The Symbolic Detonation of the Revolution(*): Sciarra Colonna and Nogaret, Philip the Fair’s Emissary, Slap Pope Boniface VIII in Anagni

May 25, 2023

Boniface immeditely proceeded to that further action he threatened, and began to draft the bull solemnly excommunicating Philip and threatening his deposition if, within a fixed time, he had not submitted and sought absolution. It was arranged that the bull should be promulgated in the cathedral at Anagni, where Boniface then was, on September 8 [1303]. Nogaret learnt of what was in preparation. He realised that, at all costs, the publication of the sentence must be prevented. With a mixed troop of soldiery, gathered from half-a-dozen neighbouring towns hostile to the pope, with one of the Colonna at his side, and the standard of Philip the Fair in the van, he made for Anagni. On the eve of the appointed day he arrived before the little hillside city. Treason opened a gate for his force and after a short, sharp battle, he and his men, to the shouts of “Colonna! Colonna!” were in the papal palace and presently in the papal presence. They found the old pope prepared for them robed and clasping his crucifix. Nogaret demanded that he withdraw the excommunication and surrender himself for judgment. He replied that he would rather die. Sciarra Colonna offered to kill the pope. The cooler-headed Frenchman held him back. Then Colonna struck the old man in the face.

The outrage was the end of Nogaret’s success, however. While he parleyed with the pope and while the Italian soldiery plundered the palace—all they wanted and were fit for, Nogaret noted—the fighting began again in the town, and shouts of “Death to the French!” filled the streets. . . .

But the shock of this terrible Sunday was more than the pope could endure. . . . The cardinals persuaded him to return to Rome, and within three weeks he was dead (October 20, 1303).


(*) The term Revolution is used here in the sense given to it by Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira in his book Revolution and Counter-Revolution, 3rd ed. (York, Penn.: The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property, 1993).Philip Hughes, The Revolt Against the Church: Aquinas to Luther, vol. 3 of A History of the Church (New York, Sheed & Ward, 1947), 85–86.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 879


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