Saints of the Day – Joan of Valois, Queen Widow Foundress

detail of the rose window of Saint Joan of Valois; c.1880, artist unknown; church of Sauzé-Vaussais, Deux-Sèvres, France; photographed on 29 November 2014 by JLPC; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

(also known as Jane, Jeanne, Joanna of France)

Born 1464; died at Bourges, 1505; beatified in 1738; canonized 1950. Saint Joan was the hunch-backed, pock-marked, deformed daughter of King Louis XI and Charlotte of Savoy. At age 9 (1476), she was married to the future King Louis XII (then Duke Louis of Orléans). The marriage was forced upon Louis and never consummated.

Joan saved her husband’s life when her brother, King Charles VIII determined to execute him for rebellion. When the duke ascended to the throne in 1498 and wanted to marry Ann of Brittany, he had Pope Alexander VI declare his marriage to Joan null. Joan offered no objections and accepted the situation with the patience that marked her entire life.

She retired to the duchy of Berry given her by Louis and lived a secluded life of prayer and good works in its capital of Bourges. In 1501, with the help of a Franciscan friar, Blessed Gabriel Mary (Gilbert Nicholas; August 27) Nicolas, Joan founded Les Annonciades of Bourges, a contemplative order of nuns to pray and work for reconciliation of enemies. She herself was professed in 1504. Joan suffered much throughout her life for her physical deformities, which she accepted with great patience and equanimity (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Forster).

In art, Joan is a crowned abbess in the habit of the Annunciation sisters with a crucifix and rosary. Sometimes she may be shown (1) holding the Christ-child by the hand with a basket on His arm (not to be confused with Saint Dorothy who is never a nun); (2) with a cup of wine and basket of bread; (3) as the Christ-child places a ring on her finger; or (4) with Blessed Gabriel Mary, OFM, who co-founded the Annunciations (Roeder). She is venerated in Bourges (Roeder).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 16 May 2020. Web. 26 February 2021. <>