THE TRUE TRIAL OF SAINT JOAN OF ARC
I. The condemnation
ONE day in 1947, while attending a theatrical reproduction of the life of Joan of Arc on the square of the Cathedral of Rouen, Colonel Charles Boulanger experienced a deep shock : she whom, like most Frenchmen, he had always imagined to be holy and pure, fearless and above reproach, was represented as weak and timid, dreading the stake and denying – temporarily, but still denying – her Voices and her mission. He could not accept this idea. He dedicated ten years of an already full life to the systematic analysis of all the archives available on the subject, leaving nothing to chance, in order to uncover the whole truth.
Charles Boulanger (1891-1972) had inherited from a magistrate father and a mother endowed with uncommon energy, a sense of duty and a horror of compromise. Passionately fond of history and literature, in 1914 he was just completing his military service as a lieutenant when the war broke out. He won his captain’s stripes at Verdun. From 1919, he served in the Foreign Legion in Morocco.
Two years later, he married Simone de La Tourasse, who gave him seven children. A reader of Action Française, he was garrisoned at Rouen in 1939, when war broke out again. After some gruelling battles in Belgium at the head of an infantry battalion, he was taken prisoner and spent five years in an oflag in Silesia. Returning to France, he received early retirement. Convinced of the incomparable sanctity of Joan of Arc, he devoted himself to historical research. This ardent and modest scholar died in Vendée in 1972. His contribution to the history of Saint Joan of Arc is invaluable.
For Fr. de Nantes, this thesis is of capital importance. For if indeed, in the course of her trial, Joan abjured her Voices and denied her mission, as the majority of historians even today affirm, then what we call the “ royal religion ” and the divine vocation of France stand discredited. On the other hand, if all of this is true and good, and must « last a thousand years and more ». Let us introduce our author before taking up page by page his luminous demonstration.
COMPIÈGNE, MAY 23, 1430
Immediately after the consecration at Reims, Joan entered upon the sorrowful mysteries of her mission.
« Moving around from place to place, we often find Joan alone with her faithful companions. On September 8, 1429, she is worsted outside Paris ; she is wounded and wishes to return to the attack the very next day, but is carried off. Already quiet betrayal is everywhere : in the King’s court, in his Council, around Joan, among the captains, La Trémouille, and this Regnault de Chartres, Archbishop of Reims.
« While defending Compiègne, Joan is captured by a miserable ambush on May 23, 1430. Had her voices not said to her gently, ever so gently… “ You are to be captured before the next feast of Saint John ! Accept everything with good grace ! ” » (French CRC n° 198, p. 26)
On the very morning of her capture, she warned her « good friends of Compiègne » :
« My children and dear friends, I make it known to you that I have been sold and betrayed and that I will soon be handed over to die. Thus I beg you to pray to God for me, for never again will I be able to serve the King or the kingdom of France. »
« That Compiègne’s drawbridge should have been raised at the very moment when Joan was retreating into the city is more than a coincidence », writes Charles Boulanger, when one knows Regnault de Chartres’ attitude towards the Maid, his family ties to Flavy, the governor of the place, and also the fact that this Archbishop of Reims had been seen at Compiègne five days before that fateful day…
On the evening of her capture, Joan is led away, a prisoner, to the enemy camp. « Then begin the transfers from prison to prison, from the castles of Luxembourg to the prisons of Burgundy, and from thence to the English jails, in order that she might be judged by the men of the Church… » That is to say by the Bishop-Count of Beauvais, Pierre Cauchon, and also of the inquisitor established in France, and for this reason it seems most suitable that she be taken to this city of Rouen for her trial.
On December 24, 1430, Joan arrived in this Norman city, where resided the young king of England Henry VI and his governor, Richard Beauchamp, the Count of Warwick. On the following January 9, the trial would begin.
« AN ENGLISH TRIAL CONDUCTED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF PARIS »
This is how Charles Boulanger defines the proceedings instituted against Joan. Pierre Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais, ex-Rector of the University and negotiator of the Treaty of Troyes, had for a long time been the champion of the English cause and of its so-called “ double monarchy ”. It was he who negotiated, « in the name of the king of France and of England », the handing over of Joan, and who fought for the right to judge her. Cauchon claimed that the prisoner fell under his jurisdiction since she had been captured within the boundaries of his diocese. In reality, having just been appointed Bishop of Lisieux, he no longer had the competence, in this month of January 1431, to preside over such a tribunal of the faith.
