St Joan of Arc

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The Maid of Orleans was the daughter of a peasant, born in Domremy in Lorraine, in 1412. From the age of 13 she began hearing heavenly voices telling her to take up arms and lead the French army against the English who had invaded the country.

She obtained an audience with the the Dauphin, Charles, and after a searching interview, he entrusted her with a staff of attendants and a suit of armour. They joined the army at Blois and ten days later routed the English who had been besieging Orleans. Further victories followed and Charles was crowned King at Rouen.

However, Joan was captured by the Burgundians and handed over to the English. She was tried by a church court, presided over by the Bishop of Beauvais, on charges of witchcraft and heresy. During 15 sessions, St Joan defended herself and her 'heavenly voices'. She was condemned as a heretic and burnt at the stake in 1431.

The case was tried again in 1456 and she was found innocent. After centuries of popular veneration she was canonised in 1920. St Joan was declared Patron of France in 1922.

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