FOOTPRINTS OF JOAN
The banks of the Meuse
To inquire one’s way to Domremy—to storybook land! How strange to be asking the road to a village in an enchanted valley, where once a little girl played under a Fairy Tree, and on a summer's day in her father's garden saw a light and heard the voice of an angel. Even the way itself seems mysterious. You must wind among the hills, through still woods where no human form is seen, climbing, gradually climbing, until by and by you begin to descend to a wide valley with a river winding through—a hazy, purple valley, at one end a sleepy town, its spires showing above the trees. This is Joan's land, the valley of the Meuse; you are entering its southern gateway, Neufchateau.
You remember that the Maid came to Neufchateau. She was sixteen that summer and the Burgundians had raided Domremy. The people, warned in time, fled with their flocks and goods, to take refuge in this strong town, where they lodged with a good woman called La Rousse, because of her glowing face and hair.
You would be glad to find the house of La Rousse, but you will not be likely to do that; it was all too long ago. Of Joan in Neufchateau, however, there remains something; two churches, in fact, both old when she saw them. Joan certainly prayed in these churches, and they contain much that she could have seen. The lower chapel of St. Nicolas was already three hundred years old when she came. Above, in one of the recesses, is a curious sculptured group, an "Entombment of Christ" which could have invited her wonder and adoration. St. Christophe has the ancient nave and choir, little changed. Joan herself is represented there by a small replica of Pierson Martin's lovely statue of her, "Leaving the Distaff for the Sword," showing her about as she must have looked when she was there, her face full of light, her dress the blue bodice and red skirt she wore to Vaucouleurs. In the public square is a large statue of her, less intimate and beautiful.
But now we are on the road to Domremy, following the Meuse. On a hill to the left stands the great castle of Bourlemont, and farther along comes Coussey, with its mossy church tower, familiar enough to the eyes of the children who looked down on it from the Fairy Tree.
Still following the shaded road and placid river, we come at last to a stone bridge. Crossing it we reach a small, plain church and a curiously shaped house in rather pretentious grounds. Beyond them, and about it, is a humble village, as
humble as it was when Joan knew it five hundred years ago. It has not changed its name—it is still Domremy; the church is the one toward which she saw the light; it was in the adjoining garden that on a summer's day she heard the Voice.
Joan could hardly recognize the spot, for there has been much change The house which is called the "birthplace" is more pretentious than formerly, though in one room are some darkened beams, said to be "original." Perhaps they are; one would be glad to believe they once supported the smoke-
blackened ceiling above Joan's cradle. A cave-like cell is pointed out as "Joan's room."
Tradition says that Louis XI, son of Joan's King, restored the house, and outside above the doorway in old French is the inscription: "Long live King Louis," with some interesting shields, one bearing the device conferred on Joan and her family. The garden is not the kind of a garden that Joan knew, but whatever the house and the grounds, there can be no doubt that it was here that she spent her childhood; here she received the first intimation of the work she was to do. The Brook of the Three Sources trickles by as it did then, and, crossing the road, slips into the Meuse with a pleasant sound which her ear would find familiar.
In the little church are objects that Joan knew, must even have touched. One of them, if genuine, and there is little reason to doubt it, is the ancient stone font in which she was baptized. Her fame began so early that the identity of such a relic could hardly have been lost. Today it is sacred—too sacred, it would seem, to remain in that perishing old church, though one would be sorry to see it taken elsewhere. In front of the church there is a statue of Joan; another, beautiful and impressive, stands in the grounds of the birthplace, where also, in a small museum, recently built, is the primitive statue of Saint Margaret before which Joan is believed to have prayed.
In Domremy itself Joan would find few landmarks, but
certain aspects of the life there would be familiar. It is five hundred years since she went about these streets, or drove the flocks to pasture, just as others like her are driving them now. Some of the little shepherdesses spin with the distaff as they walk along, exactly as Joan did, most of them have fine features, many of them are named Jeanne or Jeannette, and not a girl of Domremy who does not carry a little glory in her breast and walk more proudly remembering Joan of Arc. In by-streets are the long-roofed stone houses of her time, in no way changed only grown older and mossier as the centuries pass. In one of them little Mengette or Hauviette may have lived. The Bois Chenu still skirts the hillside above the road that leads to the site of the Fairy Tree, but it is no longer deep and dark—not a proper shelter for wolves nor even for a reputed dragon. Below it, in June, strawberries still grow red and children gather them to eat with their small refreshments, which they would take to the Fairy Tree, only it is no longer there. It stood two hundred years after Joan left it, but it is gone now and a rich, elaborate church stands in its place.
Looking out from the front of the church Joan would find the view not greatly changed. To the right rise the six distant towers of Bourlemont, as brave and fair as when the lord and his chatelaine used sometimes to assemble the children under the Fairy Tree. The old castle is still a home, though the family of Bourlemont vanished long ago. To
the left, the villages of Domremy, Greux, and Maxey, wallowed by distance, must look about as they did then, while all between lies the hazy, purple valley of the Meuse—what it always was and will be, a place of dreams and unrealities.
