canonisation de Jeanne d'Arc à Rome entrée des évêques à Saint Pierre au 1er plan
La canonisation de Jeanne d'Arc à Rome entrée du pape à Saint Pierre
La canonisation de Jeanne d'Arc à Rome la foule devant Saint Pierre de Rome
La canonisation de Jeanne d'Arc à Rome le cardinal Mercier
La canonisation de Jeanne d'Arc à Rome le duc de Vendôme et les chevaliers de Malte sortent du Vat
La canonisation de Jeanne d'Arc à Rome le Général de Castelnau sortant de Saint Pierre
La canonisation de Jeanne d'Arc à Rome le Père Jérôme, de Paris, ancien capitaine du 59ème d'Infanterie
La canonisation de Jeanne d'Arc à Rome Mr Barrère, ambassadeur de France à Rome
La canonisation de Jeanne d'Arcc à Rome pélerinage à Notre Dame de Lourdes au Vatican
La canonisation de Jeannee d'Arc à Rome le cardinal Annette
La canonisatiotn de Jeanne d'Arc à Rome pélerinage à Notre Dame de Lourdes au Vatican
La canonisatioyn de Jeanne d'Arc à Rome entrée du pape à Saint Pierre

Source: Catholic Encyclopedia, Pernoud, Clin, wikipedia, Bibliothèque nationale de France