Lothric Pillars

Strength of a Knight

Lothric’s royal government is divided into three “Pillars” which have supported the monarchy since the kingdom’s foundation. They appear to be formally recognized branches of government. We can acquire unique rings engraved with the image of each respective Pillar, boosting an appropriate stat to match. Although the items’ descriptions don’t mention them as gifts to the depicted party, two of the rings are possessed by corpses in areas dominated by the relevant Pillar, and the third is owned by a likely member of the last. In short, these items are probably standard issue proofs of membership, hence their identical appearance sans the crest engraving. The king understands that each faction plays a distinct role in the execution of his reign, and better they openly compete for his ear than enact machinations behind the cloud of bureaucracy. He need only try to balance politics between all three.

Of these, the Knight is the most conventional. Encased in typical full-plate armor, Lothric knights serve their lord with distinction, wearing the royalty’s crest on their standard shield and surcoat as part of that honor. The surcoat is red or blue seemingly to distinguish between low and high-ranking knights. Most wear red while the few wearing blue are largely found guarding Prince Lothric alongside soldiers outfitted with higher quality armor and cloths of the same color. Knights who are part of the king’s personal guard (親衛) also wear red or blue depending on whether they are actively protecting him, though they have their own set of armor and great shield bearing his crest regardless. Blue clearly denotes prestige within Lothric’s military, reserved for those entrusted with the royals’ safety. But even if not bodyguards, low-ranking knights were nonetheless the king’s personal forces, mobilizing on his behalf. This Pillar isn’t just auxiliary to Lothric’s military; it is the highest position in it.

Shield of the famous Lothric Knights. The royal family’s crest is depicted on it.

The shield of the Lothric Knights, who were together with dragons, has a high cut rate for lightning, which is the weapon of dragon-hunters.

While exploring the actual city, we pass through a barracks where the soldiers store arms and supplies, sit down to eat or read, and worship. Unsurprisingly, a banner of the royal crest hangs on the wall in a room that a knight patrols. The only other knight encountered before this point is in the city walls, where more royal banners hang in soldier rest areas. And after this point, these knights are found in abundance in and immediately around Lothric Castle. Taken together, knights are stationed in the city as military officers while remaining largely concentrated at the royal abode. This makes them the public face of the army and the glue maintaining public order. It is no wonder that the knight has become the symbol of Lothric as a whole. They are critical to society as role models and law enforcers, even more so than knights in other countries. This explains why the knights are commonly employed in the kingdom’s iconography despite their so many varying contexts. Still, their military role is paramount.

Lothric Castle seems to serve as central command for the army, as we find not just the majority of the knights but even the soldiers working there, some wearing civilian clothes while off-duty. Because of this, there are more extensive living and storage facilities, including weapons and tools. The best quality arms and armor were, of course, provided to the knights, forged with Refined Gems to complement their equal strength and dexterity. And because their order had originally been dedicated to hunting dragons, the knights inherited their predecessors’ worship of the sun and tools derived from its light. An altar dedicated to Gwyn’s firstborn can be found across from their local library, and their stockpiles include lightning urns, their old dragonslayer weapons and armor, the Sunlight Straight Sword, and their current lightning-imbued weapons and shields. The greatsword in particular has been mastered by very few in the order’s long history because of this quality. Given how dragons factor into Lothric’s military arsenal, this power is unsurprisingly not widely shared.

Ultra greatsword of the famous Lothric Knights. Has lightning attack power, the power of dragon-hunters.

It is said to be given only to select knights in particular. Requires extraordinary strength and dexterity from the user. Thus, there are very few who have mastered this even in the long history of the Lothric Knights.

Rather than horses, Lothric Knights rode wyverns into battle, hence the aforementioned barracks is specifically the “Dragon Training Ground”. (竜の練兵場) Despite its obvious facilities for rest or logistics, the knights primarily used this part of the castle for conducting drills with their flying steeds — a knight in the open air carries the greatlance used by cavalry; wooden training poles in the stores suggests that the army practiced swordplay there too. From this, we can assume that dragonriding was the standard for a Lothric knight and likely contributed to the order’s fame, hence why the kingdom’s coat of arms depicts dragons the same as horses in standard heraldry; if the knight was a symbol of Lothric, then the wyvern he rode also emblemized his kingdom. And like Anor Londo, the knights’ owe their current company with dragons to their past dragonslaying, a reward from the royalty as the riders’ banners of the royal crest containing a dragon head convey. However, they were also acquiring their mounts thanks to their war god.