A little way down the hill is the spring where the children came to drink, and where Joan sometimes heard the Voices. Clear and sparkling it flows from the hillside, and sings and never grows old, and close by it the flowers bloom, such flowers as Joan and her playmates gathered to twine for the Fairy Tree,
or to lay before the pictures of the saints. Children today bring their luncheons to the spring and drink the fresh, cold water, which long ago was said to heal the sick and today is doubly blessed because of the little girl who once played there and spoke with angels.
A road from Greux, and a byway and a path, lead other the hill to the chapel of Bermont, Joan's favorite sanctuary. The chapel itself is much changed, but it has an ancient bell, and a primitive statue of the Virgin, before which Joan is believed to have prayed. Joan would still love Bermont; it is so quiet there, so far from the affairs of men. The woods are still close about it, and there are many birds, such as those that are believed to have eaten from her hand. At Bermont one feels very near to Joan.
Burey le Petit, which is now Burey en Vaux, has a house, which is said to be that of Durand Laxart. One would be glad to believe that the home of this loyal soul had been preserved. No king ever did so much for France. Still following the Meuse we come at last to Vaucouleurs. It is not so far from Burey—three miles—and the level stretch between must have become very familiar to Joan during the winter weeks of her stay. One may imagine her trudging over the crusted road, under heavy skies—disappointed, disappointed, but never dismayed, walking with presence's which others could not see, holding fast by promises which others could not hear, words that meant the salvation of France.
At Vaucouleurs, Robert de Baudricourt's castle crowns the hill at the west and is reached by a steep climb. It is no longer a castle, but a ruin. Very little remains besides some walls, a few towers and arches, and the chapel where Joan prayed, the latter restored. Yet with all the ruin, by some fortune the Port of France, through which the Maid and her little army rode into the winter night, remains almost intact, its arched gateway as perfect as at that great moment when they set their faces toward Chinon, where sat a disowned and discouraged King little dreaming that a peasant girl Oas on her way to bring him a crown.
The way to the King
One cannot even pretend to follow the route traveled by Joan and her knights to Gien. Keeping to the woods as they did, avoiding roads, bridges, and towns because of the enemy, any surmise as to their course can be no more than the merest guess. What we know is that their first stop was at St. Urbain which is a few miles from Joinville, and that three days later Joan was in Auxerre. Of the Abbey of St. Urbain not much remains. It is no longer an abbey, and whatever is left of the building is used for storage. A beautiful gateway, probably the one by which Joan entered, still stands.
At Auxerre, however, most of what Joan knew remains
unchanged. The great cathedral in which she heard mass crowns the hill above the river Yonne, exactly as the Maid and de Metz saw it when they viewed it from their hidden camp and resolved to make their way to it for the consolation of divine service. The interior, too, must be about as it was then, except for the kneeling statue of the Maid, in memory and record of her visit. Joan, visiting Auxerre in the gathering dusk of a February evening, consciously saw little besides the church. The city today is of modern aspect, but below the cathedral are old narrow streets about as they were when the Maid and her knight, risking capture, secretly followed them, to worship amid unsuspecting enemies.
Gien holds no positive landmark of Joan, but the way beyond has many points of interest. Being no longer obliged to avoid the roads, the Maid's natural route was to reach the Cher and to follow it through Mennetou, Selles, and St. Aignan. At Mennetou, by the roadside, stands an ancient castle that may well have seen the little army pass, could even have given them shelter for the night. Also, there are churches, some of them in crumbling ruin, where once Joan most certainly halted, however briefly. We know that she reached St. Catherine de Fierbois and heard three masses at the famous shrine where a month later, by direction of her Voices, was found a buried sword. Above the altar there was a crudely carved image of Saint Catherine, to Joan very precious and holy. When a few .years later the chapel was
burned this image was rescued. A beautiful Gothic church was soon built on the ancient site, and the quaint figure of Saint Catherine again placed above the altar, where it stands to this day, an object of much veneration. The house that served as Joan's lodging at Fierbois is little changed. It was built to resist time and is very handsome in its simple way. Still occupied, it is the home of the mayor of the village.
St. Catherine de Fierbois, once famous, is today a neglected shrine; few travelers even know how to find it. Four miles north of St. Maure, a little to the right of the road to Tours, it is easily reached by the motorist and is well worth a visit. The villagers themselves have not forgotten. Few and poor as they must be, in the little square before the church they have erected an imposing statue of the Maid, and on its base are carved the names of those who died in the Great War.
The old bridge over the Vienne which Joan crossed entering Chinon still stands. Like the great castle on the hill it was already centuries old, for it was built by Richard of the Lion Heart and had been crossed by knights and crusaders, and kings and queens, and fine ladies in tall hats and frills and farthingales, during more than two centuries.
