Great Schism

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Insurrection, Human-Covenant War, Blooding Years, Post-Covenant War conflicts

Great Schism
Schism 3.png


November 3, 2552[note 1]–Ongoing as of 2559[1]


Milky Way galaxy




High Prophet of Truth
High Prophet of Mercy
Prophet of Exquisite Devotion
Chieftain Tartarus
Chieftain Gargantum
Chieftain Hekabe
Captain Melchus
Prelate Tem'Bhetek
Minister Boru'a'Neem

Arbiter Thel 'Vadam
Shipmaster Rtas 'Vadum
Unidentified Sangheili Shipmaster[1]
Fleet Master Voro Nar 'Mantakree
Imperial Admiral Xytan 'Jar Wattinree
Scion Tul 'Juran
Ranger Stolt
Blademaster Vul 'Soran
Fleetmaster Rojka 'Kasaan
Thars 'Sarov

  • Fleet Master Voro Nar 'Mantakree
  • Xytan 'Jar Wattinree
"This is the third vector of chaos."
Zo Resken, former Prophet of Clarity, to his Sangheili liberators[2]

The Great Schism,[3] also known as the Covenant Schism,[4] or the Great Betrayal among the Sangheili,[5] was a major civil conflict between the forces loyal to the Covenant against the Sangheili and their followers, which split apart on November 3, 2552. During the Schism, three major factions fought for victory: the Sangheili Fleet of Retribution allied with the UNSC; the remnants of the Covenant led by the San'Shyuum and the Jiralhanae; and the Flood, which took over the Covenant holy city of High Charity in an effort to assimilate the other warring factions. The Schism marked both the end of the Covenant and the partition of its client species for a thousand years.[4] For UNSC, it served as a major turning point that led to the end of the war after their disastrous defeat on Reach.



Thel 'Vadamee: "We are strong, Kig-Yar. That is why we sit at the right hand of the Prophets."
Reth: "One day that shall pass."
— Conversation between Reth and Thel 'Vadamee in 2535[6]

For centuries over the course of the history of the Covenant, certain Sangheili eventually came close to discovering the truth about the Forerunners, which would falsify the Covenant religion.[7] This was made even more apparent when Sesa 'Refumee's heretic faction spread information about the Great Journey being false.[8] Intending to prevent the Covenant from falling apart, the High Prophet of Truth made plans to eject the Sangheili species from the hegemony, viewing them as untrustworthy and doubting their reliability and loyalty. Supreme Commander Thel 'Vadamee's failure to prevent John-117 from destroying Installation 04, considered one of the Covenant's "Sacred Rings", further perpetuated distrust toward the Sangheili. Truth would eventually replace the Sangheili with the Jiralhanae, as he saw the latter as more willing and unquestioning pawns. He had appointed Tartarus, a loyal Jiralhanae, to the position of Chieftain of the Jiralhanae who would help him execute his plan. Feeding off the rivalry between the Sangheili and Jiralhanae, Truth knew that Tartarus and the Jiralhanae would be more than happy to replace the Sangheili as the Covenant's military leaders. Truth kept these schemes strictly to himself and waited until the time was right to implement them. After Truth learned the location of the human homeworld, he secretly amassed a fleet of over five hundred warships, commanded entirely by Jiralhanae, at the command-and-control station Unyielding Hierophant.[9] In September 2552, this station and the fleet were destroyed by a group of SPARTAN-IIs who learned of its purpose shortly before the invasion could commence.[10] This put a temporary halt to Truth's plans.[11]

On October 20, the High Prophet of Regret made a move Truth did not expect: having discovered a significant Forerunner artifact on Earth on his own, but unaware of the fact it was humanity's homeworld, he took a fleet of fifteen ships to Earth.[11] Immediately after Truth learned of this, he sent the remnants of the fleet he had amassed to Earth; he gave his Jiralhanae troops orders to forcibly overtake the Sangheili in command of the remaining forces on and above Earth. When Regret retreated from Earth, his Sangheili-led ships in orbit continued to engage the UNSC, but now without a leader. Only moments after, the Jiralhanae forces within the fleet and on the ground killed any remaining Sangheili,[12] as Truth had ordered. They continued to hold New Mombasa until the reinforcements sent by Truth arrived. As High Charity and the rest of the Covenant fleet were now on their way to the newly discovered Halo Installation 05, Truth's scheme remained secret from the rest of the Covenant. Regret, who would arrive at Delta Halo weeks before High Charity and the rest of the Covenant, would serve yet another purpose for Truth: the final stage in Truth's plan.[11] With the arrival of the UNSC In Amber Clad commanded by Commander Miranda Keyes on Installation 05, the UNSC decided to assassinate the Prophet of Regret after they got the intel they needed, with John-117 set to carry out this task.