Charging spear originally handled by cavalry. Features long spearhead.

Its attacks are mainly charging, and if a foot soldier tries handling it, he will require suitable strength and dexterity.

Upon arriving at the dragon training grounds, we come across trails in the stonework, as if something big and heavy crashed and slid against them. But following the trajectory, we find naught but a large patch of dendrification — too large for one human, though perfectly-sized for one “steed” shot down from the skies. Further in, two more wyverns harass us with fire breath, one initially seeming dead while the other flies in after previously harassing us the same at the High Wall. The white and yellow pair are resolute to prevent any push forward, only to go limp like dolls when the pus of man bursts forth from their feet at our approach. Humanity is clearly consuming their souls and stagnating their bodies, but why are wyverns bearing dark souls to begin with? Because they were originally men.

Lothric warriors comprise the dead meditating toward Archdragon Peak from Irithyll Dungeon. The temple evidently shared the secrets to reach it and become dragons with the kingdom, which we can date to their initial collaboration. The Drakeblood Knight performing the meditation in the royal garden ruins indicates that he learned it from some inscription or other means there, likely his motivation for infiltrating this sanctum to begin with. Moreover, tattered banners bearing the royal crest are laid on the wyvern altar or hang in the second temple, implying that the army were longtime regular visitors — not just to learn from the firstborn directly, but to also become wyverns and, occasionally, try becoming archdragons. In that case, Lothric knights and soldiers must be the wyverns’ true identities, their varying scale colors reflecting how the different ancient flyers appeared in their youth. Indeed, the original description for the Knight’s Ring only mentions them becoming a friend to dragons, not necessarily “rearing” them like the localization suggests — Lothric’s two symbols are one and the same.

Ring with a portrait engraved with the image of a knight. Boosts strength.

The Knight has been considered one of the Three Pillars supporting the king in Lothric since long ago and is said to have thus been permitted to be a friend of dragons.

While the knight’s may have received the lion’s share of the attention, this didn’t mean that the kingdom neglected the rest of the army. Instead of dragons, they were provided dogs, though we only see them used to chase down intruders on the city walls. The soldiers also commonly come equipped with firebombs, the black powder used to make them seemingly contained in the numerous explosive barrels found in army storage — the material is presumably also responsible for their crossbows’ fire bolts. On that subject, the castle has still been producing new kinds of ammunition for the troops. Splintering and exploding bolts are experimental inventions of Edmond, a craftsman for the royal government based on the shrine handmaid deriving them from Greirat’s ashes following the thief’s failed pillage of Lothric Castle. This weapons developer innovated for the general army’s benefit, the kingdom wanting their overall military edge constant.

Faith of a Priest

The second Pillar is the High Priestess, or “ritual chief”. (祭儀長) As the English name implies, this occupation belongs solely to women, and the Japanese name further indicates them responsible for every religious ceremony performed in the kingdom. The High Priestesses were thus in a similar leadership position to the knights for their sphere, in their case presiding over the priesthood. Their authority is exemplified best in the illustration of a robed woman standing over praying men as she recites scripture on the cover of Lothric’s braille holy book. A High Priestess was the spiritual leader of Lothric Castle and the country as a whole, making her the steward of knowledge on religious matters. This likely required many years of study, the crest on their ring portraying the woman as an elder — which matches all the ones we meet. Only the most faithful and diligent clergywomen earned the title. Whether specifically selected by predecessors or the priesthood, the High Priestess was guaranteed to be worthy of administering holy rites.

