Die Jungfrau von Orleans © beyond | Herwig Zens


The people are full of fear and beg God to come to their aid because England is visiting war upon France. It is for this reason that the farmer Thibaut wishes to marry off his daughter Joan as quickly as possible so that she has a protector. But Joan is convinced that a different destiny awaits her. While Thibaut is angry with his daughter, Raimond, the man she is meant to marry, respects her wishes, feeling that there is something special about her. When news arrives that the English are coming ever closer, Joan feels inspired by the Virgin Mary and foretells that an armed virgin will save France. The people wonder at this and praise God. Joan says farewell to her village and sets off, convinced that it is she who will be the armed virgin. There is, however, one condition that she must abide by to receive God’s aid: she must renounce all earthly pleasures. She succeeds in convincing King Charles, who is in dire straits, of her mission. When she leads her troops into battle against the English she wins victory after victory and the people celebrate her. But suddenly she falls in love when, on the battlefield, she looks into the eyes of an enemy soldier, Lionel. She lets him live, thereby breaking her vow. Lionel falls in love with her, and wants to run away with her. But Joan feels she has now made herself guilty before God and suffers an emotional breakdown. On the day of her triumph, as she accompanies King Charles to his coronation in the recaptured Reims Cathedral, her father suddenly reappears. He believes that a woman who presumes to wage war must be possessed by the devil, and publicly accuses her of this. Joan offers no defence; she believes she is guilty. The people’s goodwill immediately turns to hostility towards the alleged witch. When Joan begins to wonder whether she should not flee with Lionel after all, she hears heavenly voices accusing her of betraying God, and this stops her. Lionel tries to shield her and is killed. Joan then allows herself to be taken prisoner. She is condemned as a witch. While she is being burned at the stake, the people rejoice at the death of the witch and praise God. Angelic voices announce Joan’s ascent into heaven.