The sword used by Jeanne d’Arc

Little is known about Jeanne’s sword, other than what her own words tell us–that it had five crosses upon it and that the rust was easily removed. The sword is no where else described in either her Condemnation Trial or her Rehabilitation Trial. This has left many historians scratching their heads, for they don’t know the length, weight, or height, nor the design of the hilt, pommel, or blade. The fact that her sword had a design, the five crosses, was not unusual during the early medieval period. Many blacksmiths added inlays as personal trademarks.The story of how Jeanne found her sword is perhaps the most intriguing connection to her sword. According to her own words, her voices instructed her as to its whereabouts behind the altar at the church of Saint Catherine. Jeanne had great devotion to Saint Catherine so it’s no surprise that the sword came from a church which was dedicated to her. The fact that it was found behind the alter, buried is not all together unusual. It was common practice in that day for soldiers to leave their swords or armor as an offering of thanksgiving after battle.

Many legends abound as to who might have left this sword. One is that it belonged to Charles Martel, grandfather of Charlemagne, who halted the Muslim invasion in Europe. There are two versions of this legend. One is that Charles Martel founded the church of Saint Catherine de Fierbois and that he secretly buried his sword for the next person whom God would choose to find it and save France. The other is that he left it there as an offering after his victory at Tours. Jeanne mentions the two scabbards that were given to her to hold her precious sword. However, the ever-practical Maid had one constructed out of durable leather. This would make sense if she was to use it in battle.

The sword found at Saint Catherine of Fierbois was not her only sword. She had one that had been given her in Vaucouleurs, by Sir Robert de Baudricourt, and another that she had taken from a Burgundian soldier. When her judges questioned her about the whereabouts of the sword from Saint Catherine of Fierbois (because they certainly didn’t want any relics floating around), she refused to provide an answer, saying it did not concern the case. The only information she would give is that it was lost and that her brothers had the rest of her goods. When pressed about her own offering of sword and armor at Saint Denis she answered that she had not offered the sword from Saint Catherine of Fierbois.

So, then, after all this conjecture about Jeanne’s sword, many people wonder what she used her sword for if not to kill? Personal testimony as well as witness accounts say that she used a sword to chase prostitutes out of camp! She mentions to her judges that the Burgundian’s weapon was, “excellent for giving hard clouts and buffets.” Trial of Condemnation, February 27, 1431, Fourth Session. Some say this is how the famous sword of Catherine of Fierbois met its demise, breaking in half after swatting two camp trollops.

Vigiles de Charles VII - Jeanne driving the prostitutes from the army camp

In this famous illustration Jeanne using the flat of the sword to beat a prostitute following the army, one of a host of such professionals driven out of the camp. She was not at all gentle on these occasions. The sword, broke it on the back of one of them. Jeanne claimed that it was not the the Sword of Fierbois.

But rumors began between the soldiers, that Jeanne had broken a holly sword made in heaven, course no could repairer it again. The king told her later on, that she should have used a stick instead, of this holly relic heaven had send her. Many started believing that she had lost her power from that on.

The prostitutes followed the French army hoping for work when the army stopped marching and made camp. This upset Jeanne greatly, who often attempted to chase the prostitutes away. Before the siege of Paris, she rode after one and smacked her with the flat of her sword.

This ceremony sword was used on Sunday, 17 July, 1429, in Rheims, where Charles VII was solemnly crowned.

The Sword of Ste. Catherine de Fierbois

A Comprehensive Collection of Short Explanations

Jeanne d’Arc’s sword was called the “Sword of St. Catherin” and had five crosses on the blade, according to Catholic lore. She had found it in a room behind the alter of the church Sainte Catherine de Fierbois. The sword she started with was found under the floor behind the altar of the church. She did not retrieve it herself; when offered a sword, she said where the one she would use would be found, and an armorer or ‘platemaker’, was sent from Tours to see if it was where she said it was. It had been buried for a long time. After the siege of Paris, the Fierbois sword disappeared. She would never say what happened to it. From that point on she used a sword she had captured from a Burgundian. In the Middle Age, the church of Fierbois, dedicated to Sainte Catherine, patron of soldiers, was renowned for its miracles. On her way to Chinon, Jeanne arrived here in 1429 to meet the Dauphin. The church has always been a pilgrim centre on the way to Saint Jacques de Compostelle and was a very important place in the Middle Age.

Instead of the sword the king offered her, she begged that search might be made for an ancient sword buried, as she averred, behind the altar in the chapel of Ste-Catherine-de-Fierbois. It was found in the very spot her voices indicated. The blade was so covered in rust it would have been impossible for her to describe it without having seen it before.