The Changing of the Guard[edit]

Main article: Changing of the Guard

After the Prophet of Regret was killed by Spartan John-117 on November 2, 2552, the two remaining Hierarchs reorganized Covenant society. Claiming that the Sangheili could no longer protect the Prophets due to Regret's death, they replaced the Sangheili with the Jiralhanae as the Prophets' protectors. The Sangheili viewed this as a violation of the principle that the Covenant had been founded upon and threatened to resign from the High Council.[13] This would spark the start of the Great Schism.

Conflict erupts[edit]

Kig-Yar and Unggoy protest on High Charity.
"The Great Schism is upon us. The unbreakable Covenant Writ of Union has been split asunder. This is the end of the Ninth, and final, Age."
— Xytan 'Jar Wattinree[3]
The death of the Sangheili High Councilors.

Truth further demoted the Sangheili by giving command of their fleets to the Jiralhanae. Truth knew that the High Council would elect a new Hierarch to replace Regret, and so he made his move to eliminate the Sangheili High Councilors to prevent a more moderate Prophet from being elected and ruining his grand plan to eliminate the Sangheili and humanity.[14] Once enough Jiralhanae were in place, Truth instigated a pogrom by secretly ordering the assassination of many Sangheili Councilors.[15] Many Sangheili High Councilors and former Honor Guards were ordered to meet in the Control Room of Installation 05 to begin preparing for the Great Journey. However, Jiralhanae Captain Melchus arrived at the Control Room with a large, heavily armed contingent of Jiralhanae and proceeded to massacre the Councilors and former guardsmen.[16] Truth also freed all Jiralhanae prisoners and pardoned them after release.[17] This was perceived as an insurrection against the Covenant to the Sangheili, as well as many Mgalekgolo and Unggoy. Loyalist factions were led to believe it was a Sangheili revolt. After the assassination of the Councilors, war broke out on High Charity, with the two sides polarizing quickly. However, this was at first a debate over orthodoxy and leadership. The true split occurred when the Sangheili discovered the truth about the Halos and the Great Journey. Their disillusionment changed their goal from reforming the purity of the Covenant to actively fighting against it the following day. Around this time, Truth left the Prophet of Mercy to die at the hands of the Flood, solidifying his place as the autocrat of the Covenant.[18]

At the front lines of the original conflict aboard High Charity, the species of the Covenant took distinct sides. Those who followed the San'Shyuum included all but a few Jiralhanae,[19] most Kig-Yar and Yanme'e, some Unggoy, and a minority of the Mgalekgolo. The forces allied with the Sangheili consisted of many Mgalekgolo, Unggoy and Huragok.[20]

Chol Von, a T'vaoan shipmistress, renamed her missionary ship Joyous Discovery as Paragon at some point of the Great Schism.[21] During the Schism, she captured a Phantom, killing two Sangheili in the process.[22] After discovering that the Prophet of Clarity was attempting to aid the Sangheili, the Prophet of Exquisite Devotion attempted to have him executed for treason. However, a group of Sangheili led by G'torik 'Klemmee arrived and rescued the Prophet of Clarity—resulting in the death of Exquisite Devotion in the process.[23] The group would later escape High Charity aboard a stolen supply ship, Journey's Sustenance.[24]

Sangheili-human alliance[edit]

The shaky alliance between the Sangheili and their former foes, the humans, was forged out of necessity and revenge against the Covenant to some extent.[25] Both sides had two common enemies that wished for their extinction: the Covenant and the Flood. This alliance of circumstance was forged in the control room of Installation 05, when Sergeant Major Avery Johnson and Arbiter Thel 'Vadamee united to prevent the Chieftain of the Jiralhanae, Tartarus, from activating Delta Halo and firing the Halo Array.[26] The Arbiter persuaded many Sangheili—though far from all of them—to ally with the humans.[27]

On November 17, the devastated UNSC Home Fleet attempted a last-ditch assault on the Prophet of Truth's Forerunner Dreadnought, which had integrated with the Forerunner artifact that Regret had discovered nearly a month prior. This attack failed and a Flood-controlled battlecruiser crashed in Voi only moments after Truth's fleet entered the portal generated by the artifact.[28] However, the Sangheili Fleet of Retribution, led by Shipmaster Rtas 'Vadum, arrived in pursuit of the cruiser; as the fleet glassed the city and its environs, the Sangheili and UNSC agreed to follow Truth beyond the portal.[29]

The Ark[edit]

The death of the Prophet of Truth.

