590 years ago, on May 30, 1431, a young French saint died at the age of 19, The Maid of Orleans, that is, virgin, as she is called by all and Friedrich Schiller in his homonyms drama of 1801: Joan of Arc.
Matching her with St Catherine of Siena, Benedict XVI defines both “two young women of the people, lay women consecrated in virginity, two committed mystics, not in the cloister, but in the midst of the most dramatic reality of the Church and the world of their time. They are perhaps the most representative of those “strong women” who, at the end of the Middle Ages, fearlessly bore the great light of the Gospel in the complex events of history.” (Benedict XVI, General Audience, January 26, 2011).
Born in 1412 in Domrémy, a village in northeastern France, illiterate, at 13 she heard the “voices” of St Michael the Archangel and other saints who committed her to a great project: to free her people from the English and to support the legitimacy of throne of the Dayphin of France, the future King Charles VII. The “Hundred Years’ War”, fought between France and England from 1339 to 1453, turns in favor of the French thanks to the prodigious military victories, starting with the liberation of Orléans, and to growing popular consensus that Joan brings back at the head of an army. The Burgundians capture her during a military action in Compiègne, imprison her and sell her to the English. In Rouen, after the iniquitous Trial of the Condemnation, between February and May 1431, she is convicted of heresy and witchcraft and burned alive. Completely rehabilitated by Pope Callixtus III, after the long Trial of Nullity of the Condemnation in 1456, she will be canonized by Pope Benedict XV in 1920.