"There can be but one Emperor, one god, one saviour, one deliverer. Without Him, a billion billion souls are nought but fodder for the ever-thirsting evils of the Warp."
- — Ecclesiarch Theodacus V, Indroit to the Verses of Dusk
The Adeptus Ministorum, more commonly known as the Ecclesiarchy, is the official state church of the Imperium of Man, which maintains and promotes the worship of the Emperor of Mankind as the one, true God of Humanity.
It is a massive organisation that guides the worship of trillions of people on numberless worlds and across great divides of distance, language, and culture. The core of the Ecclesiarchy's spiritual and temporal power is the Cult Imperialis, also known variously as the Imperial Creed or Imperial Cult.
The foundation of the Cult Imperialis is the belief in and worship of the Emperor as a divine being, the power of the Emperor to intercede in matters spiritual and temporal, the power of prayer to bring about a change in circumstances, and the divine right of Mankind to rule the stars. The Adeptus Ministorum also administers and spreads the Imperial Cult throughout the territory of the Imperium.
Though any Imperial religious cult or sect must ultimately adhere to the core theology of the Imperial Creed, the possibility for conflicting interpretation means that in practice the Cult Imperialis is an agglomeration of many differing schools of thought.
Whilst agreeing in essence, cults and sects across the galaxy often differ on particular tenets of belief or modes of worship. To many the Emperor is a god of war, to others a saviour and bringer of light, and to some a stern judge of the dead.
Inevitably, simple differences of emphasis of faith can become points of hostility and even the cause of bloodshed. Many merciless and savage wars have resulted time and again over such fine points of theological doctrine.
Although the interpretation of particular dogmas of the Imperial Creed varies across the many worlds of the Imperium, any extreme deviance from its strictures and theology is considered heresy and dealt with great severity by the Ecclesiarchy or, in extreme cases, the Ordo Hereticus of the Imperial Inquisition.
The Cult Mechanicus, whilst actually a very different religion from the Imperial Cult, is tolerated by the Ecclesiarchy under the terms of the ancient Treaty of Mars which allowed the Tech-priests of the Red Planet to maintain their faith in the face of the atheistic Imperial Truth.
After the Imperium was transformed into essentially a theocracy in the early 32nd Millennium, the Adeptus Mechanicus agreed to a theological compromise with the Ecclesiarchy which saw the Emperor officially as the Omnissiah or physical embodiment of their Machine God.
However, rampant distrust between the adherents of both Imperial faiths continues to simmer just beneath the surface and the Ecclesiarchy and the Mechanicus often view each other as political rivals.
The Adeptus Ministorum is based on Terra, its urban Ecclesiarchal Palace covering nearly all of the southernmost continent of Antarctica.
During the Great Crusade, many different religious cults, drawing on the book written by the Primarch Lorgar known as the Lectitio Divinitatus that first proclaimed that the Emperor of Mankind was actually the incarnate God of Humanity, first appeared throughout the Imperium of Man, though each had its own subtle variations and differences in basic theology.
These forms of worship appeared first on those primitive planets of the Imperium that had regressed technologically during the long, terror-filled years of the Age of Strife. The number of these cults multiplied exponentially following the Emperor's ultimate sacrifice to save Mankind from the rule of the Warmaster Horus and the Dark Gods at the end of the Horus Heresy and his subsequent internment within the Golden Throne.
This event was hailed by believers as the Emperor's "ascension" back to full divinity within the Immaterium. Most of these cults would gradually fade away, while others prospered, eventually absorbing the weaker ones. The more successful Emperor-worship cults spread their forms of worship to other planets.
The strongest of all the early Imperial cults of the Lectitio Divinitatus was called the Temple of the Saviour Emperor. This cult had the advantage over the others in that it was based on Terra and that its leader had been a successful and respected officer of the Imperial Army who had fought at the Siege of Terra, defending the heart of the Imperium in its darkest hour.
This holy man had re-named himself Fatidicus and had begun to preach his teachings concerning the divinity of the Emperor to anyone who would listen. This faith spread among the members of the reformed Astra Militarum and the Imperial Navy who had seen first hand the horrors of Chaos, but also to lowly scribes and minor adepts of the Adeptus Terra.
The faith was then spread by these individuals to other planets. When Fatidicus died at the age of 120 standard Terran years, the Temple had more than a billion followers on Terra and untold faithful throughout the Imperium's Segmentum Solar.
In the wake of the chaos and anarchy of the Horus Heresy, the Temple of the Saviour Emperor provided a message of hope and reunification through a common faith. Cults who rejected being absorbed, or who couldn't be absorbed, saw themselves being persecuted by fanatical mobs who preferred the Saviour Emperor's increasingly "orthodox" theology. Officially, the Temple rejected this violence performed in its name.
This development culminated in the 32nd Millennium by which time almost two-thirds of the Imperium's population followed the teachings of the Temple of the Saviour Emperor, the exceptions being the Space Marines, who have never formally acknowledged the divinity of the Emperor in a nod to His wishes and the lost Imperial Truth and the Adeptus Mechanicus of Mars, who had their own form of worship in the Cult Mechanicus.
The Temple's importance, influence, and power rapidly outmatched that of any other Lectitio Divinitatus cult dedicated to Emperor-worship, including its closest rival, the Confederation of Light.
The Adeptus Ministorum
In the early 32nd Millennium, in recognition of its unprecedented political power over the minds of Men, the Temple of the Saviour Emperor was officially recognised by the High Lords of Terra as the state religion of the Imperium of Man. It also became an official adepta of the Imperium's government as the Adeptus Ministorum.
A few centuries later, the Ecclesiarch Veneris II received a seat on the Senatorum Imperialis and joined the ranks of the High Lords of Terra, and after 300 Terran years, this seat was made permanent. The power of the Ecclesiarchy continued to grow, increasing its hold over the minds and beliefs of the Imperial citizenry. Those who wouldn't follow its teachings were declared unbelievers, ostracized, and on occasion even executed.
The vast territories of the Imperium were organised into different dioceses led by the Ecclesiarchy's cardinals. These powerful religious and political figures were responsible for the hordes of Imperial Missionaries and Preachers that were released to tend to the spiritual needs of the faithful on hundreds of worlds.
Lavish shrines, impressive temples, and majestic cathedrals dedicated to the God-Emperor of Mankind were built throughout the Imperium. Millions of religious pilgrims soon began making their way across the galaxy to visit particularly important religious locations, such as the world where a particular Imperial Saint had performed their most famous miracle.
In time, the sheer number of pilgrims who arrived on certain worlds became an economic activity in and of itself for the Ecclesiarchy and entire planets were dedicated to worship and directly ruled by the Adeptus Ministorum as Shrine Worlds. Particularly important Shrine Worlds might become the religious seat of an entire diocese stretching across a sub-sector or sector and so a Cardinal would take up residence there. These planets became known as Cardinal Worlds.
The Confederation of Light
The only threat to the Ecclesiarchy's spiritual and political dominance in the Imperium was the Confederation of Light. Based upon the planet Dimmamar, this penitent faith's ideals of poverty and humble living clearly contradicted the teachings of the Ecclesiarchy.
The orthodox view was that sacrifices of wealth and money to the Adeptus Ministorum in taxes, tithes and other gifts were necessary to enhance the citizens of the Imperium's access to salvation and ensure that the Emperor's light reached every corner of the galaxy through his Missions.
Politically, the Confederation of Light also held that the state church should stand apart from the politics of the Imperium, providing spiritual succor to the peoples of the galaxy, but not serving as the dominant force in the governance of the Emperor's realm. Such a position was a direct threat to the power of the Ecclesiarchy, which had become the most powerful component of the Adeptus Terra.
The Confederation proved too difficult for Ministorum agents to infiltrate, and the Ecclesiarchy turned to violence, supported in this effort by the unanimous vote of the High Lords of Terra, who declared the onset of the first War of Faith, largely to ensure that Imperial political stability was not damaged by the emergence of religious plurality and possible religious violence between different sects.
