This is from the (unpublished) novel, The Chateaudun Chronicles, The Story Of Joan of Arc, by Virginia Frohlick, edited by Carlyn Voss Iuzzolino. Copyrighted 1997. All rights reserved.
NOTES FROM MY SECOND TRIP TO JOAN OF ARC COUNTRY
APRIL 21, 1994..DOMREMY: We left Orleans to journey to Domremy. On our way we stopped off at Gien and saw the bridge Joan crossed over to enter loyal territory. We went on to Auxerre and visited the cathedral where Saint Joan prayed during her journey to Chinon. Also we saw a clock tower gate that she could have passed through.
I was planing to stop at Neufchateau but could not find a hotel, so we went on to Domremy. Found something new in Domremy. A couple had opened up a private museum to Saint Joan. They have a lot of very nice items: posters, statues, medals and all kinds of things that I would love to have for my museum! I enjoyed going through their museum. We will explore this area more thoroughly tomorrow!
APRIL 22, 1994..DOMREMY: We went to Neufchateau to see Saint Christopher's Church but it was closed. (I found out when I got back home that what I wanted to see there was in Saint Nicholas' Church. O well, better luck next time!)
We went back toward Domremy and looked for the castle of the Bourlemont's. No luck there either. I was looking for the ruins of the fort that the people of Domremy used to protect their animals during the time of attack. We went on to the Basilica of Saint Joan of Arc near Domremy. There I spent a quiet lunch time with my husband, Tim. We heard and saw several low flying jet fighters go by. Tim said, "I wonder if they are getting ready for a war?" (Bosnia was a hot spot at the time.)
I answered, "I hope not Tim, because this area would get creamed! I hope there is no war for these people's sake. I would be very hard on them." After seeing the beautiful Basilica again, we traveled down the hill to Domremy to visit Saint Joan's house. I got some more of the stone dust and a little bit of wood from the window of Joan's bedroom.
From there we traveled up to Vaucouleurs. Henri Bataille no longer lives there and the lady that could speak some English and showed us around the last time was not there either, so that was disappointing. I was also disappointed because we did not get to see as much as the last time we were here. The crypt church was closed again!
The country side here is still very beautiful and peaceful. God bless them! We drove through Vouthon, the home town of Joan's mother. They have erected a new statue to her mother, in remembrance of all the mothers of France. The people of the area are collecting money in hopes of rebuilding her home and birthplace.
APRIL 24, 1994..ARRAS: Yesterday we were at Reims. I could not believe the change! Just in the past ten years, acid rain has defaced the exterior of Reims Cathedral by washing away the details from the statues! It is very disheartening to see. I enjoyed viewing the statue of Saint Joan that is located behind the main altar again. I was going to stay in Reims over night but there was nothing else of interest for me here so we traveled on to Chateau-Thierry. It was here that Saint Joan broke the sword of Saint Catherine. It was here also that the King granted her home town freedom from taxes. There wasn't much left of the castle but they had rebuilt the main entry gate to the chateau. I enjoyed walking through and exploring the castle ruins.
We drove on to Lagny, the town in which Joan prayed to God to restore a dead child to life. There is a plaque on the floor behind the main altar area, that states Joan knelt there to pray. The church holds two statues of the Blessed Mother, that Joan might have venerated. In the church yard is a nice stone statue of Saint Joan, commemorating her capture of the Burgundian Brigandine named D' Arras.
Driving on to Compiegne, we revisited all the sights that are connected with Joan's history. I tried once again to enter the church that was built over the site of her capture, but as before it was closed! We pushed on to the small town of Beaufieu - les - Fontaines. It was from this castle that Joan tried to escape by making believe she was a carpenter's assistant, holding a board on her shoulder. Unfortunately her disguise did not work and as she was about to reach the main gate, she was spotted by the castle's porter and recaptured. Unfortunately for me it was private property and I could not go any where near it.
From there we motored on to Beaurevoir. Here Joan was held for a few months until she was finally sold to the English. Joan tried to escape from this prison by jumping from her tower cell. There is only a small fraction of the castle left above ground. This structure is round and may be the remaining portion of the tower in which Joan was imprisoned. The local church has very nice stained glass windows that tell the story of Joan's imprisonment here.
