Into the Darkness
The Chantry is the dominant religious organization across Thedas. It’s 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.
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. Elves were, and in some cases still are, pagan and dwarves do not worship any gods at all. The Chantry’s goal is to spread the Chant of Light to all four corners of the world, that includes non-humans as well. Once all peoples have accepted the Chant and practice its teachings, supposedly the Maker will return to the world.
The actual priesthood of the Chantry is made up entirely of women, on the basis that Andraste was a woman. Men can be brothers, serving as academics and initiates, but it is a junior position and non-ordained. Those who have received religious and martial instruction while being raised in the Chantry may become Templars. 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, some of whom administer the chantries of major cities.
The Chantry calendar is used everywhere in Thedas, save for the Imperium, and is the source of the Ages.
It was an Orlesian emperor who made the Chantry into an organized religion. Before that, those who believed in Andraste’s message were scattered throughout Thedas.
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.
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.
The Chantry has called for military conquests of supposedly heathen nations, such as the elven land of the Dales, called Exalted Marches.
The Divine is the leader of the Chantry organization at large, based out of the Grand Cathedral in Val Royeaux. The Divine of the Chantry is always female. The Tevinter Imperium however, have their own Divine, who is a male as well as their own version of the Chantry—the Imperial Chantry. The Orlesian Divine is informally known as the White Divine, and the Tevinter Divine as the Black Divine.
In the Andrastian Chantry, it is customary for a Divine to leave the name of her chosen successor before her death, but this does not guarantee their ascension. Upon the death of the current Divine, every Grand Cleric is required to travel to Val Royeaux for the Grand Consensus. There, they elect a new Divine from among themselves, or choose another member of the Chantry. The vote must be unanimous for a new Divine to be properly elected.
The election of the current Divine, Justinia V was controversial, as rumours abound that many of the Grand Clerics were reluctant to elect her due to her colourful past, despite Revered Mother Dorothea (as she was then known) being the first choice of her predecessor, Beatrix III. In the end, she was successful, and began her reign in 9:34 Dragon.
The Chantry has a presence in each Andrastian country. Each country’s Chantry is overseen by a grand cleric. A grand cleric is second only to the Divine, who is at the very top of the Chantry’s hierarchy. A grand cleric is the one who can invoke the Right of Annulment. As with most positions in the Chantry, a grand cleric is always female. All grand clerics are addressed as “Your Grace.”
The Templar Order is a military order of the Chantry that, amongst their duties, hunts apostates and maleficar and watches over the mages from the Circle of Magi. They are a force of defenders by the Chantry, established to protect the communities of the faithful from magical threats. They are well-equipped, highly disciplined and devoted. One of their most important tasks occurs during a mage’s Harrowing. During this, a templar watches over the body of the mage, ready to kill him or her if demonic possession occurs. To help them control mages, templars have abilities to dispel magic and to inhibit spellcasting. A group of templars is led by a Knight-Commander and each Circle and the majority of chantries in Thedas are assigned one. Templars are also responsible for tracking fugitive mages, which they are able to accomplish when a phylactery has been taken from their quarry.
They protect the innocents of the outside world from magic, but they also protect mages from the outside world, a world that fears them for very good reasons. It is a templar’s place to watch their charges for signs of weakness or corruption, and should they find it to act without hesitation for the good of all. That this occasionally leads to charges of tyranny and abuse is, according to the Chantry, a price that must be paid for the security the templars offer.
From the glittering White Spire in Val Royeaux the Knight-Vigilant commands the templars to serve the Maker’s will and keep the peace. By the common folk they are seen as self-sacrificing men and women, vigilant warriors that form the first line of defense between humanity and the chaos that once ruled the land during the old Imperium. To the mages they are often seen as oppressors, even well-meaning ones.
Templars also have access to the Right of Annulment. This would be used in the event that total chaos was unleashed by the mages and there is no chance that they could be saved.
The Order is composed of numerous branches, each of them centered around a specific community or region they are assigned to defend and monitor. The Order itself is ruled by Knights Divine, a division within the Order who serve directly underneath the Divine herself. In addition to making the rules, they oversee day-to-day operations. Each chapter of the organization is ultimately led by a Knight-Commander, who in turn answers to the head of the local chantry, often a Grand Cleric, depending on the region in question. The size and strength of each branch also differs, depending on the community they serve or their specific mandate.
The Imperial Chantries have their own templars who step in when mages go too far. However, the Magisters wield considerable political influence over the Tevinter templars.
Templars go through a rigorous process of recruitment and indoctrination, often in monastic refuges segregated from everyday society. While the majority of their members are male, some female templars do exist, having chosen to serve the Maker as a defender of the faith rather than a spiritual guide for the community. Templars are discouraged from marrying or raising children since it is impractical to live apart from ones’ dependents. However, such unions are occasionally permitted, provided that the templar’s spouse has his or her own means of support, for example, owning land or a title. A templar marrying another templar or a mage within the same Circle would be considered fraternization within the ranks and would seldom receive permission.
All templars are addicted to lyrium, which is used to help develop their anti-mage skills. It builds a resistance to magic in them over time. A lack of lyrium causes the templar to lose touch with reality and suffer from delusions within 1-2 months.
The Seekers of Truth is an Andrastian order that answers directly to the Divine in Val Royeaux.
The organization appears to act as a check and balance to the power of the Templar Order, acting in a secretive, investigative and interrogative capacity to root out corruption and protect the Chantry from internal and external threats. They also may become involved in the hunting of particularly cunning apostates. Templars fear and despise the Seekers, as they must usually involve themselves when the templars are failing in their duties.
The Seekers of Truth and the Templar Order were once known as the Inquisition, a group of people who fought against the threat of dark magic after the First Blight. Some accounts suggest that the Inquisition was always known as the Seekers of Truth and that they strove to restore order in a time of chaos through their even application of justice.
In the twentieth year of the Divine Age, the fledgling Chantry convinced the Inquisition to unite under the banner of their common faith. Upon signing the Nevarran Accord, the two organizations jointly created the Circle of Magi and established the Templar Order as wardens for the Circles and guardians over magic use. Under the Accord, senior members of the Inquisition formed the Seekers of Truth as they are known today.
Seekers are typically chosen from the elite ranks of the templars. In their roles as overseers of the Templar Order and the right hand of the Divine, they serve as the Chantry’s investigators and are given considerable latitude to function outside the law. The leadership hierarchy of the Seekers runs parallel to that of the templars, although a senior Seeker outranks any templar.