During an interview for the original Dark Souls, Director Hidetaka Miyazaki said that he had created the character of Solaire partially to rebut accusations that he had a slant against religious people, presumably in reference to his depiction of the priesthood in Demon’s Souls. While I can understand these complaints on their surface, the underlying accusation is entirely baseless. Demon’s Souls leaves no person or institution unscathed by its bleak and dark filter on existence, men and women of God included. If we are to consider it a serious commentary on religion, then one can hardly say that the game’s depiction of godless academics comes out much better. Ultimately, Miyazaki’s first RPG paints a colorful, if muddied, picture of faith and its proponents, shaped by the large history preceding them while also shaping the history proceeding them. They can do good as well as evil, for at their root is man’s ever fallible will.
Pure and Impure
While referred to as a “church” in the localization, the Japanese script only speaks of a priesthood (神職) for this world’s predominant religious institution. Because it is associated with temples, I will refer to this organized religion as the “Temple of God”. Even ignoring the church design seen in Boletaria, the temple still takes obvious inspiration from Christianity. Its followers believe in a singular God who acts as arbiter of all men: all in line with God and His will are good; all else, evil. Therefore, it is the duty of His priests to stand against malice in all its forms. At the same time, the faith draws heavily upon Shinto. Kegare (穢れ or 汚れ) refers to the condition of being unclean but has the added implication of impureness in Shinto. Compromised purity risks bringing calamity to the whole of society, hence spreading the corruption to a pure community is considered a sin. Of course, being impure in itself isn’t sinful; it is merely products of external factors naturally occurring in the world, like coming in contact with death or disease. But this spiritual pollution nonetheless requires the afflicted undergo ritual purification.
In combining these two religious beliefs, the Temple of God appears to conflate corruption with sin. Urbain repeatedly speaks of the will of God purifying “dark” souls, and the Vinlands use dark silver to purify “dark” malice. This isn’t unusual in itself since these specific kinds of exorcisms, or harae, (祓い) are done to cleanse both sin and corruption in Shinto. Demon souls are often malicious in nature, and so the temple naturally considers them to be dishonoring God. But even this notion of “dishonor” (穢す) uses the same kanji as kegare, so it is easy to see how the temple equates anything unclean to be full of malice. As a result, the temple considers filth, poisons, disease, death-worship, man-eating, and soul-enslaving to all be in defiance of God’s will on top of the typical vices which bring harm to ourselves or others. We are to eke out civilized and healthy lives in accordance with our fellow man.
For that reason, the Ring of Devout Prayer is only given to those who haven’t been corrupted during their long time spent serving and praying to God. Every high-ranking priest within the church is ritually pure, implying that the temple rejects such impurities. This is why the corruption of such priests’ clothes also denotes their moral corruption and subsequent abandonment of the priesthood. In order to honor God, their outward appearance must reflect their inner character. And so, rather than simply evaluate the act itself as sinful, the temple factors in the state of being first and foremost. If you are physically clean, then you may be spiritually pure also. But if you are physically filthy, then you are probably morally depraved as well. Certainly, men of dubious character like Patches prove that at least some mired in sin wallow in filth of their volition. But correlation is not causation, and the temple has clearly put the cart before the horse. What of those who are unwillingly polluted? Judging sin by corruption is bound to ignore “pure” sinners while condemning “impure” innocents. Worse yet, making ritual purity paramount opens the door for moral bankruptcy within the temple itself.
Extremely plain ring of white-silver. Increases the miracles that can be memorized.
Proof of one who has a high position as a priest given only to those who continued service to God and devout prayer without being corrupted over the course of a long time.
Urbain is a high-ranking priest who is, by all accounts, a devout servant of God. As a recipient of the Ring of Devout Prayer, he has spent much of his life in prayer as a member of the priesthood, and one of the temple’s adherents even claims that he has heard the voice of God, which is presumably the explanation for his talent with miracles. True to his name, the famed priest carries himself as a sophisticated, posh preacher with moral authority. Indeed, his closest follower refers to him as the “noble one”, (尊い人) which can refer to high morality, rank, or even spirit — in other words, he is esteemed as more precious and holy than the rest. And according to his official profile, this man of prayer entered fog-swept Boletaria despite not being a fighter, all because he was distressed over the calamity befalling the land. This rigidly orthodox man’s motives are not in question — only his integrity.