APRIL 25,1994....DIEPPE: We went to the office of tourism, in the city of Arras to ask where Saint Joan was held prisoner but they did not have any information to help us. Leaving Arras we drove through the beautiful countryside to the small town of Lucheux, and the castle of Count de Saint Pol, that is located here. This castle is now a Pediatric Hospital. I tried to get to see the dungeon where Saint Joan was kept but it was closed! (Everything is closed on Monday in France!)
Tim and I climbed around the ruins for a while and then continued on to the fly speck of a place called DRUGY. The road we took first entered the town of Saint Riguier. But once there, there was no sign for Drugy. We stopped the car and stood looking around trying to decide what to do next. I was inspired to ask a postman who just happened to be walking by where Drugy was but he did not understand me. Fortunately, I had the foresight to copy a picture of the place I wanted to see. I showed him the picture and he said, AH OUI, and then proceeded to give directions in very quick French! Thank God, for Tim! Tim was able to understand what the postman was saying. Tim said, take the last right on the way out of town. That is the turn off we should take.
We did as directed and took what we thought was the last right, but NO sign for Drugy! I was driving along and I thought to myself, "I am going too far, I need to turn around." I saw an intersection coming up and decided to take it. There was no obvious sign for Drugy. As I turned the corner, Tim saw the sign for Drugy in an obscure place! I followed the road, Rue de Drugy. Coming to the end of it, I noticed a large stone farm house, that looked very old. I thought to myself, "I bet that is it." I turned around and stopped the car at the beginning of the farm road entrance. I walked down the farm road and entered the courtyard formed by all the farm buildings. The courtyard was an irregular diamond shape.
As I entered this area, a man was on his way out in his car. He stopped by me and I told him in my very bad French (still bad) that I was an American and a historian of Saint Joan. Then I showed him the picture that I had with me. He nodded his head and began to turn his car around. He went back to his home and opened a side door, waving for me to come in and see. I ran back to the car to get Tim and then hurriedly returned with Tim trailing behind. The farmer showed us his storage room that once housed Saint Joan for a night! The storage area was cold, damp and dark with only one small window, that was no more than two by two feet in size, if that large. The room was about thirty feet in diameter and about twelve feet high at the highest center point of the roof.
The man pointed out all the graffiti that in the past, the visitors had carved into the soft sandstone walls. The German, French, English and even one American soldier had carved their names into the wall. The sight of this place moved me as I was filled with grief at the thought of the great suffering Joan was forced to endure! I was also filled with amazement that she was able to endure all that she did!
As we left, Tim commented, "Isn't it amazing that we found the place? That we came across a postman and then found the turn and then found the place and then met the owner of the farm as he was on his way out. That he was kind enough to turn around and open the area up for us!" I answered, "No, it was not. Saint Joan guided us to it!" "She must have!" was his only comment. I just smiled.
From there we went on to Le Crotoy. Here we ate some local sea food, I had flounder. Tim had mussels. I had no luck in finding the area where Saint Joan was imprisoned. Not that I was not given directions. I was, but where I was told to go was a parking lot! I refused to believe that the local people would do that to a site connected with Joan, but they did! (When I got back home, I realized that I was wrong and her prison site really had been turned into a parking lot! Shame on them.)
Next we traveled to the town of Saint Vaiery that is across the sound from Le Crotoy. We found the old part of town and there was a plaque on the wall stating that Saint Joan had been imprisoned there. I did not believe it and walked up the hill a little further and found the twin towers. Now that was the place where Saint Joan had been kept! Thank you, Jo!
APRIL 26, 1994..ROUEN: We arrived in Rouen around ten in the morning. The city has grown considerably since we were there ten years ago. We walked to the old market square where Saint Joan died. I went over to the monument that covered the site of her death to kneel and pray. I asked God to allow me to grow in holiness like Saint Joan and to remain faithful to Him, no matter what persecution may come. Finally, I thanked God for allowing me to come here again and for giving me such a good friend as Saint Joan.
