Joan of Arc's ashes to go under microscope
French doctors are to study the ashes of the 15th century maiden-warrior Joan of Arc, who was burned at the stake aged 19, in a quest for new insight into her extraordinary life, a newspaper has reported.
"We are going to use remains said to have been gathered under her pyre, mainly bones and skin fragments, kept from generation to generation," Philippe Charlier, the doctor behind the project, told Le Parisien newspaper.
Radio New Zealand reports that over the next six months, experts will use medical and coroner's techniques to study the relics' biochemical and molecular make-up and toxicity, partly to date and authenticate them but also in hope of discovering new facts about the French heroine and Roman Catholic saint.
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 Church authorities in Tours, east of Paris - are the only remaining trace of her.
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 in 1431, at the age of 19. She was rehabilitated by the Catholic Church a quarter-century later, and canonised in 1920
Joan of Arc's ashes to go under microscope (Radio New Zealand 13/2/06)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Joan of Arc (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Joan of Arc's ashes to go under microscope (Agence France-Presse/ABC 14/2/06)
14 Feb 2006