Joan of Arc, nicknamed “The Maid of Orléans” (French: Jeanne d’Arc, ca. 1412 – 30 May 1431), is a national heroine of France and a Roman Catholic saint. A peasant girl born in what is now eastern France, who claimed divine guidance, she led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years’ War, which paved the way for the coronation of Charles VII. She was captured by the Burgundians, transferred to the English in exchange for money, put on trial by the pro-English Bishop of Beauvais Pierre Cauchon for charges of “insubordination and heterodoxy,” and burned at the stake as a heretic when she was only 19 years old.
Twenty-five years after the execution, an Inquisitorial court authorized by Pope Callixtus III examined the trial, pronounced her innocent and declared her a martyr. Joan of Arc was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920. She is – along with St. Denis, St. Martin of Tours, St. Louis IX, and St. Theresa of Lisieux – one of the patron saints of France. Joan said that she had visions from God that instructed her to recover her homeland from English domination late in the Hundred Years’ War. The uncrowned King Charles VII sent her to the siege of Orléans as part of a relief mission. She gained prominence when she overcame the dismissive attitude of veteran commanders and lifted the siege in only nine days. Several additional swift victories led to Charles VII’s coronation at Reims and settled the disputed succession to the throne.