Two scientists, Guiseppe d’Oris and Paola Tinuper from the universities of Foggia and Bologna in Italy, have recently concluded that the French martyr Saint Joan of Arc heard heavenly voices due to epilepsy.
Neurologists pored over her testimonies and trial records and found evidence of symptoms of a type of epilepsy called IPEAF.
It isn’t the first time epilepsy has been suggested by scientists; another study came to a similar conclusion in 1991.
According to the new study, Joan had a type of epilepsy that affects a portion of the brain that controls what we hear. The doctors sum it up as “an expression of an epileptic syndrome named idiopathic partial epilepsy with auditory features, (IPEAF).”
Saint Joan of Arc was a 15th-century martyr who is remembered as being courageous, inspirational, and brave.
She was one of few women during the Middle Ages to serve in battle and led the French to victory against the English. Joan fought during the Hundred Years’ War and became a soldier and warrior at a young age.
She was devoutly religious and began hearing voices – specifically the voice of “God” – at 13 years old.
During Joan’s trial interrogations, she stated she heard voice 2-3 times a week, and then later, “There is never a day that I do not hear them.”
Before she was placed in charge of the French army, she was under intense scrutiny. Many believed she was a fraud. Once given permission by Charles VII, she led the French battle against the English during the war.
Unfortunately, during the war, she was wounded, captured, accused of heresy, and burned at the stake for cross-dressing when she was 19 years old.
Of course, there is a long history — before and after Joan’s time — of churches and religious people who reject others who do not fit in with their biblical beliefs.
20 years after her death, another trial took place, proving Joan of Arc innocent. In 1920, she was declared a Saint.
In a letter to the editor of Epilepsy and Behavior, the neurologists state, “After six hundred years from Joan’s death, we reaffirm the impossibility to arrive at a final conclusion.”
The statement leaves a window open for devout individuals to still believe she was a divine messenger of God, according to the Daily Mail UK.
During her time, Joan was also the victim of extreme sexism. She was mistreated, abused, and belittled because of her gender. Many believed she was a witch.
In the Middle Ages, women could be burned at the stake for such accusations. After she was captured and burned alive, Charles VII did not come to her aid and chose to distance himself from the witch and heresy accusations against her.