The story of Joan of Arc, the peasant girl whose religious visions altered the history of France, has been told often. And like so many stories in history, things do not end well for Joan. On May 30, 1431, after a lengthy and highly unusual trial process, Joan is bound to a wooden stake in the market square of Rouen. High above a crowd of spectators, crying “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” she is consumed by flames.
What is remarkable about the trial of Joan of Arc, especially for a Medieval trial, is how thoroughly documented it is. Through Joan’s own words, and the pointed questions of her accusers, history comes alive as it never could for any other trial now nearly 700 years in the past.
We could begin our story in the village of Domremy, France, where Joan, in her father’s garden at the age of 13, Joan saw a light and first heard the voice of an angel. But instead, following the lead of Helen Castor in her fine book, Joan of Arc: A History, we will begin a decade earlier, in 1415... Continued