Essay on the trial of jeanne d’arc and dramatis personae, biographical sketches of the trial judges and other persons involved in the maid’s career, trial and death.
By pierre champion. translated from the french by coley taylor and ruth h. kerr. 1932
The Record of the Trial of Jeanne D’Arc (Procès de Condamnation) is justly one of the most celebrated documents of our history.
It makes known to us a cause which has seriously shocked human conscience, and at the same time reveals to us the most authentic and most poignant experiences in the life of the heroic Jeanne D’Arc, the pride and mirror of a people. This document makes us, after a fashion, witnesses of a drama of the deepest pathos, where innocence and youth were victims of political passion, of theological and juridical knowledge. Formal law triumphs here over candor and intuition.
For a long time, even before the admirable edition of Jules Quicherat, historians have accorded to this document a very special, not to say exclusive, importance. This record it is that reports the very words of Jeanne, which presents to us the scenes of her martyrdom. We place to-day the Procès de Réhabilitation in the same category. Besides the questions of the judges, and the replies of Jeanne, we wish to hear the remarks that the witnesses who knew her have to make, the people of her countryside, especially those of her companions-in-arms. Besides, the two records complete each other admirably; they are inseparable; they present the drama and the idyll. In the midst of the settings, in the ring of fire evoked by these documents, the figure of Jeanne appears, much more clearly, closer to us, than from the words of contemporary chroniclers, or those of modern historians. In their innocent pages, in their works so filled with erudition or fervor, one always has the impression that the figure of Jeanne, so close to earth, so near to heaven, is merely glimpsed. The trial records give us something nowhere else achieved. The most beautiful telling of the story of Jeanne d’Arc, the most authentic, the most moving, lives within these two documents.
It is astonishing to realize that her story has remained inaccessible in an edition that has become very rare, complete only in the Latin, a tongue formerly known to all but which, alas, is becoming less and less familiar to ‘the generality of men. It is to meet to some degree this public need that 1, a few years ago, at the request of my father, undertook the publication of the Latin text of the Procès de Condamnation, together with a French translation which would be followed by the Procès de Réhabilitation. This work was to have appeared in 1914; the introduction was written in great part in the trenches of the Somme, on leave, or on quiet nights.
This great trial, this “most celebrated trial,” one of the most impressive juridical monuments of the time, has not been accessible to readers up to this time. We shall now penetrate into this somber cathedral of logic and theology, just as one pushes open, at evening, the door of a vast church where, in the light of candles, some solemn or funereal rite is being celebrated. We shall be present at the most dramatic of dramas in its formalism of implacable justice; we shall hear the clear voice of Jeanne in the midst of so many climaxes when the hatred of her judges broke through the feigned sweetness and the appearances of law; when rhetoric made laughable the secular arm, even then we shall experience the fire, the moral suffering worse than torture, the dungeon and irons which she was not permitted to escape. In this great drama, a crowd of supernumeraries is busy. Two nations await the sentence. A scheming bishop who aspires to be archbishop, sits as judge in this high tribunal. He has for acolytes, for accomplices, the canons of an ancient cathedral, the instruments of the most celebrated university of the world, that of Paris, the greatest authority of learning of the time, which had seen the collapse of all spiritual power and was itself all the spiritual authority. The bishop puts before the Holy See the fait accompli, acts upon that other redoubtable power, the holy inquisition. Rome, Rouen, Paris are the principal scenes of the drama. Two nations have rôles to play. To place these scenes, to descend, as far as we may, into the hearts of the players in this trial, is the object of this essay, and of the numerous notes [which are translated here in Dramatis Personae], and which will permit one to approach the reading of this document with clearer advantage. For now that we are Celeberrimus processus, says the circular letter of Henry VI, June 6, 1431. better informed, the Trial has completely changed in aspect. This Trial is no longer precisely that of Jeanne. It has become the trial of her judges. Proper reversal of things here below: condemnation of the mistakes of people who have undertaken to prove too much.
What is the origin of this great trial record, edited some years after Jeanne’s death? It was especially the apology of her judges. They are instructing posterity: We acted righteously, tenderly, justly, they say. We were not hurried or impassioned men. We English did not, as it was our right to do, treat this girl as an enemy, although she had inflicted upon us so many defeats and losses. We, ecclesiastical judges, acted according to the immutable doctrine of the Church, in accordance with all the forms of law, after having exhausted the aid of all the lights of reason. And from that reasoning followed the necessity of giving to the document great publicity which should, in advance, thwart all inclinations toward rehabilitation.
Until then what was known of Jeanne? A marvelous adventure, crowned with success, then discredited by reverses; the news traveled thoughout the world of a great trial, under the auspices of the University of Paris, and almost those of the Papacy, a trial one was forbidden to criticize under pain of prison; a sentence commented upon in public addresses, sermons, and broadcast by circulars backed up by threats. That is all that was known.
It was certainly not enough to hush the legend of Jeanne, to deflect the popular fervor from her who had been worshiped during her life by the good people of France. It was important also for her judges to give all the publicity possible to the great machine of procedure which the Trial was, to publish openly the astounding declarations of this obstinate Jeanne and the advice so full of moderation and weight given to this simple girl by the scholars; it was necessary to show Jeanne contradicting herself, recanting in the face of fire, and finally recognizing her errors, her folly, her deception. Catholic people could no longer have faith in her who had lost faith in herself. All this, fated to influence opinion, the attentive reader may find in the Trial Record; all this, which was prepared and manufactured with the greatest care. And so the judges who had had the satisfaction of seeing realized, in all or in part of the scenario of the drama written in advance in their minds, thought to establish their innocence in some fashion for posterity. Such is the strength, and such is the weakness of this great monument, of which the juridical and theological arguments rest upon vain foundations, a monument so logical, and so fragile. Here appears the weakness of an epoch otherwise full of sap and exuberance; the abuse of logic, of scholasticism, of formalism. Regularity is not truth; law is not justice; to think in group, conforming to tradition, is not to think; to judge in accordance with unitary and authoritative policies, following the law of the strongest, to judge according to the convention, is not to judge at all. The words of the Imitation come to memory: “Even though you know all the Bible and the sayings of the philosophers, what shall it serve you if you have not grace and love?”
And so it is Jeanne’s judges that we, in our turn, shall judge; posterity makes a bill of accusation of their apologia.
REGULARITY OF THE TRIAL
The Procès de Condamnation of Jeanne d’Arc is a masterpiece of partiality under the appearance of the most regular of procedures.
Rarely has injustice taken the likeness of justice, to this degree; rarely has an assembly seemed so little imbued with zeal for the safety of the soul and body of a poor and saintly girl; rarely has one invoked with such hypocrisy its own impartiality andshown likewise a false goodwill towards helping an unlettered woman to defend herself. And the judges at Rouen clothe themselves moreover in the opinion of that almost celestial light of the time — of the entire world — the learned University of Paris. What cowardly opinions were screened behind decisions entirely political, but so sagely argued, by the Faculties of Theology and Law!
It was a well-ordered trial, a machine of procedure superbly synchronized, put in motion under the highest, most redoubtable authority of that time, the authority of the justice of the Church. Never were witnesses and formal evidence received with so much care; no trial of that period-save that of Jean, duc d’Alençon, tried by his peers — was conducted in so impressive and stately a manner. (Three or four canons, designated by the chapter, sufficed in those days to instruct the court in matters of faith.)
And no trial received such publicity: five authentic copies were drawn up of this great session; circulars were sent to make the conclusions known immediately to the princes of Europe, to ecclesiastics, to cities; and it was not wise to speak ill of the Judges of the Maid!
This monument of iniquity, this masterpiece of technique has finally borne its fruit.
As her judges wished, Jeanne was condemned as a heretic; the English burned her, as they had desired; and they could say, among themselves, that a witch had led Charles, King of France, to the sacrament of Reims; but the formal regularity of the impressive trial made it impossible for one to dare pronounce the name of the Maid in the country of France.
Save in Orléans, where the worship of Jeanne persisted, associated as she was so inextricably with the memory of the city’s deliverance, the Trial Record put public opinion to sleep. She who had been worshiped in her lifetime, before whom candles had been burned and prayers said, whose ring had been kissed and clothing touched as a sacrament; she who had heard her legend run from one end of Europe to the other, was forgotten. The great procès the record in all ways regular, was there; the University of Paris and authority had spoken. She was doubted. See how the testimony became uncertain on the subject of Jeanne: we can find the only opinion favorable to Jeanne in a book of controversy, Le Champion des Dames, by Martin Le Franc in 1440; and even there, the pro and con is given.
The justice of man is often pitiless; the form of justice is so always, and to a greater degree; here it had to seem irreproachable. It took almost twenty-five years to destroy, piece by piece –and after endless formalities — this imposing machine that is the procès de Condamnation. Before that could happen France had to be reconquered by her king; the English bastille that was Rouen had to become French again. Charles VII has been accused, perhaps lightly, of ingratitude in this business; it would, doubtless, be fairer to reproach him with indolence and lack of clairvoyance.
Certainly, in 1452, many of Jeanne’s judges were dead; but they had lived full of honors and were recipients of benefices. Several among them, when called to make depositions before the Rehabilitation, were to lose their memories and to testify lamentably, like Caval and Tiphaine (who denied all participation in the Trial); or to change, like Guillaume de Désert who stated that “If Jeanne had taken the part of the English instead of that of the French, she would not have been treated in such a way.” And certain of the judges surviving in 1452 had conveniently joined King Charles VII.
Jean Beaupère, rector of the University of Paris, so active in attacking Jeanne, was to invoke his title as a good Frenchman when the partisans of Charles VII entered Rouen (he was living then at Besançon, in a territory not opposed to the King) but he maintained, in 1452, his opinions on the natural causes of Jeanne’s visions, and in the malice inherent to feminine nature. Thomas de Courcelles, the notorious Sorbonnist, was to explain before Charles VII the doctrine of the French Church in 1440 (in the definitive edition of the procès he had prudently suppressed his name wherever it had figured in the French minutes); he died dean of the chapter of Nôtre Dame. Guillaume de Conti, the Benedictine, was to congratulate Charles VII upon his entry into Paris. Another of her judges, Guillaume de Désert, obtained from King Charles the confirmation of the Norman charter. These facts scarcely indicate that they were held to be suspect.
All that might have been attempted in Jeanne’s favor during the process of the Trial was a sortie by force which would have contributed materially to the deliverance of the Maid: for her enemies had guarded against all the legal means on the day after her capture. To study the route she was made to travel before she was taken to Rouen, the heart of English power, is to recognize that they were aware of the sole eventuality which could have been of any help to Jeanne. And if, as the judges have been reproached for not doing, witnesses of the French party had been summoned to the trial at Rouen, armed with safe-conducts, it is not certain that they would have greatly served the cause of the Maid, whose virtue and sincerity could well do without their testimony. But it is certain, on the other hand, that the judges at Rouen would not have failed to compromise them, to confuse them in their doctrine by Jeanne’s replies, full of good faith, ‘assuredly, but of an orthodoxy often doubtful.
Jeanne seems to have been aware of these two alternatives. In the session of March 14th she was to say that her voices had told her that she was to be delivered by a “great victory.”
And it appears evident likewise that Jeanne cared little about witnesses from the French side appearing at her trial. When she had told of the angel bearing the precious crown to the king, at the time of the audience at Chinon, a tale that might have made poor Jeanne seem too venturesome, she was asked whether she wished to have called in the testimony of the Archbishop of Reims, and that of the Sires de Boussac, Bourbon, La Trémouïlle and La Hire, she replied by a ruse . one full of good sense, however: “Call a messenger and I shall write to them all about the trial . . .” and otherwise she did not wish to have them believed or to rely upon them. She was asked further whether she would answer in the matter of her visions, in case the judges should summon the knights of her party, protected by safe-conducts: Jeanne replied prudently first to let them come, “then she would answer them.” The judges at Rouen then asked her whether she wished to rely upon the testimony of the religious of Poitiers who had examined her upon her arrival “in France”: Jeanne made this astonishing reply: “Do you think you can catch me up in this fashion and draw me to you?”
Between Jeanne and all the learned clerics, whether they were examiners at Poitiers or judges at Rouen, there was an abyss: _her divine candor. Of Regnault de Chartres, archbishop of Reims, Jeanne was to say “He would not dare say the contrary to what I have told you.” Poor Jeanne, she did not understand the adroit sharp breed of politicians. This Regnault, on the day after her capture at Compiègne, wrote to the good people of Reims “since she did not wish to believe counsel, she had done all as her pleasure was”; and he announced to them the coming of the little shepherd of Gévaudon, “who says neither more nor less than what Jehanne the Maid has said.” How would such witnesses have testified at Rouen!
It was, besides, too late; the immense machine was already in motion. How right were these counselors who judged, with Frère Ysambard, that they were asking poor Jeanne “questions too difficult, subtle and cunning, so that the great clerics and well-educated men who are present, would be at great pains to know how to answer them.” How far-seeing was that serious Norman cleric, Master Jean Lohier, in preferring to leave Rouen rather than have to give his opinion to the Bishop of Beauvais on the formal and fundamental regularity of the Trial “and that the said woman, who was a simple girl, did not have counsel in replying to so many masters and doctors, and in great matters, especially those touching her revelations, as she says. Ana for this it seems to him that the Trial is not valuable You see the manner in which they proceed: they will catch her up if they can, in her own words ” (Deposition of Guillaume Manchon.)
RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE JUDGES
To Jeanne’s judges, to these prejudiced, unfeeling judges, to these hateful judges, we must however do justice. We must find out the responsibilities, more or less heavy, that fell upon them and upon the assessors of the Procès de Condamnation. Of all the responsibilities, the University of Paris must be charged with the most important. As this university has changed a great deal, it is perhaps necessary to recall what was understood at that time by the University:
There are on the Mount Sainte Genevieve, on the sacred mount of learning, in the very peaceful rue de Sorbonne, in the midst of so many colleges, gardens, convents, stinking alleys where water and filth commingle, a poor college and a chapel which are frequented by pale emaciated clerics and young religious: it is the noted house of Sorbonne. There masters and students meet, students sometimes aged, sometimes starving, who for years have shared a common misery, a pallet of straw; have endured cold and hunger, aspiring to the titles of licentiate, or master, which will permit some to teach, others to meditate, and will procure for the cleverest the great means of success: access to the benefices. They are gathered there, all these sons of France, grouped in “nations,” thirsty for learning, for sound doctrine, accomplishing the vow of a pious mother. Some are the pride of their village, in some cases of their entire province. Timid, poor, ambitious, they elucidate solemnly the sacred texts of the Old and New Testaments, are attracted to lectures and discussions, to preaching, eaten with cares, made thin by their vigils, always ready to crush out error, to defend the Catholic faith, apt in sustaining opposite conclusions from the same premises: wrestlers in words.
And not distant, in the rue de Clos Bruneau, or at Saint Jean de Beauvais, are grouped the numerous disciples in the courses of the Law and the Decretals, appropriate for the administering of churches, for the discussion of the business of chapters and parishes, for instruction in and commentary upon, the laws.
In the neighborhood of Saint Côme are the doctors and the students of medicine in smaller number; in the rue de Fouarre, in the stalls and sometimes in the street, the turbulent crowd of students of the arts, of science, philosophy and letters, jostle one another.