Chinon was a strong city then, its stout walls packed with sharp-roofed houses, some of them very fine indeed. The progress of the centuries has swept away the walls, and rebuilt many streets, yet something of what Joan saw still remains. The castle on the heights, though largely a ruin, is scarcely
less imposing. Most of its battlements, and at least some of its towers, are as Joan saw them. The thin flat clock tower has withstood the centuries, even the house of the King has preserved something of its old outline. Altogether, the ruin must be nearly a quarter of a mile long, and from the bridge presents one of the most striking pictures in France.
Its ruin is complete, none the less. Once through the entrance and you are under nothing but the sky with your feet on the grass. There is no longer a shelter, even for a fugitive king. It has become no more than a place for painting, for still seclusion, for dreaming in the sun.
There is enough to inspire dreams. For more than five hundred years it was a residence of kings. And all at once .you are facing a wall in which halfway up there is a restored fireplace, with a tablet which tells you that in this room Charles VII received Joan of Arc. It is no longer a room; it is just a wall, a fragment with vines matting its ruined edges. But at one corner, a little way from the fireplace, there are vestiges of a nook, an alcove, and it is easy to believe that it was here that Charles and Joan conversed apart when she gave him proof of her mission.
You cross a stone footbridge to Coudray where Joan lodged, a large stone tower, its lower wall a full eleven feet through. Today it is roofless like the rest; cawing rooks circle above its emptiness. But the stairway she once ascended is unchanged,
and on the wall of her circular chamber is the outline of the fireplace whose cheer greeted her after her long winter journey. In this room once shone the "great light" that came with her Voices; here she fretted, and prayed, and sometimes wept, because of the dragging days.
Joan is still at Chinon, a living presence when the kings who for centuries reigned there, are but dimly remembered. Henry Plantagenet, Richard Coeur de Lion, Louis IX, Richelieu—these great names are no more than whispered among the ruins, but all day and all the days is voiced the name of the peasant girl whose brief sojourn there meant the liberation of France.
From Chinon to Orleans
There are two roads by either of which Joan's cavalcade might have ridden from Chinon to Poitiers, and on either route a castle where they could have passed the night spent on the journey. Our only certainty is that any existing castle in that neighborhood would today claim to be the true one, with a "Joan of Arc room," where the Maid slept.
There is more certainty at Poitiers. The house of Jean Rabateau, or Hotel de la Rose, as it was later called, where Joan lodged, long since disappeared, but its site was not forgotten. Today it is 53 Rue de la Cathedral, occupied by a
small magazin, on the front of which is a tablet telling of Joan's stay. It has little to suggest the Maid, but it is worth remembering that here Joan disputed with the doctors while curious or devout people filled the little street outside; here she promised to show her sign—declaring that her soldiers would fight and God would give the victory; here she dictated her first letter of warning that put fear into the English heart. A little way down the street we come to an open square, and the great cathedral itself, one of the largest in France. Within, it is so lofty that the massive columns, many feet in thickness, seem slender as they mount upward. Joan attended the cathedral, a small figure in that vast place, where today she has become one of the chief objects. On a high pedestal, her impressive statue faces that of Saint Peter across the aisle; upon it falls the tender light that once fell upon Joan herself.
Poitiers is an ancient city, with other churches and buildings, which Joan may have seen and not much that can certainly be identified. But at the Musee Augustin, 9 Rue Victor Hugo, there is a weather-beaten black stone, preserved as sacred. It once stood on the corner opposite the home of Jean Rabateau, the stepping block from which Joan mounted her horse when she rode away.
It was at the Abbey of St. Florent near Saumur that Joan visited Alencon's wife and mother. So little remains of the abbey today that one cannot be sure of its identity. At Saumur itself, however, an ancient castle, ancient even then,
crowns the hill, impressive and beautiful, Joan must have seen it as she rode by; she may have visited it. On the road between Saumur and Chinon are other ancient castles, while at Candes, halfway, there is the beautiful church of St. Martin, built on the spot where the good saint, who divided his cloak with a beggar, ended his days. Joan on the way to St. Florent would pass the entrance of this sanctuary. She would not pass, she would go in. One of the beautiful and holy objects of France, this church is little known; it can have changed very little since Joan was there.
At Tours, where the Maid went to prepare for battle, there are interesting reminders. At 18 Rue Briconnet, the so-called, and mis-called, "House of Tristan," is believed by many to have been in 1429 the home of Jean du Puy and Eleanore de Paul, when Joan lodged. Then or earlier the home was in the du Puy family, but the record is not complete.
Joan went often to the beautiful cathedral of St. Gatien, and both herself and her banner received there special benedictions. The great church was already three hundred years, old when she came, and though not entirely completed, much of it was then as it is today. Conspicuous in Tours are two great towers, seemingly a considerable distance apart, yet both were a part of the vast church of St. Martin, which in Joan's day was standing complete, an imposing structure.
Tours is a busy modern city; the street of the armorers is gone and cannot be certainly identified. Ancient streets there are in plenty, and groups of buildings that carry memories of
the days when the Maid with her knights, and brothers, and pages, and faithful Jean d'Aulon went riding by, or halted at the shop of the master workman who was building-her "harness of war."
