It was on this day in 1431 that Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake. Some say that she did not die; that another woman was burnt in her place. And some say that she cannot die, but will return when France is in peril. Visions of the Maid inspired French soldiers of the Great War, just as the Angel of Mons legend stirred the English. But even before the first mutterings of war, La Pucelle returned to a small village in France, perhaps to warn of the approaching storm.
THE MAID OF FRANCE.
SCORES OF APPARITIONS.
Strange tales were told recently of some little French girls having seen and conversed with a vision of Jeanne d’Arc at the village of Alzonne. Among the superstitious people of the district the greatest excitement was caused, and since the first occurrence there have been many others. Not only two little girls, but 50 or a hundred persons are reported to have had visions. Some allege that they have seen only a virgin, which might mean the Virgin Mary, and others state distinctly that what they believe they saw was Jeanne d’Arc–but some perceived her as a shepherdess, others on horseback with a banner, and others in shining mail, proceeding to the coronation of King Charles at Rheims.
A priest from Tarbes, who spent his vacation near the spot, questioned many of the persons who say they had visions, and he states that what surprises him is the large number of persons, about 100, who seem to have seen something. First there were four little girls, Marie Louise Flouret, Jeanne Marie Claret, and two sisters named Catharie, who on June 26 had a vision. Three of the four children gave details. The elder of the two Catharie children said, “We saw a lady in white, with a blue girdle.’ and the next day she said, “The lady had a child in her arms.”
She was asked. “Was it the child Jesus?” She replied that she did not know.
Marie Louise Flouret did not tell of what she had seen till two days after. Up to July 14 different people saw, as the children had seen, vague figures, white robes, heads crowned with roses, blue girdles, two maidens clad in white linen, and so on. But, on July 14, two little girls named Peramont and Jambert appeared on the banks of the Fresquel. This is what the children said: “We saw a woman standing upright, clad in shining armour, with lowered visor, her sword by her side, and a banner in her hand.”
From that time the alleged apparitions continued. They differed in character, but were always connected with Jeanne d’Arc or her history. Other curious stories come from Alzonne. A woman of 36, Cecile Lamillot, a miller’s wife, has a field near a bridge over the Fresquel, close, to where the apparitions were seen. This woman knew nothing of the apparitions. On July 14 she saw a steel-clad man. She was afraid, and when told about the visions of others she said: “That does not look like the saints.” She returned to the village, where she met Madame Jambert. She said to her, “I saw something, but I was frightened, for it was in armour.”
“But, my good woman,” explained Madame Jambert, “it was Jeanne d’Arc.”
A butcher’s apprentice who lives in Carcassonne said “I saw her first dressed as a warrior, then as a shepherdess, and then again as a warrior. I was surprised, but I had no fear, although her white horse advanced towards me. Some days after, when I came to pay for some oxen I had bought at Alzonne, urged by my friends I returned to the banks of the Fresquel, and this time I saw the Holy Virgin. Yet I assure you I don’t often say my prayers.”
An old schoolmaster of the Lycee of Perpignan, who is retired and lives at Castelnaudary, a M. Calmette. stated that he saw on the evening of July 24, on the square opposite the station of Alzonne, in an opening between the poplar trees, the figure of the Virgin clad in a white robe and reposing on the sward. Finally, Henrietta Jambert persists in maintaining that she distinctly saw Jeanne d’Arc as a shepherdess, at her house at Domremy, and again as a warrior leading King Charles to his coronation at Rheims; and Cecile Lamillot, a miller’s daughter, asserts that on the evening of August 26 she saw in the sky flaming letters which she copied, and which are a Latin invocation to the Maid of Orleans.
