Joan of Arc



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Jehanne: Portraits of a Saint


Her Voices

learn about this and other portraits from Paris
Portrait: May God So Keep Me
Joan of Arc before Saint Michael, Paris

"Whatever I have done that was good, I have done at the bidding of my voices."
In Her Own Words, p. 113

"I have never had need of them and not had them come." In Her Own Words, p. 112

"I shall call them to help me as long as I live." In Her Own Words, p. 126


"When I was thirteen, I had a voice from God to help me to govern myself. The first time, I was terrified. The voice came to me about noon: it was summer, and I was in my father’s garden….I saw it many times before I knew it was Saint Michael….He was not alone, but duly attended by heavenly angels….He told me Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret would come to me, and I must follow their counsel; that they were appointed to guide and counsel me in what I had to do, and that I must believe what they would tell me, for it was at our Lord’s command." In Her Own Words, p. 5-6

Saint Joan continually professed counsel and protection from three voices guiding her in the mission to free her country from occupation: Saint Michael the Archangel, Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Saint Margaret, sometimes called Marina. Although not often mentioned, Joan also reported being visited by Saint Gabriel.

Archangel Michael was the first to appear to young Joan when she was in her thirteenth year. He told Joan that Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret would soon follow. She was to obey their instruction. Whereas Archangel Michael was brilliant and bold, her descriptions of Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret were of gentle comforters.

The female saints guided her through the next four years of her childhood, instructing her on proper ways to govern herself. They primed her, instilling virtues she would need for a greater mission, which she did not fully comprehend at the time.

When Joan turned seventeen, the guidance from her voices changed. Saint Michael visited more often, outlining a plan which involved the young girl liberating her country. Joan's response showed her attempt to make sense of what she was being told to do: "And I answered the Voice that I was a poor girl who knew nothing of riding and warfare." In Her Own Words, p. 7. Her response is not unlike the Mother Mary's logical conclusion when she was told she was to be with child: "How can this be, as I know not a man." Joan eventually came to this understanding: "Since God had commanded me to go, I must do it. And since God had commanded it, had I had a hundred fathers and a hundred mothers, and had I been a king's daughter, I would have gone." In Her Own Words, p. 11

Saint Michael, Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret had won her devotion and her confidence. It was in them she put her complete faith, moving always in the direction they led. Her guardians not only provided counsel, but forewarned of mishaps, personal injury and eventually her own capture and death.

It's no surprise these three guardians became Joan's patron saints. She shared many similarities with Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret was an ever-present visual reminder to young Joan in the chapel at Domremy. It was here, in her hometown that Joan prayed before the statue of Saint Margaret, which still stands to this day. Like Joan of Arc, both female saints before her were similarly persecuted for refusing to deny their faith and were virgin martyrs. Although Joan denied her faith when brought before the stake and threatened with being burned alive, she recanted, citing that what she said she said for fear of the fire.

The connection to Saint Michael is just as obvious. He has been around since the time of the Old Testament in which he was known for interceding for the human race. Archangel Michael, whose name means "One who is like God," was the protector of France, and Joan certainly would have known this. Stories about him, which Joan would have heard, figure him predominantly as champion and leader of faithful angels in their struggle against evil.

There are two feast days honoring Saint Michael: September 29, which honors the dedication of the Church of St. Michael in Rome during the sixth century, and May 8, which commemorates the day of his apparition in Italy. Interestingly, on May 8, 1429, after only three days of her first battle, Joan of Arc realized her first military victory by liberating the city of Orléans from a successful seven month siege by the English. Saint Michael's intercession would continue as her military campaign progressed.

Archangel Michael

'Saint Michael and the Dragon' by Raphael circa 1505Patron of soldiers and law enforcement
Feast Day: May 8 and September 29

Saint Michael was the patron saint of the royal house of France during Joan's life, so it makes sense that she naturally held an affinity for him. He commanded her to go to the aid of France and eventually appeared to her as a war counselor. Saint Michael is typically depicted in armor with wings outstretched and sword or lance drawn, ready to pierce the serpent being restrained under foot. In many medieval paintings, he bears a shield with a red cross that represents "truth". Michael is the champion of woman, specifically protecting the Mother Mary and her offspring. He is referred to as the prince of angels and is first in the nine angelic orders.

"Above all, Saint Michael told me that I must be a good child, and that God would help me. He taught me to behave rightly and go often to church.... He told me the pitiful state of the Kingdom of France. And he told me that I must go to succor the King of France." In Her Own Words, p. 6.

