Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Biography Part 17

By Jules Michelet
The Maid of Orleans

The first article tduched the capital point, submission. She replied as before, " Well do I believe that our Holy Father, the bishops, and others of the Church, are to guard the Christian faithf and punish those who are found wanting. As to my deeds (faits), I submit myself only to the Church in heaven, to God and the Virgin, to the sainted men and women in Paradise. I have not been want ing in regard to the Christian faith, and trust I never shall be."

And, shortly afterwards : " I would rather die than recall what I have done by oiir Lord's command."

What illustrates the time, the uninformed mind of these doctors, and their blind attachment to the letter without regard to the spirit, is, that no point seemed graver to them than the sin of having assumed male attire. They represented to her that, accord ing to the canons, those who thus

change the habit of their sex are abominable in the sight of God. At first she would not give a direct an swer, and begged for a respite till the next day ; but her judges insisting on her discarding the dress, she replied, " That she Was not empowered to say when she could quit it." - "But if you should be deprived of the privi lege of hearing mass?" - "Well, our Lord can grant me to hear it without you." - " Will you put on a woman's dress, in order to receive your Saviour at Easter?" - "No; I cannot quit this dress; it matters not to me in what dress I receive my Saviour." - After this she seems shaken, asks to be at least allowed to hear mass, adding, "I won't say but if you were to give me a gown such as the daughters of the burghers wear, a very long gown, . . ."

It is clear she shrank, through mod esty, from explaining herself. The poor girl does not explain her posi tion in prison, or the constant danger she was in. The truth is, that three soldiers slept in her room,* three of the brigand ruffians called houspleurs ; that she was chained to a beam by a large iron chain, almost wholly at their mercy; the man's dress they wished to compel her to discontinue was all her safeguard. . . .

*Five Englishmen; three of whom stayed at night in her room. {Houspleurs, is to worry like a dog hence the name houspleurs). Notices des MSS. ill. 506. She slept with dongle chains round her limhs, and closely fastened to a chain traversing the foot of her hedy attached to a large piece of wood five or six feet long, and padlocked, so that she could not stir from the place." - Ibidem. Another witness states : '' There was an iron beam, to keep her straight (erectam), Proces MS., Evidence of Pierre Cusqnel.

What are we to think of the imbecility of the judge, or of his horrible connivance ? Besides being kept under the eyes of these wretches, and exposed to their insults and mockery,* she was subjected to espial from without. Winchester, the inquisitor, and Cauchon had each a key to the tower,

* The Count de Ligny went to see her with an English lord, and said to her, " Jeanne, I come to hold you to ransom, provided you promise never again to bear arms against us." She replied : Ah I my God, you are laughing at me ; I know you have neither the will nor the power." And when he repeated the words, she added, '' I am con vinced these English will put me to death, in the hope of winning the kingdom of France. But though the Godons (Goddens) should be a hundred thousand more than they are to-day, they would not win the kingdom." The English lord was so en raged that ho drew his dagger to plunge it into her, but was liindered by the earl of Warwick. Notices desMSS. iii. 371.

Not precisely Cauchon, but his man, Estivet, promoter of the prosecution. (Ibid. iii. 473.) and watched her hourly through a hole in the wall. Each stone of this infernal dungeon had eyes.

Her only consolation was, that she was at first allowed interviews with a priest, who told her that he was a prisoner, and attached to Charles Vllth's cause. Loyseleur, so he was named, was a tool of the English. He had won Jeanne's confidence, who used to confess herself to him ; and, at such times, her confessions were taken down by notaries concealed on purpose to overhear her. ... It is said that Loyseleur encouraged her to hold out, in order to insure her destruction. On the question of her being put to the torture being dis cussed (a very useless proceeding, since she neither denied nor concealed any thing), there were only two or three of her judges who counselled the atrocious deed, and the confessor was one of these.

The deplorable state of the pris oner's health was aggravated by her being deprived of the consolations of religion during Passion Week. On the Thursday, the sacrament was with held from her : on that self-same day on which Christ is universal host, on which He invites the poor and all those who suffer, she seemed to be forgotten.*

* Usque quo obUviscerea me in finem 1 " (How long wilt thou forget me?) Service for Holy Thursday, Lauds.

On Good Friday, that day of deep silence, on which we all hear no other sound than the beating of one's own heart, it seems as if the hearts of the judges smote them, and that some feeling of humanity and of religion had been awakened in their aged . scholastic souls: at least it is cer tain, that whereas thirty-five of them took their seats on the Wednesday, no more than nine were present at the examination on Saturday : the rest, no doubt, alleged the devotions of the day as their excuse.

On the contrary, her courage had revived. Likening her own suflFerings to those of Christ, the thought had roused her from her despondency. She answered, when the question was again put to her, "that she would defer to the Church militant, provided it commanded nothing impoaaitHeJ^ - " Do you think, then, that you are not subject to the Church which is upon earth, to our holy father the pope, to the cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and prelates?" - " Yes, certainly, our Lord served." - " Do your voices for bid your submitting to the Church militant?" - "They do not forbid it, our Lord being served firsV^

This firmness did not desert her once on the Saturday : but on the next day, the Sunday, Easter Sunday 1 what must her feelings have been? What must have passed in that poor heart, when the sounds of the universal holiday enlivening the city, Rouen's five hundred bells ringing out with their joyous peals on the air,* and the whole Christian world coming to life with the Saviour, she remained with death !

* Compare the statement, given above, as to the deep impression made on her bj the sound of bells.

Summon up our pride as much as we may, philosophers and reasoners as we boast ourselves to be in this present age, but which of us - amidst the agitations of modern bustle and excitement, or, in the voluntary captivity of study, plunged in its toilsome and solitary researches, which of us hears without emotion the sounds of these beautiful Christian festivals, the touching voice of the bells, and, as it were, their mild maternal reproach? - . . Who can see, without envying them, those crowds of believers issu ing from the Church, made young again and revived by the divine table ? . . - The mind remains firm, but the soul is sad and heavy. ... He who believes in the future, and whose heart is not the less linked to the past^at such moments lays down the pen, closes the book, and cannot refrain from exclaiming "Ahl why am I not with them, one of them, and the simplest, the least of these little children ! "

What must have been one's feelings at that time, when the Christian world was still one, still undivided I What must have been the throes of that young soul which had lived but on faith? . . . Could she who, with all her inner life of visions and revela tions, had not the less docilely obeyed the commands of the Church; could she, who till now had believed herself in her simplicity " a good girl," as she said, a girl altogether submissive to the Church - could she without terror see the Church against her? Alone, when all are united with God - alone excepted from the world's gladness and universal communion, on the day on which the gates of heaven are opened to mankind - alone to be excluded . . .


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