In the French village of Domrémy, Charles, the not-yet-crowned King of France, describes to his officers and the village’s residents his vision of the Virgin Mary commanding him to surrender to the invading English army and laying down his weapons at the foot of a giant oak tree. Later, he expresses his frustration with the limitations of being a ruler.
By a giant oak tree, Giacomo prays for the safety of his daughter Giovanna, who before she falls asleep by a nearby shrine offers prayers to be chosen to lead the French forces. Suddenly, Charles arrives, prepared to lay down his arms at the base of the tree. Meanwhile, the sleeping Giovanna has visions in which angels ask her to become a soldier and lead France to victory. She cries out that she is ready to do so. Charles overhears her and thrills at her courage. Her father Giacomo weeps, believing that his daughter has given her soul to the Devil out of her devotion to the future King.
Near Reims, commander Talbot of the English army tries to convince his discouraged soldiers that their imminent surrender to the French is not due to forces of evil. Giacomo arrives and offers up his daughter, believing her to be under the influence of the Devil.
Preparations are under way for Charles' coronation in the French court at Reims. Giovanna longs for her simple life back home. Charles confesses his love for Giovanna. She withdraws despite her feelings toward the King, because her voices have warned her against earthly love. Charles is taken to the Cathedral at Reims for his coronation.
The residents of Reims have gathered in the Cathedral square to celebrate Giovanna's victory over the English army. The French soldiers lead Charles into the Cathedral. Giacomo has decided he must repudiate his daughter who, he believes, has entered a pact with the Devil. He denounces her to the crowd. Charles pleads with Giovanna to defend herself, but she refuses.
Giovanna has been captured by the English army and is awaiting her death at the stake. She has visions of battlefield victories and begs God to stand by her, explaining how she has shown her obedience by forsaking her worldly love for the King as the voices had commanded. Giacomo overhears her pleas and recognizes his error. He loosens his daughter's bonds and she escape. She rushes to the battlefield to turn French defeat into victory once more.
Giacomo pleads with the King, first for punishment and then for forgiveness, which Charles grants. Charles learns of the French victory on the battlefield but also of Giovanna's death. As her body is carried in, Giovanna suddenly revives. Giacomo reclaims his daughter, and the King professes his love. The angels sing of salvation and victory, as Giovanna dies and ascends into heaven.