Joan of Arc



Jehanne: Portraits of a Saint


Reims In Four Months Time Jehanne au Sacre Out of Darkness Caves of Castellane

In Four Months Time

Subject: Joan of Arc before Reims Cathedral
Location: Reims
Portrait: purchase options

Then: "I bring you news from God, that our Lord will give you back your kingdom, bringing you to be crowned at Reims, and driving out your enemies. In this I am God's messenger." Joan of Arc

Sometime in March of 1429, Joan professed to the Dauphin, Charles VII, that in four months time he would be customarily crowned the King of France in the cathedral at Reims. This claim is verified in a letter dated April 22, 1429. He was crowned there on July 17, 1429. This is one of the four prophetic responsibilities that Joan laid upon herself.

Now: Very busy areas can be difficult to shoot if you don't want people in the picture. Sometimes the best solution is to point the camera up. A quick walk around the base of this monument while looking up revealed this nostalgic angle showing Joan of Arc leading the march to the Reims Cathedral.


Out of Darkness

Subject: Reims Cathedral
Location: Reims
Portrait: available upon request

Then: "Four things are laid upon me; to drive out the English, to bring you to be crowned and annointed at Reims; to rescue the Duke of Orléans from the hands of the English; and to raise the siege of Orléans." Joan of Arc

Until the mission of Joan of Arc commenced in 1429, the political situation of France was looking very dark: the English were sweeping through the country, the Burgundians were aligning themselves with the English, Charles VII's legitimacy to the throne was in question, the coffers of the Treasury were low and morale was even lower. Within the year and a half of Joan's efficacy, she lifted the nation out of darkness. It began with the victory at Orléans and was validated here, at the Reims Cathedral Notre-Dame, when the Dauphin, Charles VII, was crowned King of France.

Now: The Reims Cathedral has a long history of construction dating back to its small original form called Our Lady of Rheims founded by Saint Nicasius in the fifth century. It underwent three additions and sporadic construction through the fifteenth century. World War I nearly destroyed the cathedral with four years of bombing beginning September 19, 1914. It was heavily shelled, fire destroyed the wooden scaffolding against the north tower, shattered the statues, reached the roof and destroyed the woodwork. Consequently, it is under constant reconstruction and preservation. One of the nicest attributes of this photo of the west façade is the lack of scaffolding. The marvelous detail (the church is adorned with more than 2300 statues) and symmetry is unobstructed. The tilt of the photograph gives drama to the movement of the cathedral out of the darkness of the bottom-left corner.



Subject: Reims Cathedral
Location: Reims
Portrait: available upon request

Then: The "Bloodless March" is the most extraordinary military campaign in history. After the lifting of the siege at Orléans, Joan of Arc led Charles the Dauphin on a long march from Gien to this cathedral in Reims through English occupied territory, capturing every English town and fortress that barred the road, from the beginning of the journey to the end of it; and this by the mere force of her name, and without shedding a drop of blood. Then Charles was traditionally and formally crowned King in July of 1429 as all French monarchs before him since 1027.

Now: The flying buttresses, intense detail and veil of leafless trees over the eastern ambulatory paint a wicked portrait against a black sky. At night, the entire cathedral is cast in golden light and is a beautiful sight to see. Bring extra batteries for those long shutter speeds.


Portals of Reims Cathedral

Subject: Portals of west façade
Location: Reims Cathedral
Portrait: available upon request

Then: The devastation suffered by Reims Cathedral is readily apparent. Much of the artistic iconography has been removed and replaced by replicas for preservation. The remainder is generally under a constant state of restoration. The stained glass, however, such as the "small" rose window of the litanies of Mary above the central portal (on the right) are exceptionally preserved and vibrantly beautiful. The "great" rose window and the windows of the choir are nothing less than intense.

Now: The immense size of the west façade (243 feet, 81 meters) is overwhelming. It makes you feel so small! These portals are merely the bottom 25% of the overall height, yet the intricate detail is fascinating and can keep you gawking for hours!


