Mediaeval fresco shows the real Joan of Arc
A chapel deep in the Vosges forest looks set to become a place of national pilgrimage after the discovery of a
mediaeval wall painting that experts believe may be the only true portrait of Joan of Arc, patron saint of the French and scourge of their oldest enemy, the English. "It has to be
her," said Father Antoine, of the bishopric of St Die, which is responsible for the chapel at Joan of Arc's birthplace in nearby Domremy, where the fresco was found. "Everything fits---the painting is the right age, the house where she was born is 500 yards away, and we know from records of her trial and rehabilitation 20 years later that as a child and adolescent she prayed here every Saturday," Father Antoine said. French art experts are trying to determine if the 15th century painting of a teenager is the first picture of the woman who was burned at the stake nearly 600 years ago. The painting was discovered by workers a year ago beneath layers of lime applied to walls of the Notre Dame de Bermont chapel during a plague in the 16th century. The fresco shows a girl with blue eyes, full cheeks, blonde hair and peasant headgear kneeling beside a saint, Thiebaut de Provins. The local bishop was reported to have said in church last week that the picture was that of Joan of Arc. Monsignor Guillaume, the bishop of Saint Die in Lorraine, broke the news to a congregation of 800 who had gone to Domremy to celebrate Joan of Arc's feast day. A national heroine for standing up to English oppression, Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans, was born in 1412, a farmer's daughter. Aged 16 and dressed as a man, she convinced the crown prince of France that she had a divine mission to help him recover
the throne. Her troops defeated the English at Patay in 1429, allowing the prince to be crowned. Captured the
following year, she was treacherously turned over to the English and tried for heresy and witchcraft. She was put to death on 30 May 1431, aged 19. "Every other painting of her is a guess, because no contemporary portraits were thought to have been made," Father Antoine said. "But this one was painted during her lifetime, or very soon after her death, almost certainly based on the accounts of villagers who were her friends. We know, finally, what Sainte Jeanne really looked like."