She is simply everywhere! In Orléans, Joan of Arc is a superstar! You will find her on the medallions that are dotted along the city streets, on the stained glass windows at the cathedral, in paintings, sculptures and even on boxes of Cotignac, a delicious speciality made of quinces. The capital of the Loire Valley has not forgotten the Maid of Orléans who liberated the town after years of English occupation.
Did you know...?
Joan of Arc is one of the most fascinating figures of France's History. The young girl's life and fate were simply incredible: this young, pious and joyful shepherdess was keeping her sheep when, suddenly, voices ordered her to chase the English out of the Kingdom of France and to have the Dauphin Charles, who had been ousted by the invaders, crowned king. She was only 13 and, naturally, no one took her seriously. Yet the maiden was determined and had no intention of giving up. Her tenacity was rewarded at the age of 18: she was entrusted with a few companions in arms to finally confront the enemy. Jean de Dunois, also known as the 'Bastard of Orléans' and who lived in the Château de Beaugency, was among them.
Joan crossed the Loiret and reached Orléans. The city, besieged by the English and the Burgundians, was on the verge of surrender. Galvanised by her energy and her faith, it only took the young warfaring woman 10 days to change the course of French History, by transforming the besiegers into the besieged. By liberating Orléans, one 8th of May, she had taken control of a strategic passage over the Loire, hence bringing any English hopes of conquering the whole of France to a halt.
Despite being wounded in the shoulder by an arrow, Joan continued to march as from the 9th of May 1429, to head for Reims and the coronation of the future King Charles VII. Barely had she left Orléans, when she permanently annihilated the English troops in Patay. To do so, she was offered providential help from a stray deer that is said to have wreaked havoc in the English camp, hence unveiling its position and enabling the French to take them by surprise.
Hôtel Groslot © Comfute Steeve Harpon
Cathédrale d’Orléans © Comfute Steeve Harpon
And what about all the rumours?
Joan was accused of witchcraft for having worn men's clothes (which was forbidden), for having left her parents without their permission and for having heard voices. She stuck to her guns and continued to wear men's clothes during the trial that sent her to the stake.
Contrary to certain reports, Joan of Arc was indeed burned and died at the stake in Rouen in 1431. 'Survivalist' theories put forward in the 17th century were hoaxes concocted by the Armoises and Sermaises families, which may even have been one and the same.
She was only canonised in 1920.
Not to be missed:
The Cathedral of the Holy Cross of Orléans
Even if Joan did not know the cathedral as it stands today, but only the Gothic choir and the former Romanesque features, since destroyed. Today, 10 late 19th century stained glass windows illuminate the nave, retracing Joan of Arc's story according to the Church.
The Centre Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc Centre)
is quite unique! It is located on the edge of the former medieval city, where Joan of Arc lived in 1429. The house referred to as 'Joan of Arc's' is home to the world's leading documentary collection on the subject of the Maid of Orléans. The projection room on the ground floor offers an insight into her (real) life.
Place du Martroi
A square in Orléans, is home to a statue of Joan on horseback, produced in 1855. It is noteworthy that this square, which stands on the former location of the Bannier city gate, did not exist during Joan's lifetime.
The Hôtel Groslot:
This Renaissance style manor house boasts superb lounges that are open for free visits; the Maid is everywhere, in particular via the works of Princess Marie of Orléans.
The Orléans archaeology museum:
an entire exhibition room is devoted to Joan of Arc.
The 'Johannique' fairs
The festival in honour of Joan of Arc is held every year from the 29th of April to the 8th of May. It is in the form of a fine medieval fair, far from any political consideration. A snippet of history – Joan led a spontaneous procession on the 8th of May 1429 to thank the heavens for the departure of the English. Since then, Orléans has been celebrating Joan of Arc every year. Over a unique event open to the public.
To discover the town:
The town has been awarded the Town of Art and History label and offers a range of tours all year long, many of which are an insight into Joan's victory.
You can admire 'Joan, universal faces' sound and light projections on the cathedral, on certain evenings from May to September.
Events not to be missed!
What to bring home?
Cotignac, by George! It's Orléans' oldest speciality, its production dating back to the 15th century when Joan of Arc came to the city.
Yet, we know not whether she had the time to appreciate this delicious quince jelly.
It is still produced near Orléans, using the traditional recipe, and is presented in small cylindrical boxes made of spruce and bearing the effigy of Joan of Arc. You can find it in all quality confectioners throughout Orléans and in Tourist Offices in and around the town.
How to get here
- By car: A10, A71, N20, N60
- By train: journey from 1h to 1h 30 minutes from the Austerlitz station in Paris. N.B.: there are two railway stations in Orléans. Orléans centre and Orléans-Les Aubrais (with a tram link to the town centre)
- On site: Ideally, set off to discover the town on foot. You can meander your way through the centre, without coming across a single car! There are several underground car parks in the town centre. You can also park in one of the town's outskirts car parks and travel to the centre by tram.
For further information and to book accommodation:
Orléans Val de Loire Tourist Office: 0033 (0)2 38 24 05 05
Loiret Tourist Board: 0033(0)2 38 78 04 04