Eugene Thirion, 1876

St. Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc) was born in the village of Domrémy in the Lorraine region of north eastern France in 1412. She was a pious mystic who, in her late teenage years, led the French military against the invading English and recovered the crown for Charles VII who later dismissed and abandoned her. Known as the Maid of Orleans, she was captured by her enemies, falsely condemned, and burned at the stake on May 30, 1431. Her feast day is celebrated in the Roman Catholic and Anglican (including Episcopal) Churches. She is the patron saint of soldiers and one of the patron saints of France. She’s also honored as a national hero and martyr of France.

Fair warning – this is not a feel-good story. It’s a story about a spirit-filled young woman’s persecution. But at its core, we uncover the person of Joan herself who listened to voices from God and rode off to the aid of her king and country.

Joan lived during the Late Middle Age or Medieval period. In Western Europe, the people endured the Black Death (plagues which killed a third of the population), civilian revolts, wars, and famines. (St. Julian of Norwich who lived less than a century before Joan in England, was also affected by the Black Death.)

St. Francis of AssisiSt. Clare of AssisiSt. Anthony of Padua and Lisbon and St. Dominic of Osma all lived during the High or mid Middle Age when chivalry was alive and well. For example, at around age 19, Francis fought in a battle in which he was captured, held prisoner for a year, and then ransomed by his father — a common and expected policy.

In the decades surrounding Joan’s lifetime, chivalry began to die out as men discovered that not following the expected knightly religious, moral, and social code of courage, honor, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak, was much more profitable than following it. Battles no longer occurred in a gentlemanly fashion – many prisoners were killed outright instead of ransomed, advanced weapons such as cannons were used not to destroy walls and fortifications, but aimed directly at the people. Allegiances switched regularly and murder for personal advancement became commonplace.

Joan’s appearance on the scene occurred at a pivotal moment in the Hundred Years’ War which began in 1337 and ended in 1453. Through much intermarrying among the royalty of European countries, a dispute over the French throne began between the line of the King of England and the French House of Valois. The disagreement specifically had to do with inheritance laws and rightful heirs.

The Hundred’s Years’ War was carried out in three phases, the last of which was called the Lancastrian Phase from 1415-1453. The battles always seemed to affect the peasantry the worst. Mercenary armies fought for whichever side paid the most. They routinely raped, pillaged, and destroyed villages and farms during battles. And when there was no current fray to join, they took over towns and charged the people large sums in “protection” fees while continuing to take advantage of them in all ways.

Sometimes one side of the conflict or the other would take back these towns from these detached mercenaries, but only if it were profitable to do so. The peasantry suffered no matter who were trampling their crops and destroying their homes and livelihoods.

The Church was no help due to the Great (Western) Schism which was a split within the Church that occurred between 1378 and 1417. (Not to be confused with the Great [East-West] Schism that occurred between the Eastern Church and the Western Church in 1054.)

The Great Schism was an argument over the papacy, specifically its successor and location — Rome versus Avignon in France and the real pope versus the false popes. It’s a long story (See St. Catherine of Siena for more info), but the bottom line for the peasantry was the Church was broken and could not be relied upon for justice, consistency, pastoral caretaking at the local level, or even a pastor in place doing his job. Because the Black Death created sudden plum clerical vacancies, some priests and bishops held many titles in which they received the living but didn’t do the work or sometimes even occupy the town to which they were assigned.

Consider also that those clergy who were good and kind most likely carried out their duties to death, succumbing to the Black Death along with so many of their parishioners. (See St. Constance and her Companions for an example of how easily this can happen.)

So pastoral caretaking of the poor and sick, for example, was left to whoever survived and was willing, certainly not the clergymen who sequestered themselves from all the sick people.

Additionally, many upper clergymen took sides between the English and the French depending on what was more personally profitable. Also, over the decades, many churches and monasteries were destroyed by their own townspeople to prevent the buildings from falling into the hands of approaching invaders. The people could count on nothing.

Named Jeannette by her parents, the French called her Jeanne, which is Johanna in Latin and Joan in English. Joan’s father was named Jacques d’Arc or Darc. Her mother was named Isabelle Romée which indicates she completed a pilgrimage to Rome. Joan had three brothers, Jean, Pierre, Dacquemin, and one sister, Catherine. Joan referred to herself as Jehanne la Pucelle — Joan the Maiden (maid or virgin.) In the mid 1800’s Jeanne d’Arc or Joan of Arc became the standard name in history for the Maid of Orleans.

