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.

     It was 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." 

     Joan was 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. 

     Joan was 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.   

     From March 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:

     "Vehemently 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". 

     After thorough 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 

     "Whatever 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."

     On May 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: 

     I, Joan, 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

     At the 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:

     Questioned 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 before the
 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. Boisguillaume (Scribe)

 *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.

     On May 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.

     The twenty-year 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.


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