At his side on the bench sat the inquisitor, Jean Le Maître, his accomplice, as well as around sixty assessors or “ deliberants ”, chosen by Cauchon. From 1418, the University was in the hands of the Anglo-Burgundians. The masters of the Sorbonne did not side with the king of England out of simple opportunism but out of attachment to heresy and schism, and from a spirit of rebellion against their legitimate sovereign. Conciliarists in religion, nominalists in philosophy and democrats in politics, these « learned scholars » arrogated to themselves the right to judge Heaven’s messenger whose triple fidelity to God, to the Pope of Rome and to the King of France they found odious. Boulanger demonstrated that the entire tribunal, with the exception of a few delicate consciences which would be quickly stifled, was therefore under the orders of the « capital enemies » of the accused.
A JUDICIAL PARODY
Cauchon and Le Maître had been laying their plans and setting their trap for a long while : « The aim, explains Boulanger, was to make it look like the accused had denied the voices which had ordered her to act, denied her mission and, by that very fact, denied the one who owed his crown to her. » This settling of political scores would take the form of an inquisition trial on matters of faith, in order that, through Joan, her mission and her Voices would be discredited, excommunicated… After that, she would be silenced. In truth, this judicial parody was a premeditated assassination, an act of brigandage masquerading as a Church trial.
The humble peasant of Domremy was not deceived by any of this, she whose Counsel came from Above. « She had no wish to submit to those present, and especially to the Bishop of Beauvais, because they were her capital enemies », would testify Brother Ysambard de La Pierre, who at the time counted among the « sworn » assessors of the tribunal !
On several occasions, Joan would publicly warn this tribunal which simultaneously acted as both judge and plaintiff. Addressing Cauchon, she declared on March 14 : « You say that you are my judge ; I do not know if you are ; but take care not to judge badly, or you will put yourself in great danger ; and I give you this warning, so that if Our Lord should chastise you, I will have done my duty by telling you this. »
THE REAL TRUTH ABOUT THE TRIAL
The months of January and February 1431 were taken up with the preliminary investigation. Two successive enquiries were hastily carried out at Domremy and its surrounds, in order to gather information intended to serve as evidence for the trial, but they turned out to be so favourable to the accused that Beauvais’ promoter of criminal cases, Master Jean d’Estivet, found them of no use to his purpose. One can imagine Cauchon’s fury…
These two enquiries were not committed to the dossier, but Master Guillaume Manchon, the chief notary, was charged with replacing them with a “ presentable ” report, concocted by himself and allowing the opening of a procedure in matters of faith.
The “ MANCHON REPORT ” constitutes the first act of deception in the trial at Rouen… It is a tissue of shameless lies, and yet it is on this that Joan’s judges would base their decree of February 19, stating that there was in effect « sufficient matter to cite and call up this woman in a case of faith ».
On February 21, there began a series of trying interrogations for Joan. It was only on March 26, more than a month later, that the “ Trial in Ordinary ” began, at the opening of which the Promoter of the Faith, d’Estivet, made wary by his first failure, presented a report containing 70 articles of accusation.
The “ D’ESTIVET REPORT ” was read out in its entirety to the accused who, without losing any of her composure, replied to it point by point in four long plenary sessions, confounding the lies of her accusers, and reminding the notaries who were falsifying her responses of the necessity of acting fairly. Cauchon’s scribes were obliged to consign Joan’s beautiful testimony to writing despite themselves, and so it is that, in the final version of the trial minutes, we find it recorded in Latin by Courcelles.
A bad blow for Cauchon ! How could he maintain the 70 articles of the d’Estivet Report in the face of their refutation by the accused ? So it was decided that the bishop would make public, not these 70 articles, but a summary of them. Equally caricatural and untruthful, not to mention unsigned, this compendium consisted of 12 articles. Second substitution.
These 12 articles, which they took care not to lay before Joan, were sent to the English government, to the universities, as well as to a large number of key figures in Christendom. It was on the basis of this text, deliberately falsifying Joan’s sayings and doings, that the assessors and judges were to reach their verdict. It was a total abuse of power, for from March 17 Joan had requested to be led before the Pope. In the Church this “ Appeal to the Pope ” has always had the effect of suspending current proceedings. But the judges disregarded this, preferring to appeal… to the University of Paris. Third deception.
Its conclusions, communicated on May 14 to the English government and to Bishop Cauchon, were obviously such as the English had suggested and as the judges expected : That Joan should be publicly exhorted to abjure, that is to say, to acknowledge her errors and renounce them, on pain of being burned !
THREATS AND SACRILEGIOUS VIOLENCE
During this time, at Rouen, the bishop and his accomplices were busy trying to extort confessions from Joan by every possible means. During the session of May 2, she was twice threatened with « temporal fire applied to the body ». On May 9, on Cauchon’s orders, the prisoner was taken to the torture room. The torturer stood ready to act. They deliberated, in the presence of the accused, whether they would have her quartered.
