Statue of Joan of Arc on the site of the Pyramids to Paris. Photo: Francois Trazzi via Wikimedia Commons.
In 2013, as we were driving east from Bayeux, France, we passed through the town of Rouen, France. Just as we were leaving, we noticed a sign stating that Joan of Arc had been executed there. Near the center of town there is a square memorializing the very spot where she was burned at the stake.
Joan, a common peasant girl, disguised herself as a man and aggressively assumed command of 3,000 French regulars to defeat the English at Orleans in 1429. Known as “The Maid of Orleans”, she was looked upon as the heroine of that city. However, refusing any personal credit, she insisted her inspiration came to her from God through the voices of St. Michael, St. Margaret and St. Catherine. She was eventually captured by the Anglo-Burgundian forces she had opposed in battle and at the age of 19 was executed for heresy and witchcraft.
It wasn’t until the early 20th century that the French and the Vatican realized the significance of her actions and concluded that she had, in fact, been the recipient of divine inspiration. Thus, the Vatican declared her a Roman Catholic Saint in 1920.
A few days ago I received a copy of the book, Famous Last Words, and it included Ann’s last words, as reported by witnesses as the flames engulfed her dying body:
“Ah Rouen, I have great fear you will suffer by my death! . . . Jesus, Jesus….”
In more recent news on Rouen, you might remember that on Tuesday 26 May 2016 a Catholic priest, Jacques Hamel, was executed by two teenaged Isis soldiers.
Author: SCPO Robin Wallace USN (Ret.)