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Joan of Arc: Insignis *

*A person outstanding in following the King of Heaven

Joan of Arc
Equestrian St. JoanJehanne, Maid of Orleans

Christ promised: "Behold I am with you all days - until the end of time". He formed his Church - but the human side of it sometimes breaks down and leaders lose their way. In fact Hilaire Belloc claims that it almost seemed as if the church was about to collapse five distinct times during its 20 century history. Then suddenly new life returned because of some special divine intervention - some special visitations occured.

This happened five and a half centuries ago when France lost hope with a dysfunctional church: God sent a saint to bring hope the French - Her name was Joan of Arc.

The Hundred-year war between France and England from 1337 to 1453 was celebrated in Shakespeare's Henry V with the battle at Agencourt and the marriage of Henry to the daughter of Mad King Charles VI. Joan of Arc was born on the feast of the Epiphany in 1412 in the village of Domremy in the province of Lorraine. She was burned at the stake on 30 May, 1431 at the age of 19. In 1920, May 30 was made the feast of Joan of Arc - because of the extraordinary story of an illiterate peasant girl who never left her village - but who loved to pray

She is unique among saints - the only one to be condemned by a Church trial and executed for heresy: God communicated with her when she was 13 in a beautiful way - through voices of saints and angels of kindred spirits, urging her to become a soldier, to lift the English siege at Orleans, to restore king Charles to the throne of France, to drive out the English and thus restore HOPE to the French people.

George Bernard Shaw's play, SAINT JOAN distorted the story by eliminating God's part; He made Joan merely a very fascinating, very intelligent girl. She was certainly that, but there is much more to the story, and Joan would be the first to insist on the part God played in the drama.

In fact God used the weak to confound the strong. There is clear evidence of God's grace from the continuing fulfillment of her very specific prophesies, her marvelous ability to convince wily politicians, lead a huge army of veteran soldiers and outmaneuver learned theologians. She is unique in history in that her whole biography comes to us under oath. This involves the minutes taken at the ecclesiastic trial that condemned her in 1431 and the 1456 retrial that cleared her name, declaring the earlier trial a criminal miscarraige of justice and truth. The sworn testimony of the eyewitnesses makes Joan the most unimpeachable of all saints.

At the age of 17 Joan took over supreme command of the disintegrating French army, just as the English were about to destroy it completely; and in seven short weeks Joan was victorious and broke the back of the 100 year war, thereby preventing France from Ireland's fate - of becoming a province of the English. She saved France just in time, since England shortly after was lost to the Faith because of the dreadful; behavior of Henry VIII.

Joan did everything well with amazing courage and miraculous intelligence. She seemed to learn everything she needed to know immediately, such as riding a horse, dealing with politicians, soldiers and churchmen. This young illiterate girl overruled field officers and won battles where the experts had lost: Her campaigns are still taught at the French Military Academy (St. Cyr) as examples of perfect military tactics. She later confounded the dishonest bishops of the inquisition with miraculous logic, inspired argumentation and fearless humor. When asked by one of her tormentors from Southern France if her "voices" were spoken in the French language, she answered, "in better French than yours".

She did this five and a half centuries ago and was considered a saint by all French people since then. But for some reason the documents of her trials were stored in archives for four centuries until 1850, and she was not declared a saint by the Church until Pius X beatified her in 1909 and Pope Benedict canonized her in 1920.
Joan's life echoes that of Christ.

Her humble birth, her very short three years of public life, her youth, the wonders she worked, the fulfillment of her very specific prophesies. She brought salvation to France, was persecuted by religious leaders, was arrested by scoundrels, endured a sham trial and a brutal death.