Faced with such a strength of soul, Joan’s adversaries dared not execute their threats… Secretly, they were preparing a moral torture far worse…
From the beginning of the preliminary enquiry, Cauchon had employed a sacrilegious procedure to discover Joan’s secrets and so hatch his schemes against her more successfully. Notaries, along with the witnesses, were secretly placed in an adjoining room, where there was a hole through which they could listen, in order that they might report what she said or confessed.
Outside the interrogation sessions, Joan was handed over in chains, day and night, to English guards who had received orders to “ manhandle ” her, « in order that people might call her a wench and not a maid ! A horrible torment which, by divine assistance and grace, did not succeed » (French CRC n° 198, p. 27).
From the middle of May 1431, feeling his prey escaping him, Cauchon relied exclusively on such methods.
AT THE CEMETERY OF SAINT-OUEN
On May 23, 1431 there took place the canonical exhortation of the accused. The scene took place in the prison and not in a public audience. Only the assessors whom Cauchon had well in hand were present, for he had learned to be wary of Joan’s replies… He read to her the cedula of abjuration which she would have to sign the next day. This cedula, said to be of “ 500 words ”, was crude and insulting to Joan as well as to Charles VII.
Having listened to the contents of the cedula, she replied calmly and with great courage : « […] She also said that even if she were already condemned and saw the fire burning, and the faggots being lit and the executioner ready to fan the fire, and even if she were within the fire, she would say nothing different, and would maintain unto death what she had said during the trial. »
This magnificent reply proves that, as of that May 23, Joan perfectly understood what they wanted her to abjure, and what she risked if she persisted in her refusal.
On the morning of 24, Joan was taken, still chained, to the cemetery of Saint-Ouen. On the small square, a dais had been erected to accommodate the two judges and the entire tribunal. Opposite them, on another platform, stood Joan. A crowd of citizens from Rouen had also gathered, close enough to hear the sermon that Master Érard addressed to the accused. Joan appeared neither distraught nor incapable of understanding what was happening, and even less terrorised or overcome by any fear of the fire. Saint Michael, Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret were at her side, as they were at her combats in the past.
« Her voices told her, as she stood on the platform, to reply boldly to this preacher », whom she called « false preacher », because « he had said several things which she had not done ».
Refusing to be stirred, she replied.
« Silence her », Érard and Cauchon roared together. One understands their fury : this iron firmness, this oath « on pain of her life » pronounced with such vigour, clearly showed that Joan was not about to abjure. Now, for both the English and Cauchon, Joan had to abjure, or at least be thought to have abjured.
A POIGNANT APPEAL TO THE HOLY FATHER
But Joan’s attitude did not facilitate this pretence. Suddenly, things took a turn for the worse. The English, either from nervousness or arguing from a previously agreed point of law, criticised the judges for taking too long to pronounce the sentence. The Bishop of Beauvais complied and started to read out the sentence of condemnation. And everyone called out in an attempt to terrify Joan.
When Cauchon had finished his reading, Joan again appealed to the Pope. It was a solemn moment. This appeal to the Pope, uttered by Joan before a prevaricating cardinal and bishop, resounds down the centuries. It is the voice of Heaven which, through the mouth of a humble daughter of the Roman Catholic Church, accuses of schism those who set themselves up as her judges. By her profession of faith in the divine constitution of the Church and of Christendom, Saint Joan of Arc came to merit the title of Roman martyr.
THE ABJURATION « COMEDY »
The appeal to Rome should have suspended the proceedings. Matters should therefore have remained as they were while Rome’s response was awaited, but Winchester and Cauchon decided with a common accord to disregard it. This new abuse introduced what Charles Boulanger calls the “ farce ” or the “ comedy ” of Joan’s alleged abjuration : « It was impossible to prolong things without danger. Cardinal Winchester was fully aware of this. It was necessary to cut the matter short, to conclude that she “ submits ”, since she says she “ wishes to obey the Church ”. » When the Bishop of Beauvais asked him what he should do, the Cardinal replied that he should « receive her to penance ».
Without even attempting to repeat the text of the cedula to Joan or to present the impressive evangeliary to her for the solemn oath, the bailiff Massieu attempted to extort a signature from her, but was incapable of doing so, « even though he managed to force a quill into her hand ». Laurent Cabot, secretary to the king of England, flew to the assistance of Massieu followed by Beaupère… The scene was becoming ridiculous, since Joan refused to be party to a fraud.
