The following text is very long and complex. We, ourselves, are not entirely satisfied with it yet and it is likely that it will be undergoing changes throughout our developing studies of Joan of Arc.
The material we have gathered and studied was to help us find out in which religious reality Joan was raised and prepared for her military mission and how religion was politically used to create and promote her story in the Middle Ages as well as in our own time. It can also help us establish her own religious personality or – to be more exact at this stage – what her own religious attitudes could have been like.
One of the main reasons why we are not yet satisfied with the emerging results of our study is that it is almost impossible to tell what Joan’s kind of religiosity really was. It is one of the factors which are almost taken for granted that she was exceptionally pious. But while there is indeed little doubt that she really was pious (especially by our standards today), we cannot, on the basis of the evidence available, tell if her piety was really far above the average of her time.
The text contains elements of Joan’s life (of which there is evidence), some which could have been existing in her experience, but also those which were certainly in her background education as they constituted part of religious and social reality in her days. All these elements form the unique atmosphere which can help us to understand her and her milieu better.
To enable readers to move quickly through the vast topic of this chapter, we have divided it into several topical sections which are:
Joan’s induction to religious life:
1. The Sacraments
2. The environment
The role of virginity in Joan’s mission
The role of prophecy in medieval narrative
The role of religious imagination and practices in her story
Theological justification, heresy and “theological correctness” (TC)
Joan as a visionary and a miracle worker?
Was Joan a tertiary?
Comparison with other medieval mystics
God stands by the side of the righteous”
Joan’s induction to religious life
Baptism those days took place between the 1st and 3rd day of life.
“The mother was unable to go [to Church – MM] because of her physical condition and because she was religiously unclean due to the flow of blood following birth. A group consisting of the midwife, the baptismal sponsors and perhaps the father went to the parish church.”
(Joseph H. Lynch. “The Medieval Church. A brief history”. London 1992, p. 276)
We now know the names of Jeanne’s parents and the names of her baptismal sponsors (godparents). We know – from Jeanne’s own words – the name of the priest who baptized her:
“Asked which priest baptized her, answered that she believed it was messire Jean Minet (“Jehan Nynet”). Asked whether the said Nynet was still alive, answered that yes, she believed”.
We do not know however who her midwife was. And it is somewhat surprising, since her name would have been easily remembered:
“In each little town in this region at that time, married women when one of them was pregnant, got together in the presence of a parish priest to elect a midwife who would inspire the greatest confidence. She took an oath before the priest, an oath conforming to an Episcopal law which demanded that the chosen woman assist at births in order to assure the health of the newborns’ souls if they were in danger of death, a reality which, sadly, happened all too often.
This election did not necessarily confer knowledge on the elected woman, since we know that the midwife habitually had at her side several matrons experienced in matters of birth. But her presence assured everyone in question. This custom perpetuated itself in Domrémy and its environs until the 19th century ended the local tradition. The last midwife elected from Goussaintcourt, a neighbour village to Domrémy-La-Pucelle, was Marguerite Etienne. She exercised her talents until 1888.” (Roger Senzig, Marcel Gay. “L’Affaire Jeanne d’Arc”. Editions Florent Massot, 2007, p. 53-54).
And yet we know nothing about Jeanne’s midwife, she herself mentioned quite a few of her godparents in 1431 but not her midwife.
But, returning to baptism, this is how in the Middle Ages the procedure of Baptism would have looked:
The priest would meet the whole group at the church door. He would then ask the child’s name and at that very moment the child would receive his/her name. Then the priest would exorcise the child in order to clean it of any evil spirits, thus giving the child officially the status of a catechumen (probationary status). Only then the whole group, headed by the clergyman, could enter the church to approach the baptismal font. After asking the child a few questions, answered by the sponsors with “I believe”, they would strip the child naked. The clergyman would then plunge the child three times in water, thus baptizing it “In the Name of the Father and The Son and The Holy Spirit”. Only sometimes sprinkling the child with water was used instead of plunging it in water.
What is interesting is that the child would then immediately receive his/her First Communion as well through a sip of wine. If the proceedings were presided over by a bishop, then the sacrament of Chrismation (Confirmation) followed as well which means that the child received all three sacraments at the same time.
Later the whole group retired, going either home or to a tavern, where gifts were given to the child and its mother.
We do not know when Jeanne received her Chrismation, whether on the same day or later as a teenager. We know however that she was receiving the Eucharist, but not very often. And we deduce this from her own testimony during her inquisitorial trial in Rouen (Isabelle Romee, her mother, said on 7 November 1455 that Jeanne was receiving Communion every month, having gone to confession).
During her second public interrogation on 22 February 1431 (1430 according to the old calendar) Jeanne was asked if she was receiving the Eucharist during any feast other than Easter. She replied by saying “Passez outré” i.e.“Pass on” (In the Latin version a longer phrase is inserted: “dixit interroganti quod ipse transiret ultra” – “asked the interrogator to go to next questions” page 38) and started talking about something completely different, namely about her “visions”.
An additional explanation we find in her words on 3rd March when she was asked whether, when she was going through the country with her army, she was receiving the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist often. “She responded that yes, sometimes” (“respondit quod sic, interdum” page 79). Asked then if she received the said Sacraments in man’s dress, she “stated that yes; but did not remember to have received them when armed” (“respondit quod sic; sed non recordatur quod reciperet in armis”).
From among the 70 articles of accusation read out to Jeanne during her trial, Article XV was exclusively about Sacraments and her… masculine dress. We are quoting this article in its entirety:
“Jeanne, having many times asked that she might be permitted to hear Mass, had been invited to quit the dress she now wears and to take again her woman’s dress; she had been allowed to hope that she will be admitted to hear Mass and to receive Communion, if she will renounce entirely the dress of a man and take that of a woman, to suit her sex; she had refused. In other words, she had chosen rather not to approach the Sacraments nor to assist in Divine Service, than to put aside her habit, pretending that this would displease God. In this appears her obstinacy, her hardness of heart, her lack of charity, her disobedience to the Church, and her contempt of Divine Sacraments” (page 187)
To this article “Jeanne responded that she would rather die than revoke what she had done by the order of Our Lord” (“respondit Johanna quod carius diligit mori quam revocare id quod ipsa fecit de praecepto domini nostri”).
This was later confirmed in Article 5 of the final 12 Articles of accusation. The questions addressed in the Article 15 were raised shortly before Easter (in that year it fell on 1 April, which, according to the old calendar, was the first day of the year 1431).
The Holy Communion was however, according to some witnesses, administered to her early in the morning of Wednesday 30 May 1431 shortly before the planned execution. Apparently Bishop Pierre Cauchon finally gave his permission.
If we had to start with the village of Domrémy where Jeanne grew up, we could well begin with its very name which supposedly means “Saint Remigius” or “Saint Remy”. In fact there are four villages with the name “Domrémy” in the area. The one we are discussing now has been renamed “Domrémy-La-Pucelle”. The Latin version of the name “Domrémy” is “Dominus Remi”, which means exactly “Master Remi” or “Lord Remi”(1). The village has a medieval church bearing the name of Saint Remy. This particular saint is also a patron saint of Reims, a city in whose cathedral the crowning and anointing of French kings took place. Both the village and the city remain important in Jeanne’s story. The village of Domrémy was, during the early centuries of the Middle Ages, within the zone of influence of the Abbey of Saint Remy of Reims…
“…From where it follows that every year, on the occasion of the patronal feast, Jeannette d’Arc heard the cure of the parish, Messire Guillaume Frontey, a native of Neufchateau, deliver a panegyric to the patron saint of the church and recount the great features of the baptism of Clovis, not as we read it in works by Gregory of Tours, but overloaded with wonderful additions like in a primitive version of Hincmar’s narrative”. (Simeon Luce.“Jeanne d’Arc a Domrémy. Recherches critiques de la mission de la Pucelle”. Paris, 1886, p. XXXIV)
It is usually assumed that the current church in Domrémy is the original church which Jeanne regularly visited and in which she was also baptized. This might however be a false assumption. Please refer to the link provided in the footnote (1). It explains why the current church could have been built after 1450 if not even later. By 1450 NOBODY from Jeanne’s family was living in Domrémy anymore: her brothers had moved to the area of Metz, her father had died before 1440 and his wife Isabeau Romée had moved shortly afterwards to Orleans. Inside the church there is an old, very simple baptismal font made of stone. Local tradition has it that it is the one at which Jeanne was baptized. But as the link shows, there is a marble plaque with an inscription explaining that it was previously in the chapel of John the Baptist. The chapel itself was in the “Castrum nominatur Insula” i.e. in the “castle named Island”, the famous “Chateau de l’Isle”, which the family of Arc leased, together with Jean Biget, from the family of “de Bourlemont”. It depends of course WHEN the font was transferred to the church. If it was after the birth of Jeanne, then it would rather be unlikely to be the one of Jeanne’s baptism. Of course, for this deliberation we are assuming that Jeanne’s own words about the place of her baptism (as she heard about it from her parents) are true…
The neighbouring villages of Greux, Bermont or Maxey, even Moncel also played their role in Jeanne’s early life. Greux was in fact the other part of Domrémy. These two villages had one parish church which was in Greux; the church in Domrémy was a filial church. The fact that it was Greux which had the parish church makes it safe to assume that Jeanne was visiting that church as well. Unfortunately the original church in Greux does not exist anymore. As we are informed by the local Researcher from France, the church was destroyed during the Thirty Years War (i.e. between 1618 and 1648). As it turns out, not only the new church is in a different place but the whole village of Greux. Please have a look at the aerial photo with information regarding locations.
In Bermont there was – and still is – a shrine of the Holy Virgin Mary. The old statue of the Virgin Mary with Child has been transferred to the St Joan’s basilica in Bois Chenu.
The shrine in Bermont is apparently the one which Jeanne visited regularly. Nowadays the chapel is dedicated to St Thebaud (Theobald). In 1998, during restoration works, a quitelarge number of 15 wall-paintings was found inside the chapel. Of these 15 only two are available for viewing. As we are informed, to our astonishment nobody can obtain access to the remaining images. One presumes the two images depict Jeanne d’Arc.
Her later “voices” Jeanne attributed to three saints: St Michael, St Catherine and St Margaret. And as it transpires, those saints she knew about since her early childhood: the chapel in Moncel was dedicated to St Michael, and the other two saints she had seen in the windows of the local churches: St Catherine in the window of the church in Domrémy and St Margaret in the window of the church in Maxey. There is still a statue of Saint Margaret in the church in Domremy, dating from the late fourteenth century.
The church in Maxey was dedicated to St Catherine and an old story tells us something more about the connection of the church to the saint. Some authors tell us about the story. So Marina Warner repeated the story after Vita Sackville-West, and she in turn repeated it after Simeon Luce. And Siméon Luce in his book (“Jeanne d’Arc a Domrémy. Recherches critiques de la mission de la Pucelle”. Paris, 1886, p. 19) quotes an entire document (on pages 16-21) which is nothing else and nothing less than a testament of one of the nobles from the family of de Bourlemont. Jean de Bourlemont (“Jehan de Boullaimmont”) wrote his testament between 3 and 23 October 1399. In it we find an interesting paragraph which in the old French reads as follows (translation below):
“Item, je veul que les aiandres de saincte Catheline de l’esglise de Marcey dessus dit soient rendues et restablies la dicte eglise pour priier pour mi, pour ce que messire Waulchierz, curetz jadis d’icelle esglise, les m’avoit données, ensemble aulcunes autres grosses aiandres qu’il avoit faites, si comme il disoit, et escriptes de sa main, et sont les dictes aiandres en Bourgogne en mon ecrin.”
The term “aiandres” which we show in bold lettering is very old and there are some doubts as to its meaning. It actually has several possible meanings, one of them being “relics”. Hence, after a consultation with our befriended Researcher of the story of Jeanne d’Arc in France, we decided to use it in this meaning:
“I wish that the relics of Saint Catherine, which were in the church of the afforementioned Marcey (Maxey), be given back and restored to the said church in order to pray for my soul, because Messire Waulchierz, once the priest of that church, had given them to me, with any other large relics that he had made, so as he said and wrote himself, and are the said relics in Burgundy in my jewellery box”.
Of course nobody has ever seen any “relics” of Saint Catherine as the saint herself is considered to have been only a mythical person, yet Jean de Bourlemont somehow believed that he had her relics in his possession. This is not surprising though as sales of relics, whether authentic or fake, were booming in the Middle Ages. And as it was a story from the year 1399, that is from the time shortly preceding Jeanne’s birth, we are quite sure it must have been well known to the locals – and to Jeanne herself – at the time she was around.
Saint Catherine later appears in the narrative of the story of Jeanne more often than any other saint.
The shrine of Notre Dame de Bermont was, as we pointed out already, also frequently visited by Jeanne. Jean Morel, a labourer from Greux, testified during the rehabilitation trial. On Wednesday the 28 January 1456 (1455) he said: “sometimes she even went to the church or chapel of Notre-Dame de Bermont, near the village of Domremy, while her parents believed her to be in the fields to plow or elsewhere.”
