St. Joan of Arc icon
© Cecilia Lawrence
May 30th, 2014
4.5 x 6 inches
Ink, watercolor, gold leaf
“Lord, Joan is Your splendid work,
A heart of fire, a warrior's soul:
You gave them to the timid virgin
Whom You wished to crown with laurels.”
~ St. Therese of Lisieux
"Jeanne’s mission was on the surface warlike, but it really had the effect of ending a century of war, and her love and charity were so broad, that they could only be matched by Him who prayed for His murderers."
~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
"Whatever thing men call great, look for it in Joan of Arc, and there you will find it."
~ Mark Twain
Happy Feast of St. Joan of Arc, the patroness of France! Here I have depicted her holding her sword that she received from the church of St. Catherine of Fierbois (with the five crosses), also with her banner, along with the little wooden cross that an Englishman made for her when she went to the stake. I thought about giving her a palm branch with lilies and roses (symbols of martyrdom, and virginity) but I thought it might have been too much. I also gave her a blue robe strewn with fleur-de-lis, as a symbol of the kingdom of France. The little brooch has her coat of arms on it (though it’s difficult to see). I tried to be faithful to what we know of her physical description based on eye-witness accounts. She was about 5’2 (based on the measurements made for her armor), stocky, strong, athletic and muscular. Her eyes were dark, were a bit wide apart and were large and prominent. She had dark hair (based on a hair of hers’ attached to the seals of one of her letters, which was subsequently lost). She also had a sweet, compelling voice. De Boulainvilliers, in a letter written on June 21st 1429 wrote this:
"This girl is reasonably good-looking, and with something virile in her bearing; she speaks but little, and is remarkably prudent, in what she does say. She eats little, and drinks wine still less; manages both her horse and her arms superbly well; greatly likes the company of knights and soldiers; scorns the company of the rabble; sheds many tears; has a happy expression; so great is her strength in the endurance of fatigue that she could remain completely armed during six whole days and nights.”
Her hair-style was a bit of a challenge since I wasn’t sure how I wanted to go about it, but I settled on the crown-braid as a good solution to all of my historical and artistic considerations. I wasn’t interested merely in depicting her as she probably looked in the last two years of her life; I also wanted to depict her soul, her inner spirit. I wanted to show her as both saint and soldier. But most of all I wanted to try and depict her in light of the name she identified with herself, namely as “La Pucelle”: the Maid.
:+: A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF THE SAINT :+:
Saint Joan of Arc (January 6th 1412 – May 30th 1431), or Jehanne la Pucelle, was born on the Feast of the Epiphany in the village of Domrémy to Jacques d'Arc and Isabelle Romée. Her father was a fairly well-to-do peasant who owned 50 acres of land and who also acted as provost on behalf of his village. Jeannette (as she was known in her youth) was one of five siblings, including her brothers Jacquemin, Jean, Pierre, and her sister Catherine. Her parents were good Catholics and brought up their children in the Faith. Joan herself testified that she learned her prayers and beliefs at the feet of her mother, who also taught her to spin and sew and handle other domestic duties, so that Joan could say later: “In sewing and spinning I fear no woman in Rouen.” She was a simple, honest, pious girl, who went often to Mass, confession, and fasted. Her child-hood friends described her as being shy, quiet, sincere, kind and sensible.
One day, in mid-summer while she was in her father’s garden, at about noon, Joan heard a Voice speak to her. She was twelve at the time. She came to understand that the Voice belonged to St. Michael the Archangel, who charged her to be a good girl and go to church often. As the years passed, they became more pressing, and Saints Catherine and Margaret also spoke to her as well. Not only did she hear the saints who spoke to her, but she saw them as well. She said later that: "I saw them with the eyes of my body as plainly as I see you, and when they left me I cried, for I wanted them to take me with them." When she was sixteen, she resolved to obey the voices that so incessantly commanded her to go to France and crown the Dauphin in Rheims. Towards the middle of December, she left with her uncle Laxart to Vaucouleurs to persuade Sir Robert de Baudricourt to send her an escort to Chinon. At first he laughed in her face, but she persisted, and eventually he gave her his permission to proceed to Chinon and to the Dauphin.