The joint Sangheili-UNSC fleet arrived at the Halo Array's control center, Installation 00, on December 11. During the ensuing battle, the Fleet of Retribution completely destroyed their Jiralhanae counterpart, despite the latter's three-to-one numerical superiority.[30] Sangheili forces later helped SPARTAN-117 disable the shield generators protecting the installation's Citadel, in which the Prophet of Truth was hiding. Master Chief John-117 and Arbiter Thel 'Vadam entered the Citadel and fought through what remained of Truth's personal guard. After reaching the control panel they discovered that the Hierarch had been infected by the Flood; as the Prophet slipped in and out of lucidity, 'Vadam stabbed him in the back.[31] The Flood-controlled High Charity was destroyed shortly thereafter,[32] effectively dissolving the Covenant.

Shipmaster 'Vadum evacuated the remaining Sangheili and human forces after the holy city's destruction. Seemingly, only his flagship, Shadow of Intent, remained. Any remaining Covenant forces were killed when Halo Installation 08 was activated and the Ark was severely damaged by the debris; the activation also ended the immediate threat of the Flood. The Master Chief, the Arbiter, and the AI Cortana had escaped on the frigate UNSC Forward Unto Dawn, which was split in half when their escape portal closed too early.[33]

After the Human-Covenant War[edit]

Brutes Choppers raid Sangheili settlements.
Main article: Post-Covenant War conflicts

Though 'Vadam sought a lasting peace with humanity, many of the Sangheili were not willing to suddenly end their war with the humans. Many Sangheili insurgents, rallied together by the Servants of the Abiding Truth, incited war against the Arbiter and his allies for collaborating with humanity.[34] Jul 'Mdama, a former member of the Servants of the Abiding Truth, eventually formed his own revival of the Covenant, with the Sangheili again serving as its leadership caste.[35]

With Truth dead, High Charity destroyed, and the Ark heavily damaged after Installation 08's firing, some of the remaining Jiralhanae forces tried to rebuild their tattered strength to continue their war of conquest.[36] Even though the Jiralhanae eventually collapsed into various civil wars, they still posed enough of a threat that Sangheili commanders kept up the offensive against them for at least another six years, even as they continued to lose irreplaceable warships and the war continued with no end in sight.[1]

Tem'Bhetek's faction planned to use a prototype Halo installation to genocide the Sangheili species by activating it near Sanghelios.[37] This faction continued the efforts of the Great Schism up until its defeat in 2553.

The Covenant had strategically settled Jiralhanae populations on resource-rich worlds as a planetary garrison force to protect the worlds from potential raids. While the Jiralhanae continued to inhabit these worlds after the dissolution of the Covenant, they were unable to mine or utilize the resources because of their own lack of sufficient technology. With the Covenant's supply chains gone, the Jiralhanae quickly found their supplies near depletion. This was one of the primary reasons for their raids on Sangheili colonies after the war; despite quite literally living on top of plentiful resources, the Jiralhanae were entirely dependent on the already processed supplies of other races due to their technological backwardness. However, the Jiralhanae could not sustain themselves via raiding alone in the long term and their supplies began to wear thin, leading to an impending species-wide famine in 2558 and an increase in Jiralhanae attacks across Sangheili and Kig-Yar colonies as a result. During this crisis, the Jiralhanae Chieftain Lydus was willing to initiate peace talks with the Arbiter overseen by the UNSC.[38] However, the negotiations were interrupted by Covenant mercenaries hired by the New Colonial Alliance.[39]

During his rebellion against his cousin Rojka 'Kasaan on Carrow, Thars 'Sarov made a deal with the Jiralhanae Chieftain Hekabe for his help in the Battle of Carrow. However, this proved to be a grave mistake as Hekabe's real plan was to gain access to the Sharquoi hive beneath the city of Suraka and use the hundreds of thousands of creatures held there to destroy his enemies. During the beginning of the Great Schism, Hekabe had used the power the Jiralhanae had been granted by the High Prophets to find the vertex on Installation 00 during the battle there, the vertex being the device that would allow him to control the Sharquoi. During the battle, Hekabe's fleet was destroyed by the Surakan Militia Volunteers, including his flagship the ORS-class heavy cruiser Foebane, but Hekabe was undaunted. With the help of SPARTAN-II Gray Team, Thars was killed by Rojka while Hekabe's plot was defeated. Hekabe was killed by Sharquoi under the control of human governor Ellis Gass who then destroyed the Sharquoi hive and all of the Sharquoi on Carrow with a HAVOK tactical nuclear weapon.[40]