Joan was raised in a poor peasant family in the village of Domrémy near the border of Germany:

As long as I lived at home, I worked at common tasks about the house, going but seldom afield with our sheep and other cattle. I learned to sew and spin: I fear no woman in Rouen at sewing and spinning.

As to my schooling, I learned my faith, and was rightly and duly taught to do as a good child should.

From my mother I learned “Our Father,” “Hail Mary,” and “I believe.” And my teaching in my faith I had from her and from no one else.

Once a year I confessed my sins to our parish-priest, or when he was unable, to another with his permission. And I received the sacraments of Eucharist at Easter time. — JOAN OF ARC: IN HER OWN WORDS, Compiled and translated by Willard Trask, Page 3 (Most of Joan’s quotes are from the transcripts of the first trial.)

In the second or nullification trial, family, friends, and neighbors of Joan remembered her as always willing to do whatever task was at hand. She was particularly kind and capable in the caretaking of the sick. She was much loved in her tight-knit but unsafe community:

After I was grown and had reached years of discretion, though I did not commonly tend the cattle, I would sometimes help take them to pasture, or to a stronghold called the Island when there was fear of soldiers.

Once for fear of the Burgundians, I left home and went to the town of Neufchâteau in Lorraine, to the house of a woman named La Rousse, and stayed there about two weeks. — IN HER OWN WORDS, page 5

Who were the Burgundians and why did Joan fear them? To answer that we have to zoom closer into the political situation in France to set Joan’s stage, meet some key characters, and understand their motivations and allegiances.

At the beginning of the Lancastrian Phase, civil war bubbled up as different members of the royalty fought over the French crown via strategic marriages, treaties, palace intrigues, false truces, and outright murder.

From 1404 to 1419, John the Fearless was the Duke of Burgundy. For a time he had been the regent of his mentally-ill first cousin, King Charles VI of France of the Valois Dynasty.

In his quest for the French crown, John had the younger brother of King Charles VI, Louis the Duke of Orléans killed in the streets of Paris on November 23, 1407, and called it a “justifiable act of tyrannicide.” He implied that Louis deserved death due to his own unworthy acts such spending time in the queen’s bed which was a rumor he most likely created himself. He became the leader of those called the Burgundians.

On the other side was Bernard VII the Count of Armagnac, a successful leader in battle and palace intrigues. He had become acquainted with Louis Duke of Orleans at court upon the marriage of his wife’s sister. Three years after the murder of Louis, he arranged the marriage of his daughter Bonnie d ‘Armagnac to Louis’s eldest son, 13-year-old Charles II. Young Charles had relied heavily upon Bernard’s advice after his father’s murder and his mother’s death a year later from a grief-induced illness. The Count of Armagnac remained loyal to the Valois line and led the fights against the Burgandians.

This civil war between Burgandians and the Armagnacs rumbled across the land.

Taking advantage of the disarray this caused France, King Henry V of England invaded in August 1415 with over 10,000 soldiers. In acquiring territory for England, they laid siege to cities and engaged in numerous battles.

In the Battle of Agincourt on October 25, 1415, their victory was so complete, their French prisoners outnumbered the English army. King Henry V saw this as a security risk and ordered them put to death.

Consider that in the fading age of chivalry, the French soldiers expected to be held prisoners until they could pay their ransoms. Perhaps if they knew they were fighting to the death, they would have fought harder. Although, most likely, they did fight for their lives but lost because the English had more technologically advanced weapons.

The French force was greatly weakened due to the loss of 40% of their nobility. Noblemen served as knights and military leaders. They were each accompanied by squires, and other serving men, as well as hired foreign soldiers. They were all killed except for Charles II the Duke of Orleans who was discovered trapped but unwounded on the battlefield.

Because Charles II was the leader of the Armagnac side of the civil war and an heir to the throne in the Valois line, King Henry V believed he might be useful someday. So he ordered Charles taken prisoner and forbade any release for ransom. Charles was held in one castle or another under light confinement for 25 years during which he enjoyed the luxuries of the castle and wrote historically well-respected poetry and letters directing the goings on at Orleans.

The heir apparent of the French throne known as the Dauphin was Charles VII, son of Charles VI the King of France, and cousin to Charles II the Duke of Orleans. Charles VII the Dauphin tried to reconcile with John the Duke of Burgundy.

