The Ecclesiarchy

The Ecclesiarchy

As the people of the early 31st Millennium came to venerate the God-Emperor of Mankind and flocked to Him, there was great strife amongst the God-Emperor’s followers for He had retreated to His Golden Throne after the Battle of Terra. Many argued greatly as to the correct way to guide His citizens in worship of Him.

Upon Terra, though, the great Temple of the Saviour Emperor had been founded by a champion of humanity who had fought in that final battle, and seen the truth of the God-Emperor’s divinity – he was called Fatidicus, and he would come to lay the foundations of what would grow into the one true Imperial Creed, following the words of the Emperor’s Prophet, Saint Keeler.

In the 32nd Millennium, after the Temple of the Saviour Emperor had cast down false belief, and the truth of the God-Emperor’s divinity had been spread to all of the Imperium, the High Lords recognised the Temple of the Saviour Emperor as the true faith of the Imperial State. And, so, it came to be that it was reformed into the Adeptus Ministorum – the Priesthood of the God-Emperor of Humanity – known to many, simply, as the Ecclesiarchy.

During the 36th Millennium, the Ecclesiarchy was compromised by a mad tyrant, and its power had grown bloated and corrupt. At the end of the so-called Reign of Blood, the Ecclesiarchy was reformed heavily by Saint Sebastian Thor – and the Priesthood forbidden from holding any other Office within the Imperium or (if they were of noble birth) of inheriting any power. The most important of all these reforms, the Decree Passive, forbade the Ecclesiarchy of maintaining or governing its own armed forces.

The Adepta Sororitas was formed in the wake of this, to provide the Ecclesiarchy with a protective shield and a force of watchers who would defend the Imperial Cult from corruption. Though an armed force, their all-female composition did not technically breach the wording of the Decree Passive, as it forbade the Ecclesiarchy to “gather, train, promote, sustain or, in any way, command any force of men under arms“. Due to the gendered use of language, the Adepta’s existence was not explicitly forbidden.

The Adeptus Ministorum of the 41st Millennium is a vast and powerful political entity as much as it is a Priesthood. Some argue that the Priests, too often, place politics above their role in guarding the souls of humanity. Some Priests would argue, however, that the Ecclesiarchy only assumes as much authority as it needs to safeguard those souls from being misled by those not versed or sanctioned in Imperial Cult. Though the Decree Passive is still enforced, it is not so stringently adhered to in these darker times, as the Imperium turns time and time again to the fanatic and militant members of the Imperial Cult.

Five Things to Note About the Ecclesiarchy

  • They are not Catholics. Although 40K takes some aesthetic inspiration from Orthodox and Catholic Christianity, the worship of the Imperial Cult is distinct from totally distinct from any real-life religion and you should not use real religious texts or traditions in game. See the Common Prayer and Liturgy page for guidelines on acceptable roleplay

  • Their power is legal as well as spiritual. Confession to a sin is effectively confessing to a religious crime, and the Church has near-total power to punish religious offences.

  • They are diverse. Interpretation of the Imperial Cult varies hugely across the Galaxy, and there is no defined orthodox praxis for most religious observance. Common practice under one Cardinal may be deemed heresy under another, and priests may even disagree about the fundamental truths of the founding of the Church.

  • They are universal. There is no world under Imperial control that does not have Ecclesiarchy representation, usually a cathedral at the bare minimum, and the Missionaria Galactica strive constantly to bring the Creed to yet more worlds. No other religion is permitted in the Imperium, nor are interpretations of the Creed which accept the existence of any other gods but the Emperor.

  • Their origins are unclear. Texts which refer to the origins of the Imperium are heavily suppressed, and the Ecclesiarchy is no exception. Most citizens simply believe that the Ecclesiarchy and its doctrines have always existed in exactly the form they are now; other views are usually considered heresy

Shrines, Temples and Shrine-Worlds

Within the Imperium, there are many places for the average citizen to give worship to the God Emperor and His many names.

Most commonly, the smaller of these are known as Shrines: often small affairs, with a single altar that may be little more than a repurposed cargo crate or table draped with a simple or decorated cloth, or even a particularly venerated banner. The top of the altar is usually decorated with candles and some form of icon or artifact of faith; in some cases, these may be scrimshawed bones or the skull of a venerated individual; in others, it is usually a symbolic globe representing Terra or some other icon of the Imperium. Most shrines are unattended by a Priest, but, rather, tended to by Citizens and members of the Laity; they tend to be mainly relied upon in the depths of Hives or mine-workings, where there are few true places of worship.