Map showing Joan's travels and campaigns
major battles are marked with an X

In an essay on Joan of Arc Mark Twain assesses "this remarkable girl"

We can understand how Joan could be born with military genius, with leonine courage, with incomparable fortitude, with a mind which was in several particulars a prodigy, a mind which included among its specialties the lawyer's gift of detecting traps laid by the adversary in cunning and treacherous arrangements of seemingly innocent words, the orator's gift of eloquence, the advocate's gift of presenting a case in clear and compact form, the judge's gift of sorting and weighing evidence, and finally, something recognizable as more than a mere trace of the statesman's gift of understanding a political situation and how to make profitable use of such opportunities as it offers; we can comprehend how she could be born with these great qualities, but we cannot comprehend how they became immediately usable and effective without the developing forces of a sympathetic atmosphere and the training which comes of teaching, study, practice, years of practice and the crowning and perfecting help of a thousand mistakes.

It is beyond us. All the rules fail in this girl's case. In the world's history she stands alone - quite alone. Others have been great in their first public exhibitions of generalship, valor, legal talent, diplomacy, and fortitude; but always their previous years and associations had been in a larger or smaller degree a preparation for these things. There have been no exceptions to the rule. But Joan was competent in a law case at sixteen without ever having seen a law book or a court-house before; she had no training in soldiering and no associations with it, yet she was a competent general in her first campaign; she was brave in her first battle, yet her courage had had no education. Friendless, alone, ignorant, in the blossom of her youth, she sat week after week, a prisoner in chains, before her assemblage of judges, enemies hunting her to her death, the ablest minds in France, and answered them out of an untaught wisdom which overmatched their learning, baffled their tricks and treacheries with a native sagacity which compelled their wonder, and scored every day a victory against these incredible odds and camped unchallenged on the field. In the history of the human intellect, untrained, inexperienced, and using only its birthright equipment of untried capacities, there is nothing which approaches this. Joan of Arc stands alone, and must continue to stand alone, by reason of the fact that in the things wherein she was great she was so without shade or suggestion of help from preparatory teaching, practice, environment, or experience. There is no one to compare her with, none to measure her by; for all others among the illustrious grew towards their high place in an atmosphere and surroundings which discovered their gift to them and nourished it and promoted it, intentionally or unconsciously.

Her history has still another feature which sets her apart and leaves her without fellow or competitor: there have been many uninspired prophets, but she was the only one who ever ventured the daring detail of naming, along with a foretold event, the event's precise nature, the special time-limit within which it would occur, and the place and scored fulfillment.
At Vaucouleurs she said she must go to the King and be made his general, and break the English power, and crown her sovereign - "at Rheims." It all happened. It was all to happen "next year" - and it did.
She foretold her first wound and its character and date a month in advance, and the prophecy was recorded in a public record-book three weeks in advance.
She repeated it the morning of the date named, and it was fulfilled before night.
At Tours she foretold the limit of her military career - saying it would end in one year from the time of its utterance - and she was right.
She foretold her martyrdom - using that word, and naming a time three months away - and again she was right.
At a time when France seemed hopelessly and permanently in the hands of the English she twice asserted in her prison before her judges that within seven years the English would meet with a mightier disaster than had been the fall of Orleans: it happened within five - the fall of Paris.
Other prophecies of hers came true, both as to the event named and within the time limit prescribed.
Taking into account, as I have suggested before, all the circumstances - her origin, youth, sex, illiteracy, early environment, and the obstructing conditions under which she exploited her high gifts and made her conquests in the field and before the courts that tried her for her life, she is easily and by far the most extraordinary person the human race has ever produced.

Frances Gies summarizes Joan's life (p. 238) and compares Joan with other mystics (p. 25).