Saint Catherine of Alexandria

'Saint Catherine of Alexandria' by RaphaelPatroness of philosophers and teachers
Feast Day: November 25

"Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret had rich crowns on their heads. They spoke well and fairly, and their voices are beautiful--sweet and soft. The name by which they often named me was Jehanne the Maid, Child of God. They told me that my King would be restored to his Kingdom, despite his enemies. They promised to lead me to Paradise." In Her Own Words, p. 7

Saint Catherine, along with Saint Margaret, was sent to guide Joan of arc on her mission, giving her constant counsel, guidance and protection. Saint Catherine was a virgin martyr born of a noble family in Alexandria. She converted to Christianity through a vision of the Mother Mary and publicly denounced her Emperor Maxentius for persecuting Christians. Maxentius offered Catherine, age 18, a royal marriage if she would but deny her faith. However, like Joan, Saint Catherine had taken a vow of chastity and so promptly refused his offer. She was just as promptly delivered to prison. The young girl's boldness interested the Emperor so he called numerous scholars to use their skills in reason and logic to outwit the girl. Catherine proved to be admirable, gracious and eloquently convincing in all lines of questioning, actually converting several of her adversaries.

Saint Catherine's demeanor was not unlike Joan of Arc's, who, when subjected to three weeks of questioning by learned scholars at Chinon and Poitiers, was said to carry herself with dignity, speaking with clarity of reason that often outsmarted and influenced highly learned men. When this comparison is noted, Saint Catherine fulfills her role by guiding Joan's words and actions. When Joan of Arc successfully persuaded the theologians at Poitiers in March, 1429, that " her has been found nothing evil; only good, humility, virginity, devotion, honesty, simplicity." townspeople began referring to the Maid as "another Saint Catherine brought down to earth."

Saint Catherine reported an angel of the Lord at her side during all questioning, who assured her to stand firm that she would not be defeated. Perhaps she decided to repay the favor be attending to the young Joan of Arc who shared a similar torture, imprisonment, trial and martyrdom.

While in captivity, Catherine's influence caused Maxentius' wife and two hundred of his soldiers to convert. The Emperor had the newly converted put to death and condemned Catherine to the same fate. She was tortured by being placed on a spiked wheel that is said to have shattered. Her death unsuccessful, Maxentius had her beheaded. Saint Catherine is often depicted wearing a crown and holding her torture device, a wooden wheel and the sword used to behead her. Saint Catherine boldly confronted evil in the name of truth and justice, very similar to Joan of Arc.

At the moments of Catherine's death, legend tells us angels lifted her body, carrying it to Mount Sinai, giving her an honorable burial. A monk from Rouen, the place of Saint Joan's burning, is said to have journeyed to Mount Sinai, staying there for seven years, in service to Saint Catherine. Later, a similar monk from Rouen paid tribute to Saint Joan by retrieving a cross at the Maid's request and holding it before her during her last moments tied to the stake. Saint Catherine is known as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, as is Saint Margaret.

Saint Margaret

'Holy Family with the Infant, Saint John and Saint Margaret' by Lippi circa 1495Patroness of pregnant women
Feast Day: July 20

Margaret is sometimes called Marina. She is believed to have been the daughter of a pagan priest, converting against family wishes to Christianity. Saint Margaret was a shepherdess who attracted the interest of a local prefect. Margaret refused his marriage proposal, for like Catherine and Joan, she had consecrated herself to God. The prefect Olybrius had her imprisoned and tortured for her rejection. When threats of punishment had no effect on Margaret, he had her brought before a public trial. She was threatened with burning but refused to renounce God. She was eventually beheaded. Saint Margaret is often depicted standing over the dragon, sent by Satan to tempt her.

Joan of Arc shared a similar fate with the guardians who offered their counsel, especially Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret. In the trial transcripts Joan responds candidly to her accusers, often times with frustrated exasperation:

     "Did they have hair?"
     "It is a comfort to know that they have."
     "Was Saint Michael naked?"
     "Do you think God has nothing with which to clothe him?"
     "Did Saint Margaret speak English?"
     "Why would she speak in English when she is not on the English side?"
     In Her Own Words, p. 103-105

It is impossible to understand Joan of Arc's motivation and steadfast moral values without first understanding the voices which she attributes every good thing she accomplished. Her deep love, faith and reverence for her helpers were best apparent in her actions. Attempting to express the Voices' profound influence on her life:

"There is no day that I do not hear the voice. And indeed I need it. I have never asked it for any other reward than, in the end, the salvation of my soul."

"I saw them with the eyes of my body as well as I see you. And when they left me, I wept, and I wished that they might have taken me with them. And I kissed the ground where they stood, to do them reverence." In Her Own Words, p. 94, 6


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