Riding to Blois by the north bank of the Loire, the Maid passed through still-existing villages, but they hold no memory of her. Opposite Amboise she could look across to a castle but not to the one we see there today; that noble structure, ancient as it appears, was not then built. It is the same at Blois; a part of the present magnificent chateau then existed but it has been completely changed. A ruined castle, near by, the Maid could have seen, may even have occupied during her brief stay. The old abbey church of St. Nicolas, much today as it was then, still remains the chief place of worship. That Joan assembled her captains there for penitence and prayer is highly probable. One may imagine the lawless captains gathered about the ancient altar, and their astonishment as La Hire delivered his immortal prayer.
Between Blois and Orleans the Maid's army made two camps, the second of which must have been at Clary, for not only is its location right, but it had, and has, a celebrated pilgrimage church, a strong argument in its favor. From Clary the army is believed to have proceeded to Orleans by the way of Olivet, today a dusty village without positive landmarks.
But now we are at Orleans, Joan's first great objective, with
no lack of reminders of her historic sojourn. The ancient city walls are gone, but at the corner of Rue des Africains and Rue St. Flore there stands a tower, once a feature of the ramparts and called la Tour Blanche. Diagonally across from it a tablet over a factory entrance marks the site occupied by the home of Joan's brother, Pierre d'Arc, then known as du Lys.
Joan attended the cathedral of St. Croix, but the church of that name today is very different from the one she knew, which was wrecked by the Huguenots. Her own statue is the most conspicuous feature of the place, rising as it does above the main altar, while on all sides handsome modern stained-glass windows tell her story. It is at St. Croix, on May 7 and 8 of each year, that splendid memorial services are held in her honor. On the second day there starts from its entrance a grand procession of churchmen, soldiers, and citizens to make the round of the landmarks associated with her memory, returning at last to the cathedral doors. It is the chief annual event of Orleans.
Near the post office, on the same street, is the house, of Jacques Boucher, where Joan lodged. It is without doubt an old house and stands upon the right spot, near the site of the Regnant gate. It has been a good deal restored, however, and the room pointed out as that occupied by Joan is not very convincing. The house is now a religious institution, and too spick and span for a fifteenth-century home. Yet Joan
was certainly there, and it was from one of these windows that Louis de Contes handed her banner as she dashed. away to her first battle.
Of the bastiles captured by the Maid there remain only some vestiges of the Tourelles, the strong towers that once stood at the south end of the bridge over the Loire. They were discovered not many years ago during some excavations and are to be found at the entrance to a tunnel, a little way above the present bridge, carefully outlined and identified. Just south of them, at the end of a short street, Rue Croix de la Pucelle, a small monument stands on, or very near, the spot where Joan was wounded. This is indeed worth while. Here rose the steep embankment; here through the long spring day she toiled with her soldiers to surmount it; here at last the gleaming white figure was struck down, only to return and plant her conquering banner against the wall. Busy people pass, apparently unnoticeding. They have not forgotten, for the French remember, and this is hallowed ground.
Orleans has many statues of Joan. Of these the large elaborate bas-reliefs, is the most conspicuous. Another is the well-known figure by the Princess Marie of Orleans in the court of the Hotel de Ville. In the Joan of Arc Museum on the Rue du Tabour are literally hundreds of statues, statuettes and pictures, works of imagination. Joan once spoke of seeing Arras a picture of herself in armor, but this has long since
disappeared, and in any case would have no value as a likeness. This museum, however, contains hundreds of relics of Joan's day; a piece of the ancient bridge, stone cannon balls, guns, coats of mail, axes, articles innumerable. At another interesting place, the Historical Museum of Orleans, there is a head, thought by many to have been modeled by a sculptor who had seen and studied Joan's features. It is called a head of a statue of St. George, but its features are unquestionably those of a young girl; its helmet such as she must have worn. Nothing about it suggests the ideal. It is a portrait of somebody; the more we look at it the more the conviction grows that its model was Joan of Arc. The face tells her story.
From Orleans to Patay
The Maid, leaving Orleans with the news of her victories, passed again by Clery, this time with Dunois, and a tablet in the church records their visit there. During many hundred years kings and great churchmen of France made pilgrimages to the shrine of Our Lady of Clery. The tablet bears many distinguished names, among them that of Saint Louis, who made a holy journey there before setting out for Jerusalem. Louis XI wore a leaden image of Our Lady of Clery in his hat and, when her church was partially destroyed by fire, restored it. Today his imposing tomb is one of the features
of its handsome interior. Ina near-by column rests the heart of Charles VIII. Few places in France are more worthy of a visit than this ancient and beautiful church.
