Roman Catholic Saint, French Military Figure. Born Jehanne d'Arc in the small French village of Domrémy-la-Pucelle in the present day department of the Vosges, she was the 4th of five children born to Jacques d'Arc and Isabelle Romée. Jeanne was devoutly religious as a child, and in early adolescence began having visitations from St. Michael, St. Margaret and St. Catherine. Around age 15 her visions prompted her to seek out Charles, the dauphin of France, and assist him in ascending to the throne. Jeanne rallied the confused armies of France and led them into battle against the English, who for nearly a hundred years had challenged the rulers of France for possession of a large part of the country. The retaking of Orleans began her successful military campaign, which ultimately led Jeanne and Charles to the city of Reims in July 1429 for his coronation as King. The English continued to hold much territory and a series of political intrigues resulted in Jeanne's capture and imprisonment by the enemy. The English enlisted the aid of the corrupt Bishop Cauchon to rid themselves of Jeanne d'Arc, who had the admiration and devotion of all the people of France. After a lengthy trial by a court of inquisition, the Church found Jeanne guilty of heresy and witchcraft, and turned her over to English authorities for execution. Jeanne was burned at the stake in the marketplace of Rouen on the morning of May 30, 1431. She died with her eyes on the cross and the name of Jesus on her lips. The authorities instructed the executioner to scatter Jeanne's ashes to the winds, so there would be no chance of a relic remaining to inspire veneration by the people. Despite repeated attempts to complete the incineration, the executioner found that Jeanne's heart would not burn. He is quoted as saying, "I have burned a Saint!" He scattered her ashes from the ancient bridge, replaced by the Pont Boiëldieu in 1896. There, he threw her heart into the waters of the River Seine, and it became one with the Heart of France. Twenty-five years later, through great effort of her mother and brother, the Church overturned the guilty verdict and cleared her name. Even before canonization, which didn't come until 1920, she was regarded as one of the Patron Saints of France. Jeanne's leadership and martyrdom brought about the end of the Hundred Years War and unified the country of France. The French people consider her their greatest patriot and in many ways the founder of their country. Today a monument in Rouen is inscribed with the words of André Malraux: "O Jeanne, without sepulchre, without portrait, you know that the tomb of heroes is the heart of the living."
Bio by: Paul A. Laguerre