Brother Isambart de La Pierre, Part IV
AT DEATH'S DOOR
On March 27th, the court summoned Jeanne to appear in the side room of the castle's great hall before Cauchon and forty assistant judges. Thus began a two-day reading of the seventy-article indictment that supposably summarized her testimony. By this, Bishop Cauchon wanted to show his fair treatment of the accused.
"Jeanne, we all wish your instruction and your return to the ways of truth and salvation. Since you are not learned, I suggest you choose one of us to counsel you, provided that you wish to answer truthfully. I therefore require you to swear to speak the truth!"
Jeanne rocking back and forth on her stool. "For counseling me for my salvation I thank you and all the company here. As for the adviser you offer me, I thank you for that as well, but I have no intention of departing from the counsel of Our Lord. I will swear, to answer truthfully on everything that is relevant to this trial."
Triumphantly, Cauchon ordered the Promoter to place the Gospel within her reach. Grasping the sides of the huge book, she fixed her eyes on it as she knelt in her chains and swore to tell the truth.
A few days after this ordeal the original seventy articles were reduced to twelve:
It was customary in her village for very young girls to make a pact with Satan, and this she had done.
She had been brought up since her youth in the ways of sorcery, witchcraft, and the casting of spells.
She used this knowledge to place a spell over her King and nobles, in addition to placing spells on her sword, ring and standard.
In her youth she heard stories from her Godmother about visions or apparitions of fairies and goblins.
She practiced the art of witchcraft around the tree and spring near her home and carried upon her breast a mandrake root to bring her good luck.
Jeanne went to Neufchateau without her parents' permission to live with a woman of evil fame by the name of La Rousse.
She tried to compel a young man to marry her by making him appear before the court at Toul.
She had boasted to de Baudricourt that she would have three sons, one would become Pope, another Emperor and the third King.
She wore attire that was blasphemous to God and His Saints, while refusing to change into a woman's dress.
She was spreading heresy by claming to be without sin and by deluding the people into thinking she was a saint.
Catherine de la Rochelle had testified against her, warning the court that she would escape from prison through the help of the devil if not guarded closely.
She had tempted God by asking Him without necessity to guide her by His revelations, especially before jumping from the tower of Beaurevoir.
Throughout the articles she was accused of sorcery, divination, falsehood, malediction, blasphemy, heresy, sedition and that she reveled in the shedding of blood.
Cauchon and seven of his assistants confronted Jeanne in her cell. "We have come to ask you a very important question upon which your soul's life is at stake. Will you answer truthfully to that which we shall ask you?"
Pale and thin, weighted down by her chains, Jeanne wearily replied. "Ask your question and then I will tell you if I will answer truthfully or not."
Cauchon motioned for d' Estivet to take over. Bowing to the Bishop's command, he began the day's interrogation.
"Will you defer to the judgment of the Church on earth in all that you have said and done, both good and evil, of which you are accused during your trial?"
"In all things I will comply to the Church Militant as long as it does not command me to do what I consider impossible. She heard the gasps of the judges. "By impossible, I mean that I would have to deny God's guidance in my attempt to drive the English from French soil. Nor for anything in this world will I ever deny that my Voices came from God. What Our Lord has told me or will tell me to do, I will never cease from doing. It is impossible for me to deny His commands and if the Church orders me to do anything contrary to God's bidding, I will not do it for any man alive. "
The Promoter spoke sweetly. "If the Church Militant tells you that your revelations are illusions, diabolical, superstitious and evil things, will you abide by the Church which is represented by us?"
"I would follow Our Lord whose commandments I have always obeyed! I know that my deeds contained within these proceedings came by God's order! If the Church Militant tells me to do the contrary and deny them, I shall not submit to it for any man in the world, but only by Our Lord, whose good commands I have always done!"
D' Estivet tightened the noose. "Do you not believe that you owe submission to God's Church on earth?"
"Yes, Our Lord being served first!"
One of the other judges impatiently jumped in. "Did your Voices command you not to submit yourself to the Church Militant?"
