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]
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 first known Space Marines who bore a resemblance to Chaplains were members of the XVIIth Legion, known as the Imperial Heralds. The Legion's 'heralds' wore black armour with a skull-faced helmet and a winged mace and delivered the Emperor's ultimatum to new worlds: submission or destruction.[5a] After the Primarch Lorgar joined the XVIIth, renaming them the Word Bearers, he created a role for spiritual advisors, referring to them as 'Chaplains', who were assigned to minister to their brothers' psychological needs.[2b] Like the heralds, these Chaplains carried a skull-faced helmet and a winged mace but initially wore the same colours as other Word Bearer Legionaries. They later repainted their armour black in remembrance of the ashes of Monarchia.
Similar positions also existed in other Legions, such as the Blood Angels Wardens, who served as the watchmen of the Blood Angels, serving as mentors and guides for the younger members of the Blood Angels, but also charged with upholding the laws of the IX Legion. These duties were varied, from offering a Captain advice on tactical doctrine, to leading a ceremony of remembrance for fallen Space Marines.[2a] Wardens also wore all-black armour and carried the Crozius Arcanum as a weapon.[2a] The Salamanders also had a body of chosen Legionaries who carried out the direct promulgation of the doctrines of Vulkan, shaped by the culture of Nocturne, called the 'Voices of Fire'.[5b] The Iron Hands' role of Iron Father, which combines the position of Chaplain and Techmarine was brought into the legion from an order of engineer-mystics who maintained Dark Age of Technology machinery on Medusa, following the re-discovery of Ferrus Manus.
After the Decree of Nikaea, Lorgar offered his Chaplains' services to the other Legions. These Chaplains travelled among the Legions to counsel former Librarians who felt uncomfortable at the loss of their psychic role, and ease them back into duty as ordinary Battle-Brothers. Many Primarchs accepted Lorgar's offer, the use of Chaplains spread to legions such as the Dark Angels, Emperor's Children, World Eaters, and the Death Guard . Other Primarchs such as Sanguinius declined, the duties being given to the already existing Wardens.
Responsibilities within a Chapter
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. 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. 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. 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]
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:
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. The Blood Angels' chaplains also share responsibility for their battle-brothers' spiritual health with the chapter's apothecaries, known as Sanguinary Priests.[Needs Citation]
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.
The Iron Hands use the specialised rank of Iron Father, combining the roles of Chaplain 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]
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]
The new generation of Space Marine, Primaris Space Marines, also utilize the rank of Chaplain. Besides their standard Crozius, Primaris Chaplains are frequently seen wielding an Absolvor Bolt Pistol.
Notable Space Marine Chaplains
- Asmodai of the Dark Angels;
- Astorath of the Blood Angels;
- Daenor of the Blood Angels;
- Ordamael of the Blood Angels;
- Grimaldus of the Black Templars;
- Lemartes of the Blood Angels;
- Lo Chang of the Imperial Fists;
- Ortan Cassius of the Ultramarines;
- Ulrik of the Space Wolves;
- Xavier of the Salamanders
- 1: Codex: Dark Angels (6th Edition), pg. 30
- 2: Fear to Tread (Novel) by James Swallow
- 3: The First Heretic (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, pg. 175
- 4: Distant Echoes of Old Night (Short Story) by Rob Sanders
- 5: The Horus Heresy Book Two - Massacre
- 6: Lost Sons (Short Story) by James Swallow
- 7: Clan Raukaan - A Codex: Space Marines Supplement - The Clan Companies
- 8: Imperial Armour Volume Ten - The Badab War - Part Two, pgs. 84-86
- 9: Black Crusade: Angel's Blade pg.105
- 10: Codex: Space Marines (8th Edition) pg.145
- Warhammer 40,000: Compendium, Chaplains & Commissars
- Codex: Space Marines (4th Edition), [Needs Citation]
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (3rd Edition, 2nd Codex), [Needs Citation]
- Index Astartes II, [Needs Citation]
- Index Astartes III, [Needs Citation]