The Magisterium is the monotheistic religion of most Humans, Dwarves, and city Halflings. While it does acknowledge the existence of the gods from the Player’s Handbook, the Magisterium views them as servants of the Worldsmith, though they may grant aid much like saints. The Magisterium refers to these beings as “Patrons.”
The worship of the Worldsmith is the only way to access the Divine power source in Crucible.
The Magisterium is meant to have a very “middle ages church” feel. Great cathedrals and churches have been erected by the Magisterium, and city-dwelling races are either followers or keep their divergent beliefs quiet. The church elders are almost never the local lord or mayor, but is likewise almost always a powerful and respected figure in the city.
It is overall a force of good in the world, and teaches compassion and mercy while extolling the virtue of hard work and overcoming adversity. On paper, the church is extremely egalitarian. A noble and a peasant have the same chance of becoming a abbot or bishop. In practice, nobility that joins the church does have a leg-up, but even they do not truly get a free pass.
The Magisterium supplanted the worship of the polytheistic religion of the Old Ways.
The Magisterium traces it’s roots to the dwarvish kingdom of Araz-khact. The prophet Moradin did not receive divine knowledge directly, but through dwarven pragmatism and intelligence came to believe in a single Creator, one who was the ultimate craftsman, who had made the world for his own inscrutable purposes. The world was too consistent, he argued, to have been created collaboratively by this hodge-podge of deities worshiped by everyone else. He called this deity the Worldsmith, and over several centuries it spread throughout the Dwarven kingdom.
During the Seven Year Winter (see History), a silversmith named Justinia was apprenticing amon the dwarves, and was struck by the sensibility of it. She took the religion farther, though, and believed that the Worldsmith had made all of creation as a kind of crucible to test his followers. When she returned to her home city of Nerath in the second year of the Seven Year Winter, she found a people looking for answers. The priests’ usual prayers and exhortations did nothing to warm the world again, and the people despaired that their gods had forsaken them. Justinia had the answer. There is but one God, and he was angry. The Worldsmith, the one true Divinity, had created this world as a crucible for his people, to forge them through trials and tribulations into better people. Yet his creations had allowed themselves to be corrupted, to be ruled over by monstrous humanoids. The Worldsmith was angry.
Justinia’s beliefs spread, they were new and strange and something to grab hold of in those uncertain times. More pragmatically, they seemed to offer a solution to the crisis. In the sixth year of her teaching, what was left of Bael Turath’s army came to Nerath to suppress her followers, as they didn’t want the anti-tiefling rhetoric to spread any further. Justinia was arrested and publicly hung, drawn, and quartered – the punishment for high treason. It is said that throughout the entire process, she prayed to the Worldsmith not to hold the actions of the guards against humanity, but against their tiefling masters.
When her quartered body was put on display throughout the city, they became rallying cries for her followers. Sentiment with the tieflings was already at a low boil, and the public execution of Justinia became a flash point – the city became a mob. None from Bael Turath’s army left Nerath alive. This only increased Justinia’s stock in the eyes of the city, and arming themselves with the weapons of the fallen army, Justinia’s followers marched to the capital of Bael Turath and burned it to the ground. The next winter was mild, and the next summer was warm and wet again. It was seen as a sign from the divine, and belief in the Worldsmith was cemented in the hearts of her followers.
Justinia’s followers continued her work in Nerath, founding the Magisterium, the center for Justinian religious teaching. The Magisterium became a force to be reckoned with, and virtually controlled the local nobility. The looting of Bael Turath brought much wealth to Nerath and soon it was the dominant city in the region, eventually forging a nation and then a new empire. Though it never gained the fealty of the nonhuman races or quite the reach, as Bael Turath had, over the centuries that followed, Nerath was nevertheless the de facto power of Crucible for the next four centuries.
Through missionaries, the Magisterium exported their faith to the other races as well, converting dwarves and halflings that lived in the human cities. The dwarves were already receptive, having originated the belief in the Worldsmith and finding little to argue with regarding to miracle of the end of the Seven Year Winter coinciding with the destruction of Bael Turath. While some have accepted the authority of the Magisterium in Nerath, most dwarven worship remains independent. This causes some friction, but overall their religions are more similar than not, and there has never been any real conflict between the two.
The Magisterium’s holy symbol is a silver noose, for the hanging of Justinia. Dwarven worshipers of the Worldsmith more commonly use a hammer-and-anvil motiff (the Moradin holy symbol from the Player’s Handbook). He is also sometimes called the Maker, the Creator, the Divinity and the God. The Magisterium is also sometimes simply called “The Church.”
The Magisterium teaches that the world is designed to be a test, and overcoming the difficulties that the world presents shows the Worldsmith our worthiness. They believe that the Divinity only rarely intervenes directly in the day-to-day affairs of the Curcible, and the Magisterium does not recognize any miracles after the Seven Year Winter, over five centuries ago.
The Worldsmith has not left the world completely without aid, though. He also created the Patrons, powerful entities that oversee the world for him. In time past, people took these for Gods, but the Magisterium teaches that they are something like a cross between angels and saints – beings created by the Divinity, with specific duties to oversee for him. Most of the pious simply pray to the Divinity and often do not even know the names of the various Patrons, but it is not uncommon for someone to have a personal favorite patron (in game terms, those who adopt a patron may take the appropriate Channel Divinity feat).
However, followers are instructed not to pray directly to the patrons. Even a short thanks to Avandra for luck or to Erathis is dangerously close to crossing the line. Praying directly to the patrons smacks of the Old Ways.
The Magisterium had much the same structure as the Catholic church, with local abbots and priests that oversee cities, and bishops that oversee regions. These all report to cardinals. There is no central authority figure analogous to the Pope, however. Instead, the Curia Magisterium, or just “The Curia” is a council of Cardinals that guide the church.
In practice, Bishops and the Curia are now virtually powerless, however the church has retained connections to other cities even as the rest of Nerath crumbled.