The history of Joan of Arc
Joan, the girl from Bar
Joan was born in Domrémy in 1412, at a time when the village lay within the Duchy of Bar (only a few houses north of the village were part of Greux and, therefore, under the authority of France). The duchy was an independent state, even though the territory in the west of Meuse was feudal land. The dukes minted coinage, meted out justice and were entitled to raise an army. The poet Villon wrote “Joan, the good woman of Lorraine” to remind people of her background, an area that included the duchies of Lorraine and Bar as well as the three bishoprics of Toul, Metz and Verdun.
Controversy on her parents’ birthplaces
The birthplace of Joan’s father remains open to question but there are three hypotheses - Ceffonds (Haute-Marne), Art-sur-Meurthe (Meurthe-et-Moselle) or Arc-en-Barrois (Aube). On the other hand, her mother, Isabelle Romée, is known to have been born in Vouthon. In fact, there is documentary evidence that she was born in Vouthon-Haut (9 km south-east of Gondrecourt-le-Château), a village in the Duchy of Bar.
Joan’s first cousin, the wife of Durand Laxart, lived in Burey-en-Vaux (4 km south of Vaucouleurs). Half of the village was under the control of the Duke of Bar ; half under French authority. Durand took Joan in and helped her when she asked to meet Robert de Baudricourt. Her meeting with him was part of her divine mission, to free France from the English invader.
Her departure from Vaucouleurs
In May 1428, Joan of Arc had a meeting with Robert de Baudricourt and asked him to take her to Chinon to see the king, Charles VII. On 13 May 1428, Joan of Arc entered the castle for the first time, seeking an escort for her trip to Chinon. Baudricourt refused twice before finally agreeing and, on 23 February 1429, she was at last able to leave. The people of Vaucouleurs had a sword made especially for her. It was given to her by Baudricourt with a letter of accreditation that she was to give the Crown Prince on her arrival.
Her legendary capture
On 23 May 1430, Joan was captured in Compiègne by John II of Luxembourg-Ligny, Lord of Beaurevoir, who was allied with the English and Burgundians. However, he did not hand her over to the English immediately because his aunt, Joan of Luxembourg, godmother to Charles VII, was against it. It was not until four months later, on the death of his aunt, that John II of Luxembourg sacrificed Joan in return for a ransom and the County of Ligny.
In the footsteps of Joan of Arc
Some of the places connected with the extraordinary adventure of the shepherd girl from Lorraine still exist e.g. Domrémy where she was born, Bermont where she prayed and Vaucouleurs which has a number of major sightseeing venues such as the town gate (Porte de France), the chapel in the castle and the Joan of Arc museum.
Domrémy la Pucelle :
Domrémy is a small village in the “county” of Vosges, on the banks of the Meuse, close to the boundaries of the counties of Meuse, Meurthe-et-Moselle and Haute-Marne.
Joan was born there in January 1412 and her birthplace is open to the public. The facade we see today was built in 1431 by one of Joan’s great-great-nephews, Claude du Lys, Lord of Domrémy. At the rear of the house is part of the original dwelling.
Joan of Arc’s birthplace
Purchased in 1818 by the County of Vosges and listed as a historic monument in 1840, Joan of Arc’s birthplace has been preserved and restored. On the front is a carved tympanum bearing a 15th-century coat-of-arms and a statue of Joan, kneeling in her suit of armour. Inside, visitors see four rooms – the bedroom in which she was born, her bedroom, the cellar and her brothers’ bedroom.
The Joan of Arc Centre
Near Joan of Arc’s birthplace is the Centre Johannique presenting "Faces of Joan", a collection of displays that reflect a new style of cultural tourism.
The centre is divided into three complementary areas, allowing visitors to choose how long they wish to stay and how much they wish to see. A visit to the ambulatory, great gallery and cinema takes between one and three hours.
The centre is also a citizenship centre in which young people from France and other European countries can use the story of Joan of Arc and the transitional period between the Middle Ages and modernity (a time of change which, in that respect, is close to our own) as a basis for consideration of the Europe in which we have lived until now and the Europe that we must build for the future.
Information on 03 29 06 95 86.
The museum in Vaucouleurs is filled with images of the saint through history.
In the castle chapel, visitors see the original crypt and the 14th-century statue of Our Lady of Vaulting before which Joan would pray. The chapel has some wonderful stained-glass windows depicting Joan of Arc’s life. On the High Altar is a beautiful statue of Joan of Arc, made by Maxime Réal del Sarte in 1945.
The Town Hall (hôtel de ville) was built in 1848. Inside is a remarkable painting (1886) by Scherrer measuring 4.20 x 3.20 metres. It depicts Joan’s departure from the town. There are also six Aubusson tapestries dating from 1990 depicting Joan of Arc’s epic story.
Opposite the town hall, on the square, is an equestrian statue of Joan of Arc made in 1939. It was erected in Algeria in 1951 and brought back to France, to the town of Vaucouleurs, in 1962.