In the year 1412, Joan of Arc, or in French Jeanne d’Arc, was born as the daughter of a well-off (in comparison to neighbors) peasant family in Domrémy, France. Domrémy borders Champagne and Lorraine, France. As a young girl, Joan was very individualistic and was not seen to be in community with other children in the village.
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A woman who had grown up alongside Joan, Isabellette d’Epinal, stated, “We never saw her in the street, but she stayed in church, praying; she did not dance, to the point that the other youth would often talk about it” (Pernoud).
The idea of a young girl spending her free time within the walls of a church can act as proof that from a young age she was different and would live up to a different purpose than just the average “peasant girl.” Though this is not to disregard her occupations that were typical of rural peasantry, and that through “sewing and spinning she feared no woman in Rouen” (Taylor). Joan revealed through her trial testimonies that she was baptized at the church of Domrémy and she had several grandparents, which attests to the family’s importance. The impressions that root in a woman’s dependance on priests and the church were very important in the medieval culture; it could make or break her label of a mystic or a simply a religious woman.There existed fine lines between the work of a prophet and a heretic because of the large amount of scientific ignorance at the time. The number of prophets were increased in the late medieval period (Barstow).
Because of the extremely private nature of the experience in which prophecies come about, there was not a place for male control, resulting in skepticism. Medieval women’s spirituality has proven to be consistently different from that of medieval men. Medieval women, especially extraordinary ones (mystics, nuns, prophets), emphasized the humanity of Christ and sought to bypass clerical authority (McSheffrey). This also was a point of awakening for many women as they began to explore the role of a woman in a man’s world. For Joan, the discovery of spiritual voices began when she was only twelve or thirteen years old. Joan claimedthat she saw three voices every day, sometimes more than once a day, and she became dependent on them (Barstow).
Joan had transformed herself at the instruction of the voices. It is said that part of her choosing to avoid “typical” teenage behavior–attending village dances, becoming engaged, and choosing to pledge her virginity to her mission–were all a result of her voices. They brought to her a “powerful and charismatic gift, a perfect belief in herself” (Barstow). This divine confidence that carried her from her humble beginnings to the front line of victorious battles on behalf of France.Her personality, distinct piety, and even the way she dressed has led to a particular interest as Joan as an individual (Barstow). Many historians believed that she was heavily influenced by her righteous mother, Isabelle Romée, who inculcated Joan within the Catholic Church.
This is all to say that Joan was born in the midst of King Charles VI’s rule who suffered bouts of insanity which happened to be during the “Lancastrian phase of the Hundred Years’ War, a dispute over the French throne that pitted france against the English and their Burgundian allies” (Ha). France as a nation did not exist at this point in time, but the France-Burgundy fighting with the English, and the English claims to the French throne, along with Joan’s deeds would make France a reality.
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