Today on May 16, 1920, Joan of Arc was formally canonized as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.
Joan of Arc, nicknamed the Maid of Orleans, was born in the village of Domremy in northern France. Born into a peasant farming family, she was never formally taught to read or write. However, she was indeed raised to be a devout Catholic and genuinely believed in God. At the time of her birth, France and England were in the midst of the bitter Hundred Years’ War. Her country was on the brink of collapse after countless defeats on the battlefield. Her family was forced to flee under threat of invasion. Her hostile and frightening upbringing undoubtedly played a significant role in developing her deep hatred for England.
Joan began hearing voices from God at the age of thirteen and insisted the Lord had given her a divine mission; to save France from its enemies and help install Charles as the rightful King of France. After miraculously being granted an audience with the Dauphin, she boldly requested he give her full control of the French army. Against all advice, Charles granted the request. Joan immediately marched towards Orleans dressed in her iconic white armor and riding a white horse. Without any military training at all, she miraculously relieved Orleans and achieved a momentous victory over the far superior English forces. Only a few months later, she was captured by Burgundian soldiers during the Siege of Paris.
In 1431, she received a death sentence after being convicted of witchcraft and heresy. She was unfairly tried by a court of English nobles during the Hundred Years’ War. Joan burned at the stake as a young nineteen-year-old girl. Interestingly, she received a posthumous retrial nearly twenty-five years after her execution. Pope Callixtus III ordered a nullification or rehabilitation proceeding at the request of Joan’s mother. She subsequently became a folk saint among French Catholics for centuries to come. Joan of Arc continues to serve as an enduring symbol of French nationalism.