Nothing identifies the spot near Tours where Joan greeted the King. It is in Loches that we next find her, in what was then a modern wing of a very ancient castle—a castle with a dark history, in no way related to our story. That portion of the great structure associated with the Maid is called the chateau of Charles VII, and it was in some portion of it that she pleaded with the King to come to Reims and receive his crown. This exquisite wing is today occupied by public offices; and no one can point out with certainty the room assigned to the Maid. It is better to look at the outside of this portion of the chateau, realizing that as Joan saw it so it stands today. The castle of Loches must have become very familiar to Joan, during those days when her wound was healing and she was urging Charles to action. It is a vast and somber place. She may have found it curious and interesting; or she may have been too deeply absorbed in the work just ahead to give it much attention.
And now we come to Selles, and Joan is there, and the King, and Guy de Laval and many other persons of noble, station, assembling for the great campaign that will end at Patsy. And Joan is ready to go, and a big black horse is led out which refuses to let her come near him. "Lead him to the cross," she commands; and led to the cross that stands
just before the near-by church, he becomes docile and-permits her to mount; after which, her little axe in her hand, surrounded by her household, she rides away. The cross is no longer to be found, but the old church is there, and has changed little with the centuries. The open square about it must be much the same, and some of the houses facing it are very old.
At Jargeau, the first conquest in this new campaign, there is no more than a bit of the ancient ramparts which the Maid conquered, but at Beaugency is the bridge she crossed; also, the great square tower in which the English took refuge, and near which she received the petition of Richemont and his lords. Beaugency is a very ancient town, with houses, walls, gateways, and churches, old even before Joan's time. She probably gave them little attention—her hands were too full.
East of Beaugency are the low hills, scarcely more than rolling uplands, on one of which the French army formed the evening before Patay. Then comes Meting, to which she gave no more than a glance in passing, then Patay. Just where Patay was fought is not easy to decide. We look across the levels of wheat, wondering where it might be that La Hire led his terrific charge on Talbot, where the English formed at the hedge and were cut down, where Joan supported on her arm the head of the dying English soldier. The field was to the south of Patay, how far is not certain. Today the chief
object on the plain is a windmill and as far as one can see are peaceful tides of wheat.
All these towns have fine statues of Joan in their public squares and their churches, and their chief pride is that they were once details of a great battlefield where Joan of Arc checked English aggression in France.
It was immediately after Patay that Joan again met her King, this time at the abbey church of St. Benoit, between Chateauneuf and Sully, a famous shrine, one of France's oldest and most curious landmarks. The centuries have done little to St. Benoit. The interior is much as Joan and Charles saw it, and the impressive portico entrance, with its grotesque carvings, is only a little more weather-worn than when the Maid said to the wavering Charles: "Doubt not, you will gain all your kingdom and will soon be crowned."
THE WAY TO REIMS
The pilgrim who would follow today the way of the coronation journey must for the greater part leave the highroad to one side and pursue narrow ways that wind among rolling lands, less wooded and more richly cultivated than when Joan and her King with their shining army passed by. Long war had desolated it then—war has desolated it since, but with years of peace most of the scars have been overgrown.
Leaving Auxerre, of which this time Joan saw only the outer walls, the army passed on to St. Florentin, today a rather sleepy town, but then with stout ramparts, and a castle of which little more than a fragment remains. The army camped at St. Florentin; also at St. Phal, the old road to which goes twisting among low hills with plenty of ancient villages that saw the army pass. St. Phal was just one of them, but it had a near-by stream which made it a desirable camping place. Probably St. Phal had never known such a day—has never known such a day since—as that July afternoon when Joan's blaze of cavaliers rode up the valley, followed by a seemingly endless train of soldiers who forthwith began to pitch their camps and light their evening fires. "Written at St. Phal the fourth day of July." Thus closes Joan's letter to the people of Troyes, and the little town's claim to immortality was assured. St. Phal gave the lives of eighteen of its young men to the World War, and remembers them today with a handsome shaft.
At Troyes Joan held a child at the font for baptism, though whether in the cathedral, beautiful St. Urbain, or at the church of St. Jean is not known. It was in St. Jean that Henry of England had married Catherine of France, in an effort to deprive Charles of his birthright. Today these churches have chapels and statues of Joan, close to the main altar. Troyes has always been a rich and important city, and though much changed has no lack of winding streets and ancient timbered
houses, the occupants of which may once have seen Joan and her King ride by.
The road runs straight to Arcis, then again in a roundabout fashion until it comes at last to Bussy-Lettree, another village, memorable because it was here that emissaries delivered to Charles the keys of Chalons. It was at Chalons that Joan found old friends, who had come from Domremy to pay respects to their little neighbor that now won battles and rode side by side with a king. There are some very old houses in Chalons; it may be that the very one in which Joan received her friends still stands, but it is not known today. The Maid must have visited one or more of the ancient churches and in each is a worthy statue of her.
Following the winding road between the ancient villages, in most of which are timbered houses of that early day, it is not hard to imagine the humble and war-stricken people who gathered along the roadside to see the Maid and her army pass, many of them kneeling, for they truly believed her to be an angel of God. At Sept-Saulx, the next stop, the keys of Reims were delivered to Charles and from here on there must have been an increasing mass of the poor creatures eager only for a glimpse of the shining messenger who conducted the King to his sacrament, and would give them rest from war.
