Canonization of Joan of Arc

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This article is about canonization process for Joan of Arc. For her as an historical figure, see Joan of Arc.
Saint Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc Canonization.jpg
Canonization Mass of Joan of Arc in Saint Peter's Basilica.
Born 6 January, c. 1412 [1]
Domrémy, Duchy of Bar, France.[2]
Died 30 May 1431 (aged approx. 19)
Rouen, Normandy
(then under English rule)
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Anglican Communion[3]
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
Feast 30 May
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 Orléans (French: Jeanne d'Arc) is a recognized saint of the Roman Catholic Church. Although she was excommunicated and burnt 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.

Path to sainthood[edit]

Death and 15th century[edit]

As with other saints who were excommunicated or investigated by ecclesiastic courts, such as Athanasius, Teresa of Ávila, and John of the Cross, Joan was put on trial by an Inquisitorial court. In her case, the court was influenced by the English, which occupied northern France, leading to her execution in the marketplace of Rouen. When the French retook Rouen in 1449, a series of investigations were launched, which led to a formal appeal run by the Inquisitor-General in 1455. Joan was exonerated on July 7, 1456, with the Inquisitor's summary of case evidence describing her as a martyr who had been executed by a court which itself had violated Church law.

She was always 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 centred on 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 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.

16th century[edit]

During the 16th century, Joan was utilized as a symbol of the Catholic League, a group organized to fight Protestantism during the Wars of Religion of that era.

19th century to present[edit]

A commemorative medallion made in France at the time of Joan of Arc's beatification.

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 - 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 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 Joan's beatification: a series of well-made religious art medals featuring scenes from her life. [4]

Her canonization came on May 16, 1920. Over 60,000 people attended the ceremony, including 140 descendants of Joan's family. Dignitaries included: Gabriel Hanotaux; The Duke of Vendôme; Count Giulio Porro-Lambertenghi, grandson of Luigi Porro Lambertenghi, with The Knights of Malta; Princess Zinaida Yusupova; Princess Irina Alexandrovna; Prince Feodor Alexandrovich; The Duke of Braganza; The Count de Salis-Soglio; Rafael Valentín Errázuriz; Diego von Bergen; Cardinal William O'Connell; Archbishop Edward Hanna; Bishop John Carroll; Bishop Paul Nussbaum; the entire student body of The American College of Rome; and Cardinal Merry del Val, who greeted Pope Benedict XV as Benedict entered St. Peter's Basilica to preside over the rites. Vendôme and Lambertenghi had also attended the beatification. Meanwhile, 100,000 people celebrated at Westminster Cathedral and at French churches throughout London. [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

In an essay for the May 18, 1920 issue of Le Matin, Raymond Poincaré opined that Joan's canonization "fulfills the last part of her mission in bringing together forever in the sacredness of her memory" former arch-enemies England and France. He concluded: "In her spirit, let us remain united for the good of Mankind". [10]


The St. Joan of Arc Chapel at the Marquette University campus, moved from its original location in France.

Joan of Arc's feast day is 30 May. Although reforms 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 there. 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.


  1. ^ (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").
  2. ^ "Chemainus Theatre Festival > The 2008 Season > Saint Joan > Joan of Arc Historical Timeline". Retrieved 2012-11-30. 
  3. ^ Church of England Holy Days
  4. ^ "The Spectator" The Outlook July 3, 1909; Volume 92, pp. 548-550 retrieved May 19, 2016
  5. ^ "Maid of Orleans is Made a Saint" The Toronto World May 17, 1920, p. 11; via Google News Archive retrieved May 19, 2016
  6. ^ "Joan of Arc is Decalred Saint in Ceremony by Church at Rome" The Bakersfield Californian May 17, 1920, p. 2; via Google News Archive retrieved May 19, 2016
  7. ^ "Impressive Ceremonies Used in Canonizing Joan of Arc" The Deseret News May 17, 1920, p. 8; via Google News Archive retrieved May 19, 2016
  8. ^ "Joan of Arc is Exalted by Pope" Telegraph-Herald May 17, 1920, pp. 1,8; via Google News Archive retrieved May 21, 2016
  9. ^ "Remarkable Scene: 100,000 Watched Great War Pageant in London" Montreal Gazette May 17, 1920, p. 1; via Google News Archive retrieved May 22, 2016
  10. ^ "Mission is Fulfilled: Spirit of Joan of Arc Unites Britain and France" Edwin L. James Montreal Gazette May 17, 1920, p. 1; via Google News Archive retrieved May 22, 2016


"Joan of Arc Made a Saint". Associated Press. 1920-05-16. 

External links[edit]