Joan of Arc

and the Dominicans

A brief biography.  


The crown of France at ca 1415 was in dispute between the dauphin Charles, son and heir of the Valois king Charles VI, and the Lancastrian English king Henry VI.


Joan of Arc and her ‘voices’. France 1946, Mi 768, Sc B 211.


Joan of Arc was born 06.01.1412, the daughter of a tenant farmer, at Domrémy, on the borders of the duchies of Bar and Lorraine. In her mission of expelling the English and their Burgundian allies from the Valois kingdom of France, she felt herself to be guided by the "voices" of St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret.


Joan’s mission



Led by her voices, Joan travelled in May 1428 from Domrémy to Vaucouleurs, where she asked the captain of the garrison, Robert de Baudricourt, for permission to join the Dauphin. He did not take the 16-year-old girl and her visions seriously, and she returned home. Joan went to Vaucouleurs again in January 1429, but the captain  persuaded her that she was neither a witch nor feebleminded, allowed her to go to the Dauphin at Chinon.


France 1968, Mi 1646, Sc 1229. Joan leaving Vaucouleurs.



She left Vaucouleurs about February 13, 1429, dressed in men's clothes and accompanied by six men-at-arms. Crossing territory held by the enemy, she reached within 11 days Chinon.



The castle at Chinon where Joan of Arc met the Dauphin Charles.


France 1993, Mi 2947, Sc 2355.



Joan went at once to the castle occupied by the dauphin Charles, and told him that she wished to go to battle against the English and that she would have him crowned at Reims.

On the Dauphin's orders she was immediately interrogated by ecclesiastical authorities. She had her standard painted with an image of Christ in Judgment and a banner made bearing the name of Jesus. When the question of a sword was brought up, she declared that it would be found in the church of Saint Catherine-de-Fierbois, and one was in fact discovered there.

For three weeks she was further questioned at Poitiers by eminent theologians who were allied to the Dauphin's cause.

In this period the Dominican Robert Baignart, O.P. was her confessor.

Attack on Orléans


On April 27, 1429 Joan set out with several hundred men for Orleans, totally surrounded of English troops. On the morning of May 6 they crossed to the south bank of the river and Joan and La Hire attacked them there and took it by storm.


Very early on May 7 the French advanced against the fort of Les Tourelles. Joan was wounded but quickly returned, and it was thanks in part to her example that the French commanders maintained the attack until the English capitulated and withdrawed.





Joan of Arc near Orleans. France 1929, Mi 237, Sc 245. Maximum Card.


Victory and coronation


Joan left Orleans on May 9, 1429, met Charles at Tours, and urged him to make haste to Reims to be crowned. The coronation took place on July 17, 1429. Joan was present, standing with her banner not far from the altar. Robert Baignart.O.P. holds the banner above Charles’ head.



Reims, the city of the coronation, on July 17, 1429.


France 1950. Postmark May 1970.



Joan’s march to Paris failed by default of military support on September 8, 1429. She was captured near Compiègne by John of Luxemburg on Mai 23, 1429, who extradited her to the English. They imprisoned her in Rouen December 25, 1430.


The trial, 1431


In spite of many efforts to liberate her, a trial by the inquisition started January 13, 1431. Her two judges were to be Cauchon, bishop of Beauvais, and Jean Lemaître, O.P., the vice-inquisitor of France.
When the trial proper began, as a secret session, on March 12, -  Guillaume Airmeri, O.P.  as the acting chairman -, it took tw
o days for Joan to answer the 70 charges that had been drawn up against her. Perhaps the most serious charge was of preferring what she believed to be the direct commands of God to those of the church.

                                              Liberia 1975, Mi 948, Sc 699.



At these sessions were present Raoul le Sauvage, O.P., Jean le Maistre, O.P., prior of the priory St. James of Rouen; Martin Ladvenu, O.P. Jean or Guillaume Duval, O.P. and John of Grevesteyn, O.P., prior of the priory at Utrecht.

Joan fell sick in prison and was attended by two doctors. She received a visit on April 18 from bishop Cauchon and his assistants, who exhorted her to submit to the church.

