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Expedition: Saints and Sainthood

Tags: #Historical Figures 
  • January 16, 2018

    Expedition: The Saints and Sainthood

    In response to Duvain’s question I have decided to look into the saints of Tamriel, how they achieve this sainthood and who are they. I’ve rifled through many pages of Imperial Library and now I am bringing the truth of divinity to you.



    I would like to start right with something that is slightly complicated. I have started with the canonization of the real world, namely Christian belief, so I’ll quote Wiki here:

    Canonization is the act by which a Christian church declares that a person who has died was a saint, upon which declaration the person is included in the "canon", or list, of recognized saints. Originally, a person was recognized as a saint without any formal process.

    This implies that for one to become a saint it has to be after they die, most often as martyrs. Saint Alessia might fit into this category, or Saint Pelin maybe. But, I think that in Tamriel it’s not as simple as that, because there are Living Saints and I’m not talking about just Tribunal and their Saints. No, there are Living Saints even in the Nine Divines church, like Errandil for example.

    So yes, Living Saints. How are they canonized? Most of the times the canonization comes after a great deed done in the name of faith, or sometimes it’s divine intervention - and by divine I mean godly, not necessarily “Divine”.

    One of the best examples is Saint Jiub for example, who was canonized as a Saint after two things happened. He eradicated the cliff racers, which is a quite a huge thing for the people of Morrowind, and he was also directly saved by Vivec while doing his eradicating, as he portrays in his Opus.

    When I awoke, all I felt was my back on a cold stone floor. Every muscle in my body was on fire, and my vision was blurred. Slowly, I tried to climb to my feet. It took several agonizing minutes, but I finally managed to do it. As my eyes adjusted to the dim light of my new surroundings, I realized that I was standing before Lord Vivec himself. He was simply staring at me... floating above his throne and staring at me with his piercing eyes. When I began to prostrate myself as a sign of respect, he held up one of his hands as if to say it wasn't necessary. Was I dead? Was Lord Vivec pleased with me? Was he about to strike me down in anger for my somewhat sordid past?

    Suddenly I understood everything. Suddenly I realized that I was brought here for a reason. I should have died in those ash wastes, but Lord Vivec must have seen something inside me that he hadn't seen in millennia and decided to spare me from my fate.

    Thus began my ascent to Sainthood. Thus began the rise of Jiub!

    And that isn’t so different from the tale of Alessia, who was said to have Akatosh himself’s blessing when she raised her rebellion against Ayleids and won. So again, this has divine intervention and a great deed. Great deed indeed.

    But that doesn’t mean that martyrdom still doesn’t apply here. Martyrdom is very close to sainthood, as in the case of Saint Nerevar or Saint Pelin.

    Ages ago, Nerevar was the greatest Dunmer general, First Councilor, and companion of Vivec, Almalexia, and Sotha Sil, who, with the power of the great Ring of the Ancestors, One-Clan-Under-Moon-and-Star, united the Dunmer Houses to confront the evil Dwemer, the treacherous House Dagoth, and their Western allies at Red Mountain.

    By Providence, the faithless Dwemer were utterly destroyed, and their allies defeated, but Nerevar, mortally wounded in combat with the traitor Dagoth Ur, was driven from Red Mountain. Nerevar died not long after of his wounds, but he lived to see the birth of the Temple, and to bless the unity of the Dunmer into the safekeeping of Almsivi, the Temple, and all its communion of saints. - Saint Nerevar

    And the Gray Host turned as one and fell upon Pelin, fastening upon his veins. Then Pelin felt himself collapsing like a wine-sack at the harvest-festival, and knew that before the sergeant could gather enough soldiers he would be drained dry. So he prayed a mighty prayer, saying, "O Stendarr, God of Justice, fill me with an ocean of blood that I might beguile these daemons away from the gate but a few minutes more!"

    And then Pelin felt himself filled anew with blood, flowing from him in a very fountain, and the divine geyser of gore drew every bat-man within sight into a great feeding mound before the gate. - Martyrdom of Saint Pelin


    Interaction with Saints

    Now this ties into the second question and that is whether Saints have some kind of special power or not and it wouldn't be TES if the answer was clear.

    Let's look at the Tribunal Saints for example. We know that all throughout Vvardenfell are shrines dedicated to these saints and these shrines can provide blessings and boons to pilgrims and faithful. But question is whether these blessings come from the saints themselves or if it's distributed by Tribunal itselffor example.

    We know that faith in TES is a very powerful thing, very often shaping the world in a literal meaning. You might hear people praying to these Saints too, whispering silent prayers as “Felms protect” and such things, hoping these blessed ancestors would take notice and really protect them. So could these prayers, this belief really make the Saints capable of truly interacting with and blessing the followers of Tribunal?

