CHAPTER 2 - JOAN OF ARC
Joan of Arc, the “Maid of Orleans”carried the fleur de lis on her banner as she led an army. Today her statue stands on a verdant azalea island in the Vieux Carre, a gilded gift from France, still considered the “mother country”by some locals.
Louisiana’s vast territories once included land from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians. Vestiges of empirical power in the form of the fleur today exist in the symbology of the former French outpost of St. Louis, where the upper petals have come to symbolize the meeting of three rivers. In once-French Detroit, Chevrolet sports cars adopted the fleur de lis. The Canadian coat of arms still bears the fleur. But the fleur’s impression has been stamped most indelibly in Louisiana.
In Louisiana and along the Gulf Coast the seductive symbol is cherished. For denizens of Louisiana’s cities, swamps and bayous - and for neighbors along the stretch of coast between Pass Christian, Mississippi to Pensacola, Florida - historic memories, family ties, steamy sub-tropical weather, the “abondance" of the Delta, and fluers de lis inextricably link communities.
The fleur de lis exists exists in the dreams of a people who share a love of place and a sense of history. These dreams vest in the mysteries of a land where children dig for buried pirate treasure; where moss drips from ancient oaks; where outdoor festivals erupt on weekdays; where magnolias blossoms fill the air with sweet perfume; where shrimp boats spread their wings; where brothers delicately-balance pirogues through the opaque mazes of backyard bayous; where an order of oysters-on-the-half and jambalaya proclaim that it is Friday afternoon; and where the score includes the drumbeat of Senegambia, the very roots of jazz. Whether in response to disaster or during grand celebrations, the fleur is present as a symbol of resilience, pride and home.