Ever since I finished Final Fantasy 14 last October, I’ve been struggling to come up with new ideas for this website. I’ve played a lot of games since then, but most of them either didn’t have any obvious relation to Catholicism or were gameplay focused (so there was nothing to write about). That was until I played through Ys IX: Monstrum Nox. Like most Falcom games, there was a church standing in for Catholicism and like modern Ys games, there was a lot of inspiration from European history. So today I’m going to talk about religion in Ys 9 and the Hundred Years’ War.
There are two religions in Ys 9. First, there is the Hieroglyph Church, a stand in for the Catholic Church, with the standard hierarchy of priests and bishops, a big gothic cathedral, support for the poor and even a military religious order called the Hieroglyph Knights to protect the city (kind of like the Knights Templar were in Jerusalem after the First Crusade).
Second, there is the old Nors religion, a stand-in for paganism in general but Norse mythology in particular (with Grimnir and Luki taking the place of Odin and Loki).
In the game, Gllia (basically France) followed the Nors religion in the past but switched to the Hieroglyph Church after being conquered by the Romun Empire. In fact, one character suggests that the church itself is just there to politically unify the country and pacify the conquered Gllians. But how does this compare to reality? First of all, when the Roman Empire was still conquering, the unifying political religion was the cult of the emperor. In fact, a large part of why Catholicism was constantly persecuted was precisely because it wouldn’t submit to this cult, as worship is for God alone. This additionally ties into the whole idea of religious indifferentism you find throughout the Ys games, this one in particular. In these games, most religions have a basis in reality (with the possible exception of the Hieroglyph Church), with Adol getting involved with the gods of a region’s religion in a given game. Off the top of my head, Ys 7, 8 and 9 all deal with a different religion that is true (in 9’s case, the Nors gods existed in the past but died off around 500 years ago). In a world like this where all religions are true, it makes sense to suggest that one is not better than another and that people shouldn’t try to convert others to their religion. In reality, however, only Catholicism is true. As a result, Catholics should actively be trying to convince people to convert to Catholicism and not just let them continue in the error of their false religion (on top of being told to do so directly by Jesus in the Gospels). This is why, for example, the Spanish explorers of the 1500s included religious who worked to convert the natives of whatever land they were in. This idea that one should convert people to Catholicism isn’t very popular in the modern political landscape, but it is no less true now than it was back then. So while the game does have some superficial aspects of religion based in reality, it doesn’t line up with the real world in a deeper sense.
Next, I want to discuss the Hundred Years’ War. The political landscape of the world in Ys 9 is that of Europe around the 1500s, with the exception of Rome and Carthage being new and at the height of their power. Centuries before the events of the game was an event called the Hundred Years’ War between Gllia and Britai.
During this war, Gllia was almost conquered by Britai before a girl named Rosvita (Saint Rosvita in the game’s present) led a counterattack that started driving them off. At some point she was captured and executed as a heretic, but Gllia had recovered enough to finish driving off Britai. If this story sounds familiar, it’s because it is inspired by the real Hundred Years’ War between England and France in the 1300s and 1400s.
The war was basically a war of succession where the King of England claimed to be the successor to the Kingdom of France, whereas the French nobles claimed someone else. England invaded and actually came close to controlling France, although over time as leaders died and were replaced they eventually were driven off. One of the most famous stories of this war is that of St. Joan of Arc, a girl called by God to fight off the English. She was much more successful than anyone predicted and started the French success that would eventually lead to their victory. At some point she was captured by the English and executed as a heretic, although since she is venerated as a saint now we would say that was incorrect and wrong to do (most likely it was politically motivated). The game actually follows these events fairly closely, with Britai, Gllia and Rosvita standing in for England, France and St. Joan of Arc. The biggest difference is that in the game, the war is really a proxy war for the Nors religion between Luki’s Britai and Grimnir’s Gllia (with the two gods dying in the war), with the Hieroglyph Church showing up hundreds of years later with the Romun invasion. This difference leaves out probably the most interesting religious point of the real Hundred Years’ War as pointed out by Warren Carroll in his History of Christendom series- the story of St. Joan of Arc is as far as we know the only instance of God calling a Catholic to fight Catholics. We can only speculate on why that is, with the only good guess based on known history is the fact that England eventually became Anglican (and thus a conquered France would have as well). If you are interested in more info on the war, check out volume 3 of the aforementioned History of Christendom called The Glory of Christendom.
So there is a brief discussion on religion in Ys 9, religion indifferentism and the Hundred Years’ War. It seems like out of all Japanese developers I’m aware of, Falcom does the best with religion in their games (although they did a better job in the older games- compare the extremely Catholic Septian Church of Trails in the Sky to the much less so Septian Church of Trails of Cold Steel). Of the Ys series, 7, 8 and 9 have the most religion and are each mostly stand alone, so if you are curious pick one up and try it out! Not only are they fun, but you might get hints of the truth in there too.
Song of the Post-
Thus Spoke an Alchemist
Ys IX: Monstrum Nox