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Saturday, February 09, 2013

Joan of Arc and others who challenged the feudal society of the middle ages

I received this article, Joan of Arc from the Swaziland Progressive Women's Movement. They note her heroics as a woman who went against traditional women’s roles and was persecuted by feudal leaders of her time. At first I wondered if I should post about a person who was temporarily part of the feudal establishment, but then I remembered other religious leaders who took on the established order of the time and many of them were religious leaders.
One example is Thomas Müntzer who was a Protestant minister who gave major support to a peasant rebellion in the 1500s. This man inspired Fredrick Engels to write The Peasant War in Germany.
Although Müntzer was a religious leader, politically he showed less interest in religious questions than in the social position of the people. Engels described Müntzer’s beliefs as a form of early communism.
Another important minister who challenged the beliefs of the feudal establishment was Giordano Bruno,
Dominican friar who, in the mid 1500s, believed in the existence of atoms. He also supported the ideas of Copernicus’, (that the Earth is not the center of the universe) and there must be an infinite number of earths in the universe, inhabited with other beings like ourselves. These ideas did not go well with the Catholic Church leaders of that feudal time period. He was burned at the stake in 1600.

“At that time natural science also developed in the midst of the general revolution and was itself thoroughly revolutionary; it had indeed to win in struggle its right of existence. Side by side with the great Italians from whom modern philosophy dates, it provided its martyrs for the stake and the dungeons of the Inquisition. And it is characteristic that Protestants outdid Catholics in persecuting the free investigation of nature. Calvin had Servetus burnt at the stake when the latter was on the point of discovering the circulation of the blood, and indeed he kept him roasting alive during two hours; for the Inquisition at least it sufficed to have Giordano Bruno simply burnt alive.”

In his final works, De triplici minimo (1591), Giordano Bruno wrote:

 “He who desires to philosophise must first of all doubt all things. He must not assume a position in a debate before he has listened to the various opinions, and considered and compared the reasons for and against. He must never judge or take up a position on the evidence of what he has heard, on the opinion of the majority, the age, merits, or prestige of the speaker concerned, but he must proceed according to the persuasion of an organic doctrine which adheres to real things, and to a truth that can be understood by the light of reason.”

So as a person who challenged a woman’s role in her time period we have:

Joan of Arc--Swaziland Progressive Women's Movement

Joan of Arc (1412-1431) The war hero - The army commander - The wise one - The inspiration - The saint - The teenage girl - one of the greatest human beings that ever lived.
Joan of Arc, in French, Jeanne d'Arc, also called the Maid of Orleans, a patron saint of France and a national heroine, led the resistance to the English invasion of France in the Hundred Years War. She was born the third of five children to a farmer, Jacques Darc and his wife Isabelle de Vouthon in the town of Domremy on the border of provinces of Champagne and Lorraine. Her childhood was spent attending her father's herds in the fields and learning religion and housekeeping skills from her mother.
When Joan was about 12 years old, she began hearing "voices" of St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret believing them to have been sent by God. These voices told her that it was her divine mission to free her country from the English and help the dauphin gain the French throne. They told her to cut her hair, dress in man's uniform and to pick up the arms.
By 1429 the English with the help of their Burgundian allies occupied Paris and all of France north of the Loire. The resistance was minimal due to lack of leadership and a sense of hopelessness. Henry VI of England was claiming the French throne.
Joan convinced the captain of the dauphin's forces, and then the dauphin himself of her calling. After passing an examination by a board of theologians, she was given troops to command and the rank of captain.
At the battle of Orleans in May 1429, Joan led the troops to a miraculous victory over the English. She continued fighting the enemy in other locations along the Loire. Fear of troops under her leadership was so formidable that when she approached Lord Talbot's army at Patay, most of the English troops and Commander Sir John Fastolfe fled the battlefield. Fastolfe was later stripped of his Order of the Garter for this act of cowardice. Although Lord Talbot stood his ground, he lost the battle and was captured along with a hundred English noblemen and lost 1800 of his soldiers.
Charles VII was crowned king of France on July 17, 1429 in Reims Cathedral. At the coronation, Joan was given a place of honor next to the king. Later, she was ennobled for her services to the country.
In 1430 she was captured by the Burgundians while defending Compiegne near Paris and was sold to the English. The English, in turn, handed her over to the ecclesiastical court at Rouen led by Pierre Cauchon, a pro-English Bishop of Beauvais, to be tried for witchcraft and heresy. Much was made of her insistence on wearing male clothing. She was told that for a woman to wear men's clothing was a crime against God. Her determination to continue wearing it (because her voices hadn't yet told her to change, as well as for protection from sexual abuse by her jailors) was seen as defiance and finally sealed her fate. Joan was convicted after a fourteen-month interrogation and on May 30, 1431 she was burned at the stake in the Rouen marketplace. She was nineteen years old. Charles VII made no attempt to come to her rescue.
In 1456 a second trial was held and she was pronounced innocent of the charges against her. She was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV.

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