On January 6, 1412, Joan of Arc was born to pious parents of the French peasant class in the obscure village of Domremy, near the province of Lorraine. At a very early age, she was said to have heard the voices of St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret. At first the messages were personal and general, but when she was 13-years-old, she was in her father’s garden and had visions of Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret, each of whom told her to drive the English from French territory. They also asked that she bring the Dauphin to Reims for his coronation. After their messages were delivered and the saints departed, Joan cried, as “they were so beautiful.”
When she was sixteen-years-old, she asked her relative, Durand Lassois, to take her to Vaucouleurs, where she petitioned Robert de Baudricourt, the garrison commander, for permission to visit the French Royal Court in Chinon. Joan met Baudricourt and predicted a military reversal at the Battle of Rouvray near Orléans, which were confirmed several days later by a messenger’s report. When Baudricourt realized the distance of the battle’s location and the time it would have taken Joan to make the journey, he concluded she had seen the reversal by Divine revelation, which caused him to believe her words.
Once she had Baudricourt’s belief, Joan was granted an escort to Chinon through hostile Burgundian territory. For her safety, she was escorted while dressed as a male soldier, which later led to charges of cross-dressing, but her escorts viewed as a sound precaution.
When she arrived in the Royal Court, she met in a private conference with Charles VII and won his trust. With a donated horse, sword, banner, armor, and more, Joan arrived to Orléans and quickly turned the Anglo-French conflict into a religious war. During the five months prior to Joan’s arrival to Orléans, the French had only attempted one offensive assault, which resulted in their defeat, but after her arrival, things began to change.
Though Joan claimed the army was always commanded by a nobleman and that she never killed anyone in battle since she preferred only to carry her banner, which she preferred “forty times” better than a sword, several noblemen claimed she greatly affected their decisions since they accepted she gave divinely inspired advice.
On May 4, the Armagnacs captured the fortress of Saint Loup and the next day led to fortress Saint-Jean-le-Blanc, which was deserted. With Joan at the army’s side, English troops approached the army to stop their advance but a cavalry charge was all it took to turn the English away without a fight. The Armagnacs captured an English fortress built around the Les Augustins monastery and attacked the English stronghold Les Tourelles on May 7. Joan was shot with an arrow between her neck and shoulder as she held her banner outside Les Tourelles, but returned to encourage the final assault to take the fortress. The next day, the English retreated from Orléans and the siege was over.
When Joan was in Chinon and Poitiers, she had declared she would show a sign at Orléans, which many believe was the end of the siege. Following the departure of the English, prominent clergymen began to support her, including the Archbishop of Embrun and the theologian Jean Gerson, each of which wrote supportive treatises. Following their march to Troyes, Joan and the French military made its way to Paris, where politicians failed to secure Duke Philip of Burgundy’s agreement to a truce. Joan was present at the following battles and suffered a leg wound from a crossbow bolt. Despite one failed mission – taking La-Charité-sur-Loire” – Joan and her family were ennobled by Charles VII in reward of her actions on the battlefield.
A truce with England came following Joan’s ennoblement but was quickly broken. When Joan traveled to Compičgne to help defend against an English and Burgundian siege, she was captured by Burgundian troops and held for a ransom of 10,000 livres tournois. She was eventually sold to the English for 10,000 gold coins and was then tried as a heretic and witch in a trial that violated the legal process of the time.
Clerical notary Nicolas Bailly, who was responsible to collect testimony against Joan, was unable to find any evidence against her. Without evidence, the courts lacked grounds to initiate trial but one was opened anyway. They denied Joan the right to a legal advisor and filled the tribunal with pro-English clergy rather than meeting the medieval Church’s requirement to balance the group with impartial clerics.
Despite the lack of incriminating evidence, Joan was condemned and sentenced to die in 1431. Eyewitness accounts of Joan’s execution by burning on May 30, in 1452, during an investigation into Joan’s execution, the Church declared a religious play in her honor at Orléans would let attendees gain an indulgence by making a pilgrimage to the event.
A posthumous retrial opened following the end of the war. Pope Callixtus III authorized the proceeding, which has also been called the “nullification trial,” after Inquisitor-General Jean Bréhal and Joan’s mother Isabelle Romée requested it. The trial was meant to determine if Joan’s condemnation was justly handled, and of course at the end of the investigation Joan received a formal appeal in November 1455 and the appellate court declared Joan innocent on July 7 1456.
Joan of Arc was a symbol of the Catholic League during the 16th century and when Félix Dupanloup was made bishop of Orléans in 1849, he pronounced a panegyric on Joan of Arc and led efforts leading to Joan of Arc’s beatification in 1909. On May 16, 1920, Pope Benedict XV canonized her. Centuries after her death, Joan became known as a semi-legendary figure. There were several sources of information about her life, time on the battlefield and trials, with the main sources being chronicles. Many women have seen Joan as a brave and active woman who operated within a religious tradition that believed a person of any class could receive a divine calling.