The Joan of Arc Trial 1431
Jeanne d’Arc (1412–1431), Pierre Cauchon (1371–1442), Callixtus III (1378–1458)
Jeanne d’Arc claimed to have received visions of saints when she was twelve years old, encouraging her to help put an end to the horrific Hundred Years’ War that had already been raging for decades between Plantagenet England and Valois France for hereditary control of the latter realm. She began campaigning for a military position when she was sixteen years old. Her leadership on the battlefield is unknown in the historical record, but her dramatic presence helped the French turn the tide of the fight in their favor.
Despite this, a succession of military setbacks led to her capture and trial for heresy in Rouen, France, by an English-supported church led by Pierre Cauchon, the bishop of Beauvais. Because of her male traits and defiant refusal to answer inquiries, church investigators suspected Joan of being a witch or sorceress during her trial. Despite the lack of evidence, Joan’s brief recollections of her visions and her aversion to wearing women’s clothing — most likely to prevent being raped in prison — were enough to persuade Church officials that she had an immoral nature.
Her trial had a number of legal flaws: She had to deal with a skewed court that was holding a private trial. She was never informed of the charges leveled against her, and she was never confronted with the opposing testimonies. She was refused the chance to call her own witnesses or hire a lawyer for her defense, and she was also denied the right to appeal.
On May 30, 1431, she was sentenced to death and burned at the stake for violating Deuteronomy 22:5, which states, “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man… for those who do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.” Following calls to overturn the verdict, Pope Callixtus III ordered a second trial a quarter-century later. In the end, the Church admitted its failure, and an ecclesiastical court in 1456 ruled her innocent based on the same evidence that had led to her execution. In 1920, Pope Benedict XV declared her a saint.
The Law Book: From Hammurabi to the International Criminal Court, 250 Milestones in the History of Law (Sterling Milestones) Hardcover – Illustrated, 22 Oct. 2015, English edition by Michael H. Roffer (Autor)