Then, Cauchon stood up and, in order to have it believed that the accused had just signed her abjuration and that she was truly « received to penance », having retracted her errors, he pronounced a sentence condemning her to life imprisonment. As Joan had demanded to be taken to a Church prison so that she might no longer be « in the hands of these English », Cauchon dryly ordered her guards : « Take her back whence you brought her ! »
It was a complete fiasco for Cauchon. What was he to do ? Without the slightest scruple, he began by falsifying the transcript of this session of May 24 at the Saint-Ouen cemetery. It was easier for him to make Joan abjure on paper than in reality !
THE « FALSE » CAUCHON
« In the trial minute, observes Colonel Boulanger, and in the four accounts of the burning of May 30, written, like all the rest, in the hands of their notaries, Cauchon, the Englishman and the University declare on nine occasions that they had managed to get Joan to sign her abjuration. » (p. 92)
Thus, on May 24, we find that the “ cedula of 500 words ” is followed by the transcription of these words, supposed to have been presented to Joan and signed by her :
« I, Joan (…) abjure (…)
Also I vow, swear and promise to my Lord Saint Peter (…)
And this I say, affirm and swear by God Almighty, and by these Holy Gospels.
And in sign of this, I have signed this cedula with my sign.
Signed : Joan +. »
Such is Cauchon’s version : the bailiff Massieu apparently had Joan sign with a cross, and the royal secretary Calot, guiding her hand, is said to have got her to add her name to the bottom of this long cedula. Yet, as Charles Boulanger points out, there is no valid evidence to support this version of the facts in the revision trial examinations. The depositions of Massieu and the notaries, the only ones to have affirmed it, were so imprecise, varying from one moment to the next and contradicting each other, that the revision judges themselves were convinced of their evident falsehood.
Conclusion : « There exists no proof of an external manifestation of an oath, nothing regarding the signing of a cedula or formula of abjuration. » (p. 87)
On the other hand, one deposition, and by no means the least, is sufficient to prove the contrary : that of the bailiff of the lieutenant of Rouen, Guesdon, who was on the platform not far from Joan. He declared that « after this preaching » by the Dominican Érard, he « knows that certain things were commanded of this Joan which she refused to do ». One could not be clearer : Joan refused to do what had been demanded of her ! No signature has ever been able to prove the contrary.
Nevertheless, she would be regarded as having abjured and repented…
JOAN’S ALLEGED CONFESSIONS
Over the days that followed May 24, the notary Manchon and his accomplices were forced by Bishop Cauchon to attribute to Joan words that confirmed her abjuration at the Saint-Ouen cemetery. But these sound so false when compared to her other declarations that Boulanger has no difficulty in untangling what she really said from what they would have liked her to have said.
Thus, she was said to have declared on May 28 that she had only acted, four days earlier, « out of fear of the fire ». And her Voices are supposed to have bitterly reproached her for this : « Her voices told her, writes Manchon, that God sent her word by Saints Catherine and Margaret of the great pity it is, this betrayal to which she had consented by abjuring and recanting in order to save her life ; and that she was damning herself to save her life. » Courcelles’ version, in Latin, says that « she had damned herself ». It is even more confident !
Truly, wonders Boulanger : « Could it really be that, at the very moment when “ her voices told her, as she stood on the platform, to reply to this preacher boldly ”, that she would have disowned them, while at the same time obeying them to the letter by treating him as a “ false preacher ” ? » (p. 139)
And so, Joan, by retracting « out of fear of the fire », is supposed to have damned herself. Now, in the same transcript of May 28, we read this other statement of hers : « She also said that if she were to say that God had not sent her, she would be damned; that the truth was that God had sent her. »
It has to be one or the other : either she is already damned for what she has done, or she would be damned if she were to do it. Either it has been done or it has not been done ! In truth, Cauchon and his notaries totally contradict themselves in their lies.
For good measure, Cauchon will invent two other retractations by Joan, as we will see further on. But in his excessive desire to prove the non-existent, remarks Charles Boulanger, the bishop undermined his own system of lies. It would have been sufficient for him to exhibit the famous cedula of “ 500 words ” which Joan had allegedly signed, to convince the incredulous citizens of Rouen, the English, and ultimately the whole world of Joan’s abjuration ! It would have been sufficient for him to have shown it to Joan herself, on 28, when she protested that she had not abjured anything.
But no ! « Cauchon knew only too well that neither Massieu nor Calot had been able to obtain any form of signature on any kind of document. At a time when even the merest piece of paper already held such importance, a paper bearing the coveted signature “ Jehanne ” of such a celebrated young girl would have been of priceless value. » (p. 93)
Now, this phantom signature could never be produced.