Smiling Angel of Reims

Subject: Sculptures of the west façade
Location: Reims Cathedral
Portrait: available upon request

Then: The Angel of the Smile has become an icon of Reims. The Cathédrale Notre-Dame of Rheims is also the only medieval cathedral to show an angel with outstretched wings. The statue to the left of the angel is believed to be Saint Denis. Notice the statuettes lining the doorway on the right? They are all headless! During the Revolution of 1789, the new Republic defiled the church by beheading many of the decorative figures.

Now: Often times areas such as this one are restricted for restoration or preservation. To photograph them, be sure to bring telephoto lenses, converters, etc.


Jehanne au Sacre

Subject: Joan of Arc
Location: Reims Cathedral
Portrait: purchase options

"Why was it that your standard had place at the crowning of the King in the Cathedral of Rheims?"

"It had borne the burden, it had earned the honor."
Saturday, March 17, 1431, Trial of Condemnation

Now: This portrait honors her bravery, faith and conviction by rightfully placing her upon a pedestal to be venerated as "Holy Joan". A scale replica of her banner is proudly displayed behind her.


Tomb of Saint Remi

Subject: Tomb and nave
Location: Reims Cathedral
Portrait: available upon request

Then: Clovis (481/482?-511) is known as the first King of the Franks. He conquered tribes in most of present day Germany and France through warfare supported by the Roman Empire. He was baptized a Catholic in 496 by Saint Rémi (aka Saint Remigius), archbishop of the region. Under Clovis, the Franks became Catholics.

Now: Interestingly, while we were visiting Our Lady of Rheims Cathedral, the majestic naves and apses were filled with the cry of a child being baptized. I tried to capture the duality by shooting this photo of the tomb of Clovis with the procession of the baptism in the background. Interestingly still, our good friend and gracious hostess is a native of Reims and was also baptized here. Her amazingly kind and outstanding parents still live there today.



Following the baptism of Clovis by Saint Remi, the kings of France gradually began to make the journey to Rheims to be anointed by the Archbishop with chrism from the Holy Ampulla.

For the Christian world of that period, all power was in the hands of God, who delegated part of it to a man. "The King is the lieutenant of Jesus Christ in temporal matters, just as the Pope and the bishops are in the spiritual sense". Through the rite of coronation, he received the grace to accomplish his mission: to rule is to serve.

The anointing with the holy oil links the King of France to the kings of Israel and especially to David. He is above all the sovereign of the New Covenant who is to lead another chosen people, the Franks.

From 1027 onwards, all the kings were crowned in Rheims with the exception of Louis VI and Henry IV. After the Revolution, only Charles X received the sacrament in 1825.

On the day of the ceremony, everyone would congregate in the Cathedral early in the morning. With his hand on the Gospel, the Prince would swear to respect justice and law and to defend widows and orphans. By the presenting of the spurs and the sword, he became the first of the knights. Then followed prayer and the nine anointings which consecrated him as King. He received the symbols of royalty: the cloak and ring, the scepter and the hand of justice. Then came the coronation and enthronement, the homage of the peers and general rejoicing.

The 25 Kings of France Crowned in the Present Cathedral

1223: Louis VIII the Lion 1461: Louis XI
1226: Saint Louis IX 1484: Charles VIII
1271: Philippe III the Hardi 1498: Louis XII
1286: Philippe IV le Bel 1515: Francis I
1315: Louis X le Hutin 1547: Henry II
1317: Philip V le Long 1559: Francis II
1322: Charles IV le Bel 1561: Charles IX
1328: Philip VI of Valois 1575: Henry III
1350: John II the Good 1610: Louis XIII
1364: Charles V 1654: Louis XIV
1380: Charles VI 1722: Louis XV
1429: Charles VII 1775: Louis XVI
  thanks to Joan of Arc! 1825: Charles X

Caves of Castellane

Subject: Champagne cellar
Location: Épernay
Portrait: purchase options

Then: While champagne was not the beverage of choice in Joan's era, wine certainly was. Épernay and Reims are part of the larger region known as Champagne, producers of the most renowned champagnes in the world, such as Dom Perignon and Ruinart.

Now: Épernay is the champagne capitol of the world. There are hundreds of miles of underground caverns properly storing champagne and wine. Tours are readily available and can be very photogenic.


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