It’s 1429 and a 17-year-old illiterate girl from a little town somehow manages to gain an audience with the leader of the country and convinces him that she can defeat his enemy when seasoned military men have failed, repeatedly, to do so. Amazingly, he grants her a small contingency of men — who even more amazingly follow her into battle — and this young girl with her small group of men proceeds to defeat the enemy against all odds.
Thus is the story of Jeanne d’Arc — minus a few pertinent details like the beautiful “voices” she heard which guided her actions and provided her with personal info on Charles VII , the undeserving wretch for whom she secured the French throne, that convinced him to let her have a go at the English in Orleans.
Yesterday, John and I — along with Kim and Dan Jape — traveled to Orleans in search of the maid who would save a kingdom. We strolled along the river that she and her men crossed to engage the English, walked the streets of Orleans and visited the house where she stayed after securing the town for the would-be king.
The cathedral in Orleans is a sight to behold. The apse is the only part of the structure that remains from Jeanne’s day, but the cathedral is certainly a shrine to the young girl who was canonized in the 20th century.
The cathedral — damaged severely in the World Wars but rebuilt — features a series of chapels honoring a number of saints, including Jeanne. In addition to a statue of the Maid of Orleans, St. Jeanne d’Arc’s chapel features memorials to those killed in battle throughout France, including this one honoring Americans killed on French soil in the World Wars.