The place to go to ponder the life and death of Joan of Arc is the humble village near the Meuse, where she was born
We passed along the river Meuse and came three leagues from Vaucouleurs to a village calle Domremy-sur Meuse, where the famous maid of Orleans, who was called Jane Day or Dallis was born. Her descendants were ennobled by the king’s favour and we were shown the coat of arms, which the king had presented her with, which was blue with a crowned sword and two crowns to either side … the front of the house, where she was born, was painted all over with the stories of her achievements. However, age had corrupted these murals. There is also a tree along a wineyard, which is called the tree of the Maid; else there is nothing else to notice. From : Journal de voyage de Michel de Montaigne, 1580, ed. by F. Rigolot. Paris 1992 (My translation)
The house, which is known as the birthplace of Joan of Arc, was recognised as such early on in the 15th century and soon became a focus for pilgrimages and tourists. A famous visit was thus undertaken by Michel de Montaigne in 1580 when he inspected the place (see above). In 1586 the present house was named “the House of the Virgin” in a deed and there is no doubt the location is correct. According to contemporary descriptions the house was located next to the cemetery and surrounded by other houses.
The rear part of Joan of Arc’s house includes part of the original house. Joan was born there in January 1412. Her father was a well-off peasant – who rented part of the old chateau.
The house continued to be in the possession of her family until 1586, when it was bought by Louise de Stainville, Comtesse de Salm. In 1818 it was bought by the regional administration and in 1840 it was formally recognized as National Heritage in 1840. At this point the surrounding buildings were torn down. Later, a visitor centre was erected next to it.
As it stands today, the house is reminiscent of a major reconstruction, which took place in the 15th century after the family and the village were granted royal privileges in commemoration of the achievements of Joan of Arc. The present façade was built by a great-great-nephew of Joan’s, Claude du Lys, Lord of Domrémy. However, the building has never been comprehensively studied and still awaits a proper – modern – archaeological investigation. An important issue would be to discern the layers of reconstruction and conservation, which has taken place over the centuries. Further, as other medieval rural buildings are partly preserved in the Vosges a comparative exploration should be fruitful.
Domremy is first listed in AD 1070 with livestock being the main income. Of 864 ha forest covered more than half and it is obvious the pastoral economy and wool was primary. Only 26 ha were dedicated to winegrowing. The chapel, where Joan of Arc went to pray, lay there. This site is now dominated by the Basilica Sainte-Jeanne d’Arc. The village of Domrémy was shared between several authorities: the northern part belonged to Champagne, part of the Manor of Vaucouleurs and was part of the Kingdom of France. The southern part, including Joan’s house, belonged to the “Barrois mouvant” area, since the Duke of Bar was a vassal of the King of France for the lands situated to the west of the River Meuse. These lands were held in fief by the Abbots of Mureaux and by the Lords of Bourlémont.
Revisiter la maison natale de Jeanne d’Arc à Domremy
By Ivan Ferraresso
In: De Domremy… à Tokyo, Jeanne d’Arc et la Lorraine, Archéologie, espaces et patrimoines, PUN – Edition Universitaires de Lorraine, Nancy, p. 45-62.
L’architecture rurale lorraine du XIVe siècle à la première moitié du XVIe siècle : de l’identification aux marqueurs chronologiques
By Ivan Ivan Ferraresso
In: In Situ. Revue des Patrimoines 2008, vol 9.