She is the maiden of whom the prophecies speak! The King of Heaven sent her to help break the siege of Orleans and help dauphin to be crowned King of France. She is Joan of Arc!
Joan of Arc, as the folklore presents her was inspired by the divine visions to lead the French army in driving the English off the French soil. She was the heroine of France and till today remains a phenomenal woman.
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Saint Joan of Arc: Birth and early life
Joan of Arc was born in Domremy within the historical region of Lorraine, France in the year 1412. At the time of her birth, there was a conflict between the kingdoms of England and France.
Joan had her first vision when she was fourteen years of age. She identified a figure as Saint Michael surrounded by angels. She continued to have visions of Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret throughout her life. In her vision, Joan was told to leave Domremy and go and help Charles VII be officially proclaimed the rightful king of France. She approached a local garrison commander to help her meet the king. The commander refused at first but gradually relented when even the locals supported her visions and began to see something divine in her. Since she had to travel 300 miles through hostile territory, she agreed to switch from her dress to a soldier’s outfit. She even adopted the designation “Joan the Maiden” (Jehanne la Pucelle) based on the virginity vow that she had taken.
Saint Joan of Arc: Meeting with Charles VII
Joan first met Charles VII at the Royal Court in 1429 when she was seventeen. Legend has it that she was able to recognize Charles even though he disguised himself to test her. She told him that she had come to raise the siege of Orleans. After getting an assurance from his council that she was a devoted Catholic and a good person, she was given permission to join the army. She never fought any war, but was kept in the army to boost their morale. Her presence created devotion and hope of assistance that she was God’s instrument of a French victory. Her advice was accepted by the noblemen. She was particularly good at performing tasks such as assembling the army and arranging the disposition of troops and artillery. She emphasized rapid offensive action.
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Saint Joan of Arc: The siege of Orleans
She boosted the morale of the Armagnac forces (the faction that supported Charles VII) and together they were successful in driving the English out of Orleans. She continued spearheading the win of the Armagnac army and this led to the coronation of Charles VII at Reims Cathedral as foretold in her vision. Soon her renown spread. Her battle tactics led to the Armagnac forces winning many battles against the English.
Saint Joan of Arc: Capture
The Armagnac forces fought against the Burgundians (the rival French faction supporting the English army) at Compiegne. But the Armagnac force was defeated and Joan was captured. She tried to escape twice unsuccessfully. The English negotiated with the Burgundian allies to transfer Joan to their custody in exchange for ransom. They paid 10,000 Livres Tournois (a currency of medieval France) to obtain her from Luxembourg.
Saint Joan of Arc: Trial & execution
Joan was put on trial for heresy (belief or opinion contrary to the orthodox Christian doctrine) by the English. She testified that her voices instructed her to defeat the English and crown Charles. The verdict was a foregone conclusion as the judge was a partisan supporter of the English crown. Eventually, Joan was found guilty of heresy, witchcraft, and cross-dressing.
She was executed and burnt to death in 1431 when she was nineteen. After she died, the English raked back the coals from the pyre and exposed her charred body to the public so that no one could claim that she had escaped alive. Later, her remains were cast into the River Seine.
Saint Joan of Arc: Aftermath
Joan’s execution never helped the English. They could never recover the losses and this was a turning point in the permanent decline of their fortunes. The Hundred Years War dragged on, but Joan’s martyrdom boosted the morale of the French army and they were successful in driving the English out of France.
Joan of Arc: Inquest & retrial
Twenty-two years after Joan’s execution, the English were removed from most of France, and Charles VII continued to be the king. In 1450, Charles opened an inquest into the trial and execution of Joan. After two inquests and a retrial, in 1456, the court declared that the original trial of Joan was unjust and malicious. The stain on Joan’s name was ceremoniously erased and it was decreed that a cross should be erected on the site where Joan was burned.
Joan of Arc: Legacy
Joan of Arc became a legendary figure after her death and she was celebrated as a warrior, a martyr, and a symbolic defender of France. Her image was used to inspire victory in Word War I & II. Her feast day is celebrated on 30th May, the anniversary of her execution. Joan was declared a secondary patron saint of France.
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Joan of Arc: Path to sainthood
The path to sainthood was first initiated from a petition signed by the French Catholic hierarchy in 1869 that was submitted to Pope Pius IX. The collection of dispositions began in 1874. However, in 1902, the papal consistory rejected her path to sainthood on various grounds such as her capture, her attempts to escape from prison, and doubts of her purity. But in 1904, a decree proclaiming her heroic virtue was issued and Pope Pius proclaimed her venerable. The beatification ceremony was held in 1909. Joan of Arc was finally canonized as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV which saw the attendance of 60,000 people including 140 descendants of Joan’s family.
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