A. Letter of Joan to the King of England, 1429
B. The Trial of Joan of Arc, 1431
C. The Sentencing of Joan of Arc
D. Postscript

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Joan, called "the Maid," was a young peasant girl from the town of Domrémy in the French county of Lorraine who felt called by God to help the French king resist the English during the Hundred Years War.  In 1429 the political situation was complicated; King Henry V of England had conquered a huge chunk of France, but died in 1422 leaving a 9-month old son (Henry VI, ruled 1422-1461).  In the Treaty of Troyes (1420), Henry V had forced King Charles VI of France to make Henry and his sons the heirs to the kingdom of France. Thus, even though Charles VI had an adult son (eventually named Charles VII, but referred to as the Dauphin prior to his coronation), when Charles VI died in 1422, the baby Henry VI became king of both England and France (the first and last time such an event occurred).  Because Henry VI was too young to look out for his own interests, a regency council led by his uncles (especially John, Duke of Bedford) carried on the English effort to gain complete mastery of France. In 1429 it looked as if the English might actually complete the conquest and unite the two kingdoms, since the Dauphin appeared weak and vacillating and the English were about to capture the important town of Orléans.  It was at this moment that Joan of Arc arrived on the scene.  Joan, a shepherdess, heard angelic voices telling her to seek out the Dauphin, lead his troops to victory against the English, and have him crowned as rightful king of France.  Once she had convinced the Dauphin that she was indeed a prophet sent by God, she took command of an army and went into battle against  the English. She wrote this letter to Henry VI and his Regents, who were laying siege to the town of Orléans. Note how she speaks of government in religious terms and how she switches back and forth between the first person "I" and the third person "she" when she refers to herself.  For more on Joan, see to the Internet Medieval Sourcebook.

King of England, render account to the King of Heaven of your royal blood. Return to the Maid the keys of all the good cities which you have seized. She is sent by God to reclaim the royal blood, and is fully prepared to make peace, if you will give her satisfaction; that is, you must render justice, and pay back all that you have taken.

King of England, if you do not do these things, I am the commander of the military; and in whatever place I shall find your men in France, I will make them flee the country, whether they wish to or not; and if they will not obey, the Maid will have them all killed. She comes sent by the King of Heaven, body for body, to take you out of France, and the Maid promises and certifies to you that if you do not leave France she and her troops will raise a mighty outcry as has not been heard in France in a thousand years. And believe that the King of Heaven has sent her so much power that you will not be able to harm her or her brave army.

To you, archers, noble companions in arms, and all people who are before Orleans, I say to you in God's name, go home to your own country; if you do not do so, beware of the Maid, and of the damages you will suffer. Do not attempt to remain, for you have no rights in France from God, the King of Heaven, and the Son of the Virgin Mary. It is Charles, the rightful heir, to whom God has given France, who will shortly enter Paris in a grand company. If you do not believe the news written of God and the Maid, then in whatever place we may find you, we will soon see who has the better right, God or you.

William de la Pole, Count of Suffolk, Sir John Talbot, and Thomas, Lord Scales, lieutenants of the Duke of Bedford, who calls himself regent of the King of France for the King of England, make a response, if you wish to make peace over the city of Orleans! If you do not do so, you will always recall the damages which will attend you.

Duke of Bedford, who call yourself regent of France for the King of England, the Maid asks you not to make her destroy you. If you do not render her satisfaction, she and the French will perform the greatest feat ever done in the name of Christianity.

Done on the Tuesday of Holy Week (March 22, 1429). HEAR THE WORDS OF GOD AND THE MAID.

[Translated by Belle Tuten from M. Vallet de Vireville, ed. Chronique de la Pucelle, ou Chronique de Cousinot. Paris: Adolphe Delahaye, 1859, pp. 281-283.  This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book.  The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.]