The entire Confederation was declared heretical and the forces of the Astra Militarum, the Imperial Navy, and thousands of fanatical zealots from the Frateris Militia were unleashed upon it, bent on its destruction. Only a few cells and hidden shrines of the Confederation managed to survive and the power of the Ecclesiarchy over the minds of Humanity, for better or worse, was made unassailable.
By the end of the 33rd Millennium every civilised Imperial world was furnished with its own cathedral and the coffers of the Ecclesiarchy were filled with the offerings and tithes from the teeming billions of the God-Emperor's faithful.
This wealth was squandered in building increasing numbers of larger and more lavish cathedrals and to fund more Wars of Faith intended not to save the souls of Humanity but to secure the Ecclesiarchy's position of political power within the Imperium and the wealth of its prelates.
Age of Apostasy
Reign of Blood
The Age of Apostasy in the 36th Millennium was one of the most destabilising periods in Imperial history after the Horus Heresy, beginning during the long struggle between the Ecclesiarchy and the Administratum for ultimate political power over the Imperium.
The High Lord Goge Vandire, the 361st Master of the Administratum, was a power-hungry tyrant who eventually gained direct control over the Ecclesiarchy as well as the Administratum by usurping the position of the Ecclesiarch.
This made him the single most powerful individual in the Imperium since the Great Crusade, and allowed him to place his own rule above that of the Emperor. His time in power became known as the Reign of Blood, consisting of massive purges of the Ecclesiarchy, and the killings and assassinations of countless perceived Traitors, Heretics and conspirators.
This period was eventually ended by the future Ecclesiarch Sebastian Thor's reborn Confederation of Light, a sect of the Imperial Cult based on the previous Confederation of Light's banned teachings that sought to end Goge Vandire's corruption of Imperial theology.
The end of the Reign of Blood resulted in a major reformation of the Ecclesiarchy, the creation of the Imperial Inquisition's Ordo Hereticus to police those enemies of the Imperium who lay within its own structures and the creation of the Adepta Sororitas to serve as both the Ecclesiarchy's new military forces and the Chamber Militant of the Ordo Hereticus.
The Plague of Unbelief
The Plague of Unbelief is considered to be a part of the Age of Apostasy by Imperial historians, although it occurred several solar decades after Sebastian Thor's ascension to the position of Ecclesiarch.
The main perpetrator of the Plague of Unbelief was the traitorous Apostate Cardinal Bucharis, who for a time controlled vast swathes of the Imperium under his heretical rule until he was finally brought to the Emperor's justice by the Space Wolves Space Marines and a betrayal by his own enraged people.
Conflicts of Faith
The Imperium of Man is pervaded and dominated by religious faith. It is unsurprising that the Ecclesiarchy often bristles at the presumption of other Imperial organisations, taking easy offence to slights to its position and pride.
As many in the Adeptus Ministorum see themselves as the keepers of the faith that unites Humanity, they often stray into the presumption of a divine right of authority that extends further than that of other Imperial organisations.
Chief amongst those who come into open and occasionally bloody conflict with the Ministorum's more fanatical members are the tech-priests of Mars, and more rarely the Space Marines of the Adeptus Astartes, most of whom deny the divinity of the Emperor, preferring to uphold the original, more secular traditions of the Imperium.
The openly deviant faith of both these organisations has nagged at the suspicions of the pious for millennia. Some in their pride and zeal feel that it is their right and duty to see the faith of these bodies brought into line and bound to the authority of the Ministorum.
Often the result is disastrous, as both the Astartes and the Mechanicus are fiercely independent and wield great powers of their own. More subtly, the Ministorum constantly flexes its secular influence over other branches of the Adeptus Terra to varying degrees.
Certainly in the past, certain cardinals and prelates have gone so far as to use blackmail, assassination, and even full-blown civil conflict to enact what they consider the Emperor's holy design. However, any who would see the return to domination of an all-powerful state cult like the Temple of the Saviour Emperor must also fear the Ordo Hereticus and its answer to such hubris and presumption.
Heresy from the faith is not simply a matter of mutation, witchery, and trafficking with Warp powers. More subtly, it can be a matter of the specifics of faith and worship. The Cult Imperialis is broad in its accommodation of differing tones of faith.
However, on the fringe lurk numerous sects and groups who flirt with heresy and deviate from the Imperial Creed to such a degree that their faith is no longer sanctified. The worst cases are declared as abomination by the Ministorum's authorities.
The boundary between sanctified faith and heresy is thin, and many sects cross it simply because the ruling centre of the Ecclesiarchy shifts and leaves them suddenly no longer accommodated within the official theology of the Cult Imperialis. Countless times over the past ten millennia the Ministorum has gone to war with a part of itself over a point of dogma.
The Imperial Creed
The Imperial Creed is the body of doctrines and articles of faith which is preached across the Imperium. It is the word of the Emperor as related by His saints, and it forms the core of belief shared by every worshipper across the length and breadth of the Imperium regardless of the form of worship practised on the world of their birth.
In practice, the Imperial Creed operates on several levels. In the rarefied atmospheres of the Holy Synod and the Synod Ministra, the cardinals debate endlessly the minutiae of the words of the saints. Arguments about the exact meaning of a particular phrase might rage for solar decades, even standard centuries, causing bitter schisms amongst the various factions as the prelates decry one another as benighted fools, dangerous reformers, or even Heretics.
Indeed, there have been many occasions when outright violence has erupted between factions holding opposing views on such interpretations, and in the most extreme of cases the cardinals of neighbouring dioceses have mustered vast armies from the ranks of their congregations and made war upon their erstwhile brothers in faith.
Every day, the synods disseminate reams of pronouncements and clarifications, of learned texts and annotations of existing ones. The cardinals are expected to preach such tracts to those below them, thus propagating the true word across the Imperium.
In practise, no one person can be conversant in such a vast body of doctrine, and huge armies of scholars and savants are employed to identify the relevant passages for their masters and to file the remainder away in the vast archive-shrines of the Ministorum.
The second level on which the Imperial Creed operates is at the opposite end of the scale, in the soul of every Human being in the Imperium. The vast majority of the faithful exist amidst unending toil and oppression, where the only alternative to a life of abject servitude is to be shipped out to a far-away war to be slain at the hands of some bloodthirsty alien monstrosity.
For many, the act of worship is the only brief respite they have from the brutal reality of day-to-day life in the Imperium, an opportunity to escape the cruelty of their overseers before returning once more to their bitter labours.
Of course, those who tarry overlong before the altar are wont to be punished harshly, and many have been condemned to service in the convict armies of the Penal Legions for returning from the shrine a mere minute past their allotted time. Nevertheless, reverence of the Emperor as the saviour of Mankind is the one thing shared by people across the Imperium.
Only those ensnared by the Dark Gods themselves or in thrall to some manner of alien domination reject the Emperor. A person might be the very worst kind of scum, a rebel, a pirate or a slaver of flesh, rejecting all the laws of the Imperium, yet still they will hold true to the God-Emperor of Mankind.
Tenets of Faith
The Imperial Creed is a conglomeration of native religious practises, the modifications to those practises imposed by the Missionaries, and the myriad pronouncements passed down from the Ministorum's upper echelons. As such, practices adhered to on one world may be held as abhorrent on another, depending on its own combination of native, modified and imported belief.
The Ministorum tolerates a vast range of practice and belief, but there are certain tenets of faith which remain unchanged from one end of the Imperium to the other. At the core of the Imperial Creed are the facts that the Emperor once walked among men and that He is a god. Furthermore, regardless of whatever powers may have been worshipped prior to the coming of the Emperor, He is the one true god, and no others may be worshipped alongside Him.
So long as these essential tenets are adhered to, the prevalent faith on any given world can exhibit staggering diversity. Almost every world has its legends regarding the birth of the Emperor and His early life.
Amongst the oldest of sources claim the Emperor was some manner of shaman born on Old Earth long before the rise of Human civilisation, who watched and guided Mankind's development throughout countless aeons until taking a direct hand at the dawn of the Age of the Imperium.
