“Our faith wanted us to be one, but we have failed to live up to those expectations.”
- - Clericarch Telfar shortly before his untimely demise
The Church of Spode is the name most commonly used to refer to the massive, multicultural theocratic empire founded by the Radeons circa 100,000 years ago (other common names include the (Old) Holy Empire, the Vendespodian Church, and the Old Church). Based on the principles of the Path of Masaari, the most important of which postulated that divinity is to be found in reduction of entropy and chaos in the universe, the Church was at its prime one of the largest civilisations in the Gigaquadrant, with adherents in all major galaxies known at the time. However, the metropole of the Church was located not in one of these galaxies but rather in the voids between them, where the Radeon species and the Path of Masaari originated - a fact that the Clericarchs had long used to control intergalactic trade and grow rich from tariffs and duties.
Having reached its apex of power circa 40,000 years ago, the power of the Church waned slowly over the millenia, and by the time new superpowers like the Delpha Coalition of Planets took hold in the Gigaquadrant, it was little more than a motley collection of unruly satrapies that only paid lip service to Vendespode. Neverthless, the Church still played a major role in politics as a member of the Seven Starr Alliance and other international organisations, and was one of the most prominent combatants in the Tigris War under the last of its Clericarchs, Telfar Au'jahali - which ultimatly proved to be the Church's downfall.
The Church of Spode was born out of the reforming efforts of Seranai Neradis, the legendary first unifier of the Radeon species, that managed to breach the gap between the two great factions of ancient Vendespode, creating a state that satisfied both. The ancient monarchy of the Enaran Empire was preserved, albeit reformed, but was now kept in check by the Synedrion, an elected legislature, and the Conclave of priests.
The early days of Church colonisation of space were relatively stagnant. Of the few planets in the great voids - known as Endless Space today and as the Rifts to the Church - that Radeons called home, even fewer were even terraformable, let alone naturally capable to support life. Thus the Church's early colonies were little more than small mining and farming colonies that could never hope to secede from Vendespode. This situation, known as the First Stagnation, continued for millenia, until at least the Radeons learned, from reverse-engineering Grox ships, how to circumvent the gravitational pull of greater galaxies. Once that was achieved, Radeon ships became able not only to enter galaxies, but actually return from them.
The great multitude of planets ripe for settlement could not help but entice the Radeons to colonise this new uncharted frontier. However, the existence of non-hostile, non-artificial sentient life was a more concerning revelation. This discovery caused many arguments and disputes among the Masaari clergy, and the higher circles of Vendespode's society were torn apart. Some argued that aliens were savages blasphemous to Spode - as their lack of telepathy showed - while others stood for the equality of all sentient species. Eventually, cooler heads prevailed, and non-Radeons were deemed capable of enlightenment - under Radeon supervision, of course. Thus began the second colonisation era in the Church's history, much greater in scope than the first.
Driven by the belief that their mission was ordained by Spode, millions of Radeon missionaries and conquistadores swarmed into Plazith Rim, Andromeda, and other "star congregations", seeking either glory, wealth, or good karma for the afterlife. Some settled uninhabited worlds, some looked for other starfarers to trade with and perhaps convert, but the vast majority of colonists sought worlds with sapient, but not yet spacefaring species. These were very common in the Gigaquadrant at the time, and it was on these worlds, where civilisation was in its infancy, that Spodist doctrine was the most succesful. The missionaries would usually create a few settlements on the alien planet and help the locals develop, mediating conflicts and introducing new technology in exchange for natural resources.
Thus, as milenia passed, the Church came to constitute an immense intergalactic empire, with Vendespode at the top and millions of fledgeling worlds tithed by it. The Radeons from the Rifts, especially from the military and the clergy, eventually turned into quasi-feudal overlords that ruled over this domain, maintaining indirect control over the Church's many worlds by a combination of military force and spiritual authority. Clerics and the Dei'Ar would, on occasion, clash over primacy in the matters of state: sometimes the Conclave would come on top and rule on their own with the Clericarch as a figurehead, sometimes the Primarch would assume emergency power as a result of a military crisis, and the Church turned into a feudal stratocracy. Meanwhile, the rest of the worlds under the Clericarch continued paying tribute to both.
Eventually, the colonies of the Church had enough. Many of their oldest colonies, those that either had a Radeon majority or where once-primitive species had advanced to the point that they could stand on equal footing with Vendespode, no longer saw fit that the fate of their worlds was decided solely by a tiny minority of the faithful. On many worlds, heretical Spodist cults began to surface that rejected the rule of the clergy and called out for reform. The rebellion on Sanctuarium and the war with the Imperion Pan-Empire were the two great conflicts that broke the spine of Vendespode and weakened its grasp over its subjects, causing its great feudal domain to fragment. The influence of the Dei'Ar waned, and priests not from Vendespode were finally allowed to acquire high positions within the clergy: thus the two great pillars of the Clericarch's power were both brought down.
