The Vision and Inspiration, from Joan of Arc Series A, 1911-Louis Maurice Boutet de Monvel, National Gallery of Art\Corcoran Collection [William A. Clark Collection]

Joan of Arc: NOLA's Unofficial Patron Saint

07:00 December 28, 2023
By: Brooke Adams

NOLA Loves Joan

New Orleans, a city brimming with culture, flavor, and fun, has a saint that perfectly represents the city—unofficially.

Amidst all of the uniquely religious and secular customs and traditions that make the Big Easy so captivating, one stands out like a light up bead at a night parade: the love of Joan of Arc as New Orleans's patron saint.

Every year on January 6, New Orleans turns out for the procession of the Krewe de Jeanne d'Arc, which celebrates the birthday of Joan of Arc. While the French Market has a golden statue of Joan, which was gifted to the city by the people of France, the question remains: Why is Joan of Arc considered the unofficial patron saint of our city?

Joan of Arch Parade [Kim Welsh]

French Catholic Connection

According to the Catholic Church and the Archdiocese of New Orleans, the official patron saint of New Orleans, and Louisiana, is actually Our Lady of Prompt Succor, who has her own fascinating history. Our Lady of Prompt Succor refers to the Virgin Mary, associated with a wooden devotional image of the Madonna and Child enshrined in Ursuline Academy. There is no holier woman to choose as a patroness than the mother of Christ, the blessed virgin.

However, our city is not known for following rules or being all that holy. In a most New Orleans fashion, our city has chosen our own patroness in spirit. While Saint Joan of Arc may not be the city's official patroness, because she is the patron saint of Orléans, France, New Orleans has embraced her nonetheless.

Joan of Arc and New Orleans may appear a tenuous connection at first glance, but our devotion to Saint Joan of Arc is a testament to the city's ability to embrace a diverse range of traditions and weave them into its unique cultural fabric.

About Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc's relationship with New Orleans can be traced to its French heritage roots. Founded by the French in 1718, New Orleans carries the legacy of French culture and traditions, including the veneration of Joan of Arc. In 1429, the same year Joan of Arc was leading the French to victory at Orléans, King Charles VII of France officially recognized the city of Orléans as the birthplace of Joan of Arc. This link is what ties New Orleans to the remarkable French heroine.

Before delving into Joan's connection with New Orleans, let's take a moment to get to know Joan of Arc. Born in Domrémy, France, in 1412, she was a peasant girl who went on to become one of history's most iconic figures. At the bright young age of 17, she claimed to have received divine revelations that urged her to lead the French army against the English during the Hundred Years' War. She famously dressed as a man and was instrumental in the lifting of the siege of Orléans, a turning point in the war. Officially, Saint Joan of Arc is considered the patron saint of soldiers. Unofficially, she is the patron saint of France, soldiers, prisoners, youth, those in need of courage, and those ridiculed for their faith.

Morgan Petroski [Unsplash]

New Orleans has always been a city that embraces individualism and diversity. From its vibrant culture and distinct cuisine to its world-famous music and arts scenes, the city thrives on creativity and the celebration of unique identities. The spirit of New Orleans, much like Joan of Arc's, is one of unapologetic individualism. In the heart of the city, where music fills the streets and Mardi Gras parades are a wild celebration of all things colorful and unique, the people of New Orleans proudly wear their individuality like a badge of honor.

What Joan Represents

What makes Joan of Arc particularly fascinating is her defiance of gender norms in a deeply patriarchal society. At a time when women were often marginalized and relegated to traditional roles, Joan's audacious decision to dress as a man and take on a leadership role was revolutionary. Her unwavering commitment to her divine mission and her ability to rally troops behind her demonstrated a level of autonomy that challenged the prevailing notions of masculinity and femininity in the 15th century.

Joan's actions were a testament to her unyielding belief in her purpose and her refusal to be defined or limited by her gender. She embodies the spirit of a strong, independent woman who, against all odds, managed to break through societal constraints to achieve greatness.

New Orleans is a city where traditions are kept alive, but it is also a place where traditions are reinvented and reshaped. Just as Joan of Arc challenged the conventions of her time, New Orleans has a history of celebrating those who break the mold. In a city where flamboyant costumes and colorful characters are just part of the daily norm, Joan of Arc's audacious choice to don men's clothing in pursuit of her mission fits right into the city's vibe of self-expression and embracing one's true self.

In many ways, Joan of Arc also embodies the spirit of resilience that New Orleans has displayed throughout its history. Just as Joan of Arc rallied the French army against incredible odds, the people of New Orleans have repeatedly shown their resilience in the face of adversity. Whether it's recovering from natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina or facing social and economic challenges, the city's indomitable spirit remains unbroken.

Joan of Arc Hearing the Voices Luc Olivier Merson, National gallery of art [Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund]

Joan of Arc's example is a reminder that individuals, regardless of their gender or background, can rise above adversity and inspire others to do the same. She has found a place of honor in New Orleans, where her legacy resonates with the city's determination to overcome challenges and celebrate diversity.

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