Cemetery of the Week #27: the Old Market Square in Rouen

The garden where Jehanne’s pyre stood

Place du Vieux Marché
Rouen, France 76000
Telephone: 00 33 (0)2 32 08 32 40
Date of Joan’s martyrdom: May 30, 1431
Number of interments: 0
Open: The market square is free to visitors. The church is open April through October on Monday to Thursday and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon and 2 to 6 p.m. On Fridays and Sundays, the church is only open from 2 to 6 p.m. In November to March, it closes at 5:30 p.m.

Whether Jehanne d’Arc actually commanded the armies of France against the British in the 15th century or merely served as a figurehead who rallied the French to victory, it’s undisputed that she was betrayed when the walled city of Compiegne shut their portcullis, leaving her to face the army of John of Luxembourg.  Six months later, she was ransomed to Pierre Cauchon, the Bishop of Beauvais, who took her to Rouen where he presided over her trial for heresy.

Jehanne was 19 when she was tried by French clergymen in the pay of the English.  She had been wounded at least three times in battle and once while attempting escape from prison.  She could not read and could barely write her name, but she outwitted the judges ranges against her.

After her captors threatened her with torture, she repudiated the voices which had predicted her victories and ultimate downfall.  It seemed they might not find a transgression worthy of death, so her guards stole her dresses, forcing her to wear men’s clothing once more.  The court quickly found her guilty of heresy (for cross-dressing) and sentenced her to death.

Jehanne was burned at a stake in Rouen’s Market Square.  When the fire seemed to be dying, the executioner added more wood and poured oil over it, burning her bones until nothing but ashes remained.  Those were gathered up and flung into the Seine so there would be no relic, no grave that could serve to rally the French against the English.

In the end, no relic was needed.  In 1453, the English were finally driven out of France.  Charles VII took possession of the records of Jehanne’s trial and opened the way for her pardon.

Not much remains in Rouen from May 1431.  Much did not survive the centuries; more was destroyed by fire during World War II.  A cross stands in the old market square near a little garden, which marks the place where Jehanne was martyred.  A church in her name was completed nearby in 1979.

It doesn’t matter that Joan of Arc has no grave.  A steady stream of pilgrims and tourists visits the place where the girl was burned to death.  They are as reverent as if they visited a cemetery.

Links of note:

Catholic Encyclopedia listing on Joan of Arc

Tour of the Old Market Square

The Church of St. Joan of Arc

The opening of The Passion of St. Joan of Arc, which has a script from the transcript of Joan’s trial, with a soundtrack by Anonymous 4:

Other Rouen gravesites on Cemetery Travel:

Richard the Lion-Hearted

Cemetery of the Week #23: Aître Saint Maclou

About Loren Rhoads

I am the author of the essay collection Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel, co-author of the novel As Above, So Below, and editor of The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two. My science fiction trilogy, The Dangerous Type, will be published by Night Shade in 2015. In addition to blogging at CemeteryTravel.com, I blog about my morbid life at lorenrhoads.com.
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2 Responses to Cemetery of the Week #27: the Old Market Square in Rouen

  1. Pingback: Cemetery of the Week #23: Aître Saint Maclou | Cemetery Travel: Adventures in Graveyards Around the World

  2. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Old Fashioned | Cemetery Travel: Adventures in Graveyards Around the World

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