A high-ranking priest who wields God’s miracles. He grieved the calamity and entered Boletaria, but he is originally a man of prayer and not well-suited for fighting.
Urbain and the congregant assisting him eventually went to the Shrine of Storms, presumably to exorcise the pagan land of dead. But there they encountered Patches, who tricked the pair and kicked Urbain into a dark pit, where he would remain trapped and eventually starve to death. Rather than confront the trickster and help free the priest, the adherent fled to the Nexus, but his cowardice doesn’t absolve Urbain of all blame. Patches attempts the same trick with us, claiming that the pit is filled with treasure which he needs help retrieving, only for our avaricious curiosity to land us upon a skeletal pile of many more presumably prior victims. If this setup is Patches’ routine, then Urbain fell victim to the same lies. And if so, then why? Shouldn’t a man of the cloth be above such petty things as worldly riches? Apparently not. When recounting Urbain’s cries from within the pit, Blige notes that something smells fishy in Japanese dialogue, namagusai (生臭) doubling to mean a worldly and thereby corrupt priest.
You know about the altar where the spellcaster summons shadows, right? I’ve a heard a voice of prayer from that altar’s basement. Probably ensnared by a Patches move, but smells awfully fishy.
In short, Urbain is a hypocrite. While the priest may adhere to the letter of the law, he doesn’t embody the spirit. His virtue was decided by going through the motions of ministry to become ritually pure, not testing his character against common vices. And for all his moralizing on high, he proves to be no more immune to temptation than those surrounded by it every day. What leg has he to stand on telling a thief to turn to God and pray for good fortune? As Patches remarks, no one would struggle if prayer alone really brought one happiness. Should a poor man starve because God decided that he shouldn’t steal from his neighbor? As shown by the sheer decadence of his personal corner in the Nexus, Urbain’s position at the temple insulates him from these societal woes and thereby precludes the fortitude to practice what he preaches — just pray your problems away, unclean masses!
There are the priest lads over there, right? They’re still deeply sore over the ritual place thing. They are apparently o so great, but honestly, the lot’s not so clean. I don’t know what God’s done, but if you became happy with prayer, nobody would have a hard time.
The priesthood invites such disingenuous clerics to have a platform, and Urbain is very much the rule and not the exception. Blocking exit from the pit is a black phantom dressed in the venerable sage’s set. Despite the localization claiming the outfit to be the dirty clothes of a sage, it is actually the garment of a holy man, hence why it looks almost identical to Urbain’s robes. Evidently, Urbain wasn’t the first high-ranking priest to be kicked down by Patches. This prior victim was apparently unable to either find the exit in the darkness, even though Urbain identified it by the echo, or physically leave. Whatever the reason, the fact he is a black phantom in “corrupted” robes dual wielding blades native to the area speaks to his ultimate fate, one which may well visit Urbain if he is never saved. The temple has failed to train its most devoted priests to resist temptation or remain resolute in the face of real adversity — their faith all too easily folds when it is no longer convenient. The priesthood’s idea of purity is far too superficial in every capacity.
Perhaps the temple would be able to identify these problems with its theology if it wasn’t so arrogant. God is believed to be actively involved in the world through all things, and Urbain’s dialogue suggests that His influence can both purify the corruption of those things and be potentially hindered by it. Therefore, the temple’s adherents attribute good outcome to providence and bad outcome to sin or divine punishment. Regardless of this narrative’s validity, reform is obviously not top of mind when you are already on the winning side in an ever urgent crusade against evil. The temple has blinded itself to any issues which may be hindering its message or mission itself because their virtue is a given and their victory inevitable. They need only press forward with the good fight against the impurities soiling the world, never wasting time to question the application or any failures within their own ministry. And fight they do.
Family of God
Although the priesthood’s upper echelons are non-fighters in robes, its hierarchy seems to mainly consist of priest warriors armored with chain mail and leather. Two of the three adherents of God we meet are dressed like these warrior priests and the profession serves as one our backgrounds, so they presumably make up the backbone of the priesthood at the lower ranks. While the localization claims them to be soldiers of “the gods”, they are simply temple clergymen believing in the same one God. The fact that men of the cloth fight with maces and morning stars indicates that conversion to the temple wasn’t always a peaceful endeavor, and the latter in particular speaks to the temple’s professionalism in fighting. With the bludgeoning power of a mace and the bleeding ability of spikes, the priests sport an impressive weapon, and they would need all the help that they can get. This is because these warriors go on solitary journeys, implying that they are relatively few in number and thus not mobilizing large armies to crack down on heretics and nonbelievers during such travels.