It is on the Mount Sainte Geneviève that comradeship is formed; it is there that esprit de corps is born. Students and asters, all are sons of Alma Mater, of this mother who nourishes them with the milk of knowledge, in this time which had a veritable superstition for the written word, for verbal learning. Masters and disciples were to meet again at the Trial of Jeanne in which university friendships certainly played a strong part.
The University of Paris was the federation of masters of the Faculty of Theology, Law, Medicine and that of the arts. It held general assemblies in the Chapel of the Mathurins, where we shall see masters reunite precisely on the matter of the trial of Jeanne. The kings and popes were but patrons of this great republic, nothing more.
The Faculty of Theology was comprised only of the ecclesiastics giving their instruction in the great religious houses. Charged with teaching the Word of God, the doctors of theology had to defend the Catholic verity and confound heresy. This faculty attributed to itself the power of deciding, in sovereign authority, whether a religious doctrine were true or false. Along with its decision the bishop and even the pope could exercise only a judiciary or coercive power: they could do nothing in a case but apply the penalty. The Pope could not rule in a matter of dogma for he might well err by giving a theological reasoning in condemnation, and for that it was necessary to have recourse to the learning of which the assembled masters were the depositaries. An historian and partisan of the University, Charles Thurot, was able to say: “These pretensions were not illusory. Composed of the governors of all the orders, seculiers of all the nations, the Faculty of Theology of Paris embraced all who were accounted eminent theologians throughout Christendom. And in the Fourteenth Century it stood alone. No other was composed of so many distinguished members and doctors. All nations were admitted to the Sorbonne; all the religious orders were represented at Paris by the élite among their brothers. It did not seem that one could find elsewhere a tribunal more impartial and more enlightened.” I summarize here the conclusions of Charles Thurot, _De l’organization de l’enseignement dans l’université de Paris_, 1850.
In fact the doctors of theology reconciled with the obligation of defending orthodoxy the liberty of discussion and examination necessary to the growth of the spirit. The Faculty was the heart of the University of Paris, the teaching of the arts remained a preparation for theology. It was the intellectual glory of the University,, the cradle of all the great philosophers, of all the thinkers of the Middle Ages; of all those who went to take up at the Council of Bâle the struggle for the liberties of the French Church. The University had exercised, down through the centuries, this right of recognizing the heresies or opinions produced at Paris and in its environs. From the most remote districts the judgment of the University of Paris was appealed to in matters of faith. And, at this period the masters were preoccupied with the deeds of witchcraft which had been challenging the imagination for several years. In the midst of the numberless disorders that marked the first half of the Fifteenth Century, the University was the unique manifestation of intellectual opinion in France.
Gerson had spoken in its name for a general reform of the kingdom in 1405. It resisted the Pope, who levied tithes, and communicated increasingly with him; it reprimanded the King and combated the mendicant orders; it corresponded, after the death of the duc d’Orléans, with the dukes of Berry and Burgundy; it took the part of Jean Petit at the behest of the Duke of Burgundy, always in the name of reform. It revolted with the populace, in 1408, and Charles VI had to publish an order forbidding its members to stir up the people of Paris. It humbled the Provost, Guillaume de Thignonville. The King demanded that it excommunicate the duc d’Orléans; the Duke of Burgundy communicated to it his “secrets.” It approved of the Cabochien ordinance, then, after the rising, celebrated the benefits of the peace and condemned the proposals of Jean Petit; it pronounced itself in favor of the liberties of the French Church. But when the Burgundians entered Paris the University denied emphatically the acts of the five years preceding: the men who had held it in servitude had deceived the nation and corrupted the students! It became entirely Burgundian; Gerson and Machet had to flee. Pinched, and without resources, after the detestable murder of Jean Sans Peur whom it had sworn to avenge, the University delegated Pierre Cauchon to approve the Treaty of Troyes, to which it had adhered solemnly. It became English from that moment. It asked Henry V to confirm its privileges in 1420; it recommended Pierre Cauchon for the See of Beauvais, “for he is a very prudent and very benign person, and a man of ‘grant clergie’.” It rendered thanks to Henry V when Meaux was seized; the union of the noble Kings of France and England, the two noble kingdoms and their good subjects, is exalted, as well as the love of peace. Especially it did not forget Bedford and the lettered Gloucester, who were its protectors. The University made pious offerings upon each English victory. It exulted over the announcement that Henry VI was coming to France to visit his kingdom (April, 1431).
In the month of December, 1431, a somewhat extraordinary scene took place in Paris where the little Henry VI made his impressive entry. It was one of the judges of Jeanne d’Arc, Nicolas Midi, who was charged to greet him in the name of the University. He expressed the University’s joy upon seeing that there shone in the infant King the excellent principles becoming to a monarch and to a Catholic Prince, that is to say, obedience to God and the Church, zeal for justice, the virtues of clemency and pity. Nicolas Midi saluted in Henry VI the father, the patron, the guardian, the special refuge of the University, who was his first born daughter, “orphan, or rather widow in his absence, since she did not then have her singular and special protector to lead her. He told of her sorrow, “asking audience of him, hoping the said Prince would treat her well and favorably, as had the king his predecessor.” And Nicolas Midi translated the dream, the utopia of the University men: this union of the two kingdoms, “which formerly were divided and in discord,” and presented the spectacle of wars, sedition, the ruin of churches, the diminution of faith. Let this good union be realized, by the Grace of God, and all evils would cease, as there was every reason to hope!
Such is what a member of the University came to say, in a compliment addressed to the English King, in presenting to him all his wishes for joyous accession, prayers for his health and the success of his enterprises, the offering of public prayers and preaching to the people!
To tell the truth, the University had suffered from the common misfortune of the time. In 1425, protesting before Martin V against the creation of new French universities, Alma Mater said that her members were dispersed and that her ancient glory had much diminished. Jean Gerson was living at Lyons in exile; other eminent University leaders, since 1418, had fled to the court of Charles VII. Those who lived in Paris seemed, for the most part, Burgundian fanatics; we learn that they served, as others have, the master of the day. The domination of the English appeared almost to have been recognized by Charles VI himself. The Parliament and a great part of France had accepted and sworn to uphold the Treaty of Troyes. A marriage had sealed the legal union of the two kingdoms. The Pope himself could not have censured this opinion of the masters; and the Church had never intervened in what we shall call a change of government. The English were Christians and Catholics. They were to prove themselves, especially at the instigation of Bedford, very devoted sons of the Church and submissive to the Papacy. And, finally, we should speak advisedly of the decadence of the University. Its moral power was the same; the misfortunes of the time made it desirable that a single opinion be professed. Concerning Jeanne the opinion of the masters was, at that day, the only opinion.
The Maid was captured on the twenty-third of May, 1430, at six o’clock in the evening. This news did not reach Paris until the morning of the twenty-fifth or the twenty-sixth. The Secretary of the University wrote, in the name and under the seal of the Inquisitor of France, a summons to the Duke of Burgundy, to the end that Jeanne “vehemently suspected of many crimes implying heresy” be given up “according to law” by the procurator of the holy inquisition “to good counsel, favor and aid of the good doctors and masters of the University of Paris and other notable counselors being there.”
In the secret conferences of the University as much as in the councils of the English government, then, was born the idea of condemning Jeanne, this monster of pride, before a tribunal of the Church. It was a marvelous idea; the opinion of the University, unfavorable to the Maid, would have an extraordinary impression on the clergy, even upon those who favored Charles VII. The English, besides, with the Church trial, could assume a disinterested attitude.
The masters who had already claimed the Maid for the Duke of Burgundy were to claim her again for the Inquisitor of the Faith at Paris, or for his colleague, Pierre Cauchon. For, on the subject of Jeanne, the opinion of the members of the University had for a long time been unanimous. They were in part motivated by the fabulous anecdotes which had been current since her appearance. Besides, the esprit de corps desired the Parisian masters to hold as strongly suspect any person of the Armagnac party, especially those accredited by the doctors of Chinon. The Parisians united in the reprobation of the Armagnacs, who had condemned the Burgundian propositions of Jean Petit.
Innocent tales, widely told through the Lorraine countryside, of “fairy trees” were accepted without verification and were distorted. A girl leading men-at-arms, dressed completely like a man, could not be other than depraved, a monster, a loose creature, like-the ribald dames who followed the armies.
Brother Richard had preached at Troyes that Jeanne knew the secrets of God, and that she could have an army enter into any city at all, and by any sort of means. He was a suspect personage, already disturbing to the University of Paris as a promoter of errors and of lying prophecies. He had had to flee Paris, having preached that the Antichrist was born, and announced the Day of Judgment for 1430,
When Jeanne had appeared before Paris, in the month of September, 1429, the Parisians did not doubt, following the. rumors easily noised about, that her partisans were going to exterminate them all; that the intention of King Charles VII was to plow the city under. While the Parisians were making a procession in honor of the Virgin, on the eve of her nativity, in contempt of the observance of religious fêtes -which would later be remembered by the University-Jeanne had made a fruitless attack on the city. They saw in this check a miracle of favor from the Virgin on behalf of the Burgundians. The credit of Jeanne fell, since she had failed: it was the Spirit of Evil that was leading her and not the Spirit of God. The question preoccupied the University masters then, for they composed and transcribed at that time an essay: De Bono et Maligno Spiritu.
The belief in Jeanne’s divine mission declined from that time. Bedford, writing to the King, represented her as a bloodhound of the Devil using enchantments and witchcraft. After the disastrous sortie of Compiègne, what must the masters at Paris have thought of Jeanne, prisoner, who had announced that she was sent of God to drive out of France all the enemies of her King? And the leap at Beaurevoir, was it not culpable temerity and mortal sin?
One must not forget this, if one wishes to see a little clearly into the obstinacy of the University theologians in prosecuting Jeanne; and one must keep it especially in mind in order to understand the range of their questions on the magical power of all the objects that belonged to Jeanne, her standard, her sword, her rings; the insidious questions which were asked her as to the extent of her mission, and the matter, always strongly mysterious, of her intuitions and her voices.
The Maid had announced, in short, a mission which was imperfectly realized. The English were not driven from the kingdom of France; Charles, duc d’Orléans, remained captive in England; she herself had fallen into the hands of her enemies and had not escaped. The description of her visions, so precise, could seem fallacious and vague generalizations to men who were accustomed to study this subject, in the Légend dorée for example: In the recital of her audience with the King, it was evident that Jeanne had varied, and even that she was boasting. In all this the most forearmed theologians, like Beaupère, were inclined to see “more of natural cause and human intention than of supernatural cause.”
The University, as we have seen, intervened at the beginning of Jeanne’s trial; it was to intervene again in the course of the sessions. The nineteenth of May Pierre Cauchon declared in public sitting that the opinions of the doctors and masters should suffice to judge the case. But a month later for the greatest peace of the consciences and the edification of all, he made an appeal to the lights of the University, in particular to those of the Faculty of Theology and Law. And, on the fourteenth of May the University had informed the King of England that the Trial had been conducted wisely, righteously and reasonably by the eminent experts, men who had not spared trouble or time, nor had they taken any danger into consideration. All delay was very perilous, it was necessary to finish, to act rapidly, to lead an erring people back to holy doctrine. The day before, a letter had been sent to the Bishop by the members of the University in which the same sentiments were expressed. It was essential to drive ahead if they wished to prevent Jeanne from corrupting all the Western World.
The Faculty of Theology proved to be, naturally, the most vehement. There was in the deeds of Jeanne only wicked belief, dangerous lying, cruelty, presumption, idolatry, schism. The lawyers in giving their opinion (the gentlemen of the law are more prudent and shrewd) showed themselves to be unquestionably less affirmative on the substance and more moderate in form; for many colleagues of the Faculty of Law had declared (which did not seem to them very credible, however) that it was necessary to reserve the hypothesis that Jeanne’s voices came to her from God. The lawyers then gave their opinions on this reservation. But it appeared to them that there was in Jeanne’s case evident schism, contradiction with the symbol of the apostles, apostasy, deceit, suspicion of heresy, boasting.
An important declaration of authority by which all those who would not have dared, or known how, to form an opinion were impressed, and which many assessors had only to restate. From that point on we see esprit de corps and discipline triumph.
But it ought to have been evident to these theologians that an evil spirit did not motivate this pious child, who had taken the garb of man only from necessity, to protect her virginity and to lead soldiers. Could they have expected her to reply in any but an inadequate way to questions concerning the Pope, the council, her submission, when they themselves were divided in such matters? Could they admit, those masters, that sixty-six articles of accusation which they said were taken from her own admissions were denied by Jeanne for the most part? Did they have to admit the mixture of the true and false, the fabrication of a pseudo-resumé of these accusations in which they had not even taken the trouble to come to an accurate agreement? Why did they not keep Jeanne in an ecclesiastical prison when the archbishopric had a room at Rouen for women under the supervision of women? Why did they suggest that they could not from such a distance seek the opinion of the Pope, since the messengers and ambassadors at the University went so frequently to Rome to see to the smallest matters concerning their colleagues and affairs of their benefices? Why had they taken this precaution of covering their judgment by the authority of the English government?
The University and the Council – The Pope of Rome and the Universal Church
The judges submitted their opinions (one might say a matter of form) to the judgment of the Sovereign Pontiff and of the sacrosanct General Council.
This authority of the Pope, incidentally invoked (for it is always the Church, the prelate officers of Christ of whom Pierre Maurice will speak to Jeanne), the Maid will wish to invoke in her turn. She will say, she too, that she will rely upon the appeal to the Pope. But on that occasion they will remind her that the Pope is very far away, and that the local priests are proper to judge the affairs of their diocese (May 24); and that such is, moreover, the strict inquisitorial rule.
But the judges were lying when they stated in their sentence: “Thou hast refused to submit thyself to Our Holy Father, the Pope, and to the Holy General Council.” They made the little King of England a liar in the circular letters written to the Emperor and to the kings of Christendom, which represented Jeanne as having spurned the judgment of our Holy Father, the Pope; in the circular letters to the prelates of France wherein it was said that Jeanne had “rejected” the judgment of the Pope and that of the Council (June, 1431).
Again, the authority of the Pope said to be denied by the Maid, was stated in advance in the letters which the University addressed to the Pope, to the Emperor, the College of Cardinals, documents in which Jeanne is definitely classed by the masters of the University as one of the ruck of superstitious women who had appeared in that time.
But in actual fact, what was the authority of a Pope in those days? Who was this Eugene IV who had just succeeded Martin V (who died the twentieth of February, 1431) precisely at the beginning of Jeanne’s trial, while Bishop Pierre Cauchon was assuring himself of the collaboration of the Inquisition?
My thoughts are often carried towards that city of Rome in the Middle Ages, the greatest city of Christendom, considering it in regard to its size and its history; one of the least, if one considers it in respect to its population and the number of its buildings that were in ruins. Rome, a throne in a desert. There are here only large and marvelous palaces, falling apart; vines and gardens tangled in their ruins. The cellars of these deserted palaces are the lairs of porcupines, badgers, hedgehogs and foxes. One can pick out from a distance the amphitheaters, the cupola of the Pantheon, the colossal horses, towers, their steeples, and that which dominates all and which bears the cross and which is the cynosure of Christian eyes, Saint Peter’s. And here is the dwelling of the Popes and there is the strong Castle of Saint Angelo, circular, like a donjon tower, which commands with its rocky mass the bridge over the Tiber which is the entrance to Rome for those who come from France, Spain, Germany, Bologna and Venice.
But Rome is no longer in Rome. The authority of the Church Universal has been carried away in the wandering council, where the masters of the University, the prelates of France, meet directly after trying Jeanne d’Arc. Their authority was the sole authority.
