Healing Church


Bloodborne, with few exceptions, focuses more on its web of factions than its characters. But given the writing style of Director Hidetaka Miyazaki, these factions in many respects are this game’s characters. There is perhaps no fictional institution better embodying the corruption, elitism, and dehumanization in modern medicine than the Healing Church. Presenting themselves as savior to the public while internally just crunching numbers with no plans for an actual cure, “health” for the Church is simply prolonging the damage to keep the desperate dependent on “treatment” another day. What its members might lack as individuals they more than make up for as the collective. At the same time, the bureaucracy is its own beast beyond the scope of any singlular man, a soulless ideology made manifest and run amok. Put your faith in men’s idols and you will find yourself dealing with devils.

Doctors of the Church

No matter how monolithic the organization, it is still comprised of individuals, and the individuals who made up the Healing Church at its core were students of Byrgenwerth. Whatever these scholars’ backgrounds before coming to Willem’s university, they were at least decently well-off — much like their provost, the students were all able to leave home for the remote countryside in a foreign land. It might seem odd for society’s elite to move into an obscure academic institution, but regardless of their individual age or nationality, each shared a common curiosity concerning Willem’s research into these faraway ruins. And once they learned the potential of his findings, they all spent the rest of their lives trying to realize his goals for mankind. But when everyone comes from the same hoity-toity lot in life, it was inevitable that big heads would butt heads. And the one who would butt heads with his teacher most prominently was Laurence.

Of all of Willem’s students, Laurence may well have been the first to take such profound interest in blood as a stimulus for evolution. In blood he saw the sole means to elevate their thinking and apparently wasn’t hampered by the horrifying consequences of failure. As one description for Brain Fluid admits, the truest quality to enlightenment is how we only realize the truth about our innermost condition in the absence of its elements. The text compares this to when one first licks blood from a small wound, only to find it surprisingly sweet. Had the blood not been lost, the person would have never known something so simple about his or her being. The terrible losses to the beast scourge were no different, a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme. What Willem saw as infringing upon perversity, Laurence considered a necessary first step to making their shared dream a reality. His hypothesis was premised upon this degenerative beasthood functioning like an illness that could be studied, tinkered with, and ultimately cured. Find the missing element, and evolution could be set right, opening way to true enlightenment.

Darkish amoeba-shaped brain fluid. It has jiggling elasticity. It was collected from a patient whose head bloated and ultimately became just the head.

We realize how we were unaware of what lies within once it is lost. It is ludicrous, but that is the essence of enlightenment. Like licking your own blood and being surprised by its sweetness.

After Rom’s transformation, Laurence probably became even more convinced that blood was key to man’s transcendence. He no doubt wasn’t happy then for Willem to have put away the Communion rune they discovered, and he wasn’t alone. A good chunk of the student body wanted to do more with transfused blood, just as Communion allows more blood vials in our possession. After all, the rune resembles an eye within a flower bud. Willem wanted their minds to bloom, yet the most obvious seed to plant was being forbidden. Perhaps their initial attempts at a seedbed of eyes resulted in failure, but that is part and parcel to the scientific process! These were principles of cosmic proportion they were investigating; of course, there would be a few setbacks! The dangers weren’t a reason to avoid a misstep in the path to making men gods. From the perspective of Laurence and his like-minded classmates, progress was being obstructed by an overcautious old codger.

One of the secret characters left by the copyist Karel, student of Byrgenwerth. There exist a few Karel characters that have been given the meaning of “blood”. “Receive” too is one of those, and boosts the upper limit of transfused blood.

It is a symbol of the Treatment Church, or its treaters. For blood treatment is, in other words, none other than research for “receiving”.

While sowing discord, this never descended to childish rebellion. Laurence did promise to retain the adage that Willem had drilled into all their heads. And although the localization portrays him as cold and curt in ending their conversation with his departure, he is still at least polite in Japanese dialogue, showing appreciation to his mentor for everything up until that point. Even if their last conversation was tense, it was ultimately an intellectual dispute, and Laurence kept it professional while the teacher accused him of betrayal — in fairness, his original dialogue never denies it. Blood’s sweetness is incentive to lose it again, implying that his obsession to continue down this line of inquiry was driven by bias as much as principle. In that light, Laurence’s counter-accusation looks like a case of the pot and the kettle. Neither man would budge on their position, a microcosm of the larger rift in the student body. The “traitors” may have respected the provost, but if he was going to limit their avenues of study, then he had nothing left to teach them.

… You’re unchanging, obstinate. But, the adage won’t be forgotten.

Thank you for everything.

And so, Laurence left along with those students. Whether he already represented the group when he last spoke to Willem or kickstarted a string of departures, they ultimately came together in solidarity toward their singular goal: complete research into blood metamorphosis. For that, Laurence already had a plan when he decided to continue. If Willem wanted them to take caution with blood, then they would stop blindly testing hypotheses on themselves. But in order to prove the theory, they still needed test subjects. And so, the “traitors” of Byrgenwerth would outsource their guinea pigs. Taking the forbidden Great One blood brought up from the ruins with them, the runaways fashioned a new “blood treatment” for the masses. This became the signature practice of the Healing Church the scholars subsequently established in Yharnam, as Alfred elucidates; Gilbert further affirms their monopoly on all knowledge concerning it. And despite being outsiders, these clerics enmeshed themselves deep into that longstanding, insular society.

Once, some who learned at Byrgenwerth took out the Holy Body, which is from that graveyard, and then gave birth to the Treatment Church and blood aid.

But, if it is special blood, you should visit the Treatment Church. Because the Treatment Church has a monopoly on blood treatment and knowledge of its special blood.

Old Yharnam is home to not one but two churches. One is the Church of the Good Chalice, but another sits close by opposite side of the river. And unlike the old church, this was built by the Healing Church. The outside of the building is adorned with all the old city’s statues, while the inside alternates specifically between the sick and bearded men in robes reminiscent of ancient Greek philosophers. The altar stands curiously near the entrance to this grand hall, elsewhere keeping coffins and incense urns. One such coffin has been brought right before double doors at the back of the grand hall. The robed men statues flank either side, and a corpse possessing madman’s knowledge lays against them. Although we cannot interact with the doors, they clearly lead to some inner sanctum, where wise men might study victims of the beast scourge to discover maddening secrets — Adella insinuates that such knowledge pleases clerics. Indeed, corpses in the rafters carry more madman’s knowledge or a bloody head bandage, leaving no reason to doubt this as a Healing Church facility; most likely, the first of its kind.

Adjoining the church is a peculiar clocktower. The clock face brings the astronomical clock in Prague to mind, which proves appropriate. We can see a larger such tower front and center above the Grand Cathedral, a more traditional one looming even taller behind it. Why build two when just the one could tell the time for anyone in town? Yharnam already has no shortage of clocktowers. Unless, the tower isn’t for telling time, and maybe isn’t even for the same audience. The irregular clock faces don’t bear obvious numbers or hands, after all. Perhaps the tower’s message isn’t supposed to reach those below but above. We learn the Make Contact gesture from a corpse facing the cathedral tower, our arms acting like clock hands moving along the dial. Considering that we can use this gesture to communicate with Great Ones, the clocktower might serve the same function. The clock hands pointing to runes on the backside of the face cement the notion, as does the “stargazing disc” (星見盤) which uses a replica “stargazing clock” (星見時計) for “observation” and operation.

Observation dial that pairs with the Cathedral’s giant stargazing clock.

If you raise the stargazing dial up to the clock, it will start moving again. And then, it will serve as guidance and reveal a secret to the observer.

In short, the Healing Church built towers to make contact with the gods in the heavens. But if so, then we have another redundancy. Why build an astral clocktower in the church of Old Yharnam when there is a larger tower in the Cathedral Ward above? Surely, the latter would have been more than sufficient. Unless, there was no Cathedral Ward and thus cathedral clocktower at the time of construction. Put simply, the Healing Church was originally headquartered in Old Yharnam, when the institution was much smaller starting out. Only later after amassing more capital did it expand atop the valley where it eventually shifted its main operations, including observing the stars from a new tower closer to the cosmos. In fact, the first building probably wasn’t even a church initially. Compared to the later churches, the edifice in Old Yharnam is mundane, with architecture not much different from the surrounding town. The few features distinguishing it from the rest could easily be added after the fact with minimal renovation. In other words, it may be just a secular building later converted into a church.

This notion fits with Gehrman’s Japanese dialogue, which indicates the blood treaters didn’t call themselves a “church” until much later; they introduced themselves as educated doctors, so that is the label the old hunter is most familiar with. After all, if the goal was to embed themselves into the Yharnamites’ religious life from the start, then why not join the established church already in town? Instead, Laurence and company set up shop practically next door, almost in competition with the traditional healing institution. They clearly wanted to contrast the efficacy of their state-of-the-art blood treatment with local custom. Rather than missionaries, the academics marketed themselves as traveling physicians hoping to share a miracle cure to people’s ailments — classic snake oil salesmen, who began to be derided in the Victorian era. The holy veneer came later, after their patients came to believe this blood treatment they sold really was a miracle.

The “Treatment Church” as the blood treaters are now called… have been the hunters’ patrons ever since the old hunter Ludwig, so possessed their own workshop and made weapons.

Yharnamites became addicted to the unique blood treatment reinvigorating them with each subsequent infusion. The greater potency compared to the ordinary blood they imbibed made it as much a “cure” to ills of the heart as the body, patients coming in simply to satiate their need to feel more alive rather than physical infirmity — no different from a hard drug. With such a reputation for seemingly any kind of illness, vials of the transfused blood have unsurprisingly become commonly found on a citizen’s person. Naturally, this treatment made their treaters just as popular. Large renditions of the wise man statues are situated alongside the effigies of the sick throughout the streets of Old Yharnam, whereas figures of robed scholars with mortarboard caps or clean-shaven philosophers in hoods adorn the newer homes on top of the vale. Even if Yharnam didn’t much care for outsiders, there was no denying they provided good blood.

Special blood used in blood treatment. Recovers HP.

One who has received Yharnam’s unique blood treatment thereafter get a sense of the power to live from similar blood transfusions.

Thus, many of Yharnam’s citizens are blood addicts.

The increased efficacy created a similar uptick in beasts for Gehrman and his hunters to put down, which they were undoubtedly prepared for. Laurence is the other person Gehrman calls out for in his sleep, suggesting that he shared just as personal a relationship with the student as with his teacher. There is also the fact that both chose to “betray” Willem around the same time to continue their individual work in Yharnam. Gehrman therefore must have been deeply involved in Laurence’s plans from the beginning, bonding over their shared dissatisfaction with Willem’s reluctance toward what they both saw as their one avenue to solving the beast scourge. And so, the hunter helped deliver the scholars bodies to study. The ignorant masses allowed the researchers to claim their loved ones’ corpses likely because they promised to find a cure for this “disease” which had plagued the city for so long — would they really be so heartless as to not help prevent this tragedy from happening to anyone else? With such sweet and lofty promises, the treaters took custody of a great number of specimens.

Oedon Chapel lies at the very heart of the Cathedral Ward, all roads in the district ultimately leading back to it; even the sewer line running across the valley to modern Yharnam stems straight from there. We can thereby infer that this “Oedon Church” (オドン教会) was the first from which said “Church Town” (聖堂街) sprung up. After all, the location is the perfect bridge point between Gehrman’s workshop and Old Yharnam — Gehrman himself even relates his hunters’ advice that fledglings “ascend” to the chapel for the Pthumeru Chalice down below. And looking at the statues and architecture shared with later churches in the district, we can be certain that this was another Healing Church facility, probably the founders’ first move in operations. The building maintains a dedicated study, complete with a library and armillary spheres. They weren’t just examining books, however, as the study also keeps a hatch leading down into the church sewer and, beyond it, Oedon Tomb.

So let me impart your predecessors’ left words to you, too: “Ascend to Oedon Church.”

The church is home to two sizable graveyards. One exists up front before the forked road to Old Yharnam or the Grand Cathedral; the other, farther down out back. Although the localization dubs the latter the Oedon Tomb, these are “underground graves of Oedon” (オドンの地下墓) in the sense that they rest just outside but beneath the church’s foundations — the gate between them actually blocks visitors like us from unduly infiltrating through the church’s sewer. Given Cathedral Ward’s proximity to the Forbidden Woods, the Healing Church likely established Oedon Chapel in order to maintain control over the bodies they inevitably had to bury per Yharnam’s customs. It is no accident that Oedon Tomb has another wise man statue standing tall above the graves as its centerpiece. The Healing Church would always keep watch over their old research, just in case there were any new developments. But space being limited, a second graveyard soon needed to be added up top, taking over a previous square given the water well at the center of this small cemetery.

With so many bodies left under their care, it is easy to see how Laurence and his ilk so quickly subsumed the role of Yharnam’s old spiritual body, eventually converting into a religious organization of their own. This went so far as to take over the old church itself. The Church of the Good Chalice is now the den of a blood-starved beast. This is notable because, in its thirst for blood, the flesh peeled forward from the creature’s own back has formed a “hood” over its eyes. Such blocked eyes are common to the Healing Church’s beastified clerics. Though each instance is clearly coincidental, it befits those carrying on the work of Byrgenwerth, mirroring Willem in blocking out physical sight to focus on the “mind’s eye” as Miyazaki explains in a Future Press interview. Put simply, such beasts are reliably former affiliates of the Healing Church — to this point, another blood-starved beast hangs dead in the ministers’ first church, a congregation of beasts revering it. The Church’s popularity knew no bounds, so of course only they could be trusted to be pastors for any church in Yharnam.