Other myths claim the Emperor was any one of a thousand different legendary figures, or in fact all of them, moving amongst Mankind in disguise and preparing for the time when He would be called upon to save His people. Even the officially sanctioned texts disseminated by the Ministorum vary greatly on such matters, and each tends to present the views of a particular saint, invariably couched in layer upon layer of allegory.
On most matters, no single objective truth is actually presented, but rather a vast body of parables on which those who preach the creed can draw in order to impart almost any message they choose.
One constant element is the notion that every Human being has a place within the Emperor's divine order, as expressed through the hierarchy of the Ministorum. For the vast majority, that place is at the bottom, following unquestioningly the orders and duties passed down by those higher up.
Even those of status and rank must comport themselves as if power and wealth were burdens rather than privileges. There can be no questioning of official orders, for to do so marks one out as a Heretic as surely as if one had blasphemed against the Emperor or summoned a daemon in the midst of a cardinal's sermon.
Aside from these central tenets, there exists a massive body of Imperial religious dogma, both sanctioned and unsanctioned. Much of it is the subject of debate at the very highest of levels, while some may be prevalent for long periods before receding in relevance once more, or may be preached fervently in particular regions but barely mentioned in others.
A recurring theme of Imperial Cult doctrine is the notion of the End Times. Most writings on the subject take the form of prophesies, but they rarely have much in common other than dire prophesies of a galaxy-spanning war consuming Mankind.
Throughout the ten thousand years of the Age of the Imperium, such notions have gained prominence towards the end of each millennium, often becoming self-fulfilling as the masses whip themselves into a pre-apocalyptic frenzy. It is often preached that the End Times will form the ultimate battle, in which Mankind will either be found wanting and destroyed, or will prove itself worthy of existence and enter a new age, where it will inherit the galaxy and expel or defeat all other intelligent forms of life.
Needless to say, as the 41st Millennium draws to a close, the Imperium has seen a rise in such teachings and in adherence to apocalyptic cults. With the Imperium nearing its ten thousandth year, the turbulence might well be expected to be far more destructive than ever before.
Often tied into the notion of the End Times is a belief that the Emperor will rise from His Golden Throne and complete the work He began ten thousand years ago by delivering the faithful from the evils of the galaxy. While many versions of this doctrine celebrate it as a time of deliverance, most also warn that the Emperor will sit in judgement over all Humanity, casting those lacking in faith into infernal fire or otherwise excluding them from the glorious age that will be ushered in by His final victory over evil.
Cults dedicated to flagellation and penance seek to prepare Mankind for the return of the Emperor, driving themselves to ever-greater extremes to prove themselves free of the taint of sin.
Many Ecclesiarchy teachings mention some form of afterlife in which the faithful will take their place at the side of the Emperor for all eternity. As with so many elements of the Imperial Creed, the synods have debated the specifics of this afterlife for millennia, while the common person has remained generally influenced less by the cardinals' pronouncements and more by the specifics of their own culture.
For those worlds on the very extremes of the Imperium, cut off from the centres of power by vast gulfs of interstellar space or by raging Warp Storms, Terra itself might be imagined as the eternal court of the God-Emperor, to which the faithful are called when they die.
Others imagine this afterlife in more abstract terms, teaching that the soul after death will be taken to a golden realm, there to mingle with those who have gone before in the light of the Emperor. Given that many worlds experienced a long period of isolation, during which all manner of barbarous religious expression developed, there are perhaps as many ideas of paradise and the afterlife as there are planets in the Imperium.
Of course, those who believe in reward must also believe in punishment. If only those who have been judged worthy will be allowed to bathe in the Emperor's glory, then those who have not must surely be damned. It is often the case that the Ecclesiarchy's preachers spend far more time warning their congregations what will befall their eternal soul if they stray from His path than they do describing what awaits it if they are virtuous.
Such warnings are laden with almost wanton descriptions of an eternity of damnation, of gibbering fiends tormenting the sinner's soul while it writhes in infernal flames. Those few who know something of the Warp have all the more reason to be fearful, for within the Empyrean the souls of Humanity drift as motes upon an ocean, ever at the mercy of the vast, unknowable things that lurk in the depths and feed upon forlorn souls.
Imperial Saints are those mortals who, by pronouncement of the Ecclesiarchy, have been elevated by the Emperor's grace far above the bulk of Humanity. They are exceptionally holy individuals, and their words and deeds are held to be the direct work of the Emperor Himself.
Throughout the ten thousand Terran years of the Age of the Imperium, millions of men and women have been recognised as saints, in many cases long after their death and only after solar decades of consideration by the church.
Most are known and venerated only within a specific region, but some, such as Sebastian Thor himself, are known across the length and breadth of the Imperium. Men and women might be declared saints for all manner of deeds, but in most cases they will have performed some great service to the Imperium and the Imperial Creed.
In a galaxy riven by war, it should be little surprise that many were great warriors, often the leaders of massive crusades that conquered vast swathes of space or liberated Human worlds enslaved by aliens or recidivists. Many were generals or admirals, while others were simple foot soldiers who by doing their duty turned the tide of battle and changed history.
Other saints were great teachers or orators, men or women who with a single word or missive could achieve what a million Imperial Guardsmen could not. The writers of the most learned of religious tracts are often made saints, lending even greater weight to teachings preached across countless planets.
Furthermore, it is common practice for Ecclesiarchs to be declared saints after their deaths, although the "beatification" of less well-respected or beloved individuals may take solar decades or even centuries to come about.
Many saints are regarded as intercessors, to whom prayers are addressed and offerings made that they might aid the faithful in some manner. It is held that the saint, being Human but also close to the God-Emperor, might be able to petition the Emperor and bring about some tangible effect.
Many saints come to be regarded as able to intercede on specific issues, such as to provide deliverance from aliens, safe passage across the Warp, a successful crop or a warrior's true aim. Given that such a vast pantheon of saints exists, the matters on which they are said to be able to intercede are often extremely specialised.
Some regiments of the Astra Militarum, for example, hold that there is a specific saint for every single one of the thousands of marks of standard issue Lasgun.
The Sin of the Psyker
A common and often problematic issue for the Imperial Creed is the question of psykers. There exists at the heart of Imperial doctrine a contradiction with regards to those blessed with the psyker's gift or cursed by its touch, depending on one's standpoint.
Every Terran year, more and more psykers are born or come into their powers, and the danger they pose to Humanity cannot be understated. Psykers draw the denizens of the Warp to them like blood spilled in the ocean draws sharks, and those who are weak or unprotected by the rite of Soul Binding to the Emperor, can unleash fearsome devastation upon their communities.
Some might be consumed by evil impulses and simultaneously find themselves gifted with the power to kill with merely a glance. Others might find their minds turned into gateways to the infernal regions of the Empyrean, through which entire legions of daemons may vomit forth. Psykers therefore are often said to represent the single most dangerous peril to the very soul of Mankind.
At the same time, the Imperium could not exist without psykers. Without Astropaths, the scattered worlds of the galaxy-spanning empire could only communicate at the slowest of speeds. Without Navigators, interstellar travel across great distances would be impossible, and without the sacrifice of millions of psykers every year, the blessed light of the Astronomican would not be able to guide them through the benighted depths of the Warp.
In addition, the many arms of the Imperium's military use psykers as potent battlefield weapons, including the Librarians of the Adeptus Astartes and the Psykers Primaris of the Astra Militarum. Furthermore, although most would not think of Him as such, the Emperor Himself was the most powerful psyker to have ever lived. Many of the teachings of the Imperial Creed preach against psykers, who are often referred to and condemned as "witches."
In truth, although most amongst the faithful feel a deep unease in the presence of Astropaths and other "sanctioned" psykers, reality dictates that psykers are part of the grand plan the Emperor has laid out for Humanity.
It is the psyker who is not sanctioned, who hides amongst the faithful and uses their powers for ill who is the true target of the Ministorum's ire, and few sermons pass without the congregation being called upon to be ever vigilant for such a threat within their own ranks.
Orthodoxy and Heresy
Because of the diversity of opinions within the Imperial Creed, the line between orthodoxy and heresy is often blurred. Obviously, worshipping any other god than the God-Emperor is forbidden and those who overtly turn from the Imperial Creed are punished by death, as are those who deny the authority of the Adeptus Ministorum.