Her influence extends far beyond that role, of course. In order to even enter the castle, we need to pass through the church where High Priestess Emma presides. This is also the most direct route from the city gates, so any traders or foreign dignitaries coming or going would be getting screened by the priesthood. In other words, the church is the gatekeeper to the royal government. Nowhere is this made more obvious than the front of the building. The exterior wall is ornamented with a number of statues. Two are the angelic king extending an open hand, as if to welcome visitors to his abode. But far more look to depict the High Priestess making a similar gesture, more of this image erected inside. The High Priestess has taken ahold of the royalty, and her grip on it is strong.

Whenever a new prince of Lothric is born, a High Priestess is assigned as his wet nurse, their ring depicting the elder swaddling an infant. This makes her the one primarily raising him — which allows the Pillar to shape every potential heir to the throne to their liking, impressing piety on top of teaching his more secular royal duties. This is the reason that we can readily access Prince Lothric’s bedroom via a chapel lift, pews arranged as if to worship to those coming to and from this elevator; the room is furnished to accommodate large gatherings, banners with the royal crest hanging overhead. Moreover, the metal doors to the prince’s chambers feature reliefs of a priest, a knight, and a High Priestess. The latter was as much the voice behind the king as a Pillar supporting him. However, they were not without aid in this holy mission. For even ignoring the figure sandwiched between the clergy, the doors still give way to a hall flanked by knight statues.

Since the knights strengthened their ties with the ritual chiefs in response to the scholars acquiring the Grand Archives, Lothric Castle was built with the two Pillars’ facilities intertwined. The priests performed final rites for knights entombed at the back of the church or training grounds, elaborate quarters for the High Priestesses spanning between them. Both Pillars have thus intermingled to their mutual benefit from the start. Considering that a shrine to the firstborn immediately precedes the knights’ fancy library, its books probably concerned things like the country’s political and religious history, each text specifically handpicked by the priesthood. By restricting their education to such topics, the High Priestesses could promote their sensibilities and virtues, thereby fostering a sense of national pride and religious fervor in the kingdom’s military arm. This is likely the reason for also locating the Altar of Sunlight at the exit, subtly nudging knights into devoting themselves to the covenant of their heritage they just read about — from the sunlight medals all in the castle carry, it worked.

Aside from learning miracles of the Warriors of Sunlight, the knights were also granted the High Priestess’ scriptures, allowing them to learn Magic Barrier, Blessed Weapon, and — more recently — Bountiful Light. According to the Japanese description for Lothric’s holy book, no holy knight within the castle fell thanks to their divine protection, most likely referring to the healing effect that Blessed Weapon provides; we do see it cast mainly by those stationed there, after all. The knights’ gratitude for this aid is exemplified by the corpse bowing to one of the wall banners bearing the royal crest while clutching the scriptures. In a similar vein, a division of knights served as the High Priestess’ guard, armed with greatshields blessed by their charge and bearing a holy symbol presumably denoting allegiance to them.

Braille scriptures of Lothric. Contains miracles for the knights.

Become able to learn miracles of Lothric by handing it to a storyteller.

It is said that the holy knights within Lothric Castle never fell owing to divine protection.

The High Priestesses likewise seem to have blessed all the knights’ weapons, their swords on altars heavily decorated with candelabras in the holy women’s chambers and the church tomb. The latter in particular was seemingly collected from its owner as the corpse was prepared for burial. Why ceremonialize such weapons if not to apply, or reapply, a blessing? Since the arms don’t manifest any holy power by default, we can assume that these rituals are what allow the knights to cast Blessed Weapon on them without a miracle catalyst. Indeed, the Lothric War Banner can conjure an illusion of the long-gone flag which knights raised to inspire their comrades in the kingdom’s early history, seemingly reconstructing an imprint in time through just innate holy magic. These peculiar kinds of blessings make the knights all the more dependent on faith and scripture from the High Priestesses, bolstering cooperation between the two Pillars even further.

Flagpole that once raised the Lothric crest. Remnant of a war banner the knights looked up to.

There is a sharp-pointed decoration at the tip, so this can be swung as a spear.

Battle art is “Lothric War Banner”. Raise and wave it like in olden times to glimpse an illusion of a fluttering war banner and boost the attack power of those who rally around that banner.

