A Brief Description of the Church of Ilvia
The Church of Ilvia was founded in the year 99, almost a century after the war that ended in the destruction of the Kingdom of Ilvia. It was based largely upon the religion of the One Hundred, the Elves who had come to Ilvia in the year 41 to help rebuild. The One Hundred did not intend to bring religion to Ilvia, and they did not make a point of teaching their faith to the humans. But they were devout followers of Arva, and they were wise and charismatic people. Many humans were attracted to what they saw of the Arvan faith.
The Elves had no part in the founding of the Church, and indeed they saw the Church as a curious idea, a uniquely human institution. For the Elves, faith in Arva was an individual matter, more a philosophy (though a shared philosophy) than truly a religion. They were surprised to see the humans adopt their faith at all, and amused to see the humans turning it into a structured and hierarchical organization.
Over the years that followed, the Church grew in size and influence, becoming a presence throughout virtually all human-inhabited areas of Ilvia. Because of its size and influence, and its role as the only unifying force in northern Ilvia, it also became politicized. This aspect resulted in the Church's early adoption of an anti-magic policy, which did not have any basis in the Arvan faith as the Elves practiced it. Rather, it was the Church's concession to the political reality of the times: because magic had resulted in the destruction of the Ilvian Kingdom, popular sentiment was already strongly against magic.
Today the Church plays a quasi-governmental role in many Ilvian communities, while also serving as the main institution of learning and scholarship. Its followers remain almost exclusively human; half-Elves who live among humans also frequently join, and there have even been a few Dwarves who have found themselves attracted to the Arvan faith and the Church's comforting structure. Elves, however, continue to worship Arva in their own way, and while there are friendly relations between the Church of Ilvia and the Elves, the human and Elven cultures remain separate.
The holy symbol of the Church is a triangle surrounding a stylized rune derived from the initial letter of the name "Arva" as it is written in Elvish script.
Church teachings. The Church of Ilvia has no "holy book" in the usual sense; there is no body of writings based on revelations or miraculous manifestations of Arva. Because the One Hundred were very private people, and because they did not have any role in the creation of the Church, the humans who built the Church had to write their own "bible" based upon the faith they observed and copied from the Elves.
The chief document governing the Church is a short book called Principles of the Arvan Faith, generally referred to by Church people just as Principles. The book consists of a number of chapters, and it has been added to periodically (though not frequently) during the centuries since the Church was founded. The chapters are as follows:
- The first chapter of Principles is also the oldest; it lays out the Arvan philosophy, essentially the idea that learning and knowledge are themselves the path to true enlightenment. The book goes on to interpret this philosophy in the context of Ilvia, with particular emphasis on the fact that learning and knowledge are also the key to rebuilding Ilvian society. For the Ilvian Church, the Arvan faith is a matter not just of personal salvation, but of the salvation of Ilvia itself.
- The second chapter of the book, added a few years after the first was written, describes the structure and hierarchy of the Church itself. It establishes the ultimate authority of the First Prelate, who is elected by a Council of Elders. The Elders are themselves elected by the senior priests of the various Church institutions (churches, monasteries, abbeys, and so forth). It also describes the steps one must follow in order to become a priest of the Ilvian Church.
- The third chapter of Principles contains most of Church law -- general guidelines about conduct and behavior that all Church members are expected to follow. Because of the Church's quasi-governmental role in Ilvian society, this chapter is the closest thing Ilvia has to a code of laws, and most communities use the third chapter of Principles in exactly that way. Chapter Three has been amended and expanded over the years, and is primarily a product of the Church's political processes, rather than being derived in any way from the Arvan faith.
- The fourth chapter of Principles establishes the "magic taboo." The chapter consists of a series of philosophical arguments that attempt to justify the prohibition of magic based on Arvan doctrines. Essentially, the chapter begins with the premise that magic is destructive, citing the War as proof of this. From this basic premise, the chapter argues that magic can only lead to the corruption and obliteration of knowledge, and therefore it has no place in Ilvian society.
- The fifth and final chapter of Principles is actually a philosophy primer; the expectation is that any person who reads the book will get not only a grounding in Church history and doctrines, but also an introduction to principles of logic and reason. It is for this reason that Principles is always the first textbook received by any student at a Church of Ilvia school.
Church institutions. The Church operates a number of different kinds of establishments throughout Ilvia. In general, these fall into several categories:
In addition to the Darian Monastery, the city of Darian until recently also was the site of the Church's headquarters, where the First Prelate and the Council handed down decisions affecting the Church as a whole. In early 498, First Prelate Erul, who had served in that capacity for more than thirty years, passed away. After several months of deliberation, the Council elected a little-known Elder named Eulius to the post. In April of that year, Eulius issued a set of decrees that, among other things, relocated the Church headquarters to Alvera Island, located in Heyraud's Bay to the east of Darian. Since then, little has been heard from the Church's leadership.
- Churches. Most Ilvian communities have churches, although in some places the "church" may be nothing more than the home of the local priest. A small church will generally have only one priest who also works in some other occupation to support himself. A church in a larger community may have two or more priests, and if the congregation is large enough, the priests may be fully supported by the church.
- Monasteries. Monasteries are places for the study of the Arvan religion and the Church's history and doctrines. Many priests study at monasteries in order to prepare for a lifetime of service to the Church. The largest monastery is in Darian, and many of the priests throughout Ilvia studied there.
- Abbeys. Abbeys are the Church's centers of learning. The priests and other clerics at an abbey spend their time gathering, archiving, and sharing knowledge. Abbeys tend to have large libraries containing many ancient books, as well as priests who are knowledgeable about languages, history, science, astronomy, and just about any other field of study. Abbeys also operate schools for their communities, and study at an Ilvian Church abbey is effectively like going to a university.