Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Biography Part 16

By Jules Michelet
The Maid of Orleans

Canchon, at first, had hoped to have on his side the authority of the law yers, which carried great weight at Rouen. But he had soon found out that he must do without them. When he showed the minutes of the opening proceedings of the trial to one of these grave legists, master Jehan Lohier, the latter plainly told him that the trial amounted to nothing ; that it was all informal; that the assessors were not free to judge ; that the pro ceedings were carried on with closed doors; that the accused, a simple coun try girl, was not capable of answering on such grave subjects and to learned doctors; and, finally, the lawyer had the boldness to say to the churchman, " The proceedings are, in point of fact. instituted to impugn the honor of the prince, whose side this girl espouses ; you shall cite him to appear as well, and assign him an advocate." This intrepid gravity, which recalls Papini an's bearing towards Caracalla, would have cost Lohier dear; but the Nor man Papinian did not, like the other, calmly wait the deathstroke on his curule chair ; he set off at once for Rome, where the pope eagerly at tached such a man to himself, and appointed him one of the judges of the Holy See : he died, dean of the Beta.

Apparently, Cauchon ought to have been better supported by the theolo gians. After the first examinations, armed with the answers, which she had given against herself, he shut him self up with his intimates, and availing himself, especially, of the pen of an able member of the University of Paris^ he drew from these answers a few counts, on which the opinion of the leading doctors and of the ecclesi astical bodies was to be taken. This was the detestable custom, but in re ality (whatever has been said to the tjontrary) the common and regular way of proceeding in inquisitorial trials. These propositions, extracted from the answers given by the Pu celle, and drawn up in general terms, bore a false show of impartiality ; although, in point of fact, they were a caricature of those answers, and the doctors consulted could not fail to pass an opinion upon them, in accord ance with the hostile intention of their iniquitous framers.

But, however the counts might be framed - however great the terror which hung over the doctors consulted, they were far from being unani mous in their judgments. Among these doctors, the true theologians, the sincere believers, those who had preserved the firm faith of the middle age, could not easily reject this tale of celestial appearances, of visions; for then they might have doubted all th^ marvels of the lives of the saints, and discussed all their legends. The ven erable bishop of Avranches replied, on being consulted, that, according to the teaching of St. Thomas, there was nothing impossible in what this girl affirmed, nothing to be lightly rejected.

The bishop of Lisieux, while ac knowledging that Jeanne's revelations might be the work of the devil, hu manely added, that they might also be simple lies, and that if she did not sub mit herself to the Church, she must be adjudged schismatic, and be vehe mently suspect^ in regard to faith.

Many legists answered like trne Normans, by finding her guilty and most guilty, except she acted by Ood^s command. One bachelor at law went further than this ; while condemning her, he demanded, in consideration of the weakness of her sex, that the twelve propositions should be read over to her (he suspected, and with reason, that they had not been com municated to her), and that they should then be laid before the pope - this would have been adjourning the matter indefinitely.

The assessors, assembled in the chapel of the archbishopric, had de cided against her on the showing of these propositions. The chapter of Rouen, likewise consulted, was in no haste to come to a decision, and to give the victory to the man it detested and trembled at having for its arch bishop; but chose to wait for the reply from the University of Paris, which had been applied to on the sub ject. There could be no doubt what this reply would be; the Gallican party, that is, the University and scholastic party, could not be favor able to the Pucelle ; an individual of this party, the bishop of Coutances, went beyond all others in the harsh ness and singularity of his answer. He wrote to the bishop of Beauvais, that he considered the accused to be wholly the deviPs, " because she was without the two qualities required by St. Gregory, - virtue and humanity," and that her assertions were so hereti cal, that though she should revoke them, she must nevertheless be held in strict keeping.

It was a strange spectacle to see these theologians, these doctors, labor* ing with all their might to ruin the^ very faith which was the foundation of their doctrine, and which consti tuted the religious principle of the middle age in general, - belief in reve lations ; in the intervention of super natural beings. . . . They might have their doubts as to the intervention of angels ; but their belief in the devil's agencies was implicit.

And was not the important question whether internal revelations ought to be hushed, and to disavow themselves at the Church's bidding, was not this question, so loudly debated in the outer world, silently discussed in the inner world, in the soul of her who affirmed and who believed in their existence the most firmly of all? Was not this battle of faith fought in the very sanctuary of faith ? fought in this loyal and simple heart ? . . . I have reason to believe so.

At one time she expressed her readi ness to submit herself to the pope, and asked to be sent to him. At another she drew a distinction, maintaining that as regarded faith she acknowl edged the authority of the pope, the bishops, and the Church, but, as re garded what she had done, she could own no other judge than God. Some times, making no distinction, and offer ing no explanation, she appealed " to her King, to the judge of heaven and of earth."

Whatever care has been taken to throw these things into the shade, and to conceal this, the human side, in a being who has been fondly painted as all divine, her fluctuations are visible ; and it is wrong to charge her judges with having misled her so as to make her prevaricate on those questions. " She was very subtle," says one of the witnesses, and, truly; "of a woman's subtlety." I incline to at tribute to these internal struggles the sickness which attacked her, and which brought her to the point of death; nor did she recover, as she herself informs us, until the period that the angel Michael, the angel of battles, ceased to support her, and gave place to Gabriel, the angel of grace and of divine love.

She fell sick in Passion week. Her temptation began, no doubt, on Palm Sunday.1 A country girl, born on the skirts of a forest, and having ever lived in the open air of heaven, she was compelled to pass this fine Palm Sunday in the depths of a dungeon. The grand succor which the Church invokes2 came not for her ; the doors did not open.

They were opened on the Tuesday ; but it was to lead the accused to the great hall of the castle before her judges. They read to her the articles which had been founded on her an swers, and the bishop previously rep resented to her, "that these doctors were all churchmen, clerks, and well read in law, divine and human ; that they were all tender and pitiful, and desired to proceed mildly, seeking neither vengance nor corporal punish menty but solely wishing to enlighten her, and put her in the way of truth and of salvation ; and that, as she was not sufficiently informed in such high matters, the bishop and the inquisitor offered her the choice of one or more of the assessors to act as her counsel." The accused, in presence of this assembly, in which she did not descry a single friendly face, mildly answered, " For what you admonish me as to my good, and concerning our faith, I thank you ; as to the counsel you offer me, I have no intention to forsake the counsel of our Lord."

1"I know not why," says a great spiritual teacher, " God chooses the most solemn festivals to try and to purify his elect. ... It is above only, in the festival of heaven, that we shall be delivered from all our troubles." - SaintCyran, in the Me moires de Lancelot, i. 61.

2The office for prime, on this day: " Deus, in oujonum menm intende. . . ." (Come, O God, to my aid.) Every one knows that the service for this festival is one of those in which the beautiful dramatic forms of the middle age have l)een preserved. The procession finds the door of the church shut, the minister knocks : " Attollite portas. . . , And the door is opened to the Lord.

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