The Church scarcely likes one to recall this time of disorder, its revolutionary period. When the Council of Constance. came to an end (1418), three rival popes had been ejected from the seat of Saint Peter: the old pontifical monarchy, restored in the person of Martin V, had become a republic of clerics. Periodic councils were held regularly. The vicar of Christ was scarcely more than the will of the multitude. A Gerson could even go to the length of demanding that on the stone of every church be graven the pontifical promise to submit to the decrees of the Council. Martin V (this old Roman patrician of the Colonna family) could never do anything but temporize, evade or react secretly.
Firm and obstinate he appears, mitered and sleeping in his last sleep, on his magnificent tomb in Saint John the Lateran, and he had great need of rest, having worked so hard to pacify the factions of the Church and to repair its ruins, seeing to theSchismatics. As common father of the faithful, contemplating the anarchy of France, the savage English aggression, he was always disturbed about the meeting of these periodic synods where he had need to fear the audacity of orators and the violence of the French who were working for the proportional representation of nations, proposing financial measures which would have dried up all the streams of revenues of the Holy See. He also had to protect himself from the princely tyrants and from the Italian cities which would not shelter these conclaves except to live upon them and intrigue with them against him.
A program of reforms had been elaborated. A friar minor, Guillaume Josseaume, had preached at Sienna in 1419: “To the Church belongs the directing, the governing of the pope, to instruct him in all that touches the faith in all that is necessary to salvation.” A discourse that the delegation of France approved entirely. John of Ragusa at Sienna, the only representative of the University of Paris, awaited his acolytes of whom Jean Beaupère was one-he was to question the Maid-to achieve the triumph of reform. Where could the Pope go to find a wedge? To the Germans? To the Duke of Burgundy? And he had to reckon on the extraordinary appetite of Bedford. Could he himself attempt to realize the program of the reformers, he who had such a horror of the multitude?
At the time when Jeanne appeared Martin V had, as we see, many worries; and, if he had any design, it must have been in a way of humbling the University, which, in March, 1429, had just imposed a retraction on Jean Sarrazin, friar minor, who had dared to state that the authority of a Pope alone could give a force of law to the decrees of the council. Preparations were being made for the general assizes of Christendom. The University was addressing itself to the head of the Empire to hasten the promised conclave. The chapter at Rouen was sounded by the University about contributing to its funds for the sending of an embassy to Rome (July, 1429). Baudribosc, Loiseleur and Basselet deliberated about it, personages whom we shall meet again among the judges of Jeanne d’Arc. Cardinal Beaufort of England was acting to the same end. The struggle came out into the open. On November 8, at the gates of the Colonna Palace, placards were raised declaring that the Pope and the Cardinals would be abettors of heresy if they did not open the council in the month of March following, and that they would proceed with the deposing of Martin V.
Although a cleric of Rome in the time of Martin V wrote, in 1428, a narrative very favorable to the Maid noting the progress of Jeanne’s mission, a little after the deliverance of Orléans, there is reason to believe that Martin V knew only by hearsay about her.
Jeanne’s trial began only a few days before his death. And we can only think that he could have refused little to the University that he feared so much (we know what favors one gains from the opposition). In fact between 1428 and 1429 Martin V authorized Bedford to levy new subsidies from the Norman clergy; more yet, in the serious question of the Hussites, which remained his care for so long, the Pope found himself thwarted in seeing a part of the army raised at his order to combat the heretics being used to wage war in France, and all on account of the Maid.
The third of March, 143r, by a conclave held in the monastery of the Minerva, a Venetian hermit, Gabriel Condolmario, otherwise known as Cardinal of Sienna, was elected Pope, and took the name of Eugene IV. An isolated man, dependent upon the cardinals, but otherwise affable, given to study, a fine manuscript copyist, disinterested and kindly but stubborn; such was the new Pope. Rome rose in rebellion under the Colonnas; Eugene IV fell ill; the meeting of the Council was at hand; such were the events of the day when Jean Beaupère arrived, on the second of November, 1431, at Rome where he got a hundred gold florins. The old University master came to protest before the Pope of his own devotion, to affirm the necessity of the Council in the interests of the faith. He dwelt upon the Hussite peril, the immorality of the German clergy, the insecurity that existed in the environs of the Bastile. It is hardly probable that Beaupère spoke of Jeanne d’Arc to Eugene, any more than did Thomas de Courcelles, who acted in Rome on behalf of the University at the end of that same year, and who showed was himself always very discreet in the matter of the Trial.
Then one sees Regnault de Chartres, Archbishop of Reims, who accommodates himself well to Jeanne’s end, announce that he would take part in the Council of Bâle, and advise his canons of Reims to do likewise.
Finally, in the sad city beside the green river, the greatly anticipated Council opens, which will hear so many noisy voices, which will have so many happy memories for the secretaries of the Holy See, the very lettered and impious Italian humanists, whom Gloucester will protect, Aretino and Poggio; and the members of the Council crowd into the city sometimes in arms, returning from the hunt, or from some rich banquet enlivened with jests which served to dissipate the boredom which pervades this sad and monotonous visit. The president of this assembly will be Philibert de Montjeu, the worthy bishop of Coutances, he who gave his opinion with so much rigor on the subject of Jeanne, he the prelate completely devoted to Bedford, and whom we know to have undertaken a journey to the king’s council “for the profit and utility of the said country (Cotentin), for the expulsion of the brigands and enemies of the said lord (the regent, Bedford) who were in it.” One found finds here besides, Nicolas Lami, who had urged Parlement to intervene order on Bedford’s side “if by diabolic suggestion emanating from Pope Eugene the said Holy Council be dispersed”; and also Thomas de Courcelles. We see England and the University very much at home here. Bedford again makes excuses here for Louis de Luxembourg, prelate half English, half Picard; the Bishop of Noyon, Jean de Mailly, another judge of the Trial; and the most English of all, Pierre Cauchon, retained by grace of his functions as counselor of the English King. And the Pope believed it necessary to explain his actions to Bedford!
Where are we really, at Rouen or Bâle?
The victory of the men of the University was to be complete. In 1433, Eugene IV was called, on the threshold of the cathedral, “contumacious,” and his deposition was being considered. Total victory of the Council; an apparent victory, for Eugene wrote to the Doge of Venice, “We shall resign the tiara and renounce life, rather than be the cause through which the pontifical dignity shall be subordinated to the Council, contrary to all the canonical laws.” Deposed definitely in 1438, one may believe that he was thinking of these evil days when he wrote, “0 Gabriel, how much better it would have been for the salvation of thy soul had thou never become Pope nor Cardinal, but rather hadst thou died in the habit of thy monastery.” A pope then was a small matter. The universal church was the Council which had just restored unity.
And so it was these men of the Council, the University judges of Jeanne d’Arc, the French representing the National Church, who had all power of freeing or jailing. The University, the clergy of France, were this perpetual synod, always on the roads, in spite of dangers (Jean Beaupère knew something about it, for he was wounded and robbed by brigands); these prelates, always ready to produce notes upon notes, to preach harangues, considered themselves the Church Universal.
Adversaries or partisans of the Maid, they all were agreed upon this point.
For men such as Beaupère and Pierre Cauchon, who, as young clerics, had been present at and worked for the deposing of so many popes since Benedict XIII, one can only ask whether for them the title of Pope had any value left. It is Beaupère who will apply, in 1438, to Eugene TV, the words of Zechariah, XI:17: “Woe to the idolatrous shepherd that leadeth the flock! The sword shall be kept upon his arm, and upon his right eye; his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened.” And we could have believed that we saw these signs in the ill Eugene during the last year of his pontificate, and although he became somewhat better, according to a witness, many of these infirmities continued. In 1438, the Primate of Canterbury had to interrupt the abbé of Bonmont, traveling companion in England of Nicolas Loiseleur, who was referring to the Pope simply as “Eugene.” These University men were intoxicated with revolutionary logic, and with pride.
In the clash of nations these determined friends of peace, some, like the Parisian clerics, turn toward the past, toward scholastic formalism; and the others, the Rhenish and Italians, toward Humanism, the noble thoughts of Cicero’s Republic. Literate prelates wept over the death of Homer and Plato and dreamed of nothing but idylls, general reconciliation, conferences at which all races and nationalities would gather; in an epoch when war had exhausted the world, when central Europe was seeking what she has not even yet found-the limits of nationality when the Turks were invading Constantinople and Salonica, these religious were seeing as already realized their projects of perpetual peace among the children of the same Heavenly Father. In these circumstances soon tragic, they dreamed again the dream of Augustine, transposing in the real this City of God, the greatest book of the Middle Ages, with the Imitation, while the Barbarians were forcing the gates of the Empire.
Whether Jeanne D’Arc appealed to the Pope of Rome or the sacrosanct Council was a matter of small consequence.
The judges of the Trial deigned simply to inform the people of the final sentence. But it is scarcely credible that Rome could have had a thought differing from the opinion expressed by the University men, who were speaking, in themselves, to all intents and purposes, in the name of the Holy See. It is certain that Rome was burdened with too many other cares to be bothered about a prophetess; and it is scarcely probable that Jeanne’s appeal would have found there any echo, if it had been transmitted. Can one possibly suppose that, when one sees Eugene IV praising, with regard to Pierre Cauchon, the doctrines of the Masters of Paris?
Responsibility of Bishop Cauchon
The place where Jeanne was captured was part of the territory of Beauvais, of which Pierre Cauchon was then Bishop.
He was an important man, a very zealous Burgundian, entirely devoted to the English, who had even taken refuge with them at Rouen, having been driven from his diocese by the coming of the French. Moreover, this politician, this ambitious man, was the conservator of the privileges of the University of Paris, the protector and the solicitor of the corporation which had just denounced the Maid so harshly, circumstances which absolutely designated him to prosecute her trial. Moreover, as early as July 14, the University had indicated him as the King’s choice. He was charged with forming a tribunal, and considering the consultations that Cauchon held with the bishops of Normandy, one may believe that he arranged it with art. The Inquisitor of the province, Jean Lemaistre, could not but cover with his authority the work of the Bishop of Beauvais. The provincial Inquisitor does not seem to have been enterprising; and he associated himself in this business with bad grace, by special command of the Grand Inquisitor of France; and even Cauchon covered himself with the authority of the Parisian University men. In their ranks Cauchon found his most zealous collaborators, and he even found critics who suggested that he was not working quickly enough! Their participation in the Trial was to be fatal to Jeanne. Ten Paris doctors of theology were to be called to the Trial and among them the most intolerant and remarkable of the Burgundian doctors, Jean Beaupère, Guillaume Erart, Nicolas Midi, and especially Thomas de Courcelles, an eloquent young man, learned, modest, with downcast looks, who was to become one of the lights of the Council of Bâle, and who may pass for the father of the celebrated liberty of the Gallic church. It is he whom Cauchon will employ in preference to all, and who will be the author of the definitive document of the Trial Record. Ambitious, violent and at the same time pliable, far-seeing, adept in all manner of diplomacy, Pierre Cauchon was a superior man, a partial man, and “dangerous,” as a lawyer of the Parlement of Paris is to say of him; so one must expect to find him a man rich in resourcefulness. Jeanne certainly was conscious of his occult rôle and of his great intelligence; she feared him: “I tell you, mind well what you pretend, you who are my judge,” (10th session). “Bishop, I die through you,” she will cry at the stake.
Cauchon had the extreme skill of preventing this trial in the matters of faith from appearing to be visibly motivated by politics. He had the strength to keep the English away from it; they were even to threaten him. He protects the University, which then complains of his want of diligence, for the University finds that he is delaying (November 21, 1430) and complains about it to the King of England. In Paris they could have tried Jeanne just as well, “for they had for that purpose a number of erudite and wise persons.” Cauchon will satisfy them by calling, on February 18, 1431, the Parisian masters who are working as the hirelings of the English sovereign. Afterwards he will send to Paris to ask the solemn advice of the University on the subject of the articles of accusation. (April 29th, May 14th.) Alma Mater again asks the English King that an end be made to the Trial; she requires it of the Bishop also. The sentence passed by the University, which is read at Rouen on May 19th, is a death sentence for Jeanne.
Did it not serve a purpose for the English King to proclaim on June 18 that Jeanne was burnt at the stake so that her errors and wickedness should remain without imitators? Why try to protect the masters of the University before the Council and the Pope if they were not disturbed? The Trial had been conducted properly and canonically. And did the University have need of pointing out to Eugene IV Pierre Cauchon’s diligence in this affair? When he transfers Cauchon to the episcopal see at Lisieux, the Pope will employ in regard to him the habitual and lauditory formula: “Vade ac bonae famae tuae odor ex laudabilibus actibus tuis latius diffundatur” (January 19, 1432). The Pope will praise the doctrine of the masters of Paris and their zeal in conserving the purity of the light that burns in the House of the Lord; the river which flows from the springs of wisdom!
And remember that it was always the pontifical favor that pushed Pierre Cauchon ahead, notably to the See of Beauvais, where on October 7, 1420, the archdeacon, master Quentin d’Estrées, declared that the canons “were ready to obey the apostolic orders and to give thanks to the Most High for having procured for them so great a shepherd.” The bull of Martin V speaks of the “Honesty in habits, prudence in spiritual matters and facility in things temporal, and other gifts of many virtues clearly shown by the worthy witnesses of faith in the person of his very dear son, Pierre Cauchon.”
The Bishop made his entry into Beauvais January 12, 1421, accompanied by the Duke of Burgundy, the Bishop of Tournai, his chancellor, and the Bishop of Thérouanne and a large following of men-at-arms, and in this wise passed from the cathedral to his castle. The Burgundian power was installed there with him in that stronghold of a dwelling whose stones still stand. Jouvenal des Ursins, his successor, could not but remind King Charles of the loyalty and fidelity of the people of Beauvais. “And although they held your adversary for their lord, this was because the former lord bishop was in that foolish error; but they always were your servants at heart.” (Letter to the Estates of Orléans, 1440.)
Cauchon resided little at Beauvais, where he was not a strict reformer of habits. Nothing justifies the favorable opinion that the Papacy nourished about him. He was chiefly active in the defense of his own interests and prerogatives. The Chapter renewed its warnings against concubines, “all those who, wearing the habit of the Church, maintain suspect women in their houses or elsewhere”; a measure which could not have had much effect, for the harlots, expelled from the houses of the men of religion, took up their abode not far off, and little by little they resumed their former common life.
Master Nicolas de Pacy, who was Cauchon’s prosecutor, was designated to the parish of Longvilliers. A singular procureur, this master Nicolas, who had a dispute with the archdeacon of Beauvais over a notorious woman, and a fight over her; he was later imprisoned “for various loosenesses.” Gilles de la Fosse, servant and secretary to Pierre Cauchon, was put in possession of the prebend made vacant by the death of Master Jean Cauchon, the Bishop’s brother.
The city of Beauvais was entirely in the hands of the Burgundian faction, and the captain in charge arrested a canon, Master Guillaume de la Beausse, “on the occasion of certain words, touching the event of the coming of the very illustrious lord, the Duke of Burgundy, and certain letters which the said prince had addressed to the inhabitants of the town.”
They had to take measures, also, against the canons who did not live in the canonical houses, and refused to keep them up. And the Bishop, who was never to be found in his official church residence, can scarcely be said to have set a good example for his subordinates.