The same witness “also stated that, when she heard bells ringing for Mass and she was in the field, she came to the village church to hear mass, as the witness assured seeing.”
And also: “questioned, he said he saw Jeannette confess at Easter time and at other solemn feasts, he saw her confess to Messire Guillaume Fronté, then pastor of the parish church of Saint-Remy de Domrémy.”
Other witnesses expressed themselves similarly, for example Messire Dominique Jacob who was (at the time of the rehabilitation trial) the cure (i.e parish priest) of the church in Montier-sur-Saulx in the diocese of Toul, and who was “thirty five years or so”, added that as a child he had seen Jeanne kneel in the field when the church bells rang for service. And the church warden and bell-ringer from Domrémy, Perrin Le Drappier, testified that when he forgot to ring the bells, Jeanne scolded him and even promised to give him some gifts if he remembered to ring the bells on time.
On 22 February 1456 (1455) in his testimony Jean de Dunois, the same one in whose crypt Serguei Gorbenko found a skeleton which he claimed to be the one of Jeanne, went even further:
“Testified that she had a habit to go to church daily at the time of Vespers or towards evening; she had the bells rung for half-an-hour, and assembled the Mendicant Friars who were following the army. Then she began to pray and had an anthem in honor of the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, sung by the Mendicant Friars”.
She also liked making offerings of candles to “her” saints, mainly to St Catherine. On 15th March 1431 (1430) she confirmed that she “never lit as many candles as she wished” to St Catherine and St Margaret.
Her favorite saint was Saint Catherine of Alexandria. The other two Saints, St. Margaret of Antioch and St Michael the Archangel, played a less important role in her story. (2) All three Saints had swords as some of their symbols. In the case of the two female martyr Saints they were swords of enemies, in the case of St Michael it was a sword which helps defeat evil and the enemy. Quite fitting from the point of view of what Jeanne was about to do… In Jeanne’s own coat of arms there was later to be one sword too…
The legendary Saint Catherine, who most likely never existed, was, according to the legend, seized and brought before the Emperor Maxentius and began to explain Christianity to him. Fifty learned men were summoned by the Emperor to debate her, but she confounded them all. Maxentius demanded then that she marry him, which she refused. Later a special machine with four wheels was invented to execute her but an angel destroyed it. In the end she was beheaded with a sword.
Saint Margaret was born again from the belly of a dragon. In one version of the legend, she enters a monastery dressed as a man. She can see the devil but her purity protects her against him. She refuses to marry Olybrius, the prefect of Pisidir and is thrown into prison by him. She miraculously endures martyrdom and by this succeeds in converting five thousand bystanders. In the end she is beheaded.
Some elements of both legends could later be compared with Jeanne’s story: Jeanne was also dressed like a man; whether she was herself a member of a religious order we will study in a moment. She was confronted by about sixty assessors and judges in Rouen and is widely believed to have been martyred as well. During her captivity she jumped off a tower in the Beaurevoir castle – and there is a story of St Margaret who, as a 15-year-old virgin, jumped off a high building to preserve her chastity. The story is however a later one and does not appear before the time of Joan of Arc…
There are also simple elements (perhaps coincidences, perhaps not…) which connect the Saints to the story of Jeanne but in a different way. So Catherine was the name of one of the sisters of Joan of Arc; it was also the name of a sister of Charles VII, the widow of Henry V of England; the widow of the Dauphin Louis, elder brother of Charles VII, was known as Marguerite de Bourgogne; Michelle was the name of the sister of Charles VII, wife of Philippe Le Bon. Let us add to it that St Michael was the patron saint of the French royal family of de Valois and that he was particularly venerated by Charles VII whose son, the next King, Louis XI founded the order of knighthood of St. Michael (on 1st August 1469).
“But Saint Catherine of Alexandria stood chiefly for independent thinking, courage, autonomy and culture. She was the saint chosen by young unmarried women in France. Saint Margaret of Antioch, though her spiritual sister in the paintings of the helpers was also her opposite number. Alexandria was the centre of classical allegorical studies, where the Bible, for instance, was read in the tradition of Philo Judaeus to uncover the secret meanings under the narrative surface. Antioch, the other great school of learning in the Byzantine Empire, was the seat of the literalist school, where mystical interpretations of the Alexandrians were shunned. Joan, therefore, unconsciously named her visions after the two poles of the Christian philosophical tradition.” (Marina Warner. “Joan of Arc. The Image of Female Heroism”. London 1981,p. 134, 135)
St Catherine might be a character formed on the historical (and non-Christian) Hypatia from Alexandria who was indeed murdered (by Christians) in the year 415 AD.
Marina Warner is inclined to consider Jeanne as “Neoplatonist in inclination” as she apparently saw “no incompatibility between the world of the spirit and the visible creation”. (3)
But having stressed the importance of particular saints to Jeanne, we have to remember that on occasions she was mentioning other saints as well, like the Archangel Gabriel or others. The Batard d’Orleans, Jean de Dunois, testified in 1456 about what she said to him in Orleans after a clash erupted as to the conduct of military operations:
“In God’s Name,” she then said, “the counsel of My Lord is safer and wiser than yours. You thought to deceive me, and it is yourselves who are deceived, for I bring you better succor than has ever come to any general or town whatsoever, the succor of the King of Heaven. This succor does not come from me, but from God Himself, Who, at the prayers of Saint Louis and Saint Charlemagne, has had compassion on the town of Orleans, and will not suffer the enemy to hold at the same time the Duke and his town!” (The Duke Charles of Orleans was then a prisoner in England.) (4)
The role of virginity in Joan’s mission
There is of course no direct proof that Joan was a virgin, as there is no proof of lack of menstruation. We have already covered this issue in Part 5 of this series. But during her rehabilitation trial in 1456 it was mentioned a few times. So her squire, Jean d’Aulon, testified that:
“I’ve heard it said by many women, who saw the Maid undressed many times and knew her secrets, that she never suffered from the secret illness of women and that no one could ever notice or learn anything of it from her clothes or in any other way”.
The fact alone that it was mentioned during her “rehabilitation” trial signifies that a great weight was put on this one point. And not only then, in the XVth century. Even much later, closer to modernity it still continued to play its role, at least in some circles. In 1822 we read in the “Almanach de Gotha” that:
“Finally, there is the added, remarkable peculiarity, which makes manifest the plans God entertained for her. Womanly in modesty, but exempt, by a particular design, from the weakness of her sex, she was also not subjected to those periodic and inconvenient dues, which, even more than law and custom, prevent women in general fulfilling the functions that men have taken over.”
And 22 years later Jules Michelet continued this particular apologia:
“One thing they (her neighbours) did not know: that in her the life of the spirit dominated, absorbed the lower life, and held in check its vulgar infirmities. Body and soul, she was granted the heavenly grace of remaining a child. She grew up to be robust and handsome; but the physical curse of women never affected her. This was spared her, to the benefit of religious thought and inspiration. Born in the shadow of the church, lulled by the canticle of the bells, fed on legends, she was a legend herself, swift and pure, from her birth to her death.”
(Jules Michelet. “Joan of Arc”. Translated, with an introduction by Albert Guérard. Ann Arbor Paperbacks, 2000. Page 9)
Referring to the fact of a repeated physical examination of Jeanne’s virginity and to the weight formerly accorded to it – weight based on views like these quoted above, Marina Warner concludes in her book (“Joan of Arc. The Image of Female Heroism”, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London 1981, page 20):
“The outcome of such tests for virginity depends more on the expectation of the ministers than on the state of the subjects”.
Warner compares physical tests of virginity with other tests, like ordeal by fire or by water to determine if a person was a witch or a criminal. Perhaps, as we would conclude ourselves, her comparisons are overdone and excessive, given that such “ordeals” were unable to determine anything criminal at all while a physical examination of virginity was, at least sometimes, helpful in establishing reality. But the fact remains that such simple examination could have been misleading. After all it is not so easy even nowadays, let alone in the XVth century, when physiology of sexual organs was not known very well. And even a virgin could have had her hymen torn – e.g. a woman regularly riding a horse, especially if she was wearing heavy armour and taking part in military campaigns…
If no penetration of hymen was found, then the person was considered a virgin and virginity could have been considered to have been the will of God.
The ideal of virginity was flourishing at the time of the cult of the Holy Virgin Mary. It was the Virgin who crushed the skull of the Serpent. It was the Virgin who, among others through her purity, was able to secure God’s mercy for people. Hence, already since the beginning of the Christian era, an uncorrupted, pure body of a woman was considered one of the holiest things existing in nature.
Therefore being a virgin (in French: “Pucelle”) was additionally equipping Joan with the aura of righteousness of her mission.
Marina Warner is supplementing her discourse on virginity with an attempt to trace the origins of the term “Pucelle”. She had to admit however that the origins are not certain. It might be that it derives from “pulchra” (“pulcra”) being Latin for “beautiful” which could have been, with the time passing, changed into “pulcella” which was sometimes used as reference to young girls. The Latin term for a virgin or young girl is however “puella”.
But the meaning of “pucelle” as a term denoting sexual purity was strengthened in the Middle Ages when, in the XIIth century, a new term was introduced, namely “despulceler”, that is “to deflower”.
The role of prophecy in medieval narrative
There was a widespread belief in various prophecies in the Middle Ages. This faith was so rampant that whenever any strong and outstanding personality appeared, there were always some who tried to find out if there was any particular prophecy about the person – which of course means: whether there was any prophecy that could have been made fitting the person in question.
It was believed in the Middle Ages that God personally intervened in human affairs and changed history. The motif of divine intervention was present everywhere in the Old and New Testament. There were the prophets and holy people to whom God spoke directly, giving them specific tasks. And not only spiritual tasks but also political and military ones. In the New Testament no political or military tasks are recorded but, after all, the Christian church included the whole of the Old Testament into the Christian Bible, hence the idea of divine intervention was no stranger to the medieval people.
During Joan’s rehabilitation trial in 1456 a number of prophecies were quoted as confirmations of the divine mission of Joan of Arc. And they were specifically re-made to fit Joan. Those who were supposedly foretelling Joan’s exploits, were:
In 1456 during the rehabilitation trial a doctor of law named Jean Barbin testified that during Joan’s examination in Poitiers another master referred to one particular prophecy made supposedly by a woman called “la gasque d’Avignon”:
“In the course of these deliberations Maitre Jean Erault stated that he had heard it said by Marie d’Avignon, who had formerly come to the King, that she had told him that the kingdom of France had much to suffer and many calamities to bear: saying moreover that she had had many visions touching the desolation of the kingdom of France, and amongst others that she had seen much armor which had been presented to her; and that she was alarmed, greatly fearing that she should be forced to take it; but it had been said to her that she need fear nothing, that this armor was not for her, but that a maiden who should come afterwards would bear these arms and deliver the kingdom of France from the enemy. And he believed firmly that Jeanne was the maiden of whom Marie d’Avignon thus spoke”.
There is a problem with this story however: prophecies and visions by Marie d’Avignon had been published in 12 volumes and the above story does not appear in any of them. Merlin of course is a mythical personality, there is no tangible evidence that he himself existed.
As for Bede, the English monk who lived in the VII and VIII century (also known as “Saint Bede” or “Venerable Bede”), his “prophecy” is not in his own original works. It was written in Paris after Joan’s appearance on the political and military stage of the war in France, namely in 1429!
Engelida, “the daughter of the King of Hungary” was supposed to have uttered another prophecy about Joan of Arc, but it was in fact fabricated some time between 17 July 1429 (coronation of Charles VII in Reims) and 8 September 1429 (Joan’s failure to take Paris by force of arms).
In 1429/1430 Christina de Pizan wrote her famous poem on Joan of Arc, the “Ditié de Jeanne d’Arc”. In it she compared Jeanne to all other holy women, including those from the Bible, elevating her above all of them:
Esther, Judith and Deborah
for great virtues they are famed
God’s chosen people through them were saved
from their peril; and I heard
of other many women who
through His divine and mighty aid
performed great many miracles too
But he has done more through this one Maid (stanza 28)
Original in French :
Hester, Judith et Delbora,
Qui furent dames de grant pris,
Par lesqueles Dieu restora
Son pueple, qui fort estoit pris,
Et d’autres plusers ay apris
Qui furent preuses, n’y ot celle,
Mains miracles en a pourpris.
Plus a fait par ceste Pucelle.
And further she claimed that Jeanne’s coming was foreseen by Merlin, Bede and Sibyl:
Merlin, the Sybil and Bede
saw it 500 years ago:
a remedy coming to France’s woe
through her spirit and her feat;
that she would carry the French war banner
And they moreover prophesied
the whole of her action’s manner
All this they long ago described. (stanza 31)
Original in French :
Car Merlin et Sebile et Bede,
Plus de Vc ans a la virent
En esperit, et pour remede
En France en leurs escripz la mirent,
Et leur[s] prophecies en firent,
Disans qu’el pourteroit baniere
Es guerres françoises, et dirent
De son fait toute la maniere.
