French saint and national heroine

French saint and national heroine

1412?-31, French saint and national heroine, called the Maid of Orleans. A farm girl, she began at a young age to hear the voices of St.

Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret. When she was about 16, the voices exhorted her to bear aid to the DAUPHIN, later CHARLES VII of France, then kept from the throne by the English in the HUNDRED YEARS WAR. Joan journeyed in male attire to meet the dauphin and conquered his skepticism as to her divine mission. She was furnished with troops, but her leadership provided spirit and morale more than military prowess. In May 1429 she raised the siege of Orleans, and in June she defeated the English at Patay.

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After considerable persuasion the dauphin agreed to be crowned at Rheims, and Joan was at the pinnacle of her fortunes. In Sept. 1429 she unsuccessfully besieged Paris.

The following spring she went to relieve Compiegne but was captured by the Burgundians and sold to the English, who were eager for her death. To escape responsibility, the English turned her over to the ecclesiastical court at Rouen, where she was tried for heresy and witchcraft by French clerics who supported the English. Probably her most serious crime was the claim of direct inspiration from God; in the eyes of the court this refusal to accept the church hierarchy constituted heresy. Only at the end of the lengthy trial did she recant.

She was condemned to life imprisonment, but shortly afterward she retracted her abjuration. She was then turned over to the secular court as a relapsed heretic and was burned at the stake (May 30, 1431) in Rouen. The proceedings of the original trial were annulled in 1456. Joan was canonized in 1920. Her career lent itself to numerous legends, and she has been represented in much art and literature.

Feast: May 30.

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