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B. THE TRIAL OF JOAN (1431): Joan Tells Her Story
Those whom Joan led to victory believed that she was inspired by God, but the English, although they did not deny that she was supernaturally inspired, claimed that this inspiration came from the devil, not God. When Joan was captured in battle in 1430 by a third party (the Burgundians), King Charles VII pled poverty and declined to ransom her; the Burgundians promptly sold her to the English, who formally accused her of witchcraft and heresy.  A full and authentic report of her trial remains, and from it is extracted the following passage in which she answers questions about her Voices. She maintained that she raised the siege of Orleans in obedience to the divine call, and that all her important acts were prompted by a voice from heaven. Her trial at Rouen was conducted by Peter Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais, to whom she had been handed over by the English for that purpose (the fact that Peter was a Frenchman shows how divided France was at this time). She was little more than nineteen years old in 1431 when the church court found her guilty and sentenced her to be burned at the stake.

We next required and admonished Joan, appearing before us in the said place, to  take, under penalty of law, the oath which she had taken the day before; and that she  should swear simply and absolutely to tell the truth in answer to what was asked her in  the matter concerning which the charge had been brought and which was generally known. To  this she answered that she had sworn yesterday and that was enough. Again we required that  she should swear; for every one, though he be a prince, when required to take the oath on  a point of faith cannot refuse. And she answered again: "I took the oath for you  yesterday; that should suffice you quite well. You burden me too much." Finally she  swore to tell the truth in whatever related to faith.
 Then a distinguished professor of sacred theology, Master John Beaupère, acting by our  order and behest, questioned Joan on the points which follow. And first he urged here to  answer his questions truly, just as she had sworn to do. Whereupon she replied "You  might very well ask me one sort of question which I would answer truly, and another sort  which I would not answer." And she added: "If you were well informed about me,  you should wish that I were out of your hands. I have done nothing save by  revelation."

Next asked about her age when she left home: she said that she did not know. Asked  whether in her girlhood she had learned any art: she said yes, that she had learned to sew  linen cloth and to knit; and that she did not fear any woman in Rouen when it came to  knitting and sewing. She further confessed that, through fear of the Burgundians, she left  home and went to the town of Neufchâteau in Lorraine [seven miles south of Joan's  birthplace, Domrémy] to live with a woman named La Rousse, where she stayed a fortnight;  adding furthermore that when she was at home she was exempt from household work nor went  with the sheep and other animals to pasture.

Again asked whether she confessed her sins each year: she answered yes, to her own priest; and when the priest was hindered she with his permission confessed to another  priest. Sometimes also, twice or thrice as she believed, she confessed to the friars. And  this was in the said town of Neufchâteau. And she had been in the habit of receiving the  Eucharist at Easter. Asked whether she had been in the habit of receiving the Sacrament of  the Eucharist at any other feasts save Easter: she told her questioner to pass on. She  further confessed that when she was thirteen years old she had a voice from God to aid her  in self-discipline. And the first time she was greatly afraid. And this voice came about noon in summer in her father's garden, and she had fasted the day before. And she heard the voice coming from her right in the direction of the church; and she seldom heard the voice without the appearance of a very bright light coming from the same direction as the voice. And when she came to France she often heard this voice.  She was then asked how she was able to see the light which she said was there when it supposedly appeared off to one side; to this she answered nothing, but passed to other things.  She moreover said that if she were in a grove she distinctly heard voices coming to her.  She also said that the voice seemed to her worthy, and she believes that it was sent by  God; and after she had heard it three times she knew that it was the voice of an angel.  She also said that it always guarded her well, and that she knew it well.

Asked about the teaching which her voice gave her respecting the salvation of her soul,  she said that it taught her to govern herself well, to go often to church, and that it said she also must go to France. And Joan added that the prosecutor would not at this time learn from her the form in which the voice had appeared to her. She furthermore confessed that  the voice told her twice or thrice a week that she must leave home and go to France; and that her father knew nothing of her departure. She also said that the voice told her to go to France, and that she could no longer remain where she was, and that the voice told her that she should break the English siege of Orleans. She further said that her voice had told her that she should go to Robert de Baudricourt, Captain of the fortress of Vaucouleurs, and  he would give her attendants; and she then had answered that she was a poor girl who knew not how to ride a horse nor head a campaign. She also said that she went to her uncle and told  him that she wished to stay with him for a little while; and she stayed there about eight  days; and she then told her uncle that she must go to the fortress of Vaucouleurs; so he brought her there.

