Joan Of Arc Burned At The Stake

Updated: May 10

Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen, France on the 30th of May, 1431. A shift of mortality to the immortality of a 19-year-old, who became a national symbol for the French during the Hundred Year's War and beyond. Joan was born an illiterate girl in a small village. By the age of 13, she claimed to hear and see visions of St. Michael, St. Catherine of Alexandria, and St. Margaret of Antioch. Her task became to help Charles VII, heir of Charles VI, be named the rightful king of France.

Joan convinced Charles VII to let her fight by dressing as a man. She led the liberation of Orleans and collected multiple victories against the English and as a result, Charles VII was crowned. However, due to her failure to liberate Paris, by 1430, 23rd of May, she was captured by Duke of Burgundy's men, jailed for a year, and put on a trial for charges. She was committed to multiple violations by dressing as a man, hersey, and possessing witchcraft-like abilities.

Her trial, which began on January 9, 1431, is described in the book written by Helen Castor "Joan of Arc: A History" (2015. “As the opening of the trial record noted, ‘The report has now become well known in many places that this woman, utterly disregarding what is honorable in the female sex, breaking the bounds of modesty, and forgetting all-female decency, has disgracefully put on the clothing of the male sex, a striking and vile monstrosity. And what is more, her presumption went so far that she dared to do, say and disseminate many things beyond and contrary to the Catholic faith and injurious to the articles of its orthodox belief.’ “If her guilt were established, and she remained unrepentant,” Castor continues, “the Church would have no choice but to abandon her to the secular arm, which would sentence her to die in purifying flames.”

During the trial, Joan was repeatedly questioned as to why she chose to dress like a man and about these voices in her head.

“It is both more seemly and proper to dress like this when surrounded by men, than wearing a woman’s clothes,...."While I have been in prison, the English have molested me when I was dressed as a woman. (She weeps.) I have done this to defend my modesty.” - Joan

After six public and nine private examinations, Joan faced charges of dressing as a man and hearing divine voices. She was found guilty by the church office and told to repent in order to save her own life. The trial became a Christian procedure under canon law with a Hersey investigation.

“Joan of Arc was tried as a heretic not because she was a woman, though that factor played an important part, nor because she heard voices, but because she heard voices telling her to attack the English//...//Joan believed that God favored the French: God was on her side. … As long as she insisted … that her voices were saints telling her to attack the English, she was doomed.” - Hobbins

It was later further elaborated that the trial was political due to Joan’s claims being political.

“If true//...//they would have invalidated the English claim to legitimate rule in France. Of course, exposing Joan as a fraud, or as someone deluded by evil spirits, would also have struck at the legitimacy of Charles VII.” - Hobbins

On May 24, Joan's trial was finalized on the condition that she would dress as a woman in order to reduce her punishment from a death sentence to life in prison. However, four days later she claimed the voices of the divine to have returned again and was also found dressed up as a man. Thus she was declared by the 27 trial masters a relapsed heretic. She was treated as a deadly heresy infection and it was decided that Joan of Arc should be burned. 1431, 30th of May, Joan of Arc was burned at a stake.

The 100 Years War lasted 1337-1453 with the result being the French won against the English invaders. 1450, Joan's trial was overturned by orders from Charles VII and her legend grew. By 1909 she was beatified in Notre Dame cathedral by Pope Pius X and by 1920 canonized by Pope Benedict XV.


Cover Image Credit: Universal History Archive/Getty Images


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