While those who turn to the worship of forbidden gods such as the Ruinous Powers or alien overlords are the most obvious of Heretics, many other beliefs have been declared heretical throughout the ages.
What does and does not count as heresy is generally determined by the high officers of the Ecclesiarchy. Massive divisions of the Adeptus Ministorum exist to monitor and study the myriad sects that exist across the Imperium. Highly ranked, free-roaming officers with equal status to a cardinal seek out and destroy the taint of heresy.
These Witchfinders often become the scourges of entire sectors. Of course, many of the Imperium's worlds are scattered and isolated, so a sect may gain prominence on a given world and flourish for many standard years before a cardinal or witchfinder arrives from off-world and decries it as heretical. What happens next will depend upon the character of the officer.
Some may convene courts of assize, sitting in judgement over those accused of heresy. Others are more wont to summarily execute sect leaders and instigate a worldwide program of religious re-education to purge the taint of errant doctrine. The most extreme, such as the notorious Witchfinder Tannenburg, put entire worlds to the pyre on the merest suspicion of heresy.
The accusation of heresy in the Imperium is often used as a political weapon by those wishing to gain power over others. This can occur at multiple levels. A reasoned debate between brother cardinals can be brought to an immediate end should one of the two hint at accusing the other of heresy. A diocese that has proven tardy in the raising of tithes can be brought into line by the merest hint of the word.
An accusation of heresy is a blunt tool, and one that can turn upon its wielder, for those accused might have previously unknown allies or patrons, and outright war between rival factions sometimes results. There are several variant faiths within the Imperium which the Ecclesiarchy has no choice but to tolerate, even though it disagrees fundamentally with their tenets. The cults of the Adeptus Astartes are such faiths.
Every Space Marine Chapter is faithful to the Emperor and its own Primarch, but they do not usually revere the Emperor as a god. Rather, to them He is a man, albeit the greatest who ever lived. This breaks with the single most important tenet of the Imperial Creed, and has on many occasions proved a source of great tension and even overt hostility between the two organisations.
On the whole however, the Adeptus Ministorum and the Adeptus Astartes try to maintain cordial relations, for the Space Marines are the literal descendants of the Emperor through the blood of the Primarchs, which flows in their own veins ten thousand Terran years after the entombment of the Master of Mankind.
The Cult Mechanicus is another deviant faith with which the Ecclesiarchy is often at odds. The tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus worship their own deity, who they call the Machine God. As with the Imperial Creed, many sects exist within the Cult Mechanicus, and it is commonly held by the Priesthood of Mars that the Emperor is in fact a physical manifestation of the Machine God as the long-prophesied Omnissiah, although many in the Ecclesiarchy have great difficulty accepting this.
Other sects appear to outsiders to be saturated in idolatry, worshipping the very machines they are tasked with maintaining and committing a thousand other transgressions punishable by death by the laws of the Adeptus Ministorum. Despite such differences, the Ecclesiarchy has no choice but to tolerate the Cult Mechanicus, for without the tech-priests the Imperium would literally grind to a halt.
No institution can do without the Adeptus Mechanicus, just as none forgo the services of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica or the Navigator Houses, regardless of how distasteful they might find their servants.
Mutants and Abhumans
Many of the Imperial Creed's teachings warn of the danger of mutation. It is often said that the Emperor created Mankind in His own perfect form, and that any deviation from the physical norms of the Human body is an indication of inner impurities and sins. Some would say this doctrine is quite correct, for it has long been known that where instances of mutation increase within a population there will soon follow a rise in psyker birth rates.
Some blame mutation on spiritual corruption, alien intervention or chemical pollution. Mutation tends to take one of two forms. The first is spontaneous and can occur anywhere, at birth or later in life. There is often no discernible cause, and the afflicted may go to great lengths to hide their mutation.
If the mutation can be hidden, the individual might be able to lead a relatively normal life, but if it is so obvious that it cannot be hidden, the mutant may be forced to flee from their community, and seek others similarly afflicted to start a new life.
Many worlds are subject to strict laws regarding mutations, and these may be policed by "purity patrols," which conduct arbitrary raids on workplaces and homes and stop-search operations in the streets in order to identify mutants.
Only those with the power or wealth to avoid or pay off such scrutiny have any chance of avoiding it, and many of the Imperium's most influential noble houses are the subjects of vicious rumours regarding the genetic horrors they are believed to regularly spawn.
The second form of mutation is that which throughout the ages has become stabilised and, to a degree at least, recognised and tolerated. Such mutants are commonly referred to as "Abhumans." Some populations are tall and muscular, some squat and stout. Over the millennia these characteristics have become so exaggerated that new strains of the Human genome have become established, often encouraged by genetic tinkering of one sort or another.
It is not uncommon for explorers operating at the fringes of the Imperium to discover Human populations lost since time immemorial who have developed some unusual physical trait.
Through deliberate selection on the part of the society in question, such characteristics might become ubiquitous in the population. These might include garish skin colouring and patterning, exaggerated or even additional limbs or the ability to see in the dark, breathe underwater, or any one of thousands of unusual features that might be considered mutation.
The fate of many such strains is to be annihilated at the hands of vengeful Puritans, but often a small number of survivors are spirited away by curious Inquisitors, tech-priests or others for further study.
Attitudes to mutation vary widely across the Imperium. On some worlds no divergence whatsoever is tolerated, and even stable Abhuman strains such as Ogryns might be shot on sight. Others harbour vast mutant under-classes, often condemned to a life of servile drudgery doing the jobs that no others will undertake.
It should not be assumed that civilisation denotes enlightenment in this matter, or that ignorant feral worlders are more or less likely to be more accepting of mutation than educated nobility.
Superstition rules at every level of the Imperium, from the High Lords of Terra right down to the lowest indentured menial. The attitudes of mutants themselves towards the Imperial Creed can be just as varied, depending upon the degree to which they are allowed access to it.
Preachers often flock to worlds where a large mutant population is tolerated sometimes as punishment from their superiors but other times because they genuinely wish to make a difference in the Abumans' lives.
Such sermons often take the form of lengthy diatribes telling the mutants that they are filthy and debased, that they are fortunate to be allowed to exist at all, and that their continued existence can only be justified by their toil.
In the case of Abhuman populations who are useful to the Imperium, such as Ogryns or Ratlings serving with the Astra Militarum, they may be exposed to a highly simplified version of the Imperial Creed, extolling the virtues of service and reward but leaving out more complex or problematic doctrines.
In fact, it has been noted that the childlike mind of an Ogryn can be easily inspired to great acts of bravery by the admonitions of a skilled preacher, and the Commissars of the Imperial Guard are especially adept in rousing their charges to such ends.
If the Imperial Creed preaches that mutants are filthy and debased, then the alien is entirely beyond the pale. The vast majority of Mankind is kept in deliberate ignorance of the literal existence of aliens, although they are often used as allegorical bogeymen with whom the faithful must have no contact.
On more isolated or frontier worlds, the realities of life make some contact with alien races inevitable, for example when the aliens are the only source of certain necessary resources. Some distant colonies actually share their worlds with native aliens, and species such as the Kroot occasionally serve as Imperial mercenaries. On the whole, however, such contact is frowned upon, and openly decried by roaming Confessors and Preachers.
There are some alien species with which any form of contact whatsoever is utterly forbidden, except at the point of a gun. While most of these species would just as soon eat or enslave Mankind in turn, others are noted for their propensity to manipulate and exploit weak-minded fools who seek some advantage in dealing with them.
These include amongst many others such vile creatures as the Slaugth, the Krave and the Reek, contact with whom has spelled the doom of many an errant Human merchant and adventurer.
When the enemies of the Emperor descend upon His worlds, the symbols of Mankind's faith are often the target of the invaders' rage. Even before a world has fallen, terrible blasphemies are enacted upon the majestic cathedrals and officers of the Imperial faith are often subjected to horrific tortures as a warning against further resistance.
