August 2005

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc © Aris Dervis 2005

© Aris Dervis 2005

Joan of Arc

Feast Day

May 30

What famous author made this statement?

"I like Joan of Arc best of all my books; and it is the best, I know it perfectly well. And besides, it's furnished me seven times the pleasure afforded me by any of the others; twelve years of preparation, and two years of writing. The others needed no preparation and got none."

Born in France in 1411, Joan's story is one of extraordinary bravery and even more extraordinary betrayal. At the age of 14, the peasant girl began hearing voices that urged her to help France defend itself against English invaders. She led her soldiers on a successful campaign in Orleans resulting in the crowning of the dauphin, Charles VII.

Here is an account from Heaven Help Us by Alice and Clare LaPlante.

"Naturally, it was all downhill from Charles VII's crowning. Joan knew from her friendly voices that she was living on borrowed time. Suspicion and jealousy of her grew from all sides: the court, the Church, the army. Even Charles abandoned her at the end, showing that no good deed goes unpunished. The Duke of Burgundy captured and imprisoned her, and sold her to the English. The Brits put her on trial for witchcraft during which the simple unschooled farm girl was taunted and ultimately condemned for her lack of theological knowledge. She was burned at the stake in 1431."

The actual charge that brought Joan down was cross-dressing. 500 years later Pope Benedict XV declared her a saint.

Riverside Drive and 93rd Street is the home of the Joan of Arc monument, unveiled in 1915, by none other than Mrs. Thomas Alva Edison. It was created by Anna Vaughan Hyatt Huntington (1876-1973). To me, the most amazing part of the monument is the pedestal, which contains limestone blocks from the tower in Rouen where Joan was imprisoned. Although I've lived on Joan of Arc Island since 1977 and have walked by the statue almost every day, I learned about the reliquary aspect last week.

One of the most poignant sights after 9/11 was the placement of an American flag in the horse's mouth, a feat that required a climb of nearly two stories.

Many years ago I was walking with my 6-year-old niece, Linea. I pointed out the statue of Joan and told Linea that she was burned at the stake. "Was that a barbecue?" Linea wondered. She had similar issues when told her father might be "fired."

The author? Mark Twain.