Of the personages who were to play a rôle in Jeanne’s Trial we find many among the religious of Beauvais. In the month of September, 1426, a prebendary, Jean Bruillot, resigned in favor of Thomas Brébanchon, priest; Jean Beaupère contested the possession of a prebend with Eliot Martin, following a decree of the University of Paris; Nicolas Lami, master of arts and bachelor in theology, was put in possession of a prebend which Jean Chuffard had enjoyed (February 24, 1427).
All these persons, all the Parisian clerics introduced to the chapter by letters from the King of England or by Pierre Cauchon, were notorious Burgundians; and there were even among them partisans of the English domination.
Abuses, aggravations, the carrying of arms, stories of ravished girls, and concubines, thefts, embezzlement of Church funds — the like was to be found in ecclesiastical life to some degree everywhere — at Beauvais, Paris, Rouen. This must be said because it was the truth. It must be said, for Jeanne was horrified at the women whom she would not have tolerated even among the soldiers; it must be said because, knowing this, we can better understand the mystic tendencies of a Gerson or a Clamanges, and the holiness that was so much a part of the feeling that grew around the Maid. There is scarcely anything more discouraging to read than a record of these criminal acts which make known to us, with all their secrets, the hearts of these religious, the disorders of the prebendaries of the times, which explains so well the favor of the common people that attached itself to the mystics and to the inspired.
Evil in habit, hard-bitten men avid of wealth, such were the religious and particularly the canons, of the period. And the common wretchedness seemed to have given more power than ever to money, and to these Burgundian coins especially, which were about the only ones in circulation in France.
How can one read the vigorous pages in which Jean Jouvenal des Ursins draws a picture of the clergy of his time, in a letter addressed to the Estates of Blois, in 1433, at the time when he had just succeeded Cauchon — by scarcely a month — as Bishop of Beauvais, without thinking that this good man is talking of his predecessor?
“Where are the archbishops, bishops, abbots and prelates and other men of the Church who will govern themselves in a manner of life that the Holy Council and canons have ordered? Where are the important prayers that they should make to God for the poor people, so that God may relieve the afflictions of the people and act through those who arc His communication? If there are groups, they will band themselves together and will find stronger divisions and get mixed up with finances, and desire to have large pensions from the King, while, by his means, they have great and notable benefices from which they ought to expend the revenues for the good of the public. Are they not forbidden the seven deadly sins? And very publicly many things are said of them: God grant that they may not be true!”
A large and majestic pillar in the primitive choir of the Cathedral of Beauvais rises behind the stall where Cauchon sat, carrying toward the light its heavy crowns of flowering acanthus. A grotesque figure in the likeness of a toad, a sort of menial with a large mouth and snub nose, leans on its little arms; and on its back it carries the long column which rises so high.
This ugly figure, which an ancient carver seems to have wished to represent the sins and ugliness of the world, of our sad humanity, in fine, appears to me to be symbolic. I see it rising there from the place where sat enthroned that worldly man Pierre Cauchon. And my imagination, following the slender column which rises toward the light, wanders under the arches, in the flame of the stained-glass windows, on the road to Heaven and the angels.
A marvelous encounter! For Master Pierre Cauchon was anything but a churchman; he was the man of business, the man of ambition, the temporal man, the man of realities, of calculating schemes, of heavy finesse. One can scarcely see him as really careful about obtaining the crown of eternal glory which the University authorities had the audacity to propose for him as the reward of his pastoral zeal in the matter of Jeanne’s Trial! Pierre Cauchon lives among us forever. He is of those who are never visited by tenderness, intuition or loving kindness.
The Rôle of the Chapter at Rouen
It is now necessary for us to transport ourselves to the great business city of Rouen, to the choir of the immense cathedral, not far from the tomb of King Henry, brother of Richard Coeur de Lion; to the high church, still full of memories of the Anglo-Normans, which the English wished to make their sanctuary, just as they had made of the city an English bastile.
Rouen, through the care of Henry V, had become another London, with its palace along the banks of the Seine, its fortified bridge, its ancient chateaux enlarged by towers along the side facing the country, its innumerable alleys, its churches, monasteries and places of business. In the heart of the city, the cathedral was a world in itself with its vast cloister, its office establishment, its canonical houses. There, during the time when it had no bishop, the canons formed themselves into a sort of political parliament; for Bedford had arrived to put an end to the tyranny of the English; he had given merchant corporations in other Norman cities their liberties. And the canons, Normans and lawyers, conducted themselves there like petty kings. Pierre Cauchon lived very near them, at the establishment of Master Jean Rubé, like one of them. And Bedford, who liked to be in the choir during rituals wore the dress of a canon. It was in Rouen that he died, September 14, 1435, asking -that he be interred in the sanctuary, at the right of the altar, under the shrine St. Sernin, at the feet of King Henry, with the brief and proud inscription: lohannes Dux Betfordi Normanniae Prorex.
Although two or three canons usually sufficed to instruct Rouen in matters of faith Pierre Cauchon called upon part of the Chapter of Rouen to judge Jeanne D’Arc (twenty-two assessors), a thing he could not have done without the consent of the rich and powerful Chapter — almost entirely newly manned since the English domination of Rouen and the cooperation of the government, thanks to regal rights.
All of the Norman holders of benefices proved to be men who were easily managed. These men were not rigorous fanatics (one of them, Jean Basset, the Official, was to get out of prison two clerics whom the English government had jailed for high treason). There were many among them as there were in every cathedral chapter who were lovers of books and letters, such as Jean Alespée, Guillaume Baudribosc, Nicolas Couppequesne, Guillaume du Désert, André Marguerie and Pierre Maurice. But there is a world of difference between a savant and a saint: Zanon de Castiglione, Bishop of Lisieux, Italian by birth, English at heart, but humanist above all, could formulate on the subject of Jeanne a judgment absolutely contemptuous.
These Norman clergy asked nothing but to be allowed to live at peace in their beautiful town houses at Rouen, among their books, with their money, in the midst of their families. Many of these men of the church were in reality appointed English functionaries, sitting in councils, supervising the royal finances, fulfilling special missions and embassies: such, for instance, were Raoul Roussel, Gilles de Duremort, Denis Gastinel, Loiseleur. Others were the intimates of Cauchon, charged by him with many missions, like Vendères, Caval, Thomas de Courcelles, and Pierre de Heuristic. They were held loyal by self-interest; and all were more or less seriously compromised in partnership with the English government, without perhaps, any serious convictions one way or another.
On the Chapter rests the responsibility for having granted jurisdiction, for although Jeanne was captured in his territory of Beauvais, Bishop Pierre Cauchon, a refugee at Rouen, could not have exercised jurisdiction without obtaining territorial authority. And, the See being vacant, the Chapter alone could authorize Pierre Cauchon to follow the procedure decided on by the English. The Chapter had successfully resisted Cauchon when he had thundered out his censure at the time of the conflict which arose over the subject of tithes. It was not unusual for cathedral chapters to oppose the metropolitan, when insignificant interests were involved.
But, the twenty-eighth of December, 1430, the Chapter of Rouen received the request of the Bishop of Beauvais without any resistance! Then Bedford came to take rank among the canons. He flattered, astonished the Norman clergy by his pious endowments; and thanks to the droit de régale, the Chapter of Rouen was named in great part by the kings of England. An attenuated responsibility, more theoretic than real, then, rests upon the Chapter. For these same canons will be likewise deferential and faithful to Charles VII, but not until he comes to occupy Rouen.
These dignitaries, who detested the common people, can be recognized, it seems, in the complaint of a German cleric who wrote a little later about their kind. They have always, this rhymer says, the best horses, the softest beds, the loveliest women, gold in plenty, and the richest dwellings. “I cannot find where it is written that such things should be,” cries the poet who takes his sorrows to God.’ But that was a condition that had been general for a century, in a time when the concentration of benefices in a few hands engendered simony and immorality.
Were the judges Threatened? Rôle of the English
These religious, these great teachers assembled there, had all the cowardliness characteristic of men deliberating in a group.
One cannot — without exaggeration — see anything in them but schismatics; it is without interest to know whether the Minors or the Benedictines are to show more zeal in pursuing Jeanne than the Dominicans. They were all submissive to the decisions of the University of which they were, for the most part, alumni; they obeyed their superiors. The theologians took refuge behind the sacrosanct opinions of their Faculty; the lawyers behaved in like manner; certain among them even avoided giving their opinion. The violent led the timid.
It pays us to ponder the rare deliberations that the d’Urfé manuscript has preserved for us; the assessors do not give their opinions; they echo poem dated 1449. Cited by Edm. Vansteenberghe, Le Cardinal Nicolas de Cues. certain extreme opinions, or that of the Bishop. In that they were the men, very ordinary men, that all trials and assemblies know; disciplined men known in every jurisdiction, in every corps; vulgar terrorists such as all troubled epochs produce.
We have already shown how the unanimous and deplorable opinion of the Parisian masters concerning Jeanne was formed. We may add here that these religious could believe any peace holy; that worship was then ruined by the war; that they were bewailing their desolated churches, their loss of benefices (witness Cauchon, the bishop without a See); that some of them cursed the war-like Jean Beaupère, whom brigands had robbed and left for dead between Beauvais and Paris in 1423.
A great part of conservative and order-loving France, the business and laboring classes, protected behind city walls, thought very much in the same way; and in agreement with them, too, were the mild, the intellectuals the diplomats, and certain of the clerics who surrounded Charles VII. The partisans and faithful followers of Jeanne were those who, through the war, had nothing to lose and everything to gain, such as the handsome duc D’Alençon, or Dunois, for example; the good country folk whose houses had been burned and whose cattle had been stolen, those whom Jouvenal des Ursins was to call “my people,” “my children.”
Were violent means brought to bear upon the trial judges? And by whom? By the Bishop, or by the English? The fact has long since been cited that the English appeared very little in the Trial. Bedford, the regent, seems at this time even to have given the government over to the Cardinal of Winchester; that was, however, nothing but a feint.
He was a very great politician, this John, Duke of Bedford, third son of Henry IV, husband of Anne, sister of Philip of Burgundy, and the best artisan in the Anglo-Burgundian alliance. In physique, a powerful man with a large frame, a big, broken nose, piercing eyes and a crown of hair cut cap-fashion.
He labored in France, in prosecuting the war and in trying to repair its evils; he endeavored to repress and prevent all signs of a national awakening, It was entirely due to Bedford that a part of France turned English. Pious, deferential to the clergy, Bedford was almost popular in Paris where the workmen were constantly repairing his hôtel, where the good people of the street marveled at the kindness of his pious wife. Bedford had shown an extraordinary activity in putting Paris in a position of defense since July, 1429; he had turned away from their destination the English troops levied to fight against the Hussites; he had denounced Charles VII as using the help of a “woman of dissolute life” to abuse his people. After Jeanne’s fruitless assault upon Paris, Bedford went to Saint-Denis to chastise the inhabitants. His military and diplomatic initiative certainly caused Jeanne’s ruin. He was clever enough to keep the Duke of Burgundy, always tacking about in a system of truces, attached to his cause by ceding him the investiture of Champagne, by offering him a kind of regency over France. As for himself, he concentrated on the affairs of Normandy and he made of Rouen an English citadel, the capital of his government.
It was the English counsel of Bedford that designated Cauchon to demand Jeanne as a witch, and who furnished the ten thousand livres necessary for her purchase. Although Bedford appeared but a single time in the trial, and then in a singular attitude for a noble duke, and although he might seem to have passed the hand to Cardinal Beaufort, that violent and reactionary prelate, it is not to be doubted that Bedford personally conducted the whole business. One can recognize everywhere his powerful spirit: one discovers his creatures among the judges: Pasquier de Vaux, his chaplain; Jean Pinchon, who is to represent the Chapter of Rouen in his name; Jean Bruillot, who will harangue him so that he will not sacrifice the Chapter of Rouen and the Carmelites.
It is very evident that the hatred of the English was great enough to demand Jeanne’s death: before the walls of Orléans they had threatened to burn her at the stake. And when one sees the English government buy the Maid at a considerable price from the Burgundians, pay the expenses of the Trial; and on January 3, 1431, the English Royal Council write: “It is our intention to take and keep by us this said Jehanne, if so it be that she is not convicted [actainte] in this said case,” we have no doubt that the affair the English have motivated will be well conducted in their name.
They got her through their money. They guarded Jeanne rigorously in their castle at Rouen. At first in an iron cage, attached by the neck, feet and hands; then by handcuffs. When she was taken ill, they were afraid that she might die before the formal judgment; and when a guard attempted to do her violence, Warwick dismissed him. The chance of her escaping before her trial was a great worry to them (this is understandable after her leap at Beauvrevoir and her refusal to take oath before the Bishop that she would not try to escape).
Canonically, legally, the affair was well in hand. “Farewell,” Cauchon said, after Jeanne had taken man’s attire again: a word said long before that, doubtless. Something that the English of Rouen did not understand in general: the Trial seemed to them much too long. They insulted Jeanne and believed that they would see her escape them, after her abjuration; they talked against Cauchon; they talked about all these churchmen as false, traitors and Armagnacs! (Deposition of Guillaume Manchon.)
But must we believe that the English threatened the members of the tribunal, as witnesses declared in the Procès de Rehabilitation? Yes, after the abjuration, when they were reproaching Cauchon as a weakling. Before that it is scarcely credible, except that English jailers assured Jeanne’s safe-keeping; she lived thus in a strictly secret place.
But the Bishop himself? Did he use pressure upon the court? Some of the witnesses at the Procès de Rehabilitation declared that he did (Massieu and Manchon); but their testimony appears to be somewhat exaggerated, and needs to be more closely verified.
Manchon, who did not have to face Cauchon at the Procès de Réhabilitation, attempted to give himself a fine rôle. He reported, for example, the experience of that religious, Jean Lohier, a solemn Norman cleric, who judged the Trial to be without value. Lohier had said this to the bishop and judged soundly that Jeanne, in making certain forms of affirmation in her statements concerning her visions, would certainly be lost; and Manchon believes that Lohier fled to the Court of Rome.
But Master Jean Lohier, doctor of Theology and Law, was sent, in the month of October, 1431, as ambassador of the University of Paris to the Pope, and he did not breathe a word of the business at Rouen. One finds him in Paris again in 1432 and 1433. On May 9th, he held trials at the apostolic palace. The University masters had not, then, held any bitterness toward him; and he had not, doubtless, had to flee Rouen, as Guillaume de la Chambre has said, for fear of being drowned. Manchon (with other witnesses who perhaps reproduced his testimony) assures us also that Nicolas de Houppeville, summoned to give his opinion of the Trial, refused to take part in it, and that he was, for that action, in danger. Boisguillaume declares that he got out of Rouen; Guillaume de la Chambre says that they threatened to drown him.
But we have the witness of Nicolas de Houppeville himself, which cannot be suspect in this circumstance, On the very, fact, the original deposition is not in agreement with the official version: Houppeville did not take any part in the Trial, having been thrown out the second day for a remark made to Colles and reported to the Bishop that “it was dangerous to start that trial.” The latter respected his hatred, and made him acquainted, because of it, with the jails of Rouen.
In the editing of his second testimony, Houppeville varies: he had been present at certain deliberations and had courageously taken sides against Cauchon, declaring that those who wanted to take charge of the Trial were not Jeanne’s judges, but that that duty fell upon the clergy of Poiters and the Archbishop of Reims, Cauchon’s metropolitan.
