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.
Virgin, Mystic, and Martyr
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, St. Peter's Basilica by Pope Pius X
Canonized 16 May 1920, St. Peter's Basilica 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 (French: Jeanne d'Arc) (often known as "The Maid of Orléans") is a recognized saint of the Roman Catholic Church. Although she was excommunicated and burnt at the stake for heresy by pro-English clergy 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. Her now-widowed mother Isabelle Romée and Joan's brothers Jéan and Pierre, who were with Joan at the Siege of Orleans, petitioned Pope Nicholas V to reopen her case. The formal appeal was conducted in 1455 by Jean Bréhal, Inquisitor-General of France, under the aegis of Pope Callixtus III. Isabelle addressed the opening session of the appellate trial at Notre Dame with an impassioned plea to clear her daughter's name. Joan was exonerated on July 7, 1456, with Bréhal's summary of case evidence describing her as a martyr who had been executed by a court which itself had violated Church law.[4]In 1457, Callixtus excommunicated the now-deceased Bishop Pierre Cauchon for his persecution and condemnation of Joan. [5]

The city of Orléans had commemorated her death each year beginning in 1432, and from 1435 onward performed a religious play centered on the lifting of the siege. The play represented her as a divinely-sent savior 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]

Joan was utilized as a symbol of the Catholic League, a group organized to fight against Protestant groups during the Wars of Religion in the 16th century. In 1964, the University of Pittsburgh Press published a translation of a 16th century manuscript of Joan's life. Its anonymous author wrote that he compiled the work "By order of the King, Louis XII of that name".[6]

18th and 19th centuries[edit]

While Nicolas Lenglet Du Fresnoy and Clément Charles François de Laverdy wrote the first full-length biographies of Joan, ironically, it was the English who unintentionally sparked a movement which would lead to her canonization. Harvard University English literature professor Herschel Baker noted in his introduction to Henry VI for The Riverside Shakespeare (1974; p. 587) how appalled William Warburton was by the depiction of Joan in Henry VI, Part 1, and that Edmond Malone sought in "Dissertation on the Three Parts of Henry VI" (1787) to prove Shakespeare had no hand in its authorship. Charles Lamb chided Samuel Taylor Coleridge for reducing Joan to "a pot girl" in the first drafts of The Destiny of Nations, which was initially part of Robert Southey's Joan of Arc. She was the subject of an essay by Lord Mahon for the March 1842 The Quarterly Review,[7] and an 1847 essay by Thomas De Quincey for Tait's.[8] In 1890, the Joan of Arc Church in Farnham was dedicated to her.

As Joan increasingly found her way into popular culture, the French Navy dedicated the first of four vessels to her, a 52-gun frigate, in 1820; a 42-gun frigate (1852), an ironclad corvette warship (1867), and an armored cruiser (1899) followed. Philippe-Alexandre Le Brun de Charmettes's biography (1817), and Jules Quicherat's account of her trial and rehabilitation (1841-1849) seemed to have inspired widespread canonization efforts. In 1869, after Bishop Félix Dupanloup gave his yearly lecture on Joan to commemorate her lifting the Siege of Orleans, twelve bishops wrote to Pope Pius IX to ask that she be canonized, but the Franco-Prussian War postponed further action. In 1874, depositions began to be collected, which were received by Cardinal Luigi Bilio in 1876 (the same year as Henri-Alexandre Wallon's biography). Bilio asked Dupanloup for more information, but Dupanloup died before he could respond. Dupanloup's successor, Bishop Pierre-Hector Coullié, directed an inquest to authenticate her acts, and testimony from her trial and rehabilitation. On January 27, 1894, based on the report submitted to the Curia by Cardinal Aloisi Masella, [9] it voted to recommend to Pope Leo XIII that he sign the Commissio Introductionis Causæ Servæ Dei Joannæ d'Arc, authored by Cardinal Lucido Parocchi, which Leo did immediately. [10]

20th century to present[edit]

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

Joan was declared venerable by Pope Pius X on January 6, 1904. [11] The decree of beatification was read on December 18, 1908. [12] The ceremony itself was held on April 18, 1909, presided by Cardinal Sebastiano Martinelli and Cardinal Mariano Rampolla. Bishop Stanislas Touchet performed the Mass. Cardinal Serafino Vannutelli, Cardinal Pierre Andrieu, Cardinal Louis Luçon, Cardinal Coullié, then-Monsignor Rafael Merry del Val, Cardinal Girolamo Gotti, Cardinal José Vives, [13] Bishop John Farrelly, Bishop Thomas Kennedy, Monsignor Robert Seton, Count Giulio Porro-Lambertenghi (grandson of Luigi Porro Lambertenghi) with tribunes from The Knights of Malta, The Duke of Alençon and his son The Duke of Vendôme, then-Archbishop William Henry O'Connell, [14] and The Duke of Norfolk [15] attended. Pius, whose sisters attended the ceremony, venerated the relics that afternoon, flanked by 70 French Prelates. [16]

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.

