IWALKED NEW YORK CITY’S JOAN OF ARC MONUMENT
As you sneak into the traffic island park at the intersection of Riverside Drive and West 93rd Street you can begin to get your first glimpses at Anna Vaughn Hyatts’ tributary equestrian statue to Joan of Arc. The statue features Joan in full armor while astride her horse. In one hand she clutches the reins of her horse while in the other she holds a sword up high into the air, preparing to enter her first battle. The sculpture faces to the west and sits atop a large gothic granite pedestal which was designed by architect john Van Pelt. Unfortunately the monument is located within a small clearing in the park with a lot of overhanging trees and if you’re trying to capture a photo of the sculpture it is sometimes a bit difficult.
Joan was born in France in 1412. Beginning around the age of 13 she claimed to have dreams or visions of Christian martyrs. The dreams reportedly continued to get stronger and more frequent and by the age of 16 she was convinced these dreams were a divine intervention. This message reportedly was that she should participate and lead an army for the French forces in their Hundred Years’ War versus England. Joan claims that at one point her dreams turned to reality when after an especially graphic dream she found a sword lying next to her—the same sacred sword she is shown holding here in Ms. Hyatt’s statue.
Amazingly through her persistence, Joan was able to capture an audience with the future king of France, Charles VII, whom she convinced to provide her with an army of her own. Joan then went on to actually lead her army to a number of victories however, as peace time began to settle in Joan continued on her own personal crusade. Whilst on a failed attack of British forces in Paris Joan was captured and charged with wearing a man’s armor and for witchcraft due to her continued insistence on being a spiritual quest.
She was held within the Tower of Rouen in Normandy, France while she awaited her trial before an ecclesiastical court. Ecclesiastical courts in ancient times specialized in cases involving religious charges. It was said that these courts held more sway than any other at the time. During her trial, Joan was found unanimously guilty on all accounts and sentenced to death. On May 30, 1431, at the tender young age of 19, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. Because she had become a martyr in her own time Joan’s case was revisited in 1456 and Pope Callixtus III actually exonerated her on all charges. Almost 500 years later she was made a saint by Pope Benedict XV in 1920.
Now that you have a more comprehensive background on Joan of Arc let’s take a moment to go back and appreciate what Ms. Hyatt and, really Mr. Van Pelt as well, have constructed here. To prepare for this statue, Hyatt did a significant amount of research. She reportedly actually went to visit a number of significant sites as related to Joan’s life. And if you direct your attention to the armor that Joan is wearing, this is sculpted to historically accurate 15th century armor. Anna did much of her research on the armor actually here in New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Even the horse on which Joan is astride was the subject of study as it was based upon a horse provided by the fire department of Anna’s home town of Gloucester, Massachusetts.
This memorial was actually based upon a plaster statue which Hyatt had produced for the Paris Salon in 1910. Just four years later, while seeking an artist to commemorate the 500th birthday of Joan of Arc, a New York parks committee discovered Ms. Hyatt’s work in Paris and awarded her the commission.
Mr. Van Pelt did a bit of research in creation of his granite pedestal as well. In a unique tribute to Joan he actually integrated some limestone blocks from Tower of Rouen into his work.
The completed monument was formally dedicated on December 6, 1915. Assigned with the honor of pulling the cord to unveil the work was none other than the wife of Thomas Edison. The sculpture’s popularity has led it to be replicated now four times across the world including Gloucester, MA and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
Address: Intersection of Riverside Drive & West 93rd Street, New York City
IWalked Audio Tours To See This Site: New York City’s Upper West Side (Free Bonus Edition). (Download the MP3 tour here. iPhone application tour is available here. Please note, all NYC tours are now available as in-app purchases upon download of our FREE NYC Lite application, which includes a free 1.5 hour tour of a portion of the Upper West Side.)