Joan of Arc vs. Mary Magdalene

Well, friends, Welcome to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen. We started with 32 holy men and women and we're down to sixteen as the battle for the coveted Golden Halo marches on. Round One consisted of basic biographical information about the saints. Since there’s no need to rehash previously covered ground, the this round is made up of what we like to call "Quirks & Quotes." So prepare for some little known facts accompanied by quotes either by or about the saint in question.

In the final battle of the initial round, Paul of Tarsus handily defeated Theodore of Tarsus 61% to 39%. Check out the updated bracket to see the full slate of saints who made it to the next round.

We kick things off with the much-anticipated match-up between Joan of Arc and Mary Magdalene. This battle has been hyped so much that it would make even Don King blush. But the waiting is over; let the voting commence. Winner heads to the Round of the Elate Eight!

Joan of Arc (1412 - 1431), a French peasant, began to hear the voices of Saints Michael, Catherine, and Margaret at age thirteen. By seventeen, those voices urged her to become involved in the struggle for the contested French throne in the Hundred Years War. She convinced Charles the Dauphin to allow her to command an army, which she led to spectacular victory in Orleans, paving the way for him to be crowned king. She was later wounded in battle and then captured, sold to the English, and put on trial by the Inquisition. Tried as a witch and a heretic but finally convicted of cross-dressing, she was burned at the stake at nineteen.

Joan was led by her voices to find a sword buried behind the altar in a church in Tours. It had five crosses on it and was covered with easily removed rust. “I loved that sword,” she testified, “because it was found in the church of St. Catherine [of Fierbois], whom I loved.”  She only actually used the sword, however, to whack the backs of trollops while running them out of the army camps; during battles, it resided in one of its three special sheaths, while her hands were busy with her horse and her banner. “I loved my banner forty times better than my sword. And when I went against the enemy, I carried my banner myself, lest I kill any.  I have never killed anyone,” she said.

Joan inspired hundreds of books, plays, musical compositions, movies, and all kinds of art. Mark Twain, not normally known for his religious sentiments, declared that his biography of her was his best book and said of her: “Whatever thing men call great, look for it in Joan of Arc, and there you will find it.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle declared that “ to the Christ, the highest spiritual being of whom we have any exact record on this earth is the girl Jeanne.” “She chose a path, and went down it like a thunderbolt,” said an admiring G.K. Chesterton.

Joan’s own voice comes through loud and clear in the trial transcript. When asked in what dialect her “voices” spoke to her, she replied, “In one better than yours.” Do you believe in God? she was asked. “Yes, better than you.”

“I am not afraid,” she said. “I was born to do this.”

-- Penny Nash

While we have no direct quotes from Mary Magdalene, we do have quite a few extraordinary stories about this beloved Apostle to the Apostles. As Jane Schaberg notes, “No other biblical figure—including Judas and perhaps even Jesus—has had such a vivid and bizarre post-biblical life in the human imagination, in legend, and in art.”

Best known, probably because it has been depicted for centuries, is the story explaining why Mary Magdalene is often shown in Western and Eastern artwork holding a red egg.

According to this legend, Mary Magdalene’s story about Jesus’ resurrection was challenged by the Roman emperor Tiberius. When he insisted that no one could rise from the dead any more than an egg could turn red, she picked an egg up from the table; it turned red. Today, Eastern Rite Christians honor the story by coloring Easter eggs bright red.

Other less known (perhaps suppressed?) legends have her traveling with John (the other beloved) after Mary, the mother of Jesus, died circa 54 CE. These legends not only have Mary and John on a road trip to Ephesus, visiting newly established churches along the way, but also have them living together for a while.

Such sacred cohabitation is extrapolated from the story about a thief named Cleophus breaking into their home at night while Mary and John were sleeping. John told Cleophus (“vision of glory”)  to turn from doing evil and converted him to the faith. This story was widely shared among those in the first century church as another example of describing the second coming of Christ as a “thief in the night.”

Before deciding the prize for most incredible legend should go to the red egg story, consider these phantasmagorical ones about a cave in France and the Holy Grail.

Legends have Mary Magdalene traveling to Gaul after leaving Asia Minor. Once there, she is believed to have spent a period of time teaching and preaching in Marseilles. To recuperate from that gig, she turned to a more contemplative life of prayer and meditation in a cave in the Sainte-Baume mountains. But according to these legends, a band of angels transported her daily so she and Jesus could spend time together. Holy hoist!

Last but not least are stories about the Holy Grail, the cup from which Jesus drank during the Last Supper . . . or was it the cup held up at the foot of the Cross by Joseph of Arimathea to catch blood streaming from the wounds of our dying Lord? Both?

There’s some dispute about whether Joseph or Mary Magdalene held the cup at the foot of the Cross, but legend-weavers seem to agree that Mary brought the “sangraal”  to the Southern coast of France circa 42 C.E.

In some instances, legends about the “sangraal” (Holy Grail) have morphed into legends about the “sang rall” (Holy Bloodline), which insist the “vessel” was not an actual cup, but Mary Magdalene herself, wife of Jesus and mother of royal offspring from the Davidic bloodline.