When an Imperial world falls to the followers of the Dark Gods, its bastions of faith are bedecked with the defiled corpses of its priests, their once graceful façades daubed in unspeakable blasphemy, and the statues of its saints are toppled. Quite apart from such overt iconoclasm, changes in the fabric of a cathedral or shrine have often proved to be an indicator of subversive doctrine.
Imperial Witchfinders are adept at discerning subtle changes in iconography that might indicate that a local sect of the Imperial Creed has been infiltrated by outside agents or fallen prey to the rot of heresy. Sometimes, symbols from pre-Imperial religions are placed over those of the Imperial Creed, or the features of statues changed to represent not the saints of the Imperium, but darker prophets.
On the world of Sabulorb, a statue of the Emperor was given additional limbs by the alien-dominated priesthood, while on Fenksworld the authorities of House Vaahkon are ever vigilant for the early signs of yet another apostate cult festering within the dismal hives.
The Ecclesiarchy is not officially part of the Adeptus Terra, but is organised as a wholly separate Imperial adepta. At its head is the leader of the Imperial Cult, the Ecclesiarch, who, by tradition since the 32nd Millennium, is always one of the Imperium's ruling High Lords of Terra.
Below him are the cardinals, of which there are several thousand, each of whom oversees the Ecclesiarchy's operations and properties in a diocese comprising a sector, sub-sector or even a single world of Imperial space.
Below the cardinals are the priests known as pontifices, confessors, missionaries and preachers, in that order. The clerical orders of the Ecclesiarchy are open to men and women alike, though men seem to have an advantage in achieving high position because many believe that as men, they are closer to the perfection of the God-Emperor, whose perfect embodied form was that of a Human male.
The Adeptus Ministorum's own governing body is the Holy Synod, a conclave composed of the Ecclesiarchy's most powerful arch-cardinals and cardinals. The Ministorum divides the Imperium's territory across the galaxy into thousands of dioceses, each generally encompassing an entire Imperial world -- the exception being Terra, the heart of the Imperium, which possesses several dioceses because of its sheer population size and political importance.
Some dioceses can encompass several worlds or even an entire sector in the case of the officials granted the extremely powerful rank of Cardinal-Astra. A diocese is further divided into parishes centred around a shrine or church. Each diocese is headed by a cardinal, while each parish is headed by an Imperial priest with the title of preacher.
Ranking between these individuals are priests known as pontifices whose authority extends over several parishes to serve as administrative go-betweens in large dioceses between preachers and their ruling cardinal. Priests known as missionaries have no administrative duties within a single diocese but can be deployed to spread the faith of the Imperial Cult to newly rediscovered Human-settled worlds. They are always part of the Ecclesiarchy's missionary wing that is called the Missionaria Galaxia.
Confessors are evangelical zealots who possess a rank within the Ecclesiarchy somewhere between preacher and cardinal. Their oratory skill can stir the emotions of entire worlds, leading them to confess personal heresies and mutations, and to betray their neighbours as psykers, Heretics, mutants or other deviants.
They are free to wander within an entire diocese and preach amongst the population. They often work on Imperial colonies and are especially useful on worlds where faith is lacking and the people are rebellious against the Imperium.
With special dispensation from the Ecclesiarchy, they may even gather armies of Frateris Militia or the Sisters of Battle and lead Wars of Faith against the enemies of the Imperium. Confessors often wear the Rosarius as both protection and a symbol of their rank.
The Adeptus Ministorum also includes an administrative bureaucracy, headed by priests called arch-deacons, who control all secular business within the Ecclesiarchy. Arch-deacons are the administrative counterparts to cardinals, responsible for the temporal affairs of an entire diocese.
The arch-deacon's subordinates, known as deacons, deal with the money entering and leaving a specific diocese or parish, regulate the construction of new shrines and temples and deal with the other secular requirements of running a galaxy-spanning religion.
Adeptus Ministorum Hierarchy
The priests of the Adeptus Ministorum are members of a rigid ecclesiastical hierarchy which includes the following offices, from highest-ranking to lowest:
- Deacon (Dean)
- Drill Abbott
Elected by the Adeptus Ministorum's ruling Holy Synod of arch-cardinals, the Ecclesiarch's main concerns include the pursuit of the Ministorum's interests in the Senatorum Imperialis, the preparation and launch of new Imperial Crusades and wars of faith, and ensuring the continued religious devotion of the Imperial citizenry.
The Ecclesiarch has held a position as a ruling High Lord of Terra since the 32nd Millennium, and is always one of the most influential voices on the Senatorum Imperialis.
The arch-cardinal is the official who stands at the top of the Ministorum's hierarchy leading a Sector Synod, which is more often than not more of an idea or principle than a rigid structure or chain of command.
Though an arch-cardinal is the head of the Sector Synod and commands (or at least has substantial influence over) each of the dioceses in the sector, the true power of the Ministorum rests in the hands of the individual Diocesan Synods, often known by the world (or location on that world) where the cardinal resides.
Central to the Ministorum's power within a sector of Imperial space are the dioceses, the demesnes of the faith, each of which is under the command of the cardinals of the Sector Synod. Some dioceses can encompass more than one world or even an entire sector in the case of the officials granted the extremely powerful rank of Cardinal-Astra.
This division allows the Ministorum detailed control over the sub-regions within a sector as well as giving individual worlds or specific problems direct attention. Each cardinal of the Sector Synod is a powerful individual in his or her own right, having risen to his lofty position through years of sacrifice, devotion to the God-Emperor, and most importantly, cunning and relentless politicking.
Each cardinal maintains their own diocese on the world on which they reside, more commonly referred to as his seat of power -- the centre of the cardinal's authority and base of operations within their archdiocese, from which they rarely if ever leave.
An arch-deacon is a senior Ministorum priest who is subordinate to a cardinal and helps to oversee the daily functions and duties of the Creed Temporal. This branch of the Ecclesiarchy oversees the astronomical wealth flowing into its treasuries, wealth which is rendered by the faithful as their right and proper offering to the Imperial Cult in the service of their souls' salvation.
It is the arch-deacon's duty to administer to the logistics of the diocese, coordinating the construction and maintenance of its cathedrals as well as countless other institutions such as Shrine Worlds, pilgrimage sites, reliquaries and retreats.
Each arch-deacon is responsible for the distribution of as much wealth as an Imperial sector governor or the patriarch of a wealthy interstellar merchant concern, and they are often the subjects of bitter jealousy from such secular lords of the Imperium.
Below the arch-deacons are those Ministorum priests known as deacons and deans, who are responsible for the distribution of the resources passed down to them from the Sector Synod, as well as the actual collection of dues from the faithful.
Groups of zealots and militant preachers often serve an important purpose in rooting out heresy. Cells of these fiery individuals pray and recite litanies together, often during combat.
These Firebrands must be handled with care by whatever controlling entity (be it Ecclesiarchy or Inquisition) puts them in the field, as Firebrands are just as likely to report the existence of a heretical enclave as they are to incinerate the city block where the enclave is meeting.
A Drill Abbot is a member of the Ministorum and a decorated veteran of the Imperium's wars who works tirelessly at converting the orphans of martyred Imperial servants into driven and dedicated fanatics prepared for the trials of Imperial life.
Drill abbots run the Scholas Progenium, brutally effective institutions which every Terran year produce untold numbers of Planetary Governors, Commissars, Adeptus Arbites Arbitrators, Imperial Navy officers, Storm Troopers and Inquisitors.
Confessors are free-roaming zealots of the Imperial Cult who use their evangelical platform to agitate the crowds of Imperial citizenry that turn up to hear them. Under the spell of an arch-confessor, swathes of citizens will rush forwards to confess their personal heresies, reveal their hideous mutations and betray their comrades as psykers or other untrustworthy deviants.
A confessor might have administrative responsibility for a hive city or, if it is less populated, an entire world, or in frontier regions an entire star system or even a sub-sector. Just as not every Imperial cardinal heads a diocese, not all confessors are responsible for a specific geographic area. Many act autonomously, their duties taking them far and wide across a given region of the Imperium.