We walked around the old town looking at the timber homes. We walked to Saint Owen's Church cemetery where Saint Joan abjured and was sentenced to life imprisonment on bread and water. We drove to the "tower of Joan of Arc" but it was closed. I told Tim that I wanted to try to find the area where her cell was located. Tim refused to leave the car as we were illegally parked. So leaving him behind I went in search of Saint Joan's cell, where she spent most of her time and slept at night. Using a map I obtained from one of my books, I found her cell. The site of her cell is not observes as you have to go inside an office building, to find her cell. The building was built around the site of her cell! The door to the building was open and as I studied my map, I surmised that it might be the place, and it was!
You go down a hall about twelve to fifteen feet long which ends in an open area. I had found it! This space represented the internal circumference of Joan's cell. There were ten steps or so going down into an area that held a four foot diameter well. Joan's cell was SMALL, only twenty feet at most in diameter.
Can you imagine the conditions she had to endure. The bitter cold of the winter months, the dampness of the climate and the half light that came through the two slits in the wall. The stuffiness of that airless place must have been oppressive due to the lack of ventilation. Joan had been confined with in this small place, under three or four ever present foul mouthed guards!
Seeing the well made me imagine her guards tormenting her with its cold waters, by taking a bucket full of water and tossing it on her as she slept. Joan would have to remain in her soaking wet clothing that made the cold dampness of the place even worse! I can imagine her huddled into a little ball hugging her legs tightly to her body, trying desperately to retain some of her body heat as she violently shivered and her teeth chattered uncontrollably! Poor Joan, what mental and physical torments she went through! It amazes me that she was able to endure and hold up as well and for as long as she did! (When I got home I realized that Joan's cell would have been one floor above this place.)
APRIL 29, 1994..ORLEANS: We spent the morning walking around Orleans. We went to the Joan of Arc Center. Madame Regine Pernoud was no longer the acting director but had been made honorary director. However I was able to meet the new director who was kind enough to see me for a few minutes to answer my question. After lunch I returned alone to the Center to view two movies that I had not seen before, they were: Joan at the Stake and Le Debut.
Joan at the Stake was mostly in French but all the English parts were in English. I did not care for the movie because the actors and actress were stick-like and showed little or no emotion. The other movie was a Russian film called Le Debut. It was about a young woman who leaves her home to become an actress against her father's wishes. This woman's first film was Joan of Arc! The movie had four scenes that was connected with Saint Joan. I was glad I was by myself so I could fast forward through it! It was a typical Russian film, heavy, dark and morose. The woman who played the part of Joan had only a few flashes where she was believable as Joan. I found myself laughing through most of it. It was so ridiculous! Of course because it was a Russian film, when it came time for Joan to die in the flames, the actress did not call upon the name of Jesus! I also saw a 1900 French silent film about Joan that I found interesting.
I went back to the hotel room and found Tim asleep. At 8:15 P.M., Tim and I waited for the Joan of Arc Festival welcoming ceremonies to begin. I was able to walk near "Joan" for most of the procession. I kept looking up at her and smiled at her all the way. I noted once or twice that we made eye contact and she smiled back at me. The procession stopped at the Plaza Charles de Gaulle in front of the house of "Joan of Arc". It was different from ten years ago. Now, there was a narration by several different men and a woman. This year's "Joan" just sat upon her horse saying nothing as this narration explained Joan's life from Domremy up to the relief of Orleans.
There were colored lights that increased and decreased in intensity as the story was told. All the while dramatic music was being played. At the end of the narrative "Joan" saluted the military men near her. She did this by slowly drawing her sword out, raising the hilt before her eyes and then slowly lowering it down and out to the right. Finally, she replaced the sword back into its sheath and the show was over!
This year I was not able to get a picture with "Joan" and that disappointed me greatly. As I was walking along the side of "Joan," I though to myself how young she looked, like a child, and I felt the years between us coming crashing down on me. I am not as young as I use to be!
APRIL 30, 1994..CHINON: We started off the day by going to the home where Saint Joan stayed while she was in Orleans but it was still closed! We then walked to a near by church of Saint Paul. In this Church, Saint Joan prayed before the ancient statue of Our Lady of the Miracles.
