Joan of Arc: Theological Points Concerning the Male Clothing Issue

Also see: "Primary Sources and Context Concerning Joan of Arc's Male Clothing"

It had long been a tenet of medieval theology that there were certain cases of necessity in which "cross-dressing" would be permissible.
The premier theological work which formed the basis for 15th century doctrine was of course the "Summa Theologica" by St. Thomas Aquinas (13th century), which grants such an exemption (in the section: Secunda Secundae Partis, Q. 169 Art. 2: Resp. Obj. 3):

" ...Nevertheless, this [cross-dressing] may at times be done without sin due to some necessity, either for the purpose of concealing oneself from enemies, or due to a lack of any other clothing, or on account of some other thing of this sort..." ["Potest tamen quandoque hoc fieri sine peccato propter aliquam necessitatem, vel causa occultandi ab hostibus, vel propter defectum alterius vestimenti, vel propter aliquid aliud huiusmodi."]1

Another important and influential medieval theological work was "Scivias" ("Scito Vias Domini") by St. Hildegard von Bingen (12th century), which grants the same exemption (Book II, Vision 6, 77); in this case the quote is directly from God:

"Men and women should not wear each other's clothes except in necessity.
A man should never put on feminine dress or a woman use male attire... Unless a man's life or a woman's chastity is in danger; in such an hour a man may change his dress for a woman's or a woman for a man's..."2

Similar citations were made in defense of Joan of Arc herself by various 15th century theologians (outside of the few pro-English clergy who were delegated to convict her).
During her campaigns, Jean Gerson (one of the most respected theologians of the era) wrote a treatise called "De Mirabili Victoria" on May 14th, 1429, in which he defended her use of male clothing by pointing out that the context determines whether such an action is sinful.3
Another example of early clerical support comes from a treatise called "De Puella Aurelianensi Dissertatio" (May 1429) written by the Archbishop of Embrun, Jacques Gelu. The Archbishop points out that one's clothing must match one's circumstances: living among soldiers, it's fitting for her to dress like one.4
These further confirmed the ruling handed down by the clergy at Poitiers in March.

There were also many clergy who gave similar rulings at the Rehabilitation Trial, including the following:

First off, we have Inquisitor Bréhal's verdict on the male clothing issue, to which he devoted an entire section [Part I, Chapter VI] of his final summary of the case, the "Recollectio".5
Bréhal first examines those texts which might condemn Joan's actions - such as Gratian's "Decretum", and the Biblical Book of Deuteronomy - but concludes that the context of her actions would exempt her from reproach; he therefore quotes from the section of the Summa Theologica already cited above,6 and gives examples of female saints who wore male clothing for various purposes - e.g., Blessed Natalie, who wore it as a disguise in order to visit her husband and other Christian martyrs in prison; or the cases of Saints Pelagia, Marina, and Euphrosina, and so forth with others.7

Another theologian called to give his opinion in the case, Martin Berruyer (Bishop of Le Mans), likewise quoted the Summa Theologica and refers to the cases of female saints ("Tecla, Eugenia, Pelagia, Marina...") and the prophetess Deborah.8

Thomas Basin, Bishop of Lisieux, provides the inevitable reference to the Summa Theologica,9 and mentions a substantial list of female saints who provide a precedent, going on to explain that the rules of the faith prevent the wearing of male clothing for evil purposes, but not when done out of necessity.10

Jean de Montigny (former Ecclesiastical Judge of Paris) similarly speaks of the exemption granted in cases of necessity, quoting the Archdeacon of Bologne, Guido de Baisio, and so forth.11

Others could be cited, at the price of some tedium; but the above should suffice as examples.

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