The Order of the Sword of St. Jerome is a group inside the Catholic Church dedicated to fighting and collecting information about the Mythos. It was officially disbanded around 1933, but that has never stopped anyone else. It is not clear how large the group is, or if the Church is currently aware of its existence, but it has access to the Vatican Library Z Collection.
The early history of any secret group is difficult to determine, but the earliest indications of the Order appear to be from the late fifteenth century. It is unknown whether or not there is any connection between this group and the more famous Inquisition founded in Spain during the mid-fifteenth century. Perhaps they were both signs of the growing organization of the Catholic Church in the face of the Protestant and humanist movements.
The Order seems to have a number of Italian connections, and it is thought to be connected with a monastery dedicated to St. Jerome organized in Pisa in 1377. It is also possible that the organization existed under a different name, or no name at all, for even longer, perhaps as long as the Church has been in existence.
We do know that a papal bull was issued in 1571 which grants complete absolution to members of the Order if they have committed mortal sins in what we’d call “in the line of duty,” and are slain by the opposition or otherwise die without the comfort of a confessor. This is one of the few Church documents known to exist that directly mentions the Order, and it is thought to be held in the Vatican Library Z Collection. There is most likely another copy in the Monastery.
Walk through the Valley of the Shadow
There are not many reports of the activities on the Order, but it is known that it was officially disbanded in 1933. This coincided with the rise to power of the Nazi regime in Germany, and it was soon apparent that Mussolini would accept an alliance with them. Some people within the Vatican supported the fascists, while others merely wished to placate them.
Either way, the Church elders wished to hide anything that these regimes might find offensive. One could surmise that the Order had already discovered the Karotechia and tried to interfere with their research. Since it was obvious that the Nazis would soon come to power, it was clear that it was better if the Order just disappeared.
The Order continued to exist, just away from the Vatican.
The Sword of St. Jerome maintains a monastery, thought to be located in the Alps. A likely candidate is the Sacra di San Michele, located on Mount Pirchiriano in northern Italy, near the French border.
The Monastery contains a formidable library of ancient books. It is perhaps the largest single collection of Mythos writings on Earth, or at least in human hands. The Order feels that containing a book within these walls and removing it from circulation is a victory against the darkness.
The monks in the Monastery dedicate their lives to preserving and examining these books. To preserve their sanity, each one dedicates themselves to only one of the major works in their collection. Each senior librarian is assisted by two trainees, who learn from his experience and keep check on his mental health.
Knights of the Order
The Knights are the right hand of the Order, who can take an active role in the field. Some are recruited from the military, or even the Swiss Guard assigned to protect the Vatican. Some are recruited from Catholic seminaries sympathetic with the Order's mission.
Some Knights are assigned to protect the Monastery and the elders of the Order, but most are sent out into the field. When they are in the field, they are refered to as Pilgrims, and their primary duty is to collect information. This gets sent back to the Monastery, where it will be evaluated by the Librarians. Some Pilgrims will stay in place for years if necessary.
If the elders determine that action needs to be taken, a force of Knights will be assembled and sent to aid the Pilgrim.
In addition, the Order has developed an extensive network of contacts in all walks of life. These people don't know the true nature of the Order or their mission, but are willing to help them out with information. Within the Order, these contacts are referred to as the Longa manus. That can be literally translated as "long arm," but has the more colloquial translation of "cat’s paw."
Jerome was an important Church elder who lived during the fourth and fifth centuries. His is most famous for translating the Christian Bible into Latin, in the version known as the Vulgate Bible. Born in the Balkan region, he traveled in the Near East, learning church doctrine and languages. He is the patron saint of translators, librarians and encyclopedists. He is often symbolized by or depicted with a skull, an hourglass and instruments for writing.
One other object often appears in depictions of St. Jerome: a stone. According to some scholars, this is what is refered to as the Sword of St. Jerome. This would be fitting, because it is a simple everyday object that can be turned into a deadly weapon or a useful tool, depending on intent.
Presence in Japan
|This article was created with material from the abandoned Kurotokage sourcebook project. That material is in the public domain since 2003. The unfinished original content is archived.|
Father Augusto Colon de Souza, Company of Jesus (1568-1631)
Third son of Eduardo De Souza, at one time commander of the Oporto garrison, Augusto Colon De Souza entered the seminary at the age of twelve, and joined the Jesuit order in 1584, being posted to the Manila Jesuit mission as a way to "distance him from distractions", as his father put it in a letter to his brother Manoel (quoted by Bellagamba, 1951).
Father De Souza belonged to the second generation of missionaries, which built on the work of Francis Xavier while sidestepping the increasingly strict regulations against Christian diffusion by posing as diplomats. He was 21 when he first arrived in Japan (1589) as part of a diplomatic mission from Manila, and sort of did "Lafcadio Hearn", soon learning the language and befriending a number of individuals from various walks of life, and building a network for the gathering of information (see his only available biography - two full chapters in Lorenzo Bellagamba's general but monumental "Martiri d'Oriente", Edizioni Paoline, 1951). Originally based in the Portuguese Jesuit Convent in Osaka, he weathered the early clashes between Japanese and Portuguese Jesuits, acting as teacher in the Osaka Catholic School and entertaining a close friendship with number of Hideyoshi cohorts - most notably Manase Dousan, Hideyoshi's personal doctor, and generals Konishi Yukinaga and Kuroda Yoshitaka. He was also on friendly terms with Takayama Nagafusa, also known as Ukon or don Justo to his Christian allies.
