Pathfinder (Dragon Age Setting)
The Chantry is the dominant religious organization in Thedas. It is based on the Chant of Light, a series of teachings written by Andraste, the prophet of the Maker, and was founded by Kordillus Drakon, the first emperor of Orlais. Its followers are known as Andrastians. “Chantric” is also an acceptable adjective to refer to something or someone that is of the Chantry religion.
The Chantry’s goal is to spread the Chant of Light to all four corners of the world, that includes non-humans as well. The view of the Chantry on non-humans is that they need saving—they have turned even further from the Maker’s grace than humanity has. There are no known Andrastian Qunari; the elves worshipped, and in some cases still worship, the Elven pantheon; and dwarves venerate the Stone. Once all peoples have accepted the Chant and practice its teachings, supposedly the Maker will return to the world and return it to its former glory. As such, Andrastian religion in Thedas can be described as deistic in that the world (or Thedas at least) was abandoned by the Maker and he will not heed prayer or perform any other function until his favor is regained.
The Chantry calendar is used everywhere in Thedas, save for the Imperium, and is the source of the names of the Ages.
When Andraste died a martyr, around her legend grew a cult known as “the Chantry,” and with it came the Chant of Light. The clerics of this cult were oppressed, and frequently hid their lore from Tevinter magisters by way of ciphers and encoded scrolls. This persisted until the Chantry was formalized by Kordillus Drakon, the first Emperor of the Orlesian Empire, who established the Andrastian faith as the national religion. Three years later the first Divine, Justinia I, was declared. Drakon’s military successes during the Second Blight significantly expanded the borders of Orlais, and soon after the conquered lands converted to the faith. While these lands would later liberate themselves from Orlesian rule following Drakon’s death, the religious practice still remained.
During the Towers Age there was debate in the Chantry over whether Andraste was truly divine. It was largely the Imperial Chantry’s belief that she was not divine that led to the schism in the Chantry and the eventual founding of the Imperial Chantry as a separate religion in 3:87 Towers.
With so much influence over the people, the Chantry can also exert considerable political pressure on the ruling classes in many areas of concern. In extraordinary times, and in deference to Andraste, the Divine may also be moved to declare an Exalted March. These religious crusades have mobilized armies of thousands to destroy the heretical enemies of the Maker. The first March after Andraste’s death being against the elves of the Dales, next four were against Tevinter.
The actual priesthood of the Chantry is made up entirely of women, on the basis that Andraste was a woman. At the head of the Chantry is the Divine, who leads from her seat in the Grand Cathedral of Val Royeaux. Below her are the Grand Clerics who are the Chantry’s highest authority in a country or a region. After a Divine dies, Grand Clerics are also the ones who are required to travel to Val Royeaux for the Grand Consensus, a meeting where they should unanimously elect the new leader of the Chantry. Beneath them are the mothers, who are responsible for administering to the spiritual well-being of their flock. If a mother is in charge of a local Chantry, she is called as a revered mother. Beneath them are the brothers and sisters and they consist of three main groups: affirmed, initiates, and clerics. This is the only rank that men are allowed to have. The initiates take vows and receive an academic education. Those who seek to become templars receive a martial education in addition. Clerics are the scholars of the Chantry and the most senior of them receive the title of “elder” which is however beneath that of mother.
The funeral rites of the Chantry involve cremation. As Andraste’s body was burned, and her spirit ascended to stand by the Throne of the Maker, so too will that of her followers. It may also be to ward off the possibility of the corpse becoming the subject of demonic possession.
The Imperial Chantry
The Imperial Chantry is a denomination of the Chantry centered in the Tevinter Imperium. The Imperial Chantry does not recognize the Divine of the Chantry of Andraste in Orlais, but elects its own Imperial Divine—sometimes called the “Black Divine” by the Chantry of Andraste. This “Black Divine” is known to reside in the Argent Spire in Minrathous, therefore it can be assumed that this is where the Imperial Chantry’s headquarters are located. In contrast to the Andrastian Chantry, the Imperial Chantry allows male priests and has more tolerant views of mages and magic and the Imperial Divine is one of the Enchanters of Minrathous Circle.
When Emperor Kordillus Drakon decreed Divine Justinia I head of the Andrastian Chantry, it upset the Tevinters, who had set up their chantry before Orlais was unified, believing their country to be the Holy Land, as Andraste had lived and died there. The Chantry never fully defeated the magister lords of the Tevinter Imperium. When Tevinter accepted the Chantry’s laws and teachings, the magisters surrendered to the Circle of Magi, but only on their terms. In an effort to appease the Orlesian Chantry, the Archon’s role was reduced to a ceremonial position and authority over the faith was transferred to the grand clerics.