Larger places of worship are most commonly referred to as Temples and, sometimes, Grand Temples, although Cathedral is often used for large structures, as well. These places of worship are usually administered by one or more Priests of the Ecclesiarchy of varying ranks, and are places of massed gathering, where up to thousands of individuals can gather to be preached to and educated in the scripture of the Cult Imperialis.

The Shrine-Worlds are the rarest – entire planets declared to be holy sites, and are the exclusive domain of the Ecclesiarchy, completely ruled by Priests. These places are important as administrative capitals, from which worship across multiple planets can be directed and governed by high ranking leaders of the faith. They are equally places of pilgrimage, where the grandest places of worship and monuments of the faith are constructed, and  that hundreds of thousands of Citizens will travel to aboard pilgrim-ships, so they can visit them at least once in their lifetime

The History of the Prosperitas Ecclesiarchy

A young and rebellious sector, the Ecclesiarchy in the Prosperitas Sector had gone without the appointment of a Cardinal for many years, led largely by the Arch-Confessor of Nivalis. The Arch-Confessor’s murder by renegades of the Navis Nobilite in 584.M41 precipitated a crisis within the Ecclesiarchy – rudderless and fractured, the Ecclesiarchy’s grip was slipping.

The arrival of Cardinal-Emissarius Ignatius Grulge with reinforcements to the Prosperitas Crusade and the potent force of Adepta Sororitas was a turning point in the history of the Prosperitas Ecclesiarchy. While the Sorors saw to the pacification and retaking of riot-wracked Nivalis, Grulge turned his sights to the Priesthood with fire and fury – bringing the various factions into line, forging a unity built on strict obedience to his command. Those that strayed quickly found themselves reassigned to distant locations, where they were less of a problem, though there were always rumours of assassinations of those too powerful to simply discard.

Whatever his methodology, the Cardinal-Emissarius’ rule of the Ecclesiarchy has been marked by unity and a decidedly blatant swing towards the militant tendencies of the early Ecclesiarchy. Adoption of the Lecticio Divinitatus, one of the earliest tomes of writing of the Cult Imperialis, has been widely added to the creed taught in seminaries and temples across the Sector, marking a far greater tendency towards preaching faith and reliance in the Ecclesiarchy, rather than humbleness.

The Priesthood

The Priests of the Ecclesiarchy are a varied group of individuals: the calling to become a servant of the Faith is found in all walks of life, although the great seminaries are more easily accessed by those with the sponsorship of a member of the Ecclesiarchy, those of noble birth or those educated within the Schola Progenium.

When one enters the Priesthood, they are extensively tested and educated at various seminaries across the Imperium. The Ecclesiarchy is rigid in policing its ranks for corruption, and that begins at the point where individuals enter it. Those whose faith is found wanting by the Priests in charge of the Seminary are often simply dismissed from service.

Upon graduating from the seminary, a newly educated Priest, designated as Preacher, will be dispatched to administer to either the spiritual needs of a military unit, or to a small regional parish, where they will serve the God-Emperor by tending to the faith and souls of a small population. Over time, the responsibilities of an individual Preacher will grow; as they rise up the ranks of the Ecclesiarchy, they may tend to bigger parishes, or  be granted a more specialised role within the organisation.

The highest ranking member of the Adeptus Ministorum is the Ecclesiarch – one of the High Lords of Terra, who leads from Terra. Given the unreliability in communication within the Imperium, though, most of the day-to-day administration of the myriad of individual Sectors falls to the Cardinals.

Within the Priesthood, the majority of Priests are dedicated to the salvation of souls, although there are those that tend to other needs.

After to the souls of the Citizens of the Imperium, their minds are the next highest priority of the Adeptus Ministorum. There are few places of education within the Imperium that do not fall under the direct control of the Ecclesiarchy. These institutions are tended to by a variety of priests, from simple scholars to the intimidating Drill Abbots that lead the famous orphanage-institutions within the Schola Progenia network that educate the best and brightest of the Imperium.