In the subsequent fighting during World War I, French troops carried her image into battle with them. During one battle, they interpreted a German searchlight image projected onto low-lying clouds as an appearance by Joan, which bolstered their morale greatly. [see: The Maid of Orléans: The Story of Joan of Arc Told to American Soldiers by Charles Saroléa, Georges Crès & Cie (1918)]

Her canonization was held on May 16, 1920. Over 60,000 people attended the ceremony, including 140 descendants of Joan's family. Dignitaries included: Vendome, Lambertenghi with The Knights of Malta, now-Bishop O'Connell, Gabriel Hanotaux, Princess Zinaida Yusupova, Princess Irina Alexandrovna, Prince Feodor Alexandrovich, The Duke of Braganza, The Count de Salis-Soglio, Rafael Valentín Errázuriz, Diego von Bergen, Bishop John Carroll, Archbishop Edward Hanna, Bishop Daniel Gorman, Bishop Paul Nussbaum, the entire student body of The American College of Rome, and now-Cardinal Merry del Val, who greeted Pope Benedict XV as Benedict entered St. Peter's Basilica to preside over the rites. One-hundred thousand people celebrated at Westminster Cathedral, and at French churches throughout London. [17][18][19][20][21]

In an essay for the May 18, 1920 Le Matin, now-former President of France Raymond Poincaré wrote that Joan's canonization "fulfills the last part of her mission in bringing together forever in the sacredness of her memory" one-time mortal enemies England and France. He concluded: "In her spirit, let us remain united for the good of Mankind".[22]


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.[citation needed]


  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. ^ Pernoud, Regine. "Joan of Arc by Herself and Her Witnesses". Scarborough House, 1994; pp 268-269.
  5. ^ The Tablet, Volume 75 (June 28, 1890) p. 1010 via Google Books retrieved December 30, 2016
  6. ^ "The First Biography of Joan of Arc: Translated and Annotated by Daniel Rankin and Claire Quintal" retrieved January 14, 2017
  7. ^ Joan of Arc: Reprinted From Lord Mahon's Historical Essays John Murray (1853); via Google Books retrieved January 20, 2017
  8. ^ "Selections" English Classic Series #69; Maynard, Merrill & Co. (1892) pps. 9-41; via Google Books retrieved January 20, 2017
  9. ^ The Saints: Joan of Arc; Louis Petit de Julleville; Duckworth & Co. (1901) pps. 185-191; via Google Books retrieved February 24, 2017
  10. ^ Joan of Arc Francis Cabot Lowell; Houghton Mifflin Company (1896) p. 372; via Google Books retrieved December 6, 2016
  11. ^ Joan of Arc Loan Exhibition Catalogue National Sculpture Society / American Numismatic Society (1913) p. 47; via Google Books retrieved February 25, 2017
  12. ^ "Blessed Joan of Arc. Reading of the Decree of the French Heroine" Montreal Gazette December 19, 1908 p. 14; via Google News Archive retrieved August 3, 2016
  13. ^ "The Spectator" The Outlook July 3, 1909; Volume 92, pps. 548-550 retrieved May 19, 2016
  14. ^ "Pilgrims Honor Maid of Orleans" The Daily Republican April 19, 1909, p. 2; via Google News Archive retrieved February 24, 2017
  15. ^ "The Beatification of Joan of Arc" The Age April 20, 1909 via The Kilmore Free Press June 24, 1909 p. 1 retrieved on Trove February 24, 2017
  16. ^ "The Maid of Orleans: Joan of Arc Beatified and The Pope Venerates the Relics" Montreal Gazette April 19, 1909, p. 4; via Google News Archive retrieved October 18, 2016
  17. ^ "Maid of Orleans is Made a Saint" The Toronto World May 17, 1920, p. 11; via Google News Archive retrieved May 19, 2016
  18. ^ "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
  19. ^ "Impressive Ceremonies Used in Canonizing Joan of Arc" The Deseret News May 17, 1920, p. 8; via Google News Archive retrieved May 19, 2016
  20. ^ "Joan of Arc is Exalted by Pope" Telegraph-Herald May 17, 1920, pp. 1,8; via Google News Archive retrieved May 21, 2016
  21. ^ "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
  22. ^ "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. 

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