Unconvinced by John’s latest oath of peace, Charles VII arranged another meeting or parlay on the bridge of Pouilly. John attended ready to discuss diplomacy and was promptly killed by the Dauphin’s body guards on September 10, 1419. Historians disagree on the 16-year-old Charles VII the Dauphin’s involvement in this decision and unchivalrous act. Either way, he experienced guilt and remorse over the act for many years.

John was succeeded by his son Philip the Good as Duke of Burgundy who immediately formed an alliance with the English and aided them in their invasion of France including attacking villages.

On June 12, 1418, the Burgundians took Paris with the help of insurrectionists. They killed Bernard VII the Count of Armagnac along with 2,500 of his followers.

In 1420, King Henry V and King Charles VI (who fluctuated between bouts of coherency and insanity) signed the Treaty of Troyes which arranged the marriage of King Henry V to Charles VI’s daughter, Catherine of Valois — their heirs would inherit the Throne of France. The Dauphin and last living son of the King of France, Charles VII, was declared illegitimate.

On August 31, 1422, King Henry V died in Paris possibly due to dysentery. On his deathbed, he named his brother, John the Duke of Bedford, Regent to his infant son, Henry VI, and responsible for English France.

King Charles VI died two months later on October 21, 1422. The “illegitimate” Daupin, Charles VII was 19 years old.

After suffering the traumatic losses of eight siblings one-by-one, accidents, battle scars, and guilt (perhaps just by association) over the murder of John the Fearless, Charles VII seemed content to remain the “illegitimate” Dauphin caught up in palace intrigues he created. He had an odd habit of favoring one person in court over everyone else until the moment when that person became more favored by the courtiers than himself. Then that person would immediately lose favor and suffer the whim of Charles VII, usually banishment from court.

Far away in Domrémy, Joan probably knew little about these intrigues except that her village feared the Burgundian/English invaders. Then:

When I was thirteen, I had a voice from God to help me govern myself. The first time, I was terrified. They came to me about noon: it was summer, and I was in my father’s garden. I had not fasted the day before. I heard the voice on my right hand, toward the church. There was a great light all about.

I vowed then to keep my virginity for as long as it should please God.

I saw it many times before I knew that it was Saint Michael (the Archangel). Afterwards, he taught me and showed me such things that I knew that it was he.

Above all, Saint Michael told me that I must be a good child, and that God would help me. He taught me to behave rightly and to go often to church. He said that I would have to go into France.

He told me that Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret would come to me, and that I must follow their counsel: that they were appointed to guide and counsel me in what I had to do, and that I must believe what they would tell me, for it was at our Lord’s command. — IN HER OWN WORDS, page 6

Historians believe that she referred to St. Catherine of Alexandria, the patron saint of young girls and of a nearby parish called Maxey-sur-Meuse, and to St. Margaret of Antioch, local patron saint of women in labor.

He told me the pitiful state of the Kingdom of France. And he told me that I must go to succor the King of France.

Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret had rich crowns on their heads. They spoke well and fairly, and their voices are beautiful – sweet and soft.

They told me that my King would be restored to his kingdom, despite his enemies. They promised to lead me to Paradise, for that was what I asked of them.

Twice and thrice a week the voice told me that I must depart and go to France.

And the voice said that I would raise the siege before Orléans. And it told me to go to Vaucouleurs, to Robert de Baudricourt, captain of the town, who would give me men to go with me. And I answered the voice that I was a poor girl who knew nothing of riding and warfare. — IN HER OWN WORDS, page 6-7

Joan did not act upon the voices and told no one about them for one year. The she convinced her uncle to take her to nearby Vaucouleurs to talk to Robert De Baudricourt:

I told him that I must go into France – the Kingdom of France is not the Dauphin’s but my Lord’s. But my Lord wills that the Dauphin shall be made King and have the Kingdom in custody. The Dauphin shall be King despite his enemies, and I shall lead him to his anointing. — IN HER OWN WORDS, page 15

The first and second year, Robert De Baudricourt sent her back home to her father. But the third year:

I set out from Vaucouleurs in men’s clothing. I carried a sword that Robert de Baudricourt had given me, but no other arms. With me there were a knight, a squire, and four serving-men.

Robert de Baudricourt made those who went with me swear that they would guide me well and safely.

To me at parting he said, “Go, and whatever may come of it, let it come!” — IN HER OWN WORDS, Pages 18-19

They traveled safely through Burgundian territory, and stopped at churches and shrines along with way.

I sent to make search for another sword in the church of Saint Catherine at Fierbois, behind the altar. It was found there presently, all rusted, and on it there were five crosses. And the priests there rubbed it, and the rust fell away of itself.