The descendants of Jeanne’s brother, Pierre, had in their possession three of her letters and a sword that she had worn. The letters were saved but Jeanne’s sword was lost during the chaos of the revolutionary period. She testified at her trial that she never used those arms personally, only displaying her famous banner.

Jeanne’s Voices had told her that there was an ancient sword hidden somewhere behind the altar of St. Catherine’s at Fierbois, and she sent De Metz to get it. The priests knew of no such sword, but a search was made, and sure enough it was found in that place, buried a little way under the ground. It had no sheath and was very rusty, but the priests polished it up and sent it to Tours, whither we were now to come. They also had a sheath of crimson velvet made for it, and the people of Tours equipped it with another, made of cloth-of-gold.

But Jeanne meant to carry this sword always in battle; so she laid the showy sheaths away and got one made of leather. It was generally believed that his sword had belonged to Charlemagne, but that was only a matter of opinion. I wanted to sharpen that old blade, but she said it was not necessary, as she should never kill anybody, and should carry it only as a symbol of authority.

Sainte Catherine de Fierbois
Sainte Catherine de Fierbois
Sainte Catherine de Fierbois
Church of St. Catherine
Sainte Catherine de Fierbois
The altar
Sainte Catherine de Fierbois
View of the inner courtyard

In the Journal du siège and Chronique de la Pucelle, Jean Chartier, writes about the sword used by Jeanne d’Arc and the circumstances by wich it was acquired: The King wanted to present her with a sword, so she asked for that of Sainte Catherine de Fierbois. “on lui demanda si elle l’avoit oncques veue, et elle dit que non”……..

A black-smith was sent from Tours who found the sword amongst several other ex-voto that had been left in a trunk behind the altar. ( From1415 and the beginning of the battle of Azincourt, armed soldiers would come and offer all or least some of their weapons in thanks to Sainte Catherine who had protected them in battle ). It is amongs these weapons that Jeanne’s sword was chosen.

According to the Duke of Alençon, Jeanne’s sword was destroyed in Saint Denis, when she lanced it through the back of a prostitute, most probably after the failed attack on Paris. It seems that Jeanne was in the habit of stiking her sword across the backs of any prostitutes that she would come across; such incidents being reported in Auxerre by Jean Chartier and this page, Louis de Coutes for the stage of Chateau Thierry.

The destruction of the sword upset everyone, who considered it to be a bad omen, and negative feelings about the Paris campaign in general were beginning to increase. Charles, who was especially superstitious, took the sword-breaking incident to mean that the attack on Paris was doomed.

Charles VII showed himself to be most displeased upon hearing that the sword had been destroyed, as amongst Jeanne’s companion, the sword was reputed as a somewhat magical weapon, and therefore its’ destruction was seen as a bad omen. We have no clue as to what became of the broken pieces.

Searches by a relic of Jeanne d'Arc

It is striking that this hypothesis about Jeanne’s sword is formulated two years after her beatification (1909), while the prospect of canonization, which came in 1920, was the lead researcher of the relics of that time. As far as we know about this museum piece, was the sword was even the subject in 1934 in an identification which used paranormal methods: a dowsing pendulum was placed over the sword with along with the letter to the people of Jeanne de Reims in 1430.

The pendulum “responded by turning direct (positive) “on this experience, and the sword was so then authenticated … Even more surprising, the museum received the same year, a loan of” precious relic “in St. Denis-de-la -Chapelle, to be honored . Even a pilgrimage was organized!

This sword, the inscriptions refer to Jeanne d’Arc, has attracted many assumptions. In 2011 it was presented at an exhibition at the National Museum of Cluny Museum of the Middle Ages (Paris) which gave a further opportunity to recall the countless many debates about this fascinating topic. On the Jeanne d’Arc’s 600 birthday (2012) came again has highlighted the issue. The press, highlight this often difficult as a “mystery” or “a beautiful legend”

The sword kept at the Musée des Beaux Arts in Dijon

A sword of the time of Charles VII. Mysteries and theories

This sword is characterized by numerous inscriptions. On both sides of the blade can be seen that the coat of arms of France and the city of Orléans. A warrior figure kneeling at the foot of a cross. The date 1419 is repeated three times on the one hand, twice the other.

A sword of Jeanne d’Arc?
Curator of the museum, St. Charles Févret Mémin, released for the first time questions and allegations on the subject in 1831 the connection between these inscriptions and Jeanne d’Arc. The Burgundian historian focused on the insistent repetition of the date 1419, which refers to him the murder of assassination of Duke John of Burgundy in Montereau. In particular, the small size of the lever proves to fit the hand of a woman.