This angered the Bishop, which he mentions. Houppeville maintains that he is responsible to the Official, and he goes before it. But when Houppeville has to appear before the Official, he is led off to the prison of the château. According to a letter that he wrote to Jean de la Fontaine, Houppeville thinks that it is because of the words that he said in giving his opinion of Jeanne’s trial that he is imprisoned. But he believes also that the opinions of Pierre Minier, Raoul Pigache, and Richard de Grouchet were not included in the Trial record.
What are we going to say concerning this witness prosecuted by Cauchon either in fact or in imagination: “and that said Trial was conducted by the said English, as he believes; but there were no threats or menaces, it seems to him, against the judges; they did according as they willed, especially the Bishop of Beauvais . He says that, in his opinion, the judges and the assesseurs were, for the most part, free to act; many others were afraid . .”
According to the word of Massieu, Manchon, and Ysambard de la Pierre, Jean de la Fontaine also had to escape from Rouen, under the threats of Cauchon, who had found him too partial to the accused. One sees that Jean de la Fontaine certainly left Rouen; but it was to go to Paris to seek at the University the decree of death for the Maid. He sat at the Trial until the end, and all that he did in Jeanne’s favor was to advise her submission to the Church.
Upon testimony of a more moderate judge at the Trial who certainly appears to be speaking the truth, certain of the English proceeded against her in hate; but the important persons acted in accordance with rectitude: “Aliqui Anglici procedebant contra eam ex odis; sed notabiles viri procedebant bono animo.” (Deposition of André Marguerie.) These important men acted, proceeding with a good spirit. “Procedebant bono animo”: one of the most tragically human phrases that one can utter. Political passions and interests, above all else, divided the judges and the accused: they were sufficiently strong to blind them.
In the last analysis, Jeanne and her judges had a common faith; and it was for the variations of doctrine, inaccessible to the young girt of nineteen years, that they persecuted and condemned her so cruelly. They examined her like skeptics, psychiatrists, or sectarians. Although the good faith of the young girt was so evident, even in that which was erroneous in their eyes, they saw nothing but simulation, falsity.
Such severity would seem incomprehensible if we did not know the habits of the members of the clergy at that time. We can let one of them speak, the celebrated Jean Gerson. In his “Declaration summarizing the faults of Churchmen,” Gerson asks that a “good bishop, proven in work and doctrine, be elected, and not a carnal man, ignorant of things spiritual . that he will not reside outside the diocese . that the bishop will not, through avarice and ambition, attempt to live as the nobility . that he will not be absent from his church for more than three weeks What does it serve, what good can it do the Church, all this magnificence of princely glory, this superfluous pomp of prelates and cardinals, which makes them as if forgetful that they are men? And what an abomination it is that one holds two hundred, another three hundred, benefices! For that is the reason, is it not, that divine worship is diminished, churches impoverished and deprived of men of valor and teachers, and that evil examples are given to the faithful Why is it to-day necessary for a man, poorly educated, to enjoy four, five, six or eight benefices when he is not worthy of even one? And when those eight churches might maintain men devoted to doctrine, prayers and serving God? Consider whether it is more worthy that horses, dogs, birds and the superfluous entourage of the ecclesiastics of to-day should eat up the patrimony of the Church rather than Christ’s poor. Or instead of having it used to convert the infidels, and other good works . Why is it necessary for canons of cathedral churches, shod with spurs and wearing civilian dress, to reject entirely the habit of the Church and to carry lances? And even the bishops carry arms, abandoning books and surplices; and they fight with arms in the camps like secular princes! . Now open your eyes and see whether the nuns’ cloisters of to-day are not like the lodges of courtesans; whether the sacred monasteries of canons differ from markets and shops; whether the cathedral churches have not become dens of thieves and rogues. See whether certain priests have not, under the pretext of having servants, adopted the custom of keeping concubines. Judge whether it is necessary to have so many images, and such a variety of paintings in the churches, and whether they do not lead simple folk into idolatry.”
The same complaints are made by Pierre D’Ailly, the author of “The State Corrupted, or the Ruin of the Church.” (The last philosopher of the Middle Ages, Nicolas de Cues, was to say, in a sermon on August 15th, 1432: “Alas, the Church to-day is fallen as low as possible . She is not clad in the sunlight of justice, prudence and good manners; but she is dressed rather, as in the skin of a beast, in the mantle of ignorance; she wallows in the mud of cupidity and debauchery, and her avarice chains her to the earth. . .
Heresy and Witchcraft in the Fifteenth Century
But it is not sufficient to establish that the trial was regularly conducted, to determine the responsibilities which rest upon the judges at Rouen. We must enter into some questions of theory and present in addition certain ideas necessary to those who wish to understand a serious reading of the Trial Record. Ile accusation of witchcraft appears to have little foundation; it is indeed, ridiculous. But at least it was early in general use.
The year 1431 is assigned to the fragment of the letter from the Duke of Bedford to King Henry VI which attributes the “great mischief” at Orléans to “the interlacing of false beliefs and crazy fears” that the English had had “of a disciple and hound of Satan, called the Maid, who made use of false enchantments and sorcery.” And on September 15th, 1429, an Abbé Villois said, “that in the said woman one may not have faith, and that those who believe in her are mad and suspect of heresy.” This panic terror of “incantations” of the Maid kept back at Sandwich and Dover English captains and soldiers who refused to embark (edict of May 3, 1430). Sometimes attributed to Nicolas de Clamanges.
One must not forget that it was in the Fifteenth Century, beyond a doubt, that belief in witchcraft reached its highest development.
The first rulings which condemned magic, those which derive from Frankish capitulaires, have a remarkable skepticism concerning the popular superstitions which speak of the nocturnal horseback riding of women under the guidance of Diana: the Devil inspires such women. In the Thirteenth Century, the rôle of demonology is affirmed in the extravagant writings of one Césaire d’Heisterbach: the Devil shows himself everywhere here on earth, taking the figure of a woman, a Negro, an ox or a dog. The Jews and the Moslems spread, along with astronomical science, similar beliefs throughout all Europe; and Saint Thomas states that to doubt magic is to go against the authority of sacred writings, otherwise so full of oriental beliefs.
Since magic is conditioned on the intervention of the Devil, and a pact is made between him and the sorcerer, it is an apostasy and implies heresy: it is judicable by the inquisition although the crime of witchcraft does not threaten the unity of the Church. In 1437, a friend of Jeanne’s judges, Jean Nider, prior of the Dominicans at Bâle, who burnt so many witches, wrote his Formicarium, a treatise on discipline which he had composed to direct the religious of his order in their investigations of heresy. The Vaudois were very rigorously pursued in 1440; they were, in popular sentiment, identified with sorcerers. Towards 1440 a theologian wrote a treatise against the “Errors of the Cathares, or those who ride broomsticks or wands.” Sorcerers and witches were burned at Provins (1452), at Evreux (1453), and many more were burned at Arras in 1459 and 1460, in the sad affair of the Vauderie.
To the theologians, poisoned as they were by this unhealthy literature of demonology, all that Jeanne attributed to God could equally be ascribed to the Devil. The greatest ruse of the Evil One is precisely the imitation of Jesus, the counterfeiting of His miracles. It is not necessary for the Devil to manifest himself in the likeness of a crow, a black cat, cock, dog or a hen of that hue, or of a hideous blackamoor with red lips; he can take the form of a young man, of a white child, of a handsome man dressed in parti-color white and red, of a beautiful young boy dressed in white who speaks softly and the sight of whom incites to sin. Ginifert has the figure of a child with a serene face wearing a white tunic. And one of the judges of the Maid, reading the lives of the Fathers, remarked that the Devil could also take the form of an angel. The first gesture of sorcerers is the denial of God: that is why Jeanne’s judges insisted so much on her pretended oaths and frank language of the fields and camps. When the Sabbath dances began, the Devil directed them willingly, to the sound of the musette or tambourine. The sorceresses poisoned fountains; they healed those that were demented. And that is also why Jeanne’s judges took so much interest in the dances at the fountain in Domrémy. Finally, when the sorcerers are imprisoned, demons visit them in their jails, and make revelations and promises. It was thus the Devil visited Marguerite Coyffieur of Arvieux in prison: her eyes glowed like torches, and the jail was as bright as if the torches and candles were burning. And the Devil forbade Marguerite to reveal anything to the court; and as she had made some avowals, he struck her on the jaw and in the left eye: if she spoke she would be burned.’ The Devil offered to carry Peyronnelle, wife of Jean Césanne, out of the window far from the prison. It is the Devil, in fine, who breathes the spirit of despair into the souls of sorcerers. Thus Marguerite Daumas hanged herself. One Sunday night Jeannete George found herself in the tower of Avallon when she called her master, the Devil: “Art thou there? I give thee my body and my soul.” And the Devil replied to Jeannete, “Climb up the ladder.” And when she was on the platform, on the top of the tower, he said to her, “To horse, to horse!” But Jeannete was heard to cry in a loud voice, “I am dead!” There was great terror within the tower, which shook, while the wind blew violently outside. A prisoner testified to this when the inquisitor came into the prison. But at the foot of the tower Jeannete was found dead without any apparent hurt. The vice-governor of the Castle of Avallon so reported to the juge-mage of Grésivaudan in the year 1459.
If we are to understand the bearing of the questions Jeanne’s judges asked her concerning her visions, and to know what they thought of the leap from the tower of Beaurevoir, we must keep the spirit of such scenes as the above in mind. How easy it was for them to formulate against Jeanne an accusation of witchcraft when popular belief in magic was so widespread as it was, among princes as well as among the common people. And in that country of woods and springs where the Maid was born, in a time when she was awaited to heal disease by the Jean Marx, L’Inquisition en Dauphinée, étude sur le développement de la repression de l’hérésie et de la sorcellerie du XIVième siècle au temps de François 1er. Paris, 1914. laying on of hands, when people worshiped her as a saint, offering candles to her, asking her to perform miracles. We ourselves are troubled by the strength of her intuition, by her prevision of events.
A series of Norman documents proves to us that even in Rouen the Inquisition pursued several cases in matters of faith about the time of Jeanne’s trial.
In 1429, the Inquisitor receives nineteen books from the Chapter for things done “in certain cases of faith for the well-being and relief of the jurisdiction of the Church.” In 1431, scaffolds are erected at the entrance of the cathedral for Alis la Rousse and Cardine la Ferte. At that time, Jean le Galois, curé of Illois, undergoes a long imprisonment on bread and water, for having avowed belief in books of magic and having written some himself. In 1432, three prisoners, Jean Robert, Raoul Pellerin, and Jean le Fèvre, are denounced from the porch of Nôtre Dame; the Inquisitor is present at the trial of Nicolas de Buchy in matters of faith. In 1433, Maistre Jean de Villaines is excommunicated; in 1437, Folenfant is punished; in 1438, at Neufchâtel, Jeanne Vanerel, widow of Raoul le Clerc, a suspect in matters of faith and a sorceress, is denounced anew at the cemetery of Saint Ouen. A scaffold is erected in the entrance of the cathedral for Jeanne la Guillorée. Jeanne la Turquenne and Jeanne la Ponsetière are condemned as witches. In 1466, more scaffolds were built for the punishment of heretics, one a woman. In 1448, Guillaume Ernoullet, painter, was paid for making five heretic crowns for Guillemette Hasbouque, Étienne Blondel, Guillaume Pain, Robert Hequet and Jean Jean, detained in prison on matters of faith. Guillaume Lucas was prosecuted for appealing to a sorceress in the hope of recovering his health, and hanging about his person a garland of certain herbs picked on Saint John’s Eve, and uttering words which he could not afterwards remember.
Such are the matters on which the Chapter of Rouen had to make decisions, as well as in the business of Jeanne d’Arc.
The Question of Inspiration and the Voices, Following the Contemporary Theologians
Jeanne was condemned at Rouen under two principal accusations. She was condemned because she declared her direct reliance upon God, and archives de la Seine-Infériéure, G. because she said that God must be the first to be served; because she declared to the clerics, who represented before her the Church Militant, that she was in communication with the voices of Heaven, and that she expected to be freed directly by the Church Triumphant.
In the time of Jeanne D’Arc, the idea of Catholic unity, of the Church Universal, was infinitely dear to the heart of the clergy, that is, to all the people who were thinking, it was much more natural to them than the idea of patriotism, which is only an extension of individual feeling, and which was repugnant to these logicians, these Latinists, these theologians who had the same method, the same language, the same infinite and spiritual domain. This idea of unity appeared to be threatened in those days by the personality of the prophets who appeared on every hand, and also by the clash of the French and English nations. The more the Pontiff at Rome became self-effacing, the more the University theologians repeated: there is one Church One, Holy, Catholic which is led by the Holy Ghost, which never errs nor can ever be in fault. Every Catholic was held bound to obey it as a child obeys its mother, and he must submit to it his words and deeds. The inspired person had no right to withdraw himself from the judgment of the Church; the apostles themselves have obeyed it in their writings. Scripture, which reveals the word of God to us, commands our belief but through the intermediary of our Mother, the Church. She is the infallible rule which we must always remember. Outside of this rule there is but schism and division. Such is the teaching of Saint Paul.
And it is Jean de Châtillon, a former master of theology in the University of Paris, who solemnly calls this to poor Jeanne’s attention. For she has said, in the simplicity of her being, “I wait upon God, my Creator, in everything. I love Him with all my heart.” And, turning to her judges, she declared, “I wait upon my Judge: he is the King of Heaven and of earth.”
All these inspired ones, who insisted in believing in nothing except their own inner light, who did not submit themselves to the learning of specialists, were the objects of scandal to the theologians. The true Christian, the real devotee, is the man submissive to the authority of his superior. But Jeanne persisted in her opinion, she insisted, in these arduous matters of faith, in knowing more than the doctors and learned men, she, an untaught woman. She was obstinate in strange and new affirmations, without having taken the advice of prelates, of her curé, of churchmen. That, to say the least, is what they will use against her, and with what false grandiloquence! And Jeanne’s pride shocks judges infinitely more proud than she, for they claim to be obedient children, humble religious, who think like their teachers, as istheir custom. When the judges have to consider the reality of Jeanne’s apparitions, since they do not discover the mark of humility that characterizes the true revelation, they say that these proceed only from her pride; Jeanne is inspired by devils. She is herself like an angel in revolt. On the judgment of these men, whose eyes are constantly on their superiors or staring at the floor, Jeanne expiates the crime of plain-speaking and of looking straight into the eyes of her adversaries.
The first article in the draft of twelve, the longest, the most important of the charges of the accusation, is entirely concerned with the question of the saints and inspiration. Here is the little that we know about them: For three or four years, from 1424 to 1428, Jeanne resisted the commands of the Voices which enjoined her to go seek Robert de Baudricourt, and to devote herself to France. These Voices, Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret, Jeanne recognized only when they told her who they were. Then Saint Michael appeared before her.
We know nothing of Margaret, who was born at Antioch, where her father, Theodosius, was a patriarch of the pagan religion. But her legend tells us that she was a noble young girl of marvelous beauty who was tending the sheep of her nursemaid when the prefect Olibrius saw her and desired her for his concubine. She preferred to die for Christ, who had died for her. She was tortured on the rack and lacerated by iron spikes; and the blood ran from her body as from a flowing spring. Led back to her prison she was visited by’ the Devil who appeared to her in the likeness of a dragon, and that of a young man. She was beheaded by the executioner.”