Few historical characters, and no women, are more famous than Joan of Arc. Her name and story are known throughout the world. In the Middle Ages there were women who led armies, female mystics who prophesied and gave advice, and men and women alike whose beliefs led them to the stake. Joan's story has a unique quality, a fairy tale with a tragic ending, invested with her own personality - her common sense, her superior intelligence, her trenchant speech, her indomitable courage, before the judges at Rouen as in the moat at Orleans.
Certainly Joan was no heretic, she was no reformer, either social or ecclesiastical, no pre-Protestant, no social revolutionary. She accepted the social system, she zealously observed the rites and sacraments of the Church. She surely belonged to no dissident group. Yet Joan was not an ordinary Catholic Christian, or an ordinary anything. She was something else - intensely individualistic, innerdirected, believing so strongly in her own revelations that after a year of imprisonment and months of questioning and pressure, and in the shadow of the scaffold, she maintained unflinchingly that her voices were those of St. Catherine and St. Margaret and that they had been sent to her by God. Joan's clash was not only with Church authority, but with the authoritarian character of the Church, the fact that it reserved for itself the power of deciding what was the truth. Thus the Church - conducted 1456 Rehabilitation found the 1431 Church - conducted trial unjust and fraudulent.
The Church raised Joan to sainthood strictly for her virtues. No mention was made of her military accomplishments, her martyrdom, her voices, or her visions. By a reverberating irony, while Joan is now a saint, both Catherine and Margaret have been stricken from the Church calendar because of doubts that they ever really existed.

In the Middle Ages women mystics had remarkable careers, exerting influence over princes as well as peasants. Four in particular have significance in relation to Joan.
Hildegarde of Bingen (1098-1179), whose visions, like Joan's, were accompanied by light - "a great flash from heavens" - was consulted by popes, emperors, and kings, whom in her correspondence she addressed as equals.
Elizabeth of Schonau (1128-1164), who was visited by angels and saints, was inspired to write books freely admonishing her social betters, both clergy and lay, to mend their ways."
Mechthild of Magdeburg (1210-1297), criticized the laxity and materialism of the contemporary Church. She was criticized for the unorthodox theology that lay beneath her poetry, and she was even threatened with excommunication.
Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) was subjected to an Inquisition - like examination in doctrine, but ended by convincing the pope that he should restore the papacy to Rome.

Thus Joan of Arc had illustrious predecessors in women who claimed direct inspiration from God. In one interesting respect, however, Joan was strikingly different from the other mystics. Hildegarde suffered protracted bouts of illness and may have had a functional nervous disorder. Elizabeth was delicate and often fell into trances in which she lost consciousness of her surroundings. Mechthild lived a long life, but in constant ill-health, while Catherine, a severe ascetic, died exhausted at the age of thirty-three. Many other mystics were subject to physical or nervous maladies. In marked contrast, Joan was strong and healthy, readily bearing hardship, recuperating quickly from wounds, and impressing soldiers with her endurance.

James Darmesteter ("Joan of Arc in England", ENGLISH STUDIES: BOOKS FOR LIBRARIES PRESS, FREEPORT, NY 1896 REPRINTED 1972) speaks of the conversion of England to the cult of Joan: for two centuries she was considered a witch, for a third she became a heroine and finally a saint.

