This is from the (unpublished) novel, The Lost Chronicles, The Story Of Joan of Arc, by Virginia Frohlick, edited by Carlyn Voss Iuzzolino. Copyrighted 1997. All rights reserved.



Hundreds of books have been written on the life of Saint Joan. Yet all have mentioned only in passing the four times in her life where she should have died but did not. The authors of the past have not examined closely nor delved into these very unusual and in my opinion, miraculous occurrences. In this chapter I would like to investigate this subject in a deeper way and show why I believe it was God's providential care that spared her life.

The first of these miraculous circumstances occurred when she received an arrow wound during the assault on the Tourelles. When the historians do mention it, they minimize the wound as being superficial in nature. They arrive at their opinion from a letter written by a Flemish diplomat, Lord de Rotslaer, on April 22, 1429, fifteen days before the event. In this letter he states that Joan had told King Charles she would be wounded by a shaft, but she would not die of it. Just because Joan said she would not die from the wound does not mean that her life was not saved by God's miraculous intervention!

The author by profession is a registered nurse. I have worked in a New York City Hospital Intensive Care Unit and have dealt with trauma cases. In this section of my book I want to demonstrate that the wound Joan received would, under normal circumstances, cause major damage to her body and would, to a high percentage, have been fatal. The fact that she was back in full armor after only a few hours' rest demonstrates that she was protected and / or healed by God's power rather than that the wound was superficial.

Before I begin my thesis, one needs to know certain background information as to what type of projectile caused her wound and in what area of her body it penetrated. First, historians are unsure as to whether Joan's wound was caused by an English Longbow arrow or a bolt from a crossbow, so I will describe both to you. Second, historians are unsure as to which side of Joan's body was injured. I will discuss the implications of a severe wound to either side of her chest area.

The direction of the projectile and weapon:

THE ENGLISH LONGBOW: The total length of an English Longbow arrow was thirty inches. The general purpose arrow head looked like an elongated diamond and was made from hardened steel. It was approximately two inches long by three fourths of an inch wide at its widest point and slightly larger than one half inch thick at the center. It could easily penetrate armor.

The English Longbow, itself, sometimes exceeded 1.8 meter or almost six feet in length. To draw the arrow back to its fullest extent the bowman had to pull on the string with the force of one hundred and ten pounds! Point blank range was considered anywhere up to one hundred and forty yards away. A long distance flight of this arrow went as far as three hundred yards and even at that distance it could penetrate armor plate and chain mail causing major injuries. The arrow left the bow at a speed of anywhere between one hundred and twenty-five (125) to one hundred and fifty (150) miles per hour and would hit the object almost at that same speed because only air friction would slow it down.

THE CROSSBOW: The bolt's total length was nine inches. The head of the crossbow bolt was made from hardened steel. In shape the point was like a four sided pyramid with curved sides that was approximately two inches long by nearly three quarters to one inch wide at the widest point. A crossbow bolt would leave the bow at a speed of approximately three hundred (300) miles per hour and could travel up to one thousand feet!

It is important to keep in mind that the object which wounded Joan could NOT have come from ground level, that is, in front of and at the same level as Joan. Why? Simply because there were NO English soldiers standing in front of her. They were all fighting from the top of the bastion, some forty feet ABOVE her. The angle of the scaling ladder was most likely at sixty degrees, according to the French historian Mr. Lucien Harmery's model.

Comparative damage caused by a projectile entering the left or right side of the chest

Because the left side of the human chest has more structures in it, (i.e.), the four chambers of the heart, the aorta, the inferior and superior vena cava, the pulmonary veins and arteries, etc., there is a greater potential for a projectile to nick or lacerate one of these structures. If that occurred, the person would go into shock and hemorrhage to death within a few minutes to a few hours.

Since most historians believe Joan's injury was not severe, the author will concentrate on the premise that her wound occurred on the right side instead of the left.

The three historical statements that describe her wound come from the testimonies of :

JOAN: "I was wounded in the throat by a crossbow bolt."

DUNOIS: "An arrow penetrated her flesh between her neck and shoulder for a depth of six inches." FATHER PASQUEREL: "She was struck... by an arrow above the breast."

Let us examine Joan's statement, "I was wounded in the throat by a crossbow bolt.

Joan was near the bottom of the scaling ladder when she was struck. At this point she was no more than forty to forty-five feet away from the archer. Because the arrow was fired from above, it would have struck her at an angle of somewhere between sixty and seventy degrees from the horizontal. The speed of the projectile was anywhere between one hundred to three hundred miles per hour. This force was transferred to Joan's body as it passed through the armor plate, chain mail, thick doublet and her flesh.

If either the English longbow arrow or the crossbow bolt had struck Joan's neck, two things would have occurred:

First, the projectile would have caused the total obliteration of either her right or left Carotid artery and Jugular Vein depending on which side it entered.

Second, it would cause the severe laceration of her trachea or wind pipe, preventing her from obtaining enough oxygen to sustain life!