We left Orleans to go to Meung, to see the bridge she captured during her Loire Campaign. Next we went to Beaugency. Here Joan and the Duke D' Alençon captured the castle. Next we stopped at Tours. There we walked through the old town looking for the area where the armorer who made Joan's armor had his shop, but we could not find it! Then we walked through the Cathedral. I thought to myself that Saint Joan would have been impressed with it. I imagined her standing in amazement with its size and beauty and how she would have thought, "This is nothing like my little church back home!"
We went through a wax museum that showed the history of the region. The timeline went from Saint Martin of Tours until the 1930's. I did not know that Saint Martin knew and met Saint Patrick, but according to this museum he did! They had a wax figure of Saint Joan's being fitted in her armor, so I had Tim take a picture of it. I hope it comes out all right. (The picture did come out well.) We traveled on to Chinon and stayed there for the night.
MAY 1, 1994..VIEZON: Today we finally were able to see went to the castle at Chinon. I enjoyed going through it. Within the past ten years they have repaired the castle greatly, but not totally. In the main entrance tower of the castle they had a small Joan of Arc museum. On the top floor in the part marked Rouen, there was a case in the middle of the small room. In this case there were two glass vials. One contained the possible charred remains of Saint Joan and the other vial contained the possible remains of the torch used to set Joan's pyre on fire. These artifacts were found at the site of Joan's death, many years after her death, so their authenticity will never be proven. I wish there were a way of proving that it was indeed Saint Joan's rib so that it could be put in a place of honor and treated with respect.
This castle was not destroyed in a war but rather the grand-nephew of Cardinal Richelieu dismantled the castle and used the stones to build his own castle in the town of Richelieu. The irony of it all is that the castle at Richelieu was totally destroyed during the French Revolution. The tour guide that I had was a young woman in her twenties. She stated that she did not believe in Joan's heavenly guidance. She said that Joan was a mystery and to believe in her voices was a matter of faith. I know exactly how Saint Joan would have answered her and all those like her. "Whether they believe me or not it does not matter! For in truth, I am sent by God and He alone directed all my tasks!" The tour guide went on to say. "Just like Christ, He lived and died that is so, but was He the SON OF GOD? That is a matter of faith alone!" It was this lack of faith, that I found distressing and depressing. Tim commented that, "This attitude will lead to the easy take over by the Anti-Christ!" I can believe that!
Next we went to Saint Catherine de Fierbois. This is the village where Saint Joan stopped to ask permission from the Dauphin to enter Chinon. While she waited, she heard three Masses there. It was here too that the sword of Saint Catherine was found behind the main altar. It was found in the ground behind the main altar and not in a little niche in the wall, as the church's plaque implied. That niche was only big enough for a pocket knife. The inn where she lodged was closed! Why am I so lucky? We pushed on to Loches.
We walked through the castle in which Saint Joan persuaded Charles to go to Reims for his coronation. Tim showed me the terrible state the sandstone was in. The stone is changing slowly into chalk! This is due to the high amount of Acid Rain that falls in France. The amount of rain is high and the content of acid in the rain is also high. Damage and decay that, in the past, took hundreds of years is now occurring within just a few! At this rate these monuments of the past will be gone within the next fifty years!
MAY 2,1994....CHATELGUYON: Next stop, the castle at Mehan-a-Yevrg. It was here that King Charles conferred upon Joan and all her family the title of Countess du Lys. The castle is now in ruins with only one tower out of the original four still standing. The castle was quite tall, about one hundred feet from the ground level to the top of the tower, and there were at least two to three stories below ground besides.
The next town we visited was Bourges. The house where she stayed, the bath house she and her hostess used, the practice field on which she demonstrated her skill and the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi are all gone! The only building that she might recognize is the cathedral that we visited.
We traveled on to the small town of Saint Pierre-le-Mouter. This town was one of the last places where Joan had a successful campaign against the enemy. The army she accompanied tried to take the place but the walls and the defenders proved too much for them. The captains gave orders for the army to retreat. When her squire did not find her back at the base camp, he went looking for her. He found her before the town walls with five men around her, still pressing the assault! Her squire told her to come away from there as the army had retired. Joan replied that she had fifty thousand men to help her! Her poor squire just scratched his head and questioned fifty thousand; I only see five? Throwing off her helmet she turned to him, ordering him to get the rest of the men to come forward with the needed equipment to scale the walls. He was about to relay her message, when the army came rushing forward with the scaling ladders and they swarmed over the walls!