Some find themselves attached to other Imperial institutions and adepta. Often, an Astra Militarum general or Imperial Navy admiral might have as their most trusted confidante a senior confessor, who advises him on spiritual matters and bolsters their resolve to enact the Emperor's will.
A Preacher is the lowest ranking member of the Imperial clergy within the Ecclesiarchy. They are known as the "Defenders of the Faith." Often individual regiments of the Astra Militarum and vessels of the Imperial Navy are accompanied by dozens of preachers, many of whom regard it as their duty to personally take the field of battle and provide religious inspiration to those in their care.
A preacher is also the rank of Ministorum priest who is given a parish of their own to run which is centred on an Imperial shrine. A preacher is the priest of the Imperial Cult who will have the most day-to-day contact with ordinary worshipers.
Especially vigorous and charismatic preachers may be lucky enough to be promoted to become confessors.
Adeptus Ministorum Specialty Ranks
The Adeptus Ministorum hierarchy also maintains a number of specialty ranks, which include:
- Iron Evangelist
- Sanction Warden
Within the Ministorum of the Calixis Sector, there are those priests who chafe at the political restrictions that only allows the Inquisitors of the Ordo Malleus to combat the unclean and unquiet Warp entities known as daemons.
A large proportion of those clerics who are aware of the existence and nature of daemonkind yearn to take the fight to them, to dispel them and cast them out of the material realm and back to the myriad hells that spawned them.
These zealots, known as Arch-Exorcists, relish in combating the daemonic as a holy work that follows the example of the God-Emperor Himself.
A Banisher is a specialised holy warrior who is a member of a special religious order of the Adeptus Ministorum known as the Collegia Exterminatus that was formed by the Ordo Malleus of the Calixis Sector. A Banisher is equally skilled at both delving into the forbidden knowledge required to understand the nature of daemons and eradicating daemonic forces with fire and Chainsword.
Chosen at a young age from the most pious of children in the Calixian Schola Progenium, their training takes a great deal of time and effort as they earn the faith necessary to fortify their souls against the information they might uncover during their studies of forbidden knowledge.
The intensity of their training often leaves a Banisher with scars and augmetic replacements. Their bodies show the sacrifices they have made to keep themselves pure in the eyes of the God-Emperor.
A Crusader is a holy warrior of the Adeptus Ministorum who is recruited for his or her unflagging devotion to the God-Emperor. Most are inducted into the ranks of the Ecclesiarchy from a Schola Progenium, selected for their unflagging devotion to the Emperor.
To be selected is a great honour, though it leads not only to a gruelling life of asceticism and martial perfection, but also inevitably to an unmourned death in battle against the forces of heresy and apostasy. Nonetheless, such a calling guarantees the opportunity to test sword and shield against Mankind's greatest enemies.
It is said that nowhere else in the Imperium of Man can more devout warriors be found -- save perhaps within the ranks of the famed Adeptus Sororitas. It is improbable that a Crusader's fate will differ greatly in an Inquisitor's service.
The missionaries of the Missionaria Galaxia are a special breed of Imperial servant, and although they operate under the auspices of the Cardinals Palatine, they are in practice a nigh-autonomous body within the Adeptus Ministorum.
Though they possess no administrative duties within a diocese or the larger Ecclesiarchal structure, missionaries are tasked with accompanying all manner of Imperial expeditions into regions of the galaxy lost or previously unknown to the Imperium.
Missionaries bear the flame of the Imperial Creed wherever they go, and with it kindle the belief of those long separated from the True Faith.
Priests willing to deliver the doctrine of the Imperial Cult are not rare within the Imperium. There are many who repair the bulwark of the faith with the cement of sermon.
Inquisitors who value a strong indoctrination in the Imperial Creed as a bulwark against heresy often recruit these men and women and assemble cells led by an Iron Evangelist to root out heresy within the bowels of the vessels of the Imperial Navy or in the twisting labyrinth of a hive city.
Iron Evangelists are groups of Inquisitorial Acolytes who take the word of the Emperor to those who may go years without being given His blessings and thus are in grave danger of falling into heresy through their ignorance.
However, there are those psykers who are officially sanctioned by the Imperium to use the power of the Warp towards the Emperor's divine purpose, their souls tempered into weapons of the God-Emperor's will.
A Redemptionist is a fanatical priest of the Adeptus Ministorum who follows an extreme and unforgiving doctrine of faith in which redemption in the eyes of the God-Emperor can only be found in death.
Many Redemptionists seek their own redemption on the battlefield for the sins they have committed against the God-Emperor. They also desire to bring redemption to others, finding one sin particularly offensive and seeking any opportunity to bring the Emperor's final judgement to xenos, Heretics or those who traffic with daemons.
Adeptus Ministorum Minoris Ranks
- Relic-Keeper - Relic-keepers are priests of the Ministorum who have been charged with preserving and safekeeping the most holy relics of the Imperial Cult, including the relics of the myriad Imperial saints.
- Shrouded Cenobite - A shrouded cenobite is a member of a monastic order of the Ministorum who is dedicated to spending his or her life in contemplation and prayer concerning the mysteries of the God-Emperor. As their name implies, cenobites often dress in habits with deep cowls that shroud their faces from sight.
- Chapel-Master - A chapel-master is a priest of the Ministorum who has been assigned the task of overseeing the sanctity and carrying out the day-to-day administrative tasks of maintaining an Imperial chapel and other places of worship for the faithful.
- Quire Masters
Adeptus Ministorum Alternate Career Ranks
- Incinerant Priest
- Praecentor of Penance
- Rector Erudite
The cleansing purity of flame is closely tied to many elements of the Ecclesiarchy in the Calixis Sector, from candles and incense burners to flamers and incinerator cannons. Missionaries heading into the nearby Koronus Expanse are sometimes known as "Torchbearers," while a special breed of experienced Imperial Guardsmen combine their faith with a fierce love of flame weapons to become warriors of the Inquisition known as "Pyroclasts."
Firebrands in every sense of the word, these preachers are sometimes called "Incinerant Priests," referring to their predilection for flame-based weapons and their ability to ignite a blazing centre of hatred in the hearts of their allies.
These priests are often found on the front lines of the Spinward Front's raging conflicts, wielding a flamer whilst exhorting the Imperial Guardsmen to greater efforts.
When an Astra Militarum unit that survives after taking heavy casualties have shaky morale, it is the Incinerant Priest who steps forward to fill the role of spiritual leader -- who can uplift men's souls and efficiently focus their hatred upon the enemy.
Praecentor of Penance
Priests of the Ministorum serve many vital roles in the Spinward Front, and some might say the most important is shepherding the spiritual health of the men and women involved in that conflict. The fires of war can bring out the worst in all men, and the preacher is often the last hope for a wayward soul led astray by desperate circumstances or the depths of despair.
Some priests make it their mission to rescue such imperilled individuals, to take them under their wing and guide them back into the full glory of the Emperor's light. There are many who crave spiritual leadership, who thrive only when shown the way through the example of the Imperial Creed -- and within the Spinward Front, the preachers that answer that call are sometimes named Praecentors of Penance.
Praecentors are not just leaders and spiritual guides; they are agitators, able to stir the hearts and minds of Imperial citizens and Guardsmen alike.
Warzones like the Spinward Front can bring out the fiercest warriors from unusual places; sometimes, these warriors are found amongst the ranks of the Ministorum rather than the Imperial Guardsman to whom they minister. The presence of a priest can be critical when the Astra Militarum must face alien terrors or the dire moral threats of treachery and heresy, chanting prayers in the midst of the most furious conflict and bolstering the faith of the men.
However, some priests go a step further to inspire fervour in the God-Emperor's name; these priests find themselves compelled to close with the enemy in savage melee, clashing with the foe in close combat as the ultimate test of their faith. Those few preachers that emerge triumphant from such assaults are emboldened, their faith strengthened.
Some in the Spinward Front call priests such as these "Prelates-at-Arms," referring to their single-minded pursuit of utterly eliminating a foe in hand-to-hand combat. Faith and fervour drive these Prelates-at-Arms nearly into a berserk state, defying any fear of death with a hearty determination to spill the enemy's blood at all costs.
