Joan of Arc, in Milwaukee?

How did the small medieval French chapel at Marquette University come to be associated with Joan of Arc?

First, a few basic facts about her life:

Joan was 12 years old when she first saw visions and heard voices. Convinced by the beauty and authenticity of her visions, she believed that she was in communication with true messengers of God, including St. Michael and St. Catherine. She followed their inspiration through the rest of her short life. She led French forces into several battles and participated in tactical sessions planning those attacks, and was wounded twice. She was captured, tried for heresy, and burned to death at age 19 for being a “relapsed heretic,” that relapse being what we would call cross-dressing, while imprisoned.

After 25 years, repeated efforts by Joan’s mother led to a re-examination of all trial testimony and the recalling of over 100 witnesses. The verdict was reversed, and Joan declared a martyr. She was made a saint in 1920, or 500 years after her birth.

At the time of Joan the chapel stood in the village of Chasse, 12 miles south of Lyon. It was called, Chapelle de St. Martin de Sayssuel.

In the chapel is a stone you can touch. This stone formed the base on which formerly stood a small statue of Mary, at which Joan had stopped to pray. (One story is that this may have been the last place at which Joan prayed before her arrest and imprisonment. This is based on trying to reconstruct her movements based on her testimony during her trial, and then figuring out where she actually was. Joan was herself illiterate and repeatedly moved through the countryside both with and without accompanying armies.)

At Joan’s time this stone was not in the chapel, and may have been outdoors at a crossroads. At any rate, after finishing prayers she kissed the stone. The stone itself was preserved (but not the statue), along with its story. It was moved to America along with the chapel in 1926.

The story of the stone is that it is always colder than anything else in the room. Touch the stone when you visit, and it is indeed colder than anything else in the building.

NEXT: what it feels like to visit


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