The war between the Sangheili and the Jiralhanae continued to escalate until at least 2559. At some point the Prophets had supplied the Jiralhanae with powerful new weapons, though the Jiralhanae's internal conflict gave the upper hand to their Sangheili opponents.[1]



September 22:

October 20:

October 21:

  • The Prophet of Truth's Jiralhanae-led reinforcement fleet arrives at Earth and starts the excavation of the Ark Portal. They kill all remaining Sangheili in the city.[12]

November 2:

November 3:

November 8:

  • The Forerunner Dreadnought arrives in the Sol system, and proceeds on course towards Earth at near-relativistic speeds.[51]

November 17:

  • The Forerunner Dreadnought enters Earth's atmosphere. John-117 ejects from the ship upon reentry, landing in the jungles near Mount Kilimanjaro.[51]
  • Battle of Voi. The Prophet of Truth uses the Forerunner Dreadnought to activate the Portal, and his loyalist fleet follows it through the portal. The Flood-infested Voi, only to be contained by the Sangheili fleet.[29]

December 11

  • News spreads wide through Sangheili fleets, who take in some instances up arms against their Prophet escorts and, more widely, against the Jiralhanae.
  • Truth and his loyalists arrive at the Ark, pursued by the Sangheili Fleet of Retribution. A massive battle begins over the Ark. All of Truth's vessels are eventually destroyed over the Ark by the Sangheili fleet.[30]
  • Sangheili and human forces fight their way to the Citadel. The Prophet of Truth, the last Hierarch of the Covenant, is executed by Thel 'Vadam with help from the Flood. John-117 stops the Ark from firing the Halo rings.[31]
  • High Charity is destroyed by John-117 after he overloads the city's main reactors causing them to detonate.[32]
  • Rtas 'Vadum evacuates all humans and Sangheili, via the Shadow of Intent, back to Earth.[32]
  • Arbiter Thel 'Vadam, John-117 and Sergeant Johnson battle to the control room of Installation 08. Guilty Spark runs rampant, killing Johnson before being subsequently destroyed by John-117. Installation 08's sentinels turn on the Spartan, Thel 'Vadam, and the Sangheili. The unfinished Installation 04 is activated, devastating the Ark and destroying the entire local Flood infestation including the Gravemind. These final events ended the Human-Covenant War.[33]
  • John-117, Cortana, and Thel 'Vadam escape the Ark. With their escape vessel, UNSC Forward Unto Dawn cut in half upon slipspace transition, only Thel 'Vadam gets back to Earth.[33]


Unknown Date

  • Several former members of the Covenant that had remained loyal during the Great Schism created a faction that continued hostility towards the Sangheili. The faction was ultimately defeated by the Shadow of Intent's crew.


  • March 3: Voi Memorial: the humans and the Sangheili make a memorial in Voi near Mount Kilimanjaro on planet Earth to commemorate those who were lost in the final battle at the Ark, while also serving as a small memorial for those lost in the rest of the war.[52]
  • Revolting Jiralhanae dissidents detonate an explosive in the state of Ontom on Sanghelios. Their attacks are quelled by the local militia. In the wake of this uprising, the Servants of the Abiding Truth attempt to overthrow the Arbiter. Their assault on the state of Vadam ignites a years-long civil war on the planet.[53]
  • Shipmaster Jul 'Mdama establishes a Covenant revival faction on Hesduros. Significant in strength, this remnant vehemently continues and pursues the work of the former Covenant's religion; worship, discovery and possession of Forerunner artifacts.


Horatio Temkin, the human ambassador to Sanghelios, arranges peace talks between the UNSC, Sangheili, and Jiralhanae following an escalation in Jiralhanae raiding attacks throughout the Joint Occupation Zones.[38][39]


  • The Great Schism continues as war between Jiralhanae and Sangheili. The San'Shyuum have vanished from the reaches of the Sangheili, Jiralhanae and UNSC empires. While the Jiralhanae wage their own internecine wars, the Sangheili themselves are gradually losing their fleets in a war of attrition, having lost the technical expertise kept exclusively by the Prophets.[1]


  • A "schism" is a division within a religious sect or denomination. The term "Great Schism" is sometimes used to describe real-world internal religious debates, most notably the East-West Schism, which led to the establishment of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Western Schism, which caused a split within the Roman Catholic Church.
  • In Halo: Contact Harvest, the Prophet of Truth foreshadows the Great Schism, noting that if the Sangheili ever separated from the Covenant, the entire government would collapse.[55]
  • According to the Bestiarum, the Unggoy were too indecisive to continue the rebellion and the true political motivation of the Mgalekgolo, if any, remained a mystery.
  • In Halo 3: ODST, it is implied that the Office of Naval Intelligence was aware of internal conflict within the Covenant from early on. During the level Tayari Plaza which takes place on October 20, Buck asks Dare about the Sangheili bodies lying around the city, as they appear to have been killed by the Jiralhanae; Dare responds that said information is classified.