I loved that sword, because it was found in the church of Saint Catherine, whom I loved. — IN HER OWN WORDS, Page 27

They arrived at the city of Chinon and arranged for lodging and went to the castle that evening. Because she had dictated a letter and had it sent ahead, introducing herself and her cause, she was received in the castle, but not shown to the Dauphin who “hid” among his courtiers:

And when I entered the King’s chamber, I knew him among the rest, for the voice counseled me and revealed it to me. And I told the King that I would go to make war on the English – I bring you news from God, that our Lord will give you back your kingdom, bringing you to be crowned at Reims, and driving out your enemies. In this I am God’s messenger. Do you set me bravely to work, and I will raise the siege of Orléans. — IN HER OWN WORDS, page 20-21

Now at this time neither the Dauphin Charles VII nor the child King Henry VI of England had yet been crowned the King of France. The city of Reims was the traditional site of the crowning of the kings of France. Joan knew that the most important part of the ceremony was the anointing in the Cathedral of Reims with the holy oil held in a sacred glass vial called the Holy Ampulla (Sainte Ampoule).

Reims was located deep within the English territory in France.

Charles VII was intrigued. It’s believed that Joan told him a secret previously known only between Charles VII and God and that’s why he took her seriously, but perhaps the words she spoke openly were all he needed to hear to be convinced.

He sent her to Poiters to be questioned by his advisors and bishops. The questioning took three weeks. No written records of this trial remain, except in references made to it in other documents. Joan remembered saying:

In God’s name, I did not come to Poiters to give signs! Take me to Orléans, and I will show you a sign and for what I am sent!

In God’s name! The soldiers will fight and God will give the victory.

I was ill content with so much questioning, being held back from accomplishing that for which I was sent. The time was ripe to act.

I asked my Lord’s messengers what I should do. And they answered me saying, “Take up the banner of your Lord.” And thereupon I had a banner made.

The field of it was sown with lilies, and therein was our Lord holding the world, with two angels, one on either hand. It was white, and on it there were written the names, Jhesus Maria, and it was fringed with silk.

And the scholars were of this opinion, that they could see nothing but good in my undertaking. — IN HER OWN WORDS, Page 25-26

During this time, word was received at Chinon that Orléans had been attacked and was under siege. This could also have been the sign that convinced Charles VII to believe in Joan.

She returned to him and said:

I shall last a year, and but a little longer: we must think to do good work in that year. Four things are laid upon me: to drive out the English; to bring you to be crowned and anointed at Reims; to rescue the Duke of Orléans from the hands of the English; and to raise the siege of Orléans.

And the King set to work, giving me ten or twelve thousand men, and I went to Orléans. — IN HER OWN WORDS, Page 27-28

Joan also obtained via donation everything she personally needed for battle, including horses and a custom-made suit of armor to fit her small frame.

Engraving, 1903

Orleans was located in mid-northern France on the Loire River. It was the closest city to the English territory loyal to the French Valois crown.

Many other cities along the path of the English invasion gave up peacefully and were then treated well by the new English leaders. On the other hand, the Armagnac protected the city of Orléans desperately because they feared their lives would be taken in retribution for fighting the English invaders.

Nevertheless, the siege was working and the English prepared for victory over Orléans and soon the rest of France.

Across the remaining French territory, the people despaired and resigned themselves to the acceptance of total English rule.

And then Joan of Arc arrived at Orléans with 10,000 men along the only road that was not blocked by the English.

Historians differ on Joan’s involvement at the military command level. Some say that her presence as standard bearer had a profound effect on morale that changed the course of the battle as the French soldiers fought with a new vigor.

Others such as John Duke of Aleҫon who rode with Joan in direct command of the troops testified at the Nullification Trial that he listened to and acted upon Joan’s advice based on her correct predictions and strong strategic ideas.

They arrived to aid the French soldiers under the command of John, Count of Dunois, Bastard of Orléans, so named because he was the illegitimate or “natural” son of Louis of Orléans and his mistress. Joan asked him:

Are you the Bastard of Orléans? — IN HER OWN WORDS, Page 34

(Pardon my French.) They then argued over military strategy.

Joan cared deeply for the soldiers. She had them pray and confess to the army’s priests often. She refused to let anyone use swear words in camp, and she chased away the prostitutes who hung around the camps. She wore men’s clothing at all times to indicate that she was a maiden and a soldier.

Manuscript illustration, 1505

When Joan led the charge in battle, she carried only the standard and never her swords:

Courage! Do not fall back: in a little the place will be yours. Watch! When you see the wind blow my banner against the bulwark, you shall take it!