The temple didn’t grow its numbers through fear of force alone, however. The more high-ranking priests wear thick, layered traveling clothes to weather the elements as they journey outside the temple to aid those in need and proclaim temple doctrine. Caring for the less fortunate is especially conducive to the temple’s mission to purify corruption, and among the most commonplace miracles, antidote cures the caster’s poison while heal mends injuries. It only makes sense for the best priests to bring physical salvation to the corrupted masses as they call upon them to accept spiritual salvation from the temple. Even if less than perfect themselves, these elite priests still do good works and aren’t just lecturing others about prayer. But if Urbain is any indication, they have never once had to pick up a sword to test their beliefs. Unlike the common warrior priests, most of these high-level preachers probably come from privileged backgrounds, perhaps their families even making sizable donations so that they dedicate their lives to prayer and not the battlefield — the temple needs to fund itself somehow.
Such silver-spooned clergy can only feel secure in their cloistered existence thanks to the knights protecting the temples. This security detail is apparently not part of the priesthood but knighted by the temple, making them similar but distinct from the warrior priests. Fealty to God and country is core to the code of chivalry, and these knights are no less faithful, serving God by protecting His house. However, “temple knights”, (神殿騎士) a term already evocative of the Knights Templar, are apparently not limited to this role; they seem to be synonymous with “holy knights”, (聖騎士) a common translation for paladins in reference to the Twelve Peers of Charlemagne the Great. Every reference to a holy knight suggests that they can be sent outside the temple on important missions or deployed to the battlefield, and some have even garnered fame for their deeds like Moonlight Knight Vito and Risaia of Istarelle. While they may be subordinate to the priesthood, many of these temple knights likely come from the same well-to-do families as the ranking priests.
Although the localization implies it to be a place, Vinland is merely a family name. The dull gold armor of Selen Vinland is only worn by women of high status, suggesting that they are nobility. Indeed, the house has its own coat of arms, which it emblazoned on a small medal that has been passed down their line as an heirloom. And this noble line has a history serving the Temple of God, as evidenced by both Selen and her younger brother Garl’s description as holy knights. The text for the latter’s dark silver helmet also reveals that the impressive design ornamenting the top of the helm represents the family’s sacred tree — while the localization bizarrely claims it to represent “both houses”, this is a mistranslation of “same family” (同家) in reference to the Vinlands.
Dark silver helmet imparted to Vinlands. The impressive parietal design is a symbol of the same family’s sacred tree.
Considerably slows stamina recovery due to the heavy weight it has.
This sacred tree is a shinboku, (神木) trees which are close to the divine whether because they have taken root on consecrated ground or were even used as vessels for the spirit of a deity at some point. In other words, the Vinlands live on land which nurtures a tree blessed by God, giving their entire lineage a close association with the divine and thereby the temple. Since their coat of arms is a bunch of grapes, this holy plant seems to be a grape tree in particular. Indeed, Vinland does mean “wine land” in reference to Norse exploration of North America, so the family may have originally owned orchards for wine-making — a fact which ultimately became how others identified them. And given the use of wine in sacred rituals in Christianity, it is possible that wine holds similar significance for the Temple of God, making the grape trees these Vinlands manage sacred. The temple would then naturally deal with such landowners on a regular basis, gradually developing the close relationship this noble house enjoys today.
Garl’s dark silver armor has been handed down to Vinlands for presumably generations. And as the acolyte of God elucidates, Garl has become famous for exorcising malice with this armor, which was probably helped along by the family treasure that he wields. Bramd is a ridiculously huge crude iron hammer, making it the heaviest weapon in-game. And yet, Garl can effortlessly swing it with just one arm while also wearing his similarly heavy armor and dark silver shield. With such inhumane strength, it is no surprise that this Vinland has made a name for himself as a holy knight. Blind is another Vinland treasure that has become widely known along with its wielder thanks to Selen’s valor on the battlefield, proving that both siblings have established themselves as knights of God. In fact, priests seem to hold the entire family in high regard, which is undoubtedly the house’s intention.