In non-miraculous circumstances the person receiving a wound of this sort would hemorrhage to death within two to four minutes even with the most modern of medical techniques.

Since Joan was very ignorant, excepting in military matters, we can assume that she did not literally mean her neck, that is, the part of her body which connects the head to the shoulders. Rather she probably meant the area of the body which is called the Supraclavicular Area. This is the bilateral, triangular shaped area that transitions the neck into the shoulder.

Differences in anatomy between a man and a woman

Compared to men, women have less muscle mass and their organs are closer together. Because of this, there is a greater potential for severe damage to a woman's internal organs than to a man's. This statement is true even for women who have done hard, long term physical work as in the case of Joan.

In a male the Supraclavicular Area is three inches thick. The height as measured from the clavicle to the top of the area is two and a half inches, while the length is four inches. In a female the Supraclavicular Area is two to two and a half inches thick. The height as measured from the clavicle to the top of the area is only one and a half inches, while the length is only two inches.

Dunois' testimony, "An arrow penetrated her flesh between her neck and shoulder for a depth of six inches."

Several historians have interpreted this statement to mean that the projectile pierced through the Supraclavicular Area and the end of the projectile projected out her back for six inches. For this to happen with only the Trapezius muscle being lacerated, the projectile must have been fired in front of and perpendicular to Joan. As I have already demonstrated, this would have been impossible since the English were firing down at her from above.

There is an English historian who believes the projectile penetrated only her Trapezius. For this theory to work, the projectile would have to enter Joan's body at the top of the Supraclavicular Area and traveled through her Trapezius muscles to exit out her back. In this historian's assessment her wound was, "nasty... but definitely not fatal."

This seems credible until one inspects the female anatomy. In women these muscles are not as massive or as thick as they are in men. This leaves very little room for the three quarters to an inch thick projectile to travel through just the Trapezius muscle without causing damage to the surrounding bodily structures. Therefore I believe this scenario is implausible!

I interpret Dunois statement, "penetrated her flesh... for a depth of six inches" to mean the arrow head and its shaft entered Joan's body, penetrating into it for a distance of six inches, and did not reemerge out her back.

Let us explore the possibility that the projectile had entered the Supraclavicular Area at the angle between sixty and seventy degrees from the horizontal. What would happen to her body?

First, the Trapezius and Rhomboideus muscles would have been lacerated.

Second, there is an eighty to ninety percent chance that the three major nerves that travel through this area of the body would be lacerated or completely severed. If that had occurred, the upper portion of her chest, her shoulder and the upper part of her arm would have been paralyzed.

Third, there is also an eighty to ninety percent chance that the projectile would have fractured her clavicle and / or first and second ribs, as well as fracturing the top portion of her Scapular called the Fossa, better known as the 'wing' bone.

Fourth, the Subclavian artery and vein are both one half inch in diameter and together they occupy an area of one inch by half an inch, leaving an eighty to ninety percent chance of laceration. If that had occurred, Joan would have hemorrhaged to death in five minutes!

Fifth, there is an eighty to ninety percent chance that the projectile would have penetrated and lacerated her lung. If this had occurred on the right side, it would have caused approximately one third of her lung to collapse since there are three lobes to this lung.

Consider the lung tissue itself. If air gets into the chest cavity by entering through an abnormal hole in the chest wall, the lung tissue will collapse upon itself. The lung tissue will also collapse if blood enters the lung cavity. The collapse of the lung is life-threatening because the damaged part can no longer function, thus decreasing the amount of oxygen the body can obtain from the other functioning lobes. Despite bleeding heavily from her wound, the testimonies never mentioned that Joan experienced any difficulty breathing.

Finally let us examine Father Pasquerel's testimony, "She was struck... by an arrow above the breast." Dunois statement implied that the arrow entered ABOVE the clavicle while Father Pasquerel's statement implies that the arrow entered BELOW the clavicle. Before the advent of modern vascular surgery, an arrow entering the body, in an area below the bone called the clavicle, would have had an eighty to ninety percent chance of causing a fatal wound. This would be due to the damage done to the major blood vessels and to the lung tissues that are located there.

First, the projectile would have passed through her pectoralis muscle, punching out the muscle tissue equal to its area. The radiating damage of severely bruised and bleeding muscle tissue would have extended for an additional one inch around the arrow head.

Second, the projectile would have had an 80 -90 % chance of causing major damage to her body by fracturing of the first and / or second ribs.

Third, the projectile would have had an 80 -90 %, chance of perforating the Subclavian artery and vein which are the major blood vessels supplying blood to the lung, upper chest and right arm.

Fourth, the projectile would have had an 80 -90 %, chance of penetrating the lung itself causing the collapse of that portion of her lung.