She also said that when she came to Vaucouleurs she recognized Robert de Baudricourt, although she had never seen him before; and she recognized him by the aid of her voice, for the voice told her that it was he; and she told Robert that she must go into France.  Twice he denied and withstood her, and the third time he took her and gave her attendants;  and so it came to pass just as her voice had said. . . . Moreover she confessed that in  leaving Vaucouleurs she put on men's dress, wearing a sword which Robert de Baudricourt  had given her and no other arms. Accompanied by a knight, a shield-bearer and four servants, she reached the town of St. Urbain, and there passed a night in the abbey.

She also said that in this journey she passed through the town of Auxerre and there heard mass in the cathedral, and at this time she was often wont to hear her voices. Asked to say by whose advice she put on men's dress, she refused several times to answer. At  last she said that she would not accuse any man of this; yet she several times changed her answer. She also stated that Robert de Baudricourt made those who took her swear that they would convey her well and safely, and Robert on parting with her said: "Go, go, and may whatever good that can come of this come to pass."

She also said that she well knew that God loved the Duke of Orleans; and that  she had more revelations about him than about any living man, save him whom she called  her king. She said, too, that she was obliged to change her own dress for a man's. She  also said that she believed that she had been well advised.

She said that she sent letters to the English before Orleans telling them to raise the siege, just as is set down in many letters which have been read to her in this town of  Rouen, save for two or three words in them; for instance, "yield to the Maid"  should be "yield to the King." These words also occur there which were not in  the original letters, "body for body," and "head of the war." [The prosecution was here asking about the letters sent in her name to the English; she admitted she had sent the letters, of which the prosecution produced examples during her trial, but insisted that the ones she had sent had contained slightly different wording. Instead of calling on the English to "yield to the maid", as the Prosecution alleged, she claimed the letters asked them to "yield to the king"]

Joan further said that she went to him whom she called her king [the Dauphin, who was the future King Charles VII] without hindrance, and when she reached to town of Ste. Catherine de Fierbois she was sent to Chinon, where he whom she called her king was.  She reached  this place about noon and lodged in an inn; and after dinner she went to him whom she called her king who was in the castle. She also said that when she entered his chamber she picked him out of the crowed with the aid of her voice. And she told her king that she wished to go make war against the English.

Asked if when the voice pointed out the king to her, there was any light in the place: she answered: "Pass on." Asked whether she had seen an angel above her king: she answered: "Spare me, pass on." Still, she said that before her king gave her any orders she had many beautiful visions and revelations. Asked how the king regarded the revelations and visions: she answered: "I shall not tell you this. This is not to be answered you; but send to the king himself and he will tell you." Joan also said that  the voice promised her that as soon as she came to her king he would receive her. She said that they on their part well knew that the voice came to her from God, and that they had  seen and known her voice, stating that she was confident of it. She further said that her king and several others had heard and seen voices coming to her; and Charles de Bourbon with two or three others were present.

She moreover said that there was no day when she did not hear this voice, and that she stood in great need of it. She said that she had never asked from her voice any other  final reward except the salvation of her soul. She further confessed that the voice told  her to remain at the town of St. Denis in France; and she had wished to remain there; but  they had led her out against the will of this master. Nevertheless if she had not been  wounded she would not have retired; and she was wounded in the trenches before Paris after  she had gone there from St. Denis; but in five days she was healed. She confessed that she  had directed an attack, called in French a skirmish, before Paris. And when she was  questioned whether that were a feast day: she answered to that to the best of her belief  it was. Asked if she approved of this: she answered: "Pass on."

After these things had been thus transacted, because it seemed quite enough for one  day, we, the said bishop, postponed the trial until the following Saturday at eight o'clock in the morning.