How many times since then their land has been laid waste by battle! Today the rise of ground from which Joan caught
her first glimpse of the cathedral presents an example of modern warfare, an exhibit of barbed wire and devastation. Distant hilltops, in her day green, are battered out of all semblance with bombardment. As to Reims itself—at present rebuilt, or rebuilding—never in all the ages before was it the ruin of yesterday. The World War left it a mere heap of fragments, its splendid cathedral open to the winds, denuded of its rich reliefs, a poor, pathetic ghost of its former glory. Where Joan stood with her banner, where the King knelt to receive his crown, the war left a heap of rubbish and ruined entablature. An attempt at restoration is going on, but the cathedral of Reims that stood almost unchanged for seven hundred years, the cathedral that Joan saw, is gone forever.
A corner of the great church, less damaged and safer than the rest, has been partitioned off and reclaimed for worship. Here are gathered some of its chief treasures, the most impressive among them being the Maid's statue by d'Epinay, the truest in spirit of all the hundreds that France can show. It is Joan as she might have stood there on that great day of fulfillment. Her dress is as it must have been; the face is of an indescribable beauty and of a sadness that wrings the heart. No wonder the assembly wept, if it was thus she appeared to them; for it is not Joan the conqueror, but Joan with the vision of all the days ahead, Joan the martyr and the saint.
From Reims to Compiegne
Corbeny, Soissons, Chateau-Thierry, to which Joan and Charles rode after Reims, today swept by the World War, present few enough earlier memories. Corbeny was left a mere waste of cinders and fragments; the lovely churches of Soissons were reduced almost to fragments. Provins, however, where they arrived a few days later, is full of ancient things which consciously or unconsciously the Maid must have seen. At the church of Saint Quiriace, on the hill, Joan and Charles attended mass; and a little way from the entrance is the so-called "Tower of Caesar" which hardly could have escaped their notice. One cannot run amiss of old landmarks in Provins. There are even two hotels (one a hotel to this day), where she may have been a guest. Five hundred years ago Provins was a large, rich, and strongly fortified city. Today, its population shrunken by nearly nine-tenths, its walls in ruins, it has become hardly more than a memory, a very beautiful memory, its vine-grown towers and crumbling gate-ways peacefully telling their story of battle and siege and how once on a summer day they gave welcome to Joan of Arc.
Wherever along the route there is an ancient church one may be certain that Joan was there, for prayer was her staff and weapon. She told her judges that she always confessed and took communion on entering a good town. At Coulommiers
we may be sure of her at the church of St. Denis, for she was three days in the town. La Ferte Milon also has an ancient church, and above it on the hill is the ruin of a magnificent chateau, then quite new, constructed by the King's uncle, Louis of Orleans, fifteen years before his murder by John of Burgundy. A large portion of the walls still stand, holding high in ornamental niches statues of the "nine preuses" or medieval heroines. The greatest heroine of them all lingered a brief time somewhere within what is now the great emptiness behind them, for the place is a mere shell open to the sky.
Between La Ferte Milon and the field of Montepilloy, Joan was at Crept, Lagny-le-Sec, Dammartin, and Baron, but only at the latter place is there any record of her visit. In the rare gothic church of this village is a kneeling statue of the Maid, with a tablet which says that she took communion there, before Montepilloy.
The village and ruined chateau of Montepilloy look out over the plain where the facing armies of Charles and Bedford skirmished the length of a summer day. Today the field is a billowing level of wheat. A fair ground it must have been for those brisk and bloody tournaments, and what would one not give to see that fat knight in armor, Sire George La Tremoille, tumble from his horse and be ignominiously dragged to safety! Five or six miles distant, at Senlis, in the
beautiful garden of the abbey of St. Vincent, is a handsome marble statue of the Maid, with an inscription which says:
"The fifteenth day of August, 1429, in the plain of Montepilloy in view of this belfry, ringing out for the Queen of Heaven, Saint Joan of Arc, fought for France and for us."
It is at Paris that we next find Joan, making ready to assail the walls. La Chapelle, from which her attack was made, today within the city gates, has a church where she is said to have prayed before going to battle.
The scene of the assault at the gate of St. Honore was long ago built over and lost to memory. The spot where she fell cannot be identified, but it is believed to be no great distance from the famous equestrian statue of her by Fremiet, in the Place des Pyramides. For the Paris of that day covered a small area; its outer wall ran near where the Palais Royal now stands. Joan did not enter Paris, but she is there today—in the churches, in the Pantheon, in many public places. Patron saint of the army, she is the city's idol.
The ancient church at St. Denis has undergone many changes since Joan of Arc laid her armor on the altar of the Lady of Sorrows and rode away. The revolutionists of 1793 fell upon it with a kind of madness, desecrated its altars, emptied its royal tombs.