Naturally, this alliance extended to the forces under the knights as well. The soldiers’ iron round shields, leather armor, and royal guard scarves bear the same symbol of the High Priestess. Some even employ Undead Hunter Charms normally limited to church warriors. Statues of the High Priestess have also been erected, not only at the knights’ tombs but also at the front door to the city barracks — fittingly, the knight in command of the facility is a member of her guard. More statues of the hooded robed woman, this time kneeling whilst grasping a candle in prayer, line the city walls the soldiers patrol, all facing the direction of the castle. Clearly, the religious Pillar had a pervasive influence over both Lothric’s royalty and its military.

In that case, what is the full extent of Lothric religion? With the Way of Blue as its basis, the kingdom presumably had a fragmentary knowledge of the Anor Londo pantheon and its teachings regarding fire and the First Flame. However, extensive contact with the Old World , particularly the churches in Irithyll and Carim, has updated those teachings. Irithyll in particular had integrated itself into the Knight and High Priestess’ alliance. The knights’ fancy crossbow has been blessed with the power of lightning like much of their equipment, but this act assumes the use of lightning bolts, ammunition fashioned solely by the Boreal Valley’s giant blacksmith — having been fulfilling ancient man’s request since the original Dark Souls, (DS1) there was plenty to trade. But in spite of the added cultural pressure, Lothric has maintained its unique spiritual identity, especially within the military.

Crossbow of the famous Lothric Knights. Decorated with a golden design.

It assumes the use of lightning bolts and has been given lightning attack power due to a blessing.

Bolt clad in lightning. Craft of the giant who was the gods’ blacksmith.

But, the gods don’t use crossbows. This is probably an item of the pact with humans in the dragonless age.

The church’s altar enshrines a knight severing his own head. The statue is part of a ceremony for knights taking the oath of fealty. The initiate takes the basin held by the High Priestess and places it on the altar, which activates a mechanism for the effigy to finish the cut and spill “blood” into the bowl before opening passage to the castle. This old custom is a mere shell of itself, so the rite likely required the initiate spill his own blood to prove his dedication originally — unsurprisingly, the tradition was scaled back. Regardless, the knights essentially swore to faithfully serve to the point of self-sacrifice, hence other statues of them holding their severed heads. This is why their armor’s description claims that only those with a knight’s resolve will wear it, for they may be asked to become steeds or offer themselves to flame. We find shrines to Firelink Shrine’s bonfire and Estus shards within the city walls and barracks, so the general army shared this reverence for sacrifice to firelinking. Serving your country was synonymous with religiosity, though knights stationed at the Grand Archives instead employing Crystal Magic Weapon shows that this tendency toward piety wasn’t absolute.

Water basin that was used in the old tradition of a Lothric knight’s oath ceremony.

The ceremony has been reduced to a formality, but it remains even now.

Place this water basin at the statue of a knight trying to cut off his head.

Reason of a Scholar

The third Pillar is the Scholar. As stated earlier, these “wise men” (賢者) were made masters of the kingdom’s largest library. These Grand Archives were the repository for all knowledge that Lothric had collected over the course of its long history, and it was the job of the scholars to preserve and study its vast contents. Why? To advise the king when appropriate. The building is covered with statues of the monarch holding a globe, historically a symbol of dominion over the world — and he must know the world to hold dominion over it. And so, ink on parchment wasn’t the only thing the scholars were surveying. Large telescopes and armillary spheres sit among the tables, candlesticks, and books scattered about the library. If the scholars are using astronomical tools to perform their own observations of the natural world, then their role isn’t limited to just reading up on others’ discoveries; not limited to just grander cosmological inquiries even.

Ring with a portrait engraved with the image of a wise man. Boosts intelligence.

The Wise Man has been considered one of the Three Pillars supporting the king in Lothric since long ago and is said to have thus been permitted to be lord of the Great Archives.