Sibyl, whose name comes from the Greek σίβυλλα (sibylla), meaning a “prophetess”, was a prophetess and visionary, first depicted by Heraclitus in 5th century BC. There were many Sibyls known in Greek mythology.
So, as we see, there were no prophecies about Jeanne d’Arc at all. All references to such prophecies were merely invented once Jeanne made her sudden entry on the political stage. The only thing that could be done was to re-word some earlier “prophecies” to make them fit her.
In some modern sources, especially on the net, the name of Jeanne is sometimes given as “Jeanne Sybille d’Arc”. Is it her real name? Rather unlikely since she never called herself so. It might be simply a later invention to remind everybody either that she was “foreseen” by visionaries or that she was herself a “visionary”. But it can also be combined with the fact that one of her Godmothers had the name “Sibille” – this name Jeanne mentioned on 21 February 1431(1430 by the old calendar) during her first public interrogation of her condemnation trial:
“Asked who were her Godparents, said one of her mothers was named Agnes, another Jeanne, another Sibille…”
(“Interrogée qui furent ses parrains et marraines, dit qu’une de ses marraines était nommée Agnès, une autre Jeanne, une autre Sibille…”.
In Latin: “Interrogata qui fuerunt ejus patrini et matrinæ : dicit quod una matrinarum vocabatur Agnes, altera Johanna, altera Sibilla…”)
During the rehabilitation trial a testimony by one of the witnesses, Durand Laxart, noted that:
”she told the witness she wished to go to France, to the Dauphin, to have him crowned, declaring : ‘was it not foretold formerly that France should be destroyed by a woman and restored by a maid ?’”
A very similar story was told by another witness, Catherine Le Royer, who was apparently asked by Jeanne:
“Do you not know the prophecy which says that France, lost by a woman, shall be saved by a maid from the marshes of Loraine?”
It is therefore surprising that Jeanne herself did not try to refer to any prophecies in 1431, during her inquisitorial trial in Rouen, in order to seek support in them. The transcript of her interrogation on the 24th March says this:
“She said there was a wood called an oakwood (Bois Chenu) which could be seen from the door of her father’s house ; it is not more than half-a-league away. She does not know and has never heard if the fairies appeared there; but she heard from her brother that it was said in the area that Joan received her mission at the Fairies’ Tree. That was not the case and she told him the contrary. And when she came before her King, several people asked her if there was a wood in her country called Bois Chesnu because there were prophecies which said that from the area of that wood would come a maid who should do marvelous things; but this Jeanne said she put no faith in this.”
The role of religious imagination and practices in her story
According to the official story Jeanne d’Arc was a shepherdess. She never confirmed it herself and during her condemnation trial she even expressed herself in a way that could well be considered a denial of this story. Nevertheless this was the way she was sometimes talked about. Also her successor, the poor Guillaume, was referred to as “Guillaume The Shepherd”. In the Old Testament the future King David was also a shepherd. Christ himself was (and still is) often referred to as “The Good Shepherd”. Shepherds were often depicted as individuals who either carry out certain tasks or are at least present as first and important witnesses – remember the shepherds witnessing the Glory of the newly born Christ?
The similarity of an “image” of a person to a very well known saint was most certainly also not without importance. So Jeanne had to bring a small newborn baby back to life – if only for a little while, just enough for it to be baptized. Colette de Corbie – Jeanne’s supposed Franciscan “alter ego” and mentor – had to heal a leper or cure another woman, who had ulcers on her face, by filling her own mouth with water and then blowing (virtually spitting) that water over the sick woman’s face…
It is also interesting that both in the case of Jeanne and Colette it has been maintained that they did not menstruate, which was supposed to be a special grace not heard of in others…
When we point to a miracle as an important element of an image of a person, we have to ask ourselves where the need for a miracle as a “proof” was coming from. It was coming directly from medieval morality and from the attitude to reality. The reality was formed by God. Hence, God was communicating his will and his designs to people among others through miracles. The miracle itself was therefore perceived as a proof of God’s desire. Therefore when papacy decided, in the XII century, to grant itself the exclusive right to canonization of saints, it required a miracle as a proof confirming the correctness of every canonization.
Miracles were not an exclusive attribute of people already canonized but could happen to others just as well, especially to heroes. However, it was the Church’s authority which determined whether the miracle was authentic or not. Hence, there was the argument of proof through a miracle and proof through authority.
One of the charges against Jeanne d’Arc in Rouen was that she had not consulted her “visions” and “voices” with any priest or bishop. We are aware, however, that the charge itself was relatively weak given Jeanne’s examination by clerics and theologians in Poitiers and, namely, an examination lasting about three weeks…
Religion at that time was largely a “religion of habits”. As Isnard Wilhelm Frank sums it up, perhaps too harshly after all:
“With their primitive and archaic religious sense, people found it difficult to cope with the reality of a relationship between human beings and God based on grace, which was difficult to grasp intellectually. They wanted more tangible forms of mediation to which heavenly grace attached itself: in other words, sacred things which were not possessed by demons. The demons were driven out of whatever mediated holiness in the cult by exorcism, and power of heavenly blessing was called down in benedictions.”
(“A History of the Medieval Church”, London 1995, p. 15-16. First editions as “Kirchengeschichte des Mittelalters“, Patmos Verlag, Düsseldorf 1984 & 1990)
This would also be the reason for which people preferred a “religion of habits” based on rituals, like “ritual purgation of sins” as something tangible and “concrete” which is also widespread today.
Jeanne initially tried to introduce the good habits as she had known them. So, for example, she used the imagery of popular piety during her campaign. These included, among others, sprinkling her banner and pennons with Holy Water to have them blessed for the good cause. This is something which she indirectly confirmed during her trial and we will look at it in the next chapter.
But further to sprinkling water: On 3 March 1431(30) she was asked the following question:
“Jeanne was then asked what she did in the trenches of La Charite: replied that she did make an assault, and said she neither sprinkled nor made anyone sprinkle Holy Water by way of aspersion.”
As it is evident, she was not asked about any Holy Water or sprinkling… Either, then, sprinkling actually took place or she was being sarcastic in her reaction, having been asked about Holy Water earlier on that day… And on that day the interrogation was particularly lengthy…
She was acting as a Godmother. And she was asked about it:
“…, replied that in Troyes once, but at Reims, she has no memory of it, nor at Château-Thierry; she did it twice at Saint-Denis-en-France. And willingly gave sons the name of Charles, for the honor of her king and to girls she gave the name Jeanne, and at other times she gave names as mothers wanted.”
We see her making, especially initially, broad use of religious practices. The “Chronique de La Pucelle” tells us in chapter 44 that while in Blois, assembling her army for Orleans, she gave an order that anyone joining the army must go to confession. Then, already in Orleans, as the “Chronique” continues (chapter 46), after every victory celebrations were held in the city’s churches:
“Thereafter, the Maid, the great lords and their men returned to Orleans and instantly thanks and praise to God were made in all churches by hymns and devotional prayers to the sound of bells, the English could hear them well, being, by this time, very much reduced in power and courage”
Later, when the siege was over and the English lined up in an orderly formation, as if ready for a final battle, similar rituals were performed (chapter 49 of the “Chronique”):
“When the English were still in sight, the Maid brought priests wearing their vestments to the field, they sang hymns with great solemnity, responses, and devout prayer, giving thanks and praise to God. She ordered a table and a marble (as an altar) to say two Masses. While the Masses were being said, she asked, ‘Now, look if they (the English) have faces turned away from us or towards us?’ They told her they were going and had their backs turned on them. To which she replied: ‘Let them go, The Lord does not want us to fight them now, you will have another time.’”
This kind of celebration became, with time passing, rarer and rarer. Jeanne was changing. Even Jules Michelet observed in the XIX century:
“War, saintliness, two contradictory terms; it seems that saintliness is the very opposite of war, that it implies charity and peace. But how could a young and valiant heart be engaged in warfare without yielding to the bloodthirsty intoxication of combat and victory?… She had said at the outset that she would never use her sword to kill. Later on she spoke with complacency of the sword she carried at Compiegne, ‘Excellent’, she said, ‘both to thrust and cut’. Does not this mark a change? The holy Maid was turning into a captain. The duke of Alencon said that she showed singular aptitude in the handling of the modern weapon, the most murderous artillery. As the leader of fractious soldiers, constantly grieved and offended by their disorderly conduct, she was becoming harsh and prompt to anger, at least in her effort to curb them.”
In the Middle Ages fasting was prescribed only for the greatest religious feasts but indeed there were plenty of reasons for it almost everyday. This was in part a result of the fact that every day of the official liturgical calendar was a feast. It could be a major feast like Easter, Christmas or Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but the calendar was full of Saints whose lives could be celebrated.
Caroline Walker – Byman has analyzed the question of importance of food in religious practices in her book “Holy Feast and Holy Host. The religious significance of food to medieval women” (USA, 1987). She notes that fasting was seen as a useful tool also for reasons other than the liturgical calendar:
“Abstinence is seen as a useful tool for conquering lust and, in one case, for converting or defeating heretics” (p. 46). Some other instances “see fasting as inducing miracles or connect holiness and food multiplication”.
We shall study this phenomenon of fasting and food closer as we are aware that Joan’s modest ways of the use of food had earned her a suspicion of having suffered from Anorexia Nervosa. We have touched on this subject before. Now we will look at it again, this time from a purely religious point of view, by taking an effort to re-create its broader background and context.
Food asceticism was, especially for women, also an “imitation of the cross”. In fact women were, more than men, inclined to asceticism, including food asceticism, for religious reasons. Caroline Walker-Byman quotes a number of other researchers, whose studies show this tendency (5). Saint Colette de Corbie, who we mentioned earlier and who Jeanne could have met, was reportedly able to go for a long time without sleeping or eating. Someone even stated that “she went beyond the Fathers” (of the Church) as she could live for 40 days and nights without eating or drinking anything. This tale seems to be grossly exaggerated, of course, as Colette herself never wrote anything of the kind; she merely stressed the importance of fasting. Some stories about Saint Colette say that in her mystical trances she saw herself as “becoming” food. She was to see herself as the tortured flesh of Christ’s body to be offered for other people’s sins.
Was Jeanne trying, as a mystic, to “feed” others spiritually to give them strength?
She had a rather modest appetite. She was fasting on Fridays, apparently eating only several pieces of bread dipped in wine mixed with water. This, itself, bears close resemblance to the Last Supper and to the Christian liturgy. But let us be clear: a phrase “only several pieces of bread…” does not tell us much. What does it mean: “only”? That “only” so little or “only” bread, wine and water and nothing else? How many is “several”? Two or nine? How big is a “piece”? Like a crumb or like a whole slice? What does it tell us about its size or weight? And furthermore: what was then happening to the wine and water in which the bread was dipped? Was it disposed of or consumed as well? Particularly in case of the only meal on a prescribed feast day which commemorates the death of Christ and which by its composition (bread-wine-water) resembles the Eucharist – would the wine and water from such a meal be disposed of? Rather than that, consumption would be a definitely more plausible answer. It is also imaginable that the references to Jeanne’s fasting habits might have these three elements (bread-wine-water) as a focus, more so than mere quantity of food which they offer.
We find a hint at Jeanne’s fasting in the testimony of Jean de Dunois, the “Bastard of Orleans” in the transcript of the rehabilitation trial. Dunois, describing what happened on the day when the Tourelles of Orleans were taken by the French, stated:
“Jeanne was taken to her house, to receive the care which her wound required. When the surgeon had dressed it, she began to eat, contenting herself with four or five slices of bread dipped in wine mixed with a large quantity of water, without, on that day, having eaten or drunk anything else.”
“…et Jeanne fut conduite à son logement pour que sa blessure reçût des soins. Une fois les soins donnés par un chirurgien, elle se restaura en prenant quatre ou cinq rôties dans du vin, coupé de beaucoup d’eau, et elle ne prit aucune autre nourriture ou boisson de tout le jour. ».
« Fuitque ipsa Iohanna ducta ad hospicium suum, ut prepararetur vulnus eius. Qua preparacione facta per cirurgicum, ipsa cepit refectionem suam, sumendo quatuor vel quinque vipas in vino mixto multa aqua, nec alium cibum aut potum sumpsit pro toto die”.
The 7 May in the year 1429 fell on a Saturday. It was not Friday then, the usual day of fasting, so Jeanne indeed did not eat a lot, if we have to believe the Bastard of Orleans. But we have to remember that on that day the Tourelles were taken and the battle raged for the whole day, from 7 a.m. till 8 p.m. We know, however, that on that day Jeanne did not intend to fast. To the home of Orleans’ treasurer, Jacques Boucher, Jeanne’s host, someone brought a fish, an alose or sea-trout, in the morning. The host proposed: “Jeanne, let us eat this fish before you go out”. She however replied: “En nom Dieu (In the name of God), we will not eat it until supper, when we have re-crossed the bridge and have brought back a Godon who will eat his share”. So, there was supposed to be a feast but only after the battle. In the course of the day’s struggle something happened which took her appetite away from her: towards midday Jeanne was seriously wounded by an arrow just above her left breast.
