Joan of Arc: Eternal Fire
570 years ago today, on May 30, 1437, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake at the age of 19.
First loved and feared, then condemned, then canonized, the 14-year-old Joan of Arc professed to be inspired by divine visions that directed her to lead the French against the English during the Hundred Years’ War. Possessing no military training, she persuaded Charles VII to grant her leadership of the French reserves, which she led against the English at the besieged city of Orléans. In nine days the troops under her direction successfully turned the tide against the English, winning the city, and ultimately the war.
Joan was captured by the Burgundians and ransomed to the English, at whose hands she was tried, condemned, and executed. Trial transcripts show her to be intelligent and thoughtful. Medieval Sourcebook hosts the full transcript in The Trial of Joan of Arc here.
Her life story has inspired great works of art for centuries. Carl Theodor Dreyer based his highly-praised film La passion de Jeanne d’Arc on her trial transcripts. Roger Ebert describes the film as indispensable to understanding film history in his review, and notes that Pauline Kael described its central performance as perhaps the finest performance ever captured on film. Ironically, the only known negative was destroyed in a fire, and the film was believed lost until a new negative was discovered in pristine condition in 1984. It can be viewed on YouTube beginning here, and is available on Netflix instant streaming.
George Bernard Shaw based his play Saint Joan on the trial transcripts.
Leonard Cohen’s beautiful ballad “Joan of Arc” was recorded for his album Songs of Love and Hate.