Joan of Arc was only 19 when she was burned at the stake in 1431. But in her short life, this illiterate, peasant girl led France to battle and victory over the English in the 100 Years War.
The church that declared her a heretic has since made her a saint. Joan of Arc was the lightning rod of her time, and she continues to burn in the Western imagination. She’s the subject of great works by Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Shaw, and Twain.
Martha Graham made a ballet and Cecil B. DeMille an epic movie about her. Sarah Bernhardt and Ingrid Bergman have played her; Sinead O’Connor and Madonna plan to. Colleges offer courses in “Johannic Studies,” and historians still debate her place in history.
Artists and ideologues, feminists and nationalists, even the religious want to make this medieval girl-warrior one of their own. We’re talking about the Maid of Orleans and her story in this hour.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)
Maria Warner, independent scholar and author of “Joan of Arc,” and Joan Acocella, staff writer for The New Yorker.