The mages of Tevinter were not common peasants or surrendered children like they usually were in the southern lands. Magic is a valued trait in Tevinter, nurtured and carried through ancient bloodlines. Thus, the Chantry was trying to control Tevinter’s elite, the most powerful of their highborn. As a result, the mages of Tevinter retained much influence and power even under Chantry control. Tevinter commoners also view magic as a gift and a part of their culture, so mages are respected across all social classes more than in other countries.
The Tevinter Grand Clerics repeatedly petitioned for recognition by the Orlesian Chantry and were refused on the grounds that the Imperial Chantry admitted men into the priesthood, as all men were judged by Maferath’s betrayal. At the time, the Orlesian Chantry was unaware that mages were part of the Tevinter clergy.
The Chantry struggled to maintain and spread its influence in the Tevinter Imperium. After the Third Blight, the Orlesian Chantry began promoting the story of the ancient magisters who caused the Blights. The Chantry’s mistrust for magic conflicted with the native culture, which still viewed magic as a mark of honor. It was another four centuries before these incompatible beliefs finally caused open conflict.
The conflict began when Tevinter’s Grand Clerics argued that the Chant of Light’s commandment, “magic exists to serve man, and never to rule over him,” meant that magic must serve the greater good and not used to control the minds of others. They believed that this could be accomplished by freeing Magi to take part in government. The Chantry in Orlais demanded that they revert to the original Chant. Tevinter refused, claiming corruption within Val Royeaux.
The schism occurred in 3:87 Towers, when Tevinter broke from the Orlesian Chantry and the Imperial Chantry was formed. Tevinter placed Valhail, a male member of their Circle of Magi, as head of their Chantry. The Imperial Divine (also known as the Black Divine) declared a celebration when the Divine Joyous II died. The new White Divine named the next age the “Black Age” and ordered an Exalted March against the Tevinter Imperium.
There were four Marches in total as Val Royeaux’s Chantry amassed armies and proceeded to invade the Imperium. However, Tevinter resisted all attempted invasions. All four Marches failed to take Minrathous or force the Imperial Chantry to surrender. With their mages free from Chantry shackles, the Imperium unleashed its full magical might against its invaders. This, combined with the aid of foreign mages seeking refuge in Tevinter, caused massive casualties on the White Divine’s forces.
The unsuccessful Exalted Marches ensured the divide between Val Royeaux and Minrathous could never be bridged. After the Orlesian’s retreat, Tevinter officially separated and established their own teachings. To this day the White and Black Divines both refuse to recognize the legitimacy and authority of the other. The only cooperation between them has been during the Blights.
The principal teaching of the Imperial Chantry (and the one which led to the schism with the Andrastian Chantry), is their interpretation of the words, “magic exists to serve man, and never to rule over him.” The magisters interpret this to mean that magic must serve the greater good, which they claim to be accomplished through Magi rule. The Tevinter priests altered the Chant to reflect that magic must be used in the service of all mankind for their prosperity and condemned the Chantry in Orlais. This allowed the magisters to reclaim their ancient authority and once again rule the Imperium. Meanwhile, the Chantry in Orlais remains firm in its belief that Magi are untrustworthy and should be controlled. Both Chantries condemn each other about their views on magic.
While the Chantry of Orlais believes that Andraste was divine, and was taken up to stand beside the Maker when she died, the Imperial Chantry maintains she was just a mortal prophet with considerable magical talent, even if she is a symbol of hope. While the Imperial Chantry still respects and honors Andraste considerably, they forbid the worship of her that is practiced in the Orlesian Chantry and instead focus only on worshiping the Maker.
In the Chantry of Val Royeaux, only women may become revered mothers, Grand Clerics and Divine; men are only ordained as brothers. In the Imperial Chantry men have access to all levels of rank in the Tevinter Imperium. In fact, the first appointed Black Divine was both a man and a powerful mage. This was the ultimate sacrilege to the followers of the White Divine. Nearly all priests in the Imperium marry, and work in the clergy tends to run in families.
Although all Chantries in Thedas have an Eternal Flame which is kept burning by magic, in the Imperium the day a spell is cast to renew it is a religious holiday. Magic is openly performed in the Imperial Chantry during all services.
There is an additional feast day for the “Visitations”, celebrating the appearance of Blessed Andraste in dreams to many mages as she crossed the Fade.
The anniversary of the death of Archon Hessarian is also a religious holiday. He is considered the most important of Andraste’s disciples and is more revered in Tevinter than elsewhere in Thedas, much like Kordillus Drakon is revered in Orlais.
Mages in the Tevinter Circle are controlled by high-ranking magisters instead of templars.