Joan of Arc's 'remains' not what they seem

18th December 2006, Comments 0 comments

CHINON, France, Dec 16, 2006 (AFP) - Researchers examining what were thought to be Joan of Arc's remains are fast coming to the conclusion that they are no such thing, a forensic scientist leading the investigation said Saturday.

CHINON, France, Dec 16, 2006 (AFP) - Researchers examining what were thought to be Joan of Arc's remains are fast coming to the conclusion that they are no such thing, a forensic scientist leading the investigation said Saturday.

"The chances that we are dealing with the remains of the French heroine are diminishing," Philippe Charlier said after completing six months of research.

"The results do not allow us to give an answer with certainty. But my historical prejudices on relics that turn out to be false lead me to think that we are headed towards a hypothesis of a false relic."

The supposed remains — preciously guarded by a French historical association and the property of the Roman Catholic Church authorities in Tours, southwest of Paris — include fragments of bone, wood and fabric.

But while a fragment of linen does indeed date from the 15th century, neither it nor the other elements of the remains show any signs of having been burned and appear even to have been embalmed, Charlier said.

In February the scientist had announced plans to examine the remains of Joan of Arc, the French military heroine burned at the stake by the English in 1431 in the northern town of Rouen at the age of 19.

By studying the biochemical and molecular makeup of the remains, Charlier had hoped to precisely date and authenticate them to provide fresh insight into the extraordinary life of the young woman who became a French icon.

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

Her life has been a source of fascination to French writers from Voltaire to the present day, who have recreated the Maid of Orleans, as she was known, as everything from a saint to the victim of a sinister Church plot.

Her claim to divine inspiration, and success in repulsing the English invader, made her a potent symbol of the emergence of the French nation.

She later became a mythical inspiration for France's Catholic nationalists and has been adopted as the emblem of Jean-Marie Le Pen's far-right National Front party, which celebrates her memory every year.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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