The blood ministers, however, did face a problem. Item descriptions make a point of the first church hunters deviating from Gehrman’s hunting style to counteract more terrifying beasts.  This implies that Yharnam saw a sudden surge of these mightier beasts which the old hunters weren’t able to handle, at least not with the same ease. This corresponds with the implications behind the Hunter’s Dream, but said dream had evidently yet to exist when the Church decided to step in. In truth, the hunters were the likely source of the trouble. More terrifying beasts require resistance to the transformation, and only one party was showing obvious resistance at the time: the old hunters. With all their attempts to keep the beast scourge from creeping up the leg, the hunters would inevitably be transforming into monstrosities. In that sense, the beasts were eating into their own numbers. And with the increased size and physicality, there was that much more flesh and bone for their serrated blades to saw through. The Gehrman method was just not viable for the average hunter.

The blood ministers certainly didn’t want Yharnam overrun before their experiments achieved results, so they decided to shore up the hunters with their own funding, drastically expanding operations. As part of this patronage, a new workshop was built next to the old — the tower begins at the base of Cathedral Ward, but a passage still connects the two workshops at the mid-level. This setup hints that the new workshop was treated more like an expansion to Gehrman’s existing operations, and we do see various old shop weapons hanging from the rafters of the uppermost levels. However, Gehrman’s dialogue leaves no doubt that it was the blood ministers’ own facility, so these weapons are likely just representative of the “hunter” armaments being mass-produced. Whatever crossover the two workshops did have, their production would undoubtedly favor their respective masters, and gatekeeping access to the old meant that most would simply be joining the new, as confirmed by cut dialogue for Izzy. In other words, Gehrman lost autonomy, but a new generation supplemented his hunters with additional manpower.

Most hunters have been affiliated with the Church since Ludwig became the first church hunter once. The Church made their own workshop and then weapons for them. Although, it’s an old story now…

All of this was done at the behest of Ludwig, who apparently proved himself as a hunter with these new methods to earn the Church’s patronage. In fact, he is likely the reason it became a church at all. Much like the blood ministers, Gehrman acts more familiar with Ludwig as one of the “old hunters” than the first church hunter known as the Holy Blade. On that note, this is the earliest example of religiosity in connection to the blood ministers. To that point, Oedon Chapel links directly to the Healing Church Workshop’s upper levels, suggesting that the treaters’ first proper church was built in conjunction with it. And if the hallowed nomenclature can only be traced back to Ludwig, then he is probably key to the rest adopting it. Popularity would only surge with hunters like Ludwig exterminating the most fearsome beasts beginning to plague the streets. If he wanted to frame this as a holy blessing, then they might as well take the reins of this new religious movement and all be clerics. After proving themselves as both doctors and hunters, the Healing Church was born.

And Upon this Rock

As the Healing Church’s operations shifted atop the valley with continued expansion, the new district built a grand cathedral to serve as its seat of power. Safely nestled in the deepest reaches of the Ward, the cathedral’s altar enshrines the blood used for treatment, labeled the Eucharist in allusion to Roman Catholicism — though the literal term “Holy Body” (聖体) does seem to conflate blood with flesh, the kanji for “body” can denote a physical substance in general, and blood is still arguably part of the body. This highlights the Grand Cathedral’s central practice: delivering the blood of gods to the faithful. Indeed, the rune for Communion — or “Receive” (拝領) in reference to the phrase “receive the Eucharist” (聖体を拝領する) — has been the symbol of the Healing Church since its inception; a chest contains the rune at the church workshop. To add to this, depictions of the rune on the cathedral’s main gate picture blood being poured into a chalice while robed onlookers raise their arms in praise, which complements the statues surrounding the actual blood on the altar.

On the east side across the valley from here in the city of Yharnam, there is a town for the Treatment Church called Church Town. And in the deepest part of Church Town is an old Cathedral… There exists the source of the Treatment Church’s blood… so says the rumor.

Looming above the tabernacle for the holy medium is the statue of a woman pouring a liquid vessel in its direction. This statue is the same seen in the graveyard of Hemwick, the heads of both damaged from long-time weathering. However, concept art confirms that the figure is a hooded woman with long hair, mirroring the figure seen at the Witch’s Abode and the Church of the Good Chalice. In other words, the Healing Church appears to have co-opted an existing effigy in Yharnam to portray their blood treatment as an outgrowth of the traditional religious culture; we see civil and clerical infrastructure both employ the holy woman imagery above Old Yharnam. The outsiders worming their way in is further exemplified by the blindfolded wise men statues raising their arms in praise toward the woman from either side of the tabernacle, statues of plain laity doing the same at their feet but facing away from the blood. As a result, the altar underlines the importance of this ritual of holy communion to the Church. The institution’s legitimacy is predicated upon the sacrality of its blood, and so the Grand Cathedral is the center of operations for the current heads.

In building up this large church, Upper Cathedral Ward was also constructed. Alfred describes this “upper stratum” (上層) to the Church Town as the residence of the “old church leaders” (古い教会の指導者) with the implication that they have been around since its earliest days. Izzy’s cut dialogue likewise describes the area as the dwelling of the Healing Church’s “old folk”. (老人) Based on the circumstances, this refers to the church founders who would remain a guiding hand for the modern institution well into dotage. The Upper Ward does mainly consist of edifices adjoining atop the cathedral building, namely the two clocktowers. The Astral Clocktower in particular is accessed from the ordinary tower via a bridge, which the Hunter’s Nightmare shows to double as the multi-floored “experiment building”. (実験棟) And this Research Hall is accessed from a lift at the back of the Grand Cathedral. Much like the church in Old Yharnam, the deepest reaches of the cathedral served as the Byrgenwerth students’ area for more extensive study, concealed behind closed doors.

Also, Church Town’s Upper Stratum is the residence of the old church leaders.

… That’s right, Big Bro, do you know the story of the Church Workshop? What ya’d call the Church Town Upper Stratum is apparently the residences of the Treatment Church’s old folk, but neighboring it is apparently the Church Workshop.

The Japanese description of the Eye Pendant used to operate the lift up confirms that only select blood ministers can enter the “secret” Research Hall. The halls do hide floor traps set to trigger deadly contents of nearby chemical cabinets — for example, hydrochloric acid — to explode. Dressing as a churchman similarly doesn’t stop the staff from trying to kill us. In other words, anyone who isn’t a church founder or one of their trusted confidants is kept out by any means necessary. Nowhere is that message more clearly conveyed than upon the actual lift platform. There, robed statues operate on a deathly ill man on an altar, his face covered by a white cloth as is common practice for the dead in Japan. To activate the lift, we place the special Eye Pendant in the patient’s cracked skull, granting him a third eye on the inside — just as Willem always wanted, to be sure.

Eye pendant which serves as a key to the surgery altar.

There are 2 cathedrals in the Hunter’s Nightmare. And, it is said that there is an Experiment Building once kept secret by the Treatment Church in the other Cathedral past the river of blood.

Only chosen treaters possessing the eye or their pitiful patients can enter there. Give the eye to the surgery skull on the altar.

Sarcasm aside, the image does communicate Laurence and fellows’ perspective on their dubious research. They still saw themselves as continuing Willem’s work, even as clergy. The first Vicar in particular took the venerable provost’s warning about blood seriously, carrying on himself a pendant symbolic of the witticism — the trinket was fashioned with a unique gold blood gem which is incredibly effective at harming beasts. The traitors still had respect for their wise elder, as it was his tutelage that brought them to where they were at this juncture. But as elucidated in the description to their uniform, they simply refused to carry on his intellectual or philosophical positions. They paid token gestures to their background at Byrgenwerth, but the substance behind the pretensions was all their own. The teacher might balk at the ethics, but the students believed their methods would bear the fruit of his ideals.

Blood crystal that enhances weapons and bestows various properties.

Radial ones often possess effects related to physical attacks, but the golden one that has been handed down to the Treatment Church for generations has an effect to boost attack power in particular against the horribly beastified.

Clergymen undoubtedly become the most horrifying beasts. Only then did the Church need to be prepared.

Uniform of students of Byrgenwerth, former institute of learning. One wearing a thick mantle.

Byrgenwerth is the source of Treatment Church, and its influence remains strong in its many garments for sure.

Not the wisdom, not the philosophy, just imitates the outer form and all that. How much would Provost Willem lament?

Littering Upper Cathedral Ward are statues of many-eyed eldritch abominations with staves, an obvious allusion to its residents plan for acquiring eyes inside the brain and transcending to Great One status. At the same time, the shrouds obscuring these statues are an implicit admission that the traitors were conscious about the ethics behind their true goals. There is a reason that we only see these many-eyed statues without the shrouds in parts of the cathedral complex hidden from the public eye; the one exception are incredibly tiny figures ornamenting the main doors — the entryway otherwise has us greeted by Amygdala in another blatant attempt to portray the Church as a continuation of the city’s traditions. They adopted the pretenses of a religion, but the church fathers were always using it as a front to advance their research into the arcane. Most of the unshrouded effigies serve as lamps, holding flame, because the clergy sought to grasp the stars’ enlightening radiance. But no sane man would accept being a lab rat for such a self-serving goal, so the Healing Church’s true nature was left thinly veiled.

Perhaps that gap in the clergy and laity’s understanding of “bridging man with the divine” is why the second Grand Cathedral in the Hunter’s Nightmare lacks the front entrance. Rather than be open to a congregation, the nave is filled with fancy beds for patients and bookshelves for doctors’ easy reference. Add in the surgical and blood transfusion equipment, and the cathedral was being used as a hospital, ready to move patients with potential up to the inner sanctum where more extensive experimentation could be conducted; most of the beds are empty save for one, the corpse bearing Great One’s Wisdom. This more closed nature to the early Church is reflected in the altar enshrining the blood, which is part of the same lift system. Said altar only reveals itself when the special clerics have taken the platform up to the Research Hall — in other words, when the true nature of the Church’s “treatment” is hidden. This nave in the nightmare doesn’t show a formal entrance, but it is obvious that the building is mainly for its owners, not the faithful.

The Research Hall was outfitted with the same equipment as the Grand Cathedral and much more. Aside from the various vials of chemicals in and out of cabinets, every medicine made available from the bath messengers with church badges can be looted there. The five floors are navigated from elevators in the laboratory wing or the branching stairwell in the atrium moved via a mechanism operated from the rafters beneath the clock bells. Blood tanks hang from ceilings, reference books pile on desks, eye vats amass in corners. Chains and locks litter floors to tie patients down to their much less comfortable beds and chairs should treatment cause a violent reaction. And if they die, no matter. Like with Oedon Chapel, the corpses in the cathedral’s custody were buried closed by. Rats lurking among the graves below or the Hall’s rafters above possess poison knives, indicating that both scavengers had been nibbling on surgery subjects; their glowing green eyes betray the arcane nature of the surgeries, as does the body prostrated toward the graves. Burial for later study was the end result of the patients’ faith.

While the small collection of tombs was eventually replaced by the front entrance, the patients’ bodies probably reburied elsewhere, that new entryway would be preceded by a much more substantive cemetery in the Grand Cathedral’s round plaza out front. Almost anyone visiting the main church would have to pass through this large circle, highlighting its centrality to the district. This likewise lends a certain gravitas to the graves. In fact, the tombs are arranged to revolve around the statues at the center — a wise man surrounded by laity, all offering praise — with more sage statues offering praise back from the graves. Most likely, these are tombs for clergy. Whether dying in the course of hunting, research, or something else, those lost in the line of duty would be honored with their own tombs in a place no one could ignore. They would, of course, serve as an important reminder to always take caution with blood, Willem’s adage needing to come to mind when church leaders were making a visit from the cathedral.

The plaza is the sole juncture for reaching Byrgenwerth’s gatekeeper, whom the Healing Church kept well accommodated. The man’s gate is part of a towering building identical to the church workshop, which might suggest that they were both built during the same period. In either case, it provided the lunatic with ample space to reside, though how much he used outside his place just behind the doors is an open question. The Church clearly showed deep respect for Willem’s emissary, which is further reflected in the lead-up to the building. Before descending the staircase curving around to the gate, one must pass through a fancy chamber in the Healing Church’s typical style, statues of wise men in praise flanking the sides. All of this presents the scholars from Byrgenwerth as deeply reverential toward their teacher’s representative, to approach the gatekeeper and request passage to the clergy’s origin having an air of consequence unlike anywhere else in Cathedral Ward. This was hallowed ground meriting a reminder of the maxim required to pass through the gates.

Finally, the district’s last major landmark is the Lower Church, named in a cut key’s description — appropriate considering it requires we descend stairs from Oedon Chapel to reach. Unlike the others, this small church seems to serve no purpose beyond facilitating entry to Old Yharnam, the architecture extending all the way down to atop the buildings in the valley below. Although it is possible for this church to be the last constructed in the Church Town, the fact that we can come across a smaller iteration in the Hunter’s Nightmare hints to it existing prior to the Old Yharnam Incident, wise men statues praising any coming up from the sliding coffin featuring a sick man. Clearly, the Lower Church originally honored the old city as the Healing Church’s starting point, a land of sickness bringing the sages to literal new heights. In practical terms, the building just regulated access to the city below, not to mention streamlining the trek up and down the valley. After descending some staircases, the edifices’ “bottom” floor leads out straight to the rooftops to cross in order to head further down into the city proper.

The Healing Church’s new district couldn’t be run on the clergy alone. For one, the urban center so high above the river valley needed a sewer, which began with the bridge to Oedon Chapel. That growing church district on the west side of the valley was likely the reason for a sewer existing on the east end. Walls of the main line are adorned with statues of the messengers, figures otherwise only depicted at Byrgenwerth and the Grand Cathedral tabernacle. This implies that the sewer itself was built with the Church’s backing, which required lay workers to manage it. This resulted in homes springing up around the sewer so as to live near where they worked, and soon a whole town was built up. This explains why the buildings feature imagery of not just holy women with the sick but also austere scholars. Yharnam has streets atop the valley because of the Healing Church, a larger bridge constructed to more formally connect the new city with the Cathedral Ward as they built up in parallel. Indeed, the district became its own town, for engineers, builders, and custodians as well as clerics.

