Saturday, May 14, 2011

Saintly Saturday: St. Isidore the Martyr of Chios

St. Isidore, celebrated today, is credited with bringing Christianity to the Greek island of Chios, where his faith was made public to the commander of the Roman fleet under the Emperor Decius in the third century. When the saint refused to worship idols, he was beheaded.

His story reveals the value that Christians placed upon the bodies of the faithful in the ancient world. After his execution, the body of St. Isidore was shoved into a cistern and placed under guard. St. Myrope, a young Christian woman (celebrated on December 2), was willing to be tortured and killed in order to recover the body of St. Isidore.

The name Isidore in Greek means straight spear and reveals a bit about the saint and his occupation. The Orthodox Church celebrates a number of military saints and St. Isidore is one of them. He was an officer in the navy.

In my current campaign, all adventuring clerics are deacons, one of the three orders of ordination in the Church. This ordination happens prior to their adventuring career; however, recently I've been having second thoughts on this. Labyrinth Lord and 1ed + give clerics spells at first level. Despite the fact that the players in my current group would complain, I am coming around to prefer the OD&D and B/X version of cleric which does not get a spell until 2nd level. This transforms the cleric's first level of experience into a right of passage, where they prove themselves. This vision allows room for ordination to the adventuring deaconate to be delayed until clerics are due to be able to cast 3rd level.

This is all a round-about way of re-casting the military saint. I wouldn't blame anybody for seeing St. Isidore as a fighter or a even paladin; however, I would challenge this view and argue that the military saint is actually a cleric. Being a soldier explains the fighting ability and the proficiency with armor. Note that St. Isidore brings Christianity to the people of Chios — very cleric-like behavior. Finally, the OD&D and B/X vision of the cleric, with no spells at first level, leaves room for saints like Isidore to be seen as low-level, non-ordained clerics.


The Anchor of St. Sulita

This device appears to be a smooth stone weighing about 100 lbs., with two holes carved in it. It will radiate strongly of magic if detected for. Its efficacy will be revealed when a rope is threaded through the holes and it is used as an anchor. If the person throwing the anchor into the sea pictures a destination within one day's travel, the anchor will unerringly pull the ship to that destination; however, the path taken will always be a straight line. Therefore, any obstacles will affect the boat accordingly (it will be pulled ashore on an island, be torn apart by rocks, sunk by holes being torn in the bottom by coral reefs, etc.). The Anchor may be used in this way once per day.


  1. I think I'd have to be one of the ones to argue him as a Fighter rather than a Cleric. From what I can gather he was a member of the laity; more of what we would call a ministering professional these days (in contrast to the professional minister).

    Really, my main qualm with claiming him as a Cleric is that it seems to imply you cannot play a devoutly religious character without him/her being a Cleric (or possibly Paladin). I'm sure that's not what you are claiming, but I couldn't shake that implication.

    Also, just stumbled upon your blog today (link from Ravenous Role Playing) and am glad I did.

    Now, to get to reading some of the backlog. :P

  2. @Austin

    Thanks for dropping by, & I hope you continue to like what you find.

    I don't quibble with your argument; however, I have been increasingly fascinated by the idea of understanding low-level Clerics as something other than a member of an ordained order. Yes, St. Isidore was a layman, but if one understands that a Cleric isn't actually ordained until later in their career this makes it possible to see Isidore not only as a potential Fighter or Paladin, but also a Cleric.