What is it?
The Holy Collegium of Churches, better known simply as "The Collegium (coll-EE-jee-um), is a group made of representatives of the major churches and religious orders of Hesket. Its primary purpose is to perform coronations and to anoint those with High Justice. It is the organizational body of the various churches of Hesket, a "council of churches" if you will.
It anoints nobles, judges and sheriffs; tries to arrange for every village to have at least one priest/priestess serving it; coordinates between churches; and judges heresies when they arise. At times it has also acted as a form of international court between countries who are willing to agree to arbitration rather than go to war.
The Collegium consists of over four hundred members called Collegiates. The Collegium allots to various groups a number of seats, and the group then fills those seats as it sees fit. That is to say, the Collegium grants the seats to Church of Elune, not individual Elunians; the Church of Elune then names the Collegiates it wants to represent it. Collegiates must be members of the clergy of that group. Since it is the religious groups themselves who name the Collegiates, most Collegiates are powerful, important figures within their own church (and therefore not the kind of characters who would show up at most Quest events.)
Collegiates come from all the major churches of Hesket. The Collegium grants new seats to groups as religious inclinations change. For instance, Sarana is currently more popular than she was several hundred years ago; accordingly, the Collegium has noted the change in worship and granted more seats to Saranans.
Smaller religious groups and cults are often too small to warrant a Collegiate seat of their own. (There are, after all, only about four hundred spots for all seventeen churches in all of Hesket.) However, the Collegium still works with and for these groups at all costs. In turn, the groups listen to and acknowledge the Collegium, knowing that if and when their numbers surge they too will be granted a Collegiate seat. A Collegiate seat is a sign of great prestige, a mark that you've "made it", and to reject the Collegium is guarantee your sect's obscurity. (Therefore, smaller groups are not persecuted or hated; they work with and for the Collegium.)
The Collegium names some of its members as regional representatives. These positions are called Vicars of the Collegium. (Vicar means "person who represents", and is related to the word "vicarious".) Small nations such as Ragnorack, Valenne, and Tamplonia only warrant one Vicar, while Allondell has four Vicaries within it. (Delona, not properly a nation, has three: one in Kytos, Philiathos, one in Castagna, and one in Veneza.) The Vicar handles locals affairs and channels local interests in that region to the Collegium as a whole. Vicars are selected by the Collegium from its numbers.
Presiding over the Collegium is a figure known as the Presider. The Presider acts as facilitator and spokesperson. S/he is not "the Pope", since the Presider does not "rule" over the Collegium. Instead, the position of Presider is more like the Speaker of the House. The Presider is elected by the Collegium for a five-year term, but it is rare for a Presider to not be continually re-elected until death, infirmity, or resignation. The Presider must be a Collegiate, and moreover must be a Nennite priest (as Nen is chief of the gods.) The current Presider is Elaine of Ornach, an abbess from Cadfaigh and vicar for Dubraugh; she has held the post since 998.
The selection of a new Vicar (and, for that matter, the Presider) is an occasion of considerable politicking. When picking a new Vicar, the Collegium usually selects Collegiate who resides in that Vicary. It also takes patterns of local worship into account. (For instance, the Vicar of Tamplonia is inevitably an Elunian, and usually is the head of the Elunian church.) Vicars are usually chosen from among the clergy of the elder gods (Nen, Balthazar, Elune, Brinnig, Kyta, Zotra, Ubrialla), though there are exceptions.
Each Vicary has an Anointer, who is responsible for performing coronations, and for anointing nobles, judges and sheriffs within that Vicary with the right of High Justice. Since such a distinction can only be granted by a servant of the chief of the gods and judge of souls, the Anointer must be a Nennite. If the Vicar is a Nennite, s/he acts as the Anointer; otherwise, the Vicar must select a Nennite priest to fill the position. This person need not be a Collegiate, but often is.
If a kingdom has more than one Vicary, the Vicary in which the country's capital falls performs the royal coronation. Compare to England, where there are two archdioceses; the Archbishop of Canterbury (who presides over London) performs the coronation, not the more distant Archbishop of York.
The Collegium also serves a number of coordination roles. It deals with the representatives of the different churches to try to prevent holy days and festivals from being scheduled on top of one another. (While this is not a problem for the feast days that occur the same time every year, other holidays sometimes have this problem.) It also tries to make sure that each vicinity is being served by a church, chapel, or abbey of some kind. Villages that don't have their own priest and can't find one by themselves can apply to the Collegium (usually to the region's Vicar) who will arrange for one of the member churches to send a priest to the village. The Collegium also judges heresies, but given the nature of Hesketine worship these occur a lot less often than they did in Europe.