    Let's look at the The Prayers of Baranat for example here:

    Baranat look a look at his sad, cut-rate iron blade, and prayed to the saints.

    Saint Veloth the Pilgrim appeared before Baranat in shining robes, and smiled upon him, “Baranat, put down your blade and I will make you swifter than bolt of lightning.”

    Baranat dropped his blade and ran at Vanis, moving so fast he didn't rustle a leaf with his pace. In a flash, Vanis was dead by Baranat's hands.

    This of course is a Fiction book, yet it doesn't change the fact that people are prone to turn to their revered ancestors, to their Saints and their gods, and TES is a world where the interactions between worshippers and worshipped is more than possible. If there were enough people believing into something precise, such as that when Nords invade Morrowind again Saint Felms the Bold would lend his strength to the Dunmer to repel the invaders, it could most likely happen. Just remember the prophecy of Nerevarine, which isn't that different from what I just suggested.

    Another thing to mention are the so called Relics of Saint Veloth, which are quite powerful artifacts on their own.

        Veloth's Judgment:

    Saint Veloth wielded this warhammer during the exodus from Summerset. Veloth saw fit to set aside this weapon when he vowed to turn his attention from war to the task of building a new home for the Chimer in Resdayn. Today, the Judgment resides in the Tribunal Temple and is said to have powers related to cleansing corrupted souls.

        The Tear of Saint Veloth:

    This radiant crystal is believed to be a tear shed by Veloth when he first laid eyes upon the land of Resdayn, the new homeland he had seen in his visions. According to the legend, the tear froze as it slid down Veloth's cheek. Kept by the monks of the monastery of Muth Gnarr, this crystal has great healing and restorative powers—provided the monks maintain a constant vigil and pattern of prayer.

        The Holy Vessel of Veloth:

    Used by Veloth to carry water to quench the thirst of his sick followers during the exodus, and then later to irrigate the young crops of the new homeland, the Holy Vessel now resides in the temple in Selfora.

        The Reliquary of Saint Veloth:

    The Reliquary that stands in the Shrine of Saint Veloth in Deshaan is not a relic, per se, but instead contains perhaps the most powerful and holy relics associated with Veloth—his skull and bones. The bones of the saint are said to have many magical properties, and pilgrims travel from across Morrowind to receive the saint's blessing. Legends claim that the most faithful sometimes receive visions of the saint while meditating and praying before the Reliquary.


    But the question I have to ask is whether the Relics held that power while Veloth was still alive or were infused with the power through stories and faith of Veloth's followers over the time.

    Now let's stray away from Tribunal and head towards Alessia and her Red Ruby. She made a pact with a dragon-god of time, but at her sides were the champions of Kyne and Shor (in a way) which in their own right were sort of Saints too. And one shouldn't be really surprised that if there was a shrine to Alessia somewhere it would respond to those truly faithful and bestow a blessing on them. Recall Remanada and King Hrol for example:

    And it was in this darkness that King Hrol set out from the lands beyond lost Twil with a sortie of questing knights numbered eighteen less one, all of them western sons and daughters. For Hrol had seen in his visions the snakes to come and sought to heal all the borders of his forebears. And to this host appeared at last a spirit who resembled none other than El-Estia, queen of ancienttimes, who bore in her left hand the dragonfire of the aka-tosh and in her right hand the jewels of the covenant and on her breast a wound that spilt void onto her mangled feet. And seeing El-Estia and Chim-el Adabal, Hrol and his knights wailed and set to their knees and prayed for all things to become as right. Unto them the spirit said, I am the healer of all men and the mother of dragons, but as you have run so many times from me so shall I run until you learn my pain, which renders you and all this land dead.

    So all in all, I shall leave the verdict to you all, to decide for yourself what you will believe in, whether Saints carry a power of faith or if the blessings come from somewhere, because in my opinion neither of those options is or can be wrong.


    The Saints Themselves

    Now, I've already named several of the Saints but let's name them properly.


    • Blessed Almalexia the Warden – patron of Healers and Teachers.

    • Lord Sotha Sil the Magus – patron of Artificers and Wizards.

    • Lord Vivec the Poet – patron of Artists and Rogues.

    • Nerevar the Captain – patron of Warriors and Statesmen.

    • Veloth the Pilgrim – patron of Outcasts, Spiritual Seekers.


    • Aralor the Penitent – patron of tanners and miners.

    • Delyn the Wise – patron of potters, glassblowers.

    • Felms the Bold – patron of butchers, fishmongers.

    • Jiub the Eradictor – the Eradicator of the Winged Menace.

    • Llothis the Pious – patron of tailors, dyers.

    • Rilms the Barefooted – patron of pilgrims, beggars.

    • Meris the Peacemaker – patron of farmers, laborers.