When we encounter her at the Valley of Defilement, Selen is on a personal mission to deliver her father’s final words to her younger brother. For helping confirm her brother’s death, she rewards us with a Ring of Devout Prayer or Dark Moon Grass that she had planned to gift to Garl before deciding to head home. At no point do we ever learn the exact nature of their father’s dying will, but we can deduce the general idea from this exchange. Her reasons for preparing some ailment-curing grass is obvious, but the ring suggests that Garl was going to be promoted to a high-ranking position in the priesthood. Given the relationship between the Vinlands and the temple, their father was probably a high-ranking priest like Urbain. And with his death, the house would need to choose its next head. Garl was granted a unique medal representing the Vinland name before their father had even died, and the younger brother had more than likely long been groomed to be the heir in keeping with a patriarchal line of succession. Their father’s last words were thus most likely for the young knight to return home and claim his birthright.
All of this would suggest that temple knights were very much intertwined with the priests. Indeed, it is no accident that nobles, knights, and soldiers all possess the most faith among our potential backgrounds, ignoring the temple classes. Noble heads use their wealth and political influence to install their own among the priesthood and the warriors safeguarding them both. Children would naturally be incentivized to protect their fathers or siblings from harm, as would vassals to their lords, and the nobility would have much to gain from entrenching themselves in religious politics; families like the Vinlands are probably not that uncommon. But like the warrior priests, the temple knights are presumably mostly made up of commoners whose only interest lie in defending the faith, hence why we can choose between it and someone highborn as our background. Some of these common holy knights may have even risen to prominence, though whether we actually learn of any who have is ambiguous at best.
Unlike the Vinland siblings, Vito and Risaia are associated with their weapons instead of family names, both Istarelle and the Large Sword of Moonlight — or “Moonlight Greatsword” (月明かりの大剣) to be consistent with later FromSoftware titles — considered “revelations” from God. In other words, these weapons are their property, known for what they have accomplished in battle while wielding them. One might think that the two knights had no background to rely upon, rising through the ranks through sheer faith and the providence. However, we can loot the dull gold set from a slug on an island in the Valley of Defilement’s swamp, adjacent to many more slugs clamoring for the Moonlight Greatsword hanging from the local village’s infrastructure. Based on the proximity, the armor most likely belongs to Vito, which would imply that the Moonlight Knight is both female and nobility like Selen. And if Vito is noblewoman, then the probability is that Risaia is one, too. Perhaps they did obtain their weapons through their own merit or providence, but lineage almost certainly played a role.
Although it is never once referenced as divine revelation, Blind nevertheless possesses an illusory blade which passes through inorganic matter while remaining light as a feather. And although the curved sword possesses less physical and magic resistance and lacks magic damage, this ability to ignore shields is nonetheless akin to that of the Moonlight Greatsword. It is likely another one of God’s revelations. The same can be said for Bramd. While seemingly ordinary if grossly oversized, this Vinland treasure increases poison and plague resistance the same as Istarelle, a short spear made of hard evergreen oak and entirely covered in engraved runes. This implies that Bramd is imbued with similar divinity as Risaia’s weapon, thereby making its origins like comparable to that of Blind. In that case, all of these revelations seem to have been provided to individuals or their families, either directly by the temple or with its blessing; whichever the case, the religious institution clearly prefers that they be kept in aristocratic custody. To be a noble is to get ahead, even as a servant of God.
Astraea has become well-known as the Sixth Saint, or rather, Saintess. Seijo (聖女) is literally a “holy woman”, distinct from seija (聖者) used to describe “saints” like Urbain. While the latter seems synonymous with clergyman, Saintess is apparently used to distinguish certain women as particularly special among holy men, and the fact that Astrea is the sixth implies that only a handful have received this status in the temple’s history. In other words, Astraea and the other five did something to be branded as in some way closer to God than even the most high-ranking priests. In Astraea’s case, there is only one known event of consequence. According to the Ring of Sincere Prayer’s description, she had found the band when she was very young. A little girl just so happens to reveal to the world an item that the temple determines to be a revelation from God? What else could this be except providence? Incidents like these are the probable cause of women like Astraea becoming clergy with such lofty titles. Her family may have even lobbied for it. Going by just the names of the Blueblood Sword derived from her “pureblood” soul, Astraea is an aristocrat, and what house wouldn’t want the prestige?
