The Sentence and Execution
0N May 29th Bishop Cauchon convoked forty-one graduates in theology or law in the chapel of the archiepiscopal residence. They came to judge the accused in her absence! The judge reviewed the work of "the worthy mother, the University of Paris," and the others in the trial, and described Joan's "immovable constancy in her damnable resolve." Then he tells the story of the abjuration and relapse in his own sense in a manner utterly unjust to Joan and false in fact. The opinion of those present being asked, Gilles Duremort, Abbot of Fecamp, recommended that the abjuration be again read and explained to Joan (a thing very significant) and an effort be made to make her repent. If she did not, then she might be handed over to the civil authority with a recommendation for mercy. Thirty-eight out of the forty-one assessors adopted the view of the abbot. On the following morning, since she could not before, Joan protested against the sentence. Tiphaine is set down as giving his vote, although he himself denied it afterwards, or said he remembered nothing of it.
Joan was summoned to appear on May 30th, the eve of the feast of the Blessed Sacrament, at eight o'clock m. the morning, in the old market place to hear her sentence. There was an early call at her prison. Between six and seven, John Toutmouille and Martin Ladvenu, Dominican priests, were sent to announce to Joan the bitter death she should that day undergo. She burst into piteous tears, abandoned herself to uncontrollable emotion, and began to tear her hair. "Will they treat me so horribly?" she sobbed. "And must my body which has never been violated be burned to ashes?" In the midst of her agonized sobbing, she continued, "I would prefer to be beheaded seven times than to be burned so." She lamented most sorrowfully over all the wrong that had been done her; and as Cauchon entered, she exclaimed, "Bishop, I die through you." He was unabashed, and went on persuading her to repent. In her unrestrained anguish, she appealed to God against him.
In what are called posthumous information, we have various baseless stories of Joan's last hours. These are unsigned documents, inserted at .the end of the official Process, and intended to lessen the guilt of Cauchon and his associates. In these it is made to appear that Joan, after condemnation, declared that her Voices had deceived her. The posthumous information, are of absolutely no value, and are condemned as such in the Rehabilitation trial.
They contradict the sworn testimony of the witnesses to whom they are attributed.
Ladvenu heard Joan's confession on that last morning of her life; and, in palpable selfstultification, Bishop Cauchon allowed Holy Communion to this relapsed and condemned heretic! The Blessed Sacrament was, it seems, to be brought, by another self-stultification, without stole or lights. At which Brother Martin Ladvenu was indignant, and sent for a stole and lights. Joan received Holy Communion with intense devotion and "a torrent of tears." After this the good friar remained with her to the end.
Taquel, the notary, tells that Joan, on that morning of Communion, poured out her heart in such prayer to God, Our Lady, and the Saints, that even Loyseleur, amongst others, wept. As he went out, it is said, he was in danger of being slain by the English soldiers.
Joan passed out of the castle gate; and in the midst of eight hundred English men-at-arms (according to Massieu), bearing axes and swords, proceeded to the place of execution. She wore the dress of her sex, and on her head a miter of mockery, or fool's cap, ornamented with the legend, "Joan, who called herself the Pucelle, liar, dissolute, idolator, heretic," and other such fair words. A countless multitude. (innombrable) had gathered from all the neighboring country, says the bishop of Lisieu, and covered the roofs of the houses.
On the way, Joan "made such pious lamentation," Massieu relates, "that Brother Martin could not restrain his tears. She recommended her soul to God and the Saints so devoutly, that all who heard her wept."
The official account says that the judges were in the market place, near the Church of St. Savior, about nine o'clock. There were present with Bishop Cauchon two other bishops, de Luxembourg and de Mailly, with many other churchmen. Three stages had been erected—one for the judges, one for the prelates, and the fatal third for the wood to burn Joan. She was first made to ascend a scaffold, or elevated Stage, in sight of all; and, "for her salutary warning and for the edification of the people, a solemn sermon was delivered by the distinguished doctor in theology, Nicolas Midi." He took his text from I Cor. xii, "If one member suffer anything, all the others suffer with it." Joan listened calmly to the discourse and the sentence. In this Cauchon accuses her of all crimes, possible and impossible, mentioned before; especially of pretended repentance and relapse. And "in the name of the Lord, amen," he declares her a heretic, and cuts her off from the Church as a rotten member, and hands her over to the civil power.
After the sentence, Joan gave way again to an agony of grief. She lamented and prayed. Touchingly loyal to the last she said, that whether her works were good or evil, her king was not to blame.
She denied that she was a heretic or schismatic; and she maintained the truth of her revelations to the last. Bishop de Mailly withdrew, in order not to see her die. As he went away, he saw many persons in tears. Ladvenu said that nearly all who saw her wept.
The sentence pronounced, Joan descended from the stage on which she had been placed; and without any sentence having been pronounced by the civil authority she was led to the executioner, who received the brief command, "Do thy duty." Miget states that several English men-at-arms seized her, and led her, "with fury" to the pyre. The executioner told of the cruel binding to the stake on the plaster platform, which was so high that the flames hardly reached it; and this moved the rough man to much pity for Joan. She knelt, and with tears begged pardon of all, and uttered her forgiveness for those who were guilty of her death. She prayed much—for half an hour, it is said—with indescribable devotion. Of the priests she begged Masses for the repose of her soul. An English soldier, hearing her ask for a crucifix, made a cross of a piece of wood, and handed it to her. She pressed it most devoutly to her heart; but begged La Pierre to bring a crucifix from the neighboring church. This she embraced long, until they bound her. Then as the fire rose up, she bade the priest go down from the platform, and begged him to hold up the crucifix straight before her eyes until she died.
She invoked her beloved Saints, and especially St. Michael, who had been her life-long friends, and who had promised to lead her to Heaven from her victory of fire. They, who had come every day in her need, were with her now in the torturing flame, and quickly made her exult with triumph in the fiercest of all her battles.
The English were growing harshly impatient for Joan's death and their own dinner. As Massieu was consoling her in her last agony, some of their captains cried out, "Priest, do you mean to have us dine here?" Some of them laughed at the death scene; but many of them also wept. As the flames ascended. Joan never ceased to call aloud to "her Lord" and her Saints. At last, as she bowed her head, and yielded up her pure soul to God, the sacred name of Jesus, uttered in a loud voice, was the last word on her lips. When the body was consumed, the English ordered the executioner to Scatter the fire, so that the crowd could see where the ashes lay. And La Pierre deposed that this man, almost immediately after the execution, came to him and Ladvenu as if in despair. He told them that notwithstanding the oil, charcoal, and sulfur, thrown on them, the entrails and heart of Joan could not be burned —which he regarded as an evident miracle. He told another the heart was quite intact and full of blood. But he was ordered to gather up the ashes, and with the heart and entrails throw them into the
Seine. It was the last insult to one of the bravest, purest, noblest, that ever breathed our mortal air.