She set out with six companions on February 23rd. They made the journey to Chinon (about 300 miles) in eleven days through enemy territory. After waiting several days, she was granted an audience with the Dauphin on March 9th. Despite hiding in a crowd of courtiers, she found him and spoke to him about the need to save France. The Dauphin took her aside and the two spoke in private for some time. Joan gave the Dauphin a sign that confirmed his belief in her. However, before they could proceed, they sent Joan to Poitiers to undergo an ecclesiastical examination in order to establish whether she had any credibility. After three weeks of questioning her examiners "declared her to be of irreproachable life, a good Christian, possessed of the virtues of humility, honesty and simplicity." The test for her claims would be whether or not she could raise the siege at Orléans. The Dauphin gave her a small army and had her outfitted in fitting military attire. She arrived at Orléans on April 29th, 1429. At first she was barred from taking part in the military councils but she nevertheless voiced her opinions and boldly urged the French commanders to take the offensive. They attacked the English on May 4th. Five days later, after a series of astounding assaults, the English were driven from the city and Orléans was saved.
On June 9th, Joan began a bold campaign to regain the Loire river valley. She took Jargeau on June 12th, Meung-sur-Loire on June 15th, and Beaugency on June 17th. On the 18th, Joan’s army caught up with the reinforcements of Sir John Falstolf and defeated him soundly at the Battle of Patay. The Army left Gien on the 29th to escort the Dauphin to Rheims to be crowned King. On the way there, they took the cities of Auxere on July 3rd, and Troyes. The Army finally reached Rheims on July 16th, and the Dauphin was crowned King on the 17th.
Joan urged haste in attacking the enemy in Paris, but the King’s court argued for caution. The Burgundians instead reinforced Paris and broke the truce with France. The French fought an English force at Montépilloy on August 15th. The Army then began its assault on Paris on September 8th. They were ordered by the King to withdraw, however, much to Joan’s disappointment. She told the King repeatedly that God had given her “a year and a little longer” in which to campaign, but the king dallied about and wasted time. On December 29th, Joan’s family was ennobled by the King as a reward for her valor, and Joan herself was granted a coat-of-arms.
In the meantime, Joan was eager to take advantage of the time she knew she had left. The citizens of Compiègne sent her a plea for help against the English, and so Joan, with a little band of faithful soldiers, set out to raise the siege. Her troops had made a bold attack against the Burgundian camp when the gates of Compiègne were shut on her and her companions in the rearguard. She was pulled off her horse and was captured on May 23rd, 1431 along with her brother Pierre. The Burgundians imprisoned her at Beaurevoir Castle where she tried several times to escape, including once jumping from a 70 foot tower. She was fairly unhurt, but she was moved to Arras to await ransom. The King of France, Charles VII, did nothing to save her. So the Burgundians negotiated with their English allies, and eventually sold Joan to them for the sum of 10,000 livres tournois.
