joan : weigh the small advance, there is still a chance

The Monarchist movement, the romantic movement, the spiritualist movement, the liberation movement, the communist movement; Joan of Arc has passed through all of them wit the ease and aplomb that one would expect of a light stepping, free-floating saint. From strumpet, heretic and witch and perhaps even an imoster, she has come a long way baby since the French Renaissance  and the somewhat cruel treatment by Voltaire and David Hume. Thus, she has passed through many judgements, her trial and execution being but the beginning. In the centuries since the Maid has passed through all the phases of adoration and anger, skepticism and awe…

—Joan from Arc by Lukas Jevcak—Joan has been a political symbol in France since the time of Napoléon. Liberals emphasized her humble origins. Early conservatives stressed her support of the monarchy. Later conservatives recalled her nationalism. During World War II, both the Vichy Regime and the French Resistance used her image: Vichy propaganda remembered her campaign against the English with posters that showed British warplanes bombing Rouen and the ominous caption: “They Always Return to the Scene of Their Crimes. “The resistance emphasized her fight against foreign occupation and her origins in the province of Lorraine, which had fallen under Nazi control. Three French Navy ships have been named after her, including a helicopter carrier currently in active service. The controversial French far-right political party Front National holds rallies at her statues, reproduces her likeness in party publications, and uses a tricolor flame partly symbolic of her martyrdom as its emblem. The French civic holiday in her honor is the second Sunday of May.—Read More:

( see link at end)…Joan of Arc didn’t renounce the world; she didn’t convert from a life of sin; she didn’t give away her goods to the poor (she didn’t have any); she wasn’t a queen or an abbess or a scholar; and above all, she was tried for heresy by a Roman Catholic Church tribunal and burned as a heretic.

It’s rumored that the Vatican is considering rehabilitating the fiery monk Girolamo Savonarola, who was hanged and then burned in Florence, almost 70 years after Joan of Arc died in Rouen. If so, Savonarola will be eligible to join Joan as one of the few canonized saints who was, in fact, martyred by the church….

—Le FN entend bien garder “son” symbole. Jean-Marie et Marine Le Pen ont rendu hommage samedi à Paris à Jeanne d’Arc, au lendemain de Nicolas Sarkozy, en exaltant des symboles de jeunesse et de nationalisme. —Read More:

The philosopher Bernard Williams, in a recent discussion, pointed out that, as the defining principle of truth, accuracy has been gradually eclipsed by sincerity. If what you are saying is incorrect, it may still carry the force of conviction if it is spoken from the heart. In the last century, Thomas Carlyle defined ”sincerity, a deep, great, genuine sincerity,” as ”the mark of the hero.” In this respect, Joan of Arc is a truly modern figure, a person who expresses unflinching, subjective truthfulness: under protracted interrogation, she held to the reality of her visions, the divine origin of her mission and her need to keep wearing male dress. Like Galileo, she embodies the individual under duress, a romantic rebel with a cause. Read More:

—Jeanne d’Arc, Editions Marcel Seheur, Paris, octobre 1926, in octavo. Frontispice et dix­neuf lithographies couleurs par L. Touchagues. Edition en 400 exemplaires numérotés sur Velin d’Arche.
Read More:


World War II closed, therefore, with Joan of Arc as its own weapon; Joan established as a new and more exalted sense as the patron saint of France. In contemporary France the tradition of the Maid went from being securely identified with the mystique of Charles de Gaulle, and his efforts to regenerate and restore the country to its former glory to Jean and Marie le Pen stumping at her shrine and hawking her in a new and somewhat strange light reminiscent of Vichy and Petain.

Whatever future vicissitudes France may undergo, we may be sure that Joan of Arc will have aprt in them and that her reputation, though it may undergo new metamorphoses, will always, in France, be secure. For all time, Joan is France. The world at large, too, will admire her heroism  as long as heroic courage is respected. It is in order to accord her the reverence which is her due that each age has had to reshape her in accordance with its own ideal. She belongs to universal history, in the sense in which Lord Acton used that phrase when he said, ” By universal history I understand that which is is distinct from the history of all countries, and is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.”

