Most notable 2019 French news- Fire in Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral

PARIS, France– My heart breaks every time I see the photographs taken on April 15, 2019, when Notre Dame de Paris was ablaze. But, what happened to Saint Joan?

Saint Joan of Arc

Saint Joan of Arc shrine inside the Notre Dame sanctuary. The only shrine inside the Cathedral that was dedicated to a woman saint.

In my opinion, the devastation of the amazing Parisian Gothic architectural icon was the most notable 2019, French news.  We can only pray and continue to hope for the restoration of the Cathedral to be accomplished.

Notre Dame Cathedral was built during the Gothic period from 1163 to 1250 (and on the site of a Gallo-Roman temple to Jupiter). The Cathedral has been the host of many religious ceremonies and historical events, especially in 1909, when Joan of Arc was beatified by Pope Pius X. Her statue and monument inside the sanctuary was the only one dedicated to a woman.

My photograph Saint Joan of Arc

Saint Joan of Arc – this is my personal photograph taken inside the sanctuary of Notre Dame.

Among several photographs I had the opportunity to take inside the Cathedral is the shrine to Saint Joan of Arc. Another photograph I have was given to me by our friend and Maine clergyman Father Raymond Auger. He was in a Palm Sunday procession and had con-celebrated Mass in the Cathedral’s sanctuary, on the day before the fire destroyed the roof and caused it to collapse. Incredible!

Palm Sunday 2019 Father Ray Auger

Maine clergyman Father Ray Auger was in the Palm Sunday procession, inside the Notre Dame sanctuary, on April 14, 2019, the day before the fire.

Notre-Dame de Paris, referred to simply as Notre-Dame, is a medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. The cathedral was consecrated to the Virgin Mary and considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture

This Cathedral withstood centuries of historic achievements and survived multiple wars, including the devastation done to religious shrines during the French Revolution. Apparently, the fires started as a result of restoration projects going on at the time.  Assessing all the damage wrought by the inferno will take a long time. There is still a question about whether or not the Cathedral will survive.

Although the brave Parisian first responders and firefighters saved nearly all of the artistic treasures inside the sanctuary, my question has been to find out the condition of the Saint Joan of Arc statue. Her statue was dedicated in 1909, by Pope Pius X (1835-1914).

Saint Joan of Arc (in French, Jeanne d’Arc) is the patroness of soldiers and of France, a religious warrior and martyr. She was accused and put on trial for a variety of charges and burned at the stake in Rouen for heresy when she was about 19 years old.  However, twenty-five years after her execution, she was pronounced innocent of heresy and declared a martyr. She was beatified in 1909, and in 1920, she was canonized.

Saint Joan’s statue was created by the French sculptor Charles Desvergnes (Français, 1860-1929): statue de sainte Jeanne d’Arc

April 15, 2019 Notre Dame fire.

Notre Dame fire April 15, 2019 the most notable French news in 2019.

Notre Dame cathedral is famous for architectural elements such as its flying buttresses, which are a form of structural support that became popular in the Gothic period of architecture.

The history of Joan of Arc is very much a part of the history of the Notre Dame. I found this summary about her at their website,

“This poor girl had spiritual and character richness even though she had no material goods. By being courageous, she helped France in the battles against the English troops. While using the wise military tactics of Joan of Arc, the well known heroine, France won lots of fights against England. She also was a great supporter of the monarchy; she is indirectly the reason why Charles VII was crowned. However, Joan of Arc was captured by the Burundians’, accused of heresy and burned at the stake. But this was not the end of the brave girl. On the 7 July 1456, Joan of Arc was declared innocent and a martyr.”

Often referred to as “the Maid of Orleans,” Joan of Arc inspired many, among them the American humorist and author Mark Twain. Twain claimed Joan of Arc as his favorite among all his many books, and insisted in his autobiography, “I wrote the book for love, not money.”

Joan of Arc was recognized as a Christian saint by the Roman Catholic Church in 1920, and her feast day is May 30. A church that bears her name is located in the French city of Rouen, in the market square where she was executed.

Statues of Joan of Arc can be found all over parks and city centres in France, and nearly every French town has a street named for her, called “Jeanne d’Arc.”

Short biography of Joan of Arc (b. 1412 – d. 30-May-1431): She was a 13-year-old peasant girl when she began to hear voices in her garden. The voices, she recounted, were those of saints Michael, Margaret, and Catherine, divinely inspiring her to save France. At the time, France was engaged in the Hundred Years War, and the English had the French town of Orleans under siege.

In April of 1429, Joan of Arc asked the French government for troops that she could lead to liberate the captured Orleans. She met with the crown prince and theologians, and they thought she could be of use in the fight against the English, and so Joan of Arc was given an army to command. She went into battle wearing a white suit of armor and carrying up high a banner depicting an image of the Trinity. Her army succeeded in liberating Orleans: English troops fled, and Joan’s army took over their surrounding forts.

In another battle, Joan of Arc — now known as “the maid of Orleans” — was taken hostage by Burgundian troops and sold to the English. She was imprisoned for over a year, then, on February 21, 1431, she was brought to trial by an ecclesiastical (i.e., church) court. She stuck to her story that she had heard the voices of saints and it was they who commanded her to serve France. She was convicted of heresy and was burned at the stake in Rouen, France when she was only 19 years old. She has since become a national icon in France.

Joan of Arc has been portrayed in more than 20 films; and she’s the subject of more than 20,000 books.

Although I assume the Joan of Arc statue was among the works of art protected from destruction by the brave Parisian firefighters, I have been unable to completely verify its safety.  Stay tuned.

Or course, in 2020, the world continues to pray and hope for the restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral. A restoration in progress could be the best French news story of the 2020 year.

Bonne année!

P.S. I wrote about the Notre Dame Cathedral fire in an earlier blog: “Nous sommes tristes”

Juliana L'Heureux

About Juliana L'Heureux

Juliana L’Heureux is a free lance writer who publishes news, blogs and articles about Franco-Americans and the French culture. She has written about the culture in weekly and bi-weekly articles, for the past 30 years.