Joan was moved to the English-held city of Rouen in Normandy, France. Her enemies knew that the best way of ruining her and discrediting both her and the king she had set up was by initiating an ecclesiastical trial which would find her guilty of some theological error. Bishop Pierre Cauchon of Beauvais (a very pro-English partisan) oversaw the trial. Joan’s trial from start to finish was highly illegal for dozens of reasons. Joan’s later nullification trial found so many glaring errors and illegalities in the way her judges proceeded that they were astounded. The trial was little more than a thinly disguised political trial, where Joan’s guilt and fate was already pre-determined. Cauchon had no authority to begin a trial, first of all, since he didn’t have any jurisdiction over her, and because he had been explicitly paid by the English to condemn her. Secondly, they could find no evidence against her with which to initiate a trial. They began anyway. She was given no legal advisor, which she was obliged under ecclesiastical law to have, and the whole jury was made up of pro-English partisans. The Vice-Inquisitor, Jean Lemaitre, complained of the grossly unorthodox outset of the trial but was shut up under threat of death. Numerous other clergy also objected, and were subsequently bullied, threatened, imprisoned or dismissed from the trial. The trial began in February 21st 1431 and lasted until May 23rd. Joan objected to her illegal treatment numerous times, including the fact that if her trial was truly an ecclesiastical trial she was obliged to be guarded by nuns in an ecclesiastical prison, instead of in her castle prison guarded by three men who tormented her and threatened her. Despite the terrible conditions she was subjected to, the lack of sleep, the constant threat of her guards trying to assault her, and the crushing pressure of trying to outwit the judges who were paid to condemn her, she bore it all boldly and with great spirit. Her answers in the minutes of the trial show her remarkable intelligence, her simple guilelessness, and her fervent faith. Many times the trial should have ended as she submitted herself again and again to the judgment of the Pope. But her judges were determined to have her.
Despite that, it is a real credit to Joan for being able to keep up her spirited defense as long as she could. Her judges weren’t able to get anything out of her. The best they could do was try to attack her on the point of wearing men’s clothing. They finally managed to trap her after she signed a document saying she would no longer wear men’s clothing or wear military dress. She signed this (being illiterate) without knowing what was written on the paper, without it being properly explained to her, and under the threat of death. She signed (against her conscience) on the promise that she would be put into an ecclesiastical prison guarded by women. She was given a dress to wear but was sent back to her own prison cell. Soon afterwards, one of her guards tried to rape her, she managed to repulse him however, despite being chained. The next day she found that her dress had been taken away and all she had to wear were her military clothes. The judges entered her cell to see her wearing the forbidden clothing, and gleefully had her sentenced to death as a relapsed heretic.
When told of how she was to be executed, she cried out: "Alas! Am I to be so horribly and cruelly treated? Alas! That my body, clean and whole, which has never been corrupted, should this day be consumed and burned to ashes! Ah! I would far rather have my head chopped off seven times over, than to be burned!" The morning of May 30th, 1431, she went to confession and received the Eucharist (which, if her captors had really deemed her to be a heretic, would have been forbidden her). She was taken to Vieux-Marché in Rouen and tied to a stake. She asked the priests there to bring a crucifix from one of the churches out so that she could see it until she died. An Englishman also made a little cross for her, which she put next to her heart. Her last words were “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!” Her ashes were thrown into the Seine. As writer Andrew Lang later said "that the world might have no relic of her of whom the world was not worthy.” Afterwards, her executioners cried out that they had burnt a saint and that they greatly feared to be damned. Another English soldier standing nearby who had hated Joan fiercely later confessed to a priest that he saw a white dove fly out from the flames.
The Hundred Years war continued for another twenty-two years, and ended once the English had been driven out of France. At the request of Joan’s mother Isabelle Romée and the Inquisitor General, Pope Callixtus III authorized a Nullification Trial for Joan, to investigate whether her trial had been legal and fair. The retrial began in 1452. The judges sifted through all of the court records, testimonies of witnesses and all the evidence gathered from all sides. They discovered all of the horrendous illegalities of her previous trial and implicated Pierre Cauchon (now dead) of heresy for having condemned an innocent woman to death, particularly for secular reasons and for temporal gain. She was declared innocent on July 7th 1456, and moreover said to be a martyr.
Joan of Arc was beatified April 18th, 1909 and officially canonized on May 16th, 1920.