Ignoring the occupational signs above houses, the lowest streets in the Cathedral Ward are patrolled by Yharnamites. Unlike the standard mobber, these enemies dress in leather hoods and aprons evocative of butchers — and also featured in the butcher set subsequently added in DLC. The slaughterers also come in pairs, wielding an axe and pitchfork respectively. These are the perfect tools for chopping up a carcass and shoveling the parts into a cart. And aiding them in creating that carcass, these butchers have the rabid dogs, one straying from its pair to check a nearby alley. Taken together, these Yharnamites were employed by the Healing Church, finding and dissecting beast corpses in Cathedral Ward on the church hunters’ behalf to study back at the Grand Cathedral. In other words, not every resident working for the Church was necessarily a formal clergyman. Laity filled in for the basic or small jobs around town, so clerics could focus their own duties.

With this expansion in membership and organization, Laurence and the other church founders needed to devise a hierarchy. There wasn’t much of a focus on labels. The only cleric known to receive a formal title was Laurence as the first Vicar, or “parish leader”, (教区長) in reference to his position as head of the Grand Cathedral, Cathedral Ward, and Healing Church as a whole. Instead, the new Church focused on distinguishing clergy visually. Clerics are identified by the Holy Shawl, or “holy cloth” (聖布) to be more accurate. This wide strip of cloth hanging from the back is distinctive in both design and detail, but not all are created equal. The cloth for lower echelons ends in a point whereas the highest ranks have it extend further to a flat edge. These naturally included the original members from Byrgenwerth like Laurence, his skull resting on one such cloth in the menu graphic. With that in mind, it is more likely that the leadership’s cloth was the basis for the lower ranks’ design, with variation for female clerics.

Other aspects of the uniform similarly follow from the founders, and they took heavy inspiration from their old school. Many church garbs borrow directly from Byrgenwerth, employing some combination of vests, long coats, or thick cloaks. The main distinction between ranks thus became color and complexity, which extended to headwear. Most clerics don hoods and, oftentimes, brimmed hats while the top brass wear blindfold masks styled after Willem’s own. This is demonstrated by the three figures at the surgery altar. Two hooded clerics flank the third bearing a longer holy cloth and tall blindfold mask. His status as their superior is reaffirmed by his thin ribbon tie brooch, which is also only seen in the highest-ranked cleric attire. The Blindfold Mask’s description confirms that it signifies direct lineage to the Provost’s teachings, so of course they would be worn by his former students-turned-church fathers. As for the actual clothing, the base ranks wear black while higher ranks dress in white.

Outsider or insider, the Healing Church had an air of legitimacy consistent throughout. We can see the results around us. The Yharnamites living and working in the Cathedral Ward express gratitude to the clerics with zealous trust. The church father’s framing has fully embedded itself into the cultural milieu, and not a single clergyman below them is known to have exposed the fraud. No rank beneath the top brass consistently shows awareness of the Church’s true goals. Every individual receives information appropriate to their devotion to the institution, though clerics in black are probably kept in the dark more often than their white counterparts. In other words, the traitors of Byrgenwerth could hide behind a huge buffer of followers who truly believed in the sanctity and morality of their work as they dealt with the lay believer on the day-to-day. With that, everything was in place; the residents of Upper Cathedral Ward could do their unsightly work without fear of anyone pulling back the curtain.

Ally in Evil

Among the portraits hanging in Castle Cainhurst, one stands out as peculiar. One might be forgiven for overlooking the figure as just another noble with his pale skin and silvery hair, not to mention attire in the clan’s characteristic red hue. But the man’s head and beard look scragglier than the groomed men in the other portraits, and his clothes look like robes lacking that garish flair of the Cainhurst aristocracy. Moreover, unlike the other portraits, the man faces fully forward looking directly ahead, a hand raised just below the chest as if having respectfully bowed to address the viewer — in other words, a resident blueblood. All of this conveys the figure as an outsider trying to get in the nobility’s good graces; he must have succeeded if he had earned a portrait alongside the lords and ladies throughout the castle’s long history. But then, who is this man in humble robes more reminiscent of a clergyman than an aristocrat? And a clergyman’s robes they most certainly are.

Cut content reveals plans for a “Treatment Bishop Herbert”, (医療主教ヘルベルト) localized as Norbert, to have presided over the Grand Cathedral as the “parish leader” where he would apparently become the Cleric Beast when we visit him for information — essentially fulfilling the same role as Vicar Amelia in the final game. And while Norbert is portrayed as a portlier man with balding head, his attire is identical to the Cainhurst portrait save for wearing a black, presumably, beast fur coat with slightly simplified jewelry fastening it and no white arm cuffs. Given this iteration of the Healing Church uniform’s emphasis on the color red, the red fur coat worn by the man in the portrait must denote a rank above bishop, something equivalent to a cardinal or pope; this would also explain the additional jewelry and cuffs. In short, FromSoftware commissioned art of top brass of the Healing Church to hang in Cainhurst during the early stages of development. And while the specific design was cut, the general impression remains: this man is a representative of the Church leadership.

I dunno, but the priest of the Cathedral of the east block, Father Herbert, might know something. If you can, how about you pay him a visit?

In all likelihood, the portrait depicts Laurence. According to Alfred, at least one traitor from Byrgenwerth brought the forbidden blood to the castle. This requires, at minimum, that the most prominent among the group approached the nobles. And this person would most reasonably be their leader, Laurence — who better to send as emissary to the noble clan, especially an audience with their queen, than the first Vicar? The man was unlikely to have gone alone, of course. One of Queen Annalise’s relations became an apprentice to Gehrman, implicating him as another guest of the castle. And given their close relationship since betraying Willem, this contact between the clan and Yharnam’s first hunter most likely coincided with Laurence’s own stay. And not just him, but the other former students as well. The castle dining tables are littered with statuettes of the queen and the same multi-eye horrors seen in Upper Cathedral Ward. Together, they indicate a similar intermixing of the aristocratic and scholarly elite. Both Laurence and kith and Annalise and kin made merry in Cainhurst’s lavish banquets.

Once, there was a traitor at the Byrgenwerth school, and he brought the forbidden blood to Cainhurst castle. Thereupon, the inhuman, corrupted bloodkin were born.

It is obvious that the two parties established good relations, but the revelry probably served as a vehicle for driving negotiations forward. Alfred insinuates that the blood Willem forbid using caused the Cain clan to become the so-called Vilebloods. This covenant is characterized by members sharing the queen’s corrupted blood providing her with more blood corruption. As noted previously, Cainhurst’s blood was losing potency after such a long time under the sun; the corruption was fading, along with possibly memory of where it originated. Enter Laurence with blood from the gods’ graveyard underfoot, ready to reinvigorate the clan with a high concentration of those arcane properties. This was especially true of Queen Annalise, whose reddish hair regained its ancestral silver shine if concept art is to be believed. More importantly, it seems to have made her immortal, an undead queen animated by the most corrupt blood. She thus stood to gain the most from accepting Byrgenwerth’s gift, and she was doubtless under no illusion about the traitors’ charity. It would need to return the favor.

The chief outcome of these negotiations appears to be a trade in knowledge. Despite the formula for numbing mist allegedly only being circulated in Cainhurst, it is the Cathedral Ward which harbors by far the majority of it above ground. With so many corpses carrying the stuff, Cainhurst must have shared the recipe with Laurence and associates. We also find a lift up to the library in the castle courtyard, which is odd when guests would typically be driven up to the front doors and led through the main foyer — why give any visitor ready access to the clan’s private records? But, in the context of an alliance between the Healing Church and Cainhurst, the lift allows the church fathers to more easily reference the clan’s eons of wisdom, some which the descendants would have even forgotten buried in the forest of books. Therefore, it was probably installed for that purpose, the Queen permitting the scholars a trove of reading material to research. Access to writings of a clan tracing back to Pthumerian civilization was no doubt enlightening for their research. And Cainhurst saw value in that as well.

From the Healing Church Workshop to Oedon Chapel to the Lower Church to miscellaneous houses in Cathedral Ward and Central Yharnam, there are effigies of a queen ornamenting the walls. With Yharnam so disconnected from its namesake, the only queen to inspire this depiction during the Healing Church’s era is Annalise. Indeed, the crest on the Cainhurst monument in Hemwick also decorates various archways in Cathedral Ward, with nobles in medieval dress ornamenting certain buildings. This suggests that all this too was made with the castle’s backing. Perhaps Laurence approached Cainhurst as soon as the traitorous scholars bought property in Yharnam, but the castle had become their sponsor by the time the blood ministers formally established themselves as a Church. There was only so much a bunch of students could afford in a foreign land, and extravagant Cainhurst had the riches to fund such a civil project. And so, Laurence evidently convinced the queen to bankroll the expansion in their operations.

The full-fledged support for the Healing Church’s research went beyond gratitude for some high-quality blood from ruins they could explore themselves. The Vilebloods’ end goal is to give their undead queen a baby seemingly born of blood rather than coitus. It is no accident that the menu graphic for blood dregs depicts the corruption like a group of sperms, all swimming to impregnate the queen — Alfred goes so far as to call her a “whore”. (売女) This birth of a Blood Baby is appropriate considering that among the statues in Cainhurst is a queen with infant modeled on the Virgin of Paris, reminding us of a chaste holy queen birthing a son of god. Much like Queen Yharnam, Annalise is attempting to conceive a Great One, relying on the corruption in blood to generate that new life within her womb. For that, the Vilebloods were born. This act wasn’t without personal motivation; she continues the covenant even now that she calls the Church her enemy. But whether her goal is to reclaim heritage, mother a child, or obtain the power of a god, the possibility was likely still introduced to her by the blood ministers.

Even if not developing the Blood Baby hypothesis until later, Laurence still knew or suspected enough about Cainhurst’s true nature to present them with blood that would pique their interest. Willem’s traitors had clearly done their research on the castle, even if based on merely legend and hearsay. And in the end, Laurence’s gamble paid off. He managed to play on the hearts of a traditional clan in order to advance his group’s research on multiple fronts. As long as the Healing Church shared the results, both tangible and intellectual, with the queen and her court, they would fund further studies in Yharnam. As the text to Arianna’s donated blood describes, the old Church became deeply familiar with Cainhurst’s blood, and the promise of a Blood Baby probably encouraged them to look even deeper. After all, an infant Great One would provide tremendous insight into their own rebirths as gods, in every sense. For the future of all mankind, Cainhurst and the Healing Church came together.

Holy Sacraments

Between their education at Byrgenwerth, relations with Cainhurst, and research in Yharnam, the church fathers developed a number of practices. Most, of course, pertain to their methods in handling the beast scourge. That phrasing is apt since those methods involve physical contact with the disease for understanding. As demonstrated in the surgery altar, all treaters wear long, white gloves for protection during hands-on experience with patients, the detailed embroidery at the cuff acting as a charm; considering that it possesses blood defense rivaling the best for arm wear, arcane enchantment is likely. This way, they can feel or extract blood and viscera without fear of infection. The patient’s abdomen has thus been eviscerated, the central experimenter’s hands ready to dig into more while his faceless assistants hold a book — representing knowledge — and a bell — representing the arcane — respectively. Peeking out underneath the table behind the hanging cloths lurks a beast, an acknowledgement of the dangerous potential hiding beneath this ill man’s unsuspecting exterior.

White long gloves for surgery. The detailed embroidery is a charm that protects the user.

Church hunts are a kind of treatment practice, so directly touching and taking out is undoubtedly important.

Such precautions were to be expected of students hoping to honor their teacher’s adage, but the dangers meant that their fear of blood needed to go the step further. Roles were therefore assigned to the ranks. Clerics in white were the superiors to the clerics in black, so the former took precedence in experiments. Because this seniority made them experts in the disease, these blood ministers were best suited to teaching the neophytes the proper approach to this hands-on research. This explains why the surgery altar’s central masked figure — sporting a beard suspiciously similar to Laurence’s Cainhurst portrait — has such a tall hat more comparable to Willem than the church’s top level. It was Laurence leading the founders’ experiments, with everyone else who joined later becoming their assistants, and so on. He set the example to stay true to his promise, letting newcomers slowly gain the experience to trade in their vulgar black uniforms for enlightened white. It was all to instill fear of the blood.

Apparel of the Church’s special treaters.

They are the black preventative hunters’ superiors, and are experimentally-backed experts in blood treatment and the beast disease.

For them, treatment is a means for research, not remedy work. There are findings which can only be laid bare by touching the disease.

In the meantime, we can see from the surgery altar how the clerics in black essentially handled the menial labor. The men of Hemwick reinforce this notion. All the townsmen of sound body and mind wear the church’s black uniform, indicating that they were made proper members when the Healing Church began sending them their excess corpses. However, with the women handling the dissection and cremation of the bodies, the men’s only role would be middlemen transporting the coffins from Cathedral Ward. They were clerics simply for limited yet constant interactions with the Church. Contrast to the “special” treaters in white leading every surgery, provided a poison knife to anesthetize the blood before their hands dig in. Given how many we can acquire from a single corpse, these scalpels are disposable, common medical procedure — you can’t risk reusing a blade once contaminated. They thus have viability for self-defense, which may be necessary in their line of work.

Throwing knife covered in plenty of poison. The warped blade is thin and sharp like a scalpel. 

The Treatment Church’s special treaters often possess them for self-defense. Traditionally, hunters don’t use much poison. It is probably a little too slow in your ordinary beast hunt.

To get that firsthand look, the blood ministers joined in the hunt. Having no interest in actually curing their patients’ illness, the holy doctors’ chief concern is examining specimens as soon as possible. And blood is never fresher than the moment its owner expires. Therefore, the Healing Church treats hunting as a medical practice, performing surgeries on the infected they slay right on the spot. If they arrive to the hunt too late, these coroners can always examine the corpse before the coffin is hauled off back to headquarters. If the test subject needs to still be alive, they can incapacitate the lab rat with numbing mist; anything to get their hands on a body. It is for this reason their various tools litter the Cathedral Ward, with just as much madman’s knowledge to show for it.