Regardless of any politicking, it was ultimately decided that a young girl would dedicate her entire life to God from the start. From then on, the aristocrat grew up venerated by others for her closeness to Him while surrounded by similarly holy persons at all times. This environment was essentially a gilded cage, but it preserved the Sixth Saint’s holiness. Astraea is often prefaced as a maiden, which generally refers to a young woman but comes with connotations of purity — whether that be physical or mental innocence. Chastity is to be expected of a woman in her position, but her innocence extends beyond that. The kanji for the “pure” in pureblood (純血) can refer to both literal and metaphorical purity, both of which fit the maiden’s essence.
Astraea’s official profile describes her as the “sincerest” like the name of the ring that she found. Said ring’s Japanese description affirms it to be made of white-silver the same as the Ring of Devout Prayer while also highlighting the additional blue jewel as its centerpiece. This gem is already quite fitting for a blueblood like Astraea, but it also suggests that her prayers were of higher value than those of high-ranking priests. After all, she wasn’t just faithfully abiding by the teachings of her faith but also sincerely embodying them. Astraea was molded into this earnest believer of the temple since her youth and, because her circumstances made her lack for want, had never faced the same temptations as ordinary men. The maiden was pure in every sense of the word, exactly as how the temple intended their cloistered system to function for all clergy.
Ring of white-silver with a blue jewel. Greatens the power of miracles and the gap for miracle chanting.
One of the revelation items of God that the former Sixth Saintess Astraea is considered to have found very young.
It is for this reason that the Blueblood Sword is described as the “sword of the truly noble”, another obvious wordplay. Touto (貴) refers to being high in value, hence its use in terms like the rank “noble”. (貴族) But the kanji isn’t exclusive to social nobility and can, again, also refer to physical, temperamental, or spiritual nobility — it has even been used as an honorific for gods. Like the added blue gem to her ring, her sword’s relation to “true nobility” highlights not just the fact that Astraea is a blueblood, but also that she embodies everything that status is meant to represent. The Sixth Saint met the highest ideal in both status and deed, a good person through and through, hence the sword is made of white iron. Likewise, her pureblood soul from which it is derived is close to the works of God in nature. It is no accident that she shares a name with the virgin goddess of purity and innocence in Greek mythology, but the fact that her soul has a holy nature highlights a critical problem with distinguishing divine power from magic.
Once the soul arts were rediscovered in Boletaria, miracles soon followed. Despite the localization implying that this had happened once before in the temple’s memory, the only actual indication is that these sacred arts were discovered just as sorcery spread across the northern kingdom and beyond. The reason seems to be due to persons realizing a process to purify souls into holy works, which can be performed through metal talismans made in God’s image. These exorcised souls typically produce arts opposite the nature of the souls themselves, so the temple views the appearance of miracles as a sign of God’s rebuttal to magic and its practitioners — His condemnation of sorcery as profane and divine protection to those who stand against it. And so, priests and holy knights alike rely on basic healing miracles for protection, and famed clergy can perform even more impressive miracles like God’s Wrath, Great Recovery, and Anti-Magic Field. Whether it be for saving themselves or charity to their flock, the temple hierarchy is happy to proliferate miracles, especially if it coaxes the learner from using sorcery instead.
When the sorcery stuff spread, miracles of God were also discovered. If so, the will of God is already obvious, yes? After bringing down the demons and undoing Boletaria’s curse, it is necessary to get rid of the sorcerers who manipulate cursed souls.
In all likelihood, the priesthood has expended great effort to root out sorcerers as sinners, hence the deep-seated animosity between the two parties. However, Urbain implies that this purge has taken a backseat for the time being. After the deep fog swept over Boletaria and neighboring lands, the priesthood learned that miracles manifesting within it also gained a special power, presumably a similar power up as sorcery. Naturally, they interpret this as another sign of God’s will, in this case that they must save the lands inside by exterminating the demons. And unsurprisingly, the demons are viewed as the root of all evil, both for their use of souls in magic and for sorcerers commonly becoming subservient to them for power. Indeed, the description for Recovery, or Great Recovery since the former is more accurate to the Heal miracle, asserts that God granted humans “great power” for the very purpose of combating the demons. The priesthood believes the soul arts to be demonic works at their core, and that the sorcerers obsessed with magic are corrupted by such malice. Therefore, eliminating magic among man will only come after the current crisis is settled.
