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Joan of Arc was a relapsed heretic; and not a witch.


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The doctors of the faculty of theology at the University of Paris branded Joan an invoker of evil spirits, and idolator and an apostate. They stopped short of denouncing her as a witch.


For this post I am largely depended on Joan by Marina Warner. (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London. 1981)


Joan was branded a heretic because she knew the truth of her revelations independently of the Church. She maintained that her views were correct whatever the Church might say.


At her trial, Joan claimed to have heard a voice when she was thirteen. She seldom heard this voice without seeing a light. Joan claimed: “The light comes in the name of the voice.” (page 121)


Joan claimed that she was first visited by St Michael the Angel. St Catherine and St Margaret came later. Her interrogators were determined to identify “St Michael” with the Devil.


Joan’s cardinal error was never to have revealed the existence of these voices to any of her confessors. She had never received permission from the Church to believe in the reality of her “counsels” (i.e.; her voices)


The eminent historian of this period, J.H. Huizinga, stated: “It seems plausible to me that it was only fairly late, perhaps even during her trial, that Joan linked her inspirations to the figures she knew best and cherished most among the saints.” (Warner page 131)


Joan heard her voices when bells were rung. Dunois, a comrade-in-arms, claimed Joan ordered bells to be rung when she prayed in church.


Joan told her accusers that her voices were audible when bells were rung for compline, matins, vespers and angelus.


Evidence suggests that Joan’s voices were external to her, and that she had no control over them. Several incidents have been reported where noise prevented Joan from receiving coherent instructions.


Tests conducted at different times verified that Joan was still a virgin.


Joan told the court in 1431 that she vowed not to marry at age thirteen, when she first heard her counsel (her voices). She left home and donned male attire when her parents tried to marry her off.


There is every reason to believe that Joan was a practicing Catholic, and not a member of some alternative Old Religion.


Evidence was given at the rehabilitation of 1456 that Joan had received communion before she died. The judge Courcelles believed she had confessed and received the Eucharist before she was burned.


Warner cited Tisset-Lanhers, 2:140 p286. Joan was ill after eating Bishop Cauchon’s carp. She thought she was dying, and begged to be confessed, to receive Holy Communion, and to be buried in sacred ground! (Warner page 199)


Joan of Arc was reprieved once because she abjured her voices and male apparel. However, she was sent to the secular arm for execution because she confessed to hearing her voices again. In the interim she had once more assumed male garb.


Within weeks of Joan’s execution, the boy-king Henry VI was manipulated into issuing a virtual pardon to all those who took part in Joan’s trial. It promised legal protection and financial aid to any of Joan’s assessors who were subject to ecclesiastical authority, or any court of law.


Henry VI’s Letter of Exoneration would be unique in Witchcraft annals – but Joan of Arc was not executed as a witch!

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Very interesting! Thank you for posting this. I graduated from a Catholic high school 16 years ago, and they were *still* teaching that Joan was a devil-worshiping witch. But I'm slightly confused.... when you said, "The doctors of the faculty of theology at the University of Paris branded Joan an invoker of evil spirits, and idolator and an apostate.", is this something that happened recently?


You know what strikes me the most about stories like these? I mean, aside from the tragic nature of the situation and the foolishness of people, of course. Back then, the population was a fraction of what it was now and there were no quick forms of communication.... *and yet* the government and the church seemed to have a greater hold on it's people than most governments do today. Currently, my parents live right down the block from a Catholic church, and have never even seen the priests who work there, let alone have anyone nosing into their business. It amazes me how little privacy people had back then; the church knew every detail of their lives! Sometimes I feel like we actually have more privacy now in this digital age than our ancestors enjoyed. Yes, in Joan's case she did a lot of things to bring attention to herself, but there are plenty of other stories I've heard, too, about how utterly controlling the powers-that-be were back then. Some people have such a romantic view of this time period, but I'd take modern life's issues any day over dealing with the craziness of the 15th century.

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It amazes me how little privacy people had back then; the church knew every detail of their lives! Sometimes I feel like we actually have more privacy now in this digital age than our ancestors enjoyed.


It is still this way in many fundamentalist communities that are against technology. I grew up in a a religious fundamentalist environment where TV, Internet, and pretty much all other digital communication were not allowed, and members were not permitted to associate with people outside of their particular church. There was 0 privacy among the congregation, everybody knew everything about everyone, and anyone who managed to maintain privacy was always under suspicion of evil-doing. :rolleyes: One of the oddest things to me after leaving home was realizing how little people nose into each others business out in 'normal' society. lol




I've never studied Joan of Arc in depth, this has me curious though. Thanks A!

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Joan was never a witch, she was heretical in her claims of knowledge from divine sources and embarressed a fair few church officials if I remember right, the fact a strange girl from a backwater village could outshine them so much was a threat and could set a dangerous trend.


She was also declared innocent of her crimes in 1456 in a posthumous retrial and canonised in the 1920s (1920 itself?) I didn't think the evil heretic picture of her was still bandied about much.

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Hi, thankyou for posting this Anjeaunot.


I have read that the original black and white film made in 1928, The Passion of Joan of Arc, was based almost entirely on the original transcripts from her trial. Wikipedia sort of cite this but at the moment I can't find the source I found stating this.


If anyone is interested you can see this film on youtube, although its in french it does have subtitles. I found it very very sad.





Edited by Elvira
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