New Zealand Herald, 11 October 1913: p. 2
So many points of interest in this little-known series of apparitions! There seems confusion over whether Cecile Lamillot is the miller’s daughter or his wife. Henrietta Jambert is also said to have seen the Latin writing in the sky, as in the De Villiers article below. Heads crowned with roses might be extrapolated from May-day crownings of the Virgin Mary or from Our Lady of La Salette, seen in 1846. The vacationing priest from Tarbes must surely have been familiar with Marian apparitions: Tarbes was at that time the Diocese of Lourdes, where in 1858 Bernadette saw a lady in white wearing a blue sash. Did he perhaps ask leading questions of his young witnesses?
The Bishop was slow to give credence to these miracles. The visionaries came in for some sharp journalistic criticism.
VILLAGERS IN FRANCE SEE VISIONS
Each Person Sees a Different Thing, But Excitement is High.
ONE CHILD HAS GREATEST “POWER”
By Jean De Villiers.
Paris, France, Oct. 11. There is a little village called Alzonne, in the South of France, which is earning a curious reputation. All the people there see visions, even if they do not dream dreams. One sees the Virgin .Mary, another St. Michael, a third St. Margaret, a. fourth St. Catherine, a fifth the Holy Face, and nearly everybody sees Jeanne d’Arc. Lourdes will soon become jealous. If you go to Alzonne and see no visions you are liable to be lynched. The inhabitants may soon remonstrate with their bishop, who has failed to share their enthusiasm and forbidden the clergy to give their approval.
For two months and a half the villagers have now been seeing things, says the Paris correspondent of the ”Daily Telegraph,” and I have already several times mentioned their alleged visions. A reporter of a Paris paper, the “Matin” has been there to see, and left in a hurry. The villagers were saying to one another, “Shall we throw him into the water?”
The water near by is the little River Fresquel, lined with willow trees and poplars. On arriving, the reporter saw a washer woman busy washing the clothes in the stream, a boy playing with a hoop, and some ducks swimming about. He had hardly left the station when a peasant woman carrying some vegetables in a basket replied to him: “Ah! You are not of the country. You want to see the visions? They are down there among the trees along the river.”
Going “to see the visions” has become the chief occupation of everybody at Alzonne. They go there in the morning and in the afternoon. They do so at eight and at ten in the morning, at one, at four, and at seven o’clock in the afternoon. In the evening they all gather in the cemetery.
A procession came along the road headed by little Henriette Jambert, daughter of a small farmer. They were all reciting the rosary. Little Henriette is one of the principal visionaries of Alzonne. The other is little Marie Terramond, whose father is a tailor. Henriette leads one procession, and Marie leads another. If there is no rivalry between the two children there is a good deal among the grown-up persons in the respective processions.
When they reach the spot of the visions the children become excited and recite their prayers more fervently. They have received various missions to ask for celestial favours. One of the; commonest is to get a blessing on a blue ribbon. They look at the sky between the poplars, and exchange their impressions as a matter of course. One says, “I see the Holy Virgin.” The other immediately says, “I also, and I see Jeanne ‘d’ Arc.”
“So do I. Her face is covered with her armour. No, her face is not covered. She is making the sign of the Cross.”
“I see St. Margaret,” says one. “I see the Holy Face,” says the other. It is hopeless to try to make them agree, as even standing side by side they never see the same thing.
An habitue of Lourdes asks Henriette, “How do you see Jeanne d’Arc?”—”l see her on horseback.”
“To which side is the horse turned?”
—”To the right.”
“Then you see it only from the side?”
“Do you see her legs?”
“Really, both of them ?”
The man immediately writes in his notebook the apparent contradiction of seeing a person sideways on horseback and also both legs.
Henriette is rather peculiar. She is very shortsighted, and at twenty yards she cannot distinguish a house from a tree. She cannot see what everybody else sees, but, curiously enough, she pretends to be able to read at a distance the words inscribed on the banner of Jeanne d’Arc. An abbe, who is following the case out of curiosity, asks her to tell Jeanne d’Arc to speak in Latin. The child does so, and she immediately j says that Jeanne d’Arc has spoken in Latin. “What does she say?” —” She says, Ave Maria.”
