June 7, 2014- The affairs of those who lived, strove, suffered and died six centuries ago have seldom crossed my mind, since I completed World History, in my second year of baccalaureate study. This drizzly Saturday morning, though, I would experience stirrings of unease, a sense of injustice and want of understanding.
Joan of Arc’s story is more than one of man’s maltreatment of woman, more than the tale of a feckless cleric selling his services to the highest bidder, or of a young woman loving both God and her people, while wanting so desperately to be loved by those around her. It is her complete story, her timeless sacrifice, that brought me to my knees, and still stirs my heart.
In the Vieux Marche, the Old Market, people were readying their wares for sale, as they did in the 1400’s.
At Square Verdrel, a short distance to the north, the trees glistened from the early morning drizzle,
and swans searched for food, from visitors and from the water.
I spent a few minutes among the ruins of L’Eglise Saint Sauveur (Church of the Holy Savior), where my distant forebears on my paternal grandfather’s side had been baptized.
Ordinarily, such a place would be my sole concern on a day like this. It will certainly rate highly on my list of experiences and memories from this journey, and I would love for my siblings and cousins to see it some day.
Yet right next to this amazing scene, stands L’Eglise Jeanne d’Arc, built to replace the shattered Church of St. Vincent, 200 meters to the east, a casualty of World War II. L’Eglise Saint-Vincent lent its stained glass windows to the newer church, and we are all the richer for it.
It is when one gets outside, and finds the place where St. Joan was martyred, that the emotions can run their most intense. This cross stands in her honour.
This is the garden where all of Henry VI’s plotting, and all the excesses of the Hundred Years’ War, came to naught, in the end. The French and English crowns absolved Joan, following her being found a martyr by the Inquisition of Rome, in 1455, twenty-five years after her death.
This is the exact spot of St. Joan’s immolation, preserved by both the Bourbon kings, and by the Jacobins who tore down L’Eglise St. Sauveur, in 1790. All those who have ruled France since then, have regarded this for what it is: Hallowed Ground.
Across the centuries, across eternity, her soul calls out.