The Sacking of the Vatican
The Sacking of the Vatican occurred on 15 September 1378, when Empress Matilda VI sought to defend the Hycathic faith against erasure by the Catholic church. Together with her daughter, also named Matilda, and an army of thousands headed by Adelaide Loxley, Empress Matilda stormed the Vatican and laid waste to its buildings.
With the removal of their seat of power, the Catholic church’s stranglehold on religion was released. Hycathism now became the main religion across Europe, but persons of all faiths were tolerated.
This event is regarded as the starting point of the Second Age of Hycath.
After the victory of Empress Matilda I at the Battle of Lincoln in 1141, which ushered in the First Age of Hycath in England, the Catholic church retreated to mainland Europe. Over the next two centuries, the power and influence of Catholicism grew to a point where it threatened other faiths, including Hycathism.
England became involved in the affairs of the French throne in 1328, when Empress Ivette II protested the Salic law, laid down by the Avignon Papacy, then based in France. The Salic law prohibited female succession and thus prevented the recently deceased King Charles IV’s daughters from inheriting his throne. Ivette’s descendant and successor, Matilda V, travelled to France in the mid-1340s to help Charles’s second daughter and rightful heir, Blanche, fight to reclaim her throne. After a decade of war in France, they succeeded in this mission, drove the Papacy back to Rome and shortly began the Inquisition in retaliation.
Timeline of Events
In early 1378 the Vatican ordered the destruction of all Hycathic temples across Europe. Empress Matilda VI – daughter of Matilda V – became increasingly disturbed by reports coming from Europe of worshippers being imprisoned and tortured and of their relics being broken, which she saw as the systematic erasure of the Hycathic faith.
Matilda assembled a large army that included her mother, Matilda V, Mary-Anne Fitzwalter, Ninth Duchess of East Mercia and General Adelaide Loxley. By late July, they set off for Italy.
They travelled by foot and on horseback from London to Dover, before crossing by boat into what was then Flanders – now part of northern France. From there, they marched south. Evidence of the Catholic church’s persecution of Hycathism was all around them and Matilda’s forces helped displaced Hycathi and Hycathae where they could.
Occasionally, they arrived in time to prevent the destruction of a temple. This happened in Clermont on 21st August, when Matilda’s army came across a group of Vatican soldiers attempting to clear a gathering at the temple there. Her army easily outnumbered the soldiers, who swiftly surrendered without blood being spilt. The temple at Clermont still stands and to this day 21 August is known there as Empress Day.
Matilda’s army reached the gates of Rome, on 12th September 1378. Word of their approach had reached the Vatican, which had its army ready.
After initially being denied admission to the city, Empress Matilda sent her mother to the Vatican council as emissary. She was accompanied by one of the captured Clermont soldiers as a gesture of goodwill and an intention to seek a peaceful solution to the situation. The attempt failed, however, and Empress Matilda’s mother was taken captive.
With a peaceful resolution now being impossible, Matilda launched a full-scale attack, laying siege to the city and pounding its walls relentlessly with cannon fire.
The Fall of the Vatican
On 15 September, the walls of Vatican city fell and Matilda’s army stormed through. The first wave was ordered and devastating. Eye-witness accounts describe Matilda’s army as “a forest of swords” wielded by “fierce-eyed giants”. One witness recounts that “nothing could withstand their fury, all Rome would have fallen before them, if they had chosen so”.
By mid-afternoon, they had reached the heart of the Vatican Palace. Accounts speak of Matilda striding through the throne room, past ranks of soldiers and defeated prisoners. She demanded the release of her mother, only to be greeted by a quivering monk delivering the news that her mother, Matilda V, was dead. One of the Empress’s own cannonballs had shattered the walls of the room where she was being held. Her mother had died instantly.
One account describes Matilda’s reaction:
“It was as though her bones had melted away, so abruptly did she collapse to the ground. There was a silence that seemed to last an age. Dread filled the room and none dared breathe. Then she let forth a cry – words cannot describe it, so full of pain and grief it was. But this cry seemed to revive her and after a moment she rose to her feet, sword held high, and laid waste to what remained of our home.”
As the sun set on that day, the Constantinian Basilica was in ruins and the Catholic church was on its knees.
On her return to England and with the Catholic Church defeated, Matilda declared herself Hycath Empress of Europe. She spoke about ruling as the Roman Empire once had, installing puppet rulers in the cities they conquered. Her plan was to start with Rome then use this as a base to fan out across all of Europe
This path she had chosen worried her advisors. A lengthy campaign with Europe would ruin England financially. They attempted to reason with her, but Matilda would not listen. She intended to do this, in the name of her mother.
Dissension began to creep in amongst her council members, including Mary-Anne Fitzwalter. For the good of the country, they could not allow this to continue. However, their Empress would not be dissuaded.
A small faction decided to take matters into their own hands. Reports are conflicted on exactly how this was done, but the general consensus among historians is that the faction paid off Matilda’s guards allowing an assassin to creep into her apartment during the night. Her body was found the next morning – Empress Matilda had been stabbed to death in her sleep.
With the Empress and her mother dead, a battle for the throne of England would be just as destructive as a European war would have been. So it was decided to divide England into eleven smaller Queendoms. The fact that this solution to a succession crisis was already in place has been seen by many historians to support the suggestion that the assassination plot came from the highest levels.
In addition to dividing up the Queendom, it was also decided that the line of succession could, in the future, pass to both female and male heirs, although female heirs would still hold precedence over their male siblings.