We know scarcely more of Catherine, daughter of the King Costius. She was instructed from childhood in the liberal arts, and debated against Maxence before the portals of the temple at Alexandria. But she was beautiful, eloquent and could refute the grammarians and orators. She took Christ for her love and like Margaret was beheaded.’ Drouhet, Dictionnaire des légendes du Christianisme; Légende dorée, ed. Brunet; Petit de Julleville, Les Mystères.
These legendary lives have the original unreality of oriental tales. The mystery plays, in the representations given in the cathedral plazas, popularized them and made them live. Everyone at that time knew that an Olibrius was a tyrant, a brute. The statues in the churches, the miniatures in the missals, the figurines of the stained glass windows had put before every one’s eyes, in almost every hamlet, living likenesses of the lovely young women, Catherine and Margaret. A sister of Jeanne was named Catherine for the Saint, to whom the church of Maxey was dedicated.
There is something touching, significant, in the adoption by Christian people of these two saints and in the predilection Jeanne had for them. Margaret, that pearl, is chastity; Catherine is wisdom, the learning that conquers bestiality. Symbols full of meaning when one thinks of the crude desires of the men of that time, the idealization of the young girl, the woman, the wisdom which is learning united to beauty. That is what I understand in this delicate adoption; what Jeanne’s pious countrywomen must have understood, girls like the little Lorraine girls that I have met decorating the statues within the high chapels and ancient churches which ennoble their countryside.
Jeanne’s third spiritual guide was Saint Michael, whom God commanded to represent Him every time he wished to make a “great act of resistance.” Michael had fought the devils . a brilliant knight; and he receives the souls of the saints to conduct them into Paradise.
His second appearance is generally placed at Tombelaine. There was at Mont-Saint-Michel a very famous sanctuary that the English forbade anyone to visit. For Jeanne, the”resistance” was the great act of her life. Saint Michael, ambassador of God, was the good knight who guarded the Castle of the Mount against the English. He was the archangel, armed and fighting, who was represented on the standard of Charles, King of France.
But it is very evident that nothing of all this was premeditated on Jeanne’s part. These spiritual forces acted within her, not as images but as unconscious forces: Jeanne had moments of divination, of clairvoyance and ecstasy, such as great intelligences, the most normal and direct, the most refined and the most simple, have experienced. She did not name the Voices, moreover, until after her Saints told her their names.
This question of the Voices and Inspiration, has occupied — and from an early time — the theologians who decide on dogmas from century to century, whom the saints and the seers embarrass so often. For they have rules to discern the true from the false apparitions, to evaluate the divers degrees of certitude and revelation.
We must know these rules if we are to enter completely into the spirit of Jeanne’s judges. And the best thing to do, in this matter, is to follow, step by step, a treatise by Gerson. We are not concerned in this with a suspect, for we are dealing with the best educated man of his time, with the Chancellor of the University of Paris who had to flee the city when it became Burgundian. We are dealing with the man who consecrated his last activity to writing an extremely favorable mémoire of the Maid (May 14, 1429).
Gerson’s Treatise on Revelations
We shall not try to translate, word for word, which would be too fastidious: we shall attempt to give only the essential parts of it, and to express the principal ideas. (1)
This treatise Gerson addressed in the form of a familiar letter to a certain Brother Célèstine who was his dearest friend. In this epistle he proposed to demonstrate, by a continuous metaphor, how the real coin of divine revelation can be distinguished from the counterfeit money of diabolic illusion, so that the Angel of Satan may not deceive us by representing himself as an Angel of light.
The theologian goes to the heart of the question in citing the revelation made by the Angel Gabriel to Zacharias on the subject of the Forerunner. It is precisely here that the curious investigator asks how one may know that the announcement of John’s name was an angelic deed rather than an illusion of the Devil.
It is necessary to distinguish the revelations of angels from these illusions; for just as the verity of our religion is combated by the disputatious arguments of heretics, so is the authority of true miracles and holy revelations diminished by the means of angels of deceit, by sophisticated feats and the prodigies of magicians. Gerson continues, following
“Tractatus loannis Gersonii, doctoris et cancellarii parisiensis, de Distinctione Berardi visionum a falsis,” in the _Opera Omnia_, pub. by Ellies Dupin, Antwerp, 1706. Written between 1398 and 1401 Apropos of the canonization of Saint Brigit in 1415, Gerson wrote another treatise, “De Probatione Spiritum,” similar in, ideas. this, that there is no general rule or method that we can give as a means of discerning always and infallibly the true revelation from the illusion. And it is more a matter of faith in our own prophets, and consequently in our entire religion, than it is of certitude and evidence.
Nevertheless, another question arises: Can we recognize that we are faithful believers? Following John’s doctrine, can we prove whether spirits are of God, so that we may not be deceived? (John IV, I.) This discussion, Gerson says, he has approached knowingly because so many illusions have been produced in his time and in that century.
On the subject of the coming of the Anti-Christ, for example, the world had behaved like a crazy old dodderer; and it had suffered from fantasies and illusions like those experienced in dreams. Many say “I am the Christ” and, far from being true they seduce, none the less, multitudes of the gullible, easily hypnotized by fables.
Gerson had heard many say that they knew for a certainty, by revelation, who was to be the future Pope; errors which had misled lettered and famous men, whose writings he had at hand. It was extraordinary to him to report that many persons of religion and of austere life had given credence to such evidence.
If anyone presents himself and declares that he has had a revelation like that of Zacharias, and those of other prophets, what are we to do? What shall be our line of conduct? If we deny it shortly, at once, if we make a mock of him or accuse him, it would seem, says Gerson, likely that we are weakening the authority of divine revelation, which is powerful to-day as formerly. We shall offend the simple, who will judge that our prophesies are but fantasies and illusions. We must, therefore, take an open attitude, in conformity with John’s text: It is not necessary to believe every spirit, but we must prove whether the spirits arc of God; and, obedient to the apostle, we must follow the good.
And so we become as spiritual treasurers and changers of money, dedicated to examining carefully and diligently the precious and strange coins of divine revelation. But this examiner of spiritual money must be a theologian experienced in his knowledge and in the usage of life, differing from those who never reach the consciousness of truth, such as the chatterers, the wordy, the imprudent, and the quarrelsome; or those who have more judgment in appreciating the appointments of the table, meats and wines, than aptitude in judging the matters that make demands upon the spirit and intelligence, and to whom all discourse upon the subject of religion seems fabulous or a burden. To such changers each new coin of divine revelation remains something unknown and foreign; they reject it with great laughs and indignation; and they make a mock of it and prefer accusation.
There are others (and says Gerson, I do not deny that they do not fall into a contrary vice) who ascribe as facts in the book of revelation all the dreams of the vainest of delirious men, the most superstitious and most extravagant illusions, the monstrous thoughts of sick and distempered minds. These believe with too easy a heart; the others show a spirit far too impracticable and harsh,
And so we must examine this spiritual money of revelation with five principal measures of evaluation: to wit: weight, flexibility, resistance, form, and color. Humility gives weight; discretion furnishes flexibility, patience indicates resistance; truth gives us the form, and charity the color. And the good logician develops, in taking them up, each one of these parts of his figure of speech.
The first sign to examine, then, is the conduct of the person who claims to be favored by God with apparitions. The man who, by proud curiosity or vain praise, or by presumption of holiness, desires to have unusual revelations and considers himself worthy of them; who takes delight through vainglory in such things as he tells of them, mark well: he merits being the sport of illusions. And Gerson recalls to us, in this connection, the examples to be found in the lives of the saints.
The Devil appeared to one of them, transfigured not only in the guise of an angel, but in the likeness of Christ; and he announced that he had appeared in the world to be seen of him and worshiped. This holy father remained thoughtful for a time, after the manner of the Virgin Mary, asking himself what to say to this greeting. He thought to himself: “Don’t I worship Christ every day? What does such a vision mean?” Taking refuge in humility, he said to the demon: “Go thou to him who sent thee for I am not worthy of seeing Christ here below.” Upon this humble answer, the demon went away, covered with confusion and shame.
Another father closed his eyes in a similar case: “I do not wish to see Christ upon earth,” he said: “I shall be content upon seeing Him in Heaven.”
And, too, Gerson points out, one must distinguish whether the revelation in question is useful for custom, the good of mankind, the honor and development of worship, or whether it relates to vain matters, to useless babbling. As in the history of the Gentiles, man can draw, without vain boasting, glories from his own deeds: as did Tullius and Scipio Africanus.
This weight of humility we find in Zacharias, who stood like one amazed upon seeing the angel, and refused to believe his annunciation. But we must add, as Saint Gregory said in his Dialogues, that “This true humility may not be obstinate, but submissive and in awe.” Certainly also, it is not humility but the sign of proud self-esteem, when a person, in alleging his humility, scorns the prelate who is informing himself in such an arduous case. He would not act like that if he were not learned in his own eyes, if he did not rely upon his own prudence, if he were not ready to believe in his own sense and upon his own council rather than upon the judgment of his superior.
The second sign which distinguishes the true spiritual person is discretion: daughter of humility, that is, the readiness to listen to a counselor. For there are people whom it pleases to be governed by their own feelings, and who act according to their own devising. It is the most dangerous Director who leads them, or really it is their own opinions that drive them. They grow dangerously thin by fasting, they prolong their, vigils in exaggerated ways, they trouble themselves with too copious weeping and wear themselves out in hysteria. They do not believe anyone’s warnings; they will not be advised to live in a more moderate fashion; they do not bother to listen to people learned in divine law; they scorn all counsel. Such people the author pronounces as being the prey of illusions of the Devil; and one must hold suspect all that they say in unusual revelations.
Gerson cites the instance of the married woman he had just encountered at Arras. This woman sometimes went from two to four days without taking nourishment and naturally she was held by many to be a wonder. The interested theologian had spoken with her, and he was not long in finding out that this abstinence was not sobriety, but simply a case of vain and superb obstinacy; for, after such a fast, exhausted by hunger, the woman ate with an unbelievable voracity. Upon which Gerson had asked her how, in these conditions, without taking anyone’s advice, she had followed an abstinence such as the most saintly and the strongest had not observed. She replied by indirection that lacked all humility; whereupon the theologian admonished her, explaining to her that this mania for fasting was nothing but a singular folly, that she was displeasing to her husband, and that the hunger that followed the fasting was the punishment exacted of her.
And Gerson attacked in his time all the excesses in abstinence which led to incurable maladies, such as brain lesions and mental troubles; and he ascribed many visions to these mental maladies; the books on medicine were full of examples of them, he declared. He noted the manias and remarked that he had encountered many people who appeared to have good judgment about most things but who were demented in certain other circumstances: such were they who delved in the magic arts. Gerson’s third attribute of the real spiritual coin is patience: a quality which is extremely difficult to evaluate for obstinacy often simulates it
The fourth attribute is truth, which gives the configuration and legitimate inscription to the coin. The Scriptures are the place, the treasury where reposes the royal die of spiritual money. If a coin differs in form and inscription from the King’s die, without any doubt it is false. Nevertheless, it can come about that the resemblance of the false money to the true is such that the counterfeit can be determined only by the most learned men. It is necessary therefore to seek what are the conditions of the true revelations.
Gerson’s first condition: That no angel, saint or prophet predicts any future event that does not transpire, precisely in the sense he and the Holy Spirit understood it; otherwise it occurs through the response of devils; for they deceive and are deceived. If you reply in spirit: “How can I know whether it is God who is speaking?” here is the answer: “You shall have this sign: if a prophet has announced something in the name of God, and it cannot be realized, it is not God who has spoken; you are concerned with an invention of the prophet and of his spirit of arrogance.”
Second condition: If that which a prophet or an angel has predicted does not happen word for word, the inspired will receive a revelation from the Holy Spirit to understand whether this announcement is to be understood conditionally, mystically or literally. This the author calls appealing to or questioning God, or soundly informing the mind.
Third condition: the holy angels and true prophets do not announce anything contrary to good customs and the true faith.
Fourth condition: Revelation which goes counter to good habits, without the very clear intervention of an order or dispensation of God, is not to be listened to. Here the author enters in great detail into this very necessary gift which the Apostle calls “discernment of spirit.” This sense acts in the manner of a mysterious perfume, of an illumination, as an experience by which we distinguish the true revelations from deceptive illusions.
In this connection Gerson cites examples taken from Saint Bernard and from Christ Himself; since He proves that a virtue emanated from Him when he healed the woman by the touch of His raiment; and Saint Augustine tells also in his Confessions that he had discerned the presence of his mother among the true and false visions of a night’s sleep. However, it is impossible to lay down a general rule; it is necessary to examine each case by itself. Similar difficulties, almost insurmountable, are encountered by anyone who tries to distinguish absolutely the states of vigil and those of sleep. Experience is not sufficient; and all that one can say of the matter is “I know it for certain.”
It is therefore necessary to show ourselves prudent in such matters and to come back, in fine, to the only light which we possess, which is that of humility. Let us trample under foot our pride, our vainglory, this monster horrible and immense which is always reborn with a new force when one pursues it, as in the case of fabulous Antaeus, or with the hydra head of poet’s legend.
And in the case of a miracle, examination is just as necessary for the good and verity of the faith: a useless miracle is to be held suspect. And so we can judge as sacrilege the prestidigitations of magicians, and those who make Christ fly through the air.
Gerson’s fifth sign, and last, of the spiritual coin is charity, or divine love. It is that which gives the golden color to the coin. But this sign may not be sufficient in all circumstances, for this color is disguised by that of carnal love.
This has been found to be true especially among women who have shown toward God and the saints a love which was inspired more by vice than by true, sincere holy love. Concerning this, Gerson criticizes the pretensions of these pious women who live in familiarity with holy men, and the book of Marie de Valenciennes. For love must begin in the spirit and be consummated by the body: thus these women thought to enjoy God, while their passions were so tar from holy. And Gerson brings his thoughts to a close in these terms:
The greatest danger in these matters is to refer them to one’s own sense; for if the spirit of presumption slips into us, mistaken vanity can easily take possession of us. The temptation is to be led to a desperate feeling in seeing that we cannot arrive at certainty on the subject of holy revelations. Well, there is a certainty; but in the divine light, not in the human. It is in raising our aspirations very high that we can catch a glimpse of it.
In brief, if we happen to be judges of the spiritual coins of revelations, let us, says Gerson, attach ourselves to God and His Holy Scriptures; let us not be hastened in passing judgment, especially whether there is falsehood, or folly joined with falsehood. Such is the rule that permits us to prove the good spiritual money.
This promenade into the country of theology is not pleasant. Our companion, a logician of great spiritual soundness, leads us in this labyrinth as in a suite of small cloisters where there is little light, where one can scarcely see one’s way. But the ideas expressed in this treatise are so far from our thoughts, deduced in so special a manner, that we ought to know them in the only form in which they were produced. Is that to say that we can find in them sufficient reasons for excusing the judges of Rouen? We can at least recognize certain motifs which were able to determine them from the moment that their self-interest urged them in this.
As far as the Bishop is concerned, I do not believe that he could enter for a single moment into these considerations. He was a man of very cold nature, ambitious, a material man; to judge him even by the features that his tomb presents to us, a man of the flesh and coarse. He was such a good functionary of the English government that he had visited in their country and could probably speak their language: “Farewell,” he was to say when Jeanne’s cause was decisively lost.
And when the Bishop builds, at Lisieux, a delightful chapel in honor of the Virgin, he appears to us as a man more ostentatious than pious. And, too, he seems to be attached to his province. Perhaps at that time he turned back upon himself, disillusioned, feeling that he had failed in life, for the Bishop of Beauvais was never to become Archbishop of Rouen.
