November 4, 2016
Joan gazed upon the English occupied city of Saint-Pierre-le-Moutier. The footsteps of the French forces faded in the distance as they walked away frustrated. Several days of attacks failed to overthrow the English. While the other leaders decided to retreat, Joan felt compelled to fight on and obtain victory.
Realizing Joan was left behind, her faithful aide, Jean d’Aulon mounted his horse and went after her. He questioned her why she had not yet withdrawn. Removing her helmet, Joan assured him she was not alone as fifty thousand of her men were still with her. Aulon sat on his horse stunned as he knew only five of her men remained by her side. Who’s army was she referring to?
Aulon stared in disbelief as Joan shouted, “Everyone, to the faggots and hurdles to make a bridge.” Her command was quickly performed. The tiny French unit stormed the city, this time taking it with ease.
Joan d'Arc liberated the town of Saint-Pierre-le-Moutier on November 4, 1429, with her own Gideon army. The Lord handed the well-protected walled city over to the faithful teenager after the full French army repeatedly failed. It would be Joan of Arc’s last victory in the 100 Years War.
The following Christmas Day, King Charles VII ennobled Joan, her parents and her brothers. Though she longed to return to her family farm and shepherd the family flock, Charles asked for her continued service. Joan obliged. She proceeded to lead the French in battle, but never again experienced the taste of military success.
In late spring, the king sent Joan to confront a Burgundian assault in Compiégne. Experiencing another defeat, Joan made sure all the troops fled the town before leaving herself. Just outside the city walls, Joan’s horse threw her. With her troops well ahead, Joan was defenseless. The Burgundians captured her on May 23, 1430.
In an act of cowardliness, Charles VII did nothing to secure the freedom of the girl who singlehandedly brought about his coronation. Believing Charles was illegitimate, coordinating his crowning led the northern French and English to despised her. The Burgundians sold Joan to the English, who sent her to their main French headquarters located in Rouen, France. As she was to be tried by the church, she should have been placed in an ecclesiastical prison with female guards. Instead, Joan was thrown into a secular prison guarded by men.
Joan tried to appeal to the Council of Basel and the Pope, but her requests were blocked by Bishop Pierre Cauchon. Her appeals would have stopped the proceedings, but Cauchon wanted revenge. A supporter of England’s interests, Cauchon put his personal objectives and vendettas above his Godly duty. He wanted to see Joan dead.
Joan d’Arc was 13 when she began hearing voices, which she believed to be God speaking to her through angels and saints. When questioned at her trial, Joan stated at first the voices told her to attend church and live righteously. After a while, she was given the divine mission to save France from England and establish Charles as the rightful crowned king of France. Recognizing the seriousness of her assignment, Joan took a personal vow of chastity. She was so dedicated to her mission that at 16, Joan petitioned the court to prevent her father from forcing an arranged marriage.
Joan’s first objective was to speak to the rightful heir of the French throne, Prince Charles. After receiving permission in May of 1428 to visit Charles at his palace in Chinon, Joan made a few changes. As a young woman set to cross enemy territory, Joan feared rape if captured. Even though she was escorted by a knight, his squire, and her two brothers, Joan took extra precautions. To avoid detection as a female, Joan cropped her hair. She also disguised herself in men’s clothing.
Charles did a little clothes changing himself before Joan’s arrival. Switching his attire with one of his officials, Charles hid in the crowd. Having never met or seen the other’s faces, he was curious to see if Joan noticed. Upon entering the room, Joan walked straight to Charles as if led to him by the hand of God. Though annoyed by his diversion, Joan remained composed and polite as she discussed her purpose for the visit.
Charles was quickly drawn to Joan as she revealed knowledge to him only someone from God would know. Trusting in her mission as the only hope for France, the poor, illiterate peasant girl received donations for armor, a horse, a sword, a banner, and an entourage. Joan set off for Orleans in March of 1429 riding a white horse and dressed in a white suit of armor specially made for her. The armor was not just to protect her from the outward fortunes of war, but to safeguard her inner virtue.
While traveling to Orleans, voices told Joan about a sword at Saint Catherine’s Church in Ferbois. She sent word to dig under the stone floor around the altar. To the town’s amazement, a sword was produced. Joan testified it was covered with rust which “fell from it without difficulty” once rubbed. Though she carried the mysterious sword, she never used it.
At her trial, Joan was charged with 70 counts ranging from witchcraft to horse thievery to heresy. The prosecution soon reduced the charges down to twelve with most relating to her wearing men’s clothing and her professions that God talked to her directly through voices and visions.
