St. Joan of Arc: The Iconography

In Rouen, St. Joan of Arc, Virgin, called the Maid of Orleans. She fought bravely for her country, but in the end she was betrayed into the hands of the enemy, condemned by an unjust tribunal, and burned to death. She was added to the calendar of saints by Benedict XV. – Roman Martyrology for May 30

St. Joan was a French peasant girl who gained entry to the French court and announced that she had been sent by Saints Michael, Catherine, and Margaret to lead the French against their English invaders. She was allowed to lead armies into battle, had remarkable success, but was ultimately betrayed to the enemy, who tried her as a witch and burned her at the stake on May 30, 1431.

In portraits the young St. Joan is usually dressed as a soldier in armor and wears her hair short, as in the first picture at right. She was canonized in 1920, but she had long had a place in French political history. In 1874, after the turbulence of France's defeat by the Germans and the subsequent insurrection in Paris, the French state erected an equestrian statue of Joan in Paris's Place des Pyramides (the second picture at right). The right-wing politician Marine Le Pen used the statue as a backdrop for one of her campaign rallies in 2012; for the 2017 election, she would sometimes hang a huge image of St. Joan in a helmet behind her dais.

Prepared in 2014 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University

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St. Joan of Arc (See the description page)

The equestrian statue in the Place des Pyramides, Paris (See the description page)

Joan hearing the voices of the three saints (See the description page)

DATES

  • Feast day: May 30