Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc's Trial of Nullification (Rehabilitation)
The Sentence of Rehabilitation

Holy Card of Saint Joan of Arc Rising from the Flames -  Photo courtesy of Virginia Frohlick of the St. Joan of Arc Center

On July 7, 1456, the first trial of Joan of Arc conducted by the Church in Rouen in 1431 was declared nullified in a ceremony held at the Great Hall of the archiepiscopal palace of Rouen. The following is from the actual document that was read at that ceremony.

In the name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Amen!

The Providence of the Eternal Majesty, the Savior Christ, Lord God and Man, has instituted, for the rule of His Church Militant, the Blessed Peter, and his Apostolic Successors; He has made them His principal representatives, and charged them, by the light of truth, which He has manifested to them, to teach men how to walk in the paths of justice, protecting the good, relieving the oppressed in the whole universe, and, by a reasonable judgment, bringing back into the right road those who have turned therefrom:

Invested with this Apostolic authority for the matter in question, we Jean of Rheims, Guillaume of Paris, and Richard of Coutances, by the Grace of God Archbishop and Bishops, and Jean Bréhal, of the Order of Saint Dominic, Professor of Sacred Theology, one of the two Inquisitors of the Heretical Evil for the Realm of France, all four judges specially delegated by our most Holy Lord the Pope actually reigning:

Having seen the solemn Process brought before us, by virtue of the Apostolic Mandate addressed to us, and by us respectfully accepted:

In the Case concerning the honest woman, Widow Isabelle d'Arc, mother, Pierre and Jean d'Arc, brothers german, natural and legal, of the deceased Joan d'Arc, of good memory, commonly called the Maid:

The said Case brought in their name,

Against the Sub-Inquisitor of the Heretical Evil for the Diocese of Beauvais, the Promoter of the Officiality of the said Diocese of Beauvais, and also the Reverend Father in Christ and Lord Guillaume de Hellande, Bishop of Beauvais, and against all others and each in particular who might be thought to be therein interested, all together respectively Defendants, as well conjointly as separately:

Having seen, in the first place, the peremptory citation and the execution of this citation made against the said Defendants, at the request not only of the said Plaintiffs but of the Promoter of our Office appointed by us, sworn and created, to the end that the said Defendants might see the carrying out of the said Rescript, hear the conclusions against them, and answer themselves; and to proceed, in one word, according to right:

Having seen the request of the said Plaintiffs, their deeds, reasons, and conclusion set down in writing under the form of Articles, putting forward a declaration of nullity, of iniquity, and of cozenage against a certain Process in a pretended Trial for the Faith, formerly done and executed in this city against the above-named woman, now deceased, by the late Lord Pierre Cauchon, then Bishop of Beauvais, Jean Lemaître, then Vice-Inquisitor of the said Diocese of Beauvais, and Jean d'Estivet, Promoter, or having at least acted in this capacity; the said request putting forward and inferring further the breaking down and annulling of the Process in question and of all which followed it, to the justification of the said Deceased, and to all the other ends therein enumerated:

Having seen, read, re-read and examined the original books, instruments, means, acts, notes and protocols of the said Process, shown and sent to us, in virtue of the compulsory letters, by the Registrars and others whose signatures and writings have been, as a preliminary, acknowledged in our presence:

After having studied at length all these documents, not only with the said Registrars and other officials appointed in the said Process, but also with those of the Counselors who were called to the same Process, those, at least, whom we have been able to bring before us:

And after having ourselves collated and compared the final text, with the Minute itself of the said Process:

Having considered also the Preparatory Enquiries,first, those which were conducted by the Most Reverend Father in Christ the Lord Guillaume, Cardinal Priest under the title of Saint- Martin-les-Monts, then Legate of the Holy Apostolic See in the Kingdom of France, assisted by the Inquisitor, after the examination which had been made by the said Cardinal-Legate of the books and instruments then presented:

Having afterwards considered the Preparatory Enquiry conducted at the beginning of the actual Process by us or our Commissaries:

Having considered also divers treatises which had come from the Prelates, Doctors, and men of learning, the most celebrated and the most authorized, who, after having studied at length the books and instruments of the said Process, have separated from these books and instruments the doubtful points which they would have to elucidate in their said treatises composed afterwards and brought to light, whether by the order of the most Reverend Father aforesaid or of us:

Having considered the Articles and Interrogations to be submitted to the witnesses, presented to us in the name of the Plaintiffs and of our Promoter, and after many citations admitted in proof by us:

Having considered the depositions and attestations of the witnesses heard on the subject of the said Articles and Interrogations on the life of the said Deceased in the place of her birth;---on her departure; on her examination before several Prelates, Doctors, and others having knowledge thereof, in presence notably of the Most Reverend Father Reginald, then Archbishop of Rheims and Metropolitan of the said Bishop of Beauvais: an examination made at Poitiers and elsewhere, on several occasions; on the marvelous deliverance of the city of Orleans; on the journey to the city of Rheims and the coronation of the King; and the divers circumstances of the Trial, the qualifications, the judges, and the manner of proceeding:

Having considered also letters, instruments, and measures, besides the letters, depositions and attestations Just mentioned, sent to us and produced in the course of law