We can acquire Avelyn off a corpse accessed from atop the bookshelves. While an obvious reference to the Duke’s Archives from DS1, it suggests interest in studying the weapon’s impressive mechanical design. Indeed, we already see the library employ mechanisms to raise or lower bookshelves into the floor to create hidden spaces or open shortcuts. In one case, a bookshelf hides a chest containing a titanite slab, another marvel worth examining and especially worth protecting from robbers. Titanite scales are also plentiful in this area, three alone acquired from a chest and two more produced by a crystal lizard with no twinkling titanite. The latter suggests that these aren’t requisitioned from military stores but harvested from local lizards consuming souls, possibly in controlled experiments, before they grow to hulking size. Clearly, knowing everything there is to know about the universe fell within their domain, which would be valued by the royalty and thus may be why the Grand Archives has a direct bridge to the prince’s chambers.

However, the Scholar is also the most outwardly feared of the Three Pillars, their Grand Archives isolated to its own separate building from the castle. This is likely because its members are all sorcerers. Whether due to the first scholar being a sorcerer or simply to the nature of the Pillar, the knowledge that the library collects largely invokes reason, making most of its texts concerning magic some kind of sorcery. And as history illustrates, there have been no shortage of sorcerers whose curiosity led them to flirting with the Dark, a power which has all too often brought ruin to kingdoms. The Scholar’s methodology opens a door any god-fearing nation would rather stay shut. If so, why was a nation so strongly influenced by religion permitting a Pillar of reason? Probably because the royalty recognized that the knowledge it provided, even if heretical, was too valuable to discard. Any information can have practical use in the right context, such as insight into the enemy. Thus, confidence in separating the wheat from the chaff is likely why the royals moved forward with this Pillar.

It is no surprise then that this prompted an alliance between the other two Pillars. The Knight needed its own magical edge to counteract the power of the Scholar. At the same time, the High Priestess needed a more weighty offense to counterbalance its own vulnerabilities. It was in both Pillars’ best interests to combine their strengths as a bulwark against the knowledge and power of the Scholar — adding Magic Barrier to their arsenal was likely also to this end. And their combined influence has come bearing down. The scholar robes incorporate elements the High Priestess hanging cloth, and they each dip their heads in candle wax and let it dry into a mask. This makes them look like walking candles, some even lighting wicks atop their heads, but they also carry around daggers covered in wax so that the hilts double as candlesticks. These gestures serve a practical purpose for their work, the weapon boosting sorceries and used by them as a sorcery catalyst, but the underlying symbolism is clear.

Each scholar is expected to act as a light in the darkness for one another, illuminating spiritual as well as physical truths. The description for their robes points out that they are both sorcerers and godly men tending to their lamps out of fear of their own knowledge, and their weapon’s Skill produces a “guiding light” that has the same effect as the Seek Guidance miracle. These actions are a reminder to have some level of detachment from their studies, to always be mindful that what they are reading is so often heresy that must not be embraced no matter how convincing — they must keep faith in the gods’ teachings. Of course, the Pillar’s self-regulation didn’t just rely on promoting piety by example. The description for their blades note that they were also a means to regulate each other, meaning admonishment by force should any one err from the righteous path. Discipline was the duty of both the individual and collective. Even so, this was very much due to outside pressure from the rest of the castle.

Candlestick dagger that the wise men of the Great Archives raise up. It is covered in ivory wax.

It was once the light to guide the wise men and also the self-admonishing blade to regulate them. It thus has an effect that strengthens the user’s sorceries even now.

Robe of the wise men of the Great Archives. The wax stains are because they put them on.

It is said that the wise men of the Great Archives are sorcerers as well as pious persons tending to their lights. That is, they feared the things to know.

The bridge to the Grand Archives from the facilities for the Knight and High Priestess is ornamented with statues of the Scholar and a primordial serpent as an angel. Juxtaposing the two is a reminder to temper reason with piety, and the Knight holding his own head as the bridge’s centerpiece reinforces self-sacrificing obedience. Following the bridge are statues of the High Priestess and King flanking entry to the courtyard, another reminder of who truly lords over this place. Above them are gargoyles of the angelic King with torch in hand. To the side is a statue of a Scholar praying over a stone slab etched with text, both of which have been melted by the evident force he prays toward. These all signify the King and Scholar’s submission to holy flame.

