On January 9, 1431, there opened in Rouen before a church tribunal chaired by Pierre Cauchon, the Bishop of Beauvais. It was a “trial in matters of faith” and one which that would lead Joan of Arc the stake on 30 May of the same year.
As we remember Joan was the fifteen year old divine “mad woman” who inspired the French to repel English invaders. She was captured during the siege of Compiègne in 1430. Her subsequent trial for heresy was the documented fully. Of no other trial in the 15th Century do we have a record as accurate and detailed. It is considered one of the most significant and moving trials ever conducted in human history.
SECOND PUBLIC EXAMINATION
Thursday, February 22nd, in the Ornament Room at the end of the Great Hall of the Castle of Rouen.
The Bishop and 48 Assessors Present.
In their presence, We showed that Jean Lemaître, Deputy of the Chief Inquisitor, had been summoned and required by Us to join himself to the present Action, with Our offer of communicating to him all that had been done hitherto or shall be done in the future; but that the said Deputy had replied, that, having been commissioned by the Chief Inquisitor for the City and Diocese of Rouen only, and the actual Process being deduced by Us in a territory which had been ceded to Us by the Metropolitan Chapter, by reason of Our Ordinary Jurisdiction as Bishop of Beauvais, he had thought it right to avoid all nullity and also for the peace of his own conscience, to refuse to join himself with Us, in the quality of Judge, until he should receive from the Chief Inquisitor a Commission and more extended powers: that, nevertheless, he would have no objection to see the trial continue without interruption.
After having heard Us make this narration, the said Deputy, being present, declared, addressing himself to Us, “That which you have just said is true. It has been, as far as in me lies, and still is, agreeable to me that you should continue the Trial.”
Then the said Jeanne was brought before Us.
We warned and required her, on pain of law, to make oath as she had done the day before and to swear simply and absolutely to speak truth on all things in respect of which she should be questioned; to which she answered:
“I swore yesterday: that should be enough.”
Again We required her to swear: we said to her, not even a prince, required to swear in a matter of faith, can refuse.
“I made oath to you yesterday,” she answered, “that should be quite enough for you: you overburden me too much!”
Finally she made oath to speak truth on ‘that which touches the Faith.’
Then Maitre Jean Beaupère, a well-known Professor of Theology, did, by Our order, question the said Jeanne. This he did as follows:
“First of all, I exhort you, as you have so sworn, to tell the truth on what I am about to ask you.”
“You may well ask me some things on which I shall tell you the truth and some on which I shall not tell it you. If you were well informed about me, you would wish to have me out of your hands. I have done nothing except by revelation.”
“How old were you when you left your father’s house?”
“On the subject of my age I cannot vouch.”
“In your youth, did you learn any trade?”
“Yes, I learnt to spin and to sew; in sewing and spinning I fear no woman in Rouen. For dread of the Burgundians, I left my father’s house and went to the town of Neufchateau, in Lorraine, to the house of a woman named La Rousse, where I sojourned about fifteen days. When I was at home with my father, I employed myself with the ordinary cares of the house. I did not go to the fields with the sheep and the other animals. Every year I confessed myself to my own Cure, and, when he was prevented, to another Priest with his permission. Sometimes, also, two or three times, I confessed to the Mendicant Friars; this was at Neufchateau. At Easter I received the Sacrament of the Eucharist.”
“Have you received the Sacrament of the Eucharist at any other Feast but Easter?”
“Pass that by [Passez outré]. I was thirteen when I had a Voice from God for my help and guidance. The first time that I heard this Voice, I was very much frightened; it was mid-day, in the summer, in my father’s garden. I had not fasted the day before. I heard this Voice to my right, towards the Church; rarely do I hear it without its being accompanied also by a light. This light comes from the same side as the Voice. Generally it is a great light. Since I came into France I have often heard this Voice.”
“But how could you see this light that you speak of, when the light was at the side?”
