Last Reviewed and Updated on July 14, 2022
Joan of Arc was a saint and martyr who led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years’ War. Read some of the most interesting facts about Joan of Arc, a woman who achieved so much in her very short life.
1. Joan was born to a peasant family
She was born around 1412 to a peasant family in Domrémy in northeast France. Her family was fairly situated; they had about 50 acres of land, and her father also had a minor position as a village official. By 1419 the long ongoing war between the kingdoms of England and France began to affect the area.
2. She claimed to have visions
Her visions are one of the most interesting facts about Joan of Arc. In 1425, when Joan was 13, the Burgundian force raided her village, set fire to the town, and destroyed the crops. It was at that time that Joan claimed to have experienced her first vision. Her vision was about Saint Michael, surrounded by angels, appearing to her in the garden. She claimed to have had other visions of Saint Michael as well as Saint Margaret the Virgin and Saint Catherine of Alexandria throughout her life.
It’s these claimed visions that led her to achieve the legacy she has. Whatever caused them, she firmly believed the visions came from God and strengthened her resolve.
3. She met with Charles VII but had to undergo “testing” before she would be believed
According to her, her visions told her she must meet with Charles and aid him towards his coronation. It took a few attempts before she was able to meet him. The meeting made an impression on Charles, but he and his council couldn’t believe her vision claims without proof. She was sent to be examined by theologians to verify her morality and orthodoxy; they concluded she was a good person and a good Catholic. She was then sent to Tours to be examined by women to verify her virginity. Apparently an essential check for a prophet at that time.
She passed all the tests and was commissioned an armor plate, a sword, and a banner of her own design.
4. Her effect on the troop morale was immense
Her arrival on the battlefield increased the morale of the troops. She inspired hope, and the troops felt they would have divine assistance in their battles.
5. She led or semi-led several military actions
The most known military action was the victory at Orléans in 1429. She was sent there as a figurehead to raise morale but would gain the troops’ faith, and over time, commanders started accepting the advice she was giving.
She took part and gave strategic advice in the Loire Campaign, March to Reims, Siege of Paris, and Campaign against Perrinet Gressard.
5. She attempted to escape from capture twice
Joan was captured in 1430 and agreed to surrender to a pro-Burgundian nobleman named Lyonnel de Wandomme. She was held at Beaulieu-les-Fontaine castle, where she attempted her first escape. She was then transferred to Beaurevoir castle, where she tried to escape the second time by jumping out of a window from 70 feet / 21 m.
The English negotiated to pay ransom for her and transfer her to their custody.
6. She was accused of heresy and signed the abjuration
Joan of Arc was put on trial for heresy, but the trial was politically motivated. She was seen as a military threat and was even seen as having supernatural powers, which undermined the morale of opposing forces. There were many irregularities in her trial, from not being conducted properly to trial records being falsified.
She signed the abjuration and thus couldn’t be put to death as an unrepentant heretic.
Bishop Pierre Cauchon served as the ordinary judge of the trial, and he did try to follow the correct inquisitorial procedure.
7. She had to renounce wearing men’s clothes
As a part of her abjuration, she was also required to renounce wearing men’s clothes after the trial.
She was kept in prison and was given men’s clothes and forced to wear them.
Cauchon was notified that she resumed wearing male clothes and sent clerics to look into the matter (they weren’t allowed to visit) and later visited Joan himself.
8. She had a “relapse” of heresy and was executed
When Cauchon visited Joan in prison, the male clothes weren’t the only thing they discussed. As for the reason why she wasn’t obedient and wore them, she claimed it was more fitting given her situation and that she would be more compliant if promises that she would be allowed to go to mass and not be in chains would be respected.
Cauchon also asked her about her visions. She stated she would not deny them again. Her abjuration also required her to deny her visions, and as she didn’t deny them this time, this was enough to count as a relapse of heresy, which was punishable by death.
It was ruled she was a relapsed heretic and was executed. She was just around 19 years old.
9. They overturned her conviction 25 years after her death
It wasn’t an act of redemption or goodwill. Charles, the king of France, didn’t benefit from her execution as it may have been seen as his achievements were the result of the actions of a heretic. Twenty years after, he ordered an investigation of his own, interviewing witnesses of the trail. It was concluded she was unfairly judged and was a political prisoner. This report would be later used in a retrial.
In 1455 a rehabilitation trial was permitted when Joan’s family publicly delivered a formal request for Joan’s rehabilitation. In 1456 the court declared the original trial was unjust, and the initial trial was nullified.
10. 489 years after her death, she became a saint
Last on the list of facts about Joan of Arc is a grand one. She was formally canonized as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church on 16 May 1920 by Pope Benedict XV.
Saturday 25th of February 2023
Thanks for the facts!