On this day the English burned the 19-year-old St. Joan of Arc at the stake for alleged heresy.
The motivation for the English to convict and eliminate her was her support to the French King Charles VII, whom she helped return to the throne. It was, in fact, the time of the Hundred Years’ War, in which the English almost managed to conquer the whole of France.
The heroic struggle of St. Joan of Arc, which greatly inspired the French troops, practically allowed France to rise from the ashes. However, in one of the battles Joan was captured and fell into the hands of her opponents, the English.
They construed an ecclesiastical trial, led by the pro-English Bishop of Beauvais.
This trial is one of the most famous in all of recorded history, and it left a testament to her strong character and resourcefulness. For example, when the prosecution asked if she thought that she is in the grace of God, she replied: “If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me,” thus avoiding the trap that they wanted to put her in.
Namely, no one can know with certainty if one is in God’s grace, so by claiming that, she would have been blamed for heresy. On the other hand, had she said that she is not in God’s grace, it would have been a confession of her guilt.
One of the strongest points of the indictment against her was the fact that she wore men’s clothing. The court, after a lengthy process, convicted her for heresy and ordered for her to be burned at the stake.
On this day she was bound to a stake on a square in Rouen, the capital of Normandy. She asked two priests to hold a crucifix before her. One farmer made a cross, which she put on her dress. They lit a fire. After she died and burned, her body was removed from the ashes to see had she escaped.
Then the body was burned twice again, so no relics would remain. The ashes were thrown into the river Seine. The executioner, Geoffroy Therage, later said he greatly feared he would be damned for that offense.
Twenty-five years after the execution, the Inquisition Court, with the approval of Pope Calixtus III, initiated an investigation of her conviction. Joan was exonerated of any guilt. The retrial was conducted at the request of Inquisitor-General Jean Bréhal.
It was decided that Joan’s dressing in men’s clothes was not without reason and therefore was not contrary to religious laws. In the year 1920, Joan of Arc was declared a saint by the Catholic Church.