On the Stage

On the Stage - Fetes

Souvenir, 1924, coverSouvenir, 1924, advertisementsOrléans instituted an annual civic festival to celebrate its deliverance by Joan of Arc within a few years of the event. Many other cities began holding fêtes during the nineteenth century as Joan's cult grew. This Souvenir of Orléans' 1924 fête includes an itinerary of historical reenactments, church ceremonies, and processions. But the program is equally devoted to advertising for everything from corsets to shoe-polish. The festivals were tourist attractions, and although the events were planned around local sites which had figured in Joan's life, they also took place on commercial streets so shop owners could profit from the foot traffic.


woman dressed as JoanJoan was regarded as a role model for girls and young women on many levels, but it was an idea of female civic responsibility as much as Joan herself that the festivals celebrated. They were seen as opportunities for women's active, but directed, participation in the local community. As part of many festivals a young local woman was chosen to dress in armor and ride a horse through the streets of the city. An inscription on the back of this postcard states that the woman shown was a descendant of Joan of Arc's brother, an appropriate choice to personify the heroine.

Joan, from HaldatMany locales across France could claim some right to celebrate Joan's legacy, but as the birthplace of the famous maid, Domremy could boast a special relationship with her. The town preserved her home, erected new monuments, and established a school where young girls could receive moral instruction worthy of her. To celebrate the completion of the various building projects in 1820, a civic festival was inaugurated as another homage to the native heroine. Domremy played up the theme of Joan's pastoral origins by hosting their festival in a giant meadow near the Bois-Chenu. DeHaldat describes the idyllic setting in detail, stating that the site itself was suffused with the glory of Joan.

cover, program from 1892Since the early 19th century there had been a bitter rivalry between the religious community and the municipal government of Rouen over which institution had the authority to properly celebrate Joan of Arc's cult. This was a ticklish question, since both church and city had participated in her execution. The festival of 1892 was a triumph for the church party with the consecration of a great monument to Joan next to the basilica. This pamphlet lauds the archbishop Monsignor Thomas effusively, and explains how all the events unfolded around him, from the morning mass, through the festival banquet, to the inauguration ceremony. Those opposed to the religious use of Joan's cult, however, noted with satisfaction that the sculpted Joan stands with her back to the basilica and faces in the direction of the city, thus symbolically dismissing the Church and turning her attention towards the civic life of postcard, fete. angelRouen.


Theatrical productions and poetry readings were often included in the festivals, and local musicians were commissioned to compose music for the ceremonies. These postcard, fete. Joan storming the wallspostcards show the sort of tableaux vivants that were performed at some festivals; often requiring elaborate sets and costumes, and calling on the participation of local schools or other groups, they were popular with the public.


poster stampCompiègne, where Joan was taken prisoner, mounted especially splendid fêtes. The city annually organized elaborate historical reenactments, paraded fifteenth century artillery through the streets, reconstructed medieval shop fronts, and hosted jousting. The postcards below served a variety of functions - some advertised the event in advance, some served as souvenirs of either the festival or the town. The phenomenon of issuing small collectible poster stamps was just reaching its peak when the stamp at left was produced. Some graphic designers were particularly masterful at working within this small-scale and became known for the striking impact of their miniature advertisements.

postcard, pageant     postcard, joustiing    postcard, tourney

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