saint joan of kitsch: kicking the rehab can

The Protestants of the sixteenth century saw Joan of Arc as the Joan of the Rehabilitation “tainted with idolatry,” identified with Church and King. They destroyed every representation of her upon which they could lay their hands. Swedes in the service of France who ravaged Lorraine, even cut down the fairy tree near Domremy, “l’arbre charmine faee de Bourlemont,” which was prominently mentioned at Joan’s trial.

—cadeau bonus extra-kitsch

La Sainte de la frontière par Paul Leroy, 1914
(Jeanne d’Arc protégeant des soldats du 24e régiment
de dragons avec, en couverture, saint Michel)—Read More:

Later generations of Protestants, however, have often adopted quite other attitudes. Some of them have accepted as valid the original view of Joan, arrived at by the Church court that tried her and condemned her to death; the view, namely, that she was a heretic. As such, she has been regarded by some Protestants as a forerunner of the later Protestant movement.

To the “philosophes” of the Enlightenment Joan was, at best, a skillfilly dressed “machine de guerre;” at worst, something of a fraud. Of course, the writers of the eighteenth century did not have the documents before them, so it was the easier to minimize the Maid’s qualities of mind and will, which showed themselves so clearly in her trial. Joan stood identified with the Church which had rehabilitated her, and the monarchy which she had so stoutly championed; and she shared in the disfavor of these two increasingly unpopular institutions in an age which was notably deficient in historical imagination and saw the Middle Ages as an era of dismal gloom.

—Jeanne d’Arc sur le bûcher par Hermann Stilke, 1843—Read More:

George Bernard Shaw’s Joan, a precursor of nationalism, could have but little meaning to the cosmopolitan and often rather pro-English thinkers of the French Enlightenment. In fact, she made more appeal to the Scottish philosopher, David Hume, who, in his History of England, reflecting the humanitarian outlook of the age, condemns her treatment by Bedford as “barbarous and dishonourable” :

Her insidious enemies caught her in that situation: her fault was interpreted to be no less than a relapse into heresy: no recantation would now suffice; and no pardon could be granted her. She was condemned to be burned in the market-place of Rouen; and the infamous sentence was accordingly executed. This admirable heroine, to whom the more generous superstition of the ancients would have erected altars, was, on pretence of heresy and magic, delivered over alive to the flames, and expiated, by that dreadful punishment, the signal services which she had rendered to her prince and to her native country.

—Sarah Bernhardt, French Actress, Dressed in Costume as Joan of Arc, Holding a Flag, 1900—Read More:


David Hume: The siege of Orleans, the progress of the English before that place, the great distress of the garrison and inhabitants, the importance of saving this city and its brave defenders, had turned thither the public eye; and Joan, inflamed by the general sentiment, was seized with a wild desire of bringing relief to her sovereign in his present distresses. Her unexperienced mind, working day and night on this favorite object, mistook the impulses of passion for heavenly inspirations; and she fancied that she saw visions, and heard voices, exhorting her to reëstablish the throne of France, and to expel the foreign invaders. An uncommon intrepidity of temper made her overlook all the dangers which might attend her in such a path; and thinking herself destined by Heaven to this office, she threw aside all that bashfulness and timidity so natural to her sex, her years, and her low station. She went to Vaucouleurs; procured admission to Baudricourt, the governor; informed him of her inspirations and intentions; and conjured him not to neglect the voice of God, who spoke through her, but to second those heavenly revelations which impelled her to this glorious enterprise. Baudricourt treated her at first with some neglect; but on her frequent returns to him, and importunate solicitations, he began to remark something extraordinary in the maid, and was inclined, at all hazards, to make so easy an experiment. It is uncertain whether this gentleman had discernment enough to perceive, that great use might be made with the vulgar of so uncommon an engine; or, what is more likely in that credulous age, was himself a convert to this visionary; but he adopted at last the schemes of Joan; and he gave her some attendants, who conducted her to the French court, which at that time resided at Chinon.

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It is the business of history to distinguish between the miraculous and the marvellous; to reject the first in all narrations merely profane and human; to doubt the second; and when obliged by unquestionable testimony, as in the present case, to admit of something extraordinary, to receive as little of it as is consistent with the known facts and circumstances. It is pretended, that Joan, immediately on her admission, knew the king, though she had never seen his face before, and though he purposely kept himself in the crowd of courtiers, and had laid aside every thing in his dress and apparel which might distinguish him: that she offered him, in the name of the supreme Creator, to raise the siege of Orleans, and conduct him to Rheims to be there crowned and anointed; and on his expressing doubts of her mission, revealed to him, before some sworn confidants, a secret which was unknown to all the world beside himself, and which nothing but a heavenly inspiration could have discovered to her: and that she demanded, as the instrument of her future victories, a particular sword, which was kept in the church of St. Catharine of Fierbois, and which, though she had never seen it, she described by all its marks, and by the place in which it had long lain neglected. This is certain, that all these miraculous stories were spread abroad, in order to captivate the vulgar. The more the king and his ministers were determined to give into the illusion, the more scruples they pretended. An assembly of grave doctors and theologians cautiously examined Joan’s mission, and pronounced it undoubted and supernatural. She was sent to the parliament, then residing at Poictiers; and was interrogated before that assembly: the presidents, the counsellors, who came persuaded of her imposture, went away convinced of her inspiration. A ray of hope began to break through that despair in which the minds of all men were before enveloped. Heaven had now declared itself in favor of France, and had laid bare its outstretched arm to take vengeance on her invaders. Few could distinguish between the impulse of inclination and the force of conviction; and none would submit to the trouble of so disagreeable a scrutiny. Read More:

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