Joan of Arc: “A Useless, Infamous, Dishonored Woman”

Joan of Arc was born in the village of Domrémy (now called Domrémy-la-Pucelle in her honor) in either 1412 or 1413 during the series of conflicts which we now call the Hundred Years War. Her parents were Jacques d'Arc and his wife Isabelle.

She grew up sunburned, some days looking after the animals, and was especially proud of her skill at spinning and sewing.

Because the villagers were cut off from the main part of France, they had no protection from the English or the Burgundian soldiers who burned their houses and stole their livestock.

She started hearing voices at the age of 13, recounting at her trial the first time she began receiving visions of the Archangel Michael, St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Margaret of Antioch, and occasionally others such as the Archangel Gabriel.

Modern day medical doctors have speculated that she may have suffered from a medical condition similar to schizophrenia or a form of epilepsy, which made her hear voices.

One of history’s great mysteries is how a teenage girl hearing voices and claiming to be on a mission from God persuaded the Dauphin Charles de Valois to give her soldiers and send her to help with the siege of Orléans.

In early March 1429, during the final period of the Hundred Year War (1415-1453), known as the Lancastrian War, she arrived at Chinon stating that she'd been sent by God to champion his cause against the English invaders of the Burgundian allies over the legitimate succession to the French throne.

Convinced of her devotion and purity, Charles sent Joan, who was about seventeen years old, to the siege of Orléans as part of a relief army. She arrived at the city in April 1429, wielding her banner and bringing hope to the demoralized French army.

Her troops, co-led with the Count of Dunois known as the "Bastard of Orléans," took the English fortress built around the Church of St. Loup on May 4th, followed by the fortress of the Augustinians on May 6th, followed by Les Tourelles on the 7th. The English cancelled the siege the next day. This victory was followed by the capture of Jargeau on June 12th, the bridge at Meung-sur-Loire on the 15th, and the town of Beaugency on the 17th. The next day witnessed a larger victory when the English lost over half their field army near Patay on June 18th.

Her side saw her as a holy virgin, her enemies as a polluted sorceress.

Joan of Arc was captured in the spring, and just after Christmas, she was brought to the city of Rouen for the trial where she was placed in a dark cell in the castle of Rouen in chains and guarded by English soldiers.

She was tried by the Inquisition. The case boiled down to two charges; that she dressed in men's clothes, which was considered an "abomination to God," and that she claimed God guided her personally, through voices and visitations.

On May 30, 1431, she was led to be burned the stake. On her shaven head, she wore a tall dunce-like cap with the words of her crimes written in Latin. She was labeled heretical, relapsed, apostate and idolatrous.

Joan’s name was formally rehabilitated in an inquiry during the 1450s, and in 1920 was made a saint of the Catholic Church.


Like this post? Stop by and read "Hypatia of Alexandria: Mathematician, Astronomer, Philosopher." Hypatia is considered to be one of the last great thinkers of ancient Alexandria and one of the first women to study and teach mathematics, astronomy and philosophy... specifically the works of Plato and Aristotle. Her contributions to astronomy and science include the charting of celestial bodies.

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