Joan of Arc's ashes to go under a microscope

13th February 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 13, 2006 (AFP) - French doctors are to study the ashes of the 15th-century maiden-warrior Joan of Arc, who was burned at the stake at age 19, in a quest for new insight into her extraordinary life, they announced Monday.

PARIS, Feb 13, 2006 (AFP) - French doctors are to study the ashes of the 15th-century maiden-warrior Joan of Arc, who was burned at the stake at age 19, in a quest for new insight into her extraordinary life, they announced Monday.

Philippe Charlier, the forensic scientist behind the project, told AFP that his team would spend six months analysing relics said to be from her pyre, including bone fragments, human tissue and wood.

By studying the relics' biochemical and molecular makeup, they hope to precisely date and authenticate them but also perhaps to discover new facts about the French military heroine and Roman Catholic saint.

A combination of carbon dating techniques and analysis of pollen traces will allow them to pinpoint the relics' age down to the exact year and month.

"We will able to say: these are the remains of a woman who died in Rouen (in northern France), aged 19, who died in 1431 around May 30, and who was burned three times in the same day," Charlier said.

If all of the above can be confirmed, he said, "We will know with near certainty that this is indeed Joan of Arc".

Born to a humble home in eastern France but inspired by what she believed to be divine voices, Joan of Arc (1412-1431) helped France to wrest the advantage back from England towards the end of the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453).

Her ashes — preciously guarded by a French historical association and currently the property of the Roman Catholic Church authorities in Tours, southwest of Paris — are the only remaining traces of her.

"In reality, we know hardly anything of Joan of Arc. We do not even have a drawing of her — except an outline sketched at the bottom of a legal document," Charlier told Le Parisien newspaper.

"Even the armour attributed to her is actually largely posthumous."

Initially a figurehead who revealed herself as a true military leader, Joan of Arc led the French armies in lifting the English siege of Orleans in 1429, the first of a chain of swift victories that ended with the French dauphin's coronation as Charles VII.

Wounded in the battle for Paris, she was captured and sold to the English, to be convicted of heresy and burned at the stake.

She was rehabilitated by the Church a quarter-century later, and canonised in 1920.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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