Joan's armor did not wait for revolutionists. Hardly was she on her way to the Loire before the town fell into the hands of the English and Burgundian, who captured and pillaged
the church. They carried off the precious white armor, but would hardly have destroyed it. In some English or French castle or museum or manor house it may exist to this day. It could be identified; there would be a patch on the shoulder, a break in the cuissard, the contour of the cuirasse would conform to the feminine outline. What a quest to seek for it!
St. Denis has been restored, and is worth a visit for its own sake, and because Joan was there; but the royal tombs are empty, and the altar upon which the Maid offered her white armor is not easy to choose.
Of the Maid's sorrowful trip back to the Loire, with her crowned King and her dwindling army, there is no trace today. One may imagine the disconsolate troops and captains fording the Yonne below Sens; filing by castles, today crumbling to ruin, that mark the route by Courtenay, Chateaurenard, and Montargis, the Maid and Charles halting now and again at mossy churches; but the tale of these things is lost.
After which comes St. Pierre-le-Moutier, her next scene, of action, and here still stands a considerable fragment- a tower—of the ramparts she captured with the aid of her "fifty thousand," a victory commemorated by a statue in the public square. St. Pierre is memorable and worthy of a visit. Also La Charite, where she failed, and where today a stretch of the old rampart surrounds a flourishing vineyard, effectively keeping out trespassers, just as long ago it defied Joan and
her ill-provisioned army. Like Paris, La Charite honors Joan in its churches, though she failed to surmount its walls.
During her final stay below the Loire, Joan when not in action was for the most part with Charles's court, which was sometimes set up at Bourges, sometimes at Mehun-sur-Yevre, and again at La Tremoille's great chateau at Sully. At Mehun-sur-Yevre, where Charles conferred rank on Joan and her family, there stands a beautiful fragment of the royal chateau. Below it are green meadows and a winding stream, the whole completing a picture of tender and romantic beauty, the kind of thing one finds everywhere in France. A little distance away is an ancient city gateway, through which the Maid and her King more than once rode side by side.
La Tremoille's great chateau, at Sully on the Loire, still stands. It is one of the few castles that have been continuously occupied, and though the centuries have made changes a number of its earlier towers are reflected in the river and moat, precisely as they were when Joan was there. Somewhere in one of them she doubtless lodged during the tedious days of her unwilling residence.
At Bourges there remains the great cathedral, with magnificent thirteenth-century windows, unchanged since Joan saw them. The Maid must have visited the cathedral, and today she stands there in marble, her hands clasped in prayer. She wears a helmet and a long military cape; the face is one of great spirituality. It is Joan as she might have looked
when she rode away from Sully, knowing as she must have known that the end was closing in.
At Lagny and Melon, we find the Maid again in action, but the landmarks are not many. In the square in front of the church at Lagny is a statue, which holds aloft the sword taken from Franquet d'Arras, on the plains of Vaire. It was doubtless at the church opposite that the supposed miracle of the resurrected child occurred. Joan herself spoke of it as being at Notre Dame, but Lagny seems to have had no church by that name. Of Joan's stay at Melun we know little more than that she received here warning of her approaching capture. This happened on the moats, long since disappeared, In Melun there is, in fact, an ancient church called Notre Dame, which she probably confused with the one at Lagny That she visited the church at Melun is certain; it may well have been her Gethsemane.
Compiegne, the little city on the Oise for which Joan gave her liberty, has always been the center of a battleground. During the World War, bomb and shell tore away many an ancient landmark. The church of St. Jacques, where Joan heard mass before her sortie, was damaged by shellfire. It has, however, been restored; her fine memorial altar there was uninjured. In the main square, facing the H8tel de Ville, the Maid has an impressive bronze statue. Fully armed, she waves her banner aloft, and on the base are her words: "I will go to my good friends of Compiegne." During 1914-18 bombs
fell a little distance away, but the Maid's statue was not struck.
The street along which Joan rode for the last time is named for her. The gateway through she passed to her final charge is gone; also the bridge across which, a flashing figure at the head of her five hundred, she swept to strike the camp at Margny. Margny has no vestiges of a camp or of the ancient boulevards; but on a house facing the quay is a tablet, which tells that it was near this spot Joan was captured. The court at the back contains vestiges of the terminal arches of the ancient bridge, which the boulevard joined; the Maid was forced from that embankment into the lower meadows. The ground has been filled to the bend of the arches so that the level of her capture is a good ten feet below the surface. Only the visible portions of the old stone work are left to bear witness to the spot where in the crush and clamor of battle Joan of Arc was borne down by the enemies of France.
Where the Footprints End
The trail of Joan's last sad journeyings is none too plainly marked. The brick castle of John of Luxemburg, at Beaulieu, though struck more than once during the Great War, survives in part and is still a habitation. Whether Joan ever occupied any room in the remaining portion is not certainly known. One of the present humble tenants may point out a dark
underground place as her prison, but it is highly improbable that it was there. Except that he sold her, the Maid was well enough treated by Luxemburg. A little way from the castle there stood until the World War came a bronze statue of the Maid, of which only the base is left. It bears this inscription: "First stop on the way to Rouen."