Jeanne listlessly waved her hand. "I answer nothing from my own head, what I answer is by order of my Voices. My Voices do not tell me to disobey the Church, but Our Lord must be served first."
My mind swirled. These were shrewd and cunning men who surrounded Jeanne, because they made her sound as though she denied Church authority. I knew Jeanne had asked to be taken before the Pope, which was her right under the law of the Inquisition. These judges, all ordained priests, were being paid by the King of England, while the Bishop belonged to the King of England's Crown Council. I knew too, this court was against her. The Archbishop of Reims' court had found Jeanne acceptable in the eyes of the Church. By what right do they supersede the findings of the higher Archbishop's court? "
The interrogation continued.
"Knowing that the Church forbids and condemns women from wearing men's dress, will you put on a woman's dress?"
Jeanne slowly shook her head. "I cannot do so until my Voices give me permission."
"This proves your Voices are evil, for they command you to do something against Church law."
I was enraged by their manipulations. The Church allows women to wear men's clothing for the preservation of life or virginity or when a woman has nothing else to put on. Therefore it is her right, even her duty, to wear men's clothing to protect her virginity from the swine guarding her. Yet, I was afraid that Cauchon would order me sewn into a sack and thrown into the river if my voice was heard. So I kept silent.
A week later on Easter Sunday Jeanne became desperately ill with a fever, abdominal pain and severe vomiting. I think her illness was due to the strain of her long confinement, but it was precipitated by a fish she was given to eat. She believed the Bishop sent it to poison her. I don't believe this, as the Bishop wanted her to die at the stake. To save money, he probably purchased an old fish and it was this that caused her illness.
News of her condition reached the Earl of Warwick, and he called to his quarters three doctors, Jean Tiphaine, Guillaume Delachambre and Guillaume Desjardins. "The witch is ill." He told them. "Cure her! The King of England has paid dearly for her and so he does not want her to die a natural death. He intends that she shall die only by law, and be burned."
I, along with the Promoter, d' Estivet, accompanied the doctors to her cell. Doctor Tiphaine examined Jeanne. He took her pulse, felt her right side. "What ails you? Where do you suffer?"
The Maid replied weakly, "The Bishop of Beauvais sent me a carp, which I ate. Afterward, I became ill. I believe the fish made me sick."
At this d' Estivet cursed her for speaking against the Bishop. "You wanton strumpet! You have been eating some vile thing that has purposely made you sick!"
"You lie! I have not done so!"
D' Estivet reviled her with even more curses. Jeanne defended herself, and they exchanged many cruel words between them.
The doctors informed the Earl that Jeanne had a fever and prescribed bleeding to cure her. The Earl was not pleased. "Away with your bloodletting! She is cunning and might kill herself."
They returned to her cell that same day and performed the bloodletting. It would seem that they were correct in their assessment, because Jeanne obtained immediate relief. As Doctor Tiphaine was bandaging the site of the bloodletting, d' Estivet arrived and promptly called Jeanne a harlot and a strumpet! These insults so upset her that the fever returned and she relapsed into her severe illness. The doctors told the Earl, and he angrily ordered d' Estivet never to insult Jeanne again.
Cauchon used Jeanne's illness, as an opportunity to press his case, knowing her ability to defend herself would be at its weakest point. He and his six colleagues entered her cell. He began to preach about the dangers Jeanne was facing.
"I tell you that these masters and doctors have come in all charity to visit you in your illness. These learned men have found your words to be dangerous to the faith. Yet, because you are an unlettered and ignorant woman, I offer to provide you with wise and learned men, upright and kindly, who could duly instruct you in the true doctrine of the faith."
Jeanne did not respond, so the Bishop continued. "Should you act in opposition to the Church, trusting to your own inexperienced mind and saying whatever came into your head, I should be compelled to abandon you." Putting his hands together he added, "You must therefore see the peril which, with all my might and affection, I hope to spare you."
