The Heroine of France: What Was Joan of Arc Famous For

The Heroine of France: What Was Joan of Arc Famous For


Joan of Arc, or Jeanne d’Arc in French, remains one of history’s most enigmatic figures. Born around 1412 in Domrémy, a small village in northeastern France, she rose from a simple peasant girl to a figure of legend, leading the French to victory against the English in the latter part of the Hundred Years’ War. Joan of Arc was renowned not only for her military successes but also for her religious devotion, vision, courage, and, ultimately, martyrdom.

Facts About Joan of Arc You Didn’t Know Before

Joan of Arc is a figure shrouded in legend, but there are many lesser-known facts about her life that reveal the complexities of her personality and the remarkable nature of her story.

  1. Illiteracy: Joan was illiterate, but she was smart and quick-witted. Her responses during her trial exhibited a deep intelligence and understanding of the complexities of her situation.
  2. Appearance: Contemporary accounts describe Joan as having a small stature with dark hair. In a departure from common depictions, she was not the large, imposing figure that many imagine.
  3. Name: Joan didn’t use the surname ‘d’Arc.’ In her time, surnames were not used as they are today. During her trial, she referred to herself as “Jehanne la Pucelle” or “Joan the Maiden.”
  4. Armor: Joan had a suit of white armor made for her after she arrived at the court of Charles VII. Her armor, along with the banner she carried into battle, became iconic symbols of her divine mission.
  5. Voices: Joan reported that her divine voice not only spoke to her but also appeared with a bright light and a rush of wind. These sensations provided her with the comfort and guidance she needed during the trials she faced.
  6. Horse Skills: Joan was an excellent horsewoman. She impressed people with her ability to ride and control a horse, an uncommon skill for women in her time.
  7. Trial: Throughout her trial, Joan was confined in a lay prison under the watch of English guards, a circumstance that breached the period’s legal standards. As a woman and a supposed heretic, the appropriate protocol would have placed her in a religious institution, safeguarded by nuns.

These facts provide a deeper and richer picture of Joan of Arc as a person beyond the legendary military leader and martyr we know from history. They offer a glimpse into this remarkable woman’s unique character and extraordinary life.

Early Life

Joan of Arc was born into a simple peasant family in Domrémy. She was the youngest of five children and helped her parents with farm work and domestic tasks. Her education was primarily religious, taught by her mother, who instilled a deep faith and love for the Catholic Church.

Her life dramatically turned at the age of thirteen when she began experiencing visions. These visions, often accompanied by voices, were of various saints, including St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret. According to Joan, they instructed her to live a virtuous life, attend mass regularly, and, more importantly, issued a divine mandate to expel the English from France and see Dauphin Charles crowned as king.

The Call to Arms

In 1429, at the age of seventeen, Joan traveled to Vaucouleurs, a nearby town, to convince the garrison commander, Robert de Baudricourt, that she had a divine mission to save France. After her persistent insistence, he agreed to send her to the French court at Chinon. Joan journeyed across enemy territory in male attire and armed with a sword to meet the uncrowned King Charles VII. She managed to convince the doubtful dauphin of her divine mission after a private meeting, the content of which remains a mystery to this day.

Military Campaigns

Joan’s successful military career began shortly after she met with Charles VII. She was provided with an army to lift the siege at Orleans, an endeavor that had proved impossible for French forces for over seven months. The tide of the war changed with Joan’s arrival; within nine days, the English were driven out of Orleans, and this decisive victory restored French morale. Her continued successes on the battlefield gained her the nickname “The Maid of Orleans.”

Following Orleans, Joan led French forces in a series of victories over the English, paving the way for Charles VII to travel to Reims for his coronation. On July 17, 1429, Charles VII was crowned king, with Joan standing proudly by his side, symbolically confirming her mission’s divine nature.

Trial and Execution

Joan’s success, however, was short-lived. During a failed attempt to recapture Paris later in 1429, she was wounded, and her momentum began to wane. In 1430, during a skirmish outside Compiègne, she was captured by Burgundian forces, allies of the English. The English purchased her from the Burgundians and imprisoned her for a series of charges, including witchcraft, heresy, and cross-dressing.

Joan was subjected to a politically motivated trial led by Pierre Cauchon, the Bishop of Beauvais, a staunch English ally. Despite the uneven odds and harsh conditions, Joan defended herself ably against her time’s learned theologians and lawyers. However, the trial was rigged against her, and she was found guilty. On May 30, 1431, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen, becoming a martyr at the young age of nineteen.

Canonization and Legacy

Twenty-five years after her execution, a new trial ordered by Charles VII cleared Joan of all charges. In the following centuries, Joan became a symbol of French nationalism, a heroine celebrated for her courage, faith, and devotion to her country.

In 1920, almost five centuries after her death, the Catholic Church canonized Joan of Arc, declaring her a saint. Today, Saint Joan of Arc is revered as a symbol of resistance against oppression and a model of bravery, faith, and loyalty. Her life, though brief, had an immeasurable impact on the course of history.

Why Is Joan of Arc a Saint?

Joan of Arc was canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church in 1920, almost 500 years after her death. This recognition resulted from her extraordinary life, profound faith, and the miracles attributed to her.