Of course, this mainly applies to the white church hunters, their unenlightened subordinates left to handle much of the dirty work. The fact that only “most” of the black church hunters double as blood ministers, even if low-grade, implies that their fundamental duty is the hunt. For the many who are blood treaters, hunting the afflicted takes the additional connotation of preventive care — they often cull the ill before they are even beasts. This makes sense for ignorant novices who still believe the beast scourge is a conventional, infectious disease. Without the knowledge shared amongst clerics in the Church’s inner circle, the recruits blindly slay whoever they suspect of spreading the disease. As to the basis of their suspicions, the Church has spies on the inside so as to not let a single beast in hiding pass them by.

The “harrowed” set is more accurately “disguise” (やつし) in reference to its description of certain church hunters adorning themselves in raggedy attire to lurk on the streets — like a starving bum, which is fitting considering that the kanji for “disguise” (窶す) means emaciated. In other words, they absorb themselves into the role of a petty beggar, too trifling to notice beyond a passing glance. And because of that, they can secretly observe things in the city which hunters cloistered in the Cathedral Ward wouldn’t notice. They are thus theoretically best positioned to identify symptoms of the disease, at which point the church spies can either pass on the intelligence to the other church once they arrive or take on the duty of preventive hunters themselves. After all, the description to their equipment claims that they never miss the signs — before insinuating that these discoveries are simply confirmation bias. Whatever spooks the church spooks is interpreted as proof of infection, making their tips on such matters unreliable to say the least. But that doesn’t stop the preventive care.

Among the Treatment Church hunters, there are those who disguise themselves and lurk in the streets. This is humble apparel so that no one notices.

They are also preventative hunters and don’t miss beast symptoms. Or perhaps they always discover what they believe is so. All men have some sort of secret.

It wasn’t as if the church hunters were completely left to their own devices. On hunt night, they set out with a hunter chief, who receives a special holy cloth bearing the Healing Church’s sign. This fancy handkerchief is waved as a signal to open the main gate of the round plaza, the Grand Cathedral otherwise remaining shut tight. This naturally places the burden on the chief to decide when the hunt ends; failure to follow that lead meant being left to fend against the beasts alone. This gives the hunters ample incentive to obey the chief’s direction, thereby functioning more like an army corps under a captain’s command. But even with a command structure, citizens have still been hunted before they had turned into beasts — being captain didn’t make the hunter any less susceptible to paranoia. It is for that reason that the description to the basic uniform equates its black color with this “dark madness” happening in Yharnam. None were safe from the beasts or the hunters.

Cloth sign that the church hunters’ chief is said to have once possessed. Serves as a key to open the main gate leading to the Cathedral’s round plaza.

It is said that the main gate is shut tight on the beast hunt night, and only opened for the one possessing this sign from the other side. For the chief’s return was, in other words, the sign of a completed beast hunt.

Apparel of Treatment Church hunters. A holy cloth, symbol of the Treatment Church, flutters on its back.

Most of them are low-grade treaters, so are preventative hunters who dispose of those suspected to be suffers of the beast disease before its onset. Thus, their black apparel is the dark madness of Yharnam itself.

However, with the hunters out on the streets that night, who would hold down the fort back in Cathedral Ward? The Healing Church’s answer was to create its own night watch. Church servants are Pthumerians dressed the same as cleric hunters. Most wear white and patrol the Cathedral Ward with lanterns plus one of a variety of weapons; two others, black and hold crucifixes at the Grand Cathedral’s doors. The former are clearly guards directed by the Church’s upper echelon, stationed even at their secret facilities and receiving their arcane assistance — at high insight, we see that the lanterns are covered in eyes with which they can shoot arcane blasts, with similar effects coating their scythes. The latter, meanwhile, are evidently laborers supplying their brethren in white, in this case with crucifixes bloodied many times before going by the madness the wood inflicts — at high insight, we see a cursed aura emanate with an even more potent maddening effect. Like the humans, the Pthumerians are divided into roles for the Church.

Contact between the Healing Church above and Pthumerians below isn’t a surprise. The tomb prospector set proves that certain hunters of the clergy do continue the Byrgenwerth tradition of dungeon diving, several of whom we meet during our own exploration of the ruins. Moreover, the Church has made sacrifices for some manner of ceremony. High quality body parts like the Sage’s Hair and Wrists or the Inflicted Organ and Yellow Backbone were part of these rituals. According to descriptions, the former were used for a search while the latter were used as a lure — the question is, in both cases, for what? Pthumerians. These items are unique in adding or empowering enemies for the Chalice Dungeons, the gravekeepers especially. Therefore, the clerics probably used them to entice the subterranean blood drinkers to come to them. Given the Pthumerians’ hostility, this is a great way to catch them unawares. As to why they choose to serve, they do not.

Apparel of grave openers who particularly go into the underground ruins even among the Treatment Church.

The source of the Treatment Church is Byrgenwerth, and thus they know what the ruins are. Those aren’t simply the whereabouts of treasure that becomes hunters’ power. They are mysteries of the old Higher Ones, and a route for research into seeing them.

The church giants are larger Pthumerians also patrolling in the white uniform, except theirs is torn and worn with shackles as well as the occasional ball and chain. All the servants also have a bell hanging around their necks. They never use these bells to attack, so we can only assume that it serves as a sort of collar, an arcane spell binding them to obey their masters. Indeed, we can loot blue elixir from the servants, as if prescribed the brain anesthetic to keep themselves docile. This would be especially useful for keeping them captured while they were dressed and collared — the giants required too big a dose, so physical restraints were used instead, resulting in torn clothes as they resisted. And where do we mainly come across this secret drug? In the upper level of the Grand Cathedral. It is no accident that the church giant’s internal name is “Treatment Church Franken” (医療教会のフランケン) in obvious reference to Frankenstein’s monster. These servants are the products of mad scientists performing inhumane experiments on Pthumerians they captured in the labyrinth behind closed doors.

With hunters patrolling outside and servants making rounds inside, the Cathedral Ward could comfortably advance their research. This includes weapons development, where silver became a staple for Healing Church armaments. Aside from the quicksilver bullets loaded into firearms, silver was commonly employed in products of the church workshop; even church giants wield giant silver axes, as stated explicitly in their profiles featured in official websites. Laurence and crew recognized silver’s efficacy against corrupted blood, and so made it available to all their forces — even the old-fashioned hunters of Gehrman’s workshop couldn’t resist the potential for quicksilver. This, combined with limited arcane enhancements, kept the Church protected from the beasts they were creating. We even see that it uses messengers to operate the gates at high insight, so these safeguards weren’t just strictly limited to their equipment.

But what about their research subjects in the wider city? They can’t get slaughtered by beasts before the hunters arrive. And so, the clergy doles out beast-warding incense. Characters like Arianna seek safety outside their homes precisely because their personal supply is running out. And this incense apparently comes from the top. We see the incense urns amassed just outside the door to Upper Cathedral Ward, as if left out for pickup. Heading down the Healing Church Workshop to Oedon Chapel, even more are gathered, ready to be distributed to the whole Ward. After every homeowner received a share, Yharnam was next. The next large collection of urns is found at the Lower Church. The nightmare iteration amasses them up top, and the present-day building still keeps them at the bottom, where they would be distributed to the cleric buildings. Another sits in a cubby space connecting the terrace overlooking the Great Bridge to just outside the main gate, where they can be loaded into carriages heading to the new city. These urns show clear transit routes for keeping the populace safe in their homes during the hunt.

Of course, not every beast is going to wait until nightfall to emerge. To handle the disease on the day-to-day, the Healing Church established clinics. Iosefka’s Clinic is the most obvious example, named for the blood minister in charge. Although only spoken to from behind a door, the broken window reveals this Iosefka to be a high-level cleric in white. And true to her rank, we see her use this clinic to not just diagnose the beast disease but also research it, fashioning extra potent blood vials through a lengthy and strenuous refinement process. Such experimentation is obviously to iterate on the blood treatment she administers. Perhaps due to the building’s size and thereby scale of operations, the clinic keeps its own graveyard, the only formal cemetery there on the west side of the valley. They serve as proof of the numerous patients who perished under the clinic’s care, doubtless halted from becoming beasts during treatment — we do have to sign a contract before undergoing the transfusion ourselves, with chains and locks at the ready. That leaves Iosefka plenty of bodies to reexamine as needed.

Transfused blood given by the doctor woman of Iosefka’s Clinic. That which was refined has a high sensory effect and recovers greater HP.

It isn’t common due to the time and labor for the refinement. It is probably from the doctor woman’s own making.

But while the good doctor’s clinic is the largest of these facilities, it isn’t only one. Further into Central Yharnam is a smaller edifice built in the exact architectural style of the clinic. Inside, the building has the same medicine cabinets, surgical tools, fancy seating, locks and chains, all things denoting a second clinic. In addition, it amasses a number of the luggage cases cluttering the streets of Yharnam, which is appropriate considering that the second floor of this two-story building connects directly to the Great Bridge. If the Healing Church were to confiscate the personal effects of its adherents tragically lost all too soon, this smaller clinic along the main route to Cathedral Ward would be an excellent relay point. The place likewise collects the bones and bodies around town, the coffins propped up on special stands for easy inspection. This plus lack of a graveyard suggests that the small clinic did no more than perform minor treatments or research before handing over their materials to a passing stagecoach or hearse upstairs.

Not to be left out, Old Yharnam is home to yet another clinic. Much like the local church, this blood ministration facility looks to have simply renovated an existing building. The bottom floor entrance is flanked by statues of the ill, while the explorable upper floors include familiar cabinets, seating, coffins, bone boxes, and the like. The top floor is installed with a stove and so likely was used as a private residential space for staff. This purpose becomes even more obvious seeing the staircase to the roof, which is where the rooftop bridges from the Lower Church ultimately lead. Whenever clerics from Cathedral Ward came down to check on the local parish, they always dropped by this establishment first, a clinic showcasing their latest progress on the beast scourge.

A sister building exists across the street. Atop the roof is a small edifice bearing architectural similarities with the church, including the same statues of sick and wise men adorning the exterior. Meanwhile, the interior hides many of the expected features. Although odd to place yet another blood ministration center so far above the streets, we do see a separate rooftop building opposite it, entrance flanked by more ailing statues. Perhaps the place leads to the unexplorable parts of the city on that side of the street down below, creating a route for the populace to reach these buildings on high. Regardless, the two complexes pair nicely with the large gate down the lane between them. This barrier, adorned with the usual statues, divides the old city from Yahar’gul, leaving the Healing Church to regulate access to the capital’s oldest burg both there and the Cathedral Ward above hiding the old church. Given the location, these may even be the first satellite facilities the blood treaters opened as they were gaining influence.

The Church used these clinics to maintain a presence in the city and therefore more control over its happenings. Helping staff these facilities weren’t just the typical clerics either. The locations of Yharnam’s retired hunters now confined to wheelchairs follow a pattern. Aside from the express blood minister at Iosefka’s Clinic, we come across them at the smaller clinic in Central Yharnam, the Healing Church Workshop, the Grand Cathedral dungeon, and the Research Hall — in other words, Church facilities. This hints that our wheelchair-bound blood minister at the game’s start is the rule, not the exception. Even if not wearing the uniform, they can still be working as clergy. The workshop’s chest with the Communion rune is next to one such man, and signs for the Research Hall where others work are similarly marked by it. After all, just because the aging retirees can no longer hunt doesn’t mean that they don’t want to support the Church’s mission or continue to make a living. Just give them a badge and a generous sum for their hunting and clerical service as clinicians or weapons engineers.

But even with the added help, there was only so much that could be done in the field. Ideally, the Healing Church would staunch the rate of beasts outright. But that requires the will of the diseased, and so the Church created a theology to preach. The current Vicar Amelia and a white clergywoman in the Hunter’s Nightmare both pray at the apse. This prayer demands their followers obtain the “holy blood” hidden in the cathedral, provided should those desiring its blessing pray sufficiently. It claims that only their bloodthirst can bring the addicts peace. This is the Church’s call to loyalty from the flock, to embrace the blood treatment. The prayer then warns them that they are “weak” and “young” in obvious reference to their minds’ fortitude and knowledge to the arcane mysteries. It notes how the “profane” beast deep within each will quietly and sweetly tempt them to abandon the righteous path, those failing to show fear of the evil going unmourned. In other words, the Healing Church lays the blame of the Yharnamites’ degeneration into beasts on them; they need to be more sincere in their faith.

Acquire the Holy Blood. If you desire a blessing and properly pray, you shall receive it. You shall receive it. The secret Holy Blood. Only the thirst for blood satiates us and calms us. Acquire the Holy Blood.

But man must beware. You are all weak and young. The profane beasts will whisper honey and tempt you from the depths. So man must beware. You all are weak and young. If you lack for fear, not a single person will mourn for you.

Although an excellent way to scare the populace into compliance, this sermon is another example of the Church’s duplicity, as the lyrics to Laurence’s boss music illustrates. Looking at the source for the Latin translation, the first Vicar’s song is clearly meant to reflect, in part, the last Vicar’s prayer. The lyrics again demand one receive the secret blood of god, but this time rewarded should those desiring its arcane mysteries learn. It also quotes Willem’s cut variant of the adage, which cites blood as how we can become, surpass, and lose what makes us human. In short, the lyrics acknowledge the holy blood as means to become Great Ones or beasts. The warning is just as honest. The blood itself is that sweet profanity, the lyrics more directly echoing the famous Nietzschean phrase in claiming how staring into the arcane means a beast will stare back. The lyrics admit that this is their only option, again echoing Willem in advising the “ignorant” to fear the blood. And after acknowledging all that, the song ends with exclaiming that they “believe” in the arcane blood regardless.