A DIABOLICAL PLAN
After the sham proceedings at the cemetery of Saint-Ouen, the English and Cauchon, had, it would seem, sufficient reason to be satisfied, since Joan had apparently “ abjured ”. In reality, they were furious, because they had obtained nothing.
According to canon law, the affair was closed. The accused, a « penitent », was condemned to life imprisonment. But the English demanded more. In order to satisfy them, the Bishop of Beauvais for his part had long been preparing a shameful scheme to reopen the trial against Joan, which was to end on the stake. It was the only way left to him of ridding himself of the Maid for ever…
For the exaltation of Saint Joan of Arc, virgin most pure and true martyr, we must now enter into these « depths of Satan », uncovered for the first time by Charles Boulanger.
On May 24, following her supposed abjuration, Joan was taken back to her English prison. The bailiff Massieu, who was a man for all kinds of dirty business, was instructed to make sure « she should take off her men’s clothing and agree to wear women’s clothes, as the Church had ordered her to do : such was the sentence and order of the judges and ecclesiastical persons which she must conform to and humbly obey. » Now, Joan did not obey ; we know this from the transcript of the afternoon of that day, in which the judges had to reiterate their order of the morning.
A prisoner for one year to the day, Joan had always kept, and defended before her judges, her men’s clothes. These clothes, in addition to being a safeguard, were the external sign of her maidenhood consecrated to God from the age of thirteen and of her war mission : she had taken up arms and donned combat attire, « in God’s Name », by order of the « King of Heaven », and would not abandon them unless He gave her leave !
Cauchon knew all of this from the interrogations and the eavesdropping on her confessions. From the beginning of the trial, he had given this question of the men’s clothes worn by Joan a fundamental importance, all the while allowing his prisoner to continue to wear them. In his mind, it was necessary for her to keep them until the day when it should please him, Cauchon, to have them forcibly removed from her. Would not this then be the sign that she had « abjured », that she had denied her mission ? That is why he took care, during the solemn exhortations made to the accused, to link together the abjuration and the promise no longer to bear arms or wear men’s clothes. The ruse was diabolical !
JOAN EXPOSED TO OUTRAGE
Failing to obtain what he desired on the morning of 24, he decided to apply the second part of his plan. He first tried to secure his ends by guile, and sent Joan her two confessors, Loyseleur and Morice. Full of hypocritical “ compassion ”, the two priests explained to the prisoner that it would be advantageous and for her spiritual well being to accept the women’s clothes offered to her, as she would then be allowed to receive the sacraments and be guarded in a Church prison.
« These two confessors come to her, writes Boulanger, bearing clothes that were an “ occasion of death ”. They had learned of her indignation over the repeated attempts to rape her. They had heard from her most pure mouth the account of the moral and physical trials she had undergone. They weigh up the value that this virgin attaches to the “ gracious ” ecclesiastical prisons. They approach her, bearing women’s clothes, which by opening the doors of the jail, could remove her from the hideous attempts of her guards, and permit her to hear Mass, to receive her Saviour. » (p. 99)
The rascals ! They knew, however, that this was not Cauchon’s intention.
But Joan remained mistress of herself. Confident in her God, she refused point-blank. Her men’s clothes would not be the cause of her downfall. Had she not several times declared to the tribunal « that she would not remove them without the permission of Our Lord, even if she were to have her head cut off ; but if it pleased Our Lord, they would soon be off. She also said that if she did not have the permission of Our Lord, she would not put on women’s clothes » ?
How can the three notaries be believed when they affirm in the transcript of that terrible day that Joan declared to Cauchon’s two envoys « that she would willingly accept women’s clothes » ? Is she supposed to have accepted in the afternoon what she had refused in the morning ?
Nonsense ! She would have preferred to have had her « head cut off » ! Joan, in the clutches of her torturers, is magnificent in her fidelity and courage.
Not having been able to persuade her with their fine promises, Loyseleur and Morice called in reinforcements : the inquisitor Le Maître, Ysambard, the assessors Courcelles and Midy, the three notaries, Manchon, Boisguillaume and Taquel, and finally Massieu, « the bailiff ready for anything ». Gathered there around Joan was the “ hard core ” of the conspirators, all except Cauchon, who was careful not to put in an appearance… But it was on his orders that the bailiff and his assistants seized Joan and forcefully stripped her of her men’s clothes.
« Women’s clothes having been offered to her, as soon as the men’s clothes had been removed, she put them on », relates the transcript. To be exact, Joan was forced to dress in women’s clothes, because they left her no others, after her soldier’s attire had been forcefully torn off. It was an ignominy that the witnesses to the scene, still living at the time of the enquiries of the revision trial, would take care not to reveal, and for good reason !
