THERE are many great stones in Winchester Cathedral, one of Britain’s finest monuments to medieval times. But there is one in particular, a piece of French history, which has made a special journey to Hampshire.

Inside the base of Winchester’s statue of Joan of Arc is said to be a stone taken from her prison cell in Rouen, the historic capital of Normandy where she was tried and burnt at the stake for her conquests in the Hundred Years’ War.

This teenage crusader against English occupation was sentenced to death by Henry Beaufort, then Bishop of Winchester. Besides lending his name to the city’s secondary school, Cardinal Beaufort was among the powerful clergymen who helped to pull the strings behind Joan’s trial for heresy.

It is this which brings me to Rouen Cathedral and the Joan of Arc Historial, a new museum exploring the life, death and legacy of this complex French icon.

Opened last month as part of a £7.1 million project, it is set on the very spot she was tried, in a restored Archbishop’s Palace.

The main exhibition is a multi-media courtroom drama, snaking through 13 rooms and ancient spiral staircases, recounting her journey from maid to conqueror to martyr. A costumed narrator, projected on walls and screens, interrogates characters big and small on their roles in her story, from fellow peasants to the aristocracy who accused her of witchcraft.

We see in vivid colour how the 19-year-old, led by what she said was the voice of God, took arms for the uncrowned King Charles VII against the English. She led his forces to an historic victory at Orléans, paving the way for Charles’ coronation and an eventual French triumph.

Drawing on paintings, tapestries and clips from film adaptations, the exhibition is immersive in its storytelling. But its finest hour comes when we revisit Joan’s inquisitorial trial after her capture at Compiègne in 1430.

The recreated panel of clergymen, seeking to discredit her threat to English rule, are forensically challenged over their crooked questions and accusations of heresy. Hearing how the judges condemn our hero’s cross-dressing and lay linguistic traps in the face of her elegant defence, visitors soon join the narrator in his passion for justice.

The Historial is a fabulously well-researched take on the human and historical evidence, assembled over three years by scholars from around the globe.

Their areas of interest span the centuries since Joan of Arc’s death. Visitors are invited to explore how political, military and commercial forces have since then attempted to manipulate her image. She has been in turn a heretic, revolutionary, feminist icon, anti-Nazi propaganda tool and symbol of France’s far-right Front National party.

“Maybe you will soon learn that Joan of Arc was part of the NSA,” our guide jokes as he takes us around sunny Rouen.

The beautiful old city throws up history at every turn, with rows of half-timber buildings and picturesque churches. And that is not the only way it resembles a scaled-up Winchester.

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Gros Horloge, the 14th century astronomical clock tower in Rouen city centre

Well-heeled residents parade tiny dogs and stop for coffee, while busy markets dominate the streets. Tour guides speak of its reputation as a historic capital and former political centre of the region.

But Joan of Arc is Rouen’s biggest attraction – and it shows. We see the Bar Jeanne d'Arc, Joan of Arc teabags and countless stalls selling nougat-wrapped almonds known as ‘Joan of Arc’s tears’. A memorial church and garden fill the square where she was burnt to death, in front of 800 soldiers and countless townspeople.

Though Winchester Cathedral’s tribute is small by comparison, it offers some insight into this mysterious teenager’s shared presence in French and English history.

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The statue (above) was dedicated by the Dean of Winchester in 1923, three years after her canonisation and nearly five centuries after her death.

It is eloquently described in a leaflet from the time. It is “slight act of reparation,” the text reads, “and as an earnest that we in England join in the admiration and reverence for her with the great nation which, in her days, was our gallant enemy, but which has now become our trusted friend and heroic ally.”