As I continue to make my way through Final Fantasy 14, I’ve been taking a bunch of random notes about potential topics to write about on this site. A lot of them are just throw away lines that reminded me of some Catholic idea, but a few parts of the game inspired a large number of notes. In particular, I wrote down a lot about the first expansion, Final Fantasy 14: Heavensward due to its general aesthetics as well as the direction of the expansion’s story. So I decided today I would sit down and compare the Ishgardian Orthodox Church of Heavensward to the Catholic Church (major spoilers below!)
The Ishgardian Orthodox Church aesthetically is one of the closest I’ve seen to Catholicism in any video game. The actual religion itself gets almost no focus in the game at all (we know there is a goddess named Halone the Fury, there was reference to the 1000 year ongoing war with the dragons and that a teaching on equality that was controversial but that’s about it). That said, the look and feel of the religion is super Catholic. The main town of the expansion, Ishgard is basically all gothic architecture clearly inspired by the medieval Catholic buildings. For example, there is Saint Raymanaud’s Cathedral with its large stone walls and its bright stained glass windows
Another example is the first floor of the Vault, which is basically the equivalent of St. Peter’s Basilica in the game:
And from the outside, you can see the gothic influence as well
In addition, the music in all these areas sound extremely Catholic due to the prominence of the organ in the various songs (I highly recommend checking out the Heavensward soundtrack, with Solid, the Song of the Post, being one of my favorite songs on it). The church itself is set up hierarchically like the Catholic Church, with the Archbishop leading and with priests working “in the field” so to speak. The clergy are trained in the Scholasticate, which seems to be based on the early Catholic universities in the 13th century and similar to a modern seminary. The equivalent of the pope is Archbishop Thordan. Much like in the Papal States, the Archbishop is both the religious and civil ruler of Coerthas. He is elected by the clergy when the previous archbishop dies, but unlike Catholicism there doesn’t seem to be a group like the College of Cardinals set up for the election. His vestments look like they were taken straight from the pope and put on an elf:
Like in Catholicism, the clergy are supposed to be celibate but things don’t always work out that way. In fact, one of the main characters of the expansion is the illegitimate son of Archbishop Thordian, which is as scandalous in the game as it was when it happened in real life (look up Pope Alexander VI and Cesare Borgia if you are curious). So overall, the aesthetics and general organization of the Ishgardian Orthodox Church are extremely similar to Catholicism. With that being said, what are some differences?
While the aesthetics and organization of the Ishgardian Orthodox Church are extremely similar to Catholicism, there are some major differences in beliefs, two in particular. First, the church is extremely focused on the ends justifying the means. There are two big examples of this in the story. First, like many video game religions, a good chunk of it was made up to cover up some dark deeds in the past. In this case, it was that the cause of the thousand year war with the dragons was not the aggression of the dragons, but the murder of a dragon by the leader of Ishgard in order to steal the powerful eyes of the dragon. The church leaders since have kept this secret in order to maintain public order in the country and prevent the people from despairing over the revelation that they are fighting and dying for a bad cause. The second example is in the goal of Archbishop Thordan, who has himself and his personal guard turned into super powerful beings in order to crush anyone who would oppose him and create a forced peace using this power (which is why you have to fight him at the end of the expansion). As I’ve discussed before, the ends justifying the means goes against Catholic morality. You simply can’t do a bad action in order to produce a good outcome. The second major difference is related, namely the fact that a large chunk of the religion was made up to preserve order. At the end of the expansion this is revealed and the people of the church really have no idea what to do going forward. In fact, a sidequest chain that takes place in the Scholasticate deals with the fact that many people have begun to feel that if some of the scripture is false, why can’t the rest of it be as well? The situation isn’t really resolved by the time you move on to the second expansion. In contrast, Catholicism has always maintained that truth cannot contradict truth and as a result, if science goes against small t tradition (AKA something commonly believed but not required to be believed by the church), it concludes the small t tradition was wrong. This was, for example, why Galileo was asked to present his beliefs as a theory until more solid evidence could back it up (Galileo got more in trouble not for what he said but more the way he said it, but I’ll save the details of Galileo for another post). Another example is that when evolution became more widely supported, a literal interpretation of the beginning of Genesis became much less popular in favor of a more allegorical one (the allegorical reading didn’t come out of nowhere, going back at least to the time of St. Augustine in the 4th century since its mentioned in his Confessions, but it definitely became more common in the present as a result). All these examples show that while aesthetically the Ishgardian Orthodox Church is extremely Catholic, in its beliefs and legitimacy it really isn’t.
So there is an overview on the Ishgardian Orthodox Church from Final Fantasy 14: Heavensward and how it compares to Catholicism. I definitely recommend checking the expansion out if you are into MMOs, although you’ll have to get through the more generic base game to get to that point (which took me about a month). I’m still working my way though the rest of the game (I’m about a third of the way into the second expansion, Stormblood as I write this), so expect more FF14 posts in the future.
Song of the Post-
Final Fantasy 14: Heavensward