The Joan of Arc Sword: The Weapon that Saved France
The sword that was used by the maiden Joan of medieval France that saved her country in the Hundred Year’s War is called the Joan of Arc Sword. It is said that god sent her messages for her to find it and use its power to fight off enemy conquerors.
In this article, we will discuss the relatively unknown Joan of Arc Sword. We will attempt to define the correct characteristics and also explain the many uses that it had. Finally, we shall go over its history and intriguing origin myths.
Who was Joan of Arc?
Jeanne d’Arc was a peasant girl born in northeastern France’s Domrémy to a family of landowning peasants. In the year 1428, she made a request to be brought to the French king Charles. She would go on to testify that she had been directed by dreams led by Saint Margaret, Saint Catherine, and Archangel Michael to assist the French King Charles in rescuing France from the dominance of the English.
Inspired by her religious dreams and her spirit of action, she quickly raised the morale of the french troops and brought in many victories that proved to be a crucial turning point for success and victory for the French. She also played a vital role in the restoration of the French crown.
That is why today she is revered as the patron saint of France and is recognized as a protector of the French people for her part in the siege of Orléans. In battles, she often carried a banner that she preferred to wield over the many swords that she used. The most well-known sword she did use, however, was the sword that she acquired from the chapel of Saint Catherine of Fierbois.
Characteristics of the Joan of Arc Sword
The famous sword of Joan of Arc looks like a typical medieval Arming sword. It has the classic crucifix-styled guard with a long handle and a double-edged blade that narrows into a pointed tip.
The most distinctive thing about Joan of Arc’s sword is the 5 cross symbols that are engraved in the center of the blade. Although this was commonplace in medieval times, it still gives the Joan of Arc sword a certain something to differentiate it from other types of swords.
It should be said since, according to history, this sword was destroyed by either Joan of Arc or lost, something that historians cannot necessarily agree upon. Therefore the characteristics, weight, shape, and size of this sword are just speculations from historical texts or stories we have found today.
The blade on the sword that Joan of Arc used was a typical double-edged medieval arming sword blade. It started out much thicker at the neck near the guard and then narrowed to a pointed tip.
Although we cannot be certain about the real length of the Joan of Arc sword, based on other arming swords, we can say that it is around 30 inches (75 cm).
The most interesting thing that this blade had was the 5 crosses on it. This isn’t unusual for swords from this region and time period. Having a cross etched onto a sword was not out of the ordinary in Western Europe at all.
The hilt of the sword that Joan of Arc used is a crucifix type of hilt with two thin quillons that branch out on each side. Unlike some other swords with a much bigger guard, this sword had a very basic guard without any decorations whatsoever.
Joan’s sword likely had a straight handle that was wrapped with a leather cord, as is shown in the above replica.
It would make sense that the handle would be similar to the Arming sword, which is around 5 inches (12-13 cm) long.
From her own words, we now know that the Joan of Arc’s sword might have had a total of 3 scabbards. The first that she received was made of crimson velvet, the second was decorated in gold leaf, and the third was made out of sturdy leather.
Length & Size
Since it was more than likely similar to other swords at that time, we can estimate that the total length of the Joan of Arc sword is around 37 inches (85cm) long.
The sword that Joan allegedly found inside the church of St. Catherine, in her own words, is very similar to all other medieval sword types. The blacksmiths making this sword probably made it in the same weight range of around 2.2 lbs (1 kg).
Uses of Joan of Arc Sword
Joan of Arc used the sword in battles but never for killing or attacking anybody. She is directly quoted as having stated this. For some, this means that she didn’t use it, but sometimes just waving the sword around as a morale booster can influence the soldiers fighting for you just as much as being alongside them.
Its length and weight make it great as a one-handed sword, used alongside a shield or to give orders and support the troops.
Just Joan’s presence with her divine sword was the extra edge French soldiers needed to crawl that extra mile to victory.
Although she had carried her banner 4 times more often than her sword, it was nonetheless a real morale booster that was needed in a war that spanned around 100 years!
National Icon & Meaning
While at first she was just seen as a maiden, her worldly accomplishments have led this to be forgotten. She and her Joan of Arc sword represent and symbolize freedom and resistance. This is something that certainly plays a big role in the nationalism of post-medieval France.
History of Joan of Arc Sword
The maid of Orleans was seen as an immensely powerful person and was present in the wars against the English in the middle ages, particularly in the 15th century. She used a sword, sometimes called the Sword of Saint Catherine, which was of high value both then and now because of the origins and myths that folklore started spreading about this sword.
The truth is that very little is known about this sword other than the myths and legends surrounding it, along with the history told to us by Joan herself. She has stated previously how she obtained it and that her banner was much dearer to her than any sword. Also, according to Joan, she never used this sword to kill someone. Although that might be the case, she has actively been in charge or in direct battle with this sword on occasion.
The legends surrounding this sword came about after the death of Joan. The inquisitors that were in charge of her captivity asked her what happened to her ‘magical sword.’ She refused to answer that question leaving many to believe that it might have been hidden somewhere, possibly around the church of St. Catherine.
However, the Duke of Alencon stated that Joan’s sword was shattered and destroyed at Saint-Denis when she used it to slap the rear end of a prostitute, most likely after the unsuccessful assault on Paris. It would appear that Joan made it a point to use her sword to strike any prostitutes that she came across; similar events were documented at Auxerre.
Whether that’s true or not, no one really knows what happened to the Joan of Arc Sword. What we do know, however, is that this was seen as a very bad omen, and Charles VII was highly displeased when he heard rumors that her sword had shattered.
Myths & Legends
There are many myths and legends concerning the Joan of Arc sword. Here are the most famous ones.
Brought By God
This is the famous one; it is basically a way of God giving a weapon to Joan, who was chosen by God to defend France as he gave her messages that only she could hear. When she followed these voices, she found the sword behind an altar inside the church of Saint Catherine of Fierbois.
Inside the church of Sainte-Catherine-De-Fierbois, she found the sword covered in dust and rust that came clean off after she wiped it. That is why according to some, the power and success of Joan came from the sword and ended with the sword breaking.
Charles ‘The Hammer’ Martel
Another claim is that it was formerly owned by Charles Martel, the grandson of Charlemagne, who successfully repelled an Islamic invasion of Europe. There are two different interpretations of this myth.
The first one is that Charles Martel was responsible for the establishment of the church of Saint Catherine of Fierbois and that he buried his sword in a hidden location, hoping that the next individual whom God would choose to rescue France would unearth it.
The alternative theory is that when he won the battle of Tours, he took it as a sign of gratitude and left it there. Then after a couple of hundred years, Joan found it.
The Joan of Arc Sword today is a highly regarded piece of weaponry that the savior of France – Jeanne la Pucelle (Joan the Maiden), used to save her land from enemy occupiers. Although not much is known about it, it still is one of the most popular and interesting swords from medieval history.