In, in, the place is yours! — IN HER OWN WORDS, Page 37

Many testified that Joan’s conduct was inspired and inspiring. She predicted her own battle wound and warned John Duke Alenҫon to step aside before he would be hit by cannon fodder. Her military strategies weren’t standard tactics, but they worked.

History books contain many blow-by-blow descriptions of this decisive battle. Suffice to say that within nine days, the Armagnac French succeeded in defeating the English who retreated.

Joan, John of Alenҫon, and the rest of the French army pursued the retreating English to where the battle of Patay occurred. The French suffered only minimal losses in destroying the English army as they killed soldiers and commanders on the battle field and took many prisoners.

Joan returned to court in Chinon where she was almost embraced by Charles VII in his happiness at her success. Joan said:

We must go to Reims. When once the King is crowned and anointed, his enemies’ strength will have no power to harm him or the kingdom. Go bravely: all will be well. Have no fear. We shall find none who can harm us; indeed, we shall meet with no resistance. I have no fear for lack of men. There will be many to follow me. — IN HER OWN WORDS, Page 51

After their defeat at Orléans, the English/Burgundians expected the French to attack Paris or Normandy next, but instead Joan and the French headed towards Reims.

Although Reims was deep within English territory, the French continued to achieve military success. In fact, many of the towns along the way surrendered without complaint or resistance. Troyes gave them a bit of difficulty, but the city surrendered after a four-day siege.

The city of Reims welcomed the army with wide-open gates.

The Maid of Orleans, Jan Matejko , 1886

In its hurry to get the soldiers out of their city proper, the coronation was prepared for the next day, July 16, 1429. Joan was there:

My banner was in the church at Reims when the King was anointed. I held it myself for a little. It has shared in the toil; it was just that it should share in the honor. — IN HER OWN WORDS, Page 59

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, 1854

Perhaps this was the moment when the new King Charles VII of France felt Joan’s favor among his people had surpassed his own. Perhaps he felt that she was “stealing” his glory as she stood next to him as he was anointed and crowned.

Putting aside the fact that he would not have been there at all if it weren’t for Joan and her miraculous involvement in the recovery of French territory and his very crown, Joan stood next to him at his coronation, not for her own personal glory, but to give glory to God – to remind everyone during the sacred anointing that Charles VII was chosen by God, their true King above all.

Either way, King Charles VII denied Joan and the other military leaders their request to immediately advance upon Paris.

Instead he began negotiating treaties and truces, many of which were broken by Philip of Burgundy who blamed King Charles VII for the murder of his father, John the Fearless. More intrigue and battles would occur before King Charles VII finally won France back from the English ending the Hundred Year’s War in 1453.

While King Charles VII negotiated, Joan hung around court, attended church, and waited for the king to grant her permission to continue the fight for France. (It should be noted here, because it will come up later during the first trial, that she dressed in women’s clothing at court according to a note in the treasury complaining about the cost of one of her elegant dresses.)

For the rest of the year, Joan was sent out on minor military assignments such as routing out mercenaries who had taken over villages here and there. She and her soldiers were mostly successful.

In other battles, some with the Burgundians, they were not successful and had to retreat due to limited or non-existent military back up from the king. Joan and her men were sent to lift the siege of Compiegne:

I came to Compiegne at a secret hour in the morning, and entered the town, I think, without our enemies knowing it. And the same day towards evening, I made the sally in which I was taken.

I did not know I would be taken that day.

I crossed the bridge and the bulwark, and went with a company of our soldiers against Monseigneur de Luxembourg’s men. I drove them back twice, as far as the Burgundian camp, and a third time half way. Then the English who were there cut us off, both me and my men. Coming between me and the bulwark. And so my men fell back. And as I fell back flankwise into the fields towards Picardie, near the bulwark, I was taken. — IN HER OWN WORDS, Page 82

Mural in the Panthéon, Paris

Joan was separated from her soldiers, and was held by John of Luxembourg who expected she was worth a hefty ransom. She was cared for by three women also named Joan: Joan of Bar, Joan of Bethune and Lady Joan of Luxembourg.

King Charles VII did not negotiate for her release, offer a ransom, or send a rescue party. Perhaps he was under the impression that the English would keep her out of the way in some castle or another like Charles II, Duke of Orleans.

Although, some historians indicate that Joan may have been set up for capture by her own people, it’s difficult to believe that anyone on the French side had any idea of what would happen to her in captivity.

