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Reclaiming a Martyr: French Catholics and the Cult of Joan of Arc, 1890–1920

  • James F. McMillan (a1)

Extract

Joan of Arc died at the stake in Rouen in 1431. She became a canonized saint of the Catholic Church only in 1920. It is well known that the wheels of the Vatican grind slowly, but 500 years is a long period to wait for sanctity, even by Roman standards. Obviously, in a short communication such as this, there is no time to explore the rich afterlife which Joan enjoyed between her death and her canonization. Rather, the more modest purpose of this paper is to show how her achievement of canonical status was preceded by a well-orchestrated campaign conducted by French Catholics during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. If Joan was finally reclaimed as a Catholic saint and martyr, it was primarily because she was successfully represented as the very epitome of a heady blend of religion and nationalism that was one of the more distinctive and powerful forces of the era of the belle époque and the First World War.

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1 The best guide is now Gerd Krumeich, Jeanne d’Arc in der Geschichte: Historiographie, Politik, Kullur (Sigmaringen, 1989). See also, with caution, Warner, Marina, Joan of Arc: the Image of Female Heroism (London, 1981).

2 This paragraph is based on Krumeich, Gerd, ‘Joan of Arc between right and left’, in Tombs, R., ed., Nationhood and Nationalism in France: from Boulangism to the Great War 1889–1918 (London, 1991).

3 Ibid.

4 On the diffusion of ultramontane piety, see Cholvy, G. and Hilaire, Y.-M., Histoire religieuse de la France contemporaine, 3 vols (Toulouse, 1985-8), 1; Gibson, Ralph, A Social History of French Catholicism 1789–1914 (London, 1989).

5 Warner, Joan of Arc, pp. 258–9.

6 Ibid.

7 Archives Nationales [hereafter AN] F7 5636: Lettre de Mgr Sonnois, Evêque de Saint-Dié à tous les évêques de France, 8 Dec. 1890.

8 L’Univers, 18 Feb. 1890.

9 L’Univers, 25 Feb. 1890.

10 L’Univers, 23 Feb. 1890.

11 Ibid.

12 AN F7 5636: lettre de Mgr Sonnois.

13 LeMonde, 24 July 1890.

14 LeMonde, 2 March 1890.

15 La Lanterne, 30 Aug. 1891. Cf. Le Voltaire, 20 March 1890.

16 Le Monde, 28 Feb. 1890.

17 L’Univers, 18 Feb. 1890.

18 L’Univers, 20 July 1890.

19 L’Univers, 6 Sept. 1890.

20 Cf. Gibson, Social History; Cholvy and Hilaire, Histoire religieuse, i.

21 L’Univers, 9 Feb. 1890.

22 LeFigaro, 3 May 1894.

23 Le Cri de France, 17 Dec. 1899.

24 Ibid.

25 La Vérité, 29 Jan. 1898.

26 McMillan, James F., ‘Women, Religion and Politics: the Case of the Ligue Patriotique des Françaises ’, in Roosen, W.. ed., Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Western Society for French History, 15 (Flagstaff, Arizona, 1988), pp. 35564.

27 L’Estafette, 19 March 1890.

28 Mayor of Bléré, quoted in L’Univers, 28 Nov. 1890.

29 L’Estafette, 20 March 1891.

30 Le Radical, 20 Sept. 1892.

31 Le Temps, 4 May 1894.

32 La Lanterne, 8 Jan. 1904.

33 L’Univers, 2 Apr. 1890.

34 L’Univers, 20 June 1890.

35 L’Univers, 1 July 1890.

36 Le Monde, 7 July 1890.

37 L’Univers, 1 May 1890.

38 Ibid.

39 Le Temps, 2 Oct. 1890.

40 On the Senate debate, see Rosemonde Sanson, ‘La fête de Jeanne d’Arc en 1894: controverse et célébration’, Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine, 20 (1973), pp. 444–63.

41 L’Autorité, 11 June 1894.

42 La Lanterne, 11 June 1894.

43 L’Eclair, 20 June 1894.

44 L’Autorité, 24 March 1898.

45 Ibid.

46 Hanna, Martha, ‘Iconology and ideology: images of Joan of Arc in the idiom of the Action Française, 1908–1931’, French Historical Studies, 14 (1985), pp. 21539.

47 ’ Warner, Joan of Arc, p. 264.

48 AN F7 13213:dossier le mouvement catholique, 1916.

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Studies in Church History
  • ISSN: 0424-2084
  • EISSN: 2059-0644
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