Here’s what’s not legend or myth: the Risen Christ first appeared to Mary Magdalene and entrusted her with the task of telling the disciples she had seen the Lord.

 -- Meredith Gould


Joan of Arc vs. Mary Magdalene

  • Mary Magdalene (74%, 1,270 Votes)
  • Joan of Arc (26%, 442 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,711

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92 comments on “Joan of Arc vs. Mary Magdalene”

  1. Uh oh. I can already anticipate that this is going to be a difficult vote when the twins get home from school. Joan is completely golden in the picture and Mary has that magical egg . Can't wait to hear the discussion that will take place in my house about today's match up. 🙂

  2. Today voting is easy. I have a friend who says that Joan d ‘Arc is the only person who reached sainthood for killing English. I think that that poor girl needed a lot of psychological help. I vote today for the woman who was the first to see the resurrected Jesus.

    1. Regarding who needed psychological help, I would suspect that most psychologists would find it at best a toss-up between the girl who claimed to hear the voices of saints and the woman who claimed to see a dead man walking around in the flesh.

      1. I have to agree with you on that. I have never heard the expression "toss-up". However, I grasp the meaning from the context.

    2. I find Tom's reply quite funny, and thought I might also point out that you need to read the article more thoroughly next time. Joan never actually killed anyone. Nonetheless I quite like mary magdalene. I hate having a hard time deciding who to vote for.

  3. In New Orleans, there is a golden statue of Joan of Arc. She stands on a busy French Quarter street with her sword and armor. In the bright morning sun, her brightness may carry your soul into the presence of the beatific vision. Jesus' heart is with Mary Magdalene, and my heart is with the Maid of Orleans. The hometown girl has my vote today. JOAN OF ARC.

    1. A teacher friend, currently on spring break, just this week posted a photo of that very statue on my fb page because she thought of me when she saw it. 🙂 In prayer, I have often asked St. Mary Magdalene to intercede on my behalf that I might see Jesus as she did. Yet, Joan is my homegirl! Her conviction of faith challenges me in this day and time. She's the only "real" person Mark Twain ever wrote about, saying: "Whatever thing men call great, look for it in Joan of Arc, and there you will find it."

      Winston Churchill said of her, "Joan was a being so uplifted from the ordinary run of mankind that she finds no equal in a thousand years."

      Viva la Pucelle!

  4. So the story begins again, Mary Magdalene starts her journey to lead us all to think about Jesus and the sacrifice he made for us to bring us into the new world. A world were each of us has a close person friend bringing God into our life to share and help with all our cares and our joys. A…!

  5. Much as I admire Jeanne, and the fact that she ran trollops out of camp with the magnificent sword--Mary and the red egg have me today.

  6. Mary, the woman at the tomb, the woman at Christ's side throughout his ministry. The female apostle. She gets my vote!

        1. Meredith, I'm puzzled by your statement "we have no direct quotes from Mary Magdalene". Isn't the Gospel of John, chapter 20 full of direct quotes?

    1. We rely on WordPress to send the emails whenever there's a new post. For some reason, unknown to the Supreme Executive Committee, this one did not go out to anyone.

      Best safeguard is to visit sometime after 8:00 a.m. EDT every morning and vote. Maybe you will want to buy a special alarm clock dedicated to reminding you, just in case the email doesn't show up again.

      Sorry for the inconvenience, everyone!

  7. Looks like I might get three in a row. Mary always facinated me with all the stories and legends that surrounded her; was she a prostitute (probably not), Jesus' lover (how could Jesus be human without experiencing some human love) or just one who loved Jesus in a platonic way? Alas, we may never know. But what we do know was that she was the first to announce that Jesus had risen to the Apostles which makes her the first evangelist. Mary, you go girl!

  8. Of all the saints, including women who have managed to declared a doctor of the Church by the [adjective] Roman Catholic church, Mary Magdalene is the ONE who keeps me steadily faithful and focused on serving the risen Lord.

  9. I love Mary M, but I want Joan, a warrior in armor and sword to go up against Brigid, the patron of blacksmiths who make the armor and swords. That is a match-up this crazy warrior girl just cannot pass up! Vote for Joan!

  10. Let's not forget the notion of Mary as female apostle or the Coptic text known as the Gospel of Mary (presumed to be Mary Magdalene).

  11. Interesting that Lent Madness voters rejected Thomas and James, two of the Apostles chosen by Jesus to serve with him and build the church, but are rallying around Mary Magdalene, who some call the Apostle to the Apostles. "Madness" seems to be the operative word here.
    Setting aside both legend and politics, here is the fundamental truth of the lives of the saints we vote for today: Mary was given a joyous mission - to be Jesus' friend and to announce his resurrection to his friends; Joan was put to the ultimate test - to stand up for her faith and her love of God, all the way to a horrible death in the fire. I would not presume to say that God loved one better than the other - but Joan's short (and documented) life is a stunning, if sometimes uncomfortable, example of faith in action.
    I respect Mary M, and love the story and legends, but I am voting for Joan.

