• In the words of Mark Twain in the very last sentence of his book, Joan of Arc:
    "Taking into account ...all the circumstances — her origin, youth, sex, illiteracy, early environment, and the obstructing conditions under which she exploited her high gifts and made her conquests in the field and before the courts that tried her for her life, — she is easily and by far the most extraordinary person the human race has ever produced."
    Twain might be right.

    This Blog is an account of our journey following Joan of Arc from her birthplace at Domremy, to Chinon where she met the "Dauphin", to Reims where she had him crowned King, to her various battle sites and finally through to Rouen where she was burned at the stake as a "relapsed heretic."

Domremy La Pucelle

By Joan

On Monday, October 22, 2012, we arrived in Domremy, the small village in Lorraine where Joan was born in 1412. We visited the church she prayed in and walked around the town. Its quiet, pastural, peacefulness affected us both. No wonder Joan loved this place.

Joan heard her voices in the garden of her father’s house at the age of 13 – St. Margaret telling her how to conduct her life… a powerful way to come into puberty. At 16, to her father’s displeasure, she went to nearby Toul to have the promise made by her father for her marriage canceled. She defended herself brilliantly and won the court case. By that time her renown as having direct communication with the Divine was growing and the Duke of Lorraine sent for her to help him with his troubles. Undeterred by their social class differences, Joan let him know that her voices didn’t give her any insight into his problems but she advised him to treat his wife better and to end his relationship with his mistress. He seems to have listened and he paid her for her advice. Clarity, strength of character, piety, determination, commitment, describe Joan well.

On Tuesday, we walked from Domremy to Greux, a few hundred yards down the road, then on to Maxey-sur-Meuse a couple of kilometers away. Maxey was Burgundian in Joan’s time and there were often skirmishes between the people of the two villages. Joan was close to the conflicts of the Hundred Years War since Domremy, loyal to the king of France, was surrounded by Burgundian lands. We drove to Vaulcouleurs where Joan, after three visits, finally convinced Baudricourt, the king’s deputy, to fit her out so she could go to the Dauphin. The local people were on her side, providing her with an escort and equipping her for her journey – 11 days overland on a horse through enemy territory in February! Joan had true grit!

We’ll make our journey to Chinon by car… and see what is left of the castle where Joan met the Dauphin.

Our lodging in Domremy was at a small Bed and Breakfast on the Rue Principal called Sur les pas de Jehanne…” (www.les.pas.de.jehanne.fr) It was a lovely place run by a most agreeable couple, Marie Therese and Alain Mathieu.

Joan of Arc’s home which she left, never  to return

 A statue of St. Margaret who inspired Joan in the Domremy church of St. Remy

 A small chapel of Notre Dame de Bermont in the hills near Domremy which Joan visited on Saturdays

Sur les pas de Joan

 Joan with her voices in her garden in Domremy, by Jules Bastien-Lepage, 1879, Metropolitan Museum of Art


The Church in Domremy

Jeanne d’Arc’s Home as seen from the Church

Don and Gord Gamble, Joan’s brothers, visiting Domremy or a nearby town in 1956

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At St. Etienne Cathedral, Metz

By Joan Gamble

Today, October 21, we went to the Metz Cathedral to start our day. I lit a candle for my niece Jenny who died 13 years ago today. The cathedral is quite spectacular, with an incredibly high vaulted ceiling, beautiful stained glass windows, including several by Chagal. The sun was streaming through the windows as we entered and a visiting choir made the mass feel special, allowing the sacredness of the space to come alive.
This cathedral was built in the 12th and 13th centuries so was here in Joan of Arc’s time and though she never came to Metz, it is a mere 150 km from her birth place of Domremy. I think of her and her incredible devotion from an early age, born seemingly with the purpose of liberating France from the English and thereby bringing an end to the oppression of the 100 years war.
The priest spoke today of humility and surrender as the way to divine union. I wonder what humility means and get a sense as I focus inward and feel connected to Jenny, my brother Bob, his wife Loretta, sister Kuluk and brother Alastair. Our Joan of Arc tour has begun on this appropriately sacred note.

The Nave, St. Etienne Cathedral

West Entrance

Chagal Stained Glass Windows

Flying Butresses

Angel Playing the Organ, South Entrance

 St. Etienne Cathedral, Metz, France

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Prelude: A Sentimental Journey to Metz, Lorraine

About the only memorial to Joan of Arc in Metz was a little “Place Jeanne d’Arc” and a Bar of the same name. Metz was an autonomous Republic within the Holy Roman Empire during the One Hundred Years War  and the Joan of Arc era. It remained as a trade and finance center removed from warfare or occubation by the English or the Burgundians.

Metz France does not have much to do with Joan of Arc even though Domremy is also in Lorraine. The only connection may be that Jean de Metz, a minor noble who accompanied her to see the Dauphin at Chinon and then fought at her side till the end, was from this city. We are here because we met here in 1954. (Joan was seven years old and Arch was thirteen so he did not pay much attention to her at that time.) We were in Metz because our fathers were in the RCAF Air Division HQ at the Chateau de Mercy just outside the city.

Metz is steeped in “History”. It was founded some 3000 years ago by our Celtic ancestors, the “Mettis” who gave Metz its name. It was a center of the Roman Empire. It has the oldest church in France. It was a major trade and financial center throughout the Middle Ages. For some 300 years until 1552 it was a Republic within the Holy Roman Empire, ruled by the major families of the city. In the Middle Ages, it was larger than Paris, and much of the old town has changed little since Joan of Arc’s era. While the 100 years war was raging, it seems to have been busy as a trade and money-making center of a large area from Troyes to Trier.