This anti-magic stance itself predates the rediscovery of the soul arts. Yuria has been reviled as a witch since she was very young, and by the whole of human society. Two adjacent corpses in the tower where she is held captive each carry a peculiar ring. One has the Ring of Magical Nature associated with witches; the other, the Ring of the Accursed. This golden band shaped like a coiled serpent was used to mark criminals, resulting in the wearer being endlessly stoned and spat upon. In short, it more easily attracts enemy attention by design — hence the name “ring of the one to be detested” (憎まれる者の指輪) — and both rings’ location indicates that Yuria was the one who originally wore them. Widespread condemnation of this grown woman since practically birth must originate with the teachings of the region’s predominant religion, before the soul arts were properly understood. A witch’s sorcery is more intuitive than learned, so the temple can easily brand someone a heretic without either party discovering the underlying cause. “Magic” has simply been stigmatized as evil, hence why the Vinlands have been passing down magic-resistant armor to exorcise “malice”.
Thin ring of a golden serpent. Become priority of attacks from enemies.
It was once used as the mark of a criminal, and the one whose finger this ring had coiled around was continually stoned and spat upon.
But isn’t it strange that miracles are considered wholly separate from it? Freke points out the similarity between emotion-based witch sorcery and faith-dependent miracles, and casting the latter still costs MP. Moreover, at least two new miracles have been discovered in Boletaria after the arrival of the deep fog, one allowing souls bound to the Nexus to instantly return via that bond and another suppressing the caster’s soul that is harder for black phantoms to detect. How different is that from manipulating the souls themselves, really? One can argue that the line between magic and miracle is arbitrary, and this is reaffirmed by the Talisman of Beasts serving as a catalyst for both. If a talisman derived from an unholy demon can channel divine power, then it cannot be divine at all. Miracles are magic. The priests aren’t purifying souls, they are reshaping them. Divine arts are only stronger in Boletaria because of the fog energizing soul arts, and the temples’ talismans actually symbolize the Old One responsible for the fog — “God” represented as a stylized depiction of the ancient beast’s bramble form. That isn’t to say that miracles don’t reflect God’s will or influence, just that reaching such a conclusion is purely a matter of faith.
Old wooden amulet that takes after the Old Beast. Can use both miracles and magic.
The symbol of God had been no more than the Old Beast.
This discrepancy isn’t limited to miracles either. Both the Rings of Devout and Sincere Prayer expand our memory for miracles, and the Moonlight Greatsword has a blue crystal blade composed of light otherwise associated with magic — it even attracts slugs normally hungry for the stuff. This soul art connection can thus likely be extended to every temple item with supernatural power. The Vinlands didn’t possess sacred treasures but magic weaponry. The temple wasn’t finding revelations from God, it was uncovering relics of pagan times. It wasn’t that these items were holy and so possessed certain traits, it was that they possessed those traits and so were deemed holy. In an age where the soul arts were forgotten, who really could tell the difference? And yet, even as God-fearing society spurns witches for some evil arts, priests uphold others as blessings. Whether they project heavenly light or resist magic, poison, or plague, all that matters is that the temple perceive them as pure and good. Comporting to temple doctrine was magic’s saving grace.
If the temple has been mistaking the soul arts for works of God, then their credibility on other matters must also come into question. If Astraea wasn’t an instrument for a divine revelation, then what justifies her position as a holy woman, or the positions of the five others before her? Their innate holiness? That would seem to just be natural magic power, not unlike the talent of born witches — it would certainly explain why all six are women. In that case, then her attuned magical senses are the reason the young Astraea happened upon her miracle ring to begin with. Indeed, happened upon, for the Blueblood Sword’s attack power uniquely scales with the wielder’s luck, which determines the item discovery chance. Wealth, luxury, safety, connections, and magic talent; the Sixth Saintess just so happened to be the right person at the right place at the right time, thanks to a myriad of circumstances beyond her control. And to the temple, it was all indistinguishable from a divine hand. If not for their good fortune, she and her predecessors would have been branded vile witches by that same institution.
