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Joan of Arc

1412-1431. “The Maid of Orléans,” national heroine of France. An illiterate though devout peasant girl from Domrémy, Champagne (called Jeanne la Pucelle), she began at the age of thirteen to experience inward promptings, voices accompanied by light, which urged her to save France from the aggressors. As these voices increased, she could even distinguish those of SS. Michael, Catherine, Margaret, and others. By this time the dauphin, Charles, was at war with the joint forces of England and Burgundy. Although she was unsuccessful at persuading the French commander at Vaucouleurs in 1428 of the reality of her visions, she was sent to Charles who became convinced when she recognized him in disguise. On close examination by theologians at Poitiers, she was given armor and attendants, then joined the army at Blois, later to rout the English besieging Orléans.

After another victory in the Loire she persuaded Charles to be crowned at Reims (1429). Going in 1430 to relieve Compiègne, she was there taken prisoner by the Burgundians and sold to the English without intervention from Charles VII. Appearing before the court of the bishop of Beauvais, she was charged with witchcraft and heresy; fearlessly enduring the long trial, she refused to betray her inward leading. Found guilty, with the verdict confirmed by the University of Paris, her visions were declared “false and diabolical.” Facing death, she recanted slightly, only to stand firm once again. She was burnt as a heretic in the marketplace of Rouen. Charles VII twice sought a changed verdict, but not until Callistus III (1456) was the case declared fraudulent and her innocence acknowledged. Her death proved her influence; her banner carried the symbol of the Trinity and the words “Jesus, Maria.” Canonized in 1920, she is the second patron of France.

P. Champion (ed.), Procés de condamnation de Jeanne d'Arc (2 vols., 1920-21); W.F. Barrett, The Trial of Jeanne d'Arc (1931); L. Fabre, Joan of Arc (tr. G. Hopkins, 1954); R. Pernoud, Joan of Arc (1965).