If you have ever been to the St Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, you have no doubt been thrilled at the majesty and beauty of its interior spaces.
The cathedral is dedicated to Louis of France, and to the woman who made it possible, the maid of Orleans, Joan of Arc. The story is remarkable and Joan has earned her place in the cathedral many times over. A life sized statue of her, donated in 1920, stands in a place of honor by the front entrance. It is a remarkably lifelike statue and seems about to speak. Every detail of her face, hair and pose seem natural and realistic…except one; the armor.
At first glance, the armor looks great. The arm and leg coverings are done in great and accurate detail, although the breastplate features slight protrusions for breasts, something that would certainly be useless since plate armor was warn over a heavy padded jacket. The outfit includes a long, slit skirt, no doubt a bit of artistic license to make the figure a bit more feminine. It may not be accurate, but it’s a nice touch.
But the part that seems out of place is a sort of steel miniskirt at the base of the breastplate. This piece is actually common on plate armor and is called a fauld. (armor parts tended to have French names), and was used to hang plates on each side to protect the upper legs. O.K. So what’s the problem? The problem is the shape. In what might be another attempt to soften the masculinity of the armor, the sculptor made the fauld pointed in the center. So with that point in the center, how does Joan ride a horse? The motion of riding would cause the saddle to constantly bang the pointed end, shoving the whole breastplate assembly up under Joan’s chin with every step. If you have ever seen pictures of plate armor, you can see that the fauld is either flat across, or even indented in the center to allow mounting a horse. This one goes the opposite way. Maybe it’s hinged.
The statue is great, but I wonder if this detail is accurate or a bit of artistic license. So does anyone know?