… We by blood become human, surpass humans, and also lose our humanity.

Laurence and his ilk would never say it out loud, but they knew the problem was the blood treatment they administer. However, they can’t not give the addicts they created their fix and slow the pace of their experiments either. Instead, they would appeal to their patients’ will to resist the evolution in their blood, at least should that mean degeneration. In that respect, “the faith” provided the perfect anchor for those hoping to slow the disease if the fear of paranoid hunters in black looking for the slightest symptoms did not. If you are good person, you will simply drink your holy blood without issue; only a sinner heeds the call of the beast tempting them in response to following the sacred path. In that sense, this was a carefully disguised way to tell the congregation to fear the blood, and these beliefs spread not just among the laity but the clergy as well.

Despite being the parish leader, Amelia recites her prayer even in private, implying that she truly believes every word. Iosefka similarly refuses us entry to the rest of the clinic out of concern that we might spread the “infection” to her patients despite her higher rank in the Healing Church. If we choose to attack her door, she assumes that we are becoming a beast due to the hunt and begs that we stop. Despite her line of work making her well aware that beasthood is irreversible and so common to hunters, she nonetheless does everything possible to prevent anyone from succumbing to this perceived pathogen; her own employee in the wheelchair insinuates more awareness about blood, beasthood, and the Church’s true intentions.

… Who are you? A beast hunter, perhaps? If so, I am sorry. I cannot open this door. I am Iosefka. As the one in charge of this clinic, I cannot put my precious patients at risk of infection. So you, who goes out to hunt for the town, have my apologies, but for now, this is all I can do.

Agh…! Stop! You hunt beasts, don’t you?… What will you do if you become a beast? Listen, don’t do something so sad… Please…

… Have you calmed down? I’m so glad. But, take care. So that you don’t become drunk on the hunt. You are not a beast, after all…

… You are a beast. Nothing will change that. I well understand…

By every indication, both of these women are genuinely empathetic, believing wholeheartedly in the lies their own institution spreads about this so-called disease. Even earning the white uniform doesn’t guarantee a cleric be privy to all the Church’s secrets. Only an inner circle chosen by Byrgenwerth’s traitors share in the knowledge about the beast scourge and the purpose of blood ministration. Even when it didn’t involve blood, like with the church servants, every experiment helped with man reaching the “gods” in every sense of the phrase. Therefore, spice up their language with a little theology, and the church fathers could slowly indoctrinate subordinates into their worldview as they proved trustworthy.

This buffer between the Healing Church’s councilors and the laity they oversaw was the perfect screen for legitimacy. The churchmen the Yharnamites dealt with on the regular were true believers, every practice done with the intention to help. But behind the veneer, the true movers and shakers decided how to maximize their use of the population so they could become gods. To the academics, the Church was a formula, every element of the system constructing the equation to match the answer. It is just as Laurence’s song lyrics say. They must confront the Great One blood. They must confront the arcane properties therein. They must press forward with blood experiments. Despite the risks, they ironically have faith that this will eventually succeed, that they will move on from their beastly idiocy and join the enlightened stars higher above. They just need to wait for a learning opportunity. And it came.

Water the Seeds

The description for the Accursed Brew confirms that someone laid waste to the Fishing Hamlet, its ships sunk as wrecks and its people piled up as corpses — their severed heads hanging from the trees. The first witness we come across pegs Byrgenwerth as the culprit, his Japanese dialogue faulting their “greedy” blood craze. True enough, the heads have been subjected to “cruel treatment” as the Japanese description words it, the menu graphic depicting large holes bored into the skull as part of some search for “eyes within”. This would implicate the school, but Willem and his faithful students don’t fit the profile for “profane butchers” acting out of an obsession with blood, leaving only Laurence and his fellow rogue classmates for this village priest to have recognized. They have already proven their callous disregard for the life of entire communities in pursuit of their research, and they most definitely did return to the hamlet as clergy at some point.

Byrgenwerth… Byrgenwerth… Profane butchers… With their greedy blood-madness…

Skull of a resident of the devastated fishing village. It was likely searched for eyes within the cranium. There are countless traces of cruel treatment.

That is for sure why this skull became an accumulation of maledictions. Curser, curser. Weep with them.

The lamps in the Grand Cathedral’s Research Hall and dungeon all glow the same unnaturally green hue as those in the Fishing Hamlet, meaning that they are probably burning the same oil. If so, then the Healing Church must have obtained the oil from the village. This could have occurred as part of normal trade, but it could just as easily be the result of plunder; if you are planning to arbitrarily go in and wipe an entire community off the map, the least you can do is take their rotting oil — not like the villagers would be needing it anymore. On top of that ominous implication, Simon makes a point of this ravaged Fishing Hamlet being the Healing Church’s greatest secret. Therefore, we can be certain that the Vicar and cohorts are responsible for this devastation.

The blood treaters weren’t alone, of course. Maria threw her hunting weapon down the well in the hamlet plaza where we can acquire it, and the official trailer for the DLC shows Gehrman walking through the village, weapon drawn, with heads not yet hanging from the trees. This would place the hunters of the old workshop at this village before the massacre had finished. Indeed, some of the villagers’ corpses have been strung up to mirror the Hunter rune like in the Chalice Dungeons — and it wouldn’t be the first Pthumerian practice adopted by Gehrman’s workshop. In short, the workshop hunters were the principal party in this incident, the church hunters handling the “cleanup” in their wake. With the Gehrman school of hunting losing relevance after Ludwig, it isn’t surprising that the old workshop’s resources were directed elsewhere whenever possible. Slaughtering a bunch of hicks was well within its capacity, while the church needed its best hunters to stay home and keep the beast population in check. The calculus wasn’t difficult, especially considering the ultimate target.

The villagers’ ambient dialogue state that Kos was also killed, her corpse we see left abandoned on the shore. They then reveal that her baby was stolen, meaning that she was pregnant and likely close to labor when the massacre occurred. How convenient that the Healing Church suddenly decided to experiment on the Fishing Hamlet right when the Great One was bearing the fruits of her own, the very same kind that the church was trying to replicate at Cainhurst. It is almost as if they were tipped off. And who do we just happen to find among corpses in the village? A church spy. Laurence and company undoubtedly learned about Kos’ plan, if only vaguely, back on their school field trip. And given the difficulty they were having with Queen Annalise producing a Blood Baby, keeping an eye open for alternatives would be prudent. All they needed to do was send an agent looking like some sorry beggar drifting into the village. Fading into the background, the spy would just need to send word when the local gossip mentioned their goddess harboring the sought-after specimen.

Mother was killed. Her baby was stolen. Mother was killed. Her baby was stolen. Scales ache, Ghos’ lament. You will hear it.

Once Kos’ child was ripped from her newly deceased womb, Laurence could wrap up their field study and return home. The living specimen alone would provide tremendous insight into the Great Ones and the possibility of their own new births, especially with what they could only describe as a “third umbilical cord” in the baby’s possession. Between this and their past experience as students, it is no surprise that the Healing Church linked the Great Ones to the sea early on, as the description for brain fluid elucidates. Despite all their attempts looking toward the sky, seafaring Kos was the only Great One of old whom they had encountered directly and lived to learn from. And even if completely accidental, it settled water’s importance to the arcane forces the clerics toyed with. The Loch Shield originally used in the church’s arcane rituals has a blue “lake” separate that power from mundane man, and water is central to the experiments where we find the dead ritualist with the shield: in the Research Hall.

Darkish amoeba-shaped brain fluid. It has jiggling elasticity. It was collected from a patient whose head bloated and ultimately became just the head.

In the early days of the Treatment Church, the Higher Ones were associated with the sea. Thus, the head patients fill themselves with water and hear the voices of the sea.

And so, brain fluid is said to be the first squirm of trying to grow eyes within the head.

Craft shield coated with blue glass.

It was used for protecting the ritualist in the Treatment Church’s special rituals, and later given to grave openers who go to the underground ruins of Isz in particular.

Its blue is modeled on a lake, so it has non-physical damage cut.

Roaming the halls are the experiment building’s patients, all dressed in strait jackets with some actually secured in additional straits. This has been done to help restrain them during surgery. Bodies strapped onto the surgical tables have been stabbed with a number of sharp implements, including a trepanning tool in the head and bone saw in the neck. These operations upon the head are especially relevant considering each patient’s cranium are bloated with water. Although hidden beneath bloody bandages, the test subjects’ misshapen heads possess a watery consistency not unlike the bloathead kin seen in Isz. Moreover, forming in the sunken foyer beneath the central stairway, is a shallow pool, likely sourced from the patients’ watery heads — the pool is filled with their rotting corpses, hence wading through it slowly poisons us. This is why most of the research specimens possess some manner of damp blood gem. These watery experiments’ connection to the cosmos is similarly undeniable.

One searching through the pool feels that he dropped his eyeballs inside because everything to him looks pale, literally a bluish white. (青白い) Other patients writhing in their beds cry out about things like the terrifying, damp darkness and what they see arising from the bottom of it. Another describes a sea slowly dripping like a rainstorm from inside her, similarly from the so-called bottom. Others also hear the sound of water, many simply imitating the drip and splash noises; one even express fear that she will drown. Altogether, it is obvious that drilling holes in the patients’ heads and filling it with water served to attune their minds to the cosmic ocean in the void above. Blood may have still been involved; most patients carry blood vials, the largest among them wielding a transfusion stand in possession of many more as well appropriately warm damp or damp bloodtinge blood gems. But the focus was clearly on adding water to their brains like the creations of Isz. However, these enemies are still too human to be considered kin, though the experiments are no doubt intended to change that.

… Does anyone know about my eyeballs…? I seem to have dropped them in a pool. This place is thoroughly pale…

… Ohh, someone… help me… I repent. I won’t do it again… I won’t do it ever again… It’s horrifying, so horrifying… This wet darkness… From the bottom of the darkness… Aaaaaagh!

Hey, you. Isn’t the sound of the sea curious? Like a storm, like rain, but as if slowly dripping. It is resounding from the bottom of me… It is coming from the bottom of me… But as if slowly dripping…

Keeping various church medicines on their person, blood ministers in wheelchairs spray arcane mist with a retrofitted firearm — despite functioning like Rosmarinus, the armament looks identical to the Flamesprayer. By all appearances, their surgeries involve infusing the patients with arcane power, which would explain why their whole bodies look a pale blue. It isn’t just about the water but the kind of water, which we see manifest in certain patients. Several patients’ corpses possess kin coldblood. Others can be looted for quicksilver bullets, with more of that water silver harbored by the living subjects slinking around in their straits like worms. These crawling patients, in fact, seem to have had their legs lopped off and strait jackets secured because of this development. Their heads can sprout long tentacles to flail with deadly effect. This isn’t the only avenue they went down in trying to make them kin.

Some of these heads hiding tentacles have been sawed from their bodies. We see headless patients blindly wander the hall outside the patient room with so many of these heads. Despite their miraculous survival, the researchers did sedate them first; the heads carry blue elixirs, which are also carried by dead patients found mostly nearby. Nevertheless, these patients couldn’t handle waking to their body alive but separated, hence these heads in the room are hostile with frenzied coldblood and madman’s knowledge. For a less extreme example, a few patients have their right arms strange deformed with large pustules which slowly poison us should we be grabbed. This results in them producing murky bloodgems, one corpse even carrying a dirty damp bloodgem. And although we do see a body with the white antidote pills, the wheelchaired researchers prescribing them are also the cause — their patient Adeline has a transfusion needle strapped to the same arm. It was an experiment with different chemical injections. It was always an experiment.

All these experiments, however, have born some fruit. One description for brain fluid explains how certain patients are hearing the “voices” of the sea, the darker, amoeba-shaped fluid manifesting as the first wrigglings of eyes inside the brain. They are starting to connect to the gods in the cosmos, and the gods are responding. One bloathead corpse possesses Great One’s Wisdom is an obvious example. Carrion crows lurking in the rafters — no doubt fattened on patients — likewise molt white feathers, one rewarding the Guidance rune upon death. And perhaps most importantly, one patient strapped to his chair outside behind the Astral Clocktower owns the Blacksky Eye. This eye is not the first of its kind, since the white church hunter praying to the surgery altar below employs the tool’s arcane art. Even so, it is still an eyeball which has been “blessed” with phantasms, the menu graphic depicting tentacles bulging beneath the sclera dig into the iris as the pupil expands into a dark night sky. These are positive signs, ignoring the fact that the patients in question are all dead. But many more yet live.

Opening way to the bridge to the Astral Clocktower, we enter a lumenflower garden, specifically a “star flower tree garden” (星輪樹の庭) due to the especially large blooms coalescing into a singular wood at the center. Close inspection of the soil these flowers sprout from reveals human bones half-buried. And then there are the Living Failures. Upon our entry, a bare blue humanoid with deformed head stops exalting the lumenwood to attack with arcane powers, soon joined by others rising from the earth. This coincides with Adeline receiving the Milkweed rune after slurping up the brain fluid which manifested in other patients. Therefore, the most successful subjects were being buried behind the Astral Clocktower to facilitate communication with the Great Ones. The flowers are proof that many have become seedbeds for phantasms, an entire other garden planted directly beneath the bridge. The second may be informal; a single flower has sprouted on a balcony between them, suggesting new flowers germinating as seeds and petals get carried on the wind. Yet they are legitimate.

We see patients searching through the flowers below for seemingly their own enlightenment, those who do summoning small meteors similar to the patient with the Blacksky Eye behind them. This specific attack is identical to the one used by the Isz bloatheads who sprouted head tendrils, reaffirming their minds’ connection to the cosmos. The general concept is shared with the Living Failures, who can summon their own string of small meteors from a cosmic portal — and when working together, their communion with the stars widens the local space to the entire arena, equally larger meteors raining down upon the bridge. Clearly, it doesn’t matter how close the skyward flower is to the brain which sprouted it, they are all antennas for contact with the Great Ones which the Astral Clocktower might take advantage of. Of course, the fact that all these heads blessed with phantasms only receive meteors in response is proof that these experiments are, as the boss is named, failures. Even the achievement for defeating the boss describes them as “failed-to-be” (なりそこない) Great Ones. The Church hit a dead end.

