Joan of Arc was a peasant girl who lived during the end of the Hundred Years' War, a dispute between France and England for the inheritance of the throne of the French territory. Started in 1337, the war ended in 1453. During all these 100 years, we can observe the most remarkable figure of history and its period: The peasant warrior who went to war to fight. She was born around 1412 in Domrémy,Its village belonged to the Burgundians, who, despite belonging to England, remained loyal to their country.
Joan of Arc's father was called Jacques D'Arc and her mother was known by the name Isabelle Romée or Isabelle of Vouthon. Many historians say that she was always an extremely pious child, remaining absorbed in prayer for hours inside the church. It was then that at the age of 13 the young girl began to hear mystical voices. It was then that she was able to identify them, sayingconversed with Saint Catherine and Saint Michael of the Archangels.
The Apparition of Saints Catherine and Michael to Joan of Arc (1843) by Hermann Anton Stilke. Image: Public Domain
For Joan of Arc, it was God who was trying to communicate with her: France had an important mission, it needed fighting. It was this young woman who would later be responsible for stopping the expansion of the English over French territory. She was to expel them from her land. Having a vision provided by God, she decided to meet Robert of Baudricourt, who was a supporter of King CharlesVI. Totally skeptical of Joana's requests, he ignored them, not thinking he was talking about something that was real.
Detail from "The Maid of Orléans" (1886), by Jan Matejko. Image: Public Domain
A story of persistence
Despite Robert's skepticism, Joan of Arc decided to stay in the city and insist a little more. Soon, he provided her with three men with horses and although she was young, she cut her hair and hid her breasts: she needed protection for her journey of fighting. She promised Charles VI that he would be crowned as king of France, even though he was not yet considered a king, despite having several titles.
It was then that Charles VI decided to trust a woman and go against everyone around him. He gave Joan of Arc a horse and an army so she could conquer the places that were being dominated by the English. Although she passed as a fearless warrior, she held a flag and supported the whole army, without participating in battlefields. However, she is one of the most responsible for thewar strategies created and for moments of diplomacies with the English who dominated the region. After his victories, he freed his people and opened the canal of Reims in 1429, causing the king to be crowned.
Joan of Arc on horseback (1505) Image: Public Domain
Why was Joan of Arc burned at the stake?
Joan of Arc won the prestige of the king and was seen as a national heroine by the people, causing envy among the French military. A conspiracy quietly began among them to diminish support for the young woman.
In 1430 Joan of Arc was sent to recover a region that was dominated by the Burgundians, French allies of the English. There she was captured by the Burgundians and sold to the English.
The capture of Joan of Arc (1880) Image: Public Domain
She was then put on trial on over 70 charges, which were reduced to 12. One of the reasons she was on trial was because she claimed to be talking to God, and that she was a witch for that reason. It was then that in exchange for an admission of guilt, she was promised that she would be sentenced to life imprisonment. Despite being illiterate, she signed a document admitting her guilt,even without reading it.
Joan of Arc is interrogated by the Cardinal of Winchester in her prison. (1824) By Paul Delaroche. Image: Public Domain
It was when the judges attended her cell, that she admitted to hearing voices, and with that, everyone considered her a fallen heretic. This could not continue, it was a mortal sin: she was condemned to die at the stake. For her consolation, one of the men gave her a crucifix to hold while she died.
Although she was condemned and killed at the stake in her time, as time went by her image changed, she was no longer considered a witch as before. Pope Calixtus III annulled the whole 1431 verdict that declared Joan of Arc a heretic and in 1909 Pope Benedict XV canonized her. Related:
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