List of appearances[edit]


  1. ^ The massacre of the Sangheili on Earth on October 20, 2552 (witnessed in Halo 3: ODST) is regarded as an isolated incident leading up to the Schism, whereas the conflict at large is considered to have begun with the Sangheili's banishment from the Honor Guard and the subsequent outbreak of all-out hostilities within High Charity and its fleets on November 2.
  2. ^ Peace negotiations attempted with the Swords of Sanghelios, as of 2558 they remain left at a standstill.


  1. ^ a b c d e Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe "The Return" - "It was a terrible war. The Prophets provided the Brutes with powerful new weapons, hoping that they would in turn defend their Prophets against our wrath. But when the Prophets went into hiding, the lack of leadership allowed the Brutes to return to their savage nature and they soon began to fight against each other. This lack of solidarity made them much easier prey. Some of my fellow commanders continue that fight even now"
  2. ^ Halo: Broken Circle, page 232
  3. ^ a b Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, page 240
  4. ^ a b Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, page 245
  5. ^ Halo: Evolutions, The Return, page 247
  6. ^ Halo: The Cole Protocol, page 229
  7. ^ Halo 2: Anniversary - Terminal 11 - "In some cases, that influence was already being used to question the decisions of your Hierarchs. In fact, that very questioning often gave rise to the charges of heresy that so neatly removed the challenger from the Hierarchs' concern."
  8. ^ Halo 2 - The Arbiter - "Our Prophets are false! Open your eyes, my brothers! They would use the faith of our forefathers to bring ruin to us all! The Great Journey is a-"
  9. ^ Halo: First Strike, page 297
  10. ^ Halo: First Strike, page 407
  11. ^ a b c d Halo Waypoint, "Ten Twenty" history article
  12. ^ a b Halo 3: ODST, campaign level Coastal Highway
  13. ^ a b Halo 2, campaign level Sacred Icon
  14. ^ Halo Waypoint: High Council
  15. ^ a b Halo 2, campaign level Uprising
  16. ^ Halo: Broken Circle, pages 219-222 (Google Play edition)
  17. ^ Halo Wars, Timeline
  18. ^ a b c Halo 2, campaign level Gravemind
  19. ^ Halo: Glasslands, page 55
  20. ^ Halo: Evolutions, "Wages of Sin", page 509
  21. ^ Halo: Mortal Dictata, page 141
  22. ^ Halo: Mortal Dictata, page 73
  23. ^ Halo: Broken Circle, page 242
  24. ^ Halo: Broken Circle, page 250
  25. ^ Halo 3, campaign level The Covenant "I will have my revenge on a Prophet, not a plague!"
  26. ^ a b c d e f Halo 2, campaign level The Great Journey
  27. ^ Halo: Glasslands, page 159
  28. ^ Halo 3, campaign level The Storm
  29. ^ a b Halo 3, campaign level Floodgate
  30. ^ a b Halo 3, campaign level The Ark
  31. ^ a b Halo 3, campaign level The Covenant
  32. ^ a b c Halo 3, campaign level Cortana
  33. ^ a b c Halo 3, campaign level Halo
  34. ^ Halo: The Thursday War
  35. ^ Halo: The Thursday War, page 441
  36. ^ Halo 3, multiplayer level Assembly
  37. ^ Halo: Fractures - Halo: Shadow of Intent - Page 206 - "'Transport the ring to where?' The Minister cocked his head to one side. He looked genuinely puzzled and disappointed that Tem hadn't already guessed.'To Sanghelios of course'"
  38. ^ a b c Halo: Escalation, Issue #1
  39. ^ a b Halo: Escalation, Issue #5
  40. ^ Halo: Envoy
  41. ^ Halo: First Strike, page 96 (2010 edition)
  42. ^ Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Terminal 11
  43. ^ Halo 2, campaign level The Arbiter
  44. ^ Halo 2, campaign level Metropolis
  45. ^ Halo 2, campaign level The Oracle
  46. ^ Halo 2, campaign level Regret
  47. ^ Halo 2, campaign level Quarantine Zone
  48. ^ Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, page 199
  49. ^ Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, page 189
  50. ^ Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, pages 244-245
  51. ^ a b Bungie Weekly Update: 01/23/09
  52. ^ Halo: Glasslands, page 411
  53. ^ Halo: The Thursday War, page 114
  54. ^ Halo: Escalation, Issue #3
  55. ^ Halo: Contact Harvest, page 152