To this question she answered nothing, but went on to something else. ” If I were in a wood, I could easily hear the Voice which came to me. It seemed to me to come from lips I should reverence. I believe it was sent me from God. When I heard it for the third time, I recognized that it was the Voice of an Angel. This Voice has always guarded me well, and I have always understood it; it instructed me to be good and to go often to Church; it told me it was necessary for me to come into France. You ask me under what form this Voice appeared to me? You will hear no more of it from me this time. It said to me two or three times a week: ‘You must go into France.’ My father knew nothing of my going. The Voice said to me: ‘Go into France!’ I could stay no longer. It said to me: ‘Go, raise the siege which is being made before the City of Orleans. Go!’ it added, ‘to Robert de Baudricourt, Captain of Vaucouleurs: he will furnish you with an escort to accompany you.’ And I replied that I was but a poor girl, who knew nothing of riding or fighting. I went to my uncle and said that I wished to stay near him for a time. I remained there eight days. I said to him, ‘I must go to Vaucouleurs.’ He took me there. When I arrived, I recognized Robert de Baudricourt, although I had never seen him. I knew him, thanks to my Voice, which made me recognize him. I said to Robert, ‘I must go into France!’ Twice Robert refused to hear me, and repulsed me. The third time, he received me, and furnished me with men; the Voice had told me it would be thus. The Duke of Lorraine gave orders that I should be taken to him. I went there. I told him that I wished to go into France. The Duke asked me questions about his health; but I said of that I knew nothing. I spoke to him little of my journey. I told him he was to send his son with me, together with some people to conduct me to France, and that I would pray to God for his health. I had gone to him with a safe-conduct: from thence I returned to Vaucouleurs. From Vaucouleurs I departed, dressed as a man, armed with a sword given me by Robert de Baudricourt, but without other arms. I had with me a Knight, a Squire, and four servants, with whom I reached the town of Saint Urbain, where I slept in an Abbey. On the way, I passed through Auxerre, where I heard Mass in the principal Church. Thenceforward I often heard my Voices.”
“Who counseled you to take a man’s dress?”
To this question she several times refused to answer. “In the end, she said: “With that I charge no one.”
Many times she varied in her answers to this question. Then she said:
“Robert de Baudricourt made those who went with me swear to conduct me well and safely. ‘Go,’ said Robert de Baudricourt to me, ‘Go! and let come what may!’ I know well that God loves the Duke d’Orleans; I have had more revelations about the Duke d’Orleans than about any man alive, except my King. It was necessary for me to change my woman’s garments for a man’s dress. My counsel thereon said well.
“I sent a letter to the English before Orleans, to make them leave, as may be seen in a copy of my letter which has been read to me in this City of Rouen; there are, nevertheless, two or three words in this copy which were not in my letter. Thus, ‘Surrender to the Maid,’ should be replaced by ‘Surrender to the King.’ The words, ‘body for body’ and ‘chieftain in war’ were not in my letter at all.
“I went without hindrance to the King. Having arrived at the village of Saint Catherine de Fierbois, I sent for the first time to the Castle of Chinon, where the King was. I got there towards mid-day, and lodged first at an inn. After dinner, I went to the King, who was at the Castle. When I entered the room where he was I recognized him among many others by the counsel of my Voice, which revealed him to me. I told him that I wished to go and make war on the English.”
“When the Voice showed you the King, was there any light?”
“Did you see an Angel over the King?”
“Spare me. Pass on. Before the King set me to work, he had many apparitions and beautiful revelations.”
“What revelations and apparitions had the King?”
“I will not tell you; it is not yet time to answer you about them; but send to the King, and he will tell you. The Voice had promised me that, as soon I came to the King, he would receive me. Those of my party knew well that the Voice had been sent me from God; they have seen and known this Voice, I am sure of it. My King and many others have also heard and seen the Voices which came to me: there were there Charles de Bourbon and two or three others. There is not a day when I do not hear this Voice; and I have much need of it. But never have I asked of it any recompense but the salvation of my soul. The Voice told me to remain at Saint-Denis, in France; I wished to do so, but, against my will, the Lords made me leave. If I had not been wounded, I should never have left. After having quitted Saint-Denis, I was wounded in the trenches before Paris; but I was cured in five days. It is true that I caused an assault to be made before Paris.”
“Was it a Festival that day?”
“I think it was certainly a Festival.”
“Is it a good thing to make an assault on a Festival?”
And as it appeared that enough had been done for today, We have postponed the affair to Saturday next, at 8 o’clock in the morning.