Joan of Arc
Joan Of Arc (French Jeanne d'Arc), or "the Maid of Orleans," is the name of a character whose history concerns not only the secular historian; it deserves the careful consideration also of the ecclesiastical student. The remarkable fate of this heroine is truly a phenomenon in religious philosophy. We have room here, however, only for a short biographical sketch of the heroine, and refer the student to Böttiger, Weltgesch. in Biographien, 4, 474; Michelet, Hist. de France, 7, 44; Görres, Jungfrau v. Orleans (Regensb. 1834); Hase, Neue Propheten (Lpz. 1851); Strass, Jean d'Arc (1862); Eysell, Joh. d'Arc (1864); Locher, Schlaf u. Träume (Zurich, 1853); and especially (mainly on her visions, etc.) the celebrated German theologian of Bonn University, Dr. J. P. Lange, in Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 7, 165 sq.
Joan was the daughter of respectable peasants, and was born in 1412, in the village of Domremy, in the department of Vosges, France. She was taught, like other young women of her station in that age, to sew and to spin, but not to read and write. She was distinguished from other girls by her greater simplicity, modesty, industry, and piety. When about thirteen years of age she believed that she saw a flash of light, and heard an unearthly voice, which enjoined her to be modest, and to be diligent in her religious duties. The impression made upon her excitable mind by the national distresses of the time soon gave a new character to the revelations which she supposed herself to receive, and when fifteen years old she imagined that unearthly voices called her to go and fight for the Dauphin. Her story was at first rejected as that of an insane person; but she not only succeeded in making her way to the Dauphin, but in persuading him of her heavenly mission. She assumed male attire and warlike equipments, and, with a sword and a white banner, she put herself at the head of the French troops, whom her example and the notion of her heavenly mission inspired with new enthusiasm. April 29, 1429, she threw herself, with supplies of provisions, into Orleans, then closely besieged by the English, and from the 4th to the 8th of May made successful sallies upon the English, and finally compelled them to raise the siege. After this important victory the national ardor of the French was rekindled to the utmost, and Joan became the dread of the previously triumphant enemy. She conducted the Dauphin to Rheims, where he was crowned, July 17, 1429, and Joan, with many tears, saluted him as king. She now wished to return home, deeming her mission accomplished; but Charles importuned her to remain with his army, to which she consented. Now, however, because she no longer heard any unearthly voice, she began to have fearful forebodings. She continued to accompany the French army, and was present in many conflicts. May 24, 1430, while heading a sally from Compiegne, which the Burgundian forces were besieging, she was taken prisoner and sold by a Burgundian officer to the English for the sum of 16,000 francs. Being conveyed to Rouen, the headquarters of the English, she was brought before the spiritual tribunal of the bishop of Beauvais as a sorceress and heretic; and after a long trial, accompanied with many shameful circumstances, of which perhaps the most astounding is the fact that her own countrymen, and the most learned of these, representing the University of Paris, pronounced her under the influence of witchcraft. By their advice, she was condemned to be burned to death. Recanting her alleged errors, her punishment was commuted into perpetual imprisonment. But the English feared her, and determined at all hazards to sacrifice her life, and they finally succeeded in renewing the trial; words which fell from her when subjected to great indignities, and her resumption of male attire when all articles of female dress were carefully removed from her, were made grounds of concluding that she had relapsed, and she was brought to the stake May 30, 1431, and burned, and her ashes cast into the Seine. Her family, who had been ennobled on her account, obtained in 1440 a revisal of her trial, and in 1456 she was formally pronounced by the highest ecclesiastical authorities to have been innocent. The doubts respecting the fate of Joan d'Arc raised by M. Delapierre in his
Doute historique (1855), who is inclined to think that she never suffered martyrdom, and that another person was executed in her stead, seem to have no good ground;