[Source: Charles W. Colby, ed., Selections from the Sources of English History, B.C.  55 - A.D. 1832 (London: Longmans, Green, 1920), pp. 113-117.  Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by  Prof. Arkenberg (and also by Richard Barton).  This text is part of, and may be found at, the Internet  Medieval Source Book.  Permission is granted for distribution in print form for educational  purposes and personal use.]

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C. THE TRIAL OF JOAN (1431): Sentencing
The proceedings against Joan began in January 1431 before an ecclesiastical court led by Bishop Peter of Beauvais.  They dragged on for the entire winter and most of the spring.  Joan was quite straightforward about her voices (whom she identified as the angels St Catherine and St. Margaret), her devotion to King Charles VII of France (whom the prosecutors, living in English-occupied France, refused to acknowledge as king of France), and her willingness to dress in men's clothes.  The tenor of the trial resembled a game of cat and mouse, as the clerical prosecutors tried to trap Joan into making statements that were patently heretical; Joan, on the other hand, continued to insist on her orthodoxy and her divine inspiration.  As  befit ecclesiastical legal procedure of the day, Joan's statements (such as those found in the last passage) were continually subject to the scrutiny of leading theologians and canon lawyers, among whom the most famous came from the University of Paris. By early May the prosecutors had come to realize that Joan was not going to alter her story or provide any further information, and so on Wednesday May 2nd, Joan was publicly admonished by Bishop Pierre; one of his assistants explained in some detail how she was guilty of heresy on numerous points.  On May 9th, the assembled prosecutors threatened her with judicial torture (with which, they hoped, they could extract a confession); but Joan replied strongly that torture would change nothing, and by a vote of 11-3 the judges decided to forego torture. By May 23rd, the prosecution had decided to make one last admonition to Joan: it collated her previous testimony with the decisions of the learned masters of theology from the University of Paris, and presented its case to her in a twelve-point memorandum.

On the following Wednesday, May 23rd [1431], the said Jeanne was led to a room near her prison in the castle of Rouen and into the presence of us her judges assembled there in tribunal. [Note 1]  There were also present the reverend fathers and lords, the lord bishops of Thérouanne and of Noyon, the lords and masters Jean de Châtillon, archdeacon of Évreux, Jean Beaupère, Nicolas Midi, Guillaume Erart, Pierre Maurice, doctors of sacred theology; André Marguerie, licentiate in law, and Nicolas de Vendères, licentiate in decrees, archdeacons and canons of the church of Rouen.

In the presence of the said Jeanne we caused to be explained certain points on which she had erred and strayed according to the deliberations of the Faculties of Theology and Decrees of the University of Paris.  The faults, crimes and errors contained in each of these points according to the deliberation were explained to her: and we warned her and caused her to be warned to abandon these shortcomings and errors, to correct and reform herself, to submit to the correction and decision of our Holy Mother the Church, as is declared at greater length in a memorandum transcribed below, which was expounded in French to Jeanne by master Pierre Maurice, canon of Rouen and a celebrated doctor of theology.
[here follow the twelve points of the memorandum]

I.  Firstly, Jeanne, you have said that from the age of thirteen years or thereabouts you have had revelations and apparitions of angels, of St. Catherine and St. Margaret, whom you have frequently seen with your bodily eyes; and that they have often spoken with you and told you many things set forth at length in your trial.

On this point the clerks of the University of Paris and others have considered the manner and end of these revelations, the matter of the things revealed, and the quality of your person; and having considered everything relevant they declare that it is all false, seductive, pernicious, that such revelations and apparitions are superstitious and proceed from evil and diabolical spirits.

II. You have said that your king [Charles VII] received a sign by which he knew that you were sent from God, that it was St. Michael, in the company of a host of angels, some with crowns, others with wings, and St. Catherine and St. Margaret were among them, coming to you in the town and castle of Rheims.  They all mounted the stairs of the castle in your company up to the chamber of your king, before whom the angel who bore the crown bowed.  At another time you said this crown, which you call a sign, was given to the archbishop of Rheims, who presented it to your king, before many princes and lords whom you have named.

