History has not been kind to the city of Orléans which has seen more than its fair share of siege including its most famous one in the medieval ages by a French teenager named Joan of Arc who led the charge to defeat the English.
Dating back to the Gauls who used this town for Druid Ceremonies, Orléans has been conquered by Julius Ceasar in 52 AD, Attila the Hun in the 4th century, the English in the Hundred Years War and devastated by World War II. A few historic buildings survive but the highlight of visiting this city is to visit the Cathedral and learn about Joan of Arc.
The city has recreated a half-timbered building representative of the one that Joan of Arc stayed in during the siege of Orleans as the historic building was destroyed by Nazi bombs in WWII. It’s a quick primer for Joan of Arc history, nicknamed “The Maid of Orléans” and considered a heroine of France and a Roman Catholic saint.
- Joan of Arc was born to a peasant family in 1412. As a teenager, she received visions of the Archangel Michael, Saint Margaret, and Saint Catherine instructing her to support Charles VII and recover France from English domination late in the Hundred Years’ War.
- The uncrowned King Charles VII sent Joan to the city of Orléans that had been under siege for seven months. Joan was able to sneak into the city and rally the French to a victory after only nine days.
- This long-awaited event boosted French morale and paved the way for the final French victory and coronation of Charles VII’s at Reims.
- She was captured at Compiègne by the Burgundian faction which was allied with the English. She was later handed over to the English, and then put on trial and burned at the stake on 30 May 1431, dying at about nineteen years of age.
- Twenty-five years after her execution, an inquisitorial court authorized by Pope Callixtus III examined the trial, debunked the charges against her, pronounced her innocent, and declared her a martyr.
- Joan of Arc was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920.
The Cathedral of Ste Croix
The Cathedral of Ste Croix in Orleans dominates the landscape of this re-built city and its twin towers are visible from most locations within the city. The modern rail transport leads right up to the cathedral.
The first church of this name was built on this site during the 10th century – some of its foundations are preserved to this day, so it is truly historical. Joan of Arc attended evening Mass in this cathedral on May 2, 1429, while in the city to lift the siege and the church now honors her memory in statues and stained glass. In 1599, Henri VI financed the reconstruction of the cathedral which took over 200 years resulting in Gothic and Romanesque architecture. It was officially inaugurated on May 8, 1829 on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the liberation of Orleans by Joan of Arc.
Throughout the church are other touching memories of war heroes from World War I and World War II.
A nice walk through history to learn about this female who changed history long before women were given leadership roles in modern Western society.
The city moves on catering to the Loire Valley tourism, remembering their heroine Joan of Arc, and rebuilding with French charm. You have to appreciate a French carousel with medieval horses and a rocket ship.
Fun Fact: The city of New Orleans, in Louisiana, United States is named after the commune of Orléans.