Straight sword of white iron born from the soul of the demon “Maiden Astraea”.
It increases its attack power via the innate power that humans possess by nature, a “sword of the truly noble”.
Where did this idea of magic as evil even come from? Adherents never reference any scripture; the priesthood simply preaches about God and sorcery as an obvious truth. And although the current calamity has justified their hard-line stance against such “devilish” power, those priests were apparently still blindsided by the existence of the Old One. Not even a dogmatic holy man like Urbain recognizes the beast’s howl, and no one from the temple claims to have foreseen the events which ultimately befell Boletaria. How could a faith which purportedly knows about God and His will concerning magic fail to know about the soul and the demons born to devour it, even unintentionally venerating the original beast as that Creator? Most likely because the priesthood’s knowledge about the true God is entirely accidental.
Consider the timing. The temple has identified a mere six women as Saintesses in its entire history, a history that we can only confirm dates to during the Medieval Era. How convenient that a religion condemning the arts employed by every other society crops up in the historical record just after such mystical power goes out of fashion thanks to an apocalypse. It is almost as if the faith formed as a direct reaction to the demonic calamity which had threatened the world, thereby only existing for the past few centuries. This makes the temple’s God, at best, a perversion of the actual Creator, any resemblance between them resulting from good inference. The founders of the faith had accurately surmised that some mighty, inhuman entity opposed man’s use of magic for evil, but they attributed this to the Old One itself — mistaking the hand for the head, so to speak. Naturally, a religion which is so vehemently anti-magic spread like wildfire, especially since the soul art ban deprived all others of their foundations. It would be the one faith sounding reasonable.
The first temple was built in the now defunct land of Mird, which had most likely been situated somewhere west of Boletaria. Both Astraea and Selen come from the West, so the temple already has a major presence in that area, and the cinematic map confirms an unknown expanse of land in that direction. Based on the description for Selen’s equipment, highlands make up the region’s general topography, and nowhere else do we see nearly as concerted a temple presence. Oceans lie to the east and south, and no humans live to the North. Therefore, the concentration of the faith in these western highlands suggests that they are where the temple originated and first spread before extending to the rest of the continent. And at the heart of this spread was Mird.
Temple knights are outfitted in the ruined nation’s characteristic white metal armor and pole arms, especially the “Mird Hammer” — a Lucerne hammer so named absent the Swiss city of Lucerne in the game’s setting. While an obvious allusion to the Swiss Guard who defend the Vatican for the Roman Catholic Church, it nonetheless shows the priesthood’s roots in and reverence for a holy land which has long been lost to them. However, Mird didn’t receive a revelation from God or preserve a unique tradition about the secrets of this world. It was simply in the ill fortunate position to know the Old One during the First Scourge and craft its beliefs around the beast prior to its destruction. Before that, it was probably just another state dedicated to the soul arts, given that its white metal equipment presents better than average resistance to magic for heavy armor. And with that, the country’s true identity becomes apparent.
What other magic civilization built temples worshiping the Old One, only to be destroyed long ago after directly experiencing the truth of its deity? The nation of the Monumentals. The temple didn’t come from nowhere. It was an offshoot of Monumental religion, updated to reflect a new understanding of their “God”. Mird was lost with the First Scourge, but its culture would live on in two remnants: the priestesses of old focused on restoring the world, and the new priesthood focused on ending magical practice. The Temple of God was, in essence, the mouthpiece and enforcing arm for the Monumentals’ will, the latter’s prohibition of soul knowledge complementing the former’s crusade against magic. While the Monumentals secluded themselves from worldly affairs following their ban, the priesthood remained to propagate their message until the temple spanned the continent.
But, since this religion resulted simply from observations in retrospect, it had no cornerstone with which to derive its deeper truths. With labeling the Old One “God” as the basis, the priesthood weaved a narrative — colored by its own biases — to layer its purity doctrine on top of that. And without the Monumentals’ continued guidance, the priests were no less willing to bury the past along with the knowledge. All things soul and demon ended up stricken from the record, so it was inevitable that the temple would forget the true nature of magic and their God, and thus create the arbitrary divide between holy and magical power. This was all thanks to man’s lack of foresight in their obsession to prevent history from repeating. But in forgetting what their God is, why Mird was destroyed, and how magic is evil, adherents of the temple all but guaranteed the Second Scourge.