John of Luxembourg instead entered into negotiations for the sale of Joan to the English. These negotiations took several months during which Lady Joan of Luxembourg, John’s aged and deeply respected aunt, and his wife begged him not to sell Joan to the English. He stalled until his aunt returned home where she soon died of old age leaving her fortune to John, and then he completed the deal.

When I knew the English were coming, I was greatly troubled. Yet still, and many times, my voices forbade me to jump (from the tower). And at last; for fear of the English, I did jump, commending myself to God and Our Lady, and I was hurt. And after I had jumped, Saint Catherine’s voice told me to be of good cheer and that I would be healed and the people of Campiégne would have succour.

I did it not in despair, but in hope to save my life and to go to the succour of many good people in distress. And afterwards I confessed it, and begged our Lord to forgive me for it, and I have our Lord’s pardon for it. And I think it was not right for me to jump – it was wrong.

I know well that these English will do me to death, thinking that after I am dead, they will win the Kingdom of France. — IN HER OWN WORDS, Page 88

Joan also knew the English wanted her dead as they blamed her for their losses in France. They took her to Rouen, the capital of Normandy, where she was handed over to the Church, by which I mean the authority of one particular bishop whose goal from the beginning of her captivity was to condemn Joan to death for heresy and witchcraft.

His name was Pierre Cauchon. At the time of the trial he was Bishop of Beauvais. He had held and would hold many other ecclesiastical positions in which he would receive honors and wages, but not actually do much of the work. He had been a graduate, teacher, and rector at the University of Paris in which the general trend was anti-Valois leadership for France.

He was the chief judge and prosecutor in the trial.

Joan was not provided with council to represent her or guide her through the proceedings, much of which she did not understand.

The other judges were either searching for any excuse to condemn Joan, were indifferent, or were afraid to stand up to the loud majority.

In fact, there is a record of a one of the questioners giving Joan legal advice and a warning about the grave danger she was in. He was dismissed from the trial and did not appear again.

In a fashion similar to the questioning of St. Bernadette of Lourdes the judges asked Joan questions and then read back her “words” incorrectly. There was a lot of repetition and asking of the same questions in different ways to try to trip her up.

She answered strongly throughout:

I protest against being kept in chains and irons. IN HER OWN WORDS, Page 93

There is no day that I do not hear the voice. And indeed I need it. I have never asked it for any other reward than in the end, the salvation of my soul. — IN HER OWN WORDS, Page 94

I prayed it to counsel me in what I should answer, telling it to ask counsel of our Lord in that. And the voice told me that I should answer bravely and that God would help me.

You say that you are my judge. Take thought over what you are doing. For truly, I am sent from God, and you are putting yourself in great danger. — IN HER OWN WORDS, Page 95

As to God’s love or hate for the English, and what he will do to their souls, I know nothing. But I do know that they will be driven out of France, except those that die here, and that God will send the French victory over the English. — IN HER OWN WORDS, Page 122

Joan was kept in a cell with two guards at all times. She was chained to the bed and had limited movement. She considered herself a prisoner of war and so remained in the clothing of a soldier. She also felt it protected her from the guards who taunted her relentlessly.

The judges fixated on the fact that she was wearing men’s clothing which they claimed was a mortal sin.

My clothing is a small matter, one of the least. But I did not put on men’s clothing by the counsel of any man on earth. I did not put on this clothing, nor do anything else, except at the bidding of God and the angels. — IN HER OWN WORDS, Page 100

Members of the prosecution showed up in her cell often to question her.

Hippolyte Delaroche, 1824, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen, France

One time she became violently ill due to the bad fish she was given to eat. Joan believed that she had been poisoned. Bishop Pierre Cauchon was furious at the possibility that Joan might die of “natural causes” and not suffer condemnation.

She recovered to endure more questions to which she answered:

I do not know if (my faction) believe it; I leave that to their hearts. But if they do not believe it, even so I am sent from God! — IN HER OWN WORDS, Page 108

My voices say, “Accept all willingly, heed not your martyrdom, you shall come at last into the Kingdom of Paradise.” And this my voices have told me simply and absolutely, that is assuredly. I call it martyrdom because of the pain and oppression that I suffer in prison. I do not know if I shall suffer a greater; that I leave with our Lord.

