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Christianity's top 11 most controversial figures | Joan of Arc

The bad-girl of French Catholicism

The 'Maid of Orleans', as Joan is oft called, is France's heroine number 1. A warrior, martyr and saint, Joan of Arc has it all.

A fifteenth-century working class hero, Joan was born a peasant girl in Domremy in eastern France. She was a indomitable force for France in the Hundred Years War, leading her country to victory in numerous battles.

Her first count of controversy was her claim to divine provenance. On top of this she defied veteran French commanders to lift the Siege of Orleans in only nine days.

Joan was captured by the Burgundians in a fittingly heroic manner. Ordering a retreat, she assumed the place of honour as the last to leave the battlefield. Unhorsed by an archer, young Joan was surrounded. Too poor to pay the fee for her release, she was instead 'purchased' from the Duke of Burgundy by the English.

Charged with heresy, poor Joan was tied to a tall pillar in the Vieux-Marche in Rouen and burned at the age of just nineteen.

So incensed were her countrymen by this horrible act, a process of retrial and eventual canonization took place.

Saint Joan makes the top ten for her passion, for her beauty - but above all for her extraordinarily contentious and much-mourned death.


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