—Sarkozy’s attempt to appropriate Joan has parallels with her celebrated appearance as a political poster girl for Marshal Pétain’s infamously collaborationist Vichy regime, see below. But one pertinent misappropriation of France’s folk heroine is omitted from Nadia Margolis’ essay – traditionalist Catholics invoke her as an inspiration, and draw parallels between her fate and the excommunication in 1

of the extreme-right Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. This minor omission notwithstanding, the inclusion of an essay titled ‘Joan of Arc and the Evolution of the Right in France’ once again confirms Jordi Savall’s commitment to making classical music relevant to current affairs.—Read More:


(see link at end)…Drawn mainly from the nationalist right the Vichy regime celebrated Joan of Arc. Comparisons were made between Joan and Pétain. Joan was seen as a suitable symbol by Vichy because she was virtuous (notoriously a virgin), Catholic and anti-English.
But Vichy’s use of Joan was contested by the Resistance. Lucie Aubrac recounts in her book ‘Ils partiront dans l’ivresse’ that when she was teaching history lessons in the Southern zone of France she would get the pupils to draw up lists comparing Joan and Pétain with the express intention of showing them how ridiculous the comparisons were (eg one was fighting the occupier, the otehr was collaborating with them, one was young, the other old, one was a man, the other a woman, etc). Indeed the Resistance often used the image of Joan themselves precisely because she had fought an occupier rather than passively accepting their presence.

—La stratégie du Front National est simple : trouver des moutons pour obtenir des voix…comme Jeanne d’Arc.
Un cadavre dans le placard
En 1939, une carte postale célébrant les 500 ans de la libération d’Orléans est frappée d’un « Jeanne d’Arc contre les juifs ». Le régime collaborationniste de Vichy s’approprie cette icône populaire qui sera récupérée en 1988 par le Front National. Toute une histoire…Read More:

Robert Gildea on the cult of Joan of Arc during the Vichy Years

The cult of Joan of Arc, adopted by the regime, was not unproblematic. After all, Joan had liberated French soil, while Vichy had entered upon a strategy of collaboration with Germany. One solution was to present Joan of Arc as the scourge of the English, not of foreigners in general. Admiral Darlan, vice-president of the council and foreign minister, meeting Hitler at Berchtesgaden on 11 May 1941 to further Franco-German collaboration, announced hopefully, ‘Today is the festival of Joan of Arc, who drove out the English’. Another solution was to draw a moral rather than a military lesson from the story, to see Joan above all as a model for moral rearmament and the enemy of the rottenness that had brought France to its knees in 1940. This was the style of official commemorations of Joan of Arc in unoccupied zone on 10 May 1942. The key slogans imparted to 2000 young people drawn up on the Place Bellecour at Lyon were ‘restoration’, ‘redemption’ and ‘resurrection’, in the sense of moral purification, not a call to arms. Pétain’s message, read at Limoges and Chambéry where new statues of Joan of Arc were unveiled, betrayed his concern about internal discord rather than an enthusiasm for Liberation. He urged that the people should ‘unite, discipline themselves, stop questioning their leaders’ and ‘close their ears to foreign propaganda’. (…)

The Vichy regime was unable to establish a monopoly of the cult of Joan of Arc. Opponents of the regime and of its policy of collaboration were not slow to see that the myth could serve their purposes just as well, if not better. The communists, seeking the widest possible national legitimation after June 1941, espoused the myth not only of the soldiers of the Year II but that of Joan of Arc as well. (…)

At the Liberation, Joan of Arc was firmly located in the camp of the communists and Charles de Gaulle, who marched together in procession on her statue on 12 May 1945.

—Solve Sundsbo/Art + Commerce
A 2007 depiction of Joan of Arc by Solve Sundsbo for Numéro magazine.—According to Colette Beaune, a medieval historian and one of Joan’s most eminent biographers, Joan ate and drank little, was anorexic, never menstruated, hated physical contact and was terrified of being raped. Beaune noted — and dismissed — speculation that Joan was a lesbian.
Perhaps a more complex, even more feminine, Joan will emerge. In French art, she has always been the dour shepherdess with braids, the flat-chested tomboy in tights, the armored goddess on horseback. In fashion, she has most often been transformed, by designers ranging from Alexander McQueen to Christophe Decarnin, into a mercenary of hard-shell glamour. Even the model-actress Mila Jovovich played Joan as crazed, shrill and angry in Luc Besson’s 1999 film, “The Messenger.”—Read More:

Robert Gildea, The Past in French History, New Haven, Yale UP, 1994, pp 163-164 Read More:

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One Response to joan : weigh the small advance, there is still a chance

  1. Telehandler says:

    Joan of Arc has occupied the imagination of public since centuries. It indeed has had a great influence on several movements.

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