Joan of Arc, c.1412-1431
The French patriot and martyr, Joan of Arc, was born the daughter of well-off peasants at Domrémy, a hamlet on the borders of Lorraine and Champagne, January 6. The English conquered the area in 1421 but their forces withdrew in 1424. Joan received no formal education but was endowed with an argumentative nature and shrewd common senses.
At the age of thirteen she thought she heard the voices of St. Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret bidding her rescue the Paris region from English domination. She presented herself before the local commander, Robert de Baudricourt, and persuaded him, after he had had her exorcised, to take her across the English-occupied territory to the dauphin at Chinon, which they reached March 6, 1429. According to legend, Joan was called into a gathering of courtiers, among them the dauphin in disguise, and her success in identifying him at once was interpreted as divine confirmation of his previously doubted legitimacy and claims to the throne. She was equally successful in ecclesiastical examination to which she was subjected at Poitiers and was consequently allowed to join the army assembled at Blois for the relief of Orleans. Clad in a suit of white armor and flying her own standard, she entered Orleans with an advance guard on April 29 and by May 8 forced the English to raise the siege and retire in June from the principal stronghold on the Loire.
To further aid French resistance, Joan took the dauphin with an army of 12,000 through English-held territory to be crowned Charles VII in Rheims cathedral on July 17, 1429. She then found it difficult to persuade him to undertake further military exploits, especially the relief of Paris. At last she set out on her own to relieve Compiègne from the Burgundians, was captured in a skirmish and sold to the English by John of Luxembourg for 10,000 crowns. She was put on trial (February 21-May 17, 1431) on charges of heresy and sorcery by an ecclesiastical court of the Inquisition, presided over by Pierre Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais.
Most of what we know about Joan's brief life are those preserved in the records of her trial. She was found guilty, taken out to the churchyard of St. Ouen on May 24 to be burnt, but at the last moment broke down and made a wild recantation. This she later abjured and suffered her martyrdom at the stake in the marketplace of Rouen on May 30, faithful to her "voices." The apparitor of the archiepiscopal court, Maugier Leparmentier, was present and recorded that:
The usher, Jean Massieu, added that:
In 1456, in order to strengthen the validity of Charles VII's coronation, the trial was declared irregular. In 1904 she was designated Venerable, declared Blessed in 1908 and finally canonized in 1920.
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