With the exception of one of them, Migiet, who would admit : « The judges seized the occasion to condemn her as a recidivist because she had put back on the men’s clothes taken from her. » The Latin is even more explicit : « ab ea ablatum ». So they had first been taken off her, the implication being by force.
One can only imagine the interior agitation Joan must have found herself in. So, in order to soothe her, to hide the odious nature of the imposition she had just undergone, and to excuse themselves by a “ charitable ” motive, she was given to believe that she was going to be shielded from the brutal attacks of the English soldiers guarding her. The transcript of May 28, would show Joan recalling these promises about which the transcript of the afternoon of 24 is silent.
Then, their task accomplished, they left, making it known to the prison staff, who were commissioned to spread the news throughout the city, that Joan had fully abjured, that she had truly renounced her wild pretensions, and that as a sign of repentance and submission, she had reverted to her women’s clothes.
During this time, the young girl was abandoned to her guards, who had their own special orders…
From May 24 to 28, three days and four nights passed, during which Joan had to withstand the most dreadful attacks, in accordance with the will of her judges.
Alone in her prison, without any human succour to defend her against this mob of ruffians bent on her dishonour, it was through a striking miracle of God’s power that Joan of Arc remained a virgin, a white dove escaped from the nets of the fowler.
The miracle is quite certain ; it is proclaimed by the Church and attested a contrario by the English themselves. If they had succeeded in their foul design, they would have trumpeted it throughout Christendom, and Cauchon would obviously have used it to condemn Joan as a witch, sold out to the devil. Now, just as the bishop had failed to produce Joan’s signature at the bottom of the cedula of abjuration, neither did he ask the doctors to verify whether she had lost her virginity,
At Chinon, when she revealed her name to the Dauphin, Joan had said : « My name is Joan the Maid ». Her name was her identity, her very being. At Lourdes, the Virgin Mary would likewise reveal to Bernadette the inner mystery of Her being : « I am the Immaculate Conception. »
THE RELAPSE TRIAL
On May 28, 1431, the English and Cauchon decided to end the situation. Men’s clothes were given back to Joan. Did she put them on willingly or was violence used again to remove her dress ? Whatever the case, on the morning of 28, the bishop burst into the cell and noted the “ relapse ” with satisfaction. Joan had returned to her past aberrations. She was therefore guilty !
Now, far from having to deal with a wretched woman, made desperate by the loss of her honour and convinced that her Voices had abandoned her, as he later took pleasure in having believed, Cauchon had to endure the reproaches of the young girl “ with the heart of iron ”. Admittedly Joan was, to use the words of the witnesses, « weeping, her face full of tears and disfigured », – after what she had been through, that is understandable ! – and yet she continued to stand fast against her judge surrounded by his assessors. Impossible to make her say that she had renounced and abjured her voices on May 24 :
« She replied that she had in no way intended to do or say so. She likewise said that she had neither claimed nor intended to deny her apparitions, that is to say that they were Saints Margaret and Catherine. »
For Cauchon, it was this abjuration alone that mattered, far more than the clothes, which for him had only been a means of breaking down his victim’s resistance. So, once again, his only resort was to falsify the minutes of the notaries. As Charles Boulanger shows, the transcript of May 28 is a confused composition, juxtaposing what Joan really said with what Cauchon would have liked her to have said. The alleged « confessions of Joan », particularly the reproaches which her Voices are supposed to have addressed to her after her abjuration, are pure invention.
Boulanger waxes ironical : is it to Cauchon, her torturer, that Joan is supposed to have confided that her voices had predicted her damnation and reproached her for having denied them ? When, on the contrary, she had just given them such proofs of fidelity ! « How can one fail to see that these reproaches have been fabricated to make “ Cauchon’s saints ” [sic !] confirm the abortive abjuration of 24 !… As it stands, even though it only reports but a part of the protestations of the accused, the transcript of May 28, 1431 contains the internal, unquestionable proof of the deception. » (p. 140)
When he saw that the prisoner had gone back to wearing men’s clothes, the bishop declared his grounds for condemnation : « Before everyone present, he repudiated Joan, declaring her a heretic, obstinate, incorrigible, a recidivist who had returned to her wickedness because she had reverted to wearing men’s clothes in prison. » As he left the prison, the bishop informed the Count of Warwick and the large crowd of English around him who were waiting outside. Exulting and laughing, he openly said to them all in a loud clear voice : “ Farewell, farewell, it is done. She has been found out, be of good cheer ”, or some such words. »
« Cauchon’s exultation, after he had just condemned to the fire she who had appeared to him “ weeping, her face full of tears and disfigured ”, is proof of the bishop’s machinations », writes Boulanger, and every man of good will and good Christian will have no difficulty subscribing to this.