Future prospects look to have fared no better. We find the patients roaming the Research Hall in a state of anarchy. Some slam about their blood transfusion stands, some throw around acidic bottles, some strip down to the nude; none are friendly. One of the corpses which apparently falls into the sunken foyer after we adjust the staircase carries a lethal damp bloodgem, evoking the “struggle to the death” (死闘) amongst themselves as well as anyone else. What few patients aren’t hostile are rarely still lucid. Two of their corpses carry madman’s knowledge or frenzied coldblood. Evidently, most of the patients did, in fact, drown in the cosmic sea they were tossed into. The researchers tried to keep this under control — one of the dead bloatheads possess sedatives carried by the wheelchair staff, and a black church hunter lurking in the area harbors many more. But in the end, there were simply too many to medicate, and the experimenters have since resorted to cruder methods, one maniacally mowing down patients with his gatling gun. The Researcher Hall was reduced to a madhouse.

There were some saving graces to this disaster. Taking the place of the church giants in the Hunter’s Nightmare are the “bell-holders”, (鐘持ち) wearing said arcane collar over their white cleric uniform and wielding a similar silver axe. But unlike their Pthumerian counterparts, these giants can use their bells to conjure arcane powers and are equipped with metal armor at the extremities. The reason why is obvious seeing their helms give way to the mass of tentacles spurting from their nebulous head resembling an actual nebula, more spawning during grab attempts. The description to the Church Cannon indicates a loss of intelligence, but their massive arcane resistance reaffirms such minds have touched the cosmos. In short, before successfully wrangling giant Pthumerians, the Grand Cathedral was sending out ordinary men physically enhanced via the secrets uncovered from their experiments; such giants with stunted brains may have even served as the proof of concept for their Pthumerian successors. Regardless, it was an excellent example to build upon.

In all likelihood, the bell-holders double as the precursor to the present-day dismantlers. Aside from a general silhouette, both enemies share a weakness to bolt attacks, not to mention use of axes and armor. They are also both dubbed “executioner” (処刑人) internally and in localization. However, the modern product is more refined — their closest thing to tentacles being the dreadlocks tied beneath their cloaks. By every metric, they are still human, only physically larger, stronger, and not requiring a bell to control. This does cost them as large a size and the use of arcane arts, but they are nonetheless well-suited to hunting and dissecting beasts. When it came to massive shock troops defending Cathedral Ward, Pthumerians served as adequate replacements. There were still enough concerns to encase them in a full suit of armor, and their loyalty to various factions no longer aligned with the Grand Cathedral affirms that their diminished intelligence hasn’t changed. But overall, they are an improvement.

This knock-on effect on other experiments extended closer to the Research Hall as well. One small corner on the Research Hall’s sixth floor serves as a freighting platform, winches ready to haul up large supplies from the bottom level and then transport them to the floors in-between; easier than lugging them up the stairs. And on that platform, surrounded by ravenous carrion crows from the rafters, is a chest containing a finestrike damp bloodgem, useful for those hoping to dig deeper into the viscera — like the researchers there. Another chest on the balcony overlooking the Grand Cathedral below contains a pulsing damp bloodgem, helpful for those trying to keep blood pulsating for as long as possible — like the researchers there. Experimenting on the patients with water netted the Healing Church some excellent aid to their existing work.

But most important was the discovery of Beast’s Embrace. The “experiments” (実験) referenced in the rune’s description matches with the experiment building, the “failures” (失敗作) of these experiments likewise matching the name of the Living Failures. The patients were the Healing Church’s “failed works”, more literally, but with that, came important findings which laid the foundations for the Church’s current practices. To touch the disease, hold the beast in your hands, was the path to true understanding. Much like how madman’s knowledge serves to aid “future generations” with the building blocks to arcane enlightenment, the concept of embracing the beast leading to the discovery of the rune established a similar cornerstone. But there is a reason the rune is now strictly forbidden. Embracing the beast, in the more abstract sense, was the opposite of what the Church wanted. And the founders’ failure to control the disease with the Research Hall experiments came back to haunt them almost immediately.

At the end of repeated experiments for controlling the beast disease, gentle “Embrace” was discovered.

The attempts themselves failed, and now “Embrace” is one of the strictly forbidden runes, but those findings have certainly become a cornerstone of the Treatment Church.

One who is in this covenant takes the form of a repulsive beast and boosts the efficacy of temporary beastification. But its true nature will for sure manifest in bestial-nature weapons.

Escaping Reality

Despite the initial outbreak dealt with by Ludwig, it wasn’t as if hunters would stop using blood vials in the field, unwittingly spreading the beast scourge further in the process. This was only helped along by the Healing Church. In the Hunter’s Nightmare, we can come across a hunter’s corpse in “Yharnam” with beast blood pellets, followed soon after by a beastified old hunter wielding darkbeast claws. Some hunters were beginning to utilize the beasts for more power, becoming beasts themselves in the process. The Church instituted bans on making use of a beast’s blood or any part, ingested or otherwise, but this was hypocrisy since the ministers controlled distribution. By this point, the wheelchair researchers had already been providing one lab patient many of the forbidden pills from the Chalice Dungeons before the bloathead’s death. And if they wanted to keep the pill’s history unknown, they just had to traffic it on the black market. Accelerated transformation means accelerated studies, after all, and Gehrman’s hunters were desperate to compete.

Giant pill said to be consolidating beast blood. Its history is unknown, and the Treatment Church has denied involvement with it as a taboo.

Temporarily guides the drinker to a bestial nature.

The bestial nature is boosted by the torn flesh and spurts of blood from attacking and it will probably bring the user further power and pleasure by continuing this.

Therefore, it doesn’t come as a surprise to see the Grand Cathedral dungeon imprison hunters. Most are dead with frenzied coldblood, the other standard cells locking away minds which have gone violent or are barely holding together. These hunters have been slowly going mad, and the reason why is obvious from the dungen’s exit — a coffin amongst the cathedral’s graves slid back to reveal the staircase, decorated with an ill man on top. The prisoners are suffering the initial symptoms of beasthood, each already considered dead and buried to the Healing Church as they slowly go mad resisting the devolution. Some were brought up to study before transformation; we find a church servant guiding a researcher through the cells, with the Research Hall hiding the corpses of a bloathead carrying the keys in the patient room wing and a hunter wearing old decorative attire in the laboratory wing. The rest were left to rot and, hopefully, put down before fully degenerating into beasts.

This was all kept hush-hush. The Under Cell Key makes a point that what we see is something that shouldn’t be known in its description. This is presumably why the dungeon connects to the sewers beneath Cathedral Ward, allowing for the inconspicuous transfer of hunters beginning to show signs out in the field via the underground lines. The Healing Church couldn’t afford the PR disaster of hunters continuing to become horrible beasts en masse under their purview. The institution’s existence was predicated on divine intervention, a holy mission mandated by the gods in response to the secular hunters’ initial failure. Any new cases had to be taken off the streets while they were still sane and hidden away. Those who couldn’t be brought in as guinea pigs needed to be summarily slain. Simon confirms the old hunters out in the Nightmare are blood-drunk, the madmen attacking men and beasts alike. And after rolling a fiery ball down upon a pack of beast patients, one particular pair attempt to retreat into the cathedral, only to be greeted by a bell-holder swift to execute them. Their sort was not welcome.

Key to the Cathedral’s dungeon.

Hunters are captured in the dungeon. So that things you shouldn’t see, things you shouldn’t know, all the things completely perish in the dark.

If these were the circumstances during the Research Hall experiments, how long before the church hunters found themselves in the same position? After all, transfused blood was the universal panacea in Yharnam, so the disease would inevitably spread to the clergy. And already, we see that one of the hunters thrown in the dungeon at the time wields the Church Pick. Put simply, the aftermath of the experiments likely saw a sudden surge in clerics manifesting the same symptoms, especially its hunters. This was another disaster in the making. Who was to hunt the worst of the beasts when the best of the hunters were themselves afflicted? Worse, those faithful hunters of the church would become the most terrible beasts according to the Gold Blood Gem’s description. Indeed, their profound faith leading them to walk the path of a churchman would also give them the will to resist the “sin” of beasthood the longest — meaning that the most horrifying transformation awaited them. The only upside was that members’ willpower gave the Church time to prepare for the coming outbreak.

Laurence, of course, was most prepared for this outcome, as implicated in the description for the bloodgem comprising his pendant. The first Vicar ultimately became the first cleric beast as his skull’s text relates, so he was intimately aware of the crisis. Yharnam couldn’t be beset by beasts without hunters to hunt them. The Church, and all its founders’ work, wouldn’t survive. And so, the Hunter’s Dream was created. Gehrman’s now Abandoned Old Workshop is called the “birthplace of the Dream”. (夢の生地) Though largely cleared out, its belongings moved to the dreamland, there are still a number of books haphazardly scattered about the place — most notably, a few open on the altar at the back of the building. Atop the main tome, surrounded by candles, is a Third Umbilical Cord, this one’s description indicating its use specifically in beckoning Flora to create the Dream and its hunters. And it was Laurence who students of Byrgenwerth associated with that fiend of the moon in their notes.

Great relic also known as the alias “Eye Cord”. Only babies possess this even if a Higher One. “Umbilical cord” is derived from that.

All Higher Ones lose their babies and so seek them. Thus, this brought a chance encounter with the pale moon, and that became the beginning of the hunters and the Hunter’s Dream.

Use to acquire enlightenment, but it is said that you simultaneously acquire eyes within. But, everyone has forgotten what that actually brings.

In short, Laurence performed a ritual to summon a Great One at the workshop. The Vicar at least suspected the Great Ones’ interest in having children after the incident with Kos, and the put the theory into practice using the eye cord as the lure; Flora took the bait. As to where he acquired the cord, the obvious answer would be Kos’ orphaned newborn. Some have suggested Annalise’s Blood Baby due to the cord’s description referencing such an infant when the game initially launched. However, this was only for the English description and was changed with the game’s first patch upon launch — in other words, it is outdated localization of likely an earlier Japanese draft which couldn’t get corrected before the game shipped. Absent this cut text, all sources cite Annalise’s clan still working to produce a Blood Baby for their queen. Meanwhile, Laurence did steal a Great One newborn from Kos. Therefore, we can be confident that orphan was the source of Laurence’s eye cord.

The Vicar wasn’t alone for this ritual. As future steward of the Hunter’s Dream and owner of the workshop where the ritual took place, Gehrman would have also been present. The note in the Lecture Building mentions Laurence’s “associates” in localization, but the Japanese text requires only one other associate be dealing with Flora. With that in mind, those two were likely the only individuals involved. The fact that Laurence was even performing the ritual at the workshop and not somewhere at Cathedral Ward betrays how informal the ceremony was. He appears to have suddenly resorted to the summoning after consulting his old friend about the developing crisis; evidently, the first hunter gave the first Vicar no confidence in him and his hunters yet unafflicted handling the situation without dying. Unwilling to accept game over, Laurence decided to empower the hunters, providing them as many as opportunities as it took to hunt the monstrosities. And for that, they needed the wisdom and power of a Great One. 

Laurence and company’s “moon fiend”. “Paleblood”.

Thus did man make a deal with the devil. Flora granted their wishes, creating a new plane for hunters to find refuge in with the means to rapidly increase their strength without risk of permanent death. But the Great One expected something in return. After all, she came on the promise of acquiring a child. But Laurence offered her no such infant. In fact, offering just the third umbilical cord implies that he had none to begin with. In all likelihood, he and his fellows had already killed the specimen, dissected the body, then butchered it for parts as part of the Research Hall experiments long ago. The cord was all the Vicar had to offer, proof that he could provide Flora with child. The moon was satisfied with this, enough to assist with their hunting dilemma at least. But the higher intellect knew better than to make an investment without collateral. Until the trade was complete, she would keep Gehrman as her prisoner.

The old man makes several allusions to desiring freedom from the “nightmare” he has stayed in for so long, unable to go out and hunt himself even as his immortal yet aging body has withered well past expiration. If we refuse such freedom and instead kill him, Flora will have us take his place as the “one to inherit the left will” (遺志を継ぐ者) as achievements dub the event. As to the will we inherit, Gehrman jokes in sleep about how late Laurence’s arrival is, revealing his fervent expectation that such an event will occur. Laurence’s skull does allude to an unfulfilled promise in its description, and Gehrman speaks of acting as the dream’s adviser per a promise to a “friend” in cut dialogue. An unused cutscene reaffirms Gehrman wishing Laurence farewell, his friend encouraging his willingness to wait. By all accounts, the cleric promised the hunter to return and free him from his duty. This isn’t simply the freedom to return to the waking world, as then he would have no incentive to continue this duty when the immortality is all that keeps him merely at death’s door. Rather, it was freedom to finally become a god.

Mm… Ugh…… Oh, Laurence… aren’t you awfully late…?… I already turned old and useless long ago… Ha ha ha.

… I have already been dreaming for a long time…. I can hunt no longer, but that is my duty… I promised a friend… Made a promise… snore, snore…

Yes, Gerhman. Please wait for me……

Skull bone of Laurence, the first parish leader. But in reality, he is the first clergyman beast, and the human skull exists only inside of the Nightmare.

It is a past oath which ultimately wasn’t kept, thus Laurence will probably seek this. His recollection can never return, however.