In summary: No matter which scenario was true, the wound she sustained was life threatening. She would have had fractures to her clavicle, first and second ribs and the fossa of the scapula, a fatal hemorrhage, paralysis of her shoulder and arm, and / or a collapsed lung. However, the testimony of the eyewitnesses say the day Joan received the wound she returned to her work after only one or two hours of rest! The next day, Joan dressed in a light coat of chain mail. Other than this concession to her wound she did not stop riding, wearing armor or doing the work that God gave her! Thus I believe it was the Hand of God that sustained and protected her from the consequences of her wound!

The second miraculous incident occurred during the battle for Jargeau. Joan was just starting to climb the scaling ladder that was placed against the town's wall when a stone was hurled down from its heights. It struck her with such force that the stone shattered upon impact against her light steel helmet and she fell stunned to the ground. The eyewitnesses thought she had been crushed by the blow. After only a moment or two, Joan was back on her feet climbing the ladder as if nothing had happened, all the while vigorously cheering her men on to victory.

The helmet she wore looked like a skull-cap, without visor or gorget. A gorget was the armor plate that was worn around the chin and neck. The purpose of the gorget was to protect the neck and shoulders from projectiles and to transfer the force of a downward blow over a wide area.

The force necessary to shatter a heavy stone would easily have caused several severe injuries to Joan's head and neck.

First, there is a high probability that the force would have crushed her 'skull' or cranium.

Second, there is a high probability that the force would have severely fractured her cranium causing a brain contusion or bleeding within the skull. Because the cranium is an enclosed space, bleeding within it can easily cause brain damage that would lead to paralysis or even death.

Third, since Joan did not use a gorget, there is a high probability that the force was transferred directly to her neck. This would have easily caused fractures of her cervical vertebrae, in other words a broken neck. This condition, if not fatal, would cause paralysis of her body from the neck down. Yet she was stunned only for a moment.

The third miraculous incident occurred during the attack on Paris. In this battle her thigh was pierced by a crossbow bolt. As previously described, the bolt from a crossbow leaves the bow at a speed of three hundred miles per hour and can travel up to a distance one thousand feet! Joan was about one hundred and ten feet from the archer when she was hit.

According to the Burgundian chronicler Bourgeois of Paris, Joan's leg was transpierced. Trans, which means to go through and the word pierce means to cut or pass through with a sharp instrument. The term used today is through-and-through. Therefore the chronicler was saying that the bolt went through Joan's thigh!

Joan was standing at the edge of the moat checking its depth when she was hit. It is therefore reasonable to believe that Joan was facing in a forward direction toward the defensive wall of Paris.

There are two important facts that the reader needs to keep in mind about the thigh region of the leg. First, generally speaking, the diameter of a woman's thigh is smaller than a man's.

Second, there are major anatomical structures that go through the thigh. They are as follows: The inner or thicker portion of the thigh in women measures from four to five inches and is made up of the Adductor longus, Sartorius and Vastus medialis muscles. In this area is also located the femoral artery, vein and nerve as well as thigh bone or femur. These major structures are located in the outer or thinner part of the thigh. In women this area measures from three to four inches thick and is made up of the Rectus femoris and Vastus lateralis muscles.

What damage could a three quarters to one inch wide diameter projectile cause as it enters the thigh at a speed of three hundred miles an hour?

First, the severe laceration and bruising of the muscles the projectile passed through.

Second, there is a high probability that the femur could have been struck, shattering the bone.

Third, there was a high probability that her femoral nerve could have been cut. If that had occurred Joan's leg would have been permanently paralyzed.

Fourth, there was a high probability that the bolt would have caused a fatal hemorrhage by lacerating her femoral artery and / or vein.

Fifth, at the very least, there is a high probability that the bolt would have caused a serious infection, called sepsis. The bolts used at the time were not clean when they were fired. Joan could have easily died a slow and very painful death from the ensuing infection.

The fourth and final example of God's protection occurred when Joan jumped from the Beaurevoir Tower. Historians believe this tower, when it existed, was approximately 60 to 80 feet in height. The guards found her unconscious on the rocky ground. Because she was unconscious for a time, the historians believe, rightly, that she must have sustained a concussion. Yet the evidence shows that she sustained NO OTHER INJURIES and was completely well within a few days.

Many people who have jumped from far lesser heights have been killed and those who survived the fall have suffered crippling injuries. For example a fall from a height of one story could easily cause a broken foot, leg, arm or pelvis as well as internal bleeding.

Using the calculus equation of : V= SQRT(2gs) ; where, g = 32 ft/sec and s = distance any where from 64 to 81 feet, (SQRT 64 x 64) = 64 ft/sec = 44 mi/hr, SQRT(64 x 81) = 72 ft/sec = 49 mi/hr) we arrive at an approximate speed of between 44 to 49 mi/hr when her body hit the hard rocky ground. What damage could that have caused? Quite a bit! Surely God's protective hand was upon her.

UP ARROW Index LEFT ARROW Previous Question RIGHT ARROW Next Question
This web page is being maintained by The Saint Joan of Arc Center