The following day, May 29, the Bishop of Beauvais again assembled his tribunal : « Then, before the aforesaid lords and masters present in the chapel of the archbishop’s palace, we had all the latest confessions and assertions of this Joan read out, namely those which she said in our presence yesterday and which are transcribed above ; requesting of those present their counsel and deliberations. They deliberated as follows : Joan has relapsed. »
Relapsed, not because she had disowned her signature, but « because she had reverted to wearing men’s clothes in prison ». We know what this is all about ! The assessors knew as well.
Joan was therefore declared to be a « recidivist heretic ».
Not one of the conspirators, especially among those who had witnessed the scene in the prison on 24 May, protested.
JOAN’S LAST COMMUNION
Bishop Cauchon had still not despaired of getting Joan to deny her mission. He wanted to attempt a new assault on the morning of May 30, before the departure for the Old Marketplace. He foresaw that, as she was about to die, she would not fail to ask to be confessed and to receive Communion : Ah well ! he decided, this would not be granted unless she agreed to renounce her voices ! (…)
As expected, Joan expressed her earnest “ request ” to be confessed and receive Communion in viaticum. What did not expect, however, was that she would round on her judge, saying : « Bishop, I die because of you ! I appeal to God against you. »
These words are not of course recorded in the transcript of 1431, but Toutmouillé and Ladvenu would testify to them in 1450, twenty years later, when there was no longer anything to fear.
Disconcerted, the bishop ordered Ladvenu to hear Joan’s confession, reserving his decision regarding the Eucharist. Then he hurried from the jail cell. Ladvenu, remained alone with the condemned and heard her confession, without succeeding in obtaining from her the slightest denial of her voices. He then sent Massieu to inform Cauchon that Joan had asked to receive the Eucharist. The conspirators deliberated a short while as to whether they should attempt one final act of blackmail with the « consecrated host ». Cauchon decided in the affirmative, saying that if this failed, Communion would be given to her all the same ! That is what happened.
Was it out of an impulse of piety and sudden compassion that Cauchon granted her Communion ? It seems not. In Cauchon’s black soul, everything was pure calculation As Charles Boulanger explains, he even went so far as to make one final attempt on Joan, on the very site of execution. For this reason, it suited him that she should retain full confidence in her confessor. « It would be a terrible thing if Joan were to apostrophise him in public, in the Old Marketplace. It was therefore important to pacify her, to direct her eyes towards Heaven in order to lead her to the stake without incident and there make one last attempt on her. » (p. 38)
The “ posthumous information ”, if we may believe the evidence of Le Camus, Ladvenu and Toutmouillé, affirms that Joan then renounced her Voices several times : « After the sacrament of confession and penance, Brother Martin Ladvenu, as he was about to administer the sacrament of the Eucharist to Joan, holding the consecrated host in his hands, said to her : Do you still believe in these Voices ? Joan replied “ that she no longer wished to put faith in these spirits”… We said to this Joan, we, the bishop, continues Cauchon : “ You now see how your Voices have deceived you ; tell us now the truth. ” Then this Joan replied : “ Truly, I clearly see that they deceived me.” » (p. 37-40)
It is obvious that these depositions, solicited by Cauchon and recorded by three notaries and by Courcelles, have no verisimilitude, especially when compared to their depositions at the revision trial ! Thus this same Ladvenu would affirm : « Right to the very end of her life, she maintained and affirmed that the Voices she had heard were from God. »
« MY VOICES WERE FROM GOD… JESUS ! »
Right to the end, Cauchon would strive to extort from Joan a word of weakness, an act of abjuration. On the Old Marketplace square, while she marched to the stake, the two Dominicans, Ysambard and Ladvenu were tireless in their instructions to her and zealous in bestowing « efficacious admonitions and counsels profitable to her salvation ». One can guess what these two « conveyors and redressers in the path of salvation », as they described themselves, counselled Joan.
