St. Joan of Arc was born in France to a religious couple who were part of the peasant class. Due to her religious upbringing, Joan herself was also quite devout and was said to have heard the voices of St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret. When she was 13, she started having visions of the three saints, calling her to drive the English from the French lands.
Joan appealed to a garrison commander for permission to visit the French Royal Court, but was laughed away. Despite her rejection, she did gain the support of two soldiers who accompanied her on her mission to support the king. She is reported to have said, “I must be at the King’s side… there will be no help if not from me. Although I would rather have remained spinning [wool] at my mother’s side… yet must I go and must I do this thing, for my Lord wills that I do so.”
Dressed as a male soldier as a safety precaution, Joan made her way to the Royal Court to appeal to the king, Charles VII. She won his trust and traveled with him to Orleans. By joining in the war, it is said that Joan turned the Anglo-French conflict into a religious war.
Fearing that his association with Joan could lead to suspicions of sorcery, the king ordered Joan to undergo a kind of background check and theological exam. Joan passed the exam, and the commission of inquiry “declared her to be of irreproachable life, a good Christian, possessed of the virtues of humility, honesty, and simplicity,” and that her mission was assumed to have divine inspiration from God. Not totally convinced, the king decided that the ultimate test of the veracity of Joan’s divine mission was to wait and see if her predictions about the end of the siege of Orleans would come true. They did! With his trust in Joan complete, Charles VII allowed Joan to march into other battles to reclaim other cities, armed with her greatest weapon––her banner.
Joan was captured by the English and held hostage and was suspected to be a witch. No evidence and no testimony was collected against Joan, but despite the lack of evidence, without a legal advisor, and with a stacked jury, Joan was taken to trial. Despite her lack of education as a member of the peasant class, Joan shocked the court with her own defense. At one point during her trial, she was asked if she knew she was in God’s grace, which was a theological trap meant to catch Joan in a contradiction when she answered with confidence either yes or no. Joan expertly answered “If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me.”
Despite her own excellent defense, Joan was condemned for cross-dressing, sorcery, and witchcraft and was burned at the stake on May 30, 1431.
St. Joan of Arc is depicted in soldier’s armor, with a sword and a white banner with a fleur-de-lis to represent her country of France. She is also holding a cross to represent her holy mission.
St. Joan of Arc is the patron saint of soldiers and of France.