Joan saw that some of the men were heading for the town's church, so she ran ahead of them and stood before the church door with sword drawn to prevent them from entering it. The Good Lord was with us today as the church was opened for us to enter, to look and to pray. Joan would be able to recognize most of the church for little has changed in the five hundred and sixty something years!
As for the town walls, only small little sections still remain. One part of the wall was in a man's backyard. I was looking through his gate at the wall when he came by and smiled at Tim and me. I told him in my poor French that I was an American and that I was a historian of Saint Joan. Well, he opened up his gate and let us inside. The walls themselves were no more than twelve feet high. The man explained that the parapets and most of the walls had been removed by the people to build their homes. There are only five towers left of the original number. He also explained that the original entry gate and road leading into the town were now occupied by homes! Do you know, somehow, I guess it was the grace of God, but I understood his explanations even though he spoke only French! I was impressed by his kindness and generosity to take the time to show us his portion of what remains of the town walls. He did not have to do it, but I am glad that he did!
We decided that we had enough time to go down to La Puy. At the beginning of Joan's mission Joan's mother traveled the three hundred miles on foot to La Pay, the important pilgrimage site, to pray for her daughter's success.
MAY 3, 1994..LE PUY: To day we explored Le Puy. We drove into the old town not knowing what to expect. What we found were teensy-weenie little streets just barely wide enough for our car! We went down one of these streets and came to a dead end! With much anxious maneuvering Tim guided me out of the narrow trap!
We drove up an extremely steep street named the Avenue of the Cathedral. Luckily we found a parking place. We took the time to explore the ancient Romanesque Cathedral of Notre-Dame. As we explored the ancient we came to a room that contained a large number of relics. Among these relics was one that claimed to be the shoe of the Virgin Mary! This cathedral contained a statue of the Black Madonna so called because the statue was carved from very dark wood. The original dated from the twelfth century, but was destroyed during the French Revolution! How I hate the French Revolution!
The next item on the agenda was the nearby tenth century chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel. This chapel crowns the narrow top of a 260 foot high volcanic core. We climbed its steep steps, all 277 of them, until we reached the chapel itself! I had to stop and rest several times along the way in order for me to reach the top. Now, you may well ask why I put myself through this? Well, in a way Saint Joan is connected with this town and especially the Cathedral and the Chapel of Saint Michael. Not that Joan was ever here but her mother and some of her friends were. They came for the important Feast that occurred in 1429, when the Fiestas of the Annunciation and Good Friday fell on the same day! As I was climbing all those steps I thought to myself that Joan's mom was a very strong and determined woman. I can see where Joan got her strength!
MAY 7, 1994..ORLEANS: Tim did not want to go out today with me and he stayed in the hotel room, so I did my exploring alone. I went to the home of Joan of Arc. There I found a very nice medallion of Saint Joan, that of course I purchased. I enjoyed going through the museum because they had improved it in the past ten years. I studied the different models of the places connected with Joan that they had so that I could improve the book that I am working on and make my descriptions more accurate.
From there I went to the City Hall where the presentation of Joan's standard was to take place. They had three bands, one from Orleans, one from Holland and the third from Romania! You know something funny? They did not have the champagne reception in the City Hall as they did the last time. No, now they had it in a much more secure place behind a ten foot tall iron gate! Did they go though such extremes just to keep me out?!
Well, it is now, 12:30 A.M. and the evening festivities are over. They were a WOW! Much better than they were ten years ago! An hour before the evening's events were to start, we had a bad rainstorm with hail, thunder and lighting, but it only lasted fifteen minutes! We left for the cathedral plaza at 8:50 P.M. We left that early so that we would get a good spot from which to take pictures. Saint Joan guided our steps and we found a spot right in front of the Cathedral on the left hand side of Rue Jehanne D' Arc. The show started at 10:00 P.M. with the three bands that had performed earlier, marching in review. Next the officials escorted the standard to before the main door of the cathedral. There was a platform with six men dressed in sixteenth century costume. A church choir sang a hymn, and a large secular choir sang three songs one of which was the song to Joan's standard.
