The Maid of Orleans, a peasant girl who led French troops against the English in the 15th century, is believed to have been born in 1412. Sarkozy visited her birthplace, Domremy, on what is celebrated as the 600th anniversary of her birth, and then gave a speech in Vaucouleurs, Radio France Internationale reported. Joan is believed to have visited Vaucouleurs in 1429 on her way to the king's court.
"As head of state, I had a duty to pay today, in the land of her birth, this solemn homage that France pays to those to whom it owes its freedom and greatness," Sarkozy said.
"May we continue to think of her as the symbol of our unity and not leave her in the hands of those who would use her to divide. To divide in the name of Joan of Arc is to betray Joan of Arc's memory."
Sarkozy's speech was an attack on the National Front. Marie Le Pen, the right-wing party's leader, plans to honor Joan at a rally in Paris Saturday. The National Front claims Joan of Arc as an anti-immigrant leader.
Joan, who said divine voices prompted her to take up arms, was burned at the stake as a heretic in 1431. The Catholic Church canonized her in 1920.