The Rehabilitation


Charles VII entered Rouen on the 20th of November, 1449. Victory had made him grateful, or made him believe more firmly in Joan of Arc. On February 15th of the following year, he appointed a commission to review and annul Joan's trial, now nearly nineteen years after her death. In 1451 Cardinal d’Estouteville, sent as Legate by Pope Nicolas V to repair the evils of war and schism, and to unite England, France, and Savoy against the Turks, who were then threatening Constantinople, took up the work in the name of the Church. His examination of witnesses began at Rouen, as did that of Charles VII. Five years after, Pope Callixtus III appointed, at the petition of Joan’s family, the commission to which is due her second trial of Rehabilitation. (Now called "The Trial of Nullification" VF)

Her father and oldest brother were dead. Her mother was living at Orleans, supported by the city. Near her was her second son, Pierre, who had been captured with Joan and wasx long a prisoner. The Duke of Orleans gave him as his property the Ile-aux-Boeufs, near


Orleans in the Loire. John, his younger brother, and fellow-soldier, was provost of Vaucouleurs. A worthier Archbishop of Reims, Jean Juvenal des Ursine, was made President of the commission, with two delegates, Guillaume Chartier, Bishop of Paris, and Richard Olivier, Bishop of Coutances. Evidence was taken in Domremy, Vaucouleurs, Rouen, Paris, and Orleans, for this justification of the name and fame of the Maid; and some of the most eminent ecclesiastics of the time were engaged in it.

It was a strict and formal process of law. On November 7th, Joan's aged mother and her two brothers presented themselves in mourning in the cathedral of Notre Dame at Paris. Great ladies gathered round the mother, broken with years and sorrow; and the highest nobles of France encircled her sons. A large and brilliant body of ecclesiastics accompanied the archbishop of Reims and Jean Brehal, the Inquisitor. The mother and sons knelt in tears before the Prelates, and read with sobs the Pontifical Rescript addressed to them. The emotion in the church spread quickly to the multitude outside, so that the commission was obliged to hold its session in the sacristy.

On the 17th of November, the formal work of the commission was opened. The University of Paris sent its advocate, the famous Mangier, to induce the commission to confine its indictment to the two judges of Joan and the promoter. The Bishop who condemned her


was dead. Whether his associate, Lemaitre, was alive or not, no one seemed to know. Estivet had long gone to his account. It was a time of amnesty; and the University recreants, as well, as others, were shielded.

The commission proceeded to hold sessions in Rouen with the utmost publicity and solemnity. Then appeared the heirs of Bishop Cauchon; not to defend his memory, but to safeguard their inheritance. The witnesses, many, of whom had not been guiltless in Joan's first trial, now condemned it unconditionally. Times had changed, and allegiance with them; and the lavish English expenditure of money, which played so decisive a part in throwing Joan into the flames, had long since ceased.

No trace could be discovered of the information taken at Domremy by order of Bishop Cauchon; so they were now taken anew by the Papal commission. Old friends of Joan reappeared. Her godmothers and godfathers, her companions, priests who had known her, Laxart her uncle, nobles of her neighborhood, John de Metz, who had been made by Charles VII Lord of Novelomport, and Bertrand de Poulengy, her guide through France. Depositions at Orleans and Paris recall the triumphant career of the Maid. D 'Aulon, her noble guardian, was heard at Lyons. Pasquerel, her confessor; Louis Coutes, her page; Dunois the brave; Gaucourt and other companions in arms and victory; and noble d’Alencon, her commander –in –chief.


The history of Joan's passion and martyrdom are due entirely to the Pontifical commission. Here we have the invaluable testimony of Manchon, Massieu, Ladvenu, and La Pierre. Even Courcelles testified at Paris, although his memory, like his conscience, failed him sadly. In all, one hundred and twenty-one witnesses contributed to paint the chaste and peerless picture of the Maid.

The sentence of Rehabilitation was pronounced on July 7th, 1456; first before a small audience in the great hall of the archiepiscopal residence at Rouen; and immediately after, with splendor in the cemetery; and on the morrow, the 8th, with like pomp in the old market place. It "annulled the process of condemnation, the abjuration, the sentence, and all the effects that followed therefrom"; and restored the name and fame of the dead Joan, to be worshiped through the years. On the 20th of July it was promulgated in Orleans; and both cities erected monuments to the heroine. These were wrecked by the Huguenots and by the revolutionists of 1789.