But still four or five slices of bread for supper were not bad for someone wounded in battle.
We have to consider all these aspects because the term “fasting” did not have just one interpretation. We have to remember that initially fasting was supposed to terminate at Vespers. Later (by the XIII century) it terminated at None (which is the “ninth hour of the day”, i.e. 3 pm), by the XIVth century it terminated at noon and a small evening meal was permitted. Fasting was also understood simply as abstinence from meat. However, food for the day could include milk or eggs. Fish, at the same time, included also whales, dolphins or even beavers’ tails or geese. And, while on one hand the religious were leaders at fasting, some of them on the other hand considered a feast day as a “day of feasting”. Given the variety of alternative food, as Caroline Walker Bynam notes:
“The food in some Benedictine monasteries became very lavish. Whereas the average twelfth – or thirteenth-century aristocrat ate meals of four to five courses, some black monks enjoyed as many as thirteen to sixteen courses on major feast days.”
Later, while imprisoned, Jeanne most certainly observed fast during Lent. On 27 February 1430(31) she was asked about it:
“Asked if she would fast every day of Lent, answered:
– Is it in your trial? (- Cella est il de vostre procez?)
And as we told her it was in her trial, said:
– Yes, really, I always fasted during Lent. (- Ouy, vrayement, j’ai tousiours jeuné.)”
This is supported by a statement she made 3 days earlier:
Then by our order, she was interrogated by the distinguished doctor master Jean Beaupère, named above, who first asked her how long it was she had eaten and drunk for the last time. She replied: ‘Since yesterday afternoon’ ( ‘Depuis hier, apprez mydy’)“.
Theological justification, heresy and “theological correctness” (TC)
We have to remember that the Inquisitors at that time were not coming to their trials empty-handed. Already, since the time of the so-called Cathar “heresy” in the XIII century the more experienced inquisitors were writing whole books, virtually handbooks for future inquisitors. Drawing from their own vast experience as well as from earlier cases known to them from similar literature, the authors of those handbooks were warning inquisitors against visions and visionaries.
When Jeanne was asked about the character of her visions, she was responding that she did not think that she could receive her visions while being in the state of sin. Hence, the accusation of heresy. The University of Paris, as we will explain, spoke decidedly against Jeanne. The theologians of the University, among others, stressed that:
“This woman sins when she says she is certain of being received into Paradise as if she were already a partaker of that blessed glory, seeing that on this earthly journey no pilgrim knows if he is worthy of glory or punishment, which the Sovereign Judge alone can tell.”
Jeanne was suspected of a sort of freethinking, similar to the one that existed in the previous century in Flanders and Germany. We shall dwell on this aspect longer in our chapter on similarities between Jeanne and other known religious personages of her era. The freethinking was often associated with the movement of the Free Spirit and its main crime was the conviction of an inborn purity and sinlessness. This is why the judges in Rouen were trying their best to maneuver her into admission of sinlessness.
The answers which Jeanne was often giving confirm that she was not a person who would unconditionally submit herself to the authority of the Church. This fact itself could have given a reason for her to be sentenced. Even after 25 years and after the political climate in France changed completely when Charles VII had taken the whole country back into his hands, some of the former accusers and judges of Jeanne did not completely change their minds regarding her supposed heresy. So for example the canon from Rouen, Thomas de Courcelles, testified in 1456:
“… I never held Jeanne to be a heretic, except in that she obstinately maintained she ought not to submit to the Church; and finally – as my conscience can bear me witness, before God – it seems to me that my words were: ‘Jeanne is now what she was. If she was heretic then, she is so now’. Yet I never positively gave an opinion that she was a heretic. I may add that in the first deliberations there was much discussion and difficulty among those consulted as to whether Jeanne should be reputed a heretic. I never gave an opinion as to her being put to the torture”
It is interesting to note, by the way, how reversed his own opinion had become, given the fact that the original minute of the condemnation trial says very clearly that de Courcelles was in fact in favor of submitting Jeanne to torture…
Sometimes she was confounded as it is shown in the example of the matter of her opinion on who the true pope was at that time. When she was asked about it, she tried to evade the question:
“Asked what she had to say concerning our Holy Father the Pope, and which she believes to be the true pope, replied by asking if there were two of them.”
She was therefore reminded of her earlier (1429) exchange of letters with the Count d’Armagnac who once asked her who of the three popes of that time was the true pope. In her own letter written in reply to the Count she stated that she was unable to assist him immediately with an answer:
“This thing I cannot tell you truly at present, until I am at rest in Paris or elsewhere; for I am now too much hindered by affairs of war; but when you hear that I am in Paris, send a message to me and I will inform you in truth whom you should believe, and what I shall know by the counsel of my Righteous and Sovereign Lord, the King of all the world, and of what you should do to the extent of my power”.
Pressed on this issue by her judges on 1 March 1431(30), she finally stated that in her opinion the true pope was the one residing in Rome (“And as for her, she believes in our Holy Father the Pope in Rome”).
The judges would however not let her get away. They pressed further, asking why then she had to wait till she went somewhere else to give the Count the answer and why she did not tell him straight away that the true pope was the one in Rome. Her answer to this question was quite strange, to say the least:
“…responded that the answer she gave concerned other things than the matter of the three sovereign Pontiffs” (sic!)
Still not satisfied, the judges pressed further:
“Asked if she had said that on the matter of the three sovereign Pontiffs she would have counsel, answered that she never wrote nor gave command to write about the matter of the three sovereign Pontiffs. This she testified upon oath that she had never written nor commanded to write.”
This last statement contradicts somehow her earlier words from the letter to the Count d’Armagnac. (6)
To her credit we must admit that it was not necessarily easy to answer directly who the right pope was at that time.
Even the question of Jeanne’s attire was a question determined by religious Orthodoxy. We have already pointed out at an earlier date that during her trial Jeanne was questioned about this matter, even more frequently than about her willingness to submit to the authority of the Church, including the pope. The Old Testament states:
“The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God” (Deuteronomy 22;5)
The accusation of sorcery was another point which surfaced during the trial in Rouen. It was a point very popular with inquisitors of the day as sorcery was very often suspected. Even outside the circles of the Inquisition whole legends circulated about those members of aristocratic families who were believed to have been involved in sorcery and necromancy. And so from among those involved in the struggle for the throne in France we could mention John The Fearless of Burgundy who was murdered in 1419. After he was assassinated, his right hand was cut off “just in case” as he was widely believed to have been an apt sorcerer. The Duke of Orleans, Louis I, who was murdered 12 years earlier, had his hand cut off as well and for the very same reason.
As for Jeanne d’Arc, she was once even asked by her judges where she was keeping her mandrake. Mandrake (Mandragora) is a plant which used to be considered both an aphrodisiac and demoniac. In the Old Testament it is mentioned in the book of Genesis and in the Song of Songs. The Hebrew term “dudaim” meaning “love-plant” was translated into “mandrake” both in the Greek version of the Old Testament (the so-called “Septuagint”) as well as in the Latin translation known as “Vulgate”. If the root of the plant was dug out, it was believed to have been able to scream so that a person hearing the scream would either die or lose his mind. It is believed that the origin of the Latin name “Mandragora” lies in the combination of “man-dragon” (“mas”, “humanus”, “draco”). The root had been used in some magic rituals and if consumed it has hallucinogenic effects. Therefore it was often associated with sorcery. Hence the question Jeanne was asked during her trial.
In religious matters it was very easy to see one and the same expression of faith as “virtuous” or “sinful”, as “pious” or “blasphemous” and “idolatrous” according to the will and wish of an inquisitor. All of those expressions could be interpreted in two extreme and opposite ways, either to the advantage or disadvantage of a defendant. No wonder, then, that Jeanne, being aware of it, might have tried to deny many things which she could have done – we always have to keep this in mind.
Let us have a look at one example from her trial, the one regarding the sprinkling of her pennons with Holy Water. On 3 March 1431(30) she was asked whether they were sprinkled before they were taken to battle for the first time:
“…responded: ‘I do not know, and if it was done, it was not by my command’”
She was then asked whether she had seen them sprinkled with Holy Water. Her answer is interesting:
“This is not in your case. And if I saw them sprinkled, I am advised not to answer about it”.
We believe the “advice” came from her “voices”. And in our view she thus confirmed that the sprinkling had indeed taken place.
Another example was discussed on the same day:
“Asked if the good women of the town did not touch with their rings the ring she wore, responded:
– Many women have touched my hands and rings, but I do not know their thoughts and intentions.”
Earlier on the same day (as we will see in the next chapter) she said that “little could she help” when women “kissed her hands”. But it seems rather unlikely that she had no idea what they thought and felt…
Also Jeanne’s description of saints who visited her smacked of heresy, according to her judges’ perceptions at least. About one year before her trial, another woman called Pieronne was sentenced to death by Inquisition and burned alive in Paris (1430).
“She affirmed and swore that God often appeared to her in human form and talked to her as one friend does to another; that the last time she had seen him he was wearing a long white robe and a red one underneath, which is blasphemous. She would not take back her assertions that she frequently saw God dressed like this.” (“Chronicle of the Citizen of Paris”)
She was, like Jeanne, asserting that “what she did was well done and was God’s will”.
Article 11 of the final 12 articles of accusation of Jeanne in Rouen stated that (examples of dates when she made particular assertions are in brackets):
“This woman did say and confess that to the Voices and the Spirits now under consideration, whom she calls Michael, Gabriel, Catherine and Margaret, she did often do reverence (12 March 1431), uncovering, bending the knee, kissing the earth on which they walk (12 March 1431), vowing to them her virginity (12 March), at times kissing and embracing Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret (17 March); she had touched them with her own hands, corporeally and physically (17 March 1431)…”
Jeanne told her judges a really perplexing story about the alleged “sign” she gave her King as a confirmation of her divine mission. It was a long story about an angel who, accompanied by other angels, appeared to her and to her King. In the footnote (7) we are giving the full account of it from the minutes of the trial under the date 13 March 1431(30). Her judges did not believe this story and we also do not. But it shows nevertheless that Jeanne ventured into such inventions during a very dangerous trial in order to defend her position.
In article 63 of the initial articles of accusation the judges concluded: “Jeanne is not afraid to lie in court, and to violate her own oath when on the subject of her revelations; she did affirm a number of contradictory things, and which imply contradiction among themselves…”
To conclude, we will use yet another of the initial articles of accusation, article 60, which pretty well sums it all up:
“In contempt of the laws and sanctions of the Church, Jeanne had several times before this tribunal refused to speak the truth: by this, she did render suspect all she had said or done in matters of faith and revelation, because she dares not reveal them to ecclesiastical judges; she dreads the just punishment she had merited and of which she appears herself to be conscious, when, on this question, she did in court urge this proverb, that “for speaking the truth, one was often hanged”. Also she had often said: “You will not know all”, and again, “I would rather have my head cut off than tell you all”.”
We have to admit that, except of course of the mention of the “just punishment”, the ecclesiasts in Rouen had put it together correctly and succinctly.
One of the methods used in inquisitions was the application or threat of torture. On 9 May 1431 Jeanne was openly threatened with this “tool”. We must admit that we deeply admire the way she responded to the threat. Here is the account from the minutes of the trial:
“Jeanne was admonished and required to answer the truth about numerous and diverse points contained in her trial to which she refused to reply so far or answered untruthfully albeit we have established them through information most authoritative, proofs and with grave presumptions. Many of these points were read and shown to her, and she was told that if she did not confess the truth about them, she would be put to torture, the instruments of which were shown to her in the tower. And there were also men of our office present, who by Our order, were ready to apply torture in order to bring the way of truth and knowledge and thus could give her the salvation of her soul and her body, which she, through her false inventions, exposed to grave perils.
To which the said Jeanne responded in this manner:
“Truly, if you were to tear me limb from limb, and separate soul from body, I will tell you nothing more, and if I were to say anything else, I would always say that you made me say it by force.”
(In French: “Vrayement, se vous me debviez distraire les membres et faire partir l’ame du corps, si ne vous en diray je aultre chose. Et apprez vous disoye, je diroye que le me auriez faict dire par force. ”)
(In Latin : “Veraciter, si vos deberetis mihi facere distrahi membra, et facere animam recedere a corpore, ego tamen non dicam vobis aliud ; et si aliquid de hoc vobis dicerem, postea semper ego dicerem quod per vim mihi fecissetis dicere. ”)
She added that on the Day of the Holy Cross (Thursday, 3 May 1431) she received comfort from St Gabriel whom she recognized by his voice. She stated that she asked her Voices for advice whether she should submit to the Church as the clergy are pressing her hard to submit. Her Voices were supposedly telling her to wait for God’s help. Asked about her story regarding the royal crown being given to the Archbishop of Reims (and which we quoted here in a footnote) and whether she would refer to the said Archbishop, she replied:
“Make him come here and I will hear him speak, and then I will answer you. Nevertheless he dare not say anything to the contrary of what I have said to you about it.”