    • Olms the Just – patron of sailors, chandlers, clerks.

    • Roris the Martyr – patron of furnishers and caravaners.

    • Seryn the Merciful – patron of brewers, bakers, distillers.

    • Vorys the Immolant – patron saint of House Telvanni

    Best described in the Lives of the Saints, Saint Nerevar and Veloth the Pilgrim are the minor Saints of Tribunal faith, with the addition of Telvanni Saint Vorys the Immolant who is mentioned in Mottos of the Great Houses. Also, yes, I have just categorized Almalexia, Sotha Sil and Vivec as major Saints, because since the New Temple was established they were no longer recognized as gods, as explained in Reclamations.


    Imperial Saints:

    • Saint Alessia the Slave-Queen - blessed by Akatosh, leader of Slave Rebellion

    • Saint Kaladas - builder of Great Chapel of Zenithar, where he was also buried and his tomb served as some kind of entrance to a hiding place of Mace of Crusader


    Breton Saints:

    • Saint Ellenica, a saint of Arkay who had a holy prayer book and was buried in Rivenspire

    • Saint Marben, a saint of Arkay who's fingerbone was considered a holy relic

    • Saint Octavien, a saint of Arkay who was slain with a scythe by Daedra-worshipers

    • Saint Pelin – beadle of Stendarr who sacrificed himself to defend Bangkorai Garrison

    • Saint Stental – slayer of the demon of Overlook Hill

    All these Saints are mostly just mentioned in ESO, with the exception of Saint Pelin who I already talked about in this article. Saint Stental has a memorial near Wayrest which says:

    "The Saint Slays the Leaper"

    Finished this 10th day of Sun's Height in 2E 388 to honor Saint Stental, who slew the demon of Overlook Hill and saved the three Sisters of Kynareth from a terrible fate.


    Altmeri Saints:

    • Saint Errandil, a living saint of Arkay who resided in his Cyrodiil chapel

    • Saint Ohmandil, a saint who's circlet was considered a holy relic

    • Saint Terilde, a saint who's fingerbone was considered a holy relic

    Again, the first one is a living Saint of Arkay and the other two are only mentioned through the relics hunt quests, with nothing about the saints themselves.



    So my conclusion? It can't be denied that the power behind Saints is there. Maybe Sainthood actually isn't that far from apotheosis in TES, in a way that no Saint was born powerful, but either earned it or was granted with it. And with great power come great responsibilies.

  • Member
    January 17, 2018

    Nice stuff Karves, always a fascinating topic. I went into Clockwork City's Ayslum Sanctorium in a desire to meet Olms, Llothis and Felms, and also to try and gain a bit of insight into the metaphysics going on with matters saintly. Hard to concentrate on lore under the circumstances, but three things stood out for me.

    The first was a book describing Felm's loss of spiritual connection to the Tribunes which I think you've already read, the second was a certain realisation that, as ESO takes place before TES III, we have no way of knowing if the blessings we get when using a shrine to a saint are posthumous.

    It could be that after killing those three saints we do actually release them, and by that action they are able to grant us blessings when we return in TES III: Morrowind. It's an open question as to whether they granted blessings or the Tribiunal did on their behalf prior to the events of TES III because there are no shrines in ESO Morrowind. That said, there was ambiguity there at the end, too. Iirc, there is a dialogue option in which you can ask what becomes of them. The answer was something like, "what becomes of any soul once confined to a soul gem?"

    There was one last option occurring to me, and that was how the Clockwork City is a "recapitulation of Mundus." This restating of thematic elements may hold the key as to why Morrowind Saints provide blessings where other non-Dunmeri saints do not. I was left thinking that the blessings come from Sotha's Realm which is itself a fabrication of reality somewhat holding up the fabricated divinity of the Tribunal.

  • January 17, 2018

    Yes, the Saints in Clockwork City. That was something I left out of the article on purpose, hoping it would become a discussion in turn. Because I read the three sources on each Saint and in a way it left me with more questions than answers.

    Like for example: Let's say Seht snatches these Saints, who in theory still have their shrines in Morrowind, and forges them into hardcore robots. Are the shrines deaf to the worshippers now? Cause as you said, Felms lost the spiritual connection. So are the Tribunal followers experiencing a crisis of faith since three shrines are in theory deaf now? Also, another thing you mention.

    What if we kill these Robo-Saints? Well, in theory again, if they die, how different will be from the regural ancestor worship? I mean, you get to summon Veloth in ESO, right? So maybe here's the catch. Even after death, Saints still hold their mojo, being some sort of dead demi-gods maybe?

  • Member
    January 18, 2018

    This is amazing! I'm going to have to give it a second (and third read)... just fantastic :D

    It is also currently featured on the TV Twitter and Facebook pages as well :D