Thus the second expansion era came to and end, and the Church entered a period of slow yet steady decline - the Second Stagnation. Wealthy enough to ignore economical development and too arrogant to recognise the new growing superpowers like the Dracogonarious Empire and the Delpha Coalition of Planets, the Holy Empire eventually began dissolving, with more and more power given to exarchates and satrapies until they were, essentially, independent countries. Meanwhile, on Vendespode, more conservative circles came to power in the Conclave, stifling independent thought and scientific development in the Church and thus further exacerbating its decline. Though the people of the Church considered themselves prosperous, still rich from intergalactic trade, the spirit that fueled the bold expeditions and conquests of the Radeons of old was gone, and the new Clericarchs were little more than figureheads that, while opulently wealthy, had little control over the Church's politics.
The last attempt to recapture the old glory of the Church was tried by Jaharan ae-Zamarros, ardent revolutionary and fanatic turned dictator. Shortly after taking power on Vendespode, he began a ruthless and bloody crusade to retake all the former domains of the Church which were now independent or belonged to other nations, provoking a massive intergalactic war that ended in Jaharan's complete and utter defeat. The new Clericarch, Telfar au-Jahali, was forced to reform the Church from a colonial empire into an intergovernmental organisation where he had no actual power outside of the Rifts themselves, and renounced war as his sovereign right: the Dei'Ar Order and all other armies of the Church were either disbanded or severely downscaled.
This would be the Church's downfall. In a few centuries, the War of Ages began, the greatest conflict in the written history of the modern Gigaquadrant, and the disarmed, but still wealthy Church was one of the first targets for the Congregation. Though the last Primarch, Tadjamad Altheless, managed to organise a quite succesful resistance - known as the Masaari Crusade - that prevented the demon-worshippers from exterminating the Church's people completely, the Rifts were nevertheless devastated, and their inhabitants scattered across the universe.
The Divinarium, a modern state within the Pan-Andromedan Ecumene, was founded largely by Church refugees, has a similar government structure and claims to be its successor, but is fundamentally different from its predecessor. The spiritual heart of the new Holy Empire was not Vendespode, but Sanctuarium - a world once considered heretical - and the society built by it was much more regimented and not as strongly bound by superstition and tradition. Another claimant to the Old Church's legacy, the Dei'Ar Theocracy, existed during the Second Coming, but was eventually destroyed.
The Great Mirusian Church of Spode styled itself as the rebirth of the Old Church in Mirus, though with it's reformation into the religiously-tolerant Mirusian Theocratic Congregation, this claim has been rejected as outright heretical by many other Spodist groups. A fourth potential successor to the Church is the international Spodist alliance proposed by the Divinarium and the Grand Spodist Church, the Uniate League. However, unlike the Old Church, the League lacks both a single ruler and does not even aspire to full sovereignty: rather, it is an economical and cultural union operating by consensus of its members.
Society & CultureEdit
Ancient, diverse and archaic: these three words were used the most by contemporaries to refer to the Church of Spode. As a theocratic monarchy, it was one of the most conservative civilisations in the Gigaqudrant at its time: traditions and ceremonies lasting thousands of years were carefully preserved and social change, foreign influence was ruthlessly resisted, and the individual disregarded in favour of greater collectives. Clerics and laymen debated ceaselessly over the matters of faith and raised an uproar over every new imported book or holodrama and whether it was "moral" or not. Many visitors, especially from liberal societies, were said to be appaled at the copious amounts of taboos, unspoken interdictions and faux pas that pervaded the Church's culture, especially by its caste system. However, the veneer of piety of morality was only skin deep, and the veil of faith hid a seedy underworld as depraved as in other nations.
The Church's society was similar of course to the Divinarium of today, but was different in a number of key aspects. Unlike the modern Spodist state, almost completely Radeon and very monocultural, the Church was a motley collection of different cults, species and planets, all with their own cultures and their own traditions. Thus, what was acceptable on one world was very much unthinkable on others. The constant surveillance characteristic of the Divinarium was also likewise absent in the Old Church, with the exception of the notoriously totalitarian Sanctuarium, and overall freedom of expression was much more respected by Vendespode than by Crepusculum.
