Throughout the games, there have repeatedly been various indications and eventually, undoubtable proof that the Septian Church has been around since long before it’s supposed first appearance at the end of the Dark Ages. This theory shows the various evidence for such and then speculates the about the event which caused the disappearance and possibly almost destroyed the Septian Church.
One of the most commonly brought up lore details is that the Septian Church’s appearance led to the end of the Dark Ages and the beginning of the Middle Ages. With as frequently as this is heard, it would be logical to assume that around S. 500 the church got founded, right? Well…if you look at various lines throughout all the games, as early as FC, you will notice something odd: Records of church activities predate that time period. In fact, you can trace them all the way back to the Great Collapse. Let’s first go through the evidence for this before discussing it’s possible implications and my personal theory on what happened to the church.
For the first piece of evidence, let’s start at the very beginning of the franchise. In FC, if you talk to the Grancel archbishop, at one point, he says the following line:
“This year, we celebrate the 1120th year of the Grancel Cathedral’s history.”
This brings up the question: If the Septian Church only appeared around S. 500, how can the cathedral be 1120 years old? Well, one possible explanation is simply, it was a cathedral for a different religion before then. Not exactly common, but not impossible, so that alone doesn’t prove much. The next piece of evidence is a line from Ein at the end of Third about Kevin’s title change:
“In the thousand years the Gralsritter has existed, that’s not something that has happened often.”
This means the Gralsritter were founded around S. 200. Again, suspicious since that’s before S. 500, but not conclusive. The Gralsritter could very well have been independent of the church at that point in time and only joined later. Therefore let’s fast forward a few games…all the way to Sen 3. There, we don’t only get another suspicious line, but outright confirmation that the church was around back then in Black Record 1: The Founding of Heimdallr. And just to make sure it’s clear, it’s said not once, but 3 times:
“Upon his coronation, members of the Septian Church were dispatched from Arteria to endorse the new ruler.”
“The people of Zemuria had lost the objects of their worship in the Great Collapse. However, the Church provided them a new way of connecting with Aidios”
“The cathedral was to be a bastion of faith and would serve as a site to crown future emperors, but it also held a far more significant role. Unbeknownst to the public, an artificial Primal Ground was created below the cathedral–a replica of the one that existed below Arteria.”
Black Record 1: The Founding of Heimdallr
From this final piece of evidence, we can see that the previous occurrences weren’t just coincidences or writing mistakes. Like many other suspicious lines, it was actually all along foreshadowing a future reveal: that the church was operating at the time of the Great Collapse. Now however, we have two conflicting pieces of information. On one hand, the church’s appearance in S.500 lead to the end of the Dark Age. On the other hand though, the church was already around at the time of the great collapse. I personally can only draw a single conclusion from those two contradicting statements: Something happened between S. 100 and S. 500 which forced the church to have to retire from the world stage, and likely, almost destroyed it.
The Light after the Great Collapse
This brings us to the following question: what happened to the church? Well, it’s likely not entirely unrelated to the Great Collapse. One popular theory is that the church possesses the Sept-Terrion of Time, and there are several pieces of evidence pointing towards it. One of such being that the Sept-Terrion of Time has a clock on it with 12 numbers…and the only other thing in Trails we know which comes in a dozen are the Dominions. As we know, during the Great Collapse, all the Sept-Terrions went rogue and caused a cataclysm which practically destroyed civilization in each country. However, despite that, Arteria seems to be fine and is even able to help other countries all across the world. That seems odd, doesn’t it?
Well, they didn’t avoid it. They just managed to suppress their sept-terrion and delay it. There is a decent chance of the original Primal Ground containing the Sept-Terrion of Time and we know they are supposed to suppress the power of the artifacts within them. However, maybe the methods by which they surpress them isn’t identical in all of them. Most Primal Grounds suppress them by absorbing their power. However, this power gets funneled to the original Primal Ground, likely through the septium veins as indicated by the 7 element coloured slots in the Grancel Primal Ground, and it sets up a barrier to restrain the Sept-Terrion of Time’s powers, similarly to how the device towers in Liberl isolated the Aureole. Eventually though, the artifacts in Arteria weren’t enough. This is around S. 80. Trying to keep the power of the Sept-Terrion of Time contained, they therefore rushed to build the Primal Grounds in other nations as well, such as Liberl and Erebonia, explaining why their cathedrals were built at around the same time and started gathering artifacts from all around the world.
But even that didn’t suffice. Most likely, someone hesitated in doing something important, which is the origin of the “A Brief Hesitation” line in the holy scriptures.
The Church’s disappearance
The rogue Sept-Terrion of Time was unleashed and the church collapsed, giving up most, if not all, functions and essentially disappearing from the world stage. This exact duration of this crisis is unknown, however we can speculate at what point the church figured out a plan to once again seal the Sept-Terrion of Time: In S. 200 with the formation of the gralsritter and the appearance of the dominions. They either split up its power, or at least a part of its power into the 12 Dominion Stigmas or were planning on using whatever powers the Stigmas to form a powerful seal around it. One thing which could indicate their function is similar to what the Primal Grounds previously did, is the shape of their Stigma. Their general design does seem to share similarities with the sign on the floor of the Grancel Primal Ground, possibly indicating a connection. Similar features can also be seen in Heimdallr’s Primal Ground, although there, the circles are red instead of septium coloured, likely due to the curse having taken over.
