Joan of Arc, Rehabilitation trial

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The Rehabilitation trial of Joan of Arc (also known as the Nullification trial of Joan of Arc), held in 1455-56, refers to the hearings conducted by a Papal Commission appointed by Pope Calixtus III for the purpose of examining the circumstances surrounding, and conduct of, the 1431 Trial of Joan of Arc at which she was condemned as a heretic and burned at the stake.

During the course of the hearings and the preliminary investigations preceding the hearings, a large amount of testimony from over a hundred witnesses was gathered. Much of what is now known about Joan's life and deeds stems from this body of evidence.

In the end, the Commission set aside the original sentence on Joan, declaring the original twelve articles of the indictment to be "iniquitous, false, prepared in a lying manner and without reference to Joan's confessions."


As the Hundred Years' War wound to a conclusion in the middle of the 15th century, the French forces of Charles VII entered the city of Rouen, the former administrative capital of the English in France. As a result, the records of the 1431 Trial of Joan of Arc on charges of heresy became available to the French.

Charles owed his crown to Joan who, in obedience to what she asserted to be a command from God, had intervened on behalf of France two years prior to that to lift the English seige of Orleans and turn the tide of the war at the very moment when it appeared that the Anglo - Burgundian alliance would finally prove victorious. The outcome of the trial, which convicted Joan of heresy and had her burnt at the stake, left Charles in a position where it appeared that he owed his crown to a convicted heretic. This was, at least in part, the motive for the trial.

In order to remove this stain from his crown, Charles set in motion an investigation of the earlier trial which would, after a few years' time, lead to a re-opening of the case and a complete reversal of the previous verdict and the vindication of Joan in what has come to be known as the Rehabilitation Trial of Joan of Arc.

Royal Commission

As a first step in examining the case of Joan of Arc, Charles, in a letter of February 15, 1450, appointed a Royal Commission headed by Guillaume Bouillé, the Dean of Noyon Cathedral, and charged them with examining the Trial record to ascertain the facts about the trial.

Over the next several months, the Commission took testimony from 7 individuals including Jean Beaupère who had been one of the principal questioners of Joan at her earlier Trial. In addition to Beaupère, the Commission also heard testimony from 4 Dominican Friars, namely, Jean Toutmouillé, Ysambard de La Pierre, Martin Ladvenu, and Guillaume Duval, and two secular priests, Guillaume Manchon, who had served as chief notary at the original Trial, and Jean Massieu, who was the clerk to the Court Promoter, Jean d'Estivet.

Among the witnesses interviewed by the Commission, Jean Beaupère stood out as the only one who did not denounce the original Trial verdict. Referring most questions to the Trial record, he further stated that he believed that Joan's voices and visions ("apparitions" as he called them) were of natural and human rather than supernatural and divine in origin. He did, however, testify to having been threatened by English soldiers when he went to see Joan following her abjuration and thus he did not see her before she was executed, by which time he had left town, or so he testified.

Retrial process authorized - the 27 questions

Retrial hearings

Further reading

  • Pernoud, Régine, The Retrial of Joan of Arc (translated by J. M Cohen), Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York 1955.

Internet resources

  • Various materials including a complete English translation of the rehabilitation trial transcript.