The Collegium also sometimes acts as a form of international court. If two kings have a disagreement and don't want to go to war over it, they sometimes agree to have it settled by a neutral representative of (or a vote of) the Collegium.
The authority of the Collegium is not recognized in Southern Hesket; this is the primary religious difference between the North and South. (See "Religion in the South".)
The Collegium was once a collection of the various religious leaders of the Sturian Empire. The Empire saw it fitting to have a central religious authority to be the spiritual version of the Imperial Senate. Despite Sturia's fall, the Collegium has remained the religious authority of the kingdoms of the North.
Since Sturia's destruction, the physical site of the Collegium moved several times before settling in its current locale in Tolbury, Allondell. The group meets in a large, ornate building called Collegium Hall.
The formal name of the Collegium is "the Holy Collegium of Churches". It is generally called just "the Collegium", but if there is confusion with educational institutions, the terms "Holy Collegium" and "Holy Collegiate" are acceptable.
The word "vicar" is used for that position because that person represents that area in the Collegium. Each Vicar speaks for that region. Thus, Vicars are termed representatives of the Collegium for a Vicary. That is, the Vicar of Tamplonia would be titled "Paul Carlo, Vicar of the Collegium for Terdosa."
Vicaries are designated by city, not by country, since some countries have more than one Vicary. Thus there is a Vicar for Mourange, rather than a Vicar for Roudoigne.
The Collegium's symbol is called the "cosmogram", for what it represents. The circle represents the whole universe, with the horizontal line as the world's horizon. Thus, the top half represents the sky, the heavens, and more loosely those worlds beyond (the hells not being explicitly "up"), while the bottom half represents the world. The symbol thus shows the heavens and earth, the divine and the mortal, conjoined.
Vicaries are granted by country or region. The larger the country's population, the more Vicaries it has. The major exception is Delona, which has more Vicars than its population warrants, due to its influence and its political division.
|Eyvia [inevitably a Balthazarian]|
|Cadfaigh||Dubraugh||Elaine of Ornach (Nennite Abbess)|
|Chardreau||Lorraux||Denis de Vesalle (Ubriallan Archbishop)|
|Delona||Kytos [capital of Philiathos -- serving Philiathos, Melonissos, Uffabria, and Vallino]||Stephanos of Kytos (Nennite Archbishop)||[the capital of Veneza -- serving Veneza, Crissimo, Brevano, Trenzano, and Giodonia]||[the capital of Castagna -- serving Castagna, Praterra, Roccatina, Alguria, Bonalba, Tregamo, and Massulia]|
|Ragnorack||Northhaven||Thomas of Northhaven (Balthazarian Archbishop)|
|Seiguntou||[technically served by the Vicar in Veneza]||--|
|Tamplonia||Terdosa [inevitably the Archpatriarch, the head of the Elunian church in Tamplonia]||Paul Carlo IV (Elunian Archbishop)|
|Valenne||Flerbourg [never an Elunian]||Clement of Flerbourg (Nennite Archbishop)|
Larger (e.g. Ubrialla) and more influential (e.g. Elunian) churches tend to have more seats than smaller (e.g. Alian) and less influential (e.g. Kintakan) churches. Kahla-Ran has no seats, since her church is tiny and underground, and since no civilized religious body wants a murderer among its ranks...
(Beyond that, there is no precise data.)
Collegiate seats are granted by church, not by geography, but the more populous and influential a country, the more likely it is to host Collegiates. For instance, Delona has more Collegiates than its size warrants, due to its influence, while Zdunarova has fewer, being farther from Hesket's center.
|Place|| approximate #|
Names of Known Collegiates(in addition to the Vicars listed under "Vicaries" above)
|Pilar de Eludoba||Perinnian||Archbishop||Eludoba, Iñarra|
|Lars Frederiksen||Balthazarian||Grand Commander, Hobbesines||(born in Kjolnir)|
|Giancarlo Giordano||Majeniran||Abbot||Loggia (in Delona)|
|Miguel de Melio||?||Bishop||Melio, Iñarra|
|Viktoria Pleneshovna||Rannashite||Knight Commander, Triumphites||(born in Zdunarova)|
|Quentin Rutherford||Ubriallan||Bishop||?, Allondell|
|Karl Sjoberg||Rannashite||Bishop||?, Kjolnir|
|Frederikke Skovgaard||Saranan||Bishop||?, Kjolnir|