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A Chaplain of the Dark Angels.[1]

Space Marine Chaplains are the spiritual leaders of Space Marine Chapters. Warrior-priests, they fight alongside their battle-brothers, chanting the Chapter's sacred battle creeds, and inspiring their brethren to greater feats of bravery. To enemies they appear as terrifying and sinister figures in black power armour and skull-visaged helmets.



Each Chapter has its own unique cult, which is often thousands of years old. As these cults often predate the rise of the Ecclesiarchy, the Chapter cults are not simply facets of the common Imperial Cult. While the Ecclesiarchy and its lay followers worship the Emperor of Mankind as a deity, several Chapter cults regard him as merely a brilliant and inspirational man, though with scarcely less reverence. As in all things, this view of the Emperor's divinity, or lack thereof, varies from Chapter to Chapter. The chapter's own Primarch is also a major part of the Chapter's specific cult, revered as much as the Emperor.[Needs Citation]

A formal sign of entente between the Ecclesiarchy and the Space Marines is the rosarius, a holy symbol, taking the form of a necklace, amulet or brooch which often displays the Imperial Eagle or the Crux Terminatus, or other shapes to suit the particular devotional qualities of the Chapter concerned (for example, the Space Wolves and their wolf iconography). Gifted to Space Marine Chaplains by the Ecclesiarchy, this blessing represents the brotherhood of the Imperial Faith and formally marks the continuance of religious concord between the two groups. In practice, though, the link between the organisations remains rather tenuous.[Needs Citation]

Responsibilities within a Chapter

A Chaplain of the Black Templars.

Chaplains are the most well-versed in the knowledge of the Chapter's cult. This knowledge is put to practical use as Chaplains are responsible for the spiritual health, discipline and faith of the Chapter brethren. The bond between Marines and their Chaplains is a strong one. Chaplains are present in a Marine's life from the moment he is chosen as a neophyte, presiding over their indoctrination as they progress toward becoming full battle-brothers.[Needs Citation]

Within a Chapter's fortress-monastery is the Reclusiam, a large chamber devoted to cult activities, and where the Chapter's holy relics and, sometimes, the body of its Primarch, are housed. The Chaplains lead their sermons from here, and rouse the Marines in their love of the Emperor. The Battle Barges and ships of the Chapter's fleet also include huge cathedrals in the heart of each ship, allowing the Space Marines to pray while away from the fortress. Chaplains always lead the Space Marines in prayer, but a Chaplain is not always needed for a Marine to pray.[Needs Citation]

Each Space Marine Company has its own Chaplain. At the headquarters level of the Chapter organization are Chaplains holding the ranks of Reclusiarch and Master of Sanctity, whose responsibilities extend to the Chapter as a whole.[Needs Citation]


The power armour suits worn by Chaplains are considered holy in themselves. Often they are hundreds, if not thousands, of years old.[Needs Citation]

A Chaplain's armour is highly stylised and archaic in appearance. Black is the colour associated with Chaplains, and most or all of their armour is painted in this colour. This tradition dates to the Great Crusade, where the Chaplains of the Word Bearers Legion repainted their armour black in in remembrance of the ashes of Monarchia.[3a]

Symbols such as skulls and Imperial eagles commonly adorn the armour, but Chapter-specific symbols are also used. The face plate or the entire helmet is traditionally skull-shaped. Skulls are also repeated throughout a Chaplain's armour - adorning an entire shoulder plate, the upper chest armour or the groin guard. One area of the armour, such as a shoulder guard, is always left in the Chapter colours, displaying the Chapter symbol.[Needs Citation]

Part of the Chaplain's formal regalia is the Crozius Arcanum, the Chaplain's staff of office. Used in chapter ceremonies and worship, many Chaplains take them into battle, symbolizing that battle is the highest ritual of the Chapter. The crozius is usually topped with an Imperial Eagle or winged skull. It incorporates a potent energy field, allowing it to be used as a weapon; one that will punch through armour easily, showing the power of faith.[Needs Citation]

The Rosarius that Chaplains wear around their neck incorporates a powerful force field generator, offering the bearer protection against weapons that even power armour would offer no hope of survival against. In light of this, the rosarius is sometimes referred to as a Chaplain's "soul armour."[Needs Citation]

Chapter Variations

A typical Space Marine Chaplain of the Aurora Chapter.