Regarding this article, the clergy say it is not probable, but rather a presumptuous, misleading and pernicious lie, an undertaking contrary and derogatory to the dignity of angels.

III. You have said that you recognized the angels and saints by the good counsel, comfort and doctrine they gave you; by the fact that they told you their names and the saints greeted you; moreover that you believe it was St. Michael who appeared to you; that their words and deeds are good; all of which you believe as firmly as you hold the faith of Jesus Christ.

Regarding this article, the clergy say that the signs were not sufficient for the recognition of the angels and saints, that you believed lightly [ie., too easily] and affirmed rashly, that, moreover, in the comparison which you make you deviate from the faith.

IV. You have said you are certain of future and contingent events, that you have known where things were hidden, that you recognized men you had never seen, through the voices of St. Catherine and St. Margaret.

Regarding this article, the clergy find superstition, divination, presumptuous assertion, and vain boasting.

V. You have said that you wore and still wear men's clothing at God's command and to His good pleasure, for you had instruction from God to wear this dress, and so you have put on a short tunic, jerkin, and hose with many points.  You even wear your hair cut short above the ears, without keeping about you anything to denote your sex, save what nature has given you.  And often you have in this apparel received the Sacrament of the Eucharist. And although you have many times been admonished to put it off, you would not, saying that you would rather die than put off this attire, unless it were at God's command; and that if you were still in this attire and with those of your own party [ie., the party of Charles VII], it would be for the great welfare of France.  You say also that nothing could persuade you to take an oath not to wear this dress and bear these arms; and for all this you plead divine command.

Regarding such matters, the clergy declare that you blaspheme against God, despising Him and His sacraments, that you transgress divine law, Holy Scripture and the canons of the Church, that you think evil and err from the faith, that you are full of vain boasting, that you are given to idolatry and worship yourself and your clothes, according to the customs of the heathen.

VI. You have often said that in your letters you have put these names - "JHESUS MARIA" - and the sign of the cross, to warn those to whom you wrote not to do what was indicated in the letter. In other letters you boasted that you would kill all those who did not obey you, and that by your blows would the favor of the Lord be seen.  Also you have often said that all your deeds were by revelation and according to divine command.

In regard to such affirmations, the clergy declare you to be a traitor, perfidious, cruel, desiring human bloodshed, seditious, an instigator of tyranny, a blasphemer of God's commandments and revelations.

VII. You have said that according to revelations given to you at the age of seventeen, you left your parents' house against their will, driving them almost mad.  You went to Robert de Baudricourt, who, at your request, gave you a man's dress and a sword, [and] also [gave you] men-at-arms to take you to your king.  And when you came to the king, you told him that his enemies should be driven away, you promised to bring him into a great kingdom, to make him victorious over his foes, and that for this God had sent you.  These things you say you accomplished in obedience to God and according to revelation.

Regarding such things, the clergy declare that you have been irreverent to your father and mother, thereby breaking God's commandment, that you have given occasion for scandal [by dressing as a man], that you have blasphemed; that you have erred from the faith, and that you have made a rash and presumptuous promise.

VIII. You have said that of your own will you hurled yourself from the tower of Beaurevoir, preferring to die rather than be delivered into the hands of the English and live after the destruction of Compiègne. [Note 2]  And although St. Catherine and St. Margaret forbade you to leap, you could not restrain yourself. And in spite of the great sin you have committed in offending these saints, you knew by your voices that after your confession your sin was forgiven. [Note 3]

This act the clergy declare you committed because of cowardice verging on despair and possibly suicide. In this matter you also uttered a rash and presumptuous statement when you asserted that your sin was forgiven, and you err from the faith concerning the doctrine of free will.

IX. You have said that St. Catherine and St. Margaret promised to lead you to Paradise provided that you preserved the virginity which you vowed and promised to them, and that you are as well assured of it [ie. of entering heaven] as if you had already entered into the glory of the Blessed.  You believe you have not committed mortal sin, and it seems to you that if you were in mortal sin the saints would not visit you daily as they do.