  12. Tim --FYI for some reason, I was dropped from Lenten Madness and did not receive today's match-up (Mary and Joan)...Tracked down and voted (only once) but curious as to why I "disappeared" in the email delivery.

  13. If you don't get the email, go directly to the Lent Madness website to vote. This is the second time this has happened to me, but I didn't miss a chance to vote either time.
    My vote to Mary Magdalene, and surprised to be on the other side from Lauren on this one.

  14. After the first round with Mary M, I read Cynthia Bourgeault's book on her and am interested in the possibilities reclaiming her voice has for the church today. I voted for Mary M., but am surprised by the lopsidedness of the voting thus far.

  15. Hi folks,

    Sorry that you didn't receive your fancy Lent Madness e-mail this morning. I have no idea why this happened (or rather didn't) but I suspect Lent Madness gremlins. Or perhaps the ghost of St. Nicholas. Hopefully this won't happen again. In the meantime, I suggest you post today's match-up on Facebook, Tweet it, or send hard copy by carrier pigeon to help get the word out (of course I suggest you do that everyday as well).

    Thanks for your forbearance. We really could use a full-time Lent Madness administrator taking care of such glitches from a fancy office overlooking Central Park.


    1. I was sure I was dropped from the rolls for sending an e-mail extra Permalink.
      Of course I vote for her whose record is in the Sacred Scriptures and whom the BCP finally honors with a Red-Letter day.

  16. Remember that we already defeated Santa Claus. Think about what it means if we destroy Easter eggs.

    However, a person that sucessfully beats the Sassenach would be given the Golden Halo without further voting.

    1. Sassenach - what a great word. I was taught that you don't say it, you sort of spit it out.

      1. Yes, this statue of Joan is in the traffic circle of my neighborhood in Portland, OR, a memorial to the fallen in World War I. I'm voting for Joan.

    1. And for 25 years my bedroom was below the room where Joan recognized Charlie hiding out among his courtiers (in Chinon) - I too go for our hometown girl!

  17. Joan of Arc had a heart....
    Would she give it as a gift?
    To such as me who longs to see
    How an Angel ought to be

    Had dreams to give her heart away
    Like an orphan on a way
    She cared so much
    She offered up
    Her body to the flame.
    (The above are OMD's lyrics, the Gregorian's are slightly different)

  18. I've previously expressed my uneasiness with these kiddie/teen females who see visions and show up with stigmata out of nowhere,,,,,yes, I know it's supposed to be some sign of holiness. I simply have to go with the woman to whom the Risen Lord spoke and told her to tell the disciples of his resurrection from the dead. Of course, their totally ignoring her was the standard of the day that's filtered down through the ages. Joan will probably get the most votes but visions and face-to-face encounters are not one and the same ! So, on to glory for Mary M., the Chosen and the Choice of our Lord ! By the by, I got dropped from my inbox, too, and just figured I'd ticked off somebody at the censor's desk.

    1. Ummmm. The Mother of our Lord was a kiddie teen female who heard voices, and was impregnated by the Holy Spirit (talk about stigmata!). I'm just sayin'

      1. And does Scripture ever say how old Mary Magdalene was? In their times, both Joan and Mary were actually women--of considered to be of marriageable and child-bearing age.

        Nonetheless, I had to cast my vote for MM. History has redeemed Jeanne d'Arc, but much of the world, including Christendom, still believes Mary to have been a fallen woman. Shabby treatment for Jesus' beloved friend and the proclaimer of the resurrection, to say the least. It is long past time to fully rehabilitate her.

        1. Whoops, I mean Joan and the Marys were women. ...

          BTW, I also did not get my E-mail today. All is not right in Christendom!

  19. Still stinging from Lancelot Andrewes's loss to Joan awhile back, I have great pleasure in voting for Mary Mag!!

  20. Here are a couple of my fovorite quotes about St. Joan of Arc not included in her bio above:
    "She was the consummation and ideal of two noble human efforts towards perfection. The peasant's daughter was the Flower of Chivalry, brave, gentle, merciful, courteous, kind, and loyal....She was the most perfect daughter of her Church....her conscience, by frequent confession, was kept fair and pure as the lilies of Paradise." by author Andrew Lang
    Sir Arthur Conan Doyle also said of Joan in addition to the quote included above in her bio:
    "Jeanne’s mission was on the surface warlike, but it really had the effect of ending a century of war, and her love and charity were so broad, that they could only be matched by Him who prayed for His murderers."

    And everyone should know that Joan's last recorded words as she died were:
    "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus."

  21. Excellent write-up on fine, fierce Joan.

    I strive to respect the genuine faith of the people originally behind the (fascinating!) legends surrounding Mary, but I have a Protestant's allergy to what Dan Brown has made of them. I had to read hard to get to the nub - and it's the crucial one for me: that "the Risen Christ first appeared to Mary Magdalene and entrusted her with the task of telling the disciples she had seen the Lord." [if I could bold this I would!!]

    As corrective to a tradition that somehow turned that encounter between Mary and the Risen Christ into a prohibition against women preaching or teaching, I vote for Mary Magdalene...with all my heart, as many times as I legally can!