While many protect the souls of the people through preaching the word of the Imperial Cult, there are some Priests who take more direct action against the Archenemy: Exorcists and Banishers are specialised Priests trained in fighting maladies of the soul, be they sickness and curses laid by Witches, or even grimmer things. Equally, Witch Hunters are sanctioned by the Ecclesiarchy to hunt down and destroy the Witch wherever it may be found – although they are often bound by decrees of cooperation with the Adeptus Astra Telepathica that commands them to take custody of those Psykers they find untainted. The occasional ‘destruction’ of an untainted Psyker is a considerable annoyance to their so-called allies.

There are many hundreds of other minor orders of Priests, from those that aid Imperial Citizens with financial troubles and support, to those entrusted with guardianship and repair of sacred relics of the Imperial Cult. Some of these divisions are particular to specific sectors, such as the Officio Negotia Internam of the Prosperitas Sector, which handles internal affairs, and enforces the Cardinal-Emissarius’ messages of internal cohesion.

The Missionarus Galaxia

Although they are, technically, Priests, the Missionaries of the Missionarius Galaxia are a special breed of Imperial servant. Despite operating under the auspices of the Ecclesiarch on Terra, they are, in practice, a nigh-autonomous body within the Adeptus Ministorum. The Missionaries are a nomadic breed, tasked with accompanying all kinds of expedition to the lost and unknown ‘wild spaces’ of the Galaxy. Travelling with Imperial forces and other Agents of the Imperium, Missionaries bring with them the candle of enlightenment to light the fires of true faith within human populations that might have forgotten or never known the blessing of the God-Emperor’s light.

Part Priest, part orator and part diplomat, a good Missionary knows one does not win the souls of a human population by simply imposing the Creed upon them – aspects of many cultures encountered are subtly altered to bring them in line to the teachings of the Ecclesiarchy. Local religions are transformed by claims of apocryphal visitations by major figures from the Creed. While practices considered to imperil the soul might be outright wiped out, and barbaric practices – such as totem hunting and necrophagia – might be replaced with more palatable things, more often than not, any harmless traditions end up being incorporated into local faith, in a manner where they can be policed and controlled. All deities other than the God-Emperor are, eventually, cast down, either by turning their followers against them, or turning their cults towards particular figures of Imperial lore.The Missionarius’ job is not to exterminate human cultures, but to turn them towards the God-Emperor, and savage planets that may well provide well-bred fighters for the Imperial military machine.

To be a member of the Missionarius Galaxia  is to be a cunning and resourceful individual, who can survive contact with often barbaric or belligerent cultures. These individuals are nothing if not flexible, indeed. Turning local beliefs towards the God-Emperor requires great effort, demanding that they often spend years toiling in the shadows to manage to turn a world to the light.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the more hidebound members of the Ecclesiarchy consider Missionaries outsiders. For this reason, many of the Priests who enter service of the Missionarius have been assigned to that service because they did not mesh with the more conservative elements of the Adeptus Ministorum. It is not uncommon for Priests who court controversy – or are a potential political rival – to be assigned to this duty by their superiors, in order to push them out of the public eye. Not to say they are not skilled individuals, but many might very well be considered ‘problematic’ by their leaders.

The Adepta Sororitas

The Adepta Sororitas was formed as a division of the Ecclesiarchy in M.36, shortly after the Decree Passive. Founded by Saint Alicia and Saint Thor, the division was built out of the ‘Daughters of the Emperor’, the all-female warrior group who had been tricked into becoming the bodyguards of the tyrant, Vandire. In the Daughters, Thor saw purity, and, although he might have originally intended to disband every militant order of the Adeptus Ministorum, the gendered wording of his original proclamation forbade only men from taking part of armed forces, not women.

But the Adepta became so much more than simply an armoured fist of the Ecclesiarchy: in the aftermath of the Reign of Blood, the corruption of the Ecclesiarchy and the Faithful were great concerns of the Imperium. Bound to the Ordo Hereticus of the Inquisition by other oaths, the absolute loyalty of the Adepta – though they may accept direction from the Priesthood – is to the Emperor and Him alone, and its leaders maintain a constant vigil for corruption within the Imperium and the Faith.

To this day, the Order accepts only recruits who identify as female; and those who enter the service have to endure rigorous physical and mental examinations, as well as demanding tests of faith. In many ways, the Sororitas are far stricter in their testing than the Priesthood, because they are looking for a very particular type of women – as the devotion for the God-Emperor that the Adepta require reaches levels of fanaticism and true faith.