But the excuse in the field of theory which we cannot find for Cauchon we can perhaps accord to the Parisian theologians, to all this University family, this corporation of learning in which master and scholar have labored together, and collaborated; where there were debts of gratitude, examinations prepared in common, as was the case with many of the judges of Jeanne d’Arc; where was to be found, in a word, a real companionship . an esprit de corps.
When Jean Beaupère, the most learned of these Paris doctors, was questioned at the time of the Rehabilitation, it was remarkable to note that he did not retract: the professor maintained that “he had and still has a strong conjecture that the said apparitions were more from a natural cause and human intention than from a cause outside nature.” When the judge spoke to him of Jeanne’s innocence, Beaupère declared oh! he did intend to imply “corruption of body,” but rather “that she was very subtle, with the subtlety appertaining to woman.” And that was all that could be drawn out of him.
It is not difficult to see that Beaupère remains always the representative of the theologians who advocate distrusting visions, that he maintained the unfavorable opinion, so common in his time among the religious, and which is still rife among us, relative to the feminine sex and its innate malice.
War in the Time of Jeanne d’Arc
It is now time to get a little air, to look about the camps and the countryside. It is time to leave the morose clerics to their speculations, shut up in their rooms, and to consider the companions in war, with their bronzed faces, highly encased in mail and with their hair cut cap-fashion, men who carry for banners the fleur-de-lis, the cross of Saint Andrew or the leopards.
At the beginning of the Fifteenth Century, France was still, as much as Italy, one of the most civilized kingdoms in all Christendom. Business flourished there; people amused themselves; the arts were flourishing and manners were as amiable as they were easy. The quarrel between Orléans and Burgundy saw the end of this gentle splendor. The parties competed for the English mercenaries with their money resources. These latter were tempted to substitute themselves for the French government, and to conquer the country.
This was precisely the opportunity that King Henry V took advantage off: a hard man, dominating, harsh, unscrupulous, mystic and realist, who had prepared with care the conquest of a peaceful and joyous kingdom. Of great piety, sincere or feigned, very brave, Henry V conducted himself as a justice, a reformer of French manners, fulfilling the secret design of God. King Henry was a great Englishman; and his life seems to have been a crusade against France. It is not thanks to him that the French are not English to-day. We must say something of this war in which Jeanne played so great a role, and of the causes which led to checking the English. The great army of 1415, united at Portsmouth, was not larger than 10,000 men (2,500 men-at-arms, 7,000 archers, 120 miners and 75 cannoneers according to the largest estimates). At Agincourt, Henry V led in combat not more than 900 lancers and 3,000 archers. At Verneuil, the English numbered 2,000 or 3,000 men (this was the bloodiest encounter of the time). At the moment of their greatest power, before Orleans, the English army in 1428 numbered approximately 5,000 men (1,000 lancers and 4,000 archers). In 1417, the royal navy comprised sixteen vessels and carracks, eight barges and ten whalers. (The carrack was of five hundred tons cargo and a crew of eighty-eight sailors; the barge, one hundred and forty tons and thirty-eight sailors; the whaler, a little more or less.)
As for Jeanne, she commanded an army of 12,000 to 14,000 men. A very large army for that time. France did not lack men, and there were many valorous Scotsmen as mercenaries. The most difficult thing was to create a war treasury large enough to pay them. It was impossible to put knighthood on foot and lead it into battle, among the lancers, pikemen and crossbowmen. Guerrilla warfare was always difficult for the French. And before the coming of Jeanne — we have Dunois’ word for it — 200 English could put to flight 800 French, so great was their prestige.
After the general encounters wherein the country’s soldiery and the flower of chivalry perished (which happened three times during the Hundred Years’ War) the war proceeded at a slow, infallible pace and took on the character of a military occupation, a spreading government. It took on the monotonous aspect of trench warfare.
Not that trenches were dug in the terrain of France to defend positions foot by foot. But France at that time was covered with castles, fortresses which were veritable redoubts, commanding the traffic of rivers and valleys, having a view necessary for men-at-arms to hold an ambush, to make a sortie, to reconnoiter the plain, to ride down and recapture territory. Each fair town had its girdle of walls, oftentimes double and triple. These defenses were carefully planned with a view to sieges and were repaired when necessary at the joint expense of the people and the Church. When the alarm was given the citizens, even the canons themselves, mounted guard at the ramparts. Moats filled with water were a serious obstacle to all who attempted to make an assault upon the fortress. A few defenders were enough to hold these places which were all but impregnable. About the castle, commanded by a captain paid by the town, were placed a few hundred crossbowmen, archers and a small number of artillery pieces, culverins, veuglaires, and crapaudaux, from which has evolved our trench mortar.
To capture these places politics and bribes were more effective than force. In general, one bought the captain of the town, who was easy to corrupt and entirely mercenary; or else towns were captured by famine. Iron and stone cannon balls had little effect on those great piles of masonry, and their ricochet was not damaging. It was necessary to dig mines and to set off explosives under these great towers and heavy walls which then tumbled down like card-castles. The workmen of the north, men of Hainault, were particularly formidable in playing with mines.
But more frequently towns were taken by means of famine, the cruel siege which imprisoned the people. They could not leave to work their fields, to sow or reap their grain or cultivate their vineyards. Cities were surrounded by a military city made of fortifications, with wooden and stone towers called bastilles. A very costly proceeding, very complicated — not very effective, in the opinion of a youth of the time, Jean de Beuil, who was later to become a marshal of France. That is what the English did at Orleans and it was not a great success.
These long years of war in which the French had to do a great part of the work before Martinmas in Winter, before Saint John’s Day, before Spring were years of constant distress. An abiding terror had conquered the land. The end of the world seemed near.
To wage this long war it was not necessary to have a large body of men under arms. A few knights did police and scout duty, riding out from the château to run down the enemy, as the gendarmes of South Algeria do in subduing native bands. The laborer suffered all the evils of this kind of warfare: his cattle were stolen, his cottage was burned. The encounters of any importance were extremely rare, and the mercenaries of both nations had a “certain small custom” among themselves, and took the opportunity of making “good livings” together; the thrifty peasant was always the victim of their raiding. The delay in large operations and their considerable expense were discouraging; discouraging also were the assaults on a town or castle, which had to be repeated many times before the enemy could be broken of their stubborn resistance. And they could then establish themselves in another stronghold and it would all have to be done over again.
That is the kind of war that was being waged in the time of Jeanne d’Arc. It was very disagreeable; it was neither brilliant nor chivalrous.
Upon the urging of the Duc d’Alençon, a youth enthusiastic to the point of folly, Jeanne undertook the use of the small cannons which sowed panic among the knights, and which, aimed by skilled gunners, had sometimes surprising results at short distances. As at Orleans, when a lucky shot decapitated the Earl of Salisbury while he was making a reconnaissance.
But Jeanne’s characteristic method, which she used intuitively, was the charge: to lead the attack. And the soldiers and plain folk understood her. How intrepid and French she was in that! And also, how easy it was to upset the plans and calculations of the timid! Everywhere at once, Jeanne was in the van: at the bastille of Orléans, where she scaled the ladder; at Jargeau, where she was knocked down by a stone and got up crying, “Friends, friends, upon them! Our Lord has condemned the English. Now we have them! Be brave!” And on the fortifications of Paris, where the Anglo-Burgundians jibed at the French, calling Jeanne a cowherd and a harlot. She scarcely noticed a wound. Jeanne was wounded in the foot and shoulder at Orléans, in the thigh at Paris. She could not be made to stay quiet.
Jeanne was especially the heroine of the siege of Orléans, which was a little later made a pompous and military mystery; she became the “miracle of Orléans” just as with us there was the “miracle of the Marne”; but there never was a miracle in war. For so long as wars shall last, a long time still, alas! the victors of a day and the politicians will not be able to subdue a people who must live, who will not submit to slavery.
The English had occupied Normandy with the intention of perpetual domination. They had wiped out the loyal nobles, and persecuted the ‘plain people, in very much the way the Germans held Belgium in subjection. In Picardy they had tried, with Burgundian aid, an alliance with the nobles of the country. More than from its formidable enemy, France suffered from her own dissensions. Thanks to her internal dissensions, also, England, in her turn, was to succumb under the feuds of the Duke of Gloucester with the Duke of Burgundy and the Bishop of Winchester. And, at Orléans, the Duke of Burgundy hesitated, and did not send troops. The work of reconciliation among the French parties and provinces, this “French friendship” of which Napoleon emphasized the importance on the municipal register at Orleans, was consummated in the Treaty of Arras, a peace which has been held the great victory won by prelates and lawyers, but it was prepared by the soldiers. Another cause, and an important one, too, in checking the English occupation of the country was their lack of money. In spite of the ransoms of Rouen and Meaux, in spite of his victories, Henry V was heavily in debt to the day of his death: not enough, of course, to ruin a city like London, but the ambassadors, captains of towns, soldiers and sailors were constantly without money; and they tarried in France without enthusiasm.
The bill for Agincourt was not yet paid when its conqueror died. And the gentlemen “lodged” in Normandy wrote home: “No money, and foraging is forbidden!” The Duke of Exeter, the great marshal, and Hungerford did not receive their wages for Agincourt until the reign of Henry VI. The government owed the Earl of Huntingdon, made prisoner at Baugé, 8,157 livres for his services; on default of payment, he was kept in prison in France.
This embarrassment of the English treasury was a permanent cause of weakness. And although the treasury of King Charles, “King of Bourges” was not better equipped, he waged war for his cause, in spite of his laziness and lack of resolution, rich in another endless treasure, the fidelity of his oppressed people.
The Idea of Patrie in the Time of Jeanne d’Arc
We have seen that Henry V came into France to punish her for her sins: it would be more accurate to say that he came to chastise her for her improvidence. This pious lie, developed by the Duc d’Orléans in the celebrated _Complainte de la France_ in which he represented France kneeling before the cross, beside the Virgin, is in conformity withChristian tradition. As for the lawyers, they disseminated another version: that of legal right to conquest. John Talbot, the “watchdog of England,” that model of courtliness and courage, in the book in French which he presented to Queen Margaret so that she would not forget her country’s language, included a genealogical table to prove the legal position. In it there was a picture formed of a series of portraits placed within circular medallions, one below another. The relationships of this genealogical tree begins with Saint Louis and divides in two lines: one descending from Isabelle de France, daughter of Philippe le Bel, the House of Lancaster; the other traces the line of the Valois to Charles VI and his daughter Catherine. The two lines meet at that point, in the marriage of Catherine and Henry V, and result, in the person of Henry VI, in a double heritage from Saint Louis.
Such pictures could be exhibited in churches and other public places. They delighted only the jurists, however, and the Burgundian chroniclers. The French people thought that Charles VII and his cousins, Orléans and Bourbon, had been omitted, just as they had been in the Treaty of Troyes. As for the nobles and the warriors who lived by conflict, it was a good gamble.
The bloody struggles were the opportunity for the fine “proof at arms” in which they could test their valor. One wins; the other loses. The king who loses the battle suffers no reproach: it is honor enough, and sufficient in itself, to have fought the enemy with boldness. If one always won the fight the war would soon be over. Preserving one’s honor was the essential. Kings, ladies, princes and other great lords, who were judges of worldly honor were quick to say to whom the honors belonged; to correct the injustice of assaults, battles, sieges and tourneys.
It was not I the same for the ordinary folk of the countryside and the resolute companions-in-arms we find grouped around the Maid. And when the war in its ferocity saw the burning of chapels and of whole villages; when the ecclesiastics had to give up the thought of getting tithes, opinion changed.
It is a beautiful thing that this idea of patrie should have been born in a country trampled under foreign feet, rather than from the bloodless books of jurists and savants. Beautiful ladies, fine hunts, and the “great deeds of valiant King Arthur,” “French victories,” were the things that these nobles, the Trojans of the Middle Ages, had in mind. But Jeanne was to say to them (in her letter to the English) “Render to the Maid . who is sent here of God, the King of Heaven, the keys of all the good towns which you have taken and violated in France . . ‘ ”
The word “patrie” did not exist in the time of Jeanne d’Arc. Patria, the word of the scholar, meant country, place of origin; by extension it could sometimes mean patrie, in the sense in which we use the word, but very rarely did it have that connotation.
In the feudal world what we understand by patrie, was always connected with the idea of feudal sovereignty; and the concept of sovereignty was always linked to the idea of justice. The people of Vaucouleurs, for instance, were “people of the King’s chamber,” that is, responsible to him. The king remained their overlord and defender, the people’s liberator, the one surpassing appeal above the ties of vassalage.
It is around this idea of paternal justice that we must look to discern the outlines of the modern idea of “country.” In the name of justice, Jeanne protested against the foreign invasion; it was in the name of an ancient loyalty that the simple folk of the countryside revolted against the foreigners, everywhere to some extent, even in Normandy.
One may see, in this province, by the series of letters of donation, that only a part of the nobility and upper bourgeoisie and the higher clergy accepted the English domination: these people had taken the “certificates of loyalty” by means of which they obtained the restitution of their property.
But by the letters of remission, which brought the common people the most ancient example of its use goes back only to 1544. Cf. Antoine Thomas, Revue des idles, PP. 555-559. of the countryside and the towns into the scene, we are ‘ a – able to realize that the poorer classes lived in terror of the English men-at-arms and also of the partisans of France, for they were crushed by the pillaging of the leaders of roving bands. For these laborers, despoiled of their horses, beaten and taken for guides by the soldiers, terrorized by these groups of five or six horsemen appearing in the village; these wretched people, who knew neither security nor rest, remained none the less loyal at heart in the province that was most English.
Such was the poor man of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dive who, while drinking in an inn at Bayeux with an English herald-at-arms whose standing he did not know, made the imprudent wish: “May God protect the crown of France and give long life to the Duc d’Alençon and peace to us all! (1424.) Such also was the unfortunate tailor of Nôtre Dame de Cenilly who at Coutances, one market day, having drunk more than a little, declared to the English soldiers at one of the city gates that he preferred King Charles to King Henry.
And the poor citizen of Rugles, who picked a quarrel with the sergeant of the forest of Breteuil, shouting to him: “I think times will change very soon, and you gentlemen, officers of the king of England, won’t have such a big audience.” (1425.) And for Robin Le Peletier of Valognes, Bedford “was nothing but a wine-bibber pure and simple, who was good for nothing but taking towns and levying taxes and consuming the people and did not try to put out of his kingdom our enemies and adversaries”; as for Suffolk, he considered him a “murderer of populations.”
It is not always easy to know what a peasant thinks, and especially a Norman peasant. In these letters of remission that enable us to know them, documents in which the chancellory of King Henry presents them, the peasants of Normandy are naturally seen in a very humble and supplicating attitude. But can one believe that they acted always, as was officially said, through terror of “brigands,” that is, groups rebellious against the English power? Were they not often in sympathy with them?
Was it always through constraint that the peasants ferried the brigands across rivers, accompanied them in their reconnoiterings, procured food for them, bought horses for them, bridled and saddled, and stole on their account? In one place a barber goes to take care of the wounded in a forest; in another, the wounded are taken in and hidden. There was treason to the English everywhere, even in Rouen itself.
A hole was made in the wall of a house adjoining the church of Saint-Gervaise de Sees, a breach by which the French were able to penetrate into the fortress by night (1427). A Jacobin formed a conspiracy at Argentan (1431). Rouen was nearly overthrown in 1432.
