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Monthly Vignette: Resolving a Schism

Updated: Mar 11

By Paul Leone



SLP runs a monthly vignette challenge, the latest of which is on the subject off Lawman and can be found Here.

Not all vignettes presented here appear in the challenges, for a variety of reasons. This is one such, a delightful little foray into the Great Schism.


Comment from me here would be superfluous.




Once upon a time....


It is a hot day in Sicily, boiling hot, and they have come from all corners of Christendom.


Brother Matthew looks around, marvelling at the tremendous diversity of spectators. Franciscans, Dominicans, Benedictines, and members of a dozen orders that Matthew, a Franciscan himself, does not even recognise. Some of them may be from the East, Orthodox believers of various stripes or the last sad echoes of Outremer in the Holy Land. Yes, that fellow, the tall man with the scar; he bears the garb of a Hospitaller. Matthew is impressed. He has rarely seen those fabled Knights of Rhodes, but their bravery has travelled to all four corners of Europe.


And then there are the laity; nobles and merchants and even a few peasants from every country Matthew can name. English, French, Scottish, Venetian, Portuguese, and on and on. At his side, in fact, is a French noblewoman, Marianne Vienneau, the Countess d’Aubert, who has come for mysterious reasons of her own. A grudge, perhaps, a vendetta to settle. Brother Matthew sees the sword that hangs at her side, and instinctively knows she has used it and used it well.


But the lady warrior is far from the most striking figure present. That honour falls either to a gigantic Ethiopian with arms like tree trunks, or else to the three Turks, silent and deadly Janissaries, given leave to attend, but stripped of their scimitars and daggers.


Just in case.


A murmur runs through the crowd, preceding the heralds and courtiers now emerging from the two great tents at either end of the tournament green. Banners flutter in the breeze, banners bearing great and holy symbols of the Church – the Cross of Redemption, the Crown of the Pontiff, the Two Keys of Peter – and behind them march deacons, priests, monks, bishops, archbishops, cardinals and, finally, one at each end, the two men claiming the title of Pope.


Matthew turns and looks first at Boniface IX, the noble and sage Bishop of Rome. He is old, this priest, but his eyes are clear and he walks with no limp. They say he survives only on water and the Eucharist, the holy diet of an ascetic.


His retinue parts and Boniface bows in each direction, to thunderous applause. Matthew looks and sees that three parts of the audience are on their knees, as he is: a sign of the favour given to Boniface in this time of schism.


Then he turns again and looks at the so-called Benedict XIII, or Cardinal de Luna, the wily Aragonese who has also claimed the title of Pope. He has come from Avignon with a small army of followers, many of whom sit in the stands and bend their knees on cue when their Pope raises his hands in benediction. If not for de Luna’s retinue, Matthew suspects, few would now be genuflecting.


And then the two Popes, he of Rome and he of Avignon, pass the fence and enter the green centre of the tournament ground. The man who leaves on his feet will be the true Pope, consecrated by Divine favour as revealed through triumph in battle.


Benedict and Boniface face each other. Matthew wonders what they say, but their whispers do not carry very far. There is a curt exchange of bows, and then they step back two paces.

The mediator, a Greek monk of great wisdom (and one who has no stake in this schism, being a schismatic himself in the eyes of the Church), puts his hands together for a moment, then claps.


And it begins.

Back and forth the battle goes, and the pattern emerges in only a moment. Boniface employs a mix of the techniques of St Matthew the Evangelist – endurance and patience – and, of course, St Peter, Prince of Apostles, who stands firm in the face of all blows. Benedict, too, employs a trace of the style of St Peter, but mostly favours the lethal attacks first taught by St Simon the Zealot.


“Attack and defence. Sword and shield,” Brother Matthew notes.


Lady Marianne nods, watching intently as the two rivals do battle below. She knows as well as Matthew that the fighters are evenly matched. Victory will go to the fortunate, the one favoured by God, as was intended when the challenge was given by Boniface and reluctantly accepted by Benedict.


The fortunate or the treacherous!


Benedict suddenly strikes a strange blow, slapping Boniface in the chest with the palm of his hand.


“Five Perditions Exploding Heart Technique!” Matthew groans.


“The dog!” Marianne hisses.


Boniface staggers back and falls to his knees.


A thousand Christians hold their breaths as the fate of Christendom, of all the world, hangs in the balance. Benedict smiles wickedly and flicks his whispy white beard.


“Wait,” the Pope of Rome says.


A thousand Christians wait.


Boniface calmly rises to his feet and calmly dusts off his tunic. His serene smile is mirrored by the shock on Benedict’s face. And then the Pope of Rome strikes with his fist, hitting Benedict first in one wrist and then the other. The crack of breaking bones rings out loud as a bell.


“Second Heavenly Key Technique!” Matthew gasps, astonished beyond measure.


“But... how...” Benedict gasps, staring first at his broken wrists and then up at his saintly rival.


Boniface clasps his hands together and bows his head.


His kung fu is the best. Deus Vult.



Discuss this vignette Here.

Paul Leone is the author of the SLP book In and Out of the Reich.


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