The unfortunate, no ! THE BLESSED martyr then had to listen to her sentence of condemnation, from the very mouth of Bishop Cauchon. For her pure soul it was a series of « moral outrages a thousandfold more insulting and wounding than physical violence ». She accepted the injustice, like her Divine Master, in order to fulfil all justice :
« Pestilential venom of heresy… viper’s scourge… fallen into various crimes of schism, idolatry, invocation of demons… you have again (o woe !) fallen back into these crimes, like the dog is accustomed to return to his vomit… rotten member… lest you infect the other members of Christ, you are to be rejected from the unity of the Church, cut off from her body, and must be handed over to the secular powers… we reject you… cut you off… abandon you… »
After the death of Joan of Arc, the English declared in official letters which they sent throughout Christendom, that at the moment of her death Joan had renounced her voices. The transcript of June 7, written by Cauchon, reproduces these letters of disinformation, without adding anything to them : « And seeing her end approaching, she fully recognised and publicly confessed before the world that the spirits which she said had often appeared to her were evil and deceitful, and that she had been mocked and deceived. We hereby give notice that such was the end of the works, such the end of this woman. »
« What kind of historian, asks Charles Boulanger, even the most ill-intentioned, would maintain that Joan thus denied her “ spirits ” after she was abandoned to secular justice ? The transcript of June 7 shows that every attempt was made, on the morning of May 30, before the departure from prison, to get the condemned to renounce her Voices. Yet, in the Old Marketplace, Joan reaffirmed her mission and her faith in her Voices. » (p. 104)
Once we put aside the false testimony and the official lies, everything proves that Joan testified to the Truth of her mission « right to the end ». Her death was the death of a saint, « a deeply moving replica of the saving Sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ, naked on her stake like Him on His cross » (French CRC n° 198, p. 27).
Here, in conclusion, are some of these testimonies, reproduced by Boulanger as the truest expression of « the good name » of Joan, virgin and martyr :
« She called upon every manner of persons, whatever their state in life, whether they belonged to her party or to the other, to pray for her, forgiving them for the harm they had done her.
« And she asked for a cross. Hearing this, an Englishman who was there made her a small cross by carving the end of a stick. She took it devoutly and kissed it, and placed this cross in her bosom, between her flesh and her garments. Furthermore, she asked to have the cross of the church brought out and held high before her right up to the moment of her death, so that the cross on which God hung should be continually in her sight while she lived. When it was brought to her, she clasped it tightly for a long while, and held on to it until she was bound to the stake.
« Ah, Rouen ! she said, I fear you will have to suffer for my death ! »
« In the flames, she said that she was neither a heretic nor a schismatic as was imputed to her.
« She affirmed that the Voices she had heard were from God, and that whatever she had done, she had done on God’s command and that she did not believe that she had been deceived by her voices ; and that the revelations she had had were from God.
« Surrounded by the flames, she continued loudly to intone and confess the holy name of Jesus right to the end, constantly imploring and invoking the aid of the saints in Paradise. She invoked Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She commended her soul to God.
« What is more, as she surrendered her spirit and inclined her head, as a sign that she was fervent in her faith in God (as we read in the lives of Saint Ignatius and several other martyrs), she cried out “ Jesus ! ” in such a loud voice as she breathed her last that everyone present heard her. And, almost everyone wept warm tears of pity…
« An English soldier, who had an extraordinary hatred for her, had sworn that he would place a faggot on Joan’s stake with his own hand. But as he was doing so, he heard Joan crying out the name of Jesus at the moment of her death, and he stopped thunderstruck as though in ecstasy… He confessed that he had sinned gravely, and repented of what he had done against Joan, whom he now took to be a holy woman. For when Joan had given up her spirit, it seemed to this Englishman that he saw a white dove emerging from the flames.
« When she was dead, the English, fearing lest it be said that she had escaped, told the executioner to draw back the fire somewhat, so that those present might see her dead and none might say that she had escaped.
A satirical work of the time, “ The Journal of a Bourgeois from Paris ”, written by someone claiming to be a member of the University, provides the following details :
« And she was seen by the all people entirely naked, exposing all the secrets that can or should belong to a woman, in order to remove the doubts of the people. And when they had stared long enough at her dead body bound to the stake, the executioner pushed the blazing fire back onto her poor carcass. »
Lastly, one final proof of Joan’s sanctity :
« Immediately after the execution, the executioner, deeply affected and moved by a marvellous repentance and terrible contrition, as though in despair and terrified that he should never be able to beg pardon and indulgence from God for what he had done, said that he feared he was damned, because he had burned a saint. He reported that although the body had been burned by the fire and reduced to ashes, he had been wholly unable to burn or reduce to ashes the heart which remained intact and full of blood, despite the oil, sulphur and charcoal he had applied. Wherefore his astonishment, which was that of one who had seen an undeniable miracle.
« On the orders of the English cardinal, the executioner was told to gather up the ashes and all that remained of her and to throw them into the Seine, which he duly did. »
Taken from Resurrection, n° 17, May 2002, p. 21-31