(“Faictes le y venir, et que je l’oe parler ; et puis je vous respondray. Il ne me oseroit dire le contraire de ce que je vous en ay dit. ”)
The judges wrote in their conclusion :
“But seeing the hardness of his soul, and her ways of responding, We, the Judges, fearing that the torments of torture would profit her little, decided to postpone their application until We receive more comprehensive advice.”
This is what it meant to endeavour to terrify a battle-hardened soldier. Seeing that their threat would not work, the judges decided to abandon it.
Joan as a visionary and a miracle worker?
Authors writing about Jeanne d’Arc display a variety of opinions regarding the “visions” and “voices” which Jeanne was receiving. We can even divide these authors into at least three groups when it comes to this matter. So there are “visionarists”, “hallucinationists” and “inventionists”. What Jeanne’s “voices” and “visions” were will forever remain a secret of her life. Marina Warner would count among the “visionarists” and so would Jules Michelet or Leon Cristiani. One evident example of a “hallucinationist” would without doubt be Edward Lucie-Smith. He consulted works on hallucinations and arrived at a conclusion that Jeanne’s voices and visions “tend to fit a pattern which is quite familiar to twentieth-century doctors, and which is extensively recorded in medical literature.”
The first appearance of such hallucinations is perceived by subjects “as inexplicable, and as something foreign to the subject’s own concept of himself or herself”. Lucie-Smith sees a similarity to Jeanne’s own words as to how the apparitions came to her. One such example is, in his view, her first “meeting” with St Michael:
“The first time, she was in great doubt if it was St Michael who came to her, and this first time she was much afraid; and she saw him a number of times before she knew it was St Michael”. (8)
He is also referring to the fact that such symptoms are quite frequent, contrary to the common view (9). Jeanne supposedly told her judges that apparitions came to her, on various occasions, in the form of “great multitudes and in very small dimensions”.
As Edward Lucie-Smith notes, “These descriptions precisely match modern cases, where the subject sees the multitudinous personages of his vision much reduced in volume, but extraordinarily brilliant in hue, as if the shrinkage had led in turn to a condensation of the colours.” (10)
The “inventionists” on the other hand tend to believe that Jeanne’s visions and voices were a product of imagination designed to boost her image in order accomplish the political goal she was pursuing. The list of “inventionist” authors (which is probably not very long initially but is tending to grow) would include Marcel Gay and Roger Senzig, Andre Cherpillod and others.
We could, of course, point to yet another attitude and therefore refer to a whole group of authors as “derobationists” (“evasionists”), from the French term “dérobade” meaning “evasion”. These are the authors who intentionally refuse to take a stance on the “visions” and “voices” of Jeanne d’Arc. Here the list is rather long and includes names like Régine Pernoud, Marie-Véronique Clin, Colette Beaune or Vita Sackville-West. We are inclined to include ourselves in this group. However, we are equally ready to look at evidence provided by any author from whichever group. After all, they can be right – all of them – to a certain degree. We would rather look at all incidents individually. So for example we reject Lucie-Smith’s suggestion that Joan’s reference to “fifty thousand men” at Saint-Pierre-le-Moutier in early November 1429, during her attack on the defended township, was a case of hallucination. To him it was “a woman in a state of fugue, no longer in touch with reality surrounding her” (p.189 of Lucie-Smith’s book). To us however, as we pointed out in part 4, it was a typical example of Jeanne’s shrewdness and stratagem in the face of the enemy.
In 1456 the Batard d’Orleans, that is Jean Count de Dunois, in his eulogy-like testimony during the rehabilitation trial admitted that her predictions based on visions not always represented the truth:
„Although Jeanne sometimes spoke in jest of the affairs of war, and although, to encourage the soldiers, she may have foretold events which were not realized, nevertheless, when she spoke seriously of the war, and of her deeds and her mission, she only affirmed earnestly that she was sent to raise the siege of Orléans, and to succor the oppressed people of that town and the neighboring places, and to conduct the King to Reims that he might be consecrated.”
It clearly shows that Joan was deliberately using “prediction” simply as propaganda to encourage soldiers to fight on.
Generally speaking, Jeanne was displaying relatively strong mistrust of visions and visionaries. An example of this was her attitude to a certain Catherine de La Rochelle (La Rochelle is a harbour-city in western France). Catherine told Jeanne that she was regularly receiving visits with instructions. She was maintaining that a white lady dressed in a golden gown was appearing to her. She allegedly demanded of Catherine to visit various towns and cities of France loyal to Charles VII to encourage people to give her their gold, silver and other valuables. If they did not obey, then Catherine was to see through their life secrets and force them to use their wealth to support Jeanne’s military effort. Jeanne told her simply to go back to her husband and to look after her children. She spent two consecutive nights with Catherine to see the mysterious “white lady” but the lady did not appear. Later Catherine de La Rochelle was taking her revenge on Jeanne. In 1430 she was telling judges in Paris that Jeanne had two advisors who were already visiting her after she was captured and that Jeanne supposedly told them that she would escape from prison with the help of the devil.
As the Middle Ages were full of “prophecies”, “miracles” and predictions, so many expected them also from Jeanne d’Arc. When in March 1430 a small child considered dead woke up for a little moment while she prayed over it, it was considered a miracle. When a frightened horse was calmed after she ordered to lead it towards a cross standing at a church wall, it was considered a miracle. When she was saying that she was afraid of treason and later she was indeed captured, it was considered to be a kind of “vision”, “prediction” or “prophecy” (11). It was also considered a kind of a “prophecy” when she expressed a supposition that she would be wounded by an arrow – especially since soon after she was indeed wounded in that way.
Sometimes she was amused and sometimes irritated by examples of simple piety. When in July 1429 she met the famous mendicant friar Brother Richard and he, to make sure that she was not a witch, made a sign of the Cross and started sprinkling holy water around, she told him “Approach boldly, I shall not fly away” (“Aprochez hardyment. Je ne m’envoleray pas”/ “Appropinquetis audacter, ego non evolabo”) When she was asked by a crowd of women to touch their rosaries, she laughed and told them: “Touch them yourselves, your touch will make them as good as mine.”
In 1456 Simon Beaucroix testified that “Jeanne was very upset and most displeased when some good women came to her and showed her signs of adoration. This annoyed her.”
But at least at this point Beaucroix seems to have been contradicted by Jeanne herself. On the 3 March 1430(31) she was asked about it directly:
“Asked if she did not know the feeling of those of her party when they kissed her feet, hands and clothes, said that many people willingly came to see her, and said they kissed her hands and little she could help . Because poor people willingly came to her because she did nothing wrong to them but helped as much as she could.”
Was Joan a tertiary?
There is a relatively strong notion that Joan of Arc might have been a tertiary, that is, a member of the Third (Secular) Franciscan Order. This is definitely one of those episodes in Joan’s life which we have to include among the possibilities, among the things that could have happened but for which we do not have any proof whatsoever.
There is a strong probability that Joan met yet another woman who is a saint in the Catholic canon: Saint Colette, and more exactly Colette de Corbie. In the first half of November 1429 both Jeanne and Colette were in Moulins. There is no evidence that they ever met. And yet a number of historians and writers who devoted time to research the historic Joan of Arc have pointed to this possibility.
So Vita Sackville-West in her book written in 1936 states:
“It seems more than probable that Jeanne must have come across this very remarkable woman at Moulins in November 1429, and, although there is no evidence to prove their meeting, there is equally none to disprove it. It is almost incredible that these two women, two of the great saints of France, should have been in the same town on the same date – as we know they were – without contriving to meet.” (V. Sackville-West. “Saint Joan of Arc”, New York 2001, p. 247).
The meeting of the two saints in Moulins seems even more likely to have taken place, as there was also – and at the same time – yet another woman, whom Joan and Colette knew very well. She was Marie de Bourbon, a friend of Jeanne and a foundress of Colette’s convent in Moulins. According to local tradition, Jeanne was praying in the chapel of the cloister of the order of St Claire of which Colette was a member.
Colette de Corbie was born on 13 January 1381. In 1399 she joined the Beguines, that is, the movement we mentioned before. And in 1402 she joined the Third Franciscan Order. By 1423 she came to know yet another member of the Third Order, and namely a very powerful lady and an influential member of the French court: Yolande d’Anjou (1384 – 1442). It was Yolande, known as “The Queen of Four Kingdoms” (Sicily, Naples, Jerusalem and Aragon) who was the driving force behind the Dauphin, Charles VII. Her immediate and strong support for Jeanne d’Arc is very well known. It is believed by many authors that it was Yolande who formed Joan of Arc and prepared her for her mission. She was also co-financing Joan’s military efforts. We will touch on this issue at some other time.
And Colette de Corbie could have met Jeanne not just in Moulins but also somewhere else. The French historian Jacques Guérillon seems to have been convinced of such a possibility. In his book “Mais qui est-tu Jeanne d’Arc?” (i.e. “But who are you, Joan of Arc?”), he wrote:
“This same Colette de Corbie, indefatigable traveler, never missed stopping at Domrémy each time her peregrinations brought her to the neighbourhood, and she lodged in the hermitage of the Bois Chenu (i.e. Oakwood) where she convoked her regional of the third Franciscan order that she introduced into the rules and spirit of the order. Among her adepts, Joan (…) received at 18 years of age the grade of Grande Dame Discréte.”
(quoted from: Roger Senzig, Marcel Gay. “L’Affaire Jeanne d’Arc”. Editions Florent Massot, 2007, p. 148).
As we see, Guérillon went quite far in his assumptions… Of course Bois Chenu and Domrémy are the very home of Jeanne d’Arc… There is also a tradition according to which Colette gave Jeanne a ring inscribed “Jesus Maria”.
One more detail can also be interesting to us: Domrémy was also the domain of the French aristocratic family of de Bourlémont. We have read about that particular family before: it was when we mentioned that since 1420 (or even 1419) the d’Arc family was living in a local small castle in Domrémy, the so-called “Chateau de l’Isle” („un château nommé l’Isle”) which was leased from the family de Bourlémont. And incidentally – as if the coincidences just given were still not enough – the family of de Bourlémont happened to be the very family of the mother of Saint Francis of Assisi, the founder of the order…
Furthermore, the Franciscans tended to side with the Armagnacs, that is with the party of King Charles VII, which was unlikely, for example, for the Dominicans who were more inclined to support the Burgundians… C. Bessonnet-Favre thought even that “Colette had established the general area of her patriotic and religious operations in Besancon. There she was amidst all news that were interesting to her in the cause of which she was an intrepid champion.” So, as we see, all the coincidental pre-requisites and all the “atmosphere” was there for the induction of the young Jeanne into the Order. But had it ever really happened? Perhaps. However there is one obstacle, a very formal one: according to the rule of St Francis, a member of the order was not permitted to carry weapons or to partake in warfare… But perhaps the rule could have been “trimmed” to the member’s particular circumstances?
One particular detail that seems to draw attention in this context is the way Jeanne dressed herself from time to time. We have read already about her BLACK doublet – like at the time she was praying for the dead child, who woke up to life very shortly. We know more details about her costume from the time she visited Charles VII at Chinon. This is a description of her by the greffier de l’hotel de ville de La Rochelle:
“…black doublet , hose (i.e. tight-fitting trousers) attached to it, short thick tunic in gray black, round and black hair, and a woolen chaperon on her head .”
Such costumes were generally accepted by members of the Third Order because of their simplicity. And besides:
“Specifically, one of the exterior signs by which a secular members of the Third Franciscan Order would be recognized, was, for women, the requirement to wear hair cut round up at the height of temples”. (Simeon Luce, “Jeanne d’Arc a Domremy” & C. Bessonnet-Favre. “Jeanne d’Arc, Tertiaire de Saint Francois”, p. 81)
Who knows? C. Bessonnet-Favre, in her book “La vérité sur Jeanne d’Arc: ses ennemis, ses auxiliaries, sa mission, d’après les chroniques du XV siècle” (Paris, 1895) expresses her belief that Jeanne indeed joined the third Franciscan order and that it was no other than Colette de Corbie who introduced her there (p. 87-88). One year later Bessonnet-Favre published another book, dedicated solely to this question: “Jeanne d’Arc, Tertiaire de Saint Francois” (Paris 1896). The title page contains information that the book was approved by the Bishop of the diocese of St Die. But it also proudly announces something else: that the author herself was a member of the Third Franciscan order… (12)
As we have only just purchased an original copy of this interesting and rare book, we will return to this question again.
Comparison with other Medieval mystics
Jeanne d’Arc was and is sometimes compared to other people who are known under the term “mystics”. As we will see, there are only some points at which she resembled them. There are more differences than similarities between her and them.
