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 billions 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 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 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.
An Imperial Priest of the Adeptus Ministorum, serving as a Missionary to spread the Imperial Cult to new human-controlled worlds
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 Savior 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 the Imperial Palace, 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 Imperial Guard 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 Savior 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 Savior 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 Savior 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.
The Adeptus Ministorum
Symbol of the Adeptus Ministorum
Dark Heresy Ascension 2 by faroldjo
Ecclesiarchy Arch-Cardinal and his retainers
In the early 32nd Millennium, in recognition of its unprecedented political power over the minds of Men, the Temple of the Savior Emperor was officially recognized 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 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.