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THE BIRTH & LIFE OF JEHANNE D'ARC

heroine Joan of Arc, was born on January 6, 1412, just as the medieval Christmas season was ending, in the little village of St. Domremy, in Barrois, on the border between Champaigne and Lorraine in that area now known as Lorraine. An unstable truce existed at this time between England and France, when the infant daughter, the youngest of five children; was born to Jacques and Isabelle Romee D'Arc, who were prosperous peasants of the region. The baby was christened "Jehanne" (Joan) D'Arc, but called herself Jeanne la Pucelle, "The maid of Orlean."

The King of England laid claim to the French crown, by inheritance through a female progenitor, a law the French did not recognize. France at this time, was in a state of despair, fearing that the English would invade France. The Hundred Years War had continued for nearly a century, and there was little hope that the bloodshed would cease, short of a miracle from God.

Jacques, Jehanne's papa, was a peasant farmer. Her father had a dream of her travelling with an army, and thought her a camp follower, and told her brothers to drown her should it come to pass. As Jehanne grew, she was a shepherdess to the family's flock of sheep,. worked also in the field, handling the pitchfork and the scythe, as readily as any, helping out responsibly with family chores, and during work, she would often kneel and pray. When she was growing up, she shared a room in the family home with her sister Catherine. She learned the traditional skills of sewing, and spinning from her mother, but she was never taught to read or to write.

Those who knew her, called her a pious , who was frequently observed kneeling in prayer in church, or caring for the poor. In 1425, at the age of 13 1/2, Jehanne testified that visions appeared to her, and "voices" whom she identified as St. Michael, St. Margaret and St. Catherine; would call to her from the heavenlies, and to tell her that she would be used to save France.

By May 1428, Jehanne declares the voices became insistant, uring her to present herself to Robert Baudricourt, who commanded Charles of Ponthieu, later to be known as Charles VII, last heir of the Valois dynasty which had ruled France since 1328. The English at this time, sought control over the Loire River region, bordering Charles domain.

WERE JEHANNE'S VISIONS & PERSECUTION AN ISOLATED CASE?

During Jehanne's lifetime, France was still engaged in the Hundred Years War with England. These were the days of the Great Schism, in which the church had 3 Popes. Things were never the same following the Great Scism, and the schism with its conflicts and jealousies left the entire Catholic structure internally weakened. The Church had also elected to maintain control of superstition and popular cults which they considered were pagan in origin.

Prior to this,in 1370, John Wycliff began teaching on religious freedom at the Oxford University. He translated the Latin bible into the language of the English people, so that the common man could read it for himself. His teachings began spreading to other universities. He was branded as a heretic, executed and his bibles burned.

hile it's difficult to ascertain how many so-called heretics there were, a contemporary chronicler declared that "You would hardly meet two men upon the highroad of whom one would not be a Lollard."

The invention of moveable type by Johann Gutenberg (1440) made possible the wide distribution of Bibles in the German language (by Gutenberg in Mainz 1452 - 1455), promoting knowledge of the true foundations of Church doctrines, as well as secular learning. This freedom of understanding, coupled with the growing, city-oriented business of trade, prepared the intellectual ground for change. In the early 1400's, Jan Hus began to teach from the bible at the University of Prague, translating the bible into the common language. In 1415, he was burned at the stake. Jehanne d'Arc lived in this same era in which the reformers teachings were spreading into France.

THE MOTIVATIONS & COST OF WITCH TRIALS

Witch trials took place in southern France in the early 14th century. Run by the Inquisition of Toulouse and Carcasonne, these trials killed hundreds upon hundreds of people. The most famous was a craze where 400 women died in one day. No other French historian had noticed these trials. The costs of the trials in France, Germany and Scotland were paid by the estate of the condemned individual or by his or her relatives. In some instances where the victim was penniless, it was even paid for by the landlord or citizens of the town in which the condemned resided.

Witch hunting proved to be a fund-raiser for the city treasury. It was self-sustaining and became a major trade, employing many people, all on the savings of the victims. Germany's wealthiest citizens were the first to be accused, after which their personal property was divided and dispersed among the clergymen, judges, physicians, scribes, court attendants, rs, guards, messengers even to the laborers who cut the wood for the burning.

Less directly, the next group to profit heavily were innkeepers and tavern owners, who provided food, beverages, or accomodations to the crowds who came to watch the executions.

Typical costs for trials in various regions, caused the families with even a moderate income, to be reduced to becoming permanently impoverished. Three trials in three days in Appenweier, June-22-1585