“The Sack of Rome by the Barbarians in 410” - Joseph-Noël Sylvestre, 1890
On 24’th August 410 Rome was attacked by the Visigoths, led by Alaric I. The city gates were opened by slaves and the looting and pillaging lasted for three days. It marked the start of the decline and fall of the Roman empire.
Pagans claimed that Christians had destroyed the greatest human achievement ever contrived. The Christians themselves, who had boasted that they had saved whatever was good in ancient civilisation, suffered a crisis of confidence. Alaric was a Christian ransacking a Christian city and there was an ominous feeling that the world structure built by pagan Rome was being devastated by Christianity.
On 6 May 1527, Rome was again sacked. This time by the mutinous troops of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, during his war with Pope Clement VII.
The Holy Prepuce was kept, with the holy heads of Sts. Peter and Paul, in the Sancta Sanctorum (Holy of Holies). One of the looting soldiers stole the bejeweled reliquary containing the Holy Foreskin of Jesus and fled northward. About 50km outside Rome he was caught and imprisoned in the village of Calcata. He hid the relic in his cell, where it remained undiscovered for the next 30 years.