First of all, she was not making long discourses about morality, religion or salvation – her verbal criticism of the Duke of Lorraine because of him having a mistress was a rare exception. The other exception was that she did not tolerate “loose women” in her military camp. In this way she lost her first sword from Fierbois (see below) as she broke it on a back of one such “loose woman”.
She was not talking about life after death; she had no visions of “metaphysical” importance. Her “visions” (if we decide to use the word nevertheless) were much more “utilitarian”, they were telling her what she should do on battlefields or in politics, and then only how she should defend herself against her judges in Rouen. She was usually not making use of any flowery language.
It was only much later that many started commenting on her and her actions in a poetically-mythological way. The first example is the question of her sword which was found for her in the chapel of Saint Catherine in Fierbois. Unlike her later hagiographers, she herself told the story, during her condemnation trial, in a very down-to-earth fashion:
“I sent to make search for another sword in the church of St. Catherine de Fierbois, behind the altar. It was found there, all rusted, and on it there were five crosses. And the priests there rubbed it, and the rust fell away of itself.”
Later a beautiful, romantic story was composed about Charles Martel’s sword from the year 732 C.E, while in reality it was a sword which left there as late as just one year before it was found in 1429.
Unlike most religious mystics of her time, Jeanne had virtually no friends among clergy. There was one priest, Jean Pasquerel, who was to become her confessor and who, as it is often assumed, was the one who was writing letters dictated by her and was even supposed to have composed and written one of them himself – the one to the Hussites, which we quoted in its entirety at one earlier opportunity. But as for such a close person, as he is supposed to have been to Jeanne, it is almost astonishing to find that she herself never even mentioned his name during her trial in Rouen, while at the same time she was not hiding the names of her other associates. What is even more surprising is that Jean Pasquerel’s name does not appear anywhere in Jeanne’s story BEFORE the rehabilitation trial in 1456… It is only then that he appears personally and some other witnesses mention him too. This might suggest, as it is sometimes claimed, that he was simply assigned to her by the royal court and she had no say as to the choice made.
All this does not mean that Jeanne had nothing in common with some mystics and religious thinkers of her time. She was suspected of some kind of free-thinking when it came to religion and authority of the church. Some authors, like Marina Warner (“Joan of Arc. The Image of Female Heroism”, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London 1981, p. 87ff), compare Jeanne and her kind of free-thinking to that of the female religious movement known as the Beguines. This was a movement established in the XII century by Lambert le Begue (hence the name of the movement) who also started a similar movement for men, known as the Beghards. There is some quite extensive literature on Beguinesa and other female mystics. We consulted, among others, a book by Monica Furlong “Visions and Longings. Medieval Women Mystics” (Mowbray, London, 1996) and a book by Emilie Zum Brunn and Georgette Epiney-Burgard (“Women Mystics in Medieval Europe”) which was first published in Belgium in 1988 under the French title “Femmes Troubadours de Dieu” and then, in English, in USA one year later. This gave us more information about the Beguine movement and about the religious atmosphere in medieval Europe.
The Beguines were lay women who either stayed at home with their families or dwelled in communes known as “Beguinages”. They were either married or widowed or single. As long as they stayed in Beguinages, they were supposed to live in celibacy but even there they were free to leave and to marry.
The movement developed very quickly and by the mid 13th century it existed in most European countries. Their success however was greatest in the Low Countries, where it existed in practically every city. As Monica Furlong concludes:
“The success of the Beguines had much to do with the fact that the movement offered women a new kind of opportunity. In a world where their only adult choice was between marriage and the enclosure of the convent, the Beguines supplied a third respectable alternative, a way that women could enjoy the support and companionship of other women in a stimulating spiritual and intellectual environment without taking the irrevocable step of entering a convent.”
The Beguines were doing various jobs, including sewing, spinning, brewing etc. Often they worked with the poor and the sick. Some of the Beguinages became schools for local children.
Initially the Church looked favourably at the movement but as time passed the relative freedom of thought and organization started to be perceived as a challenge to the control of the Church. The Beguines were often considered to be a hotbed of heresy. Therefore, from the 14th century the Church hierarchy took action against them. Several women, including the mystic Marguerite Porete, were publicly burned alive on 1 June 1310 in Place de Gréve (now known as “Place de l’Hôtel de Ville”) in Paris, and the whole movement was later condemned (in 1311) during the Council of Vienna.
They were accused of antinomianism which was a heresy according to which if one possessed love, then one was free from the moral law, and virtues were no longer necessary. This alone brings us to the famous question which Jeanne d’Arc was asked during her trial in Rouen, namely, if she thought that she was already in a state of grace (1 March 1430-31). As we can see, her response was very clever:
“Asked if she knew whether she was in the grace of God; she answered: “If I am not, may God restore me to it, if I am, may God keep me in it. I would be sadder than anyone in the world to know that I am not in God’s grace”
“Interrogata an sciat quod ipsa sit in gratia Dei: respondit: Si ego non scim, Deus ponat me; et si ego sim, Deus me teneat in illa. Ego essem magis dolens de toto mundo, si ego scirem non esse in gratia Dei. “
Witness Guillaume Colles, called “Boisguillaume”, a priest and a public notary in Rouen, who was present during Jeanne’s condemnation trial, in his testimony 25 years later (1456) gave Jeanne’s answer in a slightly modified way:
“If I am, may God so keep me. If I am not, may God so place me. I would rather die than not be in the love of God”.
Some of the Beguines were simultaneously connected with a heretical movement known as the “Free Spirit” movement.
When we have already mentioned Marguerite Porete, who herself was not part of the society of the Beguines, but had an influence on their movement, there is one more thing that Jeanne had in common with Marguerite, namely the way she was assessed by the scientific elite of the University of Paris.
Marguerite Porete wrote a book “The Mirror of Simple Souls” on seven degrees of illumination. Marguerite was executed after a long battle for permission to distribute the book. The book was condemned already before 1306 by Guy II, Bishop of Cambrai, then burned on the public square in Valenciennes. The reading of the book was itself prohibited under pain of excommunication. Marguerite spent 1.5 years in prison. And it was Marguerite’s case which created a precedent in the form of an opinion given to the Inquisition by the theologians from the University of Paris. The Inquisition submitted a summary of evidence from the trial to the University for assessment. And it was the University which considered Marguerite’s book suspicious. No fewer than 21 professors of theology from that university unanimously condemned Marguerite. On the basis of the opinion received from the University, the Inquisition sentenced her to death.
And this procedure was later repeated by the Inquisition in Rouen, which, after weeks of interrogations of Jeanne, submitted a similar summary to the University of Paris and in this case, too, the University spoke against the defendant.
It is a matter of curiosity that the inquisitor who condemned Marguerite, Master Guillaume de Paris from the Dominican order, happened to be the same inquisitor, who presided over the trial of the Templars…
Emile Zum Brunn and Georgette Epiney-Burgard conclude that in Marguerite’s case, like in hardly any other case of this kind, the collaboration between the Inquisition and the Crown was so close, that one suspects also some political reasons for her trial and execution (p.144).
Thus we have one more analogy between her case and Jeanne’s… (13)
As Jeanne d’Arc seemed to have been pretty independent from the Church authorities in matters of personal religious experience (as she herself expressed it), let us try to find attitudes among other well known religious personalities which could resemble her own.
Such a leading woman, connected to the movement of the Beguines, was Mechthild of Magdeburg (born between 1207 and 1210, died around 1294). She is also said to have been slandered and persecuted. Only after she reached more than 60 years of age did she join a religious order (around 1270). She confessed her spiritual experiences to a Dominican priest named Heinrich von Halle. He encouraged her to write (in 1250) a series of poems entitled “Das Flieβende Licht der Gottheit” (“The Flowing Light of the Godhead”).
In her words this is how the Soul speaks to God:
“Lord, you are my lover,
My flowing stream,
And I am your reflection”
Yet another personality was Hadewijch of Brabant (Hadewijch of Antwerp) who lived in XIII century. She was promoting total adhesion to God’s will. God and soul become, according to her, “equal in oneness”. If soul wants to be “in God”, she has to love God as he loves himself, to become “one spirit” (based on 1Cor 6;17), “to become God with God”. What is the deepest essence of the soul, according to Hadewijch?
“The Soul is an essence which is transparent to God and for which God too is transparent” (…)
“The Soul is the way that God goes when he proceeds from his depths to his liberty, that is into his ground, which is beyond the reach of all things but the Soul’s depths. And as long as God is not wholly her own possession, she will not be satisfied”
These fragments (especially the second one) seem to imply, that, according to Hadewijch, the soul herself is the highest authority, above which there is no other authority – except for God himself…
Hadewijch might have been of noble lineage as she used many courtly expressions in her works. She might have had some problems both within the Beguine movement as well as with the authorities. She might have been subjected to threats of imprisonment – which is not surprising given the way she wrote… But the same is often being said about Jeanne d’Arc: that she too might have been of noble origin…
All the mystics of the late Middle Ages were peaceful people, Jeanne was warlike; they worked with the poor, she was fighting; they were doing the works of charity, she was waging a war. And she was very down-to-earth. Even when she was referring to God and religion, she was doing it in an unusually sober and “non-religious” manner. Her famous phrase confirms it: “Aide-toi, le ciel t’aidera” – “help yourself, the Heavens will help you”. Another form of it is the famously reported “soldiers will fight and God will give them victory” which is supposed to have been uttered by her in Poitiers in March 1429.
It was at the same time when, after she was asked for a sign confirming her “heavenly” mission, she answered: “I did not come here to give signs; but take me to Orleans, and I will show you the sign, for which I came”.
As it is clear, in all such cases the act is mentioned first, and the help of God second.
The religious ceremony of the anointing and coronation of Charles VII as the King of France in Reims was the very thing Jeanne insisted on almost fanatically after her victorious campaign along the Loire River. She was virtually “pushing” the King to Reims at all cost. We are unable to ascertain whether she personally believed in the power of religious ceremonies but most certainly she was well aware that many people believed in it. Therefore, again very soberly and realistically, she insisted on directing the campaign to Reims which was ipso facto on the enemy’s territory!
Her stance, as will be demonstrated, was well entrenched in her environment and political-religious thought.
“God stands by the side of the righteous”
God’s sympathy was judged by who emerged victorious. Edward III of England saw it in his victorious battles at Crécy and Poitiers. This convinced him that his own ambitions to take the French throne were right. Henry V saw the confirmation of righteousness of his own plans in his victory at Agincourt. In 1420 Henry V and the French King Charles VI signed their famous treaty of Troyes which stipulated that Charles VI would remain on the French throne and after his death Henry V would become the King of France.
This clear situation suddenly became completely confused after both Henry V and shortly after him Charles VI suddenly died in 1422. This left Charles VII of France and Henry VI of England as the next pretenders to the French throne. As Henry VI was only born in the previous year (6 December 1421), it was his uncle, his father’s brother, John of Lancaster, Duke of Bedford who took the reign in his hands as the regent of England.
All the questions of royal succession will be discussed in a separate part regarding the political factor in Jeanne’s life. Here we are concentrating on the religious factor only.
We have presented, at an earlier opportunity, a chronicle dating back to XV century which describes an act of what is known in French as “La triple donation” (“The triple gift”), which shows Charles VII giving the Kingdom of France to Jeanne, who offered it to God and then, after a short while, acting in the name of God, returned it to Charles VII.
The author of the story, which had already originally been written in 1429, was a theologian Jean DuPuy, who spent some time working in Rome.
The story stresses that kings are chosen by God himself. This choosing appears also in the story which Jeanne quickly invented during her trial in Rouen, namely the story in which the crown is being brought to Charles VII by an angel.
As Marina Warner put it in her book:
“The mandate of heaven, as we have seen, becomes clear when there is a winning side. It is a sextant rather than a compass: it gives a reading when there is a fixed point on which to orient it, when the sun is visible above the horizon. At Chinon, Joan made the bold and amazing statement that she had come from God; it is only after her victory at Orleans in May that year, just two months after Chinon, that the chroniclers of the period openly agree with her.”
This was evident, among other instances, in Orleans after Jeanne’s first successes, when the first English forts were taken. After the initial, considerable French casualties persuaded the war council to halt the attack in order to wait for reinforcements before the final assault, Jeanne ordered a new attack and rode out of the city. Gaucourt tried to stop her at the city gate, but she was virtually pushed outside by the crowd to whom Jeanne’ first victories were proof enough that she was God’s messenger…
But as Jeanne’s victories were hailed as a result of heavenly support for her, so her later demise was also explained as the will of God.
So she proved unable to take Paris which she attacked on 8 September 1429. The 8 September is the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Later, during her trial in 1431, it was maintained that the choice of the date of attack was wrong because of the religious feast. In other words, an opportunity arose to stress the importance of religion.