The accepted form to address a member of the Adepta Sororitas is by the title of ‘Sister’, or by the High Gothic equivalent of ‘Soror’. Over time, a senior Soror may be granted the rank of Superior (the complete title would be ‘Sister Superior’); if they are particularly competent, they might be inducted to an even higher station, first as Seraphim, and, eventually, to the elite Celestians. Those who demonstrate leadership skills may be raised to the rank of  Palantine, which is often considered the start of the training to become one of the divine Canonesses of the Adepta, the leaders of each Order (subdivisions).

The main bodies of the Adepta, the Convents, are headquartered on Holy Terra and the Cardinal World of Ophelia IV. There are many Orders within each Convent, some based on worlds distant from their mother Convents or (in the case of free-roaming Orders) aboard vast Crusader vessels. The Orders Militant might well be the most famous of the Orders, but there are many non-militant Orders that support their work, while providing great benefit to the Imperium:

  • Sisters Hospitalier are some of the best-trained Medicae in the Imperium. They usually tend to the sick and injured, but also have a role in medical research and the study of medical conditions and maladies. They are the medical staff of many Faith-run Hospitals, and one of the most eagerly welcomed arms of the Imperial Faith on most planets, as they represent the absolute best medical aid a citizen could receive. They also have their darker side, especially when called to support Orders Militant as interrogators – and their obsession with protecting the genetic purity of mankind is renowned.
  • Sisters Famulous are deeply involved with the Imperial Nobility. Ostensibly, they act as diplomats, specializing in tracking lines of succession, brokering peace and marriage deals between Noble Houses – as well as ministering to the Faith of the household, and often being the tutors of young Nobles. In truth, they are the watchdogs of the Ecclesiarchy within the ruling caste of the Imperium; unsurprisingly,  many Noble Houses are deeply wary of these Sisters – as a single word from them can bring the immediate scrutiny of the Inquisition, or even lead to the condemnation of an entire House. Yet, few would refuse the offer of service from a Sister of the Order – not just out of fear of being thought  as hiding something, but also because of the amount of prestige that comes with having one of the Sister Famulous as part of one’s household.
  • Sisters Dialogous are the keepers of the Imperial Language, and renowned for providing the Imperium with vast dictionaries and other tools of translation. Their primary goal is to learn, register and translate all of the myriads of ‘Low Gothic’ dialects of the Imperium’s worlds. Their work allows to bridge language barriers by constantly updating the arcane universal translators, so that all Imperials can speak in the same (if accented) common tongue. They also play an important role in codebreaking, and are responsible for the translation of non-Imperial dialects, to better assist members of the Inquisition and of the Imperial Military in operations against foes that do not share a common tongue with the Imperium.
  • Sisters Pronatus are archaeologists and curators, specialising in the retrieval, protection, study and repair of artefacts of value to the Ecclesiarchy. This duty includes the uncounted thousands of holy relics revered by the peoples of the Imperium, as well as items acquired by the forces of the Imperium that are considered too powerful or significant to be allowed to fall into enemy hands. Furthermore, they also ensure the authenticity of any relic, ensuring that all that were authenticated by them have a well-documented history.
  • There are many other Minor Orders of the Adepta, ranging from those in charge of providing choirs and music to support of Imperial Celebrations and Triumphs, to the mortuary Orders that care for those Imperial dead who were prestigious enough to be preserved or placed in crypts rather than committed to recycling units.

Within the Prosperitas Sector, the leadership of the Adepta falls to Canoness-Superior Dinah of the Order of his Sanguine Tears, as the ranking Soror in the region. Many non-militant orders are represented within the Order’s Fortress-Priory on Nivalis, providing support to the main bulk of the Soror forces, although there are many Soror Missions spread though the Sector that are not a part of the Order of His Sanguine Tears.

Divergent Religious Factions of the Prosperitas Sector

As it has grown and interacted with other cultures around the Imperium, so, too, has the Ecclesiarchy spawned sects and factions that practice divergent strains of belief to the core one. Many of these are purged for Heresy, should they be found to deviate in an unacceptable manner. Still, there are those who are seen to have some value to their continued existence, and are preserved and kept as part of the greater Ecclesiarchy.

The Prosperitas Sector is no exception, and a myriad of minor sects called the region home before Cardinal Grulge arrived. Many have faded into the shadows since, or even been purged – but some still, somehow, managed to survive.

Militant Orders are covered in more detail here, but represent a substantial number of completely devoted followers of the Creed who diverge only by choosing to defy the Decree Passive by taking up arms and militarising. Although several Orders have been welcomed into the wider fold by Cardinal Grulge, they continue to be convenient scapegoats for the Ecclesiarchy to purge if in need to prove their continued compliance to the Decree.

