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  Chapter 4: Religion
Hierarchy

          The hierarchy of the Imperial churches is organized in a highly bureaucratic system based on the pyramid.  The Emperor, in his role as Pontifex Maximus, is at the top of the religious pyramid of power and the adherents lie at the bottom, supporting the whole.  The Koramian system is more democratic in form, being supervised by a Prelate who is raised to his rank by his fellow Archbishops.  The hierarchy of each, of course, reflects secular political views as well as how each culture regards their religion.
          Those interested in becoming members of the clergy in the Empire must begin their study and life-long dedication by becoming an Aspirant.  During this time they are taught the basics of religion and religious history as well as more secular topics such as administration and finance.  The Aspirant must study for at least three years before he can ascend to the position of Acolyte.  Aspirants have few duties outside the study of their religion, and they are not required to take a vow of any sort.
          After success as an Aspirant, the position of Acolyte is attained.  Acolytes are responsible for the day-to-day affairs of the church, including upkeep of church grounds, copying books in the library, and tending church gardens.  Upon attaining the position of Acolyte, most churches require that the individual take a vow.  This vow should be taken even if the individual is not capable of spiritual practice, as it is more a show of faith and servitude than something that is done to gain more magical power.
          Once the Acolyte has spent no less than seven years in office and shown exemplary behavior in service to his deity, he may be promoted by his superiors to the level of Flamen (Priest), Clericus (Cleric), or Monachus (Monk), depending on whether he chooses to enter a life of service to the worshippers of his deity, a life of combat against the enemies of his deity or serve his deity directly in a monastic setting.  Clerics are rare in most Imperial churches, and often serve as captains-of-the-guard in larger churches, only going to war when a crusade has been called by the Pontifex Maximus.  A Priest serves as a minor official in a church, often performing any paperwork that is necessary and, perhaps, teaching classes to the Aspirants of a larger church.  The monk, who may not be able to use Divine spells at all, must sequester himself in a monastery, and perform tasks to prove his worth to his deity and gain insight into the mysteries that are significant to his deity.  Monks who have lived many years in isolation from the rest of the world are often the wisest of individuals, and are sought out by many for their wisdom and insight.
          A Priest who has served no fewer than seven years (though it is often much longer), may be chosen to ascend to the position of Sacerdos (Temple Priest), who is the head of an individual temple.  His responsibilities include supervising weekly temple services, and insuring that the local nobility operate in a manner appealing to his deity.  A Monk who has served for no fewer than seven years may be elected Archimandrita (Abbot) of his monastery by his fellow monks should the previous Abbot die.  The Abbot oversees the day-to-day affairs of the monastery, as well as acts as diplomat for the monastery to other governing bodies, whether they are secular or liturgical.  It is exceedingly rare for an Abbot to be selected from another monastery, unless the monastery itself is so young that none of its monks have served for more than seven years.  Both Sacerdos and Abbots are expected to serve for life, unless they are removed from their position by the local Episcopus or are promoted to that position themselves.
          After serving as a Sacerdos or an Abbot for no less than seven years, the individual may be selected by the regional Episcopus as an Archisacerdos.  These individuals carry the same duties as they did as Sacerdos with respect to their own temple, as well as the oversight of as many as forty-nine (though often less) other temples or monasteries within his diocese.  He acts as regional administrator for his diocese, and insures that any messages or alterations to the liturgy are issued to his constituent priests.
          The Pontifex selects, from the body of Archisacerdos of a specific archdiocese who have served as such for no less than seven years, an Episcopus to oversee seven diocese.  These individuals, having served no less than thirty-one years within the church, are often the wisest and most powerful priestcrafters in the region.  An Episcopus has the responsibilities of a Sacerdos in his own temple, as well as the responsibility of overseeing a large region, often the size of an entire nation.  It is rare, however, for the Episcopus himself to be found within his archdiocese, as the Pontifex often keeps his Episcopi close at hand as advisors.
          The position of Pontifex is granted to one of the many Episcopus upon the death of the previous Pontifex by the Pontifex Maximus.  He is usually a member of one of the Great Houses of Zeth.  Though the Pontifex Maximus is technically his superior, he is considered to be the closest to his individual deity, knowing his will better than any other.  The position of Pontifex Maximus itself is actually a secular position, one of the many titles held by the Emperor of Zeth, and it is rare that he has any capacity in divine magic, much less be a priest himself.

          The three Orders of the Church in the Empire, that of the Clerical, the Monastic and the Ministry, are significant in that they fulfill the roles of the body (the physical), the mind (the mental) and the soul (the spiritual).  Each church usually favors one aspect or another, depending on the concerns and major attributes of their deity.  For example, the worship of Lord Ptharos  stresses the Order of Ministry, whereas Sarpedon, God of Guardians, heavily favors the Clerical Order.