Consider the fact that Laurence had successfully made contact with a Great One to the point of exchanging a peaceful transaction. This was impossible to accomplish during the Research Hall experiments, but Laurence’s bet paid off — inspiration truly strikes in the most desperate hour. Now that the eureka moment has passed, he needed to take every advantage of the opportunity. If the Vicar succeeded in obtaining another Great One newborn, he could negotiate for not just Gehrman’s freedom, but the secrets to transcendence they had all been seeking. This was the chance to finally realize their research, elevate mankind to the next step. If they could hold for just a little longer, the student’s methods would finally triumph over their teacher’s chidings. This is why Gehrman in the scrapped cutscene specifically awaits the “realization” of the Church’s blood treatment. Separate cut dialogue similarly insinuates that the Vicar’s return will herald the end of the beast hunt for good. Foolish beasthood was soon to be behind them. Enlightened divinity was at last within reach.

… Goodbye, Laurence. I await blood treatment, the realization of it…

But, good. You returning means it finally ends, correct? Tonight, the moon is also near. How fitting for the last night…

Alas, not for Laurence. He became the first cleric beast, never to fulfill his promise and return to Gehrman. In fact, someone has long since taken his head, as the beast skull resting on the Grand Cathedral altar belongs to the Vicar. Touching the skull, of course, grants us a vision of Laurence’s memory, and his human skull in the Hunter’s Nightmare rests in the same spot as the beast skull on the Second Grand Cathedral’s altar. The altar also features a fancy chair above the tabernacle in obvious reference to the Throne of St. Peter, first leader of the Roman Catholic Church — the altar chair even sat a human skull with a king’s crown in a leaked alpha trailer, which concept art renders as Laurence’s beast skull. With Miyazaki practically saying as much in the Future Press interview, there is no reason to doubt that Healing Church enshrined the first Vicar’s severed head, the blood it contained replacing the Great One blood in the tabernacle. As the description for Beast’s Embrace acknowledges, the forbidden rune we acquire from defeating Laurence ironically became a foundation for the Church.

As to why turn their leader into the source for blood treatment, the obvious answer would be its greater potency even compared to the gods’ blood. We see this manifest in his living form: the Bloodletting Beast. This incredibly large and terrifying boss is more accurately named the “Owner of the Beast Blood”, (獣血の主) a pointless name if not referring to the beast blood enshrined in the Grand Cathedral. Likewise, the boss is internally named “Founder Beast” (始祖ビースト) in clear reference to Laurence’s foundational role in the Healing Church. Moreover, the scar on the Bloodletting Beast’s face is found on the altar skull. The boss is also only enemy to have a headless variant, which continues to operate thanks to the parasites generating in its blood — as the fight progresses, the centipedes will sprout from his open wounds, including the head; one of the beast’s attacks even shoots blood in the form of stout centipedes with wings. These insects inflict the rapid poison status like in other instances, affirming the corruption of the beast’s blood. And this corrupted blood belongs to Laurence.

As further evidence there is the timeline for the Bloodletting Beast. The boss is first encountered in the Lower Pthumeru dungeon with the Defiled Chalice, indicating that it was looking to head deeper down the labyrinth. This was around the time that Rom was heading down to meet Ebrietas, as she is the boss for the dungeon’s preceding layer. Root dungeons additionally place the beast in the Cursed and Defiled runes, Loran, Lower Loran, and Pthumeru Ihyll. For comparison, the headless version is encountered in Pthumeru Ihyll and Lower Loran root dungeons. In summary, the beast traveled from the Depth 3 dungeon down through all the Depth 4 and then 5 dungeons save for Isz, where it was beheaded and thereafter continued roaming those same Depth 5 dungeons. This behavior hints that the beast was searching for something specific in the lower ruins, if only instinctively. And ignoring root dungeons, the headless beast is seen solely in Pthumeru Ihyll, in the layer above Queen Yharnam. In short, it was most likely after the baby in her womb.

Laurence needed to find a Great One child, and quickly. If his collaboration with Cainhurst was any indication, he understood that conceiving Blood Babies originated with the Pthumerian Queens. And since he apparently didn’t consider it as an option, the experiment with Annalise clearly wasn’t going to be producing results anytime soon — assuming that Cainhurst could even still be relied on as the clerics’ ally. There are no signs of them actively collaborating after the clan shored up their infrastructure. In other words, the only thing keeping the two parties together was their shared interest in acquiring an infant Great One. And after acquiring the baby specimen from Kos, the Church no longer needed Annalise’s Blood Baby. Simply put, the Healing Church likely neglected if not outright ignored Cainhurst after having received everything Laurence and friends wanted from the castle. This left that bridge long since burned when the Vicar needed another specimen for Flora.

Therefore, his best bet was finding one in the labyrinth. This is why the Bloodletting Beast knew not to search Isz — the church founders had been exploring that ruin since they were students, with no sign of an infant Great One to be had. Laurence’s only hope for a child was with his predecessors in Loran or the queen residing somewhere in the lower reaches of Pthumeru. If he brought anyone else on this expedition, he long since left them behind, alive or dead, by the time he reached Lower Pthumeru as the Bloodletting Beast. The journey to there was not without resistance, the beast cleaved open all along the back until becoming the scar across his head. Was this injury suffered before or after the transformation? Considering beasts’ regenerative abilities, more likely before. In that case, the man was left with no choice.

The fact that the Bloodletting Beast possesses blood more corrupted than any other beast we encounter proves Laurence’s resolve to fulfill his promise despite this being a desperate gamble. He held onto his humanity longer than any cleric after him, his willpower matched perhaps only by his teacher. However, even Laurence could not elude the beast’s embrace. Resist as he might, he couldn’t ignore that avenue his research revealed. With death imminent, knowledge of the temptation may have ultimately been his undoing. He couldn’t fall there; he made a promise to a friend, had ambitions to fulfill, reached the cusp of transcendence. “I must live” — that single thought wormed into his head was all it would take to draw on that rune’s power, to hold on as a beast. He may lose himself, but for the sake of his promises, he embraced the beast within. And to Laurence’s credit, the beast he became did continue blindly combing the ruins for an infant even after someone from the Church hunted his head. But if he did meet the Queen, that was where his persistence finally hit its limit.

Meanwhile, his head was being used for more blood ministration. Initially, it was probably brought as mere proof that the hunter had found the Church’s missing Vicar. But once a study of the head discovered the nature of the beast blood, it was made the new holy medium going forward. Laurence’s colleagues honored the man like a Catholic Saint, enshrining his remains as holy relics — a note refers to the skull as a “sacred covering” (聖蓋) because the term more literally means “head covering”. (頭蓋) They looked to him for guidance on their path forward, even in death. This is best demonstrated in the ritual for admitting his successor. As said note in the cathedral explains, subsequent Vicars touched Laurence’s skull to learn the adage from his memory of Willem. The first Vicar’s gold pendant has similarly been passed down within the Church to each new Vicar. The Vicars were expected to carry on Laurence’s legacy throughout the generations. Only by inheriting his will would the new leader be allowed to inherit the secret rites behind Yharnam’s blood donations to be managed.

One who inherits the secret ceremonies of blood, one to be master of the blood donations. Touch the holy covering on the altar and engrave Master Laurence’s adage into yourself.

Pendant of the parish leader Emilia. Can be used to become a blood crystal stone and enhance weapons.

It is a symbol of the adage that the parish leaders, leaders of the Treatment Church, have passed down for generations. If you want to know it, touch the skull on the altar.

The fact that Willem’s adage needed to be shared with each new Vicar betrays how the position was selected from outside the founders’ circle. The cathedral note even refers to it simply as Laurence’s adage, an odd framing if the provost’s students were sharing correspondence amongst themselves. In all likelihood, the traitors of Byrgenwerth intended to turn the Vicar into another buffer between themselves and the populace. The title owner became the public face you could visit at the Grand Cathedral and see the sincerity of the faith firsthand. But even with formulating and doling out the blood for transfusions, the person had to listen to experienced counsel to know how best to proceed — why wouldn’t every Vicar follow the advice of those old clerics who established the Church they joined? So long as the person selected was a true believer and fed a mythologized account of Laurence’s transformation, the church’s true leaders could direct the Vicar however they wanted.

Clearly, the scholars were already using people’s faith in their sacred institution to manipulate them as their puppets. One might question then how Laurence would feel about this reorganization. The fact that his skull consistently relates the adage shared during his final goodbye suggests that it his strongest memory. Was this event constantly lingering on the back of his mind as he desperately explored the underground labyrinth? Did he perhaps have some regrets about how he handled the adage? Did he realize his teacher was right and his actions couldn’t be done whilst also fearing the blood? Perhaps. The developers did toy with the idea of humanizing Laurence. Besides expanding on his apparently genuine friendship with Gehrman, the scrapped cutscene portrays the man as having seen the humanity in beasts. It is possible that Laurence had an epiphany once transformation hit closer to home, considering everything they had done up until that point as a terrible mistake as a result. In that case, there is a cruel irony in his skull carrying on that mistake at the behest of his colleagues.

However, Laurence’s epiphany would only be after witnessing the same at Byrgenwerth before leaving to commit countless other atrocities. Anyone he considered a friend would be turning into a beast due to his own actions, knowing full well the ramifications. The absurdity of his sudden concern over hunting his failed experiments explains why that scene was cut. Laurence was one of the educated elite, a stereotypical intellectual concerned much about “mankind” while caring little for the actual man. His circle saw nothing as truly beyond human understanding or sacred, thus willing to sacrifice anything or anyone for mere ideas. Who would really miss some hicks in a city in the middle of nowhere? If only they could just be glad playing a role in human progress! It is different, of course, if them scholars were the ones affected; after all, they were the ones to lead the march. In other words, any regrets Laurence had about his predicament would be entirely self-serving. Even in his final days, his solution was to make men into gods. In truth, the Bloodletting Beast revealed Laurence for the monster he always was.

Just A Little More

The Grand Cathedral kept quiet about Laurence’s fate if Gehrman still believes that his friend is alive somewhere. The Hunter’s Dream was their only fail-safe against the coming wave of beasts, and the detail about the holy medium seems to have only been circulated amongst the Vicar and Upper Cathedral Ward. Therefore, Gehrman simply had to focus on preparing his hunters for the imminent outbreak, which did arrive. Brador wears the hide of a generic cleric beast, a friend he killed according to his attire’s descriptions. The Church assassin is clearly a grey-haired old man in the Hunter’s Nightmare, yet he takes on a younger form in combat while wearing the exact same attire. This implies that his friend’s transformation occurred decades ago, well before current events. In short, Brador’s friend was most likely one of the many clerics who became beasts in the wake of Laurence. And while the remaining church hunters could likely hold their own against some of the monstrosities, it was Gehrman’s immortals who would make up the difference. The era of Laurence and Ludwig had passed.

With the old workshop back in the spotlight thanks to the Hunter’s Dream, the Healing Church had survived another crisis. However, it had likely become the first crack in the Church’s image. In more recent times, another beast epidemic broke out, this time in wake of another illness. According to antidote’s description, Old Yharnam suddenly became ravaged by the so-called ashen blood disease. Damaging the blood-starved beast at the Church of the Good Chalice causes its exposed flesh to begin rupturing blood and grey particles, resulting in its touch spreading slow-acting poison. When the beast howls closer to death, its roused blood spurts out even more quickly, spreading the poisonous fluid through mere proximity. We see something similar with the other beasts whose attacks begin to poison after hearing the shriek of the particularly ill females, exhibited by their ability to vomit great volumes of such poison after grabbing us. Although balanced out by their more vigorous constitution, blood contaminated with ash is slowly killing the beasts just as it had once been slowly killing the old city.

Small pills that remedy poison. Medicine for the ash blood disease, a bizarre disease that once ate away at the Old City.

However, their effect is only very temporary, and the ash blood disease became the trigger of a later tragedy, the spread of the beast disease.

To treat this new epidemic, the Healing Church administered the white pills previously used during the Research Hall days. Unlike other Upper Ward drugs, the antidote is common to the clerics in Cathedral Ward. There are even more pills to be looted in the old city, including from the particularly sick beast “patients” of theirs. These white pills were the best option for alleviating the symptoms, albeit only “very” temporary. The implication from their description is that removing ash from blood proved difficult, which comes as no surprise. Unless completely purged from the body, it would persist like a congenital blood disease. The antidote did little more than buy their patients time. But that was probably the Church’s goal. How did the residents of Old Yharnam suddenly all get ash in their blood without notice? The only opportunity for this to happen would be when they were receiving their beloved blood transfusions.

Indeed, the Healing Church was already acquiring bone marrow ash from Hemwick to improve their firearms. And if the ash of bone marrow supplements for poor blood quality, then it could theoretically enhance blood treatment. True enough, Djura’s hunting companion staying at the Church’s original facilities has picked up ample amounts of that ash. Even the timing of the disease complements such a scenario. We can only purchase bone marrow ash with the Radiant Sword Hunter Badge associated with Ludwig’s era whereas antidote is available with the unradiant variety provided to all contemporary church hunters. The old Church sowed the seeds of the disease the later Church needed to treat, hence why Old Yharnam was ground zero — at the time, the new city was still being built up and needed to support Cathedral Ward. It was slow growing, but the ashen blood disease was but another experiment.

In short, the Healing Church’s only concern was keeping their test subjects alive long enough to produce results, not cure their ailment. And true to expectations, the augmented blood poisoning the populace eventually triggered another rapid onset of beasthood. This, too, seems to have been helped along by the Church. Beast blood pellets are another kind of pill littering Old Yharnam. Several beasts in the streets harbor the stuff while one dead citizen hides a small collection in a secluded alley. Forbidding anyone from taking them apparently hasn’t stopped their circulation on the black market. In all likelihood, the Church has been leaking the pills for their undercover agents or other parties to distribute in secret. Just as with the old hunters before, the patients were desperate, and blood treatments utilizing Laurence’s body proved beast blood just as addictive. The clergy used that to force the disease to the final stage sooner through illicit channels. This combined with the ban washed their hands of any responsibility in the public eye while continuing to advance their experiment.

