Posted by Sydney
France has been such a wonderful experience. It is beautiful and I have been struck with all the care that has been taken to preserve so many beautiful things. I love that everywhere you look there is art, statues, and amazing architecture. The attention to detail is astounding. I was able to see things I had never seen before, like Sacre Couer and the Statue of Liberty. I also loved seeing the statues around the city depicting Joan of Arc. I have always found her story compelling that at such a young age she was willing to die for what she believed. She said at death that she would rather die in truth than to live in a lie. At the end of this post, I have put what President James E. Faust said in an address in April 2006 about Joan of Arc.
We also took a trip out to Versailles. This was also beautiful, but after not very long, I began to be disturbed at the elaborate life of those that had lived there while their people were starving. It would have made the art hard to enjoy, but I knew that those very people who were starving, were likely those who painted it. The gardens were immaculate and it was fun to know that the LDS temple was also being built close by!
Our final day was Normandy. It was so touching to see all the crosses and star of davids at the monument. It is on the very ground that the battle was on. As Camilla pointed out, they had crosses also for those who died that they could not identify who they were. I cried when I saw them. I also loved seeing the places where the men climbed up the cliffs. There were a lot of ruins from the German troops and craters from the bombings. It was very sobering to think of those who died for my freedom. It was also neat to see how much this means to the French and to hear what France did to help with DDay. Also, along the way there were many little old villages. It was so neat to go through these villages and see the neat old cottages and chateaus and beautiful old churches right in the middle of the villages.
From James E. Faust in 2006: “A few years ago I stood on the spot where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431. Young Joan of Arc, one of the great heroines in history, became the unlikely standard-bearer for the French army in the Dark Ages, long before the gospel was restored. Joan had the Light of Christ and also the courage to follow its promptings and make a difference. Joan was a peasant girl who could neither read nor write, but she was bright. Long years of war with the English had impoverished and divided her country. At 17, sensing her life had a purpose, she left home, determined to help liberate her oppressed country. Naturally, people scoffed at her ideas and thought she was a little crazy, but in the end she persuaded them to let her have a horse and an escort to go and see the king.
Young King Charles VII of France had heard about Joan and decided to test her. He slipped into the ranks of the army and let one of his trusted associates occupy the throne. When Joan came into the room, she barely acknowledged the man on the throne, but promptly walked up to Charles and curtsied to him as her king. This so impressed the king that he gave her command over his 12,000 troops. At first the French soldiers did not want to obey her, but when they saw that all who followed her succeeded and all who disregarded her failed, they came to look upon her as their leader.
Clad in a suit of white armor and flying her own standard, Joan of Arc liberated the besieged city of Orleans in 1429 and defeated the English in four other battles. Twice she was wounded, but each time she recovered and went on fighting. Her orders seemed to be those of a military genius. She marched into the city of Reims and stood with sword and banner in hand while Charles was crowned king. She fought in the Battle of Paris until she was captured at Compiègne by English allies, who sold her to the English for 16,000 francs. She was imprisoned, tried as a heretic, and then burned at the stake in 1431.
Although this is a sad ending, it does not take away from Joan’s greatness. She was courageous enough to follow the personal inspiration to which all of us are entitled. As the Lord said to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”