Having afterwards heard our Promoter, who, considering these productions and these sayings, declares himself fully joined with the Plaintiffs:

Having heard the other requests and reserves made by our Promoter, in his own name as well as in that of the Plaintiffs, the said requests and reserves admitted by us and received at the same time as certain reasons of law briefly formulated, of a nature also to impress our minds:

After the Case had been concluded, in the Name of Christ, and this day had been assigned by us to give sentence:

After having, with great matureness, weighed, examined, all and each one of the aforesaid things, as well as certain Articles beginning with these words "A certain Woman, &c.," which the Judges in the first Process did pretend to have extracted from the confessions of the said Deceased, and which have been submitted by us to a great number of staid persons for their opinion; Articles which our Promoter, as well as the Plaintiffs aforesaid, attacked as iniquitous, false, prepared without reference to the confessions of Joan, and in a lying manner:

That our present judgment may come as from the Face of God Himself, Who weigheth the spirits, Who alone infallibly knoweth His revelations, and doth hold them always at their true value, Who bloweth where He listeth, and doth often choose the weak to confound the strong, never forsaking those who trust in Him, but being their Support in their sorrows and their tribulations:

After having had ripe deliberation, as much on the subject of the Preparatory Enquiries as on the decision itself, with persons at the same time expert, authorized, and prudent:

Having considered their solemn decisions, formulated in the treatises written out in a compendious manner, and in numerous consultations:

Having considered their opinion, written or verbal, furnished and given, not only on the form but also on the basis of the Process, and according to which the actions of the said Deceased, being woryour of admiration rather than of condemnation, the judgment given against her should, in form as well as in basis, be reprehended and detested:

And because on the question of revelations it is most difficult to furnish a certain judgment, the Blessed Paul having, on the subject of his own revelations, said that he knew not if they came to him in body or in spirit, and having on this point referred himself to God:

In the first place, we say, and, because justice requires it, we declare, that the Articles beginning with the words "A woman," which are found inserted in the pretended Process and Instrument of the pretended sentences, lodged against the said Deceased, ought to have been, have been, and are, extracted from the said pretended Process and the said pretended confessions of the said Deceased, with corruption, cozenage, calumny, fraud and malice:

We declare, that on certain points the truth of her confessions has been passed over in silence; that on other points her confessions have been falsely translated---a double unfaithfulness, by which, had it been prevented, the mind of the Doctors consulted and the judges might have been led to a different opinion:

We declare, that in these Articles there have been added without right many aggravating circumstances, which are not in the aforesaid Confessions, and many circumstances both relevant and justifying have been passed over in silence:

We declare, that even the form of certain words has been altered, in such manner as to change the substance:

For the which, these same Articles, as falsely, calumniously, and deceitfully extracted, and as contrary even to the Confessions of the Accused, we break, annihilate, and annul; and, after they shall have been detached from the Process we ordain, by this present judgment, that they be torn up:

In the second place, after having examined with great care the other parts of the same said Process---particularly the two sentences which the Process contained, designated by the judges as "Lapse" and "Relapse"---and after having also for a long time weighed the qualifications of the Judges and of all those under whom and in whose keeping the said Joan was detained:

We say, pronounce, decree, and declare, the said Processes and Sentences full of cozenage, iniquity, inconsequences, and manifest errors, in fact as well as in law; We say that they have been, are, and shall be---as well as the aforesaid Abjuration, their execution, and all that followed---null, non-existent, without value or effect.

Never the less, in so far as is necessary, and as reason doth command us, we break them, annihilate them, annul them, and declare them void of effect; and we declare that the said Joan and her relatives, Plaintiffs in the actual Process, have not, on account of the said Trial, contracted nor incurred any mark or stigma of infamy; we declare them quit and purged of all the consequences of these same Processes; we declare them, in so far as is necessary, entirely purged thereof by this present:

We ordain that the execution and solemn publication of our present Sentence shall take place immediately in this city, in two different places, to wit,

To-day in the Square of Saint Ouen, after a General Procession and a public Sermon:

To-morrow, at the Old Market-Place, in the same place where the said Joan was suffocated by a cruel and horrible fire, also with a General Preaching and with the placing of a handsome cross for the perpetual memory of the Deceased and for her salvation and that of other deceased persons:

We declare that we reserve to ourselves [the power] later on to execute, publish, and for the honour of her memory to signify with acclaim, our said sentence in the cities and other well-known places of the kingdom wherever we shall find it well [so to do], under the reserves, finally, of all other formalities which may yet remain to be done.

This present Sentence has been brought out, read and promulgated by the Lords judges, in presence of the Reverend Father in Christ the Lord Bishop of Démétriade, of Hector de Coquerel, Nicolas du Boys, Alain Olivier, Jean du Bec, Jean de Gouys, Guillaume Roussel, Laurent Surreau, Canons; of Martin Ladvenu, Jean Roussel, and Thomas de Fanouillères.

Maitre Simon Chapitault, Promoter; Jean d'Arc and Prevosteau for the other Plaintiffs.

Done at Rouen at the Archiepiscopal Palace in the 7th day of the month of July in the Year of our Lord 1456.

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