Priests of the Ministorum fill many roles in the Imperium; they are spiritual leaders, guiders of the citizenry, and often warriors in the God-Emperor's name. Those that accompany the Astra Militarum into battle often fit into the latter category, but that is not to say that such preachers know only catechisms and chainswords.
Instead, it is often true that such priests bring quite a bit of hard-earned wisdom and knowledge collected by the Ecclesiarchy over the millennia. Such learned priests are valued by many Imperial Guard commanders to provide additional perspective on particular battlegrounds dealing with traitors, heresy, and other moral threats.
Priests that have this kind of knowledge can lend their influence to help Imperial Guard commanders cut through the red tape and bureaucracy of the Administratum. Additionally, many priests understand additional ciphers and traditions of the Ministorum that can be of advantage to a typical Imperial Guard regiment when requisitioning gear from pious Departmento Munitorum agents or delicately translating Imperial Guard orders into a "request" for assistance from the Adepta Sororitas.
In the Spinward Front, priests with these unique skills and knowledge are sometimes known as Rectors Erudite. However, it is not just knowledge that sets these priests apart -- it is also wisdom, an understanding of faith amongst the Imperial Guard, from the typical soldier serving in an infantry squad to the highly trained and elite Storm Troopers.
Adeptus Ministorum Variant Sects
The Holy Synod of the Ecclesiarchy and its subordinate Sector Synods and their governing cardinals are only a part of the Ministorum's presence within each sector. There are many other layers of leadership, synods and cults stretching all the way down to the average Imperial worshipper.
System Synods and the variety of the worlds and cultures on which they thrive have given rise to a myriad of Imperial Cults and variances on the orthodox Imperial Creed. The following is a listing of just a fraction of the known Imperial sects:
- Black Priests of Maccabeus - The Black Priests of Maccabeus, known by some as the "Black Clerics" or the "Ashen Confessors" (and in secret by the more fearful nickname of "pyre-crows"), are clerics that form a loose-knit order of militant priests organised at the behest of the Ordo Malleus to aid those daemon-hunting Inquisitors in their work. The Ordo Malleus chose to base their Black Order on Maccabeus Quintus, an often overlooked Shrine World and home to a particularly mystical interpretation of the Imperial Creed. Black Priests are selected from promising candidates taken from the Ministorum's clergy and chosen for their strength of will, the power of their faith and, in many cases, by dint of their survival when confronted by malefic forces in the past. Entrusted with knowledge otherwise forbidden, even to other priests of the Ecclesiarchy, and taught how to focus their will and the purity of their faith to achieve extraordinary things, not least of all the castigation of daemons, clerics who undergo the "Maccabean rites" are forever changed by the experience, and set apart from their fellows in the Ministorum by the nature of their faith and the dark and secret truths about the nature of reality they now carry.
- Cult of the Emperor Revenant - The Cult of the Emperor Revenant is a sect that practices a variance of the Imperial Creed that has a strong funerary nature based upon the God-Emperor's own deathless state. Death is an ever-present reality on most Imperial worlds and how citizens deal with it is often as important as how they live. The members of this sect are found on many worlds within the Calixis Sector, administering to the dead and fostering belief in the power of the Imperium and the countless dead that its glory is built upon. Of all the Imperial Creed's sects, the Revenant Cult is perhaps the one closest to the orthodox doctrines of the Imperial Creed, so much so that many Ministorum servants do not see a difference between it and the more mainstream worship of the God-Emperor. The Cult of the Emperor Revenant is unfortunately also the progenitor of such organisations as the heretical Night Cult. According to some apocryphal sources, the Night Cult can trace their origins to the founding of the Calixis Sector, at a time when the Angevin Crusade was faltering and a man became a saint. It concerns a heretical faction of the Imperial Creed long forbidden, the darkest of proscribed technologies, an apocalyptic prophesy of the End of Days, and the power to make the dead walk.
- Drusians - The Drusians are perhaps the largest and most powerful of the Imperial Cult's sects within the Calixis Sector. Their members are the followers of Saint Drusus, the Lord Militant who successfully completed the Imperium's conquest of the Calyx Expanse that became the Calixis Sector during the Angevin Crusade. This cult is as old as the sector itself. So-called "Drusianism" pervades much of the Cult Imperialis in the Calixian worlds, particularly those that are distant from the sector capital world of Scintilla. Drusianism is a hard and uncompromising reading of the Imperial Creed, emphasising the purifying quality of suffering, the power of holy relics, and the endurance of hardship. An ascetic and largely mystical tradition for the main part, it is somewhat at odds with the cult authorities on Scintilla, who hold to more traditionalist modes of worship but also claim the sector's saint as their own. Many hard-line Drusians consider the sector's noble and mercantile classes to be fundamentally venial and corrupt by nature, and hold little regard for any power or supposed rights such individuals possess. Though they are publicly supported by the Calixian Ministorum and the sector's arch-cardinal, the Drusians are often seen as a rival to the orthodox Ecclesiarchy's power and its focused faith in the God-Emperor.
- Red Redemption - The Red Redemption is drawn to the poor underhives, wild Frontier Worlds and primitive feudal cities of the Calixis Sector, feeding on the fears of common men. An extreme variation of the Imperial Creed, the Red Redemption preaches a zealotry and intolerance beyond even that of the greater Ministorum. They teach that only through pain, cleansing fire and the complete rejection of anything that does not show total and utter devotion to the God-Emperor can a citizen hope to be saved from damnation and the touch of the Dark Gods. While at times the Ministorum and the Red Redemption are at odds, the Imperial church's hierarchy finds them more useful than not and is happy for them to do the dirty work of the faith.
- Redemptionists - Redemptionists are those Ministorum priests who follow an extreme and unforgiving doctrine of faith in which redemption in the eyes of the Emperor can only be found in death. Many Redemptionists seek their own redemption on the battlefield for the sins they have committed against the God-Emperor. They also seek to bring redemption to others, finding one sin particularly offensive and seeking any opportunity to bring the Emperor's final judgement to xenos, Heretics or those who traffic with daemons. The Redemptionist sect was originially founded on the Hive World of Necromunda where it remains a potent religious and political force, but the movement has since found adherents all across the galaxy.
- Sisters of the Void - A benevolent all-female sect of the Ecclesiarchy, the Sisters of the Void travel the pilgrim paths and Warp routes of the Calixis Sector bringing comfort and aid to crewmen and pilgrims alike. Exemplifying the kind and gentle aspect of the God-Emperor, the Sisters believe in the healing power of His light and the protection He brings through the blazing icon of the Astronomican. They are seen as little threat (either politically or to the faith) by the Sector Synod of the Calixis Sector and are accepted as a fairly benign sect. Some whisper, however, that the Sisters of the Void are in fact a front for something more sinister as the Sisters have spent years plying the void so that they might pass invisibly from one world to the next. What their true purpose could be if it actually differs from their stated role is difficult to fathom and certainly neither the Inquisition nor the church have shown an overt interest in them.
- Vitrian Covenant - The Vitrian Covenant is more of an unofficial Imperial Crusade in the Calixis Sector than a religious sect. They are named for the battle that saw the rise of Saint Vidicus and undertake the dual purpose of spreading the faith of the God-Emperor beyond the edges of the Imperium and combating the foul xenos known as Orks. For this reason the Covenant is mostly found on the edges of the Calixis Sector, supporting armies or helping missionaries to settle new and wild Frontier Worlds. Their fanatical hatred of the Greenskins has also seen them travel around the sector using their influence and skills to drum up support for the Margin Crusade, a venture which they view as a vital part of both bringing the Imperial Creed to the lawless void and also curtailing the spread of xenos from their worlds within the Halo Stars. Of course, the fact that the Vitrian Covenant is not wholly aware of the truth behind the fact that the Margin Crusade is a false front for the flow of troops and material through the secret Jericho-Maw Warpgate to aid the Achilus Crusade in the Jericho Reach has not stopped the Calixian Sector Synod from using them to raise troops and resources for it.