To later historians, the veritable excellence of the Maid was revealed at Rouen, not at Rheims: " Never, from the foundation of the earth, was there such a trial, if it were laid open in all its beauty of defense, and all its hellishness of attack. O child of France, shepherdess, peasant girl, trodden under foot by all around thee, how I honor thy flashing intellect, quick as God's lightning and true as God's lightning to its mark, that ran before France and laggard Europe by many a century."
Joan is in history what Jesus is in sacred history; and none the less divine because she knew herself to be a mere mortal woman; more utterly abandoned, since neither Magdalene nor Mary wept beneath her cross, since, even more than He, she died surrounded by hate and insult beyond measure. Behold her, most innocent, so free of all bitterness, accepting the cup without a word, never casting at her king the cry of reproach and anguish "Why hast thou forsaken me ? " To me, a Jew, the stake of Rouen appears loftier than the cross of Calvary. The night of the Mount of Olives loomed again, fourteen centuries later, in the poor little church of Compiegne, but it was suffered with how sweet a sadness, how pure a resignation !
A few days before she was taken, says the old chronicle, the little children of the village clustered round her as she leaned against a pillar of the church. She said to them: " My little ones, I am betrayed, and soon I shall be handed over to the death. I entreat you therefore, pray to God for me; for never more shall I render service to the King, neither to the noble realm of France." This ideal divinity of the Maid, is true Imitation of Christ.
Perhaps Joan of Arc is unfitted to make the heroine of a poem: how should the author interpret her thoughts ? There are souls so far above the range of humanity, soaring so out of reach of the noblest imaginations, that it is a vain temerity in a poet to attempt to touch them. History alone can attain their level. No poet has added to the words of Christ. No poet will add to the speech of Joan. Pg. 53-55
John Richard Green says: "In putting Joan to death the Duke of Bedford "terminated the English ascendancy in France. Had she returned home with her parents from the coronation at Rheims, had she escaped from prison, or even had she been pardoned by her judges, it had been different. She would have become the heroine of romance instead of the heroine of history. Death was her triumph, and from the ashes of her execution - pile at Rouen arose the regenerated liberty of France. Although, in compassion to "the weakness of her womanhood, the full truth, the "terrible but necessary end to her mission, was never clearly revealed to herself until it was about to be realized, yet it had been marked out from the beginning. The two Saints, her 'Voices', St. Catherine and St. Margaret, were both of them Virgins and Martyrs. To Orleans they promised deliverance, to Charles they promised that he should be crowned Icing at Rheims; but for Joan they had no promise save this - that at the end, after a great victory, they would conduct her into Paradise." P.58
Let her remain therefore our Sybil of history, an emblem of the past and an augury of the future. Let France re - make herself in the image of Joan of Arc. A nation lives by a book or a life: a book which teaches it what it ought to do; a life which shows it what it may become. We have lost our faith in the Book; may the life still abide with us! Now that the national conscience is re - born in a great effort towards a wide, wise, unsectarian and universal education, may the life of Joan of Arc to every Frenchman and every Frenchman be something of the living lesson which the life of Jesus and Mary is to every Catholic. Pg. 69

Quotations of Joan collected from her 1431 trial and 1456 retrial.


My mother had told me that my father often dreamed that I would run away with a band of soldiers. That was more than two years after I first heard the voices. She told me that he had said to my brothers, "If I believed that the thing I have dreamed about her would come to pass, I would want you to drown her; and if you would not, I would drown her myself." But since God had commanded me to go, I must do it. And since God had commanded it, had I had a hundred fathers and a hundred mothers, and had I been a king's daughter, I would have gone. It pleased God thus to act through a simple maid in order to turn back the King's enemies.

I must be with the King before mid-Lent, though I wear my legs to the knees on the road. For there is none in this world - neither kings, nor dukes, nor the King of Scotland's daughter, nor any other - who can restore the Kingdom of France. Nor is there any succor for it but from me.

Far rather would I sit and sew beside my poor mother, for this thing is not of my condition. But I must go, and I must do this thing, because my Lord will have it so.
Rather now than tomorrow, and tomorrow than the day after!

Voices, inspirations and prophecies
Joan's vision of St. MichaelJoan and the governor of Vaucouleure
The governor gives Joan safe passage to the kingJoan confronts conspirators
Joan reconizes the dauphinJoan questioned at Poitiers
Joan hearing the "voices"Joan and the dauphin
Statue of Joan at Reims CathedralJoan's standard and her "heretic" crown


I came to Chinon about noon and put up at an inn, and, after dinner, I went to the King in his castle. And when I entered the King's chamber, I knew him among the rest, for the voice counseled me and revealed it to me. And I told the King that I would go to make war on the English.

I do not know A from B.
I am come from the King of Heaven to raise the siege of Orleans and to lead the Dauphin to Rheims to be crowned and anointed.

In God's name, I did not come to Poitiers to give signs! Take me to Orleans, and I will show you a sign and for what I am sent! The voice has told me that it is God's will to deliver the people of France from the calamity that is upon them.

