Canonization of Joan of Arc
|Saint Joan of Arc|
Canonization of Joan of Arc at St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican
|Born||6 January, c. 1412 
Domrémy, Duchy of Bar, France.
|Died||30 May 1431 (aged approx. 19)
(then under English rule)
|Roman Catholic Church
|Beatified||18 April 1909, Notre Dame de Paris by Pope Pius X|
|Canonized||16 May 1920, St. Peter's Basilica, Rome by Pope Benedict XV|
|Patronage||France ; martyrs; captives; military personnel; people ridiculed for their piety; prisoners; soldiers, women who have served in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service); and Women's Army Corps|
Saint Joan of Arc, The Maid of Orleans (Jeanne d'Arc) is a recognized Saint of the Roman Catholic Church. Although she was excommunicated and burned at the stake for heresy by local officials in 1431, central Church officials would later nullify her excommunication, declaring her a martyr unjustly executed for a secular vendetta. Her legend would grow from there, leading to her beatification in 1909 and her canonization in 1920.
Course to sainthood
Death and 15th century
As with other saints who were excommunicated or investigated by ecclesiastic courts, such as St. Athanasius, St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, Joan of Arc was put on trial by an Inquisitorial court. In Joan's case, the court was controlled by the English government in occupied northern France, leading to her burning at the stake at Rouen. When the French regained Rouen in 1449, a series of investigations were launched which led to a formal appeal run by the Inquisitor-General in 1455. She was declared innocent on July 7, 1456. The Inquisitor's summary of evidence for the case describes her as a martyr who had been executed by a court which was itself in violation of the Church's rules.
She had always been considered innocent by those of her own faction. The city of Orléans commemorated her death each year beginning in 1432, and from 1435 onward performed a religious play centered around her victories. The play represented her as a divinely sent saviour guided by angels.
In 1452, during one of the postwar investigations into her execution, Cardinal d'Estouteville declared that this religious play would merit qualification as a pilgrimage site by which attendees could gain an indulgence.
Not long after the appeal, Pope Pius II wrote an approving piece about her in his memoirs.
During the 16th century, Joan of Arc was utilized as a symbol of the Catholic League, a group organized to fight against Protestantism during the Wars of Religion of that era.
19th century to present
Paradoxically, it was the publication of works by secular historians in the mid-19th century which seems to have sparked widespread public efforts to ask the Church to officially canonize her. Félix Dupanloup, Bishop of Orléans from 1849 to 1878, led the efforts which culminated in Joan of Arc's beatification in 1909, held in Notre Dame de Paris. During the subsequent fighting in France during World War I, Allied troops carried her image into battle with them. During one battle, French troops interpreted a German searchlight image projected onto low-lying clouds as an appearance by Joan, which greatly bolstered their morale.
Her canonization came on 16 May 1920. Over 30,000 people attended the ceremony in Rome, including 140 descendants of Joan of Arc's family. Pope Benedict XV presided over the rite, for which the interior of St. Peter's Basilica was richly decorated (Associated Press, 16 May 1920).
Her beatification approximately coincided with the French invention of the Janvier transfer engraving machine (also called a die engraving pantograph) which facilitates the creation of minted coins and commemorative medallions. This invention, together with the already well-established French sculptural tradition, added another element to Saint Joan's beatification: a series of well-made religious art medals featuring Saint Jeanne d'Arc with scenes from her life.
Her feast day is 30 May. Although changes to the Church-wide calendar in 1968 moved many medieval European saints' days off the general calendar in order to make room for more non-Europeans, her feast day is still celebrated on many local and regional Church calendars, especially in France. Many Catholic churches around the globe have been named after her in the decades since her canonization.
She has become especially popular among Traditional Catholics, particularly in France - both because of her obvious connection to this country as well as the fact that the Traditional Catholic movement is strongest in France. This branch of Catholicism, which has refused to accept the changes made by the Second Vatican Council, has compared the 1988 excommunication of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (one of the founders of the Traditional Catholic movement) to Joan of Arc's excommunication by a corrupt pro-English Bishop in 1431. Traditional Catholic parishes sometimes perform plays in Joan of Arc's honor.
- (See Pernoud's Joan of Arc By Herself and Her Witnesses, p. 98: "Boulainvilliers tells of her birth in Domrémy, and it is he who gives us an exact date, which may be the true one, saying that she was born on the night of Epiphany, 6 January").
- "Chemainus Theatre Festival > The 2008 Season > Saint Joan > Joan of Arc Historical Timeline". Chemainustheatrefestival.ca. Retrieved 2012-11-30.
- Church of England Holy Days
"Joan of Arc Made a Saint". Associated Press. 1920-05-16.