Washington DC is home to over 30 equestrian sculptures, but only one female riding horseback. For Joan of Arc, being the only woman amongst men was a familiar distinction.
Six hundred years ago, the illiterate 13-year-old farm girl heard voices and saw blazes of light. Saints appeared to her and told her to fight for France. At age 16, Joan received permission to help lead the French in battle.
All her equipment – armor, horse, and sword, were borrowed. Her offensive approach to battle led the French to many victories and changed the tide of the Hundred Year War. At age 19, she was captured, turned over to the English, tried for heresy and burned at the stake. More blazes of light.
In 1922, the equestrian statute of Joan of Arc was dedicated in Merridian Hill Park as gift from the women of France to the women of America. Merci! It’s a bronze replica of Paul DeBois’ original sculpture at Reims Cathedral in France. It was “regarded by artists as the finest equestrian statue of modern times.”
Washington DC’s Joan of Arc lost her sword many years ago. Recently, the Meridian Hill Neighborhood Association lobbied the National Park Service to help get Joan her sword back. They succeeded in time for Joan’s 600th birthday on January 6, 2012 – Joan gripped her sword again!
From her perch in Merridian Hill Park, Joan of Arc looks out over the District with her chin up and chest forward – an inspiring symbol of bravery. Her life was short, but her legacy marches on.