Imperial Hierarchy Table

                Pontifex Maximus (Emperor)                
              Pontifex              
            Episcopus            
          Archisacerdos          
        Sacerdos or Archimandrita        
      Priests, Clerics and Monks      
    Acolytes    
  Aspirants  
Followers, Adherents and Lay People

          The Koramian hierarchy, as mentioned previously, is a bit more democratic than the Imperial. Of course, when one discusses the Koramian religious structure, one must realize that it is the Koramian heresy, based around the primacy of Vortumnus, that one explores. The smaller churches of the other deities that are worshipped in Koramia tend to have an amalgam of the two systems, but even still rarely recognize the Emperor as the head of all religion (such beliefs in such a militantly anti-Imperial state border on the heretical). The lowest positions are similar to the Imperial system, in that Aspirants are the students who earn their education and Acolytes are the lowest of the Vowed worshippers. It is at the next stage of development that things start to stray. The Koramian system does have Priests, Monks and Clerics who serve in much the same way as their Imperial cousins, but to this lot are added Paladins, Friars, Deans, Chaplains, Rectors, Almoners and Vicars. Each temple has a Priest or group of Priests who preach to the flock and are concerned with the spirituality and liturgical morality of their charges. Clerics are still expected to understand the basics of combat and fight when necessary, but they are primarily healing orders that travel with and protect pilgrims through hostile territory. Paladins are religious knights who are a fierce and deadly opponent on any battlefield . Friars are wandering monks who preach to the faithful and convert heathens, particularly in regions that do not have a strong established church. Deans are ecclesiastic scholars who operate in the many religious universities that Koramia has recently built, and are generally at the forefront of spiritual belief in the nation. Chaplains are those individuals assigned to a specific noble or ruler for their personal use only: the hold services only for the noble and his family within a small temple constructed as part of the lord's castle or manor. Almoners are either wandering priests who tend to the poor and sick, or priests charged with the duty of giving out alms to those most in need, according to their needs. Vicars are generally those priests who oversee the financial affairs of a specific temple, and report directly to the Rector. Rectors are churchmen charged with the oversight of a Parish, a region of ecclesiastic organization that ranges between ten and thirty temples (though there is no specific regulation of how many temples a Rector may oversee). Above the Rector is the Bishop, who oversees the financial status of a Diocese, which is composed of two to twelve Parishes. They are also responsible for insuring that religious doctrine and interpretation from the Prelate reaches the faithful in their Diocese. An Archdiocese is composed of two or more Diocese, and Archbishops are charged with the financial and spiritual oversight of these regions. While Archdiocese often correspond with the various Earldoms of Koramia, they can and sometimes do organize themselves in a manner that is less political and more cultural in composition. Each Archbishop reports to the Prelate, who is based in Paeldain, Koramia's capital, and is considered to be the Archbishop of that city. The central difference between the Koramian system and the Imperial system is the belief that all priests, regardless of position, are equals in the eyes of Vortumnus. This is evident in the election of offices, personal choice in duty and position and ascension by consent of the faithful. The Prelate is first among equals, closest to Vortumnus. He is, in essence, an Archbishop, even though he must organize the entire nation's religious structure. He is also elevated to that position by an election of all of the nation's Archbishops. When a Prelate dies (which actually has not yet happened in Koramia's short history), the Archbishops assemble in Paeldain to elect one of their own as the new Archbishop of Paeldain. The same holds true when an Archbishop dies, although the Prelate may make a suggestion to the Bishops of an Archdiocese in which such an election must take place. Furthermore, an individual may choose his vocation… there are no examinations to determine what vocation they are best suited for. They may also change vocations at a whim, if they so choose; a Monk may elect to become a Cleric, who may later choose to become a Paladin. The Priests of individual temples are elected to their positions by the faithful, who are expected to pay for their upkeep, room and board. When a Priest dies, Priests who do not yet have a Parish travel to the area and are interviewed by the local secular lord and an assembly of lay citizens. The Bishop may, of course, offer a suggestion, but the choice is ultimately up to a popular vote. Each temple does have a Temple Priest (or Parish Priest), who is in charge of organizing the sermons given by himself and the other Priests of the temple, as well as religious holidays and functions; the Vicar handles the finances of the temple, and rarely gives sermons, though he is technically permitted to do so.

Koramian Hierarchy Table

Prelate
(Archbishop of Paeldain)
Archbishops
Bishops
Rectors
Temple Priests
Vicars
Priests, Monks, Clerics, Paladins, Friars, Deans, Chaplains, and Almoners
Acolytes
Aspirants
Followers, Adherents and Lay People

          Heightened contact between the Empire and Koramia has resulted in some cross-pollination of ideas, particularly in Narbonne. That latter nation has recently installed Archevêques (Archbishops in Narbonese) to oversee specific Archdiocèses, which are elected to their position by the Sacerdos of the Archdiocèses. This concept hasn't been received well by the Emperor, but he has not yet issued a formal position on the matter. Dissatisfaction with the concept of a secular ruler over religious matters has caused some friction within the Imperial church. It has not yet resulted in open religious rebellion, but many suggest that, without serious reform, such a rebellion is inevitable. If such a rebellion was to take place, it would most likely ignite in Narbonne, where concepts of religion, particularly concerning the Koramian Heresy, are extremely important.