Joan of Arc

French folk heroine and Roman Catholic saint (1412-1431)

Saint Joan of Arc or The Maid of Orléans (Jeanne d'Arc,[3][4] c.1412 – 30 May 1431) is a national heroine of France. She is also a Catholic saint. She was a peasant girl born in the east of France. Joan said that she had visions from God. In these visions, she said that God told her to take back her home, which was then under English rule late in the Hundred Years' War. Many quick military victories made her famous. In 1430, soldiers of Burgundy captured her and gave her to her English enemies.

Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc miniature graded.jpg
Historiated initial depicting Johan of Arc from Archives Nationales, Paris, AE II 2490, allegedly dated to the second half of the 15th century but presumably art forgery painted in the late 19th or early 20th centuries, according to medievalist Philippe Contamine.[1]
Martyr and Holy Virgin
BornJeanne d'Arc (modern French)
circa 1412
Domrémy, Duchy of Bar, Kingdom of France
Died30 May 1431 (aged approx. 19)
Venerated in
Beatified18 April 1909, Saint Peter's Basilica, Rome by Pope Pius X
Canonized16 May 1920, Saint Peter's Basilica, Rome by Pope Benedict XV
Feast30 May
AttributesArmor, banner, sword
PatronageFrance; martyrs; captives; military personnel; people ridiculed for their piety; prisoners; soldiers; women who have served in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service); and Women's Army Corps
Joan of Arc's Death at the Stake, by Hermann Stilke (1843)

Joan of Arc has remained an important figure in Western civilization. Famous writers like Shakespeare, Tchaikovsky, Mark Twain, and Voltaire wrote about her. She appears in video games, television, movies, songs, and dances.

Visions of Joan of ArcEdit

When Joan of Arc was put on trial, she said no to the customary courtroom rules about a witness's oath. She said she would not answer every question about her visions. She complained that the normal witness oath would not be right because she had an oath that she had given to the king. It is not known how much the record which reports this has been changed by dishonest court officials or her possible lies to protect state secrets. Some historians simply say that her belief in her duty was more important than where the visions came from.

Most people say that she was healthy and that she was not crazy. Recently, people have tried to explain her visions through things like epilepsy, migraine, tuberculosis, and schizophrenia.[5] None of these guesses have been greatly supported. This is because, even though seeing visions can be through different diseases, other facts of Joan's life do not agree with these ideas. Two experts who studied a teberculoma hypothesis in the medical journal Neuropsychobiology said:

"It is difficult to draw final conclusions, but it would seem unlikely that widespread tuberculosis, a serious disease, was present in this 'patient' whose life-style and activities would surely have been impossible had such a serious disease been present."[6]

Ralph Hoffman, professor of psychology at Yale University, points out that visions, like "hearing voices" are not always signs of mental illness. He says that her religious inspiration was possibly a reason. However, he does not say any other reasons.[7]

Nonetheless, the court of Charles VII was obsessed about her mental health.[8]


Joan was tried by a French inquisitorial tribunal under English control. The Church said Joan should be killed for wearing men's clothes even after being warned not to. Joan agreed to wear women's clothes. She wore male clothes again. This might have been to protect herself from being attacked. It could also have been, as Jean Massieu said, because her dress had been stolen and she was left with nothing else to wear.[9]

She was burned on a stake on 30 May 1431, at age 19. After she died, the English showed people her burnt body so no one could say she had escaped alive. Then they burned the body two times again to turn it into ashes. They put what was left of her in the Seine.[10] The executioner, Geoffroy Therage, later said that he "...greatly feared to be damned."[11]


  1. (in French) Philippe Contamine, "Remarques critiques sur les étendards de Jeanne d'Arc", Francia, Ostfildern: Jan Thorbecke Verlag, n° 34/1, 2007, p. 199-200[permanent dead link].
  2. "Holy Days". Archived from the original on 26 October 2011.
  3. Her name was written in a variety of ways. See Pernoud and Clin, pp. 220–221. She reportedly signed her name as "Jehanne" (see, parts 47 and 49; it is also noted in Pernoud and Clin).
  4. Joan did not know her own age for sure. Most biographers say she was born on 6 January. All of the people who saw the trial guessed her age, too, even though several of these people were her godmothers and godfathers. The 6 January claim is from a single source: a letter from Lord Perceval de Boullainvilliers on 21 July 1429 (see Pernoud's Joan of Arc By Herself and Her Witnesses, p. 98. In here, it says: "Boulainvilliers tells of her birth in Domrémy, and it is he who gives us an exact date, which may be the true one, saying that she was born on the night of Epiphany, 6 January"). Boulainvilliers, however, was not from Domrémy. The event was probably not recorded.
  5. Many of these hypotheses were made by people who knew more about history rather than medicine. d'Orsi G, Tinuper P, Epilepsy Behav. August, 2006; 9(1):152–7. Epub 2006 5 June [1] (idiopathic partial epilepsy with auditory features); "Joan of Arc," Foote-Smith E, Bayne L, Epilepsia. Nov-Dec, 1991; 32(6):810–5 (epilepsy); "Joan of Arc and DSM III," Henker FO, South Med J. December, 1984; 77(12):1488–90 (various psychiatric definitions);[2] "The schizophrenia of Joan of Arc," Allen C, Hist Med. Autumn–Winter 1975;6(3–4):4–9 (schizophrenia).[3] (Accessed 1 September 2006)
  6. "A historical case of disseminated chronic tuberculosis," Nores JM, Yakovleff Y, Neuropsychobiology. 1995;32(2):79–80 (temporal lobe tuberculoma) (Accessed 1 September 2006)[4]
  7. Hoffman, "Auditory Hallucinations: What's It Like Hearing Voices?" in, 27 September 2003.[5] Archived 2009-01-14 at the Wayback Machine (Accessed 12 February 2006)
  8. Nullification trial testimony of Dame Marguerite de Touroulde, widow of a king's counselor: "I heard from those that brought her to the king that at first they thought she was mad, and intended (wanted) to put her away in some ditch, but while on the way they felt moved to do everything according to her good pleasure."[6] (Accessed 12 February 2006)
  9. Nullification trial testimony of Jean Massieu.[7] (Accessed 12 February 2006)
  10. In February, 2006 a team of forensic scientists announced the beginning of a six-month study to assess bone and skin remains from a museum at Chinon and reputed to be those of the heroine. The study cannot provide a positive identification but could rule out some types of hoax through carbon dating and gender determination.[8] (Accessed 1 March 2006) An interim report released 17 December 2006 states that this is unlikely to have belonged to her.[9] (Accessed 17 December 2006)
  11. Pernoud, p. 233.


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