Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc, Jehanette Darc, Jehanne Darc or La Pucelle)
was and continues to be one of the most fascinating people of all time.
She was born in the year of 1412 to peasents in Domrémy, France
and at the age of 13, she began to hear voices and see visions, which would
later inspire her to save France from English rule. She became convinced
that the voices belonged to St. Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret
and in 1429, during the Hundred Years’ War, when the English were about
to capture Orléans, the "voices" implored her to help the Dauphin,
Charles VII, King of France. Before accepting her & her mission, Charles
insisted that she should be examined by a body of learned doctors of the
Church in order to ascertain if her mission was "contrary to the Faith".
When she was appointed to a high position in the army, he told her to choose
from his men one whom she desired to be her protector in battle. She chose
a man by the name of Gilles de Rais, who, like Joan, would be executed
for heresy and sorcery.
at this time that she told Charles, "Make the most of me, for I shall last
only one year", words which proved to be quite prophetic. In the eyes of
the people, she was divine. Article III of the Articles of Accusation states:
"The said Joan by her inventions has seduced the Catholic people, many
in her presence adored her as a saint and adored her also in her absence,
commanding in her honor masses and collects in the churches; even more,
they declared her the greatest of all saints after the holy Virgin; they
set up images and representations of her in the shrines of the saints,
and also carried on their persons her representation in lead or in other
metal as they wont to do for the memorials and representations of saints
canonized by the Church; they say everywhere that she is the envoy of God
and that she is more angel than woman."
captured trying to raise the siege of Compiegne on May 23, 1430, by the
Bastard of Wandomme, a knight in the service of Jean de Ligny (of the house
of Luxembourg, England). Three days after her capture, the Inquisitor General
of France, Friar Martin Billorin claimed inquisitorial jurisdiction over
Joan "as one violently suspect of several errors savoring heresy". On July
14, 1430, Pierre Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais (a renegade Frenchman acting
for the English) claimed episcopal jurisdiction over Joan as a suspect
of sorcery and invocation of devils. For her person, he offered Jean de
Ligny 10,000 francs in cash and to Wandomme and annuity of 300 British
Pounds, money raised by taxes in Normandy. Her captors waited for a counter-offer,
but none came and Joan was surrendered to Pierre Cauchon in mid-November.
imprisoned in the castle of Rouen and en-route to Rouen, she was exhibited
in a specially-built iron cage, barely big enough for her to stand upright,
chained by the neck, hands and feet. On January 9, 1431, Joan was given
an informal hearing before a small, hand-picked court. The nine ecclesiastics
were pro-English and during the four sessions, Joan's high-minded answers
created a favorable impression, enhanced by the testimony of women appointed
by the Duchess of Bedford that Joan was a virgin (and therefore by implication,
not a witch) and by the favorable reports brought back by royal notaries
from her neighbors at Domremy. However, Bishop Pierre Cauchon repressed
the favorable evidence and drew up several "articles" (see the excerpt
from Article III above). Preparatory interrogations were held at Rouen
castle on February 21 & 22, of which nothing significant occurred.
10 on, Joan was examined in her prison cell. Her examination focused on
her claim that her voices or revelations from St. Michael, St. Catherine
and St. Margaret were divine, and on her refusal to accept the authority
of the Church in such matters. The implication was that her voices came
from the Devil, heightened by questions about fairies, a holy tree, mandrakes
and catching butterflies. On March 27, Joan was brought to formal trial
in Rouen castle before thirty-seven clerical judges where seventy counts
were made against her:
suspected, rumored, and notoriously delated by virtuous and sober persons...denounced
and declared sorceress, witch, diviner, pseudo-prophetess, invoker of evil
spirits, conjurer, superstitious, implicated in and given to the arts of
magic, doubting the Catholic faith, schismastic...blasphemer against God
and the saints, scandalous and seditious, perturber of the peace, inciter
to war...indecent and shameless, seducer of princes and people...heretic
or at least vehemently suspect of heresy".
inspection of the evidence on the seventy counts, on April 2, the court
struck out all allegations of sorcery and witchcraft and reduced the charges
to twelve. Reports on these twelve charges were submitted to sixteen doctors
of theology and six licentiates of law which, after three days, declared
the charges to be proved. With this backing, the chapter at Rouen Cathedral
found Joan a heretic. On several occasions between April and May, individuals
pleaded with Joan to reconsider. On May 23, a canon of Rouen, Pierre Maurice
pleaded with Joan and she replied
I have said about my deeds and words in this trial, I let it stand and
wish to reaffirm it. Even if I should see the fire lit, the faggots blazing,
and the hangman ready to begin the burning, and even if I were on the pyre,
I could not say anything different."
24, unexpectedly, Joan tried to make a last-minute appeal to the Pope,
and the suddenly capitulated, promising to abjure her visions and obey
the Church. Joan signed her mark to this confession:
called La Pucelle, a miserable sinner, after I realized the snare of the
error in which I was held, and by the grace of God have returned to our
mother Holy Church, in order that all may see that I have re-entered the
fold, and feigning but with good heart, I confess that I have previously
sinned, in falsely pretending to have had revelations from God and his
angels, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret. And I revoke all my words and
deeds which are contrary to the Church, and I wish to live in union with
the Church, without ever straying from it. In witness whereof my mark.
*Interestingly, she made no mention
of St. Michael, of whom was the most prominent of the voices that Joan
claimed she heard
start of her life imprisonment, the English guards took away her female
attire and substituted her clothing with male attire. The ecclesiastical
court, instantly informed of this change in dress, condemned her on May
28 as a relapsed heretic. Joan retracted her confession of May 24 as written
by a scribe:
what her voices had said to her, Joan replied: That through St. Catherine
and St. Margaret, God had shown her the most wretched mistake she had made
by this great treason, by agreeing to abjure and revoke her former confession
in order to save her life, and that in so trying to save her life she had
damned herself. Similarly she said her voices had told her, before last
Tuesday, what she would do and what would be done to her at this time.
She said furthermore her voices told her, when she would be on the scaffold
people, to reply courageously
to whatever the chaplain said. And Joan said also that he was a false preacher,
and that he would reproach her for doing many things that she had not done.
Finally, she declared that if she said that God had not sent her, she would
damn herself, for it was the truth that God himself instructed her.
I notarize the above-written.
*Again, there is no mention
of St. Michael, for she never denied that she heard St. Michael's voice
in her confession of May 24.
29, two friars labored to induce Joan to repent, but she held her ground.
The next day, May 30, the Bishop of Beauvais and the Inquisitor read her
sentance of excommunication "casting her forth and rejecting her from the
communion of the Church as an infected limb, and handing her over to the
secular justice". There was no secular court, however, and as soon as the
friars left Joan, the Bailiff of Rouen ordered the execution.
old girl, her head crowned with a miter reading "Relapsed, heretic, apostate,
idolater," was placed high on the pyre so the flames would reach her slowly.
When her dress had been burned, the hangman slaked the fire so the mob
could gaze on "all the secrets which can or should be in a woman... And
when the people had satisfied themselves and watched her die, tied to the
stake, the hangman built up a large fire on Joan's corpse, which was soon
completely burned, and bones and flesh turned to ashes". Contemporary reports
mentioned that Joan's heart was found, unconsumed and full of blood, when
her ashes were gathered up to be thrown in the river.