As each chapter has its own distinct cult, the specific roles of Chaplains can vary from Chapter to Chapter. The most notable differences in the roles of Chaplains of different Chapters are as follows:

Blood Angels

The Chaplains of the Blood Angels chapter constantly watch their brothers for the onset of the Black Rage. Only the Chaplains can communicate successfully with those unfortunates who have succumbed to the Rage and so lead them in battle as the Death Company, fearsome warriors whose demise is assured. They also care for those who completely succumb to the Red Thirst, and are rumoured to look after those who are locked away on their homeworld, Baal.[Needs Citation]

The Blood Angels' chaplains also share responsibility for their battle-brothers' spiritual health with the chapter's apothecaries, known as Sanguinary Priests.[Needs Citation]

Dark Angels

Although the Dark Angels have normal Chaplains, above the company level are specialised Chaplains known as Interrogator-Chaplains, who form part of the chapter's Inner Circle. Their primary task is hunting down the Fallen, their damned brethren, and forcing them to repent, which usually involves torture.[Needs Citation]

This highly confidential mission makes the Interrogator-Chaplains a secretive and somewhat sinister group. Once a member of the Fallen has been captured, it is the duty of the Interrogator-Chaplains to force the prisoner to confess and repent. Those who repent are spared further torture and receive a painless death. Those who hold to their innocence are exorcised of their sins through excruciation and death.[Needs Citation]


The Executioners assign three chaplains, instead of just one, to each company. Each trio of Chaplains is known as the Death Speakers and are charged with maintaining the roll of the dead, and ensuring order within the chapter.

Iron Hands

The Iron Hands use the specialised rank of Iron Father, combining the roles of Chaplain, Apothecary and Techmarine. Iron Fathers hold a particular reverence for the mechanical, and are rumoured to spend time on Mars as guests of the Adeptus Mechanicus during their training. It is said that they venerate the Machine God aspect of the Emperor ahead of any other version, which does not please the Ecclesiarchy at all. Due to this animosity between the Iron Hands and the Ecclesiarchy, the Iron Fathers are not issued with a rosarius and they must instead manufacture their own versions of the protective holy symbol.[Needs Citation]

Space Wolves

Within the Space Wolves, the Wolf Priests combine the roles of Chaplain and Apothecary. They minister to both the spiritual and physical well-being of their brethren, and are completely responsible for all parts of the recruitment and indoctrination of new Space Wolves. As a result, individual Wolf Priests can regularly be seen traveling across the surface of Fenris, watching the proud natives for those who show the potential to become one of the Imperium's mightiest warriors.[Needs Citation]

Traitor Legions

The Word Bearers Traitor Legion still make use of Chaplains in battle, spreading the twisted faith of Chaos rather than the Imperial Creed. Skilled and cunning orators, these champions - now known as Dark Apostles - can lead entire armies fearlessly to sacrifice their lives, or summon hordes of daemons to tear into the enemy. Their Crozii Arcanum have been defiled over the centuries, the resultant Accursed Crozius acting as weapon, shield and rallying point for the warp.[Needs Citation]


During the Great Crusade, the Emperor specifically outlawed religious worship of any kind, but several Space Marine Legions still employed spiritual advisors of some kind.

The Blood Angels employed Wardens, responsible for policing the behavior of the Legion, especially a possible relapse by the Angels' former Librarians, and also watching for the onset of the Red Thirst.[2a]

The Word Bearers' were titled as "Chaplains" or "Apostles". In the aftermath of the Council of Nikaea, Lorgar dispatched several of his chaplains to the other Legions, offering their help in easing former Librarians back into regular line duties.[2b]

After the outbreak of the Horus Heresy, the Death Guard continued to use Chaplains.[4]

Notable Space Marine Chaplains

Main article: List of Chaplains


See also



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