The Church of Spode, at its prime, incorporated countless species from all over the Gigaqudrant. Many of them were from pre-modern societies uplifted by Church colonisers, such as the near-human Nebi-Mu of Sanctuarium, while others came from conquered or peacefully converted starfaring empires - such as the Imperion Pan-Empire, annexed during the early Primarchate period. Many of these species would eventually become part of the Divinarium, while others would become part of other states.
The wide extent of the Church meant that its subjects were, culturally and genetically, incredibly diverse, and though the Radeons were technically the majority, they did not constitute even a half of its population. This diversity caused many to criticise the Church as a patchwork empire, where different species were brought together by force, having nothing in common but their religion. This was, to a point, true, as the eventual fracturing of the Church proved, but despite what others claimed the Church's species did consider themselves to be kin, united by the fraternity of faith.
The Church of Spode's government system was rather convoluted, archaiс and at times contradictory, owing to its traditionalism, old age and size. In essence, it was structured very similarily to the current government of the Divinarium. At the heart stood the Clericarch, a divine inviolable figure ordained to rule by Spode itself. The power of the Divine Throne was said to be traced back to the Divine Empresses of Enara and prophet Alkhear himself, to the very origins of the Radeon species.
Ironically, however, there was no real rule on how this ancient divine authority was transmitted. Sometimes, the Divine Throne became dynastic, given from parent to child; at times, the Dei'Ar would look for the Clericarch's reincarnation among young children and groom them for the throne. There were even a few cases of Clericarchs being democratically elected by Grand Collegia of the Laity, especially during civil wars and great uprisings. Most of the time, however, Clericarchs were appointed by the Conclave from the clergy (as it is customary today). To explain this discrepancy, the clergy of Spode created the idea of a divine mandate that Spode supposedly gave to whoever was worthy enough. Under the Clericarch there existed the positions of Lord Exarch, Primarch of the Dei'Ar and Autarch Supreme, as well as the Conclave and the Synedrion, much like in the modern Divinarium.
This is where the similarities end. The modern Divinarium rules through its draconian law, surveillance and constant propaganda; the Old Church's methods of governance were much more diverse. For the most part, it relied on indirect rule and soft power. Outside of the Rifts, secular and ecclesial viceroys sent from the capital were advisors rather than governors, and only served to provide counsel to the local rulers, who were de facto independent. However, all colony worlds paid tithes to the central government and adhered to federal laws; Vendespode could also intervene in the process of election or succession, though this was rather rare. Disobedient worlds were brought into the fold using diplomacy, covert actions by the Surveillant caste, the religious authority of the Clericarch, or military force.
These methods were very effective at the early days of the Church, when most of its vassals were pre-spacefaring societies who held the Radeons with superstitious awe, but as time went by, they came to fail. As such, by Telfar's rule, those Church worlds that actually remained loyal to the Clericarch became more enclosed and centralised, closer to a more conventional nation-state. This resulted in a number of centralising and modernising reforms by Telfar that paved way to the modern Divinarian government.
The Church was, at its highest point, easily one of the largest starfaring empires in written history, excluding precursors of course. Tens of millions of worlds swore fealty to the Clericarch from the distant Cyrandia Cluster to the northern reaches of Tigris, and not just in galaxies, but in the great voids between them, known as Rifts in the Church. The Rifts were the original homeland of the Radeon species, and the Church's cultural and spiritual heart, as well as the source of their power: control over them gave the Church the ability to regulate, and profit from, intergalactic trade. Meanwhile, the colonisation zones within galaxies provided the Church with resources and manpower enough to maintain their wealth. Most of its galactic colonies were located within the Milky Way, the jewel of the Vendespodian empire, a collection of enclaves spread over the Orion Spur, the Delpha Sector, and other regions of the galaxy.
However, the great size of the Church's empire also had downsides. Due to its great extent, and later on due to its weakening central authority, Vendespode could never fully control its many colonies. Most Church subjects, such as Sanctuarium, were de facto independent polities that merely swore fealty to the Clericarch and accepted them as their spiritual liege. By the Tigris War, the autonomy of these polities had become so wide that Telfar could only exercise power over the Rifts and a few distant colonies in the Milky Way.
The Church did not have an official capital, but its de facto seat of power was of course the Radeon homeworld, Vendespode, religiously significant and extremely wealthy due to taxation and intergalactic trade. However, it was not the most populated planet in the Church nor was it its uncontested economic center (in human terms, it would be better to compare Vendespode, to, say, Washington, Bonn or Brasilia rather than Moscow, Berlin or London), and it is often said that the Old Holy Empire had several capitals. The most prominent worlds in the Church are commonly referred to as the Heartworlds, known for their Classical Radessic names commonly translated into English using Latin: they include Vendespode itself, Sanctuarium, Excidium, headquarters of the Dei'Ar, Colloquium, and Imperium (or Imalith), homeworld of the Imperions.
