The Trial and Burning of Jehanne

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

In the secret camp the captains decided that there was nothing now that they could do to save Jehanne. Today, 30th May 1431, she would go into the fire.

Chapter 4 (v.1) - Into The Fire

Submitted: January 28, 2018

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Submitted: January 28, 2018



I had a plan of entering Rouen just like Jehanne and Jean de Metz had entered into Auxerre and out again without being observed. My plans were known to the other captains and they wished me luck. I dressed up in normal clothing just like the citizens in Rouen; and with the help from inside, I got in easily. There were a lot of people around. The side streets were jammed packed. Many soldiers carrying weapons were parading around. I saw again the three sizeable stands; there was a smaller one with a high cemented wall with a wooden pile. Wood and faggots were piled up underneath.
Jehanne was brought out wearing a robe and a cap on her head. Someone told me that the man who will be read the service was Nicolas Midi. I walked around mingling with the crowd, stopping now and then and chatting with someone from the crowd. Pushing my way through the crowd, I came close to the stands. There was a board high up over the stand where Jehanne will be burned. It said : Jehanne, who had called herself the Maid, Liar deceiver of the people. Sorceress, Blasphemer of God, Presumptious and Pernicious. Defamer of the Faith of Jesus Christ. Boastful and Idolatous, Cruel and Dissolute. Invoker of Demons, Apostate, Schismatic and Heretic.

With the cowl over my head I stopped for a moment and reflecting back to what Jehanne had told me about the 12 charges (articles) that they had brought against her. The first charge was this: This woman did say and affirm that when she was of the age of thirteen years or thereabouts, she did, with her bodily eyes, see Saint Michael come to comfort her, and from time to time also Saint Gabriel; that both the one and the other appeared to her in bodily form. Sometimes also she had seen a great multitude of angels; since then Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret have shown themselves to her in bodily form; every day she sees these two Saints and hears their voices; she had often kissed and embraced them, and sometimes she had touched them, in a physical and corporeal manner. She had seen the heads of these Angels and these Saints, but of the rest of their persons and of their dress she will say nothing. The said Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret have also formerly spoken to her near a spring which flows at the foot of a great tree, called in the neighborhood ''The Fairies' Tree. This spring and this tree nevertheless has been, it is said, frequented by fairies; persons ill of fever have repaired there in great numbers to recover their health. This spring and this tree are nevertheless in a profane place. There and elsewhere she had often venerated these two Saints, and had done them obeisance.

Article 1 carried on to say: Besides this, she did say that Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret appeared and shown themselves to her adorned with most beautiful and most precious crowns. At this time and very often since, they have announced to her, by the order of God, that she was to go in search of a certain Prince, promising that, by her help and succor, this same Prince should, by force of arms, recover a great temporal domain and the honor of theis world, and should obtain victory over his adversaries : this same Prince received her, and furnished her with arms and soldiers for the carrying out of what has just been said. Further, Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret have ordered this same woman, by the command of God, to take and to wear a man's dress, which she had borne, and still did bear, persisting in obeying this order, to the extent that she said she would rather die than give up this dress, adding that she'll only abandon it by the express order of God. She had even preferred  not to assist in the Office of the Mass and to deprive herself of the Holy Communion of the Eucharist, at the time when the Church commands the faithful to receive it, rather than to resume female dress and to quit this man's habit.

Article 1 states further: The said woman had gone so far, under the inspiration of these two Saints, that without the knowledge and against the will of her parents, at the age of seventeen, she did quit the paternal roof and joined herself to a great troop of soldiers, with whom she lived night and day, having never had, or at least very rarely, another woman with her. These two Saints have said and prescibed to her many other things for the which she declares herself sent by the God of Heaven and the Church Victorious, composed of Saints who already enjoy celestial blessedness; it is to them that she submits as right all she had done. As to the Church Militant, she had deferred and refused to submit herself, her deeds, and her words to it, although many times required and admonished so to do, saying always that it is impossible to her to do contrary to what she had, in her Trial, affirmed to have done by the order of God; and that for these things she will not refer to the decision or the judgment of any man alive, but to the judgment of God alone.

The said Saints have revealed to this woman that she will obtain the glory of the blessed and will gain the salvation of her soul if she did preserve the virginity which she vowed to these Saints the first time she saw and recognized them. As a result of this revelation, she did affirm that she is assured of her salvation as if, now and in fact, she were already in the KIngdom of Heaven.