Such an assumption the clergy declare to be a pernicious lie, presumptuous and rash, that it contains a contradiction of what you previously said, and that finally your beliefs err from the true Christian faith.

X. You have declared that you know well that God loves certain living persons better than you, and that you learned this by revelation from St. Catherine and St. Margaret; [you have] also [declared] that those saints speak French, not English, since they are not on the side of the English.  And since you knew that your voices were for your king, you began to dislike the Burgundians. [Note 4]

Such matters the clergy pronounce to be a rash and presumptuous assertion, a superstitious divination, a blasphemy uttered against St. Catherine and St. Margaret, and a transgression of the commandment to love our neighbors.

XI. You declared to those whom you call St. Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret, you did reverence, bending the knee, taking off your cap, kissing the ground on which they trod, vowing to them your virginity; that you believed in the instruction of these saints, whom you invoked, kissed and embraced, as soon as they appeared to you, without seeking counsel from your priest or from any other ecclesiastic. And, notwithstanding, you believe these voices came from God as firmly as you believe in the Christian religion and the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Moreover, you said that if any evil spirit should appear to you in the form of St. Michael you would know such a spirit and distinguish him from the saint. And again you said, that of your own accord, you have sworn not to reveal the sign you gave to your king.  And finally you added, "Save at God's command."

Now touching these matters, the clergy affirm that if you had the revelations and saw the apparitions of which you boast in such a manner as you say, then you are an idolatress, an invoker of demons, an apostate from the faith, a maker of rash statements, a swearer of an unlawful oath.

XII. And you have said that if the Church wished you to disobey the orders you say God gave you, nothing would induce you to do so; that you know that all the deeds of which you have been accused in your trial were wrought according to the command of God and that it was impossible for you to do otherwise.  Concerning these deeds, you refuse to submit to the judgment of the Church on earth or of any living man, and will submit therein to God alone. And, moreover, you declared that this reply itself was not made of your own accord but by God's command; in spite of the article of faith, Unam Sanctam Ecclesiam Catholicam, [Note 5] having been many times declared before you, and notwithstanding that it behooves all Christians to submit their deeds and sayings to the Church Militant especially all that concerns revelations and similar matters.
 Wherefore the clergy declare you to be schismatic, an unbeliever in the unity and authority of the Church, apostate and obstinately erring from the faith.

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[here ends the memorandum with the twelve articles of heresy; the transcript of the trial continues, however]

Now when these assertions with the qualifications of the University of Paris had thus been related and explained to Jeanne she was finally admonished in French by the same doctor to think very carefully over her acts and sayings, especially in the light of the last article. He spoke to her thus:

"Jeanne, dearest friend, it is now time, near the end of your trial, to think well over all that has been said.  Although you have four times already, by the lord bishop of Beauvais, by the lord vicar of the Inquisitor, by other doctors sent to you on their behalf, been most diligently admonished for the honor and reverence of God, for the faith and law of Jesus Christ, for the tranquillity of their consciences, and the alleviation of the scandal you have caused, to the salvation of your body and soul; although you have been shown the perils to which you expose your body and soul if you do not reform yourself and your sayings and correct them by submitting your acts and your words to the Church, and by accepting her judgment, nevertheless up to know you have not wished to listen.  Now although many of your judges would have been satisfied with the evidence collected against you, in their anxiety for the salvation of your body and soul they have submitted your sayings for examination to the University of Paris, the light of all knowledge and the extirpator of all errors.  When the lord judges received the deliberations of the University they decided that you should to this end be once more admonished, warned of your errors, scandals and other crimes, and that we should beg, exhort and advise you by the bowels of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered cruel death for the redemption of mankind, to correct your words and submit them to the judgment of the Church, as every loyal Christian is bound and obliged to do.  Do not permit yourself to be separated from Our Lord Jesus Christ who created you to be a partaker in His glory; do not choose the way of eternal damnation with the enemies of God who daily endeavor to disturb men, counterfeiting often the likeness of Christ, His angels and His saints, who they profess and affirm themselves to be, as is shown more fully in the lives of the Father and in the Scriptures.  Therefore if such apparitions have appeared to you, do not believe them; more than that, put away the belief or imagination you had in such things, and believe rather in the words and opinions of the University of Paris and other doctors who being well acquainted with the law of god and the Holy Scriptures, have concluded that no faith should be given to such apparitions or in any extraordinary apparition or forbidden novelty which is not supported by Holy Scripture or sign or miracle, none of which you have.  You have believed in these apparitions lightly, instead of turning to God in devout prayer to grant you certainty; and you have not consulted prelates or learned ecclesiastics to enlighten yourself; although, considering your condition and the simplicity of your knowledge, you ought to have done so.  Take this example: suppose your king had appointed you to defend a fortress, forbidding you to let anyone enter. Would you not refuse to admit whoever claimed to come in his name but brought no letters or authentic sign?  Likewise Our Lord Jesus Christ, when He ascended into Heaven, committed the government of His Church to the apostle St. Peter and his successors, forbidding them to receive in the future those who claimed to come in His name but brought no other token than their own words. So you should not have put faith in those which you say came to you, nor ought we to believe in you, since God commands the contrary."

