One of the most renowned female warriors of all time, St. Joan of Arc led France to military victory while she was still in her teens, demonstrating unflinching bravery and leadership. As we observe the anniversary of her passing this month, we invite you to discover five facts about St. Joan of Arc, a true hero of the faith, and learn where you can find her portrayed in the Basilica.
1. When Joan of Arc was just 13, she received a miraculous vision in which the Archangel Michael and two women saints encouraged her to help restore Charles VII (at the time the Dauphin, the eldest son of the King of France) to the throne.
At first, she was not taken seriously when she offered her assistance, but eventually the Dauphin accepted her help. Joan became a military commander, helping the struggling army break a siege on Orleans and leading them in a series of impressive victories.
She became known as the “Maid of Orleans,” and when the Dauphin was restored to the throne in 1429, Joan lived as a member of the royal court. Her family was also granted ”arms and nobility” for her heroic actions.
2. She was convicted by an ecclesial court for wearing men’s clothing.
Following her victories in Orleans, Joan was captured by the rebels of Burgundy and sold to England. There, she was imprisoned and subjected to constant interrogation as an ecclesiastical court tried to convict her of heresy. When the court could find no fault with her theology, she was eventually convicted for wearing men’s clothing.
3. She was only a teenager at the time of her execution.
Joan of Arc was a mere 19 years old when she was burned at the stake on May 30, 1431.
4. Two decades after Joan’s execution, her family petitioned to have her case retried, and a papal commission declared her innocence.
It was not until centuries later that her actions and dedication to the Faith were fully recognized at her canonization in the 20th century.
5. The day of St. Joan of Arc’s canonization, May 16, 1920, was the same day that the land for the National Shrine was blessed.
And that’s not the only special connection St. Joan of Arc has to the Basilica: the Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel at the Basilica contains a white marble stone from the dungeon in which she was imprisoned before her execution. The stone features a depiction of her coat of arms and the inscription, “This stone formed part of the dungeon of St. Joan of Arc, Rouen, France .”
In the Basilica, you can find St. Joan of Arc portrayed in the Southwest Nave Bay.
Butler’s Lives of Saints, ed. Bernard Bangley
Cowan’s The Way of Saints
Rohling, Geraldine M., PhD, MAEd. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception: Guide and Tour Book. Washington, D.C.: Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 2018.