Before even entering the grounds, prospective new scholars were being flooded with propaganda reiterating their duties. This would only continue as they entered the courtyards at the entrance and on the upper level, which reuse these same statues along with smaller effigies depicting the scholars as robed men — as if to collectively promote an image of unity among the King and his Pillars of faith and reason. However, it is anything but that, looking on the inside. The same pairs of statues for the King, High Priestess, Scholar, and world serpent are strategically placed in the library’s interior and exterior. Even if we just look up up from the bottom floor, we see the High Priestess staring back down at us from on high. No matter where they went or what they did, the scholars were being pressured to behave by their moralistic peers. It must have been quite stressful, but that was the price for satiating their curiosity with all of the kingdom’s wisdom.

Hand of a Hunter

The Hunter can be considered the unofficial fourth Pillar supporting the King, even receiving a ring bearing a crest which represents their group the same as the other three Pillars. But unlike the others, this one’s crest is black, for the Hunter’s role requires that he remain off the books. The Japanese description for the Hunter’s Ring reveals that Lothric kings have called upon them to challenge and secretly punish the Three Pillars. In other words, they are royal assassins, hence the equipment worn by the best of them is an improved variant of the starting assassin set. And their targets were the king’s own retainers. If the Knight plotted a military coup, the Hunter eliminated him. If the High Priestess attempted to turn the King she raised into her puppet, the Hunter eliminated her. If the Scholar strayed from the path of righteousness, the Hunter eliminated him. He was the mechanism through which the head of the royal family kept the Pillars in line, his means to enforce his royal will from the shadows — the king’s Black Hand, if you will.

Ring with a portrait engraved with the image of a hunter. Boosts dexterity.

The Hunter has long been the black hand of Lothric. For successive kings called upon the black hand to challenge as well as secretly punish the Three Pillars.

In fact, the term “Black Hand” has been made an actual title for hunters who have served multiple generations of kings. There was two reasons to honor this feat. For one, an assassin who is willing to serve successive reigns is more likely to be apolitical and thus can be better trusted to carry out the successor’s orders even if they reverse the stance of his predecessor. For another, any hunter still around after a change in administration must have both the experience to perform their delicate tasks and the skill to survive that long. Indeed, only three hunters have ever been granted the title of Black Hand in the entire history of Lothric. Evidently, very few hunters have had the skills, longevity, or trust to be kept in the next king’s employ. Where does each king procure trustworthy new recruits then?

Apparel of a hunter who is called the king’s Black Hand. The long-brimmed hat is a symbol of that.

The Black Hand is a title specially given to hunters who serve successive kings. It has only counted three in its history.

Following his heist of the Undead Settlement, Greirat adds the assassin set to his wares. This might imply that Hunters were, at least occasionally, selected from among the Undead. Their existence was already supposed to be kept secret, so what would it matter if the king’s assassins were cursed men? We ourselves can choose an assassin as our background, so it is possible that any Undead who failed in his mission and got captured would be summarily forced through Lothric’s firelinking system as punishment to distance the king from the bungled killing. However, it is just as feasible for unrelated assassins to be in the town to collect information or shady wares without being spotted, and Undead would want to be paid in souls, not coin. There were other options. Gotthard was originally a low-ranking knight of Lothric while Kamui is a foreigner who had been staying in the settlement, and yet both were granted the honor of wearing the wide-brimmed hat symbolizing the Hunter. Regardless of where they are from, each king clearly handpicks his agents in order to guarantee their loyalty, which is very much needed.

Black Hand set (left) compared to assassin set (right)

There are very few keys for the front door of the Grand Archives, but the one we acquire had previously belonged to Gotthard. More than likely, the king had given his Black Hand a copy of this key among others so that he can more easily infiltrate the Pillars’ facilities. This puts a huge burden on the king to ensure that the people he is doling these out to will not lose or abuse the privilege of having them. If the king wasn’t careful, he might open up his kingdom to a turncoat or corrupt shadow government. They had to be loyal to him first and foremost, which probably contributed to the poor retention rate of hunters across the royal line. But if they were to keep each part of the system playing fair in the political game, such turnover was a worthwhile sacrifice for the kingdom’s well being.  And thanks to this system, Lothric was a functional state for centuries or more. It is only fairly recently that its flaws have become apparent, and mostly due to individual circumstances.