"First, Jeanne, you should consider this: if when you were in your king's domain, a soldier or other person born in his realm or in his fealty had arisen and said, I will not obey the king or submit to any of his officers,' would you not have said that this man should be condemned?  What shall you say of yourself, who, brought up in the faith of Christ by the sacrament of baptism, have become the daughter of the Church and the spouse of Christ, if you do not obey Christ's officers, that is to say, the prelates of the Church?  What judgment shall you deliver upon yourself?  Cease, I pray you, from uttering these things if you love your Creator, your precious spouse and your salvation; obey the Church and submit to its judgment; know that if you do not, if you persevere in this error, your soul will be condemned to eternal punishment and perpetual torture, and I do not doubt that your body will come to perdition.  Let not human pride and empty shame, which perhaps constrain you, hold you back because you fear that if you do as I advise you will lose the honors which you have known.  For the honor of God and the salvation of your body and soul must come first: you will lose all if you do not do as I say, for you will separate yourself from the Church and from the faith you swore in the holy sacrament of baptism, you cut the authority of Our Lord from the Church which is nevertheless led, ruled and governed by His spirit and authority.  For He said to the prelates of the Church, He who hears you, hears Me, and he who despises you, despises Me.'  Therefore if you will not submit to the Church you separate yourself in fact, and if you will not submit to her you refuse to submit to God, and you err in respect of this article: Unam Sanctam Ecclesiam.  What the Church is, and her authority, has been sufficiently explained to you already in the former admonitions."

"Therefore, in view of all these things, on behalf of your judges the lord bishop of Beauvais and the lord vicar of the Inquisitor, I admonish, beg and exhort you by the pity that you have for the passion of your Creator, by the love you bear for the salvation of your body and soul, correct and amend these errors, return to the way of truth, by obedience to the Church and submission in all things to her judgment and decision.  By so doing you will save your soul and redeem, as I hope, your body from death; but if you do not, if you persist, know that your soul will be overwhelmed in damnation and I fear the destruction of your body. From these ills may Our Lord preserve you!"

After Jeanne had been admonished in this manner and had heard these exhortations she replied thereto in this way: "As for my words and deeds, which I declared in the trial, I refer to them and will maintain them."

Asked if she thinks she is not bound to submit her words and deeds to the Church Militant or anyone other than God, she answered: "I will maintain that manner of speech which I always said and held in the trial."

She said that if she were condemned and she saw the fire and logs alight and the executioner ready to kindle the fir, and she herself were in it, she would say nothing else and would maintain until death what she said in the trial.

Then we her judges asked the Promoter and Jeanne whether they had anything further to say. They answered that they had not.  Then we proceeded to conclude the proceedings according to the formula of a certain schedule which we the said bishop held in our hands, and of which the gist follows:

"We, competent judges in this trial, as we esteem and declare ourselves in so far as it is necessary, according to your refusal to say anything further, WE DECLARE THE TRIAL ENDED; and, this conclusion pronounced, we assign tomorrow as the day on which you shall hear us give justice and pronounce sentence, which shall afterwards be carried out and proceeded with according to law and reason.  In the presence of the witnesses brother Ysambard de La Pierre, master Mathieu le Bateur, priests, and Louis Orsel, clerk, of the dioceses of Rouen, London and Noyon."

