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Imperial Cult

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Targetdrone.gif This article is about the Imperial Cult; for the novel by David Annandale, see Yarrick: Imperial Creed.
Symbol of the Imperial Cult[10]

The Imperial Cult, also called the Cult Imperialis in High Gothic, is the cult based on the worship of the Emperor of Mankind as Master, Defender and Father of Mankind, developed following his internment in the Golden Throne. In the 41st millennium the Imperial Cult has almost unrivalled power and influence within the Imperium. Heresy against it is punished severely. The religion is administered by the Ecclesiarchy.


The Imperial Cult is the Imperium's state religion, and in many ways the religion is the state itself; it binds humanity together in the service of the Emperor and the Imperium.[2] The principle tenets of the Imperial Creed are the persecution of mutants, the abhorrence of Xenos, and the worship of both the Emperor and Imperial ideals.[1b]

While many Space Marine Chapters follow their own cults,[18] or continue to observe a form of the older Imperial Truth, some do abide by the Imperial Cult and worship the Emperor as a god. These include the Black Templars[6], Fire Angels[8], Red Hunters[7], and Auric Paragons[11].


The Imperial Creed is highly flexible and is tailored by Missionaries to fit the native culture, religion, and practices of whatever world it exists upon. As such, practices adhered to on one world may be held as abhorrent on another. The Ministorum tolerates this vast range of practices and beliefs, as it would be impossible to maintain a complete standardization of the faith across the Imperium.

However, the Ecclesiarchy does enforce basic key tenets[3]:

  • The Emperor once walked among men, but He is, and always has been, a god.
  • The Emperor is the one true god, regardless of what past faiths any human may have worshipped.
  • To purge the heretic, beware the psyker and mutant, and abhor the alien.
  • Every human being has a place within the Emperor's divine order.
  • To unquestionably obey the authority of the Imperial government and one's superiors.

Another recurring theme is the notion of the End Times, which gained momentum towards the end of the 41st Millennium. Often tied to the notion of the End Times is a belief that the Emperor will rise from the Golden Throne and complete the work He began ten thousand years ago, delivering the faithful from the evils of the galaxy. While most view these as a time of deliverance, it is also believed that the Emperor will sit in judgment of all mankind, casting those lacking in faith into damnation.[3]

Theological Branches

Aside from the central tenets, there exists a massive body of both sanctioned and unsanctioned dogma which varies from sector to sector and is the subject of constant debate. Death cults such as The Moritat and Astral Knives[17a] are very different from groups like the Church of the Shrouded Emperor or the Lethean Revelation, yet all broadly worship the same deity.[3]

The subject of the afterlife is a regularly debated topic, with many teachings mentioning the form of an afterlife in which the faithful take their place beside the Emperor for eternity. However other elements of the Holy Synod maintain a different version of the afterlife, and the belief in an afterlife varies greatly depending on the culture of a planet.[3]

Known sub-cults


Main article: Imperial Truth

By M41, the ordinary Imperial citizen believes that the Emperor has always been venerated as an immortal and omnipotent god, but this is inaccurate. At the beginning of the Emperor's Great Crusade, there was no Ecclesiarchy; on the contrary, the Emperor had deliberately outlawed organised religion in any form, declaring it the source of much of the strife and ignorance that had prevented humanity from achieving its potential.[4a][14] The idea of worship was anathema to the Emperor's vision of a secular empire of man, ruled by reason and science. The official Imperial doctrine was that the Emperor was an extremely powerful being, the rightful ruler of all mankind, and the perfect image of humanity, but no matter how supreme, still a human being. This doctrine -which also denied the existence of Chaos- was called the "Imperial Truth".[4a][13]

During the Great Crusade however, many ordinary Imperial citizens found that the light of reason and truth brought by the Emperor was not enough, and they took to worshiping him as a deity. The Emperor himself did not wish to be considered a deity, but his deeds during the Great Crusade and the very fact of his existence - an immortal man, and the most powerful psyker in the history of the galaxy - gave rise to a cult, known as the Lectitio Divinitatus,[4b] based on a tome written by the Primarch Lorgar, postulating that the Emperor was in fact a divine being.[5] The early central figure of the Imperial Creed was the Remembrancer and later first Saint, Euphrati Keeler. Keeler along with the former Iterator Kyril Sindermann became early proponents of the Emperor's divinity and oversaw the spread of the Cult as the Heresy unfolded. By the time of the Siege of Terra, cults such as the Lightbearers[9] and Empire of Divine Valour had gained strength across the Imperium. However, the cults' growth did not go unopposed, and occasionally resulted in open war between cultists and supporters of the Imperial Truth even as the Horus Heresy raged, such as on Argarops.[12]

The Emperor became an object of general veneration following the Horus Heresy and his internment within the Golden Throne on Terra. Over the following decades many individual Imperial cults sprang up throughout the Imperium, with their central theme being the redemption of humanity through the Emperor's self-sacrifice. After a few hundred years, a single cult known as the Temple of the Saviour Emperor was formed from the unification of a number of smaller cults, which gradually absorbed the main body of believers. In M32, this cult became the official religion of the Imperium, gaining the title of Adeptus Ministorum. Remaining cults were persecuted and mostly destroyed.[1b]

The dominance of the Temple of the Saviour Emperor was broken during the Age of Apostasy in M36, when Sebastian Thor and his "Confederation of Light" reformed the Imperial Cult. After this point, the Ecclesiarchy took the form it would keep until M41. The Temple was subsequently declared heretical,[15] and its remaining followers were hunted just like other unorthodox cults. Despite the continued dominance of Thor's version of the Imperial Cult over the next millenia, minor Imperial cults would continue to rise and fall across the Imperium.[15][16]