Considered a great saint and a symbol of French unity, Joan of Arc led the French army to the watershed victory over the English forces in Orleans in 1429. In 1430, she was captured by the Anglo-Burgundians while defending Compiegne. She was burned at the stake at the age of 19 in 1431. Pope Benedict XV canonised her in 1920.
Martin of Tours, the patron saint of France, had initially fought for the Roman army. Born to Pagan parents, he converted to Christianity at age 10. Legend has it that a vision of Jesus in a dream, after he shared his cloak with a beggar, had pushed Martin into religion.
Bernard of Clairvaux, or Saint Bernard, was a 12th-century Burgundian monk, who became the abbot of the abbey of Clairvaux, founded by him. He chose to live a life of physical austerities, which caused him ailments such as anemia. He is revered as the patron saint of beekeepers and candlemakers.
Jean Vianney was a French Catholic priest active in the first half of the 19th century. Venerated in the Catholic Church as a saint and as the patron saint of parish priests, he is also referred to as the "Curé d'Ars." He was devoted to St. Philomena, who he regarded as his guardian. His feast day is 4 August.
Called the Gentleman Saint for his tenderness and patience, Francis de Sales was a Catholic priest and Bishop of Geneva (1602-1622). Canonized in 1665, he was later proclaimed Doctor of the Church for his contribution to theology and patron of writers and journalists for his extensive use of broadsheets and books. He also invented sign languages for teaching the deaf.
Genevieve is the patron saint of Paris in the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions. Not much is known about her life, but it is believed that she became a nun as a teenager after deciding to dedicate her life to Christianity. She had frequent visions of heavenly angels and saints and was particularly devoted to Saint Denis.
Matthieu Ricard is a French photographer, writer, translator, and Buddhist monk. He serves as a board member of the popular not-for-profit organization Mind and Life Institute. After having received a Ph.D. degree from the Pasteur Institute, Ricard gave up his scientific career to practice Tibetan Buddhism. He is also the co-founder of another international non-profit organization, Karuna-Shechen.
Pope Leo IX went down in history as one of the most significant popes, due to his role in the Great East-West Schism of 1054, which separated the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. His idea of reforming the church including the removal of evils such as clerical marriage.
Charles de Foucauld was a cavalry officer in the French Army in the late 19th century. He later became an explorer and geographer, eventually adopting the life of a hermit and a Catholic priest. He was assassinated in 1916 and is listed as a martyr in the liturgy of the Catholic Church.
Pierre Roger, who later became the fourth Avignon pope, as Pope Clement VI, had also served as the archbishop of Sens and Rouen. He was a significant figure of the Crusades against the Ottoman Turks and led a campaign in Smyrna. Highly nepotistic, he erected statues of his relatives.
Pierre-roger De Beaufort, better known as Pope Gregory XI, was the last French pope and also the last pope of the Avignon papacy. He had been made a cardinal deacon at the age of 18 by his uncle, Pope Clement VI. His act of returning the 70-year-old Avignon papacy to Rome was historic.
Hilary of Poitiers was a Doctor of the Church and Bishop of Poitiers. Around 350 AD, Hilary played a major role in averting a threat to overrun the Western Church by Arianism. Also a prolific writer, Hilary's works were highly influential long after his death.
Jean de Brébeuf was a French missionary who explored New France, now known as Canada. He later came to be known as the patron saint of Canada. Captured by the native Iroquois in Huronia, he and another missionary were tortured to their deaths. The Iroquois also ate up his heart.
Saint Ansgar, or Oscar, was a medieval missionary and the first archbishop of Hamburg. He had been sent to evangelical missions in Denmark and Sweden. His frequent travels for work earned him the nickname the Apostle of the North. He was made a saint by Rembert, his successor.
Initially a high-ranking government official, Germanus of Auxerre quit his job to devote himself to the Church. The Roman clergyman served as the bishop of Auxerre. He established the Monastery of SS. Cosmas and Damian. He is also remembered for his fight against Pelagianism and his support for the Cult of Saint Alban.
Prosper of Aquitaine was a writer and the first continuator of the Universal Chronicle, which was originally written by Jerome of Stridon. A follower of Augustine of Hippo, Prosper of Aquitaine's writings have long attracted admirers for their classical qualities. Some of his most important works include De gratia Dei et libero arbitrio and De vocatione omnium gentium.
Sister Emmanuelle was a human rights worker and Catholic Religious Sister. She is best remembered for her work that aimed at helping the poor in Egypt and Turkey. Emmanuelle, who was born to a French father and a Belgian mother, was granted Egyptian citizenship in 1991 for her work in Egypt. She was also renowned for her unorthodox religious views.