[Taken from The Trial of Jeanne d'Arc, trans. W.P. Barrett (London: Routledge and Sons, 1931), pp. 300-310]

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Faced with these charges, Joan finally, and quite reluctantly, agreed to make a retraction in which she conceded the authority of the church and confessed to having been misled by demons and false spirits. An important point of this concession, at least for the prosecutors, was that Joan agreed to put on female dress.  She was condemned as guilty, but, in accordance to canon law, because she had confessed and recanted, she was granted a reduced sentence of life imprisonment.  Yet a few days later, the churchmen were shocked to find that Joan had again put on male clothing.  When questioned, Joan defiantly answered that they had still not allowed her to receive Mass, and that furthermore she had received messages from her voice telling her not to abandon her previous position.  So in essence, Joan had changed her mind and had decided not to recant her beliefs and testimony after all.  Such an about-face was extremely serious business in medieval heresy trials; those condemned heretics who were found to have returned to the condemned belief or practice were considered far worse than those who fell into heresy through ignorance or superstition.  As a relapsed heretic, then, Joan was doubly dangerous, and the court reconvened to decide her fate.  The decision was foregone.  Like all relapsed heretics, Joan was quickly sentenced to be handed over to the secular authorities for punishment. Although the court recommended that those authorities treat her gently, such a verdict almost always meant death.  Indeed, the English authorities to whom the church court delivered her wasted no time in erecting a stake and having her burned to death as a relapsed, dangerous heretic.

By 1456, some twenty-five years after her death, King Charles VII, who owed his throne to Joan, had managed to channel the patriotism she had inspired into a successful military campaign that finally rid France of English troops. At that point, safe on his throne, and perhaps feeling guilty over his decision not to ransom Joan in 1429, King Charles ordered a new church court to re-examine the facts of the case.  Perhaps not surprisingly this court found that she had been unjustly condemned; the pope, who owed King Charles many favors, concurred, and the verdict of heresy was removed.  Still, she remained a subject of controversy for centuries, and it was not until 1920 that yet another pope, again at the encouragement of the French state, formally canonized Joan.  The peasant girl from Domrémy was now (and is) St Joan.


Note 1. Remember that Rouen, even though a French city, had been a part of English France since the great victories of the English King Henry V in 1415-1420.  The prosecution viewed Henry's son, King Henry VI, as the rightful king of both England and France.

Note 2. Joan was captured in heavy fighting against the Burgundians before the city of Compiègne in September of 1429.  The Duke of Burgundy and his men, who were then allied with the English during the Hundred Years' War, first offered to ransom Joan back to Charles VII.  But Charles was short of cash and declined.  The Burgundians sold her instead to the English, who put her on trial for heresy in January 1431.

Note 3. Here Joan's sin would have been two-fold: 1) suicide; 2) disobedience to God and his saints.  Joan was claiming that her voices assured her that after she confessed these sins, they would be forgiven.

Note 4. See note 2. The Burgundians were close allies of the English during the Hundred Years' War.

Note 5. Unam Sanctam was a papal bull issued in 1302 that spelled out the articles of Christian faith.  A crucial part of Catholic doctrine, and one especially emphasized by Unam Sanctam, were the beliefs that the traditions of the church [ie., decisions by learned men of previous generations, such as Paul, Jerome, Augustine, Gregory the Great, Thomas Aquinas, and so forth] were valid in matters of doctrine, and that the institutional church was a necessary part of any believer's road to salvation. Without the sacraments as administered by the clergy, the individual believer was doomed to misunderstanding and, ultimately, perdition. Because Joan refused to listen to the Church, and based her argument on direct contact with God, she was charged with breaking a fundamental article of faith, one most prominently outlined in Unam Sanctam.

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