Rorate Caeli

Joan of Arc
A bishop in great peril

Jeanne d'Arc was born in Domrémy, a village divided, at the time of her birth, between the Royal domain of Barrois and the Crown territories of the County of Champagne - a fully French town. Her birth took place on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 1412, exactly six centuries ago.

This special centennial will be celebrated by us in a series of posts, including special contributions by Côme de Prévigny - and it also explains our header image. And we begin with the first days of the proceedings against the nineteen-year-old Maid, in 1431.
[Wednesday, February 21st. The First Public Session]


As it is our office to keep and exalt the Catholic faith, we did first, with the gentle succor of Jesus Christ (whose issue this is), charitably admonish and require the said Jeanne, then seated before us, that to the quicker ending of the present trial and the unburdening of her own conscience, she should answer the whole truth to the questions put to her upon these matters of faith, eschewing subterfuge and shift which hinder truthful confession.

Moreover, according to our office, we lawfully required the said Jeanne to take proper oath, with her hands on the holy gospels, to speak the truth in answer to such questions put to her, as beforesaid.

The said Jeanne replied in this manner: "I do not know what you wish to examine me on. Perhaps you might ask such things that I would not tell." Whereupon we said: "Will you swear to speak the truth upon those things which are asked you concerning the faith, which you know?" She replied that concerning her father and her mother and what she had done since she had taken the road to France, she would gladly swear; but concerning the revelations from God, these she had never told or revealed to any one, save only to Charles whom she called King; nor would she reveal them to save her head; for she had them in visions or in her secret counsel; and within a week she would know certainly whether she might reveal them.

Thereupon, and repeatedly, we, the aforementioned bishop [of Beauvais], admonished and required her to take an oath to speak the truth in those things which concerned our faith. The said Jeanne, kneeling, and with her two hands upon the book, namely the missal, swore to answer truthfully whatever should be asked her, which she knew, concerning matters of faith, and was silent with regard to the said condition, that she would not tell or reveal to any person the revelations made to her.

[First Inquiry after the oath]

When she had thus taken the oath the said Jeanne was questioned by us about her name and her surname. To which she replied that in her own country she was called Jeannette, and after she came to France, she was called Jeanne. Of her surname she said she knew nothing. Consequently she was questioned about the district from which she came. She replied she was born in the village of Domrémy, which is one with the village of Greux; and in Greux is the principal church.

Asked about the name of her father and mother, she replied that her father's name was Jacques d'Arc, and her mother's Isabelle.

Asked where she was baptized, she replied it was in the church of Domrémy.

Asked who were her godfathers and godmothers, she said one of her godmothers was named Agnes, another Jeanne, another Sibylle; of her godfathers, one was named Jean Lingué, another Jean Barrey: she had several other godmothers, she had heard her mother say.

Asked what priest had baptized her, she replied that it was master Jean Minet, as far as she knew.

Asked if he was still living, she said she believed he was.

Asked how old she was, she replied she thought nineteen. She said moreover that her mother taught her the Paternoster, Ave Maria and Credo; and that no one but her mother had taught her her Credo.

Asked by us to say her Paternoster, she replied that if we would hear her in confession then she would gladly say it for us. And as we repeatedly demanded that she should repeat it, she replied she would not say her Paternoster unless we would hear her in confession. Then we told her that we would gladly send one or two notable men, speaking the French tongue, to hear her say her Paternoster, etc.; to which Jeanne replied that she would not say it to them, except in confession.

[Prohibition against her leaving prison]

Whereupon we, the aforementioned bishop, forbade Jeanne to leave the prison assigned to her in the castle of Rouen without our authorization under penalty of conviction of the crime of heresy. She answered that she did not accept this prohibition, adding that if she escaped, none could accuse her of breaking or violating her oath, since she had given her oath to none. Then she complained that she was imprisoned with chains and bonds of iron. We told her that she had tried elsewhere and on several occasions to escape from prison, and therefore, that she might be more safely and securely guarded, an order had been given to bind her with chains of iron. To which she replied: "It is true that I wished and still wish to escape, as is lawful for any captive or prisoner."

We then commissioned as the safeguard of the said Jeanne the noble man John Grey, Squire, of the bodyguard of our lord the King, and with him Jean Berwoit and William Talbot, enjoining them to guard her well and faithfully, and to permit no person to speak with her without our order. Which, with their hands on the Gospel, they solemnly swore to do.

And finally, having completed all the preliminaries, we assigned the said Jeanne to appear the next day, Thursday, at eight o'clock in the morning, in the Robing Room at the end of the great hall of the castle of Rouen.

[February 24th. Third Session]

Then she said to us, the aforementioned bishop: "You say that you are my judge; take good heed of what you do, because, in truth, I am sent by God, and you put yourself in great peril,"
Asked whether the voice, of which she asked counsel, had sight and eyes, she answered: "You will not learn that yet"; and said that there was a saying among little children, "Men are sometimes hanged for telling the truth."

Asked if she knows she is in God's grace, she answered: "If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me. I should be the saddest creature in the world if I knew I were not in His grace."