February 20

February 20, 1431

Tuesday, February 20th 1431. The Vicar of the lord Inquisitor refuses to act

On the following Tuesday, February 20th there appeared before us in our dwelling brother

  • Jean Le Maistre, vicar of the lord Inquisitor;
  • Jean Beaupère
  • Jacques de Touraine,
  • Nicolas Midi
  • Nicolas de Venderès
  • Pierre Maurice
  • Gerard Feuillet
  • Thomas de Courcelles
  • Nicolas Loiseleur, canon of the cathedral of Rouen,
  • and brother Martin Ladvenu, of the order of Preaching brothers.

In their presence we reported that we had seen the commission or letter of appointment given to the said brother Jean Le Maistre by the lord Inquisitor, and that it was the opinion of the learned authorities to whom we had shown this letter that the said vicar could in virtue of this commission collaborate with us, that this commission included this city and the entire diocese of Rouen, and that he could conduct the present trial conjointly with us.

But nevertheless to avoid the nullification of the trial we had resolved to address a summons or requisition in the form of letters patent to the lord inquisitor, requesting him to come in person to this town of Rouen and conduct the trial in person or provide a deputy authorized with more extensive and particular powers, according to the tenor of our letters transcribed below.

Whereupon the said brother Jean Le Maistre replied that for the serenity of his conscience and the safer conduct of the trial he would not participate in the present matter, unless he received especial authority.

Nevertheless as far as he lawfully might he allowed that we the said bishop should proceed further until he had received more ample counsel upon the question whether he could in virtue of his commission undertake the conduct of this trial.

Thus with his consent we once again offered to acquaint him with the past and future procedure. And after receiving the decisions of the assessors, we decreed in our letters of citation transcribed below, that this woman should be summoned to appear before us on the following Wednesday, February 29th.

First follows the tenor of letters of appointment of the said Jean Le Maistre

“Brother Jean Graverent, of the order of Preaching brothers, professor in sacred theology, by apostolic authority Inquisitor of Heretical Error in all the kingdom of France, to his well loved brother in Christ, Jean Le Maistre, of the same order, greeting in Our Lord Jesus Christ, the author and consummator of our faith.

Heresy is a disease which creeps like a cancer, secretly killing the simple, unless the knife of the inquisitor cuts it away.

Hence, with confidence in your zeal for the faith, in your discretion and integrity, and in virtue of the apostolic authority which we enjoy, we have made, created and constituted you, and by the tenor of these present letters we make, create and constitute you our vicar in the town and diocese of Rouen, giving and granting you entire authority in this town and diocese against all heretics and them suspected of heresy, their accomplices, protectors and concealers, to investigate, cite, summon, excommunicate, apprehend, detain, correct and proceed against them by all opportune means, up to and including the final sentence, with absolution and the pronouncement of salutary penances, to perform and exercise in general each and every duty pertaining to the office of inquisitor by law, custom or special privilege, which we ourselves should perform if we were acting in person.

Given at Rouen, August 21st in the year of Our Lord 1424.”

Follows the tenor of the letter which we the said Bishop addressed to the Lord Inquisitor of Heretical Error

“Pierre, by divine mercy Bishop of Beauvais, to the venerable father master Jean Graverent, doctor of theology, Inquisitor of Heretical Error, greeting and sincere love in Christ. Our lord the King, burning with zeal for the orthodox faith and the Christian religion, has surrendered to us as ordinary judge a certain woman named Jeanne, commonly called The Maid, who, notoriously accused of many crimes against the Christian faith and religion, suspected of Heresy, was captured and apprehended in our diocese of Beauvais.

The chapter of the cathedral of Rouen, in the vacancy of the archiepiscopal see, having granted and assigned us territory in this city and diocese in which to hold this trial, we, desiring to drive out all unholy errors disseminated among the people of God, to establish the integrity of the wounded Catholic faith, and to instruct the christian people, teaching them salvation, particularly in this diocese and other parts of this most Christian realm, resolved to examine the case of this woman with all diligence and zeal, to inquire into her acts and ways concerning the Catholic faith, and, after assembling a certain number of doctors of theology and canon law, with other experienced persons, did, after great and mature consultation, begin her legal trial in this town.

But as this particularly concerns your office of inquisitor, whose duty is to direct the light of truth upon the suspicions of heresy, we beg you, venerable father, require and summon you for the faith’s sake to return without delay to the town of Rouen for the further conduct of the trial and to participate therein as is incumbent upon your office, according to legal form and apostolic sanctions, so that we may continue in this suit with a common sentiment and uniform procedure. And if your occupation or other reasonable cause should occasion any delay, at least entrust your authority to brother Jean Le Maistre your vicar in this city and diocese of Rouen, or to some other deputy, so that you are not charged with the grievous delay caused by your absence after so urgent a summons, to the prejudice of the faith and the scandal of the Christian people.

Whatever you decide to do, please inform us of forthwith in your letters patent. Given under our seat at Rouen, February 22nd, in the year of Our Lord 1431.”

Signed: G. Boisguillaume. G. Manchon

horizontal rule

Return to top