However, simply because they now had a method to combat the Sept-Terrion of Time’s powers doesn’t mean the situation was resolved instantly. The appearance of the stigma seems to be something outside human control, as shown with Kevin and Wazy(Gaius contradicts this, but will get to this later)–possibly even related to demons since they were both involved in their awakening. So while the church figured out how to combat the Sept-Terrion of Time…they still needed time to be able to execute their plans. During this time, the Sept-Terrion of Time could very well have tried spreading its influence outside of Arteria. One unexplained disaster during this time period is the appearance of the Dark Dragon in Heimdallr in S. ~270. Considering Time is often also associated with death, it’s necromantic abilities could suggest a connection to the Sept-Terrion of Time. Additionally, there is another tie to the church there: Argres, who was corrupted during the appearance of Zoro-Agrura was in Heimdallr’s Primal Ground. It’s presence there could indicate that Zoro-Agruga was in that location too at some point, since that could be a reason for how Argres ever got there, giving the dragon a direct connection to the Sept-Terrion of Time.
Therefore, we can probably say that the church managed to reseal the Sept-Terrion of Time around S.400. Following this, they rebuilt for a century after which they once again showed themselves to the world. But this time, not only to preach the word of Aidios, but also to keep suppressing the power of the Sept-Terrion of Time.
After the disaster
So, happy end I guess? Well…sadly not. Yes, the church managed to seal the Sept-Terrion of Time, but only temporarily once again. Around 50 years ago before the time of Sky FC, the seal was failing once more and they had to come up with a way to stop it from completely failing. For this, they hired Professor C. Epstein, letting him examine artifacts under their care and hope he comes up with alternatives. And that he did, with orbments. Why exactly he was chosen, we don’t know. However, one possibility is he somehow got into contact with the Outside, possibly due to Sept-Terrion of Time. All we know as of Sen 4 is that he was special in some way. It’s also not known why the seal would be failing. One reason for it could be because the 5th Dominion was missing. We know the position has been unfilled for several decades before Kevin came along, and with its absence ,the seal could have weakened, allowing the Sept-Terrion of Time to once again regain some power.
As for how exactly Epstein attempted to help stopping the seal from failing, it is possible he invented an orbment to allow the transfer of Stigmas to avoid this sort of issue from happening again in the future, or at least, becoming less likely, which would explain Gaius’ unusual way of obtaining his powers. Using that orbment, Barkhorn was able to transfer his Stigma to Gaius. This prolonged gap in the barrier still had severe consequences though. It started the Sept-Terrion of Time’s reawakening and even with the Gralsritter now full again, it can no longer be avoided. There could also still be a gap in it, with another Dominion missing, although this is unlikely considering this line by the fifth Anguis in The 3rd:
” …I imagine it was the work of a Dominion. Almost certainly the fifth–the position everyone previously believed to be vacant.”
Therefore, as time goes on, the Sept-Terrion of Time continues to get stronger, and likely when it fully awakens again, it will lead to the end of the world, as speculated by other theories.
However, just because the seal isn’t broken yet doesn’t mean it’s completely powerless. Just before Epstein could finish his research, the Sept-Terrion of Time helped something enter from the Outside: McBurn. As revealed in an interview with Kondo, he also appeared in Zemuria around 50 years before the start of the story, which if the Sept-Terrion of Time was particularly powerful due to the seal starting to fail, would make sense. While there isn’t definitive proof that it’s due to it, there is one line in Sen 4 by Toval in the true end quest about devils which could indicate it’s involvement:
“Researching this further, it appears that there is a strong chance a certain “something” is drawing these out, to itself. This entity would possess some kind of spiritual power to lure them to attempt to consume them and it is most likely a spiritual being connected to the Goddess herself.”
This could mean that the Twilight further weakened the barrier containing the Sept-Terrion, allowing it to let more things in from the outside as well as hint about how Arteria was destroyed in the past: The Sept-Terrion of Time let the 77 devils enter the city. This is how the church found out about them and why they are in the scriptures. We know Pleroma Grass, which was in the Apocrypha, was also a flower which existed during or before the time of the great collapse, so it’s not out of the question the content of other scriptures is similarly known due to events around the time of the Great Collapse. There is also a second piece of evidence which could point towards it: Anima’s goal in Third. Anima, just like it’s likely origin, the Sept-Terrion of Time, uses devils and demons to fight the party and has the ultimate goal of having them spread all over Zemuria. This could indicate that in the past, it didn’t only stop with the 77 devils occupying Arteria but also other creatures from Gehenna, explaining the Church’s knowledge about those. And only several centuries after Arteria was first occupied by demons and devils, by borrowing the power of their treasure or it’s minions, which turned into their greatest enemy did the Septian Church manage to recapture it and start rebuilding, which led to them in S.500, to once again, appear on the world stage.
Special thanks to the #kiseki-crack-theories channel on the discord for contributing ideas to this and especially sicengamble for proofreading it. Sen IV quotations are from Kitsune547’s spreadsheet. Since this was my first submitted theory, hope if was interesting to read and well understandable.