Joan, who was seriously ill and obviously thought she was dying, begged to be allowed to go to confession and receive Holy Communion and to be buried in consecrated ground.

Joan of Arc with the sword that she had found in the church of Sainte-Catherine-de-Fierbois.


Seychelles 1975, Mi 342, Sc 337.


In face of this commonsense fortitude her interrogators, by a majority of ten to three, decided on May 12 that torture would be useless.

Joan was informed on May 23, 1431 of the decision of the University of Paris that if she persisted in her errors she would be turned over to the secular authorities; only they, and not the church, could carry out the death sentence of a condemned heretic.


Abjuration, and relapse


Apparently nothing further could be done. Joan was taken out of prison for the first time in four months on May 24, 1431, and conducted to the cemetery of the church of Saint-Ouen, where her sentence was to be read out.

The vice-inquisitor, Jean Lemaître, O.P., had ordered Joan to put on women's clothes, and she obeyed. But two or three days later, when the judges and others visited her and found her again in male attire, she said she had made the change of her own free will, preferring men's clothes. They then pressed other questions, to which she answered that the voices of St. Catherine and St. Margaret had censured her "treason" in making an abjuration.

These admissions were taken to signify relapse, and on May 29 the judges and 39 assessors agreed unanimously that she must be handed over to the secular officials.


The execution



The next morning, May 30, 1431, Jean Toutmouillé, O.P, and Martin Ladvenu, O.P.  announced to Joan the sentence of death. She received from Cauchon

permission, unprecedented for a relapsed heretic, to make her confession and receive Communion.

The national monument in Rouen 1979. France 1979, Mi 2155, Sc 1651.


Accompanied by Isambart de la Pierre, O.P. and Martin Advenu, O.P., she was then led to the Place du Vieux-Marché in Rouen. There she endured one more sermon, and the sentence abandoning her to the secular arm--that is, to the English and their French collaborators--was read out in the presence of her judges and a great crowd.

The executioner seized her, led her to the stake, and lit the pyre. A Dominican consoled Joan, who asked him to hold high a crucifix for her to see. According to the rehabilitation proceedings of 1456, few witnesses of her death seem to have doubted her salvation, and they agreed that she died a faithful Christian. A few days later the English king and the University of Paris formally published the news of Joan's execution.




A day after the execution, May 31 1431, Pierre Bosquier, O.P. protested against the lawsuit and was captured. On February 13th, 1450 Charles VII issued a Declaration empowering one of his Counsellors, Guillaume Bouillé, to inquire into the conduct of the Trial undertaken against Jeanne by "our ancient enemies the English," who, "against reason, had cruelly put her to death," and to report the result of his investigations to the Council.

Seven witnesses were heard; namely, Jean Toutmouillé, Isambart de la Pierre, Martin Ladvenu, and Guillaume Duval,-all Dominicans of Saint Jacques, Rouen; the Notary Manchon, the Usher Massieu, and Beaupère, one of the chief Examiners.


Two years later, the Cardinal-Bishop of Digne, Guillaume d'Estouteville, Legate in France for Pope Nicholas V. took up the Inquiry, at the formal request of Isabel d'Arc, mother of Joan d' Arc, who claimed, on Civil as well as on Ecclesiastical authority, the rehabilitation of her daughter, and the restoration of the family to the position they had lost by the imputation of heresy cast on them in the person of one of their numbers. (C 2003 Art Dugan)


Finally, on the order of Pope Calixtus III following a petition from the d'Arc family, proceedings were instituted in 1455-56 that revoked and annulled the sentence of 1431. Joan was named venerable in 1894, beatified by Pope Pius X in 1909, and canonized by Pope Benedict XV on May 16, 1920. The French parliament, on June 24, 1920, decreed a yearly national festival in her honour; this is held the second Sunday in May.


Paul Claudel (06.08.1868-23.02.1955) wrote Jean d’ Arc au bûcher, (1935), that as stage oratorio Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher, was completed by Honegger (10.03.1892-27.11.1955) in 1935. It is an equally moving work, powerful in its use of the human voice.

Paul Claudel with Joan of Arc on the stake.

               France 1968, Mi 1630, Sc B 420.







Korea-North: 1981, Mi Bl 100 A. Paintings. 



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