Place St. Louis, heart of the Medieval financial and trade activities of Metz and of the Republique Messine 

It was captured by the Germans in the Franco-German War in 1870 and held until 1918, so that much of the Belle Epoque architecture and the innumerable military barracks and installations date from this era. Returned to France after WW I, it continued as a major military center before and after WW II.

 The Chateau de Mercy, RCAF HQ, Metz, 1955

Reviewing a “March-Past”, 1955 or so

The Chateau, 2012; fallen into disrepair, all other buildings replaced by a new regional hospital.

Joan at the Chateau de Mercy, 2012

The PMQs (Permanent Married Quarters), 1955, Anne Ritter buying groceries. The whole region of Fort Bellecroix, at the edge of Metz, is now a major residential area.

Above, the Globe Hotel, August 1954, the Ritter family; below, Joan in front of the the Globe which is now derelict and awaiting renovation


Jessie and Anne Ritter at the Roman aqueduct at Jouey aux Arches, 1955.

By the Moselle River, St. Etienne Cathedral in the Background

Our parents, Arch and Anne Ritter with Marg and Al Gamble, at the PMQs, Metz, 1955    

Joan at the Porte des Allemands, one of the entry gates to the city in Joan’s time

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Following Joan of Arc’s Footsteps…

By Joan

Following Joan of Arc’s footsteps… , preparing for this trip has been an interesting and inspiring project of reading, discussing, viewing films, listening to music. Joan has been an inspiration to many people and the more I have found out about her, the more fascinating she becomes. Was she schizophrenic as some people have suggested? After all, she did hear voices and had a very grandiose idea about her mission in life? After reading her own words which are recorded in the transcripts of her trials, the answer in my mind is a definite no.

As a 19 year old, with no formal schooling, she was able to defend herself brilliantly in the face of her prosecutors who were amongst the most learned men Christendom. But what has interested me the most about Joan is her sense of mission and her connection to the Divine through ‘her voices’ which she felt came from St. Elizabeth and St. Margaret. I hope to understand her devoutness more as we travel to her birth place and follow her journey.

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In Joan of Arc’s Footsteps, October 19 to 30, 2012

Joan of Arc has intrigued and indeed obsessed many people and many have sought out the various locations of her short but brilliant life. Mark Twain, who researched her life for 10 years and wrote his book in another 1wo years, was not alone when he stated

“Taking into account …all the circumstances — her origin, youth, sex, illiteracy, early environment, and the obstructing conditions under which she exploited her high gifts and made her conquests in the field and before the courts that tried her for her life, — she is easily and by far the most extraordinary person the human race has ever produced.”

Indeed there are many books, numerous operas (including ones by Verdi and Tchaikovsky) and even a Leonard Cohen song on Joan. We are not the first to develop such an interest, nor make a “pilgrimage” or tour following her trajectory.

How did our interest in Joan of Arc emerge? It is hard to say… but may have something to do with Joan (Gamble) being married to Arch (Ritter)… “Joan of Arch”  or from childhood visits to Domremy when we lived in Metz, France during the 1950s when our fathers worked at the RCAF Headquarters there.

When one considers Joan of Arc’s incredible trajectory through life, a small interest can easily become a major interest. An illiterate farm girl of humble origin, she heard “Voices” convincing her that her destiny was to drive the English out of France – in the second last decade of the “100 Years War” – and to have the “Dauphin” Charles crowned King of France in Reims.

At age 17, never having strayed far from her village and never having lifted a weapon, she persuaded some minor nobles to take her through enemy territory to the Dauphin in Chinon, then persuaded him of her mission and to make her Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of France. In a few months, she succeeded as a brilliant commander as well as inspiration to the soldiers, relieving the English siege of Orleans, defeating the English in the major battle of Patay, then capturing numerous cities on her way to Reims where the Dauphin Charles was crowned King.

Charles then more or less abandoned the “mission” after being crowned, seeking a truce with the Burgundians. Joan continued the battle, however, feeling that it was imperative that the English be driven out of French territory.

After some subsequent inconclusive skirmishing in which she received little support from Charles, she was captured by the Burgundians, ransomed by the English and, after eight months in captivity, she was tried by an ecclesiastical court and sentenced to death. The newly-crowned King, Charles, had refused to pay the ransom for her release.

In her trial she faced alone an ecclesiastical kangaroo court, with 62 prosecutor-judges, without legal counsel or support, chained in a prison cell, ill-fed, maltreated. She nonetheless defended herself with amazing intelligence. Her judges ultimately had to invent a way to prosecute her – mainly for wearing men’s clothes – and condemned her to death.

The proceedings of this “Trial of Condemnation”, together with the “Trial of Rehabilitation” 25 years later, were written down with great care and accuracy by clerical scribes. We, therefore, have an accurate depiction of the trials. Because the case against her involved questioning many of those she had grown up with and fought with, we know more about her life than perhaps anyone who lived in that era (1412 to 1431.)

The trials are written up in perhaps the best book on Joan of Arc – Joan, in her own words – by Regine Pernoud  Joan of Arc: By Herself and In her Own Words (Original: Paris, Editions du Seuil, 1961.) After reading Pernoud’s book, one feels that one almost knows Joan of Arc personally!

After we decided to make our Joan of Arc journey, we discovered that 2012 is the 600th anniversary of her birth!

This is part of a painting from the Metroplitan Museum of Art in New York which Alexis Gubbey sent to Joan and Arch as a post card several years ago. Was Alexis then inspiration for this tour?

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