Canonization is the process by which the church recognizes and declares a deceased person as a saint, officially recommending them as a model of living the Christian virtues. To be canonized, an individual must be proven to have lived a life of heroic virtue and, typically, have two miracles attributed to their intercession.

Joan’s unwavering faith, courage, and deep devotion to God were apparent throughout her life. She claimed to have received visions and heard voices of saints who guided her in her mission to expel the English from France and crown Charles VII as king. Despite her trials and tribulations, including a grueling trial and a martyr’s death, Joan never wavered in her faith.

Following her death, Joan was venerated as a martyr and symbol of French nationalism. Many miraculous healings were reported to have occurred through prayers seeking her intercession. After a long process of inquiry and examination of these miracles, Joan was beatified in 1909 and later canonized by Pope Benedict XV.

As a saint, Joan of Arc is seen as a heavenly advocate and is revered as a model of faith, courage, and commitment to one’s calling. Her story continues to inspire Catholics and non-Catholics alike, reaffirming the power of faith and the potential for the divine in everyday life.

What Is Joan of Arc Most Remembered For?

Joan of Arc, also known as “The Maid of Orleans,” is most remembered for her pivotal role in the Hundred Years’ War between France and England. Despite her humble peasant origins, Joan rose to prominence through her unwavering faith and determination, ultimately changing the course of French history.

From a young age, Joan claimed to have visions and hear voices of saints, instructing her to support Charles VII and recover France from English domination. This celestial guidance led her to take up arms and play a crucial role in lifting the siege of Orleans in 1429, a victory that breathed new life into the demoralized French forces and was a turning point in the war.

She is also celebrated for leading the French army to a string of other significant victories, which paved the way for the coronation of Charles VII in Reims, a key event in asserting the legitimacy and sovereignty of France during a period of political turmoil.

Beyond her military accomplishments, Joan of Arc is famously remembered for her trial and execution. Accused of heresy and cross-dressing by a pro-English faction of the church, she was put on trial, which was more of a politically motivated persecution than a fair court proceeding. Despite facing a panel of prejudiced theologians and scholars, Joan defended herself with remarkable intelligence and fortitude.

Ultimately, she was sentenced to death and was martyred at the stake in 1431, solidifying her status as a symbol of resistance and sacrifice. She was acquitted of all charges posthumously and canonized as a saint in 1920 by the Roman Catholic Church. Today, Joan of Arc is venerated worldwide for her courage, faith, and unwavering commitment to her cause. Her legacy continues to inspire and captivate people, standing as a testament to the extraordinary feats an ordinary individual can achieve.

Why Is Joan of Arc Important to Feminism?

Joan of Arc’s story holds a unique significance within the realm of feminism. She was a woman who defied the societal norms and gender roles of her time, embodying agency, resilience, and strength in a male-dominated world.

Firstly, Joan is significant for her active role in the public sphere, particularly in military leadership, which was strictly male territory during the late Middle Ages. Her successful command of French forces against the English during the Hundred Years’ War contradicts historical expectations of passive female behavior. By performing a role reserved for men with such courage and competence, Joan challenged patriarchal assumptions about gender and competency, establishing herself as a potent symbol of female empowerment.

Furthermore, her bravery and intellect were notably displayed during her trial. Accused of heresy and cross-dressing, she faced her prosecutors with an articulate defense and unwavering courage, reinforcing her defiance against oppressive societal norms.

Her mode of dress also constitutes an important aspect of her feminist legacy. Her adoption of male military attire was a practical decision for battle and protection, but it also symbolized a purposeful subversion of gender norms.

Joan’s canonization in 1920 also underscores her significance in a religious context. Her sainthood affirms the capacity of women to enact divine will, providing a powerful female figure within the Catholic Church.

In essence, Joan of Arc’s importance to feminism lies in her defiance of the restrictive gender expectations of her era. Her courage, leadership, and unapologetic transgressions of gender norms continue to inspire feminist discourse and ideals of gender equality today.

What Is Joan of Arc’s Most Famous Quote?

One of Joan of Arc’s most famous quotes is: “I am not afraid; I was born to do this.”

This simple yet powerful statement encapsulates Joan’s unfaltering bravery and profound conviction in her divine mission. Despite the tremendous odds she faced – from convincing the skeptical French court of her divinely inspired mission to lead troops on the battlefield against the English and finally defending herself against the charges of heresy – Joan demonstrated unwavering courage and steadfast dedication.

The quote underscores not only Joan’s fearlessness in the face of adversity but also her belief in her purpose, a notion that she was born to fulfill a higher calling. It reflects her deep faith and determination to follow the path she believed was divinely chosen for her, despite the dangers and trials she faced.

Even more so, this quote from Joan of Arc continues to inspire and resonate with people today, serving as a powerful reminder of the strength and courage that can be found in the face of daunting challenges and the power of conviction in one’s purpose and mission in life.


The story of Joan of Arc serves as an enduring testament to the power of faith and the indomitable human spirit. Despite her humble beginnings, she changed the course of history through her steadfast belief in her divine mission. Her story, blending elements of mysticism, heroism, and sacrifice, continues to inspire millions around the world, ensuring Joan of Arc’s place in the annals of history as an emblem of courage, defiance, and devotion.