Maintaining her innocence, humility, and youth during the trial, Joan only referred to herself as “Jehanne la Pucelle,” or “Joan the Maid”.
In efforts to outwit the 19-year-old virgin warrior, interrogators tried to trap Joan much as the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus. Church doctrine maintained that no one could be positive of being in God’s grace. So, they asked Joan if she knew for sure that she was. Joan realized an affirmative answer would convict her of heresy. A negative answer would convict her of lying about her divine mission from God. Joan sidestepped a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer by responding, “If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me.”
After a year in captivity, months of public and private examinations, and a trial, Joan finally relented. She signed a confession stating she denied ever receiving heavenly counsel. She also renounced wearing men’s clothes. Joan was given a dress and thrown back into the men’s prison.
Guards had already tried to steal Joan’s honor as she no longer had her armor. Now, in a dress, she was more vulnerable than ever. After days of fighting off guards and possibly an English lord, Joan again donned male attire. As if on cue, judges entered the prison to see Joan violating her confession, becoming guilty of repeat heresy. Her execution was ordered immediately.
On May 30, 1431, Joan was led to the old market place of Rouen. The English grew impatient as Joan prayed, confessed and clung to a handmade cross. She sang praises and recited lamentations as she was tied to the stake. Per her request, a crucifix was placed before her for her to gaze on. While still glorifying her Lord, the executioner set her ablaze. Above the roaring flames, shouts of “Jesus” burst forth from Joan’s soul as she was setting to meet her maker.
Reports of Joan’s death only made her more loved. As the war concluded, Joan’s mother along with Inquisitor-General Jean Brehal, entreated Pope Callixtus III to conduct a retrial. Starting in 1452, testimony was collected of 115 witnesses and clergy, and a “rehabilitation trial” was conducted. Theologians reviewed the statements with Brehal completing his summary in June of 1456.
Jean Massieu was a priest and the court bailiff at Joan’s first trial. At her retrial, Massieu testified that after her confession, Joan’s dress had been stolen. She was only left with men’s clothes to wear. This forced Joan to return to her “sin,” a capital offense bringing death.
Massieu reported Joan’s last moments were of humility and of forgiveness to those who wronged her. “The judges who were present, and even several of the English, were moved by this to great tears and weeping, and indeed several of these same English, recognized God's hand and made professions of faith when they saw her make so remarkable an end. They were glad to have witnessed her end and said that she had been a good woman.” Geoffroy Therage, the executioner, stated he had “a great fear of being damned, [because] he had burned a saint.”
Brehal declared Joan a martyr. He charged the late Bishop Cauchon with heresy for putting politics over justice and convicting an innocent woman. Theologians agreed that under the circumstances, Joan did not violate Deuteronomy 22:5 "A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.” Joan was cleared of all charges on July 7, 1456.
Joan of Arc became the standard bearer for women of virtue, courage, leadership, piety and devotion. Close to 500 years after her death, Pope Benedict XV canonized her on May 16, 1920. In the Catholic church, she became the patron saint of martyrs, captives, militants, people ridiculed for their piety, prisoners, soldiers, rape victims, Women Appointed for Voluntary Emergency Services and the Woman's Army Corps.
Liberty, God never promised His followers a perfect life. In fact, Jesus warned us, “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Matt 10:22. Whether you believe God truly spoke to Joan or not, she stood firm. Everything she did, she did in the name of God and she changed the course of France. It was because of her that Charles was coroneted. After the French forces failed to defeat a town, this 17-year-old liberated it with just five men. Many contribute Joan with the overall French victory and end of the war.
It is not just what Joan accomplished on the battlefield that makes her inspirational. It is what she achieved in the face of death. Her courage, humility and faithfulness at her execution was a pure testimony to God’s grace and mercy. It was her greatest victory ever as it was a battle for souls. May we all find such strength in times of trial and tribulation.
That’s my 2 cents.
JOAN THE MAID
Joan’s prized possession was her standard. At every battle she bore a white and blue banner, which displayed two angels and the word, “Jesus”. Joan testified, "I loved my banner forty times better than my sword. And when I went against my enemy, I carried my banner myself, lest I kill any. I have never killed anyone."
Her victory in Orleans revived the exhausted French forces. It turned the course of the war for her beloved country and king around. While directing campaigns, Joan never forgot to honor God. She chased prostitutes from the camps, demanding soldiers confess and repent. Vulgar language was forbidden as well as offensive military strikes on Sundays. Joan also prohibited soldiers from pillaging the villages and damaging town churches. She encouraged her men to thank God for their victories and confess their sins.