The Church, even at its prime, lacked a single unified military. Its armies and fleets were supplied by various militia, regional armies and fleets, and various religious military orders, all of which answered to the Clericarch. The greatest and the most powerful force at their disposal had always been the Dei'Ar Order: a warrior cult of mystics hailing from the windswept world of Excidium, who sought to perfect their faith through martial discipline and nigh-perfect control over their emotions. The Order was extremely important in the Church's history and sometimes even assumed power over it, but was not "in charge"; the Order's Primarch could not issue commands directly to its other armies.
The Church's armies were always relatively small compared to its great size, and were further downsized after Jaharan's fall. As such, its forces were always spread thin, and its commanders developed their strategies around that. Quick, decisive strikes with overwhelming force were preferred, and direct combat and pitched battles avoided. Great emphasis was put on military intelligence, one of the most ancient and widespread in the universe at the time. These strategies were inherited in turn, albeit modified, by the Divinarium and the Mirusian Theocratic Congregation.
- Brotherhood of Spode
- Corgel Kingdom (status disputed)
- Imperion Pan Empire
- Nebi-Mu communities within the Orion League
- Qiran Primacy
- Unified Nations of Spode
- Seven Starr Alliance
- Onuris Alliance
- Delpha Coalition of Planets
- Defensive System's Bloc
- Grand Spodist Church (communion technically not estabilished due to Bunsen Spodism having developed independently from Vendespode, but friendship between two Spodist nations cemented by the Amiciana Concordat)
- Krassio Host
- Rambo Nation
- Core Federation
- Draconid Imperium
- Tybusen Intergalactic Allied Federation
- United Republic of Cyrannus
“I do not miss the old days.”
“Flawed and potentially very dangerous. They should be observed from a distance at most.”
- - Tarygan Tersly, prior to the Jaharani Crusades
“Should've made everyone a favour and remain stuck on their own damned homeworld. Nothing of value would be lost.”
- - Koluap
“BAK IN MA DAY DA HOLYRATS WAS AS STOOPID AS DEY IS TODAY IF NOT MOR”
- - Jol'kiar
“Vendespode and Quilyuon - by circumstance we were destined to grow up without knowledge of our fraternity, like brothers separated at birth. Yet, it is that calling of heaven that brought together our threads of fate on this day. Whether Masaari or Pazumiri - we are ALL Spodist on this blessed day.”
- - Divine Regent Alcazan II of the Grand Spodist Church, at the signing of the Amiciana Concordat
“You may speak of your patron and ethos in the streets, in cafes and lounges. I am sure your philosophies will find ears among those inspired or drawn by stories of a greater existence. But you do not DARE accuse the Lifefather - which though him my rule is confirmed - of being false to MY ears.”
- - Paragon Salakarrus V to the attending Church delegation immediately after Sazerai Iesua's abrupt execution
- The adjective for things related to the Church of Spode is Ecclesial or Church - e.g. Ecclesial Navy or Church worlds.
- The people that inhabit the Church are therefore referred to as Ecclesials, though this is rare.
Out of universeEdit
- The Church of Spode was theImperios's first fiction, and one of the first fictions in the modern Fiction Universe proper. It was created on December 27th, 2009, and its page was finally renovated on December 21st, 2016, almost seven years later.
- The greatest change in the Church's retcon was the removal of the Masaari Crusade as an independent entity. In the original 2010 story, the Church of Spode was desintegrated halfway through the War of Ages and was replaced by a wider alliance known as the Masaari Crusade. Nothing of the sort happens in the new canon, and the Masaari Crusade is instead an organisation connected to the Church.
- Provided you are not not of the faint of heart and are man enough to handle the writing of a 13-year old Russian who has not yet grasped the mysteries of English grammar, the original page is here.
- The Church of Spode is notorious for spawning one of the first religious and political controversies in the history of SporeWiki, albeit a fairly small one. Originally, the title of the Church's head of state was High Imam, which was deemed Islamophobic and changed first to High Patriarch and then to Lumivus. After the Church became defunct, the new term Clericarch was invented, which was then retroactively applied to its rulers as well.
- As one can deduce from the above statement, the main orginal inspiration for the Church of Spode was the Abbasid Caliphate, an Islamic theocratic caliphate that existed during the Middle Ages. The new canon also draws inspiration from the Holy Roman Empire and a few other European colonial empires, as well as from theocratic socieities all over the world.