Into article 2, I remember what had been said: The same woman said that the sign which was received by the Prince to whom she was sent--a sign which decided this Prince to believe in her and to aid her to carry on the war--was, that Saint Michael came to the same Prince, accompanied by a multitude of Angels, of which some had crowns and others had wings; with them also were Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret. She and the Angel proceeded together, their feet touching the ground, by the road, the staircase, and the Prince's chamber; the Angel was accompanied by other Angels and by the said two Saints; he gave to the Prince a crown, very precious and made of the purest gold, bowing before him and doing him reference. Once she had said that when her Prince received this sign, it seemed to her he was alone, although many other persons were close by; another time she had said that it seemed to her that an Archbishop had received the sign of the crown and had given it to the Prince, in the presence of several temporal lords.

They read out Article 3: The same woman did say and affirm that he who visits her is Saint Michael; that which makes her believe in him is the good counsel, the comfort, and the good teaching which he did give her, and because he had named himself to her, and had told her that he was Saint Michael. She had in the same way recognized Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret; she knew how to distinguish the one from the other, because they name themselves to her and greet her.

On the subject of the pretended Saint Michael who appeared to her, she believes that it is truly Saint Michael; and the sayings and deeds of this MIchael she believes to be true and good as firmly as she believes that Our Lord Jesus suffered and died for our redemption.

I skipped over many of the articles and remembered the last one. It went like this:

The same woman did say and confess that if the Church wished that she should do anything contrary to the order she did pretend to have received from God, she would not consent, whatsoever it might be. She did affirm that she knows well, that all contained in her Trial has come to her by the order of God, and it would be impossible for her to do contrary to what she did. Thereupon she did not wish to refer to the decision of the Church Militant, nor to any one, whoever it be in the world, but to God alone, Our Lord, Whose commands she did always execute, above all in what did concern her revelations, and in what she did in consequence. This answer and all the others are not from her own head, she said, but she had made and given them by order of her Voices and revelations; she did persist (in this), although by the judges and others of the Assessors, the Article of Faith, 'The Church, One, Holy, Catholic,' had often been recalled to her, and it had ofen been shown to her that all the faithful are bound to obey the Church Militant and to submit to it their words and actions above all in matters of faith and in all which concerns sacred Doctrine and Ecclesiastical sanction.

In Rouen, Nicolas Midi started his service by reading the Gospels. Everyone listened and Jehanne as well, who at this time was on the same stand as Midi. I was not far away from the stand and I was hoping that Jehanne would look down and spot me but then I knew that that wasn't going to happen. On the stand with all the officials and bishops, I saw this man: and he had to be no other than Richard Beauchamp, the 13th Earl of Warwick. He was dressed in his knightly kit with a sword at his side. He wasn't too tall and he wasn't too small, just medium height.  I remember Jehanne told me that the Earl seemed to be a nice man, but she angered him when she made the prediction that the English would never get a hold on France. She also told me that he was there to keep her alive so that they could put her into the fire. She said that one time a great feast was held, King Henry the 6th was there in the next block castle to hers; she saw him walking about outside. The Earl of Warwick, when she was sick, sent his own doctor to look after her.

I began again to think about those 12 charges. After they had been read to her, and she had given the judges her answer, she was told: Finally We told her to take into consideration this admonition which We adress to her for her salvation, and to follow it up efficiently: for, if she should act in opposition to Our words, if she should be obstinate in her own mind in consulting only her inexperienced brain, we must abandon her; and she can see to waht peril she did expose herself in this case. It is this peril which We seek to avoid for her with all the power of Our affection.

Jehanne answered:

''I thank you for what you say to me for my salvation. It seems to me, seeing how ill I am, that I am in great danger of death: if it be that God should do His pleasure on me, I ask of you that I may have confession, and my Savior also, and that I may be put in holy ground.''

''If you will have the rights and Sacraments of the Church,'' We said to her, ''you must do as good Catholics do, and submit yourself to the Church. If you persevere in your intention of not submitting to the Church, you cannot have the Sacraments you ask administered to you, except the Sacrament of Penance, which We are always ready to give you.''

Jehanne said, ''I have for the moment nothing else to say to you.''

''The more you fear for your life, on account of the illness you have, the more should you amend; you will not have the rights of a Catholic if you do not submit to the Church.''

''If my body dies in prison. I trust that you'll have it put in holy ground; if you do not have it put there, I place my trust in God.''

''You said in yourTrial that if you had said or done anything against the Christian Faith established by Our Lord, you would not maintain it.''

