There is a mystery concerning this Church, Notre Dame de Bermont. It's location has never been in question, nor has the fact that La Pucelle went there regularly. Located almost directly north of Domremy the village of la Pucelle, it would have been a easy walk...
"I know it pleased her to go often to the Hermitage of the Blessed Marie of Bermont, near Domremy. Often I saw her go there. She was there when her parents thought her with the plough or in the fields; and when she heard the Mass-bell, if she were in the fields, she would go back to the village and to the Church, in order to hear Mass. I have been witness of this many times…"Jean Morel: excerpt from the trial of nullification.
The small chapel was originally built before 1265 for the Benedictine monastery of Bourgueil, however they found it was too costly to maintain less than a benefit. They chose to sell the small chapel to Geoffrey de Bourlemont, provided that the Holy Office would be recited at least three times a week there.
How and when it became a shrine is unknown.
About 1997 it was decided that the interior of the original chapel should be restored. To do so 5 coats of paint mixed with lime had to be removed. These coats were placed on the walls during an outbreak of the plague some time in the 17th century in the hopes that it might help prevent the further spread of this disease. Underneath the 5 coats of paint workmen found a frescoe of what appeared to be a young blonde teanager, with blue eyes, full cheeks and blonde hair accompanied by a small dog praying to Siant Thiebaut de Provins. The local bishop was reported to have said in church last week that the picture was that of Joan of Arc. Monsignor Guillaume, the bishop of Saint Die in Lorraine, broke the news to a congregation of 800 who had gone to Domremy to celebrate Joan of Arc's feast day.
"Every other painting of her is a guess, because no contemporary portraits were thought to have been made," Father Antoine said. "But this one was painted during her lifetime, or very soon after her death, almost certainly based on the accounts of villagers who were her friends. We know, finally, what Sainte Jeanne really looked like."
So the question remains is this Jehanne? The description fits. Why would a young girl be painted on the walls of a chapel no bigger than a small room, if she did not have some special connexion to the shrine? We may never know, but as with many other aspects of the life of the Maid we must take this at face value. For some there can be no proof, for others none is needed. I stand with the later.
Left is the only other known drawing of La pucelle during her lifetime, made by the notary Clément de Fauquemberque in a ledger margin on the day that the news arrived in Paris of the French victory at Orleans. It shows a young woman in a womans dress, wearing a sword and carrying a banner. Sketch by Clément de Fauquembergue, 1429, drawn on the day that news arrived in Paris of the French victory at Orléans. The artist had never seen her in person, but this is the only depiction from her lifetime that survives.
Saint Joan of Arc's Trial of Nullification
Thanks and a tip of the beret to Virginia Frohlick, with whose assistance and wonderful site maintains the greatest source of information on the web of La Pucelle.
After reading this article, Virginia sent me an email in which she posted a letter to her from one M. Francois JANVIER.
"Mr. Francois JANVIER, the Minister of Culture and Conservator of Antiquities and Objects of Art of the Meuse, expressed his feelings on the matter of this fresco. He feels the local Bishop had "jumped the gun" when he stated for the news article "the picture was definitely Jeanne." Mr. JANVIER feels that the smaller image of the female with the dog is a portrait of the woman who originally paid for the frescos to be created. As for the larger blue eyed image he states: "Dear Virginia, I really don't think that the image of the chapel is Joan of Arc. This figure is the figure of the man or the woman who gave money to the artist. It used to be so in the Middle Age. No serious archeologist could say the contrary. That is what I can tell you about this affair..."
As I said it is a mystery.
The above statue is Notre-Dame de Bermont, before which Jeanne once prayed. This statue is now in the crypt of the Basilica du Bois Chenu on the opposite side of Domremy.