I firmly believe what my voices have told me, which is that I shall be saved, as firmly as if I were already there. — IN HER OWN WORDS, Page 117

The judges kept trying to get her to understand and confess that in wearing men’s clothing, she committed a moral sin and went against something they called the Church Militant. She responded:

I refer myself to our Lord who sent me, to Our Lady, and to all the blessed saints in paradise. It seems to me that our Lord and the Church are one and the same, and that no one should make difficulties about that. Why do you make difficulties about it not being one and the same? — IN HER OWN WORDS, Page 121

The judges continued to fixate on the mortal sin of a woman wearing men’s clothing. She responded:

When I shall have done that for which I am sent from God, I will put on women’s clothing. — IN HER OWN WORDS, Page 131

At this point, Joan believed that she had accomplished two parts of her mission from God, lifting the siege of Orléans and bringing the Dauphin to be anointed King of France at Reims. She had not yet won back Paris for France, or rescued Charles VII the Duke of Orléans from captivity. It’s also possible that at this point in the trial; she recognized that violent death would be a part of her mission. When she was threatened with torture and execution, she responded:

If I were at the place of execution, and I saw the fire lighted, and the faggots catching and the executioner ready to build up the fire, and if I were in the fire, even so I would say nothing else, and I would maintain what I have said at this trial until death. — IN HER OWN WORDS, Page 132

Later, weary of the trial and her suffering in prison, Joan ended up signing with an X an abjuration in which she renounced her testimony. Three letters signed by Joan survive intact. They indicate that she had learned how to write during her year with the army. Witnesses testified at the Nullification Trial that a judge guiding her hand in making the X on the abjuration. They also believed that what Bishop Pierre Cauchon read aloud to her was different from what she signed.

Some historians believe that she didn’t understand what she was signing due to her lack of education.

It’s also likely that she was desperate to escape:

I would rather sign it than burn.

Now, you churchmen, take me to your prison, and let me be no longer in the hands of the English. — IN HER OWN WORDS, Page 135

One of the conditions of her abjuration was that she would no longer wear men’s clothing. So she wore the dress they gave her for two days. Witnesses at the second trial stated their belief that she awoke on the third day and found the dress missing from her cell and that someone had thrown in a sack of men’s clothing. She put on the men’s clothing and was immediately confronted by the judges. She responded:

What I said, I said for fear of the fire.

My voices have told me since that I did a very wicked thing in confessing that what I had done was not well done.

They told me that God, by Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret, gave me to know the great pity of the treason that I consented to by making that abjuration and revocation to save my life, and that I was damning myself to save my life. — IN HER OWN WORDS, Page 139

Bishop Pierre Cauchon then condemned her to death by fire for heresy. He set the execution for the next day.

On that morning Joan said:

Alas! Am I so horribly and cruelly used, that my clean body, never yet defiled, must this day be burnt and turned to ashes! Ha! Ha! I would rather be beheaded seven times than suffer burning.

Alas! If I had been kept in the Church’s prison to which I had submitted – if I had been kept by Churchmen, instead of my enemies and adversaries, I should not have to come to such a miserable end. Oh, I appeal to God, the great judge, from this wrong and oppression!

Bishop, I die through you! — IN HER OWN WORDS, Page 143

She begged permission to say confession and receive the Eucharist and it was granted by Bishop Pierre Cauchon with the wave of his hand — a gesture by which he condemned himself for all history as it was the policy of the Church to refuse heretics Communion because they were heretics.

On May 30, 1431, Joan was dragged to the market place by the river, where she saw many priests in the crowd:

I beg each priest here to say a mass for me. — IN HER OWN WORDS, Page 144

Bishop Pierre Cauchon preached a sermon while Joan was tied to the stake. Joan begged to those crowded around her:

I pray you, go to the nearest church, and bring me the cross, and hold it up level with my eyes until I am dead. I would have the cross on which God hung be ever before my eyes while life lasts in me. — IN HER OWN WORDS, Page 144

Friar Isambart de La Pierre ran off and returned with the cross from the nearby Church of Saint-Laurent.

The executioner began the blaze.

Hermann Stilke, 1843

Mausier Laparmentier, a witness at the Nullification Trial testified: “Once in the fire, she cried out more than six times, ‘Jesus!’ and especially in her last breath, she cried with a strong voice, ‘JESUS!’ so that everyone present could hear it: almost all wept with pity.”

Joan was 19 years old.

Spectator John Tressart, a secretary to King Henry VI exclaimed, “We are lost: we have burned a saint!”

Her remains were dumped into the Seine River specifically to avoid the veneration of her relics.

The executioner went immediately to the nearby monastery and said, “I am going to hell.”