''I refer to the answer that I have made to that, and Our Lord.''

''You say you have had many revelations from God by Saint Michael, Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret; if any good person were to come affirming that he had revelations from God touching your mission, would you believe him?''

''There is no Christian in this world who could come to me and say he had had a revelation but that I should know if he were speaking truly or not; I should know it by Saint Catherine and Saínt Margaret.''

''You imagine then that God can reveal nothing to any one which is unknown to you?''

''I know well that He can; but for me, I should not in this case believe any man or woman if I had not some sign.''

''Do you believe that the Holy Scriptures have been revealed by God?''

''You know it well; I know it well!''

''We summon you, We exhort you, We beseech you to take counsel of the Clerks and notable Masters here present, and to believe in the counsel that they will give you for the salvation of your soul. And once more We ask you if you will submit to the Church Militant your sayings and your doings?''

''Whatever may happen to me, I will do and say nothing other than what I have already said in the Trial.''

Here the venerable doctors who were assisting Us did exhort her with the most lively instance and did strive to obtain from her that she would submit herself and her acts to the Church Militant. They cited to her a number of authorities taken from Holy Scripture, and shown her numerous examples. They enlarged upon these authorities and these examples. One of the Doctors (Nicolas Midi ) in his exhortation, brought forward this passge of Matthew, chapter 18. : ''If thy brother sin against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone'' ; and this other, ''If he will not hear the Church, let him be unto thee as a heathen-man and a publican.'' He showed to Jeanne these truths in French, and said to her at the end, that if she would not submit to the Church and obey it, the Church must abandon her as an infidel.

''I am a good Christian,'' she answered, ''I have been baptized; I shall die a good Christian!''

''As you ask that the Church should administer the Eucharist to you, why will you not submit to the Church? It would be administered to you at once.''

''Of this submission I will say no more than I have said; I love God, I serve Him; I am a good Christian. I wish to help and maintain the Church with all my power.''

''Do you not wish that a good and notable procession might be ordained to restore you to a good estate if you're not therein?''

''I desire that the Church and the Catholics should pray for me.''

From all that Jehanne told me I now see quite clearly that she had them begging her to submit to the Church Militant. She kept on telling them that she believe in God and that she is a good Christian. I got the feeling too, that she didn't want to tell anything about the revelations she had received for Charles, her king. Jehanne knew who her enemies were, and she dealt with them in the trial very cleverly. I know Jehanne very well. She's no witch nor sorceress. She has lots of love inside her; and mainly for her country. There are many people like that. Standing here among this crowd, waiting to see my childhood friend burn at the stake is something awful. Something that I will always remember. Justice has taken the wrong road.

Bishop Cauchon took over when Midi had finished preaching. He announced the sentence. Jehanne was to be burned this day. If there weren't so many soldiers around, I think that the crowd would have charged against the stand where Cauchon had the sentenced announced. Jehanne with her head slightly raised was taken away by the executioner, Geoffrey Theriage. He took her over to the small stand, walked up the few steps, and began to strap her to the pole with chains. A young peasant boy took a small piece of wood made a cross and gave it to the executioner who gave it to Jehanne. A priest held a cross on a pole up to her face. The executioner lit the wood that was beneath the stand.

I watched as the flames started spreading among the faggots, then lighting the wood. First there was a cloud of smoke rising up covering the platform on the stand. Jehanne still with the wooden cross held fast in her hand, head still raised slightly upwards called out saying, ''Rouen, Rouen, what have I done to you?'' The white smoke had now gotten near her face and I was surprised to see her head bowed on her chest. I knew then she had suffocated from the smoke even before the fire had got to her. I was glad it happened that way. The fire below was now burning furiously, eating up the faggots and the wood and the stand. That executioner knew his job well. After a while the fire died down leaving a charged body for all to see. He placed some more faggots on and lit the fire. It was all over for Jehanne. She was no more; just ashes left which was taken away and thrown in the Seine.

Seven months after the burning of Jehanne, I heard that the king of England, Henry 6th was crowned at Notre Dame in Paris as King of France.. Jehanne had said that the English will be kicked out of France, and I believe her. Charles 7th is King of France and he will remain so until his death.

In the year 1449 I was 37 and with the king's troops when they entered Rouen. It had been under siege for three weeks before they surrendered. I went over to the place where Jehanne was burned and paid my respects. She was a great soldier; a fantastic colleauge. I will always remember her.

The End.




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