When Jeanne was captured on 23 May 1430, the Primate of France, Regnault de Chartres, who was the archbishop of Reims, condemned her with indignation. However, the incensed hierarch immediately found a replacement for her in the person of a teenage boy who became known as “Guillaume The Shepherd” from Gévaudan in the district of Cévennes. It was said that he had stigmata on his hands and feet. We know very little about him and nobody cares to show any particular respect to him as he fell into the hands of the English very quickly. He spent four months imprisoned by the Inquisition and was later triumphantly paraded in chains during the coronation procession of the young Henry VI in Paris on Sunday, 16 December 1431. The young King entered Paris riding under a blue canopy embroidered with the golden Fleur de Lys “as it is done for Our Lord on Corpus Christi” (“Chronicle of the Citizen of Paris”). Shortly afterwards, the English simply sewed Guillaume into a sack and threw him into the Seine. He lost very quickly, so even if he was initially kept imprisoned by the Church, nobody cared for a trial, especially the English who, as it seems, did not want to waste time for a lengthy inquisitorial trial.
Jeanne had far greater impact on the war, therefore the learned doctors of theology of the University of Paris took pains to prove which kind of a heretic and schismatic she was…
Both executions, of Guillaume and Jeanne (assuming of course that Jeanne was indeed executed) had to show that the two individuals were not whom they claimed to have been, because God refused to help them.
Let us note that this is the same pattern of reasoning which we see in early writings of the Christian religion and that it was in fact used to describe the attitude of those who executed Jesus Christ himself. According to the Gospels this was what was said about Christ: that he was not the one he claimed to be, because one could easily kill him and God allowed it.
Let us also not forget that the motif of “killing someone else instead” also has its application to Christ: in the early Christian centuries some Gnostics believed that somebody else was crucified instead of Christ. This belief was then borrowed by Muslims and immortalized in their Quran. As it happens, neither the Gnostics nor the Muslims consider this to be to the detriment of Christ, who emerges victorious in another dimension. We would therefore not be greatly surprised if the same was applied by many to Jeanne d’Arc if they believe that it was in fact not her who was executed in Rouen on 30 May 1431…
The comparison of Jeanne and Christ has already its own history and was practiced also in times closer to our own, not only closer to Joan’s. When Jules Michelet wrote his own work (1844) on Joan of Arc, he also put such a comparison out there, which he widened even to a comparison of the French and the English, basing it on a scheme of „Christians and Jews”. (14)
It must be stressed however that Jeanne’s demise was not immediate. Shortly after she was captured in 1430, prayers were offered in churches in various cities of France for her liberation. Below is the text of one such prayer from Grenoble:
“Almighty and Everlasting God, Who in Thine holy and ineffable clemency and in Thine admirable power hast ordained the coming of a young girl for the glory and preservation of the realms of France and also to repel, confound and destroy the enemies of that Kingdom, and Who has allowed that when she devoted herself to the holy tasks by Thee commanded, she should be imprisoned by the enemy, grant us, we beseech Thee, through the intercession of the Blessed Mary ever a Virgin and all the Saints, that she may be delivered from their power without suffering any hurt and that she shall accomplish all that Thou hast prescribed by one and the same mission”.
However the impact of her capture and subsequent condemnation by the Church is not to be underestimated. Merely two years after that trial, during an assembly of three estates in Blois, Jean Jouvenal des Ursins made a review of successes of the reign of the King Charles VII and expressed formal thanks for many brave heroes, whom God sent to the side of the King. Jeanne d’Arc was not even mentioned in his eulogy just as if she had never existed or as if two years were just enough to forget her completely.
If that omission was caused by the condemnation of her on the ground of “heresy,” it would be a further proof of how the religious factor could affect non-religious issues.
And yet Jeanne was the very person who, through her military campaign, completely cleared the Loire region of the English troops within a timeframe of just over one month. And she culminated her triumph with a crushing victory at Patay on 18 June 1429 where the English lost at least 2000 while the French lost merely “fewer than five”…
She was also the one who orchestrated the rapid march to Reims thus paving the way to the King’s anointing and crowning in that city on 17 July 1429. That was a daring venture given the fact that Reims lay deep within the enemy’s territory…
One could argue that after such feats she would most certainly deserve to be listed along others in des Ursin’s eulogy in Blois. And yet she was omitted…
We will also not see her in the famous miniature representing the monarchical society from around 1450. On the top part of this illustration we see the clergy with a pope, at the bottom we see the middle class and peasants. The centre point of the image was reserved for King Charles VII flanked by the Dauphin (the future King Louis XI) on the left and by Constable Arthur de Richemont on the right. Jeanne is absent…
Various images of Jeanne, both sculpted and painted, started appearing relatively late. Sometime between 1455 and 1485 the first famous miniature of Jeanne was painted and then the group of sculptures with the Pieta, King Charles VII and Jeanne in Orleans (1481). At that time, well after the rehabilitation trial, it was already permitted to take Jeanne out of the darkness of the official “amnesia” imposed before. Later, the famous “Vigiles du roi Charles VII” were written by Martial d’Auvergne (1493) with a series of miniatures of Jeanne d’Arc.
It is true that Charles VII had already earlier gained the full control over his country. Yet the condemnation of Jeanne by the Church was still a burden for a while as a rehabilitation trial, according to the inquisitorial rules, could not have taken place earlier than 25 years after the original sentence. This once again shows the extent to which one had to reckon with the power of the institutionalized religion.
When we say that her images started appearing again late after her rehabilitation trial, we mean in France. Elsewhere, the political situation moderated by religion in regards to Jeanne did not exist. So in the German countries her images, often beautifully crafted, continued to appear, like in one of the 24 panels of the Albrechtsaltar which was created between 1437 and 1439. The altar is now in the Sebastianikapelle (St Sebastian’s chapel) in the monastery in Klosterneuburg near Vienna (Austria). This altar is, by the way, known also for other curiosities. There is for example one of the oldest images of medieval glasses on one of the panels.
And even later, when Jeanne was long “righteous” again, some of her images were also to eulogize the Church. So it was with another sculpture-group known as “Rehabilitation of Jeanne d’Arc”, created by Emile Pinchon in 1909 for the cathedral in Noyon, some 60 miles from Paris. Jeanne is shown there as “thanking” the hierarchy for her rehabilitation. We shall come to this sculpture in a moment.
As we wrote in our opening statement in this text, we are not yet quite satisfied with it.
Our initial questions led us to answers which opened even more questions than we were asking before. As we noted, we will continue our research of this aspect of life of Jeanne d’Arc as we will continue this series of articles. So we will come back to the question of Jeanne’s possible involvement in the Third Franciscan Order. We will also continue our efforts to establish to what extent all that she was stating in her trial reflected the truth and to what extent it was only a defence tactic.
We have presented a series of illustrations in this part of our series. Let us look at one more. It is the famous and beautiful group created by the renowned French sculptor Emile Leon Clement Pinchon (1872 – 1934), which he completed in 1909 and which can be seen in the Cathedral of Noyon. Very good photos of this group can be found here and here (scroll down).
The group is named “La Rehabilitation de Jeanne d’Arc”. It is an allegorical representation of the rehabilitation which was solemnly declared on 7 July 1456.
Who are the persons in this group together with Jeanne?
The man standing next to her, bending, is Guillume Bouille, doctor and then professor of theology at the University of Paris (sic!), later also the Rector of that university, the same university which wrote an opinion in 1431 which was used then to condemn Jeanne in Rouen. Bouille was also the Dean of the Cathedral Chapter of Noyon. He was in charge, by the order of Charles VII, of the preparation of the initial inquest related to the rehabilitation of Jeanne d’Arc.
The man standing behind him is no other than Jean Brehal, a theologian of the Dominican Order (this is why he is shown here in his Dominican robe on which there is clearly visible the Dominican Cross). In 1452 he became the Grand Inquisitor of The Faith for the Kingdom of France. And in this capacity he formally presided over the rehabilitation proceedings from 7 November 1455 to 7 July 1456. He retired as Inquisitor in 1474 and died in or around the year 1479.
So far, so good! But who are the two bishops?
The one seated in the centre, on the higher stool (i.e. on the “cathedra”), is Jean de Mailly (1396 – 14/02/1472), bishop of Noyon from 20/07/1425. He was a licentiate in canon law. He was also one of the principal members of the… English King’s Council, pro-Burgundian and anti-Armagnac. This means he was an enemy of Jeanne d’Arc! Moreover, he personally took part in Jeanne’s condemnation trial in Rouen in 1431, as an assessor to the tribunal, and was present during the pronouncement of the final condemning sentence on 30 May 1431. He is specifically mentioned on the long list of those present. He was apparently later to say that he only took part in one session of that trial and that he remembered nothing of it at all…
And the bishop on the far right, who was the Bishop of Beauvais and later the Archbishop Duke of Reims, is no other than Jean Juvenal des Ursins (1388 – 1473), the chronicler, who we already named in this text: the one who in 1433 so cautiously omitted Jeanne d’Arc in his famous eulogy of the reign and victories of Charles VII. As the Bishop of Beauvais he was one of the successors of Bishop Pierre Cauchon, who presided over the condemnation trial of Jeanne d’Arc.
One could ask how, au nom du diable, those two bishops have “merited” their presence in this allegorical scene?
This scene shows the venerable theologians and hierarchs offering Jeanne the gift of “memory of rehabilitation”.
And Jeanne herself? With one hand held against her breast and the other one lowered down, she slightly bends as if “thanking” them for this gift…
What is further interesting is how the two bishops are depicted. While the two theologians, Bouille and Brehal, the inquisitor, are standing as if showing respect to Jeanne, although Brehal has his wooden chair ready just behind him, the bishops are seated. And bishop Mailly looks even as if he was presiding over Jeanne’s rehabilitation, which is simply completely and outrageously false.
This is an example of how legends and myths are being created for posterity, how the mysteries of history are being further deliberately muddled in the artificial cloud of religious and political mythology.
(1). We have however to take into account that the origins of the village’s name might be completely different and date back to the so-called “Pagan” times. There were a Celtic people known in Latin as “Remii”. The Celtic term “dun” could mean either a “temple” or a place of worship. Therefore “dunam remii” could be the original phrase from which the name developed. An interesting theory can be found on a page jeannedomremy.fr and it offers some fascinating local evidence, including evidence on the local church.
(2). St. Catherine and St Margaret were known as “Holy Helpers”. There were 14 Holy Helpers venerated in the Middle Ages, whose help, through intercession, was believed to have been particularly effective. These saints were:
St Denis, St Erasmus, St Blaise, St Pantaleon, St Giles, St Vitus, St Christopher, St Eustace, St George, St Cyriac, St Achatius, St Barbara, St Margaret and St Catherine.
Their cult as Helpers In Need (“Nothelfer”) is believed to have originated in the Rhineland in the 14 century, as a result of the Black Death.
(3). There were even suggestions that the blades on the wheel of Catherine are the shells which were used to dismember the body of Hypatia. Marina Warner concludes then:
“If Hypatia is the model for Catherine of Alexandria, if the Christians made a saint of their own victim, as they adopted Mercury and Dionysius and other pagan deities and heroes, then it reveals a fascinating buried link between Joan and her patron Saint Catherine. Joan’s literalism was forced upon her by the limitations of her sophistication and the expectations of her judges, as we have seen; she herself was a Neoplatonist in inclination…” (p. 302)
We of course do not know the exact origins of the legend of Saint Catherine, nor we are able to determine Jeanne’s “limitations of sophistication”.
(4). Charlemagne himself was widely considered a saint during the Middle Ages after the twelfth century. But his canonization by Antipope Paschal III was never recognized by the Holy See. His beatification however has been acknowledged and his feast is celebrated on 28 January.
(5). Food played a much greater role in women’s piety than in men’s. In an extensive study of 864 saints who lived between 1000 and 1700 A.D. its authors (D. Weinstein and R. Bell) were able to prove that all types of penitential asceticism (and these include fasting) were far more common among women. They made up about 17.5% of all saints but accounted for 29% of saints subjecting themselves to extreme austerities. When it came to fasting, Richard Kieckhefer in his study of XIV century saints showed that albeit fewer than 30% of them were women, they made up about 50% of those indulging in fasting. He also demonstrated that within that period there was only one male who received Eucharistic visions. Yet another author, André Vauchez, concludes that while among male saints there was only one category for whom fasting was important, namely a hermit; then on the other hand it was a crucial component of piety among female saints.