"Joan of Arc was not stuck at the Cross Roads either by rejecting all the paths like Tolstoy or by accepting them all like Nietzsche. She chose a path and went down it like a thunderbolt. Yet Joan, when I come to think of her, had in her all that was true either in Tolstoy or Nietzsche -- all that was even tolerable in either of them. I thought of all that is noble in Tolstoy: the pleasure in plain things, especially in plain pity, the actualities of the earth, the reverence for the poor, the dignity of the bowed back. Joan of Arc had all that, and with this great addition: that she endured poverty while she admired it, whereas Tolstoy is only a typical aristocrat trying to find out its secret. And then I thought of all that was brave and proud and pathetic in poor Nietzsche and his mutiny against the emptiness and timidity of our time. I thought of his cry for the ecstatic equilibrium of danger, his hunger for the rush of great horses, his cry to arms. Well, Joan of Arc had all that and, again, with this difference, that she did not praise fighting, but fought. We know that she was not afraid of an army, while Nietzsche for all we know was afraid of a cow. Tolstoy only praised the peasant; she was the peasant. Nietzsche only praised the warrior; she was the warrior. She beat them both at their own antagonistic ideals: she was more gentle than the one, more violent than the other. Yet she was a perfectly practical person who did something, while they are wild speculators who do nothing."
~ G.K. Chesterton: 'Orthodoxy.'
"On the Wednesday, the day which she was condemned, prior to her leaving the castle, Holy Communion was brought to her without due reverence, without stole or lights, which greatly displeased Friar Martin, who had heard her confession. I was sent to fetch a stole and lights, and then Friar Martin gave her the sacrament. And then she was led to the Vieux Marche, and beside her walked Friar Martin and myself, with an escort of eight hundred soldiers armed with axes and swords. And when she came to the Vieux Marche she listened to the sermon with great fortitude and most calmly, showing signs and evidence and clear proof of her contrition, penitence and fervent faith she uttered pious and devout lamentations and called on the Blessed Trinity, and upon the blessed and glorious Virgin Mary, and on all the blessed saints in Paradise, naming many in her devotions, her lamentation, and her true confession of faith. She also most humbly begged all manner of people, of whatever condition or rank they might be, and whether of her party or not, for their pardon and asked them kindly to pray for her, at the same time pardoning them for any harm they had done her. This she continued to do for a very long time, perhaps for half an hour and until the end. The judges who were present, and even several of the English, were moved by this to great tears and weeping, and indeed several of these same English, recognized God's hand and made professions of faith when they saw her make so remarkable an end. They were glad to have witnessed her end and said that she had been a good woman. When she was handed over by the Church, I remained with her, and she asked most fervently to be given a cross. An Englishman who was present heard this and made her a little one out of wood from the end of a stick and handed it to her. She received it and kissed it most devotedly, uttering pious lamentations and acknowledging God our Savior, who suffered for our redemption on the Cross, of which she had there the symbol and representation. Then she put that cross on her breast between her body and her clothes and humbly asked me to let her have the crucifix from the church so that she could gaze on it continuously until her death. I saw to it that the clerk of the parish church of Saint Sauveur brought it to her. When it was brought, she embraced it closely and for a long time and clung to it until she was tied to the stake. While she was praying her prayers and piously lamenting, I was urgently pressed by the English, and by one of their captains in particular, to hand her over to them, as they were in a hurry for her death. While I was doing my best to comfort her on the scaffold, this man said to me, 'What priest, are you going to keep us here till suppertime?' Then without any formality or any reading of the sentence, they dispatched her straight to the fire, saying to the executioner, 'Do your duty.' And so while she was still uttering devoted praise and lamentations to God and the saints, she was led and tied to the stake. And her last word, as she died, was a loud cry of 'Jesus'."
~ Jean Massieu - Court Bailiff, an eye-witness to Joan’s death
The Feast of St. Joan of Arc is celebrated on May 30th.
St. Joan of Arc is the patron saint of France, soldiers, and the imprisoned, especially those imprisoned for the Faith.
Who has raised up in an admirable manner,
the virgin of Domrémy, Saint Joan of Arc,
for the defense of the Faith and of her country,
by her intercession, we ask You
that the Church may triumph against the assaults of her enemies
and rejoice in lasting peace;
through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.