After Hideyoshi's death, De Souza astutely distanced himself from the political scene in time to avoid the worst hardships of the Ieyasu years. His involvement with political intrigue was never spelled out clearly (and is not covered by the biographer), but his participation in an intelligence-gathering operation was always considered a given (for him as for most of his colleagues at the time, in fact).
De Souza was a witness to the Osaka siege during the "Summer Campaign" of 1615, but fled the premises before the fall of the castle, and later moved south, reaching the relative haven of Kyushu. Here he lived in relative anonymity, contacts with his western masters granted through the free port of Dejima, in Nagasaki Bay. According to some sources he entrusted prostitutes commuting between the town and the island with encrypted dispatches (Gavassi & McCraken, "St. Peter's Intelligence", in "Proc. of RMGS", volume IV, 1889).
He was an older and wiser man when the Hidetada edicts launched the oppression of the Christians, but he decided to remain in Japan when the final 1624 edict expelled all missionaries and outlawed all Japanese of Christian faith. He was captured and crucified on May 29th 1631 in Shimabara.
Given the place and time, ties with the Masuda Shiro rebel forces can be postulated (DeVries & Bjorlikke, "Peasant Revolts in Feudal Japan - a Historical Materialistic Perspective", Springer Verlag, 1984, lists him among the conspirators) but no direct connection was ever demonstrated.
De Souza and St. Jerome
On the fifth of February 1597, 26 Christians, including six Spanish Jesuits, were crucified in Nagasaki; officially, the bragging of the captain of the "San Felipe" had led to an accusation of conspiracy against the Emperor. The true reasons behind the "incident" have long been debated; for sure, it left the Order of the Sword of St. Jerome in need of a new, more discreet contact in the archipelago, their foothold on the islands having been cancelled. Augusto Colon de Souza was the right man in the right place.
Between 1589 and 1597, De Souza had penned a number of learned studies, in the form of letters or reports to his superiors, covering various aspects of Japanese history, politics and society. His was the first unbiased (relatively at least) overview of the Shinto belief system by a westerner (the report is still held in the Vatican Library in Rome). A long document covering "The Ancient Legend of the Witch Queen Himika" is mentioned in one of the surviving letters but reported as lost.
His proven knowledge of the land and the people caused him to be headhunted by the Jeromites (at the time organized as Minorite Order of the Hermits of St. Jerome of the Fiesole Congregation); it is also likely that some element close to St. Jerome (possibly Takayama Ukon?) spoke for him at a critical moment. In brief, Father De Souza was tested and found suitable, and given a responsible position soon after the Nagasaki Incident. He was barely 30 at the time.
His duties as local head of the St. Jerome network included first- and second-hand data collection (what today would be called "HUMINT") and the compilation of regular reports to the St. Jerome Chapter House in Manila.
Showing an innate attitude for the job, in his new position De Souza traveled extensively, collecting data about minor factions and local cults, while cultivating stronger contacts in the political and military circles.
With hindsight, it is easy to see in his attitude towards Japanese politics the hard-learned lesson of the Nagasaki Incident; while moving freely among a number of powerful circles, De Souza was careful never to compromise himself too much - the only openly hostile party in his respect was general Kato Kiyomasa, a strict Nichiren Buddhist and veteran of the Korean campaigns of the 1590s - and only the turn of the screw represented by the Hidetada edicts and the following merciless oppression finally forced him to take a definite (and definitive) stand. The modern depiction of De Souza as a classical Counter-Reformation figure (see De Chevignac, 1997), more versed in courtly intrigue and intelligence-gathering than in Christian piety, while hard to deny, does not explain completely his choices and his stance.
According to the fourth "Syncretic Spirituality Survey Report" (De Chevignac et al., CESNUR, 1997), Father De Souza, under the Japanese dub of Souzen, was venerated as a Bodhisattva by a small Buddhist sect in the Unzen area till the late 19th century.
Started out as a post-mortem cult of De Souza's personality on the part of local peasants, the "Christian" sect - lacking instruction or even access to a Bible - compiled the teachings of the Jesuit as they were remembered, incorporating local folklore, Buddhist and Shinto doctrine, to finally produce a weird unorthodox mix of beliefs. Never a high-profile cult due to the strict anti-Christian policies of the Tokugawa shogunate, the group moved progressively towards a Buddhist interpretation of its ancient corpus of doctrines, and finally died out in the second half of the 1800s.
A copy of "Souzen's Bible" - a compilation of the aforementioned mix of beliefs by one of the cult's priests - was supposedly part of the rare books collection of Count Kozue Otani in Kyoto, but was reported lost after the Second World War.
There is a similar, quasi-canonical organization called the Congregation. The Last Dawn is another group within the Catholic Church that has discovered the truth about the Mythos. Their goals are different, however. Any relationships between these groups, if more than one is used, are up to the Keeper.
Based on The Mana Brothers Order of the Sword of St. Jerome pages, now defunct.