The museum’s archives have shown that the sword was heavily restored in 1832 and confirms that the sword was purchased in 1826 to the grocery store Bertholomey, but without information about its origin. Testimonials from old weapons specialists Studies of ancient weapons specialists, the latest of Fabrice Cognot have a more critical approach, because of the emergence of the compound objects. The blade is made of two welded parts actually goes back to the beginning of the fifteenth century. Handle and knob which was neither consistent nor functional, seems to come from other weapons later.

A commemorative sword from the religious wars (the second half of the sixteenth century). It is highly likely that this object, which was proposed in the 1930s by La Martinière, is a testimony of Jeanne Orleans and Guise on the fight with Catholics against Protestants. On the blade, seen a kneeling before a cross, a monument erected on the bridge to Orleans in the early sixteenth century. The sword would have been used in ceremonies of live demonstrations of Maid and could have been used by Charles de Guise in 1591. After the death notes from 1641 mentions “old SWORDS which is engraved: Jehanne de Vaucouleurs, maid of Orleans”.


In her own words - Jeanne tells of her visions

The last and perhaps most significant miracle attributed to Jeanne is her recovery of the Sword of Fierbois.

After receiving her armor and horse Jeanne was offered a sword. She refused saying that God had already chosen a sword for her. She then gave instructions that were to be given to a certain church. They were to go behind the church to a certain spot and dig. There they found her sword. Covered in rust the armorer was amazed as the flakes of rust fell off leaving the sword perfect. The subject was dropped now for a while, and Beaupere took up the matter of the miraculous sword of Fierbois to see if he could not find a chance there to fix the crime of sorcery upon Jeanne.

“How did you know that there was an ancient sword buried in the ground under the rear of the altar of the church of St. Catherine of Fierbois?” Jeanne had no concealments to make as to this:

“I knew the sword was there because my Voices told me so; and I sent to ask that it be given to me to carry in the wars. It seemed to me that it was not very deep in the ground. The clergy of the church caused it to be sought for and dug up; and they polished it, and the rust fell easily off from it.”

“Were you wearing it when you were taken in battle at Compiègne?”
“No. But I wore it constantly until I left St. Denis after the attack upon Paris.”

This sword, so mysteriously discovered and so long and so constantly victorious, was suspected of being under the protection of enchantment.
“Was that sword blest? What blessing had been invoked upon it?”
“None. I loved it because it was found in the church of St. Catherine, for I loved that church very dearly.”

She loved it because it had been built in honor of one of her angels.
“Didn’t you lay it upon the altar, to the end that it might be lucky?” (The altar of St. Denis.)

“Didn’t you pray that it might be made lucky?”
“Truly it were no harm to wish that my harness might be fortunate.”

“Then it was not that sword which you wore in the field of Compiègne? What sword did you wear there?”
“The sword of the Burgundian Franquet d’Arras, whom I took prisoner in the engagement at Lagny. I kept it because it was a good war-sword – good to lay on stout thumps and blows with.”

She said that quite simply; and the contrast between her delicate little self and the grim soldier words which she dropped with such easy familiarity from her lips made many spectators smile.

“What is become of the other sword? Where is it now?”
“Is that in the procès verbal?”
Beaupere did not answer.

“Which do you love best, your banner or your sword?”
Her eye lighted gladly at the mention of her banner, and she cried out:
“I love my banner best – oh, forty times more than the sword! Sometimes I carried it myself when I charged the enemy, to avoid killing any one.”
Then she added, naïvely, and with again that curious contrast between her girlish little personality and her subject, “I have never killed anyone.”

Jeanne testified at her trial february 27, 1431

As described by Jeanne at her trial she sent a letter to the clergy at St. Catherine de Fierbois with instructions for locating a sword at their church.

“When I was at Tours or at Chinon I sent to seek a sword which was in the church of Saint Catherine of Fierbois, behind the alter, and it was found at once all covered with rust.”

How did you know that this sword was there?
“This sword was in the earth, all rusty, and there were upon it five crosses, and I knew it by my voices…. I wrote to the prelates of the place that if they please I should have the sword and they sent it to me. It was not very deep under ground behind the alter, as it seems to me, but I do not know exactly whether it was before or behind the altar. After this sword was found, the prelates of the place had it rubbed, and at once the rust fell from it without difficulty. There was an arms merchant of tours who went to seek it, and the prelates of that place gave me a sheath, and those of Tours also, with them, had two sheathes made for me: one of red velvet and the other of cloth-of-gold, and I myself had another made of right strong leather. But when I was captured, it was not that sword which I had. I always wore that sword until I had withdrawn from Saint-Denis after the assault against Paris.”


The Sword of Saint Catherine, a.k.a. the sword of Jeanne d’Arc. (replica)

Credits: Saint Joan of Arc by Mark Twain – Joan of Arc: By Herself and Her Witnesses, p. 61-62