Other Ecclesiarchy Organisations
The military arm of the Ecclesiarchy are the Orders Militant of the Adepta Sororitas, who are dedicated to eradicating heresy across the Imperium. The Ecclesiarchy also often works with the Inquisition, especially the Ordo Hereticus, to achieve its goals.
The priests of the Ecclesiarchy will, however, often see Radical Inquisitors as little more than Heretics themselves and actively oppose their missions.
The Sisterhood, as it is generally known, is expected to maintain a close watch on all servants and departments of the Imperium for heresy, but especially the Ecclesiarchy itself. The
The Adepta Sororitas' Militant Orders act as the military arm of the Ecclesiarchy defending shrine and Cardinal worlds from attacks by xenos like the Orks or the Forces of Chaos, but are also tasked to serve as the Chamber Militant of the Ordo Hereticus of the Imperial Inquisition when so order by an Inquisitor.
The Frateris Templar were the original, all-male army of High Lord Goge Vandire during the Age of Apostasy's Reign of Blood in the 36th Millennium. They were destroyed by a Warp Storm while en route to Dimmamar to pacify the rebellious reborn Confederation of Light raised by Sebastian Thor.
The Warp Storm, which is still raging to this day, became known as the Storm of the Emperor's Wrath and many believe that it was created within the Warp by the Emperor to show His anger at Vandire's usurpation of His will.
The Frateris Templar have since been disbanded, and their role has instead been assumed by the Sisters of Battle since Sebastian Thor, the Ecclesiarch who ended the Reign of Blood and Goge Vandire's tyrannical rule of the Imperium, declared that no man would ever again bear arms for the Adeptus Ministorum in the Decree Passive.
The Frateris Militia are the unofficial armies of the Ministorum made up of religious zealots who will fight for their faith.
Members of the Frateris Militia are not professional soldiers, and receive no training in their role. However, their faith is strong, and they often go on to perform great and terrible deeds in the name of the Master of Mankind.
Missionary work is an important activity of the Ecclesiarchy, and its purpose is to bring rediscovered Human-settled worlds into the full fold of the Imperial Cult and the worship of the God-Emperor of Mankind. For this purpose, the missionaries of the Ecclesiarchy's Missionaria Galaxia organisation always accompany Imperial Explorators or even Rogue Traders on their voyages into unknown space in case human worlds are rediscovered.
When Human worlds are rediscovered, Imperial Missions are immediately established alongside any Imperial planetary government.
Part of the purpose of these Missions is to further the worship of the Emperor and spread the ideals and culture of Imperial civilisation. They are also vital in evaluating newly-discovered planetary populations for signs of psychic and genetic mutation or the corruption of Chaos.
The Schola Progenium are the state-controlled orphanages run by the Ministorum specifically to raise and train the sons and daughters of Imperial servants who have given their lives in the service of the Emperor. The orphans receive a strict orthodox religious education in the Imperial Creed, and soon come to regard the Emperor as their spiritual father.
Their upbringing will have made them absolutely loyal and devoted servants of the Imperial cause and will have instilled in them a selfless ambition to serve the Imperium and Humanity as a whole just as the Emperor does.
These qualities make them well-suited to service in many of the governmental and military branches of the Imperium -- the schools of the Schola Progenium provide a large portion of the officers of the Astra Militarum and Imperial Navy, Officio Prefectus commissars, Assassins, the judges and arbitrators of the Adeptus Arbites and even, eventually, new members of the Inquisition.
Female progena (the graduates of Scholas Progenium) often enter the Adepta Sororitas. Other progena become members of the Adeptus Ministorum's clergy, which is open to men and women alike.
Inquisition and the Adeptus Ministorum
The current form of the Ecclesiarchy is a relatively new institution of the Imperium, having been formed out of the disastrous events of the Age of Apostasy. Before that time, the Imperial Creed was entirely fragmented into multitudinous denominations, each vying for supremacy and often accusing the others of all manner of heresies.
After the reformation that followed the Age of Apostasy, the Ecclesiarchy in its present administrative state was formed, with a centralised power structure intended to ensure that no repeat of the preceding events was possible. While the Imperial Creed still exists in as many forms as it ever did, there is at least a power structure in place to which the billions of priests are answerable.
Relations between the Inquisition and the Adeptus Ministorum can vary enormously. The Ecclesiarchy is jealous of its roles as shepherd of Mankind's soul and temporal representative of the deified Emperor. The Inquisition, of course, regards itself as the ultimate arbiter and judge, and also answerable only to the Emperor.
Needless to say, there exists great potential for the two institutions to come to blows. A great deal of mutual distrust often exists between Inquisitors and the officials of the Ecclesiarchy, a state made worse when the Inquisitor holds anything other than an overtly Puritan outlook. It is perhaps unsurprising that it is the more Puritan of Inquisitors who maintain links with Adeptus Ministorum, particularly those of the Ordo Hereticus.
As previously mentioned, the Inquisition often has need of the battle-sisters of the Adepta Sororitas, but there are other allies that are often of use to the Inquisitor, provided they can demonstrate a suitably Puritan mindset.
Arco-Flagellants are a case in point. Arco-Flagellation is a punishment reserved for the most vile of blasphemers. The condemned is surgically altered in the manner of a servitor, and his mind and spirit are subjected to a ritual cleansing that entirely destroys the personality and reduces the subject to a raving maniac, desiring only to atone for his sins in the uncontrolled frenzy of battle against the Ecclesiarchy's foes.
An even more potent example of the same process is to be found in the Penitent Engine, a Purity Seal-adorned monstrosity as large as a Space Marine Dreadnought, powered by the raving guilt of a condemned sinner.
The Ecclesiarchy creates such constructs by way of punishment of the guilty, setting them loose against their foes. The Inquisition values such machines too, for they are incapable of feeling fear and are entirely expendable.
Those Inquisitors with a particularly positive relationship with the Adeptus Ministorum may be fortunate enough to find an ally, in the form of a Hierophant. These pious and experienced officers of the Imperial Creed often walk their own path, following the call of their faith wherever it may take them.
Frequently, it takes them into the service of the Inquisition, where they are able to combat the enemies of the faith at the very front line of the war for the soul of Humanity.
However, while Puritan Inquisitors often find common cause with the Ecclesiarchy, the more Radical of the Holy Ordos are commonly regarded as Heretics, deserving only a quick death. Even moderately Puritan Inquisitors can fall victim to this mentality, due to their use of psychic powers and operatives.
A notable example of this is the conflict between Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn and Ecclesiarchy Witchfinder Tantalid, which ended with Tantalid's death by Eisenhorn's blade.
- Codex Imperialis (2nd Edition)
- Codex: Sisters of Battle (2nd Edition)
- Dark Heresy: Ascension (RPG), pp. 176-177
- Dark Heresy: Blood of Martyrs (RPG)
- Dark Heresy: Disciples of the Dark Gods (RPG), pp. 61-64, 169-171
- Inquisitor (Sourcebook), pp. 108-109
- Necromunda (Sourcebook) (2nd Edition), pp. 123, 191-198
- Necromunda (Sourcebook) (1st Edition), pg. 81
- Necromunda Magazine Vol. 1, 2, "House of Iron," pp. 28-29
- Necromunda Magazine 2, pp. 30-35
- Necromunda: Outlanders Rulebook, pp. 33, 77
- Necromunda: Underhive (Living Rulebook edition), pg. 79
- Only War: Shield of Humanity (RPG), pp. 82-98
- Sisters of Battle (5th Edition)
- Warhammer Monthly 18, pg. 3
- Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader (1st Edition)
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (Digital Edition) (7th Edition), pp. 274-275, 277, 313-316, 372-374, 380-382, 460-461, 464, 539, 541-542, 550
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (6th Edition), pp. 158-159
- White Dwarf 302 (US), "Necromunda - The Iron Lords," pg. 91
- White Dwarf 196 (UK), "'Eavy Metal: Redemptionists - The Witch Hunters," pp. 5, 54
- Outlander (Novel) by Matt Keefe, pp. 12, 34, 163-164, 207
- The Redeemer (Graphic Novel) written by Pat Mills and Debbie Gallagher and illustrated by Wayne Reynolds
- Malleus (Novel) by Dan Abnett