Before she arrived, Charles asked one of his nobles to take the throne while he hid among the ranks of his cour­tiers. When Joan arrived, she barely looked at the man on the throne. Instead, she walked up to Charles and curtsied to him as the king.3 Still, Charles wasn’t convinced. Only after she told him exactly what he had prayed for while alone in the palace chapel did he trust her.

Despite his faith in her claims, Charles subjected her to the scrutiny of his theologians. After passing their tests, she received a sword, a banner, and the right to command the king’s troops.

Joan and her army marched to Orléans in 1429. At first, the leaders of the French military didn’t want to follow her command, but they quickly found that nothing went well when they ignored her orders, and all went well when they heeded them.

God told Joan that her victory sword—a blade with five crosses cut into the steel—was buried in the church of Sainte-Catherine-de-Fierbois. When Joan announced this, knights were dispatched to search the church. They found the weapon just as Joan had prophesied.

Then, in the heat of the battle, Joan was wounded in the shoulder and carried from the field. One of her knights cut the head of the arrow off. She removed the shaft herself and, despite her wounds, went on to lead her army to victory in the liberation of Orléans. A few days later, in Reims, Charles was anointed as Charles VII, king of France.

The voices spoke again, this time to warn Joan that she would be captured by her enemies. “Then let me die quickly without a long captivity,” she pleaded. The voices told her not to be frightened but to resign herself for what was to come next.

On May 23, 1430, Joan was at Compiègne, fighting the Duke of Burgundy. She was captured and turned over to the English, who sent her to church officials, where she was put on trial for heresy. Charles VII didn’t lift a sword to save her.

Cauchon, the bishop of Beauvais, prosecuted her case. His tactic was vicious scorn. The voices, he claimed, were not God’s guidance, but the devil’s. Unmoved, Joan refused to deny her counsel.

At the age of nineteen, Joan was convicted. On May 30, 1431, she was burned alive at the stake with a paper cap on her head, on which was written, “Heretic. Relapsed. Apostate. Idolatress.”

Despite her trial, many thought she was innocent. When a couple of English soldiers laughed, one English noble, terrified at the scene before him, turned and said, “We are undone; we have burned a saint.”4

The controversy that existed in Joan’s life continued long after her death. But Joan’s mother was as strong-minded as her daughter and wouldn’t let the case rest. Working with King Charles VII, she insisted the case be submitted to the pope. Twenty-four years later, a new trial opened in Paris.

In 1456, Joan was pronounced innocent by Pope Callixtus III.

In 1909, she was beatified by Pope Pius X in the first step of her canonization into the Catholic church.

Finally, in 1920, Pope Benedict officially declared her a saint.

Did Joan hear God’s voice?

Obviously, church leaders disagreed.

Those present at her trial and at her death had differing opinions.

Six hundred years later, historians still argue whether the young girl actually heard the voice of God.

Some say she was mentally ill. Some say she was suffering from delusions as a result of a disease. Some, like the bishop of Beauvais, say it wasn’t God she heard, but the devil.

As authors of a book on hearing God speak—which we guess makes us unofficial experts—we’d like to go on record with our opinion. We would like to say conclusively . . . we don’t know.

There is no way for us to prove that Joan of Arc heard God’s voice or even the voices of his divine messengers. There is no way for us to prove that she didn’t. But Joan believed she heard God. More importantly, she acted on her belief in a way that not only changed the course of history, but resulted in her willingly sacrificing her life for what she believed.