In the countryside an Englishman who was without a guide would be put to death. Peasants found one along the road, near the wood of Baugy, stretched out naked, robbed of his clothes: everything had been taken, including his horse. And two Englishmen suddenly appeared at Chicheboville and, not knowing what to do, struck people aside with their swords and looted an inn. The people of the place besieged them at night and beat them up with ironed staves.
How many villagers secretly buried in the bushes Englishmen they surreptitiously killed? Who can tell the number of “brigands” as the English chancellory called these rebels and guerrilla warriors, who were hidden in the forests of Normandy? Why couldn’t they avenge themselves as did Galoppin, barber of Bretteville, upon the Englishman’s servant who roamed the country demanding chickens and silver pieces from the housewives?
These Normans were lively after drinking; they played at quarterstaff bouts after a market day or a pilgrimage. They didn’t let themselves be imposed upon by English archers; they defended their horses, carts, chickens and oats: it took more than a bribe for them to give up to an English forager. Woods and farmhouses were not safe for a companion-at-arms not even at night. The laborer knew how to take revenge for the wheat, the pipe of cider, fat pork and cattle that he had to give up to the garrison of foreign soldiers.
The English at that time were considered savage and bloody men. The French saw them fall upon the land, thanks to the great civil dissensions, and proceed to despoil “the holy kingdom” of its relics. This pillage, this universal robbery cried out for vengeance. The English were then also considered to be sea pirates who did not wage “great wars,” that is adventures in distant lands. What they waged in France was, in effect, a. peasant war, an atrocious war. There were reconciliations in the church and the cemetery only and these were violated as much by the French as the English. Monasteries were scenes of slaughter and were turned into stables. Divine worship ceased. Bells were thrown to the ground, broken and silent. Fire made the ruin black and complete.
The same spectacle, even more somber, was to be seen between the Somme and the Oise, that frontier country, the confines of Burgundian Picardy where the English did everything to rally the local nobility around their banner. Monasteries burned, worthy folk tortured, relics carried off, churches turned into stables or public houses, laborers and notables imprisoned and forgotten in deep dungeons and who perished there of starvation; pregnant women who gave birth prematurely and died, their children thrown into the river or to the wolves who roamed about the villages; men-at-arms not less ferocious than the wolves, whether English or partisans of the French; famine. Such are the things revealed to us by contemporary documents.
And further, as Jean Jouvenel is witness, furnishing us the outline of this dark picture of the war in the Beauvais sector, not a useless complaint came from the good folk of that land. Their hearts were the king’s faithfully, And if the later bishop of Beauvais uttered a complaint, it was to reproach the king with not pursuing the quarrel, with dozing on the banks of the Loire in his little rooms, with taking too much refuge in prayer; Jean Jouvenel affirmed the fidelity of his city, confirming it in resistance to all the false promises of the enemy and their partisans.
And passing now to the marches of Lorraine, to the country of Jeanne d’Arc, which is not Champagne, nor Barrois, nor yet Lorraine proper, but none the less French, the towns everywhere sought their municipal autonomy, and the village folk, oppressed by all the local tyrants, by the men-at-arms of three provinces who descended upon this extremely rich valley whose fields of emerald were its fortune and its crown, aspired to nothing more than liberty and peace.
They dreamed of that great justiciar of other days, the King of France, and of the king’s court of justice. As elsewhere, the exactions of the soldiery were cruelly felt, guerrilla warfare, the “ransoms” of the villages, payments for “protection,” the capture of notables, the theft of livestock, and that scourge of war, fire. The war had developed to the point that peasants were forbidden to keep a fire lighted for fear it would be too handy a means for men-at-arms to burn their cottages.
The farmer mounted guard instead of going about his work. I do not know a more eloquent witness than the few lines of an account of the month of November, 1428, imposing a fine of twenty sells upon Jean Bauldet the elder who, during sentry-duty before the gates of Foug, “went to have a look at his plow in the fields,” From this misery and oppression, rather than in the minds of lawyers, was born the fidelity to the king as protector and justiciar, and the concept of “patrie.” The word alone was lacking. But the word, pays, “land,” is also beautiful, is it not, and just as rich in meaning?
The Value of the Trial Record
One cannot think of everything, In wishing to destroy Jeanne, to publish to all the world the errors of her doctrine, and her “lies,” the judges of Rouen worked greatly to preserve her memory. Through them we know truly the “great-hearted girl”; it is thanks to them that we are become judges in our turn, witnesses of the marvelous drama wherein strategy and ruse played with virtue and simplicity. In the trial we hear Jeanne’s words truly and we pity her; we weep for her.
So unfortunate, so young and candid, modest and superb, as the occasion demanded, full of good sense and at times gay, sometimes full of hope, sometimes the prey of despair, so firm in her faith that the judges called her obstinate, Jeanne appears the incarnation of virtue and simplicity — even holiness. She is entirely human, and never was humanity greater.
Suppose, for a moment, that the Trial Record had been lost and that we possessed nothing else on the subject of Jeanne but the depositions of the witnesses at the Rehabilitation and the word of the contemporary chroniclers: no, we should not really know her. Jeanne would have remained a mysterious, shadowy figure. The few important depositions of her companions-at-arms would not be enough to make her live before our eyes.
Here we have her words; we have Jeanne herself; we have in this the evangel of our devotion. We owe something else besides to the judges of Rouen. Let us imagine that she had ended her days in the house near Orléans that she had acquired, for she would doubtless have been released from a Church prison in time, if she had been merely imprisoned. How much less important she would have seemed in men’s eyes. What a different value the scene in the cemetery of Saint-Ouen would have had! They served her well in judging her so badly.
it was the stake which was, in truth, her first altar, a prophecy of that upon which the piety of man has to-day placed her. As the excellent Michelet has said: “She no longer understands salvation in the material sense, as she had until then; she sees clearly at last, and leaving the shadows she obtains that which was lacking to her of light and sanctity.”
And so in this “beau procès,” in this unjust trial, the judges have served Jeanne well. They have written the acts of her martyrdom and gathered together the gospel of our race, although they thought they were presenting their apologia to the world.
Read the Trial Record and you will be the better for it; listen to Jeanne’s words and you will reject the vain rhetoric of the improper, comic judges with their hatred, ambiguities and empty Latin, their veneer of Seneca and Statius: you will come to despise pride.
How clearly Jeanne speaks, a language fresh as brook water!
The chroniclers of the time knew her but little; the devout clerics saw nothing in her but a lesson; the chroniclers, of Burgundy saw her as a rustic and debauchée, an enemy: the English believed her to be a witch; the squires and companions saw her as a good, staunch soldier. And we modern historians try to explain the inexplicable; we add details, little niceties; we reconstruct the background of her life; we arrange the decor of the landscape and the drama. But it is in the course of the Trial that Jeanne, living, appears before us.
For Jeanne remains above all else a treasure of France, the lovely Christian flower springing from the ruins of the country. An ideal figure that seems so rare coming from rustic folk only because country people are so eternally calumniated. Jeanne’s father was in fact a good farmer, well off, possessing horses and cattle, the doyen of his village.
Her qualities, except for intensity and inspiration, were not perhaps greatly unlike those of many maids of her rank and environment. Gerson, in summing up his instructions to his sisters living in the country, the oldest of whom was twenty-six, recommended: “You, my six sisters, remain together without entering a religious order, without living in the towns during the life of our father and mother. You should be with them, and live by your handiwork; and of the inheritance which ought to belong to you, your brothers, I think, will take nothing. You ought not to ask for any other husband than the Lord.” And he addressed this instruction: to be without ostentation and pride in their dress, and to preserve always a becoming propriety. “You should say your Hours and other orisons at proper times, matins, tierce, vespers, and upon going to bed. Hear mass as often as it is possible for you to; the rest of the time you ought diligently to work, to shun idleness which is the mother of all evils, as one may see in the towns, where girls do not work. Live as quietly as you can; do not drink wine unless it is watered, and then not much; and you should not eat too much meat; and you should not eat spices, onions, nor any other food which engenders perilous heat. Make confession often, each week, and each great fête day; for confession is a thing which greatly pleases God and which restrains you from sin. Receive with devotion the true bread which nourishes the soul, that is, the body of Our Lord. Be of good peace together, and encourage the doing of good each to the other. Do not speak ill of another; do not harbor any hatred. Let the oldest be as the youngest; and serve your father and mother with good nature, willingly. Be careful not to speak to a strange man, except in public, and the less often you have to, the better. And do not trouble to go to dances and other pleasant frolics, for there is more foolishness than good in them. It would give me great pleasure, and it would be very profitable, if you could learn to read in French; for I shall send you some books of devotion, and I shall often write to you with the greatest pleasure. Why should you ask for the burdens of marriage, to leave the freedom of this life, more holy, more certain, and more devout?”
It is in the _Exercises discrets des simples devots_ that one finds these transcendental maxims for woman: She ought to learn to think on God, with nothing of the corporeal, without image, so that she will not imagine when thinking of Him an object large or small, long or short, black or white, here or there, as existing in any given place.
Gerson’s sisters did not have any idea of marrying; and it was never Jeanne’s intention. Their father, Charlier, wrote of them to his son: ” ‘Thanks be to God, they love God first of all, and fear sin; they fast one or two days a week, and say their Hours of Our Lady every day: and Marion has learned them since her husband died. And I perceive that they do not contemplate marrying at any age, but rather do they wish to please us and you.’ This is what our good father wrote me about you, my sisters. Lord, our Saviour, what joy, what consolation I have had, and have every time I examine these words. this news of you.” Such were the preoccupations of village folk, working people.
The times were hard. Misery was widespread. A poor girl was most likely to find in a husband a drunkard, a brawler, who would beat her; she would bring her children into poverty. Let woman keep her virginity, her road to paradise! Bitter ideas and how far from being earthly!
In the trial Jeanne appears to us in radiance. She says that God is her judge, that she loves God with all her heart; a concept which has always appeared to be insufficient to persons of learning. When the judges dare to call her “Saracen” she replies, simply, that she is a good Christian. She desires, heartily that the Church and Catholics pray for her And perhaps it was these short answers; “I rely upon Our Lord,” “God our Lord first of all,” which exasperated her judges most.
She is all the courtliness and the grace of France; all the chivalry that one could possibly have found in her time; she had a liking for horses and arms, the prestige of a leader. She is also all the peasant land of France. in her stubbornness. in her hardiness in work. in her irony and her mocking gayety, in her old-fashioned politeness.
She is Fidelity. The man who understood her best was one of her judges — Pierre Maurice, when he likened her faith in God to loyalty due a prince. She is, again, the image of France in her impatience: and it was by patience that her judges wore her out so inevitably.
Jeanne was a “good child,” according to the words of the angel. A precocious and serious child who danced little but sang at will, who knew her cantilènes, and went when her Voices left her. She remains the wild flower of Christian piety.
And Jeanne was, unaware, the imitator of Our Lord Jesus Christ. She trampled underfoot the impure body and was always kind to poor people and to children; intrigued against to the end, forced to the point of greatest sacrifice; active, untractable to deceivers, candid and defiant. She knew despair, doubt and agony at the end, like Jesus. She consummated the supreme sacrifice as He did.
We may ask ourselves how so many ideas and intuitions are to be found in a person as simple as she was saintly. A saint she was, without question; simple-the question is worth asking. Perhaps it is our education, our sophistication-our civilization, in a word-which has most separated men from one another, and this proportionately as the efforts toward equality have avidly increased. How far from us they seem, at times, our brothers the peasants and workers; and how well they understood one another in Jeanne’s time, the great lords and peasants who could scarcely write their names; they shared a common experience, and a common good sense, even a unifying intuition.
Jeanne is, above all things else, the wisdom of a good people. She is the People of France, the plain people of the countryside of Lorraine which is sweet and clean through the courage and faith of the people as much as through the smell of woods and orchards. Nothing has changed in the moral aspect of that countryside although many things have changed in the landscape, the forests and fountains, and the river in which her father threatened to drown her. In her village she saw bands of Burgundians prowl for spoils of war. Villagers kept their livestock in the château de I’lle for safe-keeping; here they took their cows, pigs, and sheep; the region was harassed by theft, pillaging, fires: all this was less bloody and less disastrous if one kept apart from the village. All this was profoundly serious for the times, and for the young girl who thought and dreamed.
I have seen under circumstances likewise tragic, these big market towns of Lorraine, rich and niggardly; I have seen the humble house clean and white, where young girls live, the tiny garden a few feet square, a paradise; I am acquainted with farmhouse rooms, the thick walls, the heavy oak furniture, the smell of milk and white cheese. I know, in village life, the hour when the animals come home from pasture, when the herder brings home the communal flock of pigs. I have seen with what gallantry the young girls ride on the back of farm horses. I have tasted the freshness of the springs; I know the marquetry of the fields, the forest-the mysterious forest and its springs! I have seen the Meuse flood the fields in its winding path, the willows and the crowns of the reeds. I have heard the brown young girls, accompanied by parchment-faced grandparents, pray for our war dead in these ancient Romanesque churches anchored on the banks of the Meuse, or in the solitude of the fields where the images of the saints are always decorated with garlands of flowers. I have seen refugees escaping in their long carts while their villages burned behind them. I have seen the magnificent horizons of Jeanne’s country tremble under the noise of war, the plains illumined by the fire that the night breezes fanned into flame. I have heard the daughters of Lorraine talk, in their clear speech, with the admirable gestures of plain people, of the evils that had befallen their country and their hopes. And I have heard our soldiers, like those of Jeanne’s day, discuss the tidings of prophetesses more or less official.
The words of the Trial, Jeanne’s sacred words, you will find here. And Jeanne assures us that the Voices told her: “Suffer it willingly, do not be at all disturbed about your martyrdom: you will at last come to the Kingdom of Paradise.” “Suffer it willingly” — the admirable phrase of the simple, the very phrase that Fortune addressed to poor Villon.
According to the witness of the Preaching Friars, of an old archdeacon and Pierre Maurice, the theologian, an old canon and Thomas de Courcelles, that intellectual light agreeable to the gentry of the Council, as revealed in a posthumous publication in which they attempted to explain again their attitude, Jeanne is supposed to have said on the last day of her life that she herself was the angel.
A statement interpreted, perhaps, in a sense that Jeanne did not mean it, but conforming with all that we know of her despair, while the cold sweat ran down her young face in the cell which was her Gethsemane. A falsehood which is full of meaning. It is true that she was an angel. A poet tells us that — a noble poet of the time, the Parisian canon who was secretary to Charles VII, Messer Alain Chartier:
“And she did not seem to come from any land, but rather she seemed as one sent from Heaven to support our failing France in her arms. She guided to shore, and even into port, a king tossed and struggling in the buffets of wind and tempests; she raised the spirit of the people to hope for better times. She curbed savage England and stopped the spoiling and burning of France. 0 worthy virgin, worthy of all glory, all praise, worthyof divine honors! 0 honor of the kingdom, 0 light of the lily; thou art the light, thou art the glory, not only of the French, but of all Christians! Let Troy no longer rejoice in the memory of Hector; let Greece no longer triumph with her Alexander, nor Africa with her Hannibal; let Italy no longer take pride in her Caesar and other great captains of Rome. And thou, France, even though thou hast no lack of other heroes in the past, be content with the Maid; France, thou mayst dare be proud and enter in the lists with the other nations for military glory, and even, we may very well say, place the Maid above all others.”