The Mayor spoke first then the Cardinal of Lyon spoke. The "Fiest - de - ray - ristance" was the illumination of the exterior of the cathedral. What a WOW! They projected brilliant pastel colored lights onto the cathedral. This occurred at the same time music was being played. The music sounded like "New Age" Arabic style. Tim thought it might be in a Japanese New Age style.
They ended the show with the music from Night on Bald Mountain. The cathedral went all red. As the music progressed, flashes of bright white light came shooting out from the portals of the cathedral. Then the flashes of bright white light flashed throughout the cathedral! At the end of the music the bright white light crowned the top of the cathedral! As the event ended, it started to rain again. Saint Joan did a good job of keeping her celebration rain free!
MAY 8, 1994..ORLEANS: We started the day's festivities with Mass in the Cathedral. We were approached by a man who asked us for a seating card. I told him that we were Americans and that we did not have seating cards, but we wanted to attend Mass. He kindly allowed us to sit in the right arm of the cathedral. Last time we sat in the left arm. We were seated with a group of young men and women who are French Scouts. I was impressed by some of the young people's piety and reverence during Mass.
During the beginning of the Mass, I imagined Saint Joan hovering over the main altar area smiling and waving to all the people. She gave extra attention to those there who had a special devotion to her by looking directly into their eyes thus telling them, "I love you, too!" This thought brought tears to my eyes. During the consecration and after receiving Holy Communion, I noticed some of the female Scouts were crying emotionally. I thought to myself that Saint Joan must have smiled upon them too!
During the Consecration I imagined Saint Joan changing her position. She came down to the floor level to face the altar, there to venerate the Blessed Sacrament by bowing low to the ground during the elevation! After receiving Holy Communion, I thanked God for allowing me to be here again and for giving me such a good friend as Saint Joan. I also prayed that I could become holy as Saint Joan is holy, that I will have the courage and faithfulness to remain steadfast to God and His Church, no matter what persecution or trials may come along. I prayed for my family and friends. I prayed for Tim's family and friends. I prayed for the whole world, all the sick people, the dying people and the poor souls in Purgatory.
Just before three in the afternoon I positioned myself in the plaza before the cathedral. "Joan" on horseback came up the side street and waited at the corner for the parade to start. I took the opportunity to take a few close-up pictures of her. I got the opportunity to shake her hand and say the only thing that I knew how. "I am an American." She smiled at me and said something like, "That is nice, have a good day." I will never know for sure what she said. I returned to my former position to the right of the cathedral. It turned out to be a very good position as I was practically in the middle of it all!
The French Air Force flew two delta wing fighters over the city, twice. They also flew four C 180's over twice. They flew right over my head! The French Army drove by in eleven tanks, five personal carriers and a few carriers that pulled anti-aircraft cannons. There were representatives from all the different branches of the French Armed Forces. All in all it was a very nice show.
Many different bands marched by. Finally it was time for Joan to ride! With the blare of four trumpeters Joan moved forward. After Joan rode by, I decided to try to get some more pictures of "Joan" at the site of the Tourelles. But I could not get over the bridge as it was blocked by barricades. What the French authorities have done is to set barricades throughout the route of "Joan's" ride, preventing free access as they had allowed ten years ago. So I went back to my room and had dinner. Then I went out again for the closing of the ceremonies. Tim who had spent the entire afternoon in the comfort of the bed, calling me a Joan of Arc MANIAC!
I returned to the cathedral plaza, for the closing ceremonies which I had missed the last time I was here. "Joan" saluted all the dignitaries for the last time by drawing her sword slowly from its sheath and elevating the blade until the hilt was before her eyes. Then she slowly lowered it down and out to the right hand side, finally returning her sword to its sheath.
Everything is over now except for the fireworks on the bridge at 11:00 P.M. to night. I am sorry that it is over. I feel so close to Joan here. Thank you Jesus for Your love in allowing me to come here once again. I appreciate it very much.
Now to finish my entry. We just returned from the fireworks show. The show only lasted fifteen minutes but it was very nice. A good ending to a good day! Tomorrow Paris and home. I just figured out that I drove four thousand miles around France on this trip!