Her next stop, Beaurevoir, was also in the war district. The village itself was almost completely destroyed, but a little way to the west of it, on a low hill, stands a shell-shattered remnant, called the Tower of Joan of Arc. The castle of John of Luxemburg doubtless stood on the slight eminence, and tradition says that from this tower the captive girl made her desperate leap for freedom.
In the village itself there was formerly a statue of the Maid but here, as at Beaulieu, the enemy carried it off for the bronze. Only the scarred base remains. Nothing is to be' found today at Cambrai or at war-smitten Arras, though we have it from her own lips that she passed that way.
It is different at "Drugy Farm;" the war scarcely touched St. Riquier, and the small tower that became a one-night prison for the Maid of France is little changed. It is all that is left of Drugy castle and at present forms the corner support of a large Picardy farmhouse. The small tower may have been higher, but the part which survives undoubtedly sheltered the weary Joan after a long day of riding in chains. A tablet
over the door records the fact of her sojourn. Soldiers lodged in it during the World War. At present it is storage for vegetables.
Between Drugy and le Crotoy, a little way beyond Noyelles, near Morlay, the road passes a small but exquisite church, today the ruin of a hundred years. Joan saw it in its glory; they may have let her pray there.
Of the great square fortress on the bleak Picardy headland of Le Crotoy, where Joan was kept for a month or more, one can find no more than a bit of the foundation. An old chronicle says of her departure:
"She bade adieu to those of the castle of Crotoy, who mourned her departure, for she had greatly consoled them. One sees yet the room where she slept, which since that time commands the respect of those who visit it."
But this was written long ago. There remains today no trace of Joan's tower. Le Crotoy has become a modern summer resort. Portions of the ancient church are of Joan's time, but except the harbor and the great sea beyond, there remains nothing else that she could have seen.
Along the road from Le Crotoy to Rouen, by way of Eu pad Dieppe, only the castle of Arque la Battaille, a little way below Dieppe, has been identified with her journey. Here, in an imposing ruin, the so-called castle of Henry IV, the guide will try to point out the location of Joan's room. Imagination
can make little of the crumbling heap, and the eye wanders to the distant slopes on which the captive's gaze once rested.
Between Arques and Rouen are Norman villages with small ancient churches, some of which certainly saw the Maid and her guards pass by. And from the hills above Rouen one may still look down on the spires of the cathedral, and of St. Ouen, on the sweep of river and huddled houses, though of the vast assembly of towers which formed the Chateau of Philip Augustus, the Maid's last prison and the scene of her trial, only one remains.
Aside from the exteriors of the cathedral and St. Ouen, there cannot be much in modern Rouen that Joan consciously saw. Both these churches have undergone change. The vast abbey once connected with St. Ouen has disappeared. The cemetery near the entrance, scene of the abjuration, has been replaced by a garden.
A portion of the archbishop's palace is of Joan's time, and on one facade of it, facing the street, are two tablets, side by side. One of them, with the date, Tuesday, the twenty-ninth of May, 1431, tells how she was cited there to the scaffold; the other, with the date, Wednesday, the seventh of July, 1456, tells how, on the same spot, was delivered the verdict that cleared her name of undeserved blemish.
The "tower near the fields" where Joan endured five months of unspeakable misery vanished long ago. The one existing remnant of the great castle of Philip Augustus is the great
donjon, or main tower, much restored, where the Maid withstood the threat of torture. This is now a museum and has many visitors. Somewhere within its walls Joan defied the thumbscrew and the rack. On a near-by street is a tablet, which marks the supposed site of the tower that was her prison. A commercial building stands there today, and it does not seem to be in the right location to have been "near the fields."
The street plan of Rouen has changed somewhat with the centuries, so that it is no longer easy to trace the way of sorrow, which led from the Maid's prison to the Old Market where she died. Streets have been straightened and others obliterated to form the wide thoroughfare, which today bears her name. Leaving this, one finds the changes have been fewer, and have and there are tottering Norman houses from whom
narrow windows, one sorrowful morning, looked pitying women as the savior of France passed by.
Following the Street of the Good Children, so called then and now, we come to the Street of the Prison, which leads directly to the Old Market, still a market, where busy people throng in and out on necessary errands. The church of Saint Saviour is gone, but about on the old site stands butchers' hall, and at its corner a tablet set in the pavement bears the words:
Another tablet, on the building itself, shows the ancient plan of the place and tells more fully the story. This is France's holy ground. The cross that was once planted here long since disappeared, and Rouen, in shame and sorrow trying to forget, did not replace it. Later, in another square, the city set up a memorial fountain, which in turn was replaced by a pretentious statue. The simple tablet in the pavement is better. Somehow it expresses the straightforward girl of Domremy who here under a May sky gave her life for France.