It may have been this article, or just the sharp frost, this morning, that reminded me of the frozen earth, of the siege of Orléans, of the peasant infantry calling your name in the icy air of the medieval winter, in the year of grace 1429… For us, in our personal Pantheon of Heroes, you are la Pucelle, the martyr who wrote, on the pyre, the last chapter of the French chivalry, the ultimate woman.
It the midst of the legend you are the figure of hope, triumphant over darkness, the tortured Virgin. Of your death we know more, simply because the Inquisition, like their successors through the centuries, kept a meticulous record of your passion.
“Even while she was alive, but far more so after her death, the heroic part of her story sparked narratives of all kinds, in pictures, ballads, plays and also satires – most notoriously by Voltaire. But more, far more, followed the publication in 1841-49 of the proceedings of the Inquisition trial which had examined Joan for witchcraft and heresy. The transcript gives us the voice of this young woman across the centuries with almost unbearable immediacy; her spirit leaps from the page, uncompromising in its frankness, good sense and courage, and often breathtaking in its simple effectiveness. Some of her answers are justly famous. Asked if she was in a state of grace, she answered: ‘Si je le suis, que Dieu m’y garde; si je ne le suis pas, que Dieu m’y mette.’ (‘If I am, may I remain so. If I am not, may God put me there.’)”
I know the dark forests of the Ardennes, where you were born, in the province of Lorraine, also called Lothringen. I know you were 19 years of age when they murdered you. And it took them until 1920 to make you a saint of their church. 1920! I know also, deep inside, that since 1431 your spirit has lived on.
What else is there to say: images of legend, the consecration of Charles VII in Reims, the siege lifted in nine days, the treachery that condemned you to the stake, your martyrdom in Rouen… So, every year, on 30 May, on our knees, wherever we are, we pray to your eternity.
Marina’s article: “Everybody’s Joan”
“St Joan’s International Alliance, a Catholic body that was founded by suffragettes and is recognised today by both the Vatican and the UN, celebrated its centenary in 2011, and still distinguishes itself by its progressive campaigning for equal rights for men and women, focusing especially on contemporary problems – female circumcision, trafficking, poverty – and the persistent exclusion of women from the Catholic priesthood.”
Carl Th. Dreyer’s film on YouTube