TRIAL AND DEATH
THE trial of Joan of Arc at Rouen consisted, strictly speaking, of two trials: the Causa Lapsus, or investigation of the alleged crime, which began January 9, 1431, and ended with the so-called abjuration on May 24; and the much shorter Causa Relapsus, lasting from May 28 till May 31, which had merely to ascertain that the accused had violated, by word and deed, the engagements she was supposed to have assumed at the abjuration, and then to hand her over to the secular power for execution.
The Causa Lapsus was moreover, itself divided into two parts. First came the Processus ex Officio, a preparatory procedure conducted by Bishop Cauchon, with the reluctant and purely formal assistance, from March 13 to 26, of the Vice-Inquisitor for the Rouen archdiocese, Brother John Lemaitre. In this process a prima facie case against the accused was established, based on information collected for the purpose, and on her replies to questions asked her. Six interrogatory sessions were held in public, after which Cauchon decided to hold them in the presence of one or both judges and a few assessors only. There were nine such private sessions.
The second process, called the Processus Ordinarius, was in charge of the Promoter or Prosecutor d'Estivet, and lasted from March 27 to May 24. In this process charges against Joan were formulated in seventy articles, and read to the accused, who was "interpellated" concerning them. These articles were then boiled down to twelve by the assessor Nicholas Midi, discussed, condemned by numerous assessors, and submitted to the Paris faculties of Theology and of Canon Law, as also to certain eminent theologians in Normandy.
In the articles, Joan is never named, but is simply "a woman," while Charles VII is "a certain secular prince" or "her prince." The contending parties in the war are referred to once or twice, but no place is mentioned except, curiously enough, Compiegne. The only persons named are the saints. So that the general effect is almost that of a hypothetical "casus." Joan's assertions are summarized so as to make them appear in the most unfavorable light possible her subsequent explanations and denials, often luminous in their piety and sound common sense, are ignored. The articles are far from succinct, for there is much overlapping, including repeated stress on Joan's conviction that her voices brought revelations from God, to be believed with the certainty of faith.
The substances of the articles is as follows:
I. The woman claims to have had, often under circumstances savoring of superstition, corporal visions of saints, who imposed on her a mission to a prince, that he might regain his kingdom. She says she is God's envoy and will how to no man's judgment. (Besides matter repeated in the following articles.)
II. She convinced her prince by showing, as a sign, an angel bringing him a crown. (See Chapter 15.)
III. She is certain with the certainty of faith that it is St. Michael, St. Margaret, and St. Catherine who appear to her.
IV. She prophesies from her revelations that she will be delivered and that she will lead the French to military exploits of unexampled greatness; and states that she foretold where a hidden sword would he found.
V. By God's command, she says, she wears men's clothing, and nothing short of His command will make her abandon it.
VI. She has used the names of Jesus and Mary, and a cross, on her letters.
VII. Urged by her visions, she went at seventeen, against her parents' will, to find a knight, who took her to her prince, to whom she promised victory if he accepted her.
VIII. Preferring death to captivity, she leaped from a high tower, against her saints' advice. She admits that she thus sinned gravely but claims to have been forgiven by confession.
IX. She is certain of salvation if she preserves her virginity.
X. She knows from her saints, who speak to her in French, since they are not of the English party, that God loves certain persons more than she does. She has ceased to love the Burgundians, since her saints are on the other side.
XI. She has bowed down to her saints, touched them, and embraced them. She has never consulted a priest in the matter; and professes that she would have been well able to detect an evil spirit.
XII. Though frequently admonished, she refuses to submit her claims to the Church militant, especially in matters of faith.
The University lost no time in returning these articles with various condemnatory judgments by the faculties. These having been officially reported by Cauchon to the assessors, all present concurred in the Paris decisions, and concluded that a verdict should be delivered. The abjuration, which will be discussed later, took place during the reading of the sentence on lay 24.
The important role of the three greffiers or recorders has been dealt with in Chapter 1.
The "assessors," whose function was purely consultative, consisted of more than sixty theologians and canonists, led by six especially famous ones from Paris, who were, incidentally, well paid by the English for their pains. Other assessors included twenty-one canons of the Rouen chapter (nine more took no part, and may have declined too), ten abbots or priors from the religious houses of Normandy, and a crowd of younger doctors, licentiates, and bachelors. The number present at public sessions, or taking part in deliberations, varied consider-ably. Less than half were much more active than the rest.
Was pressure brought to bear on them? In the vast majority of cases this was certainly unnecessary, for caution counseled silence where agreement was less than complete. Yet Cauchon was bent on Joan's destruction at all costs, and perfectly capable of resorting to threats, imprisonment, and so forth, in cases when it might be necessary to preserve the legal facade of his "beau prods." Several witnesses at the rehabilitation say that he did, with circumstantial details. Some historians hold that their testimony is exaggerated. It is hardly reasonable, however, to doubt the statement of Nicholas de Houppeville, summoned as an assessor, that he was imprisoned by Cauchon for criticizing the trial. It also seems probable that a certain John Lohier suffered because of his critical attitude.
Certain Norman bishops acted as consultors without taking part in the trial. Their lordships of Lisieux and Coustances concurred emphatically in the condemnation' but the aged and saintly Bishop of Avranches, according to Isambard de la Pierre, an assessor, refused to take part, saying that the matter was one for the Pope and the General Council. He was threatened by the prosecutor. The three remaining bishops were absent from their sees, one of them with Charles VII.
A brief mention of the state of the contemporary Church should help toward a better understanding of the trial. From 1378 to 1417 there had been two and then three rival claimants for the papal throne. The election of Martin V in the latter year, when Joan was five years old, left the need for reform unremedied and failed to reconcile those rival theories of Church government, monarchial and conciliar, which were struggling for the control of Christendom.
Martin died in February 1431, soon after the Maid's trial began. Eugene IV, his successor, whatever rumors he may have heard of Joan, was at no time officially notified of her trial, though she appealed to him, as we shall see. The effect of action by Rome, had such been at-tempted, is in any case highly doubtful. For the University of Paris was the very spearhead of the party which held the superiority of a General Council to the Pope. It is not surprising, therefore, to find several of the Paris theologians hurrying from Rouen to the Council of Basle, which had begun its long and tumultuous activity, legally at least, during Joan's trial, though it did not really commence to function till the following December. Courcelles, afterward editor of Cauchon's official account of the Rouen proceedings, was particularly prominent at Basle, following the Council into its schism by separating itself from Eugene IV, whom it "deposed," and support-mg for a time the anti-Pope Felix V.
Yet it is quite erroneous to regard opposition to full papal supremacy as a special tendency of Joan's enemies as some have argued. Rather was it the doctrine of the whole "Gallican" Church, led by the University of Paris. It was shared by the prelates of Joan's party, notably Gelu and Gerson, and thoroughly supported by Charles VII. It lasted for centuries after English domination was a thing of the past.
One notes with interest that some of the assessors who had been most anxious to serve English interests at Rouen by their hostility to Joan, for instance, Courcelles and Midi, found no difficulty in reconciling themselves to Charles VII when that became necessary. Midi welcomed the King in 1436, with a long discourse on behalf of the University, while Courcelles preached his funeral sermon in 1461.