Weakly, she reached out to the Bishop, trying unsuccessfully to touch his hand. Jeanne struggled to speak, her voice feeble, her face haggard and gray. "Thank you my Lord Bishop, for your concern for my salvation. It seems to me seeing how ill I am, that I am in great danger of dying. If it be that God desires to take me, I ask to be heard in confession and receive my Savior in Holy Communion. I also would like to be buried in holy ground."
Cauchon leaned down closer. "If you wish to receive the sacraments of the Church, you must do as all good Catholics are duty bound and submit to Holy Mother Church. If you refuse we could not give you the sacraments you ask for. "
She struggled to turn her head from him, replying in a whisper, "At this moment I have nothing more to say."
"The more you fear for your life, because of your sickness, the more you should amend your life. You will not receive the Sacraments of the Church without first submitting to her."
"If my body dies in prison, I trust you will have it buried in holy ground. If not, I place my trust in Jesus."
The Bishop spoke sweetly. "In your trial, you said that if you had done or said anything contrary to our Christian faith ordained by God, you would not maintain it."
Jeanne was so weakened that all the fight had gone out of her. Her body was exhausted, her mind spent. "I refer to the answer that I made and to Our Lord."
Father Nicolas Midi urgently interrupted. "Jeanne, it is important that you take the good counsel of the clerks and notable doctors here present, and believe what they say to you for the salvation of your soul." Jeanne gave no answer but turned her face to the wall. He then repeated himself dramatically, "Jeanne, you must submit to the Church!"
"Whatever happens I can do or say nothing further. I have said all at my trial."
"My daughter, it is so very important that you submit your words and deeds to the teaching of the Church. If you do not, you will show yourself as being no better than a pagan!"
Jeanne did not reply to his pleading, which made him angry. He flung his finger in her and yelled, "Unless you submit yourself to Holy Mother Church, you will be abandoned by her as if you were an Infidel!"
This terrible threat caused Jeanne to shudder and a tear rolled down her face. Biting her lip, she remained silent. Finally, she replied, "I am a good Christian! I have been properly baptized. I will die a good Christian."
The Bishop placed his hand lightly on her arm, and spoke in a soft, gentle tone. "Since you ask that the Church give you the Eucharist, why will you not conform to the Church Militant? Then we promise to give you Holy Communion."
Jeanne turned back to the Bishop, her voice barely audible. "I shall not reply other than I have. I love and serve God. I am a good Christian. I desire with all my strength to help and uphold Holy Mother Church."
Not giving up, Cauchon pulled one more trick. Speaking softly, he whispered close to her ear. "Would you like us to arrange a beautiful and notable procession for the restoration of your spiritual health?"
"I... greatly desire the Church and Catholics to pray for me."
Without another word Cauchon rose from his seat turned and left the room. The other judges were hot on his heels, not wanting to be in that foul place an instant longer.
Jeanne's pitiable plight occupied me as I wandered back to the monastery. I believed in the Church's staunch defense of the faith. Without it, the Body of Christ would be corrupted by deviant beliefs. Yet, why did my conscience trouble me? Were not the Bishop and the theologians correct in their opinions? Did Jeanne's voices come from Satan? How she depended on them! More importantly, observe how she refused to acknowledge those in legitimate authority. Was this not proof that she was under demonic oppression?
It can't be! I knew her better than any of the judges. I took the time to see beyond the trial and peer into her soul. Neither the Bishop nor the theologians did that. Were they afraid of what they might find underneath this veneer of a righteous trial? Afraid to see the truth that they were mere lackeys of the English, doing their dirty work and condemning a blessed child of God?
I saw a pure soul, totally dedicated to God. Prayer became for Jeanne as much a necessity as breathing. She prayed with all her heart, with all her affection, with all her being. She spoke with Him and felt His loving presence. She heard her Voices many times, and this helped her to bear the rejection of her judges and the brutality of her jailers. Her own people had cast her aside, forming her further into a "Daughter of God," the title that her Saints had given her so long ago. When abandoned by men, what can we do but turn more and more to our loving God? In Him alone do we find counsel, support and consolation!