They got what they wished. The beast scourge exploded among the inhabitants. However, the results went a little too well. The ashen blood and beast diseases had spread not just to all the patients but even their treaters, the cleric presiding over each church both becoming a blood-starved beast. Even the church hunters stationed in Yharnam had been using the contaminated blood, presumably unaware of that fact. If the head honchos back at Cathedral Ward had considered the consequences of that decision, they certainly didn’t foresee the full implications. The Church was losing its foothold in the old city just when it needed every hunter on deck to keep the beast population curtailed. And with so much blood and heart-pumping action, more hunters were bound to turn.

Behind large doors at the end of Old Yharnam’s main street lies the mostly rotted remains of Paarl. Being a darkbeast, he is roused back to life at our approach, but this doesn’t change the inference that the boss has lay dead there for some time. The lamp location is dubbed Graveyard of the Darkbeast, with his bones half-buried in said yard. We can thereby infer that Paarl was led to this out-of-the-way location boxed in by both Old Yharnam and Yahar’gul’s architecture. There he was hunted and subsequently sealed behind the doors, preventing anyone from disturbing his rest all this time. Evidently, this was a situation where the hunters didn’t have the time to make sure the beast stayed dead — such as during an already pressing beast epidemic. And what does Paarl possess except the Spark Hunter Badge associated with a member of the church workshop, making him another cleric hunter.

The Healing Church was losing manpower combating this outbreak; worse, those losses were adding to the problem. Gehrman’s hunters did have a good handle on the situation. The building used as their base of operations was the local clinic, where most of the afflicted and thereby beast transformations would be concentrated; the wooden bridges and platforms for navigating atop the building likewise extend to the other Church facilities, including the original church building. Separate infrastructure uses a towering building for straight and easy transit back to the Lower Church and thereby Cathedral Ward. This too wasn’t a random choice. Wise men statues decorate above the doorways like the old city’s entrance to said Lower Church. Coffins and incense urns also rest inside. In short, the hunters were utilizing another formal Healing Church facility for themselves.

From clinic HQ, hunters of the Dream could quickly dispatch patients who turned for the worst while sending out hunting parties to clean up stragglers in the streets, linking up the Church as and where needed. But those who failed to reach a blood treatment establishment in time were soon outnumbering those who did. Beasts in bandages began plaguing every part of town along with more horrifying beasts closer to home. The hunters managed to deal with some of these bigger threats, like Paarl and the blood-starved beast strung up in the church. However, things were looking dire, and eventually, the relevant parties eventually considered cutting their losses. The explosive oil jugs sit in the clinic or hang from the platforms in the church rafters, a nearby corpse holding onto a Molotov ready to set it all ablaze.

This all may have been set up by Gehrman’s hunters, but it couldn’t have gone forward without the clergy’s knowledge. A note in Central Yharnam also lays blame for the decision squarely on the Church. They were just as ready to purify the old city with flame, wipe the slate clean and start anew. Granted, this was simply preparations for the worst-case scenario. The outbreak was under control, if barely. The situation only became unsalvageable after the School of Mensis summoned the red moon. The aforementioned note confirms Old Yharnam’s burning the night of that moon, with the hunters’ message at the clinic base mentioning how the phenomenon coincided with an endless stream of beasts in town. As that reluctant hunter expresses, they had no choice. And so, the old city burned.

On the beast hunt night, the Great Bridge to Church Town was closed. The Treatment Church is planning to abandon us. Just as they burned the Old City on the night of that moon.

The red moon nears, and this town is nothing but beasts. There is no end to them. Is it all already too late and we have no choice but to burn everything?

But as the leftover oil jugs in the Healing Church facilities indicate, Old Yharnam’s purification was never completed. The Church of the Good Chalice is burned out, but its cleric beast yet lives. The other church is free of its blood-starved beast, but its oil remains unlit. Worse, in the latter case, the house of god now houses beasts venerating the “holy” blood their former pastor drips and collecting it in a vessel on the altar as part of some twisted, profane ritual. The hunters ultimately abandoned the ruined city to become a town of beasts. Even this evacuation was messy given that a beastly patient remains in the Lower Church, the staircase broken with only a ladder to compensate. The entire operation was an unmitigated disaster.

However, the top clerics’ chief concern was preventing another red moon from blindsiding them, which Rom helped accomplish. Afterward, they forbid entry to the woods where Rom and Byrgenwerth resided. Any who already knew the gatekeeper’s password were ordered to hold off on sharing or making use of it themselves. This includes to supply the gatekeeper with necessities, leading to his death — his corpse sits on rubble for the building, which has fallen into disrepair. The Church obviously knew what would result from ignoring the building, hence the coffin enshrined before the stairs to the gate; the least bit of ceremony they could afford Willem’s manservant. But until the threat from the School of Mensis had passed, that entire exit out of Cathedral Ward would be off-limits.

In other words, Byrgenwerth is the origin place that made Yharnam a holy land, but now it has already been abandoned and lies buried deep in the forest… Moreover, Byrgenwerth has even been designated a forbidden area for the Treatment Church. Even now, it isn’t known how many of its former students are still alive. As long as you lack the password only they know, the gatekeeper won’t open the gate.

Once Mensis was preempted, the Healing Church could focus on the aftermath of the Old Yharnam Incident. The sliding coffin of the sick was sealed, only to be opened by staff working from the newly added back end of the Lower Church. Lamps held by the veiled afflicted were added around it while the wise men statues were replaced by ordinary candle stands. As the cut Lower Church Key confirms in its description, this is because the building was rededicated to honor the dead as much as block passage. That seal was a ceremonial burial to all the souls lost because of the disease in one sense or another — and mourners don’t visit to disturb the grave.

With this second area cut off from regular traffic, what is one more? The Church also dissociated from Gehrman, making his hunters the scapegoat for their mutual, unpopular decision. This went beyond just the Hunter’s Dream. The entire bottom half of the Healing Church Workshop interior has been demolished, nothing except some stray wooden platforms and beams along with a pile of leftovers remaining. The only purpose this serves is to prevent entry to the Abandoned Old Workshop, which is too extreme for its operations simply shifting to the dream. In that case, it is more likely that the Church did this to prove how they cut off any connection with the old hunters.

As added evidence, there is the beast-possessed soul sleeping behind the front doors. The additional monstrosity and conjuration of flame suggests that this was a hunter with a predilection for pyrotechnics, the Beast rune in his possession possibly hinting at beast blood pellets being the source of his affliction. In other words, one of the hunters who burned Old Yharnam with gusto and was subsequently booted from the Hunter’s Dream retreated into the church workshop before finally succumbing to his disease. It is possible that he was fleeing from an irate populace, but why seek shelter there? To enter Gehrman’s old workshop, presumably in some desperate attempt to see the dream again. But what greeted him was an unexpected dead end — to be fair, the sheer amount left behind proposes a bit of a rush to clear everything out. The Church was no longer communicating with the dreamers, so the hunter found himself trapped. And thus, he just hid inside securing the doors as beasthood took him, the beast since nodding off.

That the clerics didn’t even care to check on this place every so often illustrates the totality of this alienation. The Healing Church behaved as if their ties to Gehrman’s hunters never existed. The same might be said for their experiments. But rather than stop taking such risks on large populations, the Church simply outsourced them to the Forbidden Woods. Like the men of Hemwick, the villagers recruited to perform this research on the clerics’ behalf were accepted as clerics themselves, appropriately provided the white church uniform. Between this and their canine smuggling operation, it is obvious that instituting all these bans was little more than to give off appearances. Their image of salvation for Yharnam as crumbling apart, and they needed to do everything possible to staunch the loss of confidence. But so long as their research failed to bear fruit, this nosedive in reputation was sure to continue. Still the blood treatments continued, with only so many subjects in the population to keep experimenting on.

Controlled Collapse

Even as Old Yharnam’s ruins became overgrown, the beast scourge did not improve. By the time we awaken from our coma, most everyone touched by the Healing Church is showing symptoms; even the current Vicar Amelia has become afflicted. With signs of an outbreak bubbling up in Cathedral Ward likely since before our arrival to Yharnam, the Healing Church was forced to decide how to allocate resources to survive. The church hunters wouldn’t have the manpower to protect everyone the coming hunt night. And so, the decision came down: the Church would once again cut its losses and abandon what was left of Yharnam. The Great Bridge’s gate has remained shut, the new supply of beast-warding incense left undelivered. This is why the Lonely Old Dear acknowledges it to be no longer safe inside their homes, with Arianna admitting that she is running low on incense later into the night. The Healing Church has halted distribution even within the Cathedral Ward, forcing everyone to rely on what little supply they have from past deliveries or otherwise fend for themselves.

Hey, might you know of a safe place somewhere? Tonight is too long. And I’m almost out of my beast-warding incense… Hey, don’t you know of someplace?

I know, it’s no good even inside the house anymore. Ya hunters are no use, so this stuff has happened. Ya owe me to help.

Church Town, however, would still have the clergy for protection. Not just those living behind the gates to the cathedral district. The Sword Hunter Badge we receive from the Cleric Beast allows us to purchase the Hunter Chief Emblem, implying that the beast was said hunter chief. Therefore, the beast jumping down onto the bridge from the edge of Cathedral Ward, beyond the main gate, implicates that a hunting party was sent out. Even without incense, an outbreak on the Healing Church’s home turf was theoretically manageable with its full forces concentrating on just that area. But the hunter chief had apparently been suffering the disease for some time, the stakes impaled in the Cleric Beast’s legs revealing their leader’s desperate attempt to restrain himself like the dead blood-starved beast in Old Yharnam before beasthood finally took hold. If that was the last resort, then the hunters under him probably fared no better before then, and we can hear the chief’s beastly screech as we first begin exploring Central Yharnam. In short, it didn’t take long for the Church’s plans to fall apart.

Nonetheless, it was the Healing Church’s obvious intention for Yharnam to be hardest hit. Not even the Church’s own clinics would be given forewarning to evacuate. The result was predictably disastrous. Without incense, one of Iosefka’s patients-turned-beast began slaughtering the others undeterred during our coma. This forced the good doctor to retreat further into the clinic and lock everyone inside to protect the remaining patients. Until hunters dealt with this latest wave of beasts, she planned to hunker down in hopes that it would keep the infection from spreading. Meanwhile, the smaller clinic linked to the Great Bridge was first to notice the lack of traffic from Cathedral Ward. As the note inside the building conveys, the blood ministers surmise the Church’s plans from this sudden silence. Unsurprisingly, they refused to be abandoned the same as Old Yharnam.

The mob which has formed in the streets is majority clergy, each wearing the black uniform. No doubt, many of these men joined simply in the hopes of receiving preferential treatment for blood transfusions. Indeed, Gilbert is an outsider who moved to town to cure his particular illness, yet he can gift us the Flamesprayer owned only by church hunters. The mistrusted foreigner evidently tried hunting as a low-rank clergyman, all to continue receiving the best treatment for his illness — during the red moon, we see that he breaks out his window as a beast patient. However, Gilbert never learned too much about the Church and is unable to even stand within his own home by the time we visit his window. What does that say for the Yharnamites who chose to just work the small jobs, maybe take up a rifle? They knew better than anyone how long things had been going downhill for, and word now spread that the institution they placed their faith in was sacrificing them. It was impossible to ignore this betrayal. And so, they removed the holy cloth from their backs. They were clerics no more.

Special small arm that part of the Treatment Church uses.

Makes quicksilver bullets containing blood a special catalyst and continually sprays intense flames.

It is by no means an efficient weapon, but sometimes a sea of flame is needed. Since, more than anything, Yharnam is full of unclean beasts.

Thus did the local clergy join the civilians in organizing their own hunting party. The sentiment of rebellion spread throughout the entire town and soon assaulted the Cathedral Ward. Any hunter still loyal to the Church was an enemy. Perhaps it is for that reason we see the wheelchair men of the Healing Church Workshop defect to the mob securing the building. We even encounter another mob behind the main gate, suggesting that something similar sprung up within the cathedral district itself. As another example, the butchers patrolling the Ward’s streets attack us with their dogs even if we dress as clergy. The entire chain of command is breaking down, more and more losing all faith in the churchmen managing things. This explains why the church servants and giants attack us on sight even disguised as a cleric. Their orders from the Upper Ward are to kill anyone out and about. At this point, no one can be trusted.

In fairness, the Healing Church has rebuffed these attempts to infiltrate so far. Church servants look to have just finished dealing with the mobbers’ camp at the side gate to the cathedral when we arrive. The same is true for those trying to circumvent the giants in the round plaza. One of the rabid dogs the rioters seized stands beneath the ladder on the other side of their planned path. A corpse with quicksilver bullets lies on the rooftop near the top of the ladder, with two more harboring thick coldblood on either side of the main staircase to the Grand Cathedral in front of them. The mob seem to have sent a scout party ahead to secure their route before the rest follow. But those scouts have already been dispatched by the church servants patrolling the stairs, the dog obviously not included in their orders to kill on sight. Even with its peons dead in the street, the Grand Cathedral was capable of holding out.

Nonetheless, there is no denying that the Healing Church is now under siege with no path to recovery. Amelia merely prays to Laurence in the cathedral with his pendant in hand, repeating the Church’s mantra over and over in an ultimately futile bid to hold onto her humanity. Those who tried to escape into Hemwick or the Forbidden Woods found themselves met with similar mobs. The Healing Church is beset by enemies on all sides and has no choice but to bunker down and hope for the best. But after we defeat Rom and reveal the red moon to Yharnam once more, any churchman’s plan to survive this incident was thrown out the window. Just like the Old Yharnam Incident, mad beasts will rule the streets. Perhaps some will manage to survive until dawn and pick up the pieces, collect Laurence and ilk’s research so as to carry on their twisted legacy. But the Healing Church, as we know it, is over.