Many of the other men having anything to do with the trial became remorseful and plagued with guilt. Except for Bishop Pierre Cauchon, who along with the some other Englishmen, glorified his actions until he died in 1442.

The people of France had trouble believing this murder actually happened to their beloved Joan. So much so, many villages were easily swayed by impostors who showed up pretending to be Joan the Maid.

King Charles VII had masses said for her and other honors bestowed upon her memory and family.

Of course, by creating this national martyr for the people of France, the English could no longer compete with the inspired people who fought relentlessly for their country.

Twenty years after Joan’s execution, her mother traveled to Rome to request another trial to clear Joan’s name. Pope Callixtus III made it so.

At the Nullification Trial, many witnesses of Joan’s life and works, plus witnesses or participants in the first trial, were summoned and questioned.

The family of Bishop Pierre Cauchon issued a statement in which they essentially denied any responsibility for the actions of whatshisname who on second thought might not actually have been related to them at all.

Joan was cleared of all of the original false charges and named a martyr. Pierre Cauchon was labeled a heretic for convicting an innocent woman in a secular vendetta. For clarity, they added that the biblical rule about woman’s clothing had been obsolete for a long time.

St. Joan was canonized as a visionary by the Roman Catholic Church in 1920. Although there is no question she was a martyr, she is not remembered as a Martyr in the Church because it was representatives of the Church that condemned her, such as they were. But there it is.

It’s easy to look down on others; to say to ourselves that we are above them, and so we can decide what is right and wrong about what they do. It’s easy to think that we know what God’s judgement would be.

We must always remember then that God alone is the judge of all; we must remember that His ways are not our ways. Above all, we must remember that our task down here is to love, not deliver retribution: to seek mercy, and not deliver sacrifice. Forward Day by Day

Holy God, whose power is made perfect in weakness; we honor thy calling of Jeanne d’Arc, who, though young, rose up in valor to bear your standard for her country, and endured with grace and fortitude both victory and defeat; and we pray that we, like Jeanne, may bear witness to the truth that is in us to friends and enemies alike, and encouraged by the companionship of your saints, give ourselves bravely to the struggle for justice in our time; through Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen. — Collect, Holy Women, Holy Men, Celebrating the Saints

For More Info:

JOAN OF ARC: HER STORY by Regine Pernoud and Marie-Véroniquef Clin, Revised and Translated by Jeremy Duquesnay Adams

JOAN OF ARC: IN HER OWN WORDS, Compiled and Translated by Willard Trask

BUTLER’S LIVES OF THE SAINTS, VOLUME II, edited, revised and supplemented by Herbert J. Thurston, S.J. and Donald Attwater

LIVES OF THE SAINTS by Richard P. McBrien


Before I began working on this post, I knew nothing beyond the stereotype of Joan of Arc. Yet again, I’ve discovered among the saints a real human being whom I’d be happy to meet in life. Her treatment infuriates me, her strength amazes me, her chivalry empowers me, and her faith inspires me.

In honor of how St. Joan should have been treated by her captors, I offer a dish from the medieval meals she wasn’t served in prison:


4 Cornish game hens

2 tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Fresh chopped or dried herbs to taste – I used oregano, thyme, rosemary, and basil because that’s what’s growing in my garden.

½ green apple, peeled chopped big

½ celery stalk, chopped big

½ onion, chopped big

½ carrot, chopped big

8 cloves garlic, peeled but whole

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Rinse Cornish game hens and pat dry with a paper towel. Arrange them evenly on a roasting rack in a tray. Make sure there is space between each hen so they cook thoroughly.

Stuff each hen loosely with equal portions of green apple, celery, onion, and carrot, plus 2 cloves garlic each.

Rub melted butter on each hen. Sprinkle, salt, pepper, and herbs over each hen.

Roast hens for about 1 hour until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 180 degrees F.

Remove from oven, tent loosely with foil and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Note 1: The Rock Cornish game hens available in local U.S. grocery stores are actually a breed that’s a cross between Cornish Game Chicken with White Plymouth Rock Chicken. So yes, they are simply little chickens and not really so medieval at all. But they are definitely reminiscent of the game birds that were part of the medieval cuisine.

Note 2: Cornish game hens serve one or two people. If two, cut down the middle with kitchen scissors right before serving, so each person gets a wing, breast, thigh and leg. This recipe is based on roasting four Cornish game hens. (I made a lovely casserole the next day with the leftover poultry, vegetables, and mashed potatoes.)

(Originally posted on 5/29/2014 to Saints and Recipes on Blogger.)

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