Are you the Bastard of Orleans? Was it you who counseled that we should come here on this side of the river, and not go straight to where Talbot and the English are? {Yes} In God's name! Our Lord God's counsel is surer and wiser than yours is. You thought to deceive me; it is yourself that you deceive. For I bring you better succor than ever came to captain or town, which is succor from the King of Heaven. Nor is it granted for love of me, but God.

Tomorrow I will not go out to fight nor put on armor, in reverence to the feast day; I will make my confession and receive the sacrament.
Let none tomorrow dare to leave the town and go out to fight, unless he has first gone to confession. And let them beware lest women of evil fame follow them: because, for sin, God will permit the loss of this war.

You Englishmen, who have no right in this Kingdom of France, the King of Heaven sends you word and warning, by me Jehanne the Maid, to abandon your forts and depart into your own country, or I will raise such a war - cry against you as shall be remembered forever. And this I write to you for the third and last time, nor shall I write further.

Tomorrow, rise very early, earlier than you did today, and do the best that you can. Keep close to me all day, for tomorrow I shall have much to do and greater things than I have had to do yet. And tomorrow blood will flow from my body, above my breast.

I was the first to set a ladder against the fortress on the bridge, and, as I raised it, I was wounded in the throat by a cross-bow bolt. But Saint Catherine comforted me greatly. And I did not cease to ride and do my work.

Courage! Do not fall back: in a little the place will be yours. Watch! When you see the wind blow my banner against the bulwark, you shall take it!
In, in, the place is yours!
{To the English Captain} Glasdale, Glasdale, yield, yield to the King of Heaven. You have called me "whore": I pity your soul and the souls of your men.

{To those who wished to apply charms to her wound} I would rather die than do what I know to be sin.
Whenever I am unhappy, because men will not believe me in the things that I say at God's bidding, I go apart and pray to God, complaining to him that those to whom I speak do not easily believe me. And when I have made my prayer to God, I hear a voice that says to me: "Child of God, go, go, go! I shall be with you to help you. Go!" And when I hear that voice I feel a great joy. Indeed, I would that I might ever be in that state.

Joan's military campaigns took only 13 months
Joan enters OrleansJoan's capture of the Tourelles
The battle of OrleansJoan comforts an English soldier
Coronation at ReimsStature of Joan in New York City
Joan wounded at ParisCapture of Joan at Compiegne


I will willingly swear to tell the truth. But the revelations, which have come to me from God, I have never told or revealed to anyone, except to Charles, my King. Nor would I reveal them if I were to be beheaded.

{When asked to prove that she knew her prayers}: I will not say the "Our Father" for you unless you will hear me in confession.
I do not accept your prohibition. And if I escape from prison, no one can accuse me of breaking my faith, for I have pledged it to no one.
I protest against being kept in chains and irons.
It is true that I have wished, and that I still wish, what is permissible for any captive: to escape!

I come, sent by God. I have no business here. I pray you, send me back to God from whom I am come.
I heard my voice yesterday and today. Yesterday I heard it three times - once in the morning, once at vespers, and the third time when the bells were ringing for "Hail Mary" in the evening.
I was sleeping and the voice waked me. And I thanked it, sitting up in my bed, and joining my hands.

I prayed it to counsel me in what I should answer, telling it to ask counsel of our Lord in that. And the voice told me that I should answer bravely and that God would help me.

You say that you are my judge. Take thought over what you are doing. For, truly, I am sent from God, and you are putting yourself in great danger.

About what I know which concerns this trial I will freely tell the truth, and I will tell you just as much as I should tell if I were before the Pope of Rome.
{She was asked: Whom you believe is the true Pope}
She answered: Are there two?

Do you want me to tell you what concerns the King of France?
There are many things which do not concern this trial. And I know well that my King will win the Kingdom of France - I know it as well as I know that you are before me to judge me.
I should be dead, were it not for the revelation that comforts me each day.

