Joan was born in 1412, to poor tenant farmers in Domremy, France. She was a quiet, pious young woman who was content working on the family farm.
At the time of Joan's birth, France was embroiled in a long-running war with England known as the Hundred Years’ War. France as the child Joan knew it was a lawless war-zone.
In 1415, the English, under Henry V, won a great victory at the Battle of Agincourt. After the victory, England occupied most of Northern France, and threatened to occupy the rest of the kingdom.
Around this time, Joan of Arc began to have mystical visions encouraging her to lead a pious life. One vision even told her that she was the saviour of France. Joan travelled to the Dauphin Charles, the heir to France's throne, and asked him for his support in expelling the English. Charles was impressed with the young girl. After having two theologians test her piety and faith, he came to believe that she had special powers. Joan and the Prince had a private conversation, where it is said that Joan revealed to Charles details of a solemn prayer he had made to God, pleading with Him to save France. This won Charles even further over to her cause.
Charles gave Joan armour and a horse, and ordered his commanders to help the inspired girl.
Joan accompanied the French army to the siege of Orleans. She took part in the battle herself, helping inspire the French troops to victory. The battle resulted in the recapture of Orleans from the English.
After the victory, Joan encouraged the prince to take his rightful place as King of France. Emboldened by her advice, the Prince travelled to Rheims and was crowned king.
In a battle against French rebels loyal to the Duke of Burgundy, Joan was captured and sold to the English. She was turned over to church officials, who insisted that she be tried as a heretic and a witch. During the trial, the simple country girl amazed the court with her articulate defense of her actions, as well as her extraordinary knowledge of theology.
Still, Joan remained a captive, and was ill-treated and threatened with torture for the duration of her imprisonment.
On May 28, 1431, the tribunal announced that Joan of Arc was guilty of heresy. It claimed that the voices that she heard were voices of the devil, and that she was a witch. On the morning of May 30, she was taken to Rouen and burned at the stake. Joan was only nineteen years old. She died bravely, protesting her innocence all the while:
"My Voices did come from God, and everything that I have done was by God's order."
Later on, the new French King declared Joan to indeed be innocent, designating her a martyr.
Decades later, after her body was disinterred, it was discovered that her heart had not decomposed.
Those afflicted who prayed to Joan through the centuries have often been healed miraculously. It has been proven that two nuns in the early twentieth century were cured of cancer after praying to Joan.
Joan of Arc was canonized as a saint in 1920.