The abbe one night told her to repeat a long Latin question somewhat as follows:—”Tell us if you have come to announce war by making a star appear in the sky.” The sky was very cloudy, but soon afterwards the clouds separated, and not, only one star, but half a dozen stars appeared. .
“Oh, that is too much,” said the abbe. “I wanted only one star, and Jeanne d’Arc has shown us five or six.”
When little Henriette is asked what Jeanne d’Arc is saying, she often repeats words and sentences which she has learnt in her school books. The reporter went to see the visions at two o’clock one afternoon. There was a. considerable gathering, and the number of those who had the visions constantly increased. There were not only children, but also grown-up persons. One woman said: “I clearly see St. Michael, with wings, in the sky.” An old man said: “I see the Virgin.”
“How is she dressed?” —”In blue and white, just as she is in the statue in the village Between the tailor’s and the saddler’s shop.”
Tourists come from all parts. Two young women came on bicycles. They had hardly alighted when they were favoured with visions.
El Paso [TX] Herald 12 October 1913: p. 9
The Occult Review called for an intrepid reader to investigate:
Curious stories reach us from Alzonne, a village in the South of France. The people there, we are told, have for two and a half months past been seeing visions not only of St. Michael, St. Catherine, and Joan of Arc, but also of the Viigin Mary herself. A reporter of the Paris paper Le Matin was sent to investigate them, and brought back some strange tales. It appears that certain of the inhabitants of the village collect in the evening in the cemetery and march thence in procession, when they claim to witness these apparitions. The subjective, or at least partially subjective, character of the phenomena seems indicated by the fact that no two people give a similar account of what they see. Where one visionary claims to see the Virgin Mary alone, another sees Joan of Arc in her company. Another, again, sees neither of these, but claims to see St. Margaret instead. Joan of Arc is of course identified by the fact that she appears as a young girl on horseback in full armour, but how the villagers identify the other saints is not equally clear. Many of the visionaries appear to be quite young children. It would be interesting to hear how far visitors from other parts were liable to the infection. Are there no readers of the Occult Review with sufficient leisure to take the journey and make a first-hand and dispassionate report? One account that reaches us from this strangely haunted district is of a child, Henriette, who appears to be among the most psychically endowed of these visionaries. The child’s most usual vision is that of Joan of Arc. An abbé in the neighbourhood, on being informed by the child that Joan spoke in Latin, put to her a question in that tongue, requesting that, if she had come to announce war, she would make a star appear in the sky. The sky at the time was very cloudy, but shortly afterwards the clouds separated and half a dozen stars immediately appeared.
The Occult Review October 1913: pp. 198-9
A French writer, Gaston Tollivet, described turmoil in the village, not unlike some of the disruptions caused at Lourdes by false visionaries and the evilly-disposed.
Since this time the sweet tranquility of the village has been frequently disturbed. The number of persons who have been favored by these heavenly visions has increased. More than this, each day hundreds of curious visitors have come to see those who have been favored with these visions. The people of Alzonne talk of nothing but apparitions, and those who assert they have seen these visions. The health of the entire population has been quite disturbed. Never before in this quiet village has there been such an epidemic of nervous disorders. Families of the country who hitherto have dwelt in the most delightful harmony are now at swords’ points by reason of the interminable discussions that have arisen between the credulous and the skeptical. Emporia [KS] Gazette 2 June 1914: p. 6
The visions continued at least until June of 1914. War, of course, broke out in July of that year. Despite the Abbe’s jocular complaint, the stars ought to have numbered the months before the onset of the war.
I have not been able to find out exactly when the visions stopped; they were never officially approved by the Church. What was the fate of the child visionaries when the War came? In the normal course of things they might have entered a convent, died young in the odor of sanctity, and been raised to the honors of the altar. But in July 1914, no one could envision the future of France; and even the Maid in shining armor could not deflect with her sword the horrors that were to come.
Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead. And visit her newest blog, The Victorian Book of the Dead.