Obit of the Day (Historical): Joan of Arc (1431)
On May 30, 1431 Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for the sin of “repeated heresy.” The legendary teenage military leader was discovered wearing men’s clothes after having agreed to return to traditional a wardrobe after a first trial. She had agreed to forego male clothing and confessed to heresy in exchange for a life sentence. (It was later determined that she put back on the “sinful” outfit because it reduced the likelihood of sexual assault.) To add tragedy to tragedy, twenty years later a second ecclesiastical court ruled that Joan had committed no sin since her choice of clothes was a means of protection.
Beginning when she was 12 years old, the French peasant girl from Domremy, began receiving visions and having seizures. Insisting that the visions were from God, she demanded that she meet with the “Dauphin,” the crown prince of France, Charles VII. Originally dismissed by officers of the French army when she accurately predicted the outcome of a battle at Orleans they immediately brought her to the Dauphin.
Upon meeting with Charles VII, she convinced him that she should be given authority over military strategy. Leading the French army to Orleans, which the English had held for months, Joan inspired the men under her to defeat the occupying army. And she did it without carrying any arms.
Her apparent prophecies having come true, she gained extensive military and religious support across France. Victory followed victory over the next several months, as the French captured numerous cities, capping off the military campaign with the re-taking of Reims on July 16, 1429.
That fall with Charles VII at her side, Joan led an attack on Paris but was turned away, her one major defeat. Other victories followed, however, and in December 1429 Joan of Arc and her family were given noble titles.
The following spring after a truce between England and France fell apart, Joan once again led a French detachment into battle. She was captured on May 23, 1430 in the village of Compiegne by the English army.
She remained in English custody for over a year. During that time she attempted to escape - including once jumping from a 70-foot tower - and her army tried on several occasions to rescue her. All failed.
A sham ecclesiastical trial began in January 1431 in order to trap Joan into an accusation of heresy. Managing to avoid theological traps laid for her by an English Cardinal and a Inquisitor, the court transcript was allegedly manipulated although to confirm the desired outcome. Joan was convicted of heresy for ignoring the authority of the Church over the voices from God. She was sentenced to be executed but she confessed in order to spare her life.
She was sent to prison for life on May 23, 1341. But within seven days her decision to once again dress as a man cost her her life. On May 30, 1431 she was burned alive. She was only 19.
Following her posthumous retrial and declared innocence, Joan was honored throughout France and her legend grew around the world. She was beatified in 1909 and finally named a saint on May 16, 1920 by Pope Benedict XV. She is considered the patron saint of soldiers and France.
Sources: Wikipedia, Liberty Voice, History Channel, and Catholic Online
(Painting of Joan of Arc, c. 1485, from Centre Historique des Archives Nationales, Paris, AE II 2490 and courtesy of Wikimedia.org. There is one known portrait of Joan painted during her life but it is considered lost as of this post.)