Mad About Paris, Much more than a guide
Here she is: one of France’s greatest myths, a huge symbol of national pride, Joan of Arc, the virgin-warrior, the teenage woman, who fought against the English during the Hundred Year War and was burned at the stake in 1431. Isn’t she beautiful in her determination?
Photo: © MAP
Yes, indeed, she is. Have a look at her most famous statue on Place des Pyramides close to the Tuileries gardens, a stone’s throw from the Louvre. This gilded statue of the maid of Orléans was created by French sculptor Emmanuel Fréminet in 1874 and was later replaced by a newer version. It was actually the first showing of Joan on a horse.
Since the 1980’s, the heritage of Joan of Arc has unfortunately and somehow strangely belonged to the ultra-right National Front. She became their icon, the symbol and personification of Gallic pride. Every year on 1st May, the nationalist party of Marine Le Pen – the daughter of Jean-Marie – celebrates the maid of Orléans by starting their political parade exactly here, at the foot of the statue. As you can imagine, Joan of Arc, for them, still stands straight against the country’s invaders: the immigrants, in other words.
Last week, on the occasion of the celebration of the 600th anniversary of the birth of Joan of Arc on 6th of January, President Nicolas Sarkozy seized the opportunity with both hands to wrestle Jeanne d’Arc’s image from the clutches of the FN and somehow recapture the symbolic sovereignty over Joan. Only three months away from the presidential election, he made a pilgrimage to Joan’s birthplace Domrémy-la-Pucelle, in eastern France, a small, economically depressed village, where he delivered a lofty speech saying: “Joan belongs to no party, no faction, no clan.”
No idea, whether some of her charisma will rub off, or if Joan will remain firmly in the clutches of the FN. This much is certain: opinion polls show Sarkozy facing a serious challenge from Le Pen.
Joan’s story, though, ended tragically: captured by the dukes of Burgundy, she was sold to the English, tried and convicted of heresy and burned at the stake aged 19.