We quoted these numbers from Caroline Walker-Byman’s book “Holy Feast and Holy Host” where they are listed on page 76. The studies to which she refers, are these:
Donald Weinstein, Rudolph Bell. “Saints and Society: The Two Worlds of Western Christendom, 1000 – 1700”. Chicago, 1982 (p. 234, table 18)
Richard Kieckhefer. “Unquiet Souls: Fourteenth – Century Saints and Their Religious Milieu”. Chicago, 1984 (p. 172)
André Vauchez. “La Saintete en Occident aux derniers siècles du moyen âge d’après les proces de canonisation et les documents hagiographiques“. Ecole Francaise de Rome, Rome, 1981 (p. 224-26 ; 347-48 ; 405-6 ; 450-51)
(6). The number of popes (including the antipopes) of that time was indeed impressive. If we assume that Jeanne was born somewhere between 1407 and 1408 (the most likely years of her birth) to even in 1412, then within that short time which elapsed till the year of her trial (1431) there were 9 popes. If the year of her birth was closer to 1405, then there was one more pope at the time. If we extend the timeframe of her life beyond 1431 to include the period of Jeanne des Armoises, then we would have to add 3 to possibly 4 more popes. Here is their full list:
Benedict XIII (Pedro de Luna) – 28/09/1394 – deposed 26/07/1417
Innocent VII (Cosimo Gentile de Migliorati) – 17/10/1404 – 6/11/1406
Gregory XII (Angelo Correr) – 30/11/1406 – resigned 4/07/1415
Alexander V (Pietro Philarghi) – 26/06/1409 – 3/05/1410
John XXIII (Baldassare Cossa) – 17/05/1410 – deposed 29/05/1415
Martin V (Oddo Colonna) – 11/11/1417 – 20/02/1431
Clement VIII (Gil Sanchez Munoz) – 10/06/1423 – abdicated 26/07/1429
Benedict XIV (Bernard Garnier) – 12/11/1425 – not much known of him afterwards but some small faction was still loyal to him 40 years later
Eugene IV (Gabriele Condulmaro) – 3/03/1431 – 23/02/1447
Nicholas V (Tommaso Parentucelli) – 6/03/1447 – 24/03/1455
Felix V (Duke Amadeus VIII of Savoy) – 5/11/1439 – abdicated 04/1449. He is officially considered the last “antipope” of that era
Callistus III (Alfonso Borgia) – 8/04/1455 – 6/08/1458. He officially reopened the trial of Jeanne d’Arc (nullification trial of 1455-56)
Pius II (Enea Silvio Piccolomini) – 19/08/1458 – 15/08/1464. He was the one who thought that the story of Jeanne d’Arc was invented by the French royal court.
(7). “…She said the sign was that the angel confirmed her King, bringing him the crown, and telling him that he would have the whole kingdom of France entirely with God’s help and through the work of that Jeanne, and he would put her to work, which means, that he would give her men-at-arms, otherwise he would not be so soon crowned and anointed (…).
(here one question and answer are noted about St Catherine, not connected to the topic)
(…) “Asked in what way the angel brought the crown and if he put it on the head of the King, responded, that it was given to the Archbishop of Reims (Regnault de Chartres), as it seems to her, in the King’s presence .
And the Archbishop received the crown and gave it to the King and she herself was present. The crown was then deposited in the treasure of the King.
Asked to which place it was brought, replied that it was in the king’s chamber in the castle of Chinon.
Asked the day and hour of the day, responded, that she did not remember the day, as for the time, it was full day. Otherwise she has no memory of the time. And it was in April or March, as it seems to her. The next April or in this month, there will be two years ago, and it was after Easter.
Asked whether it was on the first day she saw the sign, when the King saw it, said yes and he himself had it.(Interrogata utrum, eodem die quo ipsa vidit illud signum, suus rex etiam viderit, respondit quod sic, et quod ipsemet rex suus habuit illud.)
Asked what material was the said crown of, said it is well known that it was of fine gold, and was so rich and opulent that she can not count and appreciate the riches and it meant that her King would hold the Kingdom of France.
Asked if there were jewels in it, replied:
– I told you what I know.
Asked if she touched or kissed it, said, no.
Asked whether the angel who brought the crown came from above or if he came through the land, answered, that when he came before the king, he did reverence to the king, bowing before him and uttered the words that the said Jeanne uttered about the sign and, with this, the angel recalled his beautiful patience he had had amidst great tribulations which had befallen him. The angel came from the door and walked on the earth, coming to the King.
Asked what space there was between the door and the King, replied, that she thought the distance was about the length of a lance there, and the said angel came and returned the same way.
She said that when the angel came, she accompanied him and went with him by the staircase to the King’s chamber, and the angel came first and then herself. And she said to the king:
– Sire, here’s your sign, take it.
Asked in what place the angel appeared to her, replied:
– I was almost constantly praying to God that He sends a sign to the king, and I was at home, which was in a house of a good woman near the castle of Chinon, when the angel came. And then we went together to the King, him and me. And the angel was well accompanied by other angels with him, nobody could see them. And she said further, that had it not been for the love of her, and to free her of the pain of those people who argued with her, she believes that many people who said that they saw the angel, had not seen him.
Asked if all that were there with the King saw the angel, she responded, she thought the Archbishop of Reims, the lords of Alençon and Trémoille and Charles de Bourbon saw him. As for the crown, many of the clergy and others saw it but did not see the angel.
Asked what appearance and height was this angel, said she has no leave to say, and would respond tomorrow.
Asked if all the angels who were in the company of the aforementioned angel were all of the same appearance, replied that some were similar enough and the others not, as far as she saw them: some had wings, and others were crowned, and there were in their holy company Catherine and Margaret, who were with the aforementioned angel and the other angels went also up into the King’s chamber.”
Needless to say, none of the men listed here had ever confirmed the story. And what seems to have enraged the judges in Rouen, was the reverence which the angel did to Charles VII:
“To say such things of Archangels and the Holy Angels is presumption, audacity, lying, as in the holy books we do not read that they did a like reverence, a like demonstration, to any saint – not even to the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God (…)”
And the final opinion in the same article, was this:
“(…) All these lies imagined by Jeanne at the instigation of the devil, or suggested by demons in deceitful apparitions, to make sport of her curiosity, her who would search secrets beyond her capacity and condition.” (Article 51 of initial Articles of Accusation)
(8). Edward Lucie-Smith. “Joan of Arc”, Penguin Books, UK 2000 (first published in 1976), p. 16. The author and publication in question are: Otto Allen Will Jr, “Halluciantions: Comments Reflecting Clinical Observations of the Schizofrenic Reaction”, Hallucinations, Louis Jolyon West (ed.), New York/London 1962, p.71
(9). Ibid, pages 15-16. Source used by Lucie-Smith: Edmund Parish, “Hallucinations and Illusions”, London 1897, p. 82-84 and 86.
“In the first place, we must note, that Joan’s voices and apparitions were not unique. It is perhaps surprising to learn how many people are from time to time visited by visual or auditory hallucinations. Towards the end of the last (19th) century, for example, the English Society for Psychical Research conducted a census of hallucinations based upon a very large sample – nearly 16,000 people from English-speaking countries, and over 27,000 altogether. 9.4 per cent of the respondents from English-speaking countries said that they had experienced hallucinations of one kind or another, and affirmative replies from the whole sample amounted to as much as 11.96 per cent. In the English table of results, more than half (52 per cent) of hallucinatory experiences occurred when the subjects were aged between fifteen and thirty – that is they began with puberty, and declined after young adulthood. However, the census-takers noticed the rarity of auditory hallucinations compared to visual ones, and of hallucinations affecting several of the senses compared to others.”
(10). In this case Lucie-Smith refers to yet another book:
Jean Lhermitte, “Les Hallucinations”, Paris 1951, p. 55-56.
(11). Regarding the dead child – from the transcript of the trial, 3 March 1430(31):
“Asked how old the child was she resurrected, said that the child was three days and was brought to Lagny before Our Lady. And it was said that the girls of the city were before Our Lady and that she might go to pray to God and Our Lady to give life to the child, and she went and prayed with others. And finally life returned to him and he yawned three times, and then was baptized: but he soon died and was buried in holy ground. And it was after three days, as they said, when in this child life had appeared, and he was as black as her doublet. But the color began to return to him. And Jeanne said she was with the ladies on their knees in front of Our Lady in her prayer.
Asked if she was not told by the city that she had obtained this resurrection, and that it was done through her prayer, answered that she had not inquired about it.”
In 1456 Gérardine d’Epinal testified that “she feared nothing except for treason”. This however might well simply be a result of experience during the Hundred Years War than any particular “vision”. Even later, in the XIX century Jules Michelet in his biography of Jeanne wrote that in those days “It was even better then, in point of safety, to be an enemy than a relative. In those days, it seems, fathers were no longer fathers, nor brothers brothers.” The same author even began his book with the sentence: “Joan’s eminent originality was her common sense.”
As for the incident with the black charger in Selles on 6 June 1429, let us quote the whole paragraph from a letter written by Guy de Laval on 8 June 1429 to his mother and grandmother. De Laval was at that time 23 years old. And this is what, according to him, happened with the horse at the cross:
“I went to her lodging to see her: and she sent for wine and told me we should soon drink wine in Paris. And there seemed something wholly divine in her manner, and to see her and hear her. She left Selles on Monday at the hour of vespers for Romorantin, the Marshal de Boussac and a great many armed men with her. I saw her mount her horse, all in white armour (“white armour” being a very expensive and well polished steel armour) except for helmet, a little axe in her hand. The great black charger was very restive at her door and would not let her mount. ‘Lead him,’ she said, ‘to the cross which is in front of the church,’ and there she mounted, the horse standing still as if he had been bound. Then turning towards the church which was close by she said in a very womanly voice. ‘You priests and people of the Church, make processions and prayers to God for us’; then turning to the road, ‘Forward! Forward!’ she said. Her unfolded standard was carried by a page; she had her little axe in her hand, and by her side rode a brother who had joined her eight days before.”
Edward Lucie-Smith knows Selles where the church still stands (only the old iron cross is missing, having been removed several centuries later). This is how he sees what happened:
“Anyone who knows the sleepy little town of Selles as it is today will find it easy to visualize the scene. The church, a handsome Romanesque building dedicated to St Eusice, has some particularly fine carvings. The cross where Joan mounted has disappeared, but undoubtedly stood by the main, or west door. The west façade faces a small square, and there is a street which leads into this, on the opposite side from the church itself. If Joan lodged in this westward-leading street, as seems entirely probable from the description, then when she came out to mount at vespers, her horse, facing towards the church, would have seen his own shadow stretching before him in the light of a fine June evening. Excellent horsewoman that she was, Joan immediately grasped the reason why he was baulking and shying, and had him led down the square, and turned around so that he could no longer see what was frightening him. Meanwhile, the clergy attached to the church came crowding to the door to watch her go”. (p. 129).
We have to admit that on this point we agree with Lucie-Smith entirely.
Let us pay attention to the fact, that Guy de Laval in his letter quoted above did not write anything about a “miracle with a horse” of Joan, albeit he was enchanted by “something wholly divine in her manner”.
(12). Bessonnet-Favre assumed that Jeanne d’Arc and Claude, who was later known as Jeanne des Armoises, were sisters, one of them born in 1410, the other in 1412. She created an interpretation of Jeanne, which was based on the Bible. On page 188 of her first book (1895) she makes Jeanne explain to her King, Charles VII that she was an incarnation of Deborah from the so-called “Old Testament” and her sister Claude was, in her military actions, to play the role which Jael from the Book of Judges played being directed by Deborah. She puts these words into the mouth of Jeanne:
” My sister is the arm, I am the head. The warlike Maid is Claude and I am the sweet Maid.(…) Claude will lead the men at arms and, following her, the Gauls will be right and victorious. I alone possess the strategic plans of the fight and I will bring about the triumph to the double standard of the monks of France and of the English barons who ask for your alliance, by assuring you, through me, of their support against the common enemy: the usurper Lancaster who threatens them as much as you.”
Needless to say, no English barons were asking Charles VII for alliance against the English regent… But it is just a story molded in the fashion of the Bible.
(13). As we wrote a few years ago, it was not the lay politicians but the learned theologians who initiated Jeanne’s trial. Formally, two days after she was captured at Compiegne on 23 May 1430 the theologians from the University of Paris wrote a letter to the Duke of Burgundy, Philip The Good, asking him to hand her over to the Inquisition for trial. At that time the Duke did not even have her in his hands, as she was a prisoner of John of Luxembourg.
(14). Jules Michelet. „Joan of Arc”. Ann Arbor Paperbacks, USA 2000, p. 106-107:
“With so many virtues on the human plane, with their high seriousness, with their dignified bearing, with their biblical turn of mind, no people stands farther away from grace than the English. From Shakespeare to Milton, from Milton to Byron, their literature, in its somber beauty, is skeptical, Judaic, satanic.
‘With regard to the law’, a jurist rightly said, ‘ the English are Jews, the French are Christians’. What he said of the law, a theologian could have said of the faith.
The American Indians, who often reveal so much penetration and originality, expressed this distinction in their own way: ‘Christ’, said one of them, ‘was a Frenchman whom the English crucified in London; Pontius Pilate was an official in the service of Great Britain’.
Never were the Jews filled with such hatred against Jesus as the English against the Maid. She had, we must admit, wounded them at their most sensitive point, in the naïve and profound esteem they have of themselves. At Orleans their invincible men-at-arms and their famous archers with Talbot at their head had turned tail; at Jargeau, in a fortified town behind stout walls they allowed themselves to be caught; at Patay, they had fled as fast as their legs could carry them, fled before a girl. These memories were hateful to the English, who in their taciturn pride kept chewing the bitter cud…”