{She was asked: Was Saint Michael naked?}
She answered:
Do you think that God has not wherewithal to clothe him?
{She was asked: Had he hair?}
She answered: Why should it have been cut off?

{She was asked: Are you in the state of grace?}
She answered: If I am, may God keep me in it. If I am not, may He soon bring me to it.
{She was asked: When you confess, do you believe that you are in mortal sin?}
She answered: I do not know if I have been in mortal sin: I do not believe that I have done the works thereof. Please God I have not been! Please God I shall not do, and that I have not done things by which my soul will be burdened!

{She was asked: Do you not know the sign that you gave to your King?}
She answered: You shall not learn that from me.
{She was asked: Do you know by revelation that you will escape from prison?}
She answered: That does not concern your trial! Would you have me speak against myself?

I cannot tell you impossible things! I call this impossible - that I should revoke the things which I have said and done, as they are set down in this trial, concerning the visions and revelations which I have said that I had from God. Not for anything will I revoke them. And what our Lord has caused and commanded me to do, and shall command, I will not cease from doing for any man living. And it would be impossible for me to revoke them. And in case the Church wished to make me do something else, contrary to the commandment, which I say God has given me, not for anything would I do it.
Truly, if you were to have me torn limb from limb and send my soul out of my body, I would say nothing else. And if I did say anything, afterwards I should always say that you had made me say it by force.

I have asked my voices to counsel me whether I should submit to the Church, because the churchmen were pressing me to submit to the Church. And my voices have told me that, if I want our Lord to help me, I must lay all my deeds before him.

If I were at the place of execution, and I saw the fire lighted, and the faggots catching and the executioner ready to build up the fire, and if I were in the fire, even so I would say nothing else, and I would maintain what I have said at this trial until death. I have nothing more to say.

Speak not against my King! He is a good Christian.

You take great pains to seduce me. I leave it to your consciences whether I should recant or not. I am content to do what you will have me.
Abjure? What does abjure mean?
I would rather sign it than burn. Now, you churchmen, take me to your prison, and let me be no longer in the hands of the English.

Alas! Am I so horribly and cruelly used, that my clean body, never yet defiled, must this day be burnt and turn to ashes! Ha! I would rather be beheaded seven times than suffer burning.
Alas! If I had been kept in the Church's prison, to which I had submitted - if I had been kept by churchmen, instead of by my enemies and adversaries, I should not have come to such a miserable end. Oh, I appeal to God, the great Judge, from this great wrong and oppression!

Bishop, I die through you! I call to God against you!
Master Peter, where shall I be this night? By God's grace I shall be in Paradise.

Joan's imprisonment, trial and execution
Joan's trial before the inquisitorsJoan's retraction
Joan's executionJoan's burned at the stake


Barrett, W.P., The Trial of Jeanne d'Arc A complete translation of the text of the original documents, London: GEORGE ROUTLEDGE & SONS, 1931
Belloc, Hilaire, Joan of Arc. Boston: Little, Brown, 1929.
Fabri, Lucien, Joan of Arc, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1954
Gies, Frances, Joan of Arc: The Legend and the Reality, New York: HARPER & ROW, 1981
Michelet, Jules, Joan of Arc, University of Michigan Press, 1967
Pernoud, Regine, The retrial of Joan of Arc, New York: Harcourt Brace, 1955
Shaw, George Bernard, New York: Saint Joan Brentano's, 1924.
Trask, Willard R. (Willard Ropes), Joan of Arc : in her own words, New York Turtle Point Press, 1996.
Twain, Mark, The writings of Mark Twain New York: Harper & brothers vol. 24 pp 139-159, 1899
Twain, Mark, Personal recollections of Joan of Arc, New York: Harper & Bros., 1896.
Winwar, Francis, The Saint and the Devil, London: Hamish Hamilton, 1948

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