Saints are those mortals who, by the pronouncement of the Ecclesiarchy, have been elevated by the Emperor’s grace far above the bulk of humanity. They are exceptionally holy individuals, and their words and deeds are held to be the direct work of the Emperor himself. Throughout the ten thousand years of the Age of Imperium, millions of men and women have been recognized as saints, in many cases long after their death and only after decades of consideration.
Most are known and venerated only within a specific region, but some, such as Sebastian Thor himself, are known across the length and breadth of the Imperium. Men and women might be declared saints for all manner of deeds, but in most cases, they will have performed some great service to the Imperium and the Imperial Creed. In a galaxy riven by war, it should be little surprise that many were great warriors, often the leaders of massive crusades that conquered vast swathes of space or liberated human worlds enslaved by aliens or recidivists. Many were generals or admirals, while others were simple foot soldiers who by doing their duty turned the tide of battle and changed history.
Other saints were great teachers or orators, men or women who with a single word or missive could achieve what a million Imperial Guardsmen could not. The writers of the most learned of religious tracts are often made saints, lending even greater weight to teachings preached across countless planets.
Furthermore, it is common practice for Ecclesiarchs to be declared saints after their deaths, although the ‘beatification’ of less well-respected or beloved individuals may take decades or even centuries to come about. Many saints are regarded as intercessors, to whom prayers are addressed and offerings made that they might aid the faithful in some manner. It is held that the saint, being human but also close to the God-Emperor, might be able to petition the Emperor and bring about some tangible effect. Many saints come to be regarded as able to intercede on specific issues, such as to provide deliverance from aliens, safe passage across the warp, a successful crop, or a warrior’s true aim. Given that such a vast pantheon of saints exists, the matters on which they are said to be able to intercede are often extremely specialized. Some regiments of the Imperial Guard, for example, hold that there is a specific saint for every single one of the thousands of marks of standard-issue lasgun.
Besides this list, the loyal Primarchs are considered Imperial Saints. Macharius’s generals during the Macharian Crusade are considered “apostles” or Imperial Saints. Not every religion within the Imperium recognizes saints, but proscription of the various saints’ cults would be tantamount to proscribing the Imperial Cult itself, and that would be an act of rebellion.
The most important saints to the Imperial Guard are Ollanius Pius and Macharius.
St. Ollanius Pius
Many of the Imperium’s myriad institutions have their own special saints, individuals who are held as exemplars of a given group’s values. The scribes of the Administratum revere saints who exemplify exactitude and efficiency; the enforcers of the Adeptus Arbites venerate saints who pursued the guilty to the very ends of the galaxy. For the Imperial Guard, Ollanius Pius stands out above a multitude of warrior-saints.
Of this warrior, no facts are known for certain, and it may be that he never actually existed at all except as a conglomeration of the ideals and virtues that motivate the Imperial Guard. Legend states that Ollanius, a lowly soldier in the armies of the Emperor, found himself fighting near or alongside the Emperor himself, somehow intervened to protect the Emperor from a deadly blow delivered by a vile traitor, and was killed doing so. There are countless variations on this tale, and it is by no means accepted as canon throughout the Ministorum. In fact, other bodies have similar tales, including the Adeptus Astartes, who hold that the primarch of the Imperial Fists Chapter, Rogal Dorn, performed a similar service, if not as fatal, to the Emperor thousands of years ago.
While the true details of his life are unlikely ever to be known, the figure of Ollanius Pius is to be found in Imperial Guard shrines, texts, and banners across thousands of regiments. He serves as an example of duty and sacrifice, and by his death demonstrated that even the lowest-ranked soldier can serve side by side with the highest, and by his deeds turn the tide of history.
What is so special about Ollanius Pius? He is the quintessential everyman. He not only represents everything that is noble and heroic about the Imperial Guard. He is the epitome of the notion that even an everyman soldier with a lasgun can change the course of history, by simply being in the right place at the horrifically wrong time.
Remember, there is no great feat of combat prowess or genius attributed to Ollanius Pius. All he had was his faith and the bone, flesh, and muscle of his body to absorb the blow. The faith of a simple guardsman saved the life of the Emperor.
He may have bought the Emperor only a second of respite. But oh, what if every one of the trillions of citizens could buy one second of salvation for the Imperium with their sacrifice? It would be eternal peace.
Lord Commander Solar Macharius was widely regarded as the greatest Imperial Guard commander in Imperial history. His conquests (known as the Macharian Crusade) reached the edge of galactic space, bringing nearly a thousand worlds under Imperial control within only seven years of fighting. At the edge of the galaxy Macharius prepared to move onwards but his armies, never beaten by the enemy, wavered and crumbled at the prospect of exploring the psychic darkness at the galaxy’s edge. The conquests of Macharius came to an end. No man has ever conquered more worlds nor won so many battles, since the legendary days of the Great Crusade itself.
He was a ruthless leader, always pushing his men to more feats of daring and courage. Sometimes he would bombard planets into submission from orbit, and sometimes he would order an entire world’s population destroyed, but others he would allow to survive if they impressed him with their courage or resolve.
He was a very spiritual man, campaigning in the name of the Emperor