The Redemption is an ultra-fanatical sect within the Imperial Cult, thought it is largely divorced from the guidance of the Ecclesiarchy. This violent cult was imported in the holds of Imperial colony ships bound from Segementum Solar and has holdouts across the Imperium, its initiates dehumanise themselves, wearing masks and hoods to hide their faces, an act they believe turns them into ‘weapons’ of the faith. Dressed in red robes the shade of blood and fire, Redemptionists believe that the only redemption from sin is death, and their rampages against perceived ‘sinners’ more often than not consume innocent lives. While the Ecclesiarchy admires virtues of fanaticism, xenophobia and hatred, the Redemption of the Prosperitas Sector is often uncontrollable and shows little respect to the leadership of the Ecclesiarchy and the Imperium and is just as likely to turn it’s acts of violence on them as it is on the enemies of the Imperium. To this end, the Cult is largely outlawed on most planets in the sector and suppressed by Ecclesiarchy and Adeptus Arbites alike.

The Imperial Cult has strong relationship with themes of death and righteous killing, however some sects of the Faith take this further diverging into an obsession of worship through death and killing. You can find out more details on death cults [here] but suffice to say while not illegal these cults are often considered barbaric and outsiders.

People of Note

    • Primate of Prosperitas, Arch-Ecclesiarch of Nilvalis, Lord Confessor of Battlefleet Prosperitas, Grand Missionary of Him on Terra, Grand Crusader of the Fifteenth Order, First Servant Amongst Servants, Plenipotentiary Pontiff, Prince of Piety, His Holiness Cardinal-Emissarius Ignatius Grulge led, by all accounts, a fairly interesting life before he ascended to the heights of Cardinalship within the Ecclesiarchy. Born on the distant agri-world of Astrial IV in the Segmentum Solar, and inducted into the faith as a Missionary of the Missionarius Galactica, he spent nearly a hundred years travelling to the wildest reaches of the Galaxy to bring the God-Emperor’s light there. He is a man whose biography speaks of him working with Rogue Traders, Inquisitors and other elite of the Imperium. Grulge ascended to the rank of Cardinal-Emissarius, one of the nomadic Cardinals of the Ecclesiarchy responsible for administering the Missionarius Galactica, in 472.M41, already aged nearly one hundred years old and arrived in the Prosperitas Sector several years later at the head of reinforcements for the Crusade from the armies of the Faith.

      Since his arrival, the Cardinal has placed a hold upon his normally nomadic mission. After the forced abdication of the Government of Nivalis, Grulge became the de-facto Governor of the Shrine-World and effectively the Cardinalship of the Prosperitas Sector. A capable and well-travelled man, with a militant attitude and little time for those who do not follow his leadership, Grulge only has less enemies then allies because he has proven ruthless at removing his foes. Because of this unique…style of leadership the Prosperitas Ecclesiarchy is largely united under his rule at least out of fear of what might happen if they do not obey him, and his status with the Sector nobility is fairly welcome for the leadership and order he has otherwise provided.

    • Canoness Asenath Dinah is the single most powerful Soror in the Prosperitas Sector, commanding the Sector’s only Convent-Garrison on Nivalis, and having been newly-created as the Head of the Order of His Sanguine Tears. She is a grizzled, veteran, Soror who has lost much in the line of duty, more heavily augmented then some lesser members of the Machine Cult. A close ally of the Cardinal Emissarius she suits his temprement perfectly, matching his desire to see stronger religious leadership, and a more militant Imperial Cult waging a war of faith against the filth and Archenemy forces that chew at the edges of the Imperial territory in the Sector.

      Unusually for a Soror she has spent a good deal of time focusing her efforts on training the rag-tag ‘Fidelis Militia’ of the Planetary Defence forces of Nivalis, rather than focusing on her own newly-founded command – this influence effectively makes her the defacto commander of the planetary defences of the Shrine World, making her the second most powerful figure of the Faith on the planet. Though she is no less potent in the field of battle then she was before, the Canoness prefers to defer command to lesser Soror Officers and focus on the wider picture, though the majority of her time has been spent directing counter-Insurgent operations on Nivalis, as the insurgency on the Shrine-world has died down, she has been found more often on Polarnus Station, engaging with Crusade High Commsand.