Religions of Europe and The Church
Faith in the Middle Ages
Religion in the Middle Ages was a complicated and powerful force. The general populace accepted it as truth. God exists, Angels and Demons exist, and all of them are active in the world. Christianity is the primary, though certainly not only, religion in Europe in the time period of Shadow Accord.
Spread across Europe by the Holy Empire, Christianity is considered the primary religion in Europe under the command of Pope Innocent III. Christianity dominates Dark Ages life. For centuries the nations of Europe have given supplies, troops, and support to a Crusade to retake the Holy Land in the name of Jesus Christ. Life is full of suffering and monsters and God was someone who loved, or at least protected, the common man. The Catholic Church is the way for men to reach God.
Religion for the peasantry was a fairly simple affair. The Catholic church, from its inception, has held strongly to a "check off the boxes and you'll win the prize" mentality, and by-and-large the peasantry accepted this. Pray, go to church, confess your sins, all of these are necessary steps to reach heaven. Many individuals enacted these things on a daily basis. For more long term spiritual goals, the church provides them with the sacraments. Sacraments are a list of steps one must go through in life to be properly prepared for heaven. Starting with baptism shortly after birth, through confession and confirmation to marriage or taking holy orders, and finally to last rites, these are essential requirements for the soul in life to reach heaven. Missing any one of these steps would potentially bar one's soul from it's journey, leaving it lost to either Hell or to wander the land as a spirit.
At the same time as all of this, Europe is just beginning to separate the spiritual world from the secular one. For hundreds of years, the church has dominated the governance of European nations. Popes and Archbishops have made themselves necessary, for without their blessing a king cannot be crowned. At the same time, Kings have fought back, scrabbling for power within their own nations, often using armies (or the threat of armies) to force the church to bow to their will when necessary.
The King’s defiance lead to England being punished by the Pope with an Interdict. Pope Innocent III placed the kingdom of England under this interdict starting in 1208 after King John refused to accept the Pope's choice for Archbishop of Canterbury (he had a different, more loyal man in mind). An Interdict is basically the excommunication of a region. It suspends all official worship and withdraws the church's sacraments in that territory or country. As far as the Vatican is concerned, God is no longer watching over England. Since Sins are confessed and forgiven during the sacrament, many peasants believe their immortal souls are in danger because of the foolishness of the King. In response, the King has sent out guards to patrol the lands to handle any uprisings.
Even with the Interdict, the Church is still expanding it's influence in Europe. The first recorded witchcraft trial in England takes place in 1208. Gideon, alleged to be a sorcerer, is acquitted. Harmful sorcery was a crime punishable by a fine; consorting with demons was punishable by death.
Heresy becomes more widespread in the 1200s, especially in the places where orthodox Catholicism is not allowed to be practiced. A papal legate in Southern France charged in converting Cathar heretics (also known as Albigensians) to orthodox Catholicism was murdered in 1208. This sparks an outcry and, later this same year, a violent Crusade against the heretics in Southern France was called by Innocent III. In Beziers alone in 1209, at least 20,000 people were massacred.
Shadow Accord takes place in the wake of the 4th Crusade. In 1198, Pope Innocent III was elected to his position. From the outset, he made it clear that he intended a crusade during his papacy. Initially the kingoms of Europe ignored him, too busy fighting amongst themselves. Finally, in 1200 a group was gathered together, led by Count Boniface of Montserrat. In 1201, he negotiated a deal with Venice for ship transportation to Egypt (the intended destination of the crusaders). It would take a year for Venice to build and prepare the ships, so in 1202 the crusaders set out for Cairo, the center of the Muslim world at that time.
Things would soon turn disastrous for Christianity. Initially the Crusaders had requisitioned transport for an expected 33,000 soldiers but only fielded 12,000. Venice had spent a year preparing for the larger number, having halted the majority of their own commerce to produce this. The crusaders were unable to pay the amount the Venetians required. In recompense to Venice, at the behest of a deposed Byzantine prince who offered to repay what they owed, the crusaders sieged and sacked the city of Constantinople. Few of the crusaders made it to the Holy Land. Instead, Constantinople was heavily damaged, robbed of the majority of its art and money, and a vast number of its populace were killed. Pope Innocent railed against the crusaders for their actions, but by then it was too late. The schism between the Eastern Orthodox church and the Roman Catholic one was complete.
Given the recent timing of this crusade, it's not unheard of for characters in the game to have participated in this Crusade, or been affected in some way by the sacking and destruction of Constantinople. The majority of the crusaders were French, but individuals of every European nationality were involved in the act.
Catholic Church life - Life as a member of the clergy was complex and very structured. Orthodox Catholic prayers and holy texts are in Latin, and days are spent in contemplation, more prayer and service. Church member character concepts are highly regarded in Shadow Accord, but it is recommended that you do a bit of research to familiarize yourself with the expectations of a member of the cloth. You may also play a more heretical clergyman or a layman, but realize that too much heresy might get you killed.
- Judaism: See Judaism
- Islam - During the 13th century, the Gold Age of Islam had reached a crescendo. After many tenuous centuries, the sway of the Holy Land was beginning to lean in the direction of the followers of Muhammad. With the recent success at retaking Constantinople, utter defeat of the Crusaders was looking more and more likely. As you might imagine, Christians don't like Muslims very much and vice versa.
- Nordic Faith - While the reach of Christianity has penetrated as far as the frozen north, many in the Scandinavian wilds still pay homage to the Gods and Goddesses of their ancestors. The Norse world tree, Yggdrasil, is still strong as ever.
- Earth Religions - After centuries of invasion, conquest, and oppression many of the old religions of the Britain Isles are now lost to the ages. And yet.. whispers of sages, seers, and wise men with knowledge of the ancient lore are still said to practice the old ways and keep the stories. In the age of Crusades and Holy War, what once was considered holy is now considered witchcraft.