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. Of these, the Knight is the most conventional. Encased in fairly standard 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 in particular is red or blue to seemingly distinguish between low and high-ranking knights — most wearing 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 royal family’s safety. But even if not royal 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.

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 at a fortified tower, a key juncture to the city walls. And after this point, these knights are found in abundance in the areas just preceding Lothric Castle and beyond. Taken together, and it is clear that Lothric’s knights are stationed in the city as military officers for the common soldier while remaining largely concentrated at the royal abode. This makes them the public face of the army and the glue maintaining public order there. 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 is likely also 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 Lothric Knights but even common soldiers working there, some wearing civilian clothes while off-duty. Because of this, there are more extensive storage and living facilities throughout these portions of the castle, including weapons and tools like swords, shields, and explosives. The best quality arms and armor were of course provided to the knights, forged with Refined Gems derived from titanite. 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 original dragonslayer weapons and armor, the Sunlight Straight Sword, and their current weapons and shields imbued with the power of lightning. 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.

Rather than horses, the Lothric Knights rode wyverns into battle, hence the aforementioned barracks is specifically dubbed the “Dragon Training Ground”. (竜の練兵場) Despite its obvious use for rest or logistics, the knights primarily used this part of the castle for conducting drills with their flying steeds, though the wooden training poles in one of the stores suggests that the army did sword training 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 medieval heraldry; if the knight was a symbol of Lothric, then the wyvern that he rode also emblemized his kingdom. And like Anor Londo, the knights’ owe their current company with dragons to their past dragonslaying, though they could now acquire their mounts from their god at Archdragon Peak.

Upon arriving at the dragon training grounds, we come across a strange sight: trails in the stonework as if something big and heavy crashed and slid against them, like a wyvern. But following the trajectory, we find not a corpse but a large patch of flora associated with human dendrofication — too large for one human. Past this section, two surviving wyverns harass us with flame, only to go limp like dolls as the pus of man bursts forth at our approach; humanity apparently consumes their souls. Why are these wyverns manifesting the Dark inside them? Because they were originally men. We can observe corpses of Undead Lothric knights and soldiers meditating to undergo draconification while facing Archdragon Peak from Irithyll Dungeon. Moreover, another banner bearing the Lothric royal crest can be found hanging in tatters within the temple, implying that these knights have long been visiting the place. In that case, Undead Lothric warriors are probably the wyverns’ true identities. 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.

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 that they were responsible for every religious ceremony performed in the kingdom. The High Priestesses were thus in a similar position to the knights so far as holding a leadership position over their sphere, in their case presiding over the entire 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. Her influence extends far beyond that role, of course. In order to even enter the castle, we need to pass through the church that High Priestess Emma oversees and lives in. This is also the most direct route from the city gates where most traffic into and out of the castle would take place. In other words, the church is the gatekeeper to the royal government. And their grip on it is strong.

Whenever a new prince of Lothric is born, a High Priestesses is assigned as his wet nurse, making her the one primarily raising him to adulthood. This allows the Pillar to shape every potential heir to the throne to their liking, impressing piety upon the boys on top of teaching them their 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 venerate those that would be coming to and from this elevator. Moreover, the metal doors to the prince’s chambers portray a praying priest, a knight, and a High Priestess. The High Priestesses were as much the voice behind the King as they were 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 statues of the knights.

Since the knights strengthened their ties with the ritual chiefs after the scholars acquired 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 and the 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’ library, its books probably concerned things like the country’s political and religious history, each text likely 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.

Aside from free access to the Warriors of Sunlight covenant, the knights were also granted the High Priestess’ scriptures, allowing them to learn miracles like Magic Barrier, Blessed Weapon, and more recently Bountiful Light. According to the original description for Lothric’s holy book, no holy knight of the inner castle fell thanks to their divine protection, which makes sense considering the healing effect of Blessed Weapon alone. Conversely, a division of the knights serves as the High Priestess’ guard, armed with greatshields blessed by their charge — the holy symbol adorning the shields also presumably represent the ritual chiefs. Naturally, this alliance trickled down to the forces under them. The soldiers’ iron round shields, leather armor, and royal guard scarves bear the same symbol, and some employ Lloyd’s talismans against Undead. Statues of the High Priestess can also be found both at the knights’ tombs and at the front door to the city barracks; more statues of them kneeling with a candle line the city walls soldiers patrol in the direction of the castle. The religious Pillar had a pervasive influence upon Lothric’s royalty and 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 similarly fragmentary knowledge of the Anor Londo pantheon and its teachings regarding fire and the First Flame. However, extensive contact with the Way of White from neighboring Irithyll or Old World nations like Carim has evidently updated those teachings, with various items related to these holy lands found within the city. 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, 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 centerpiece is a statue of a knight severing his own head. It is part of an old ceremony for a knight taking his oath of fealty. Under the High Priestess’ supervision, the initiate places a water basin before the statue, which activates a mechanism for the effigy to finish the cut and spill “blood” into the bowl before opening the path to the castle. This custom is a mere shell of itself, so the rite likely required the initiate spill his own blood to prove his dedication originally — no surprise that such a dangerous 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 own 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 the First Flame. We find shrines to Undead bonfires and Estus shards within the city walls and barracks, so the general army shared this reverence for sacrifice. 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 Lothric had collected over the course of its long history, and it was the job of the scholars to study its vast contents, presumably so they could advise the king when appropriate. While exploring the area, we pass by large telescopes and armillary spheres 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. 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.

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.

However, the Scholar is also the most outwardly feared of the Three Pillars, with 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. 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, which the divine power known to the High Priestess provided. At the same time, the High Priestess needed a more weighty offense to counterbalance their own vulnerabilities, and there has often been friction between the schools of reason and faith by virtue of their underlying philosophies. It was in both Pillars’ best interests to combine their strengths in order to become a bulwark against the knowledge and power of the Scholar. Their concern wasn’t totally without reason either.

There have been no shortage of sorcerers whose curiosity has 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 would rather stay shut. If so, why was a nation so strongly influenced by religion permitting a Pillar of reason? Probably because the knowledge it provided was too valuable to discard. Sure, a text may be dangerous, even heretical, but it can also be useful in the proper context. So long as Lothric can separate these practical parts from the hazardous chunks, no harm in keeping it, right? This seems to have been the rationale for the royals moving forward with this Pillar, and it shows. The scholars’ robes incorporate elements from the High Priestesses, and they each dip their heads in candle wax and let it dry into a mask down to their shoulders. This by itself 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 hilt doubles as a candlestick. These gestures do serve a practical purpose for their work, hence the weapon’s boost to sorceries, but their 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 for them to regulate each other, meaning admonishment by force should any one of them err from the righteous path. It was the duty of each individual scholar to discipline himself on top of the duty of the collective to maintain that pressure. And it was very much due to outside pressure from the rest of the royal government.

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 or globe 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 signify the King and Scholar’s submission to flame as well as the former’s dominion over the world, the knowledge of which is stored in the latter’s Archives.

Before even entering the grounds, prospective new scholars were being flooded with propaganda reiterating their duties at the Grand Archives. This would only continue as they entered the courtyards at the entrance and on the upper floor, which reuse these same statues along with smaller hanging 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 can be 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 as well as on the exterior walls. Even if we just look up upon from the archives’ bottom floor, we see the High Priestess staring back down at us from on high. Whether these sorcerers were dipping their heads in wax, taking a break from their work, or just strolling through the building, they 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, 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 why 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 had 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 like any other intruder 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 apparently a foreigner of the Far East, and yet both were granted the honor of wearing the wide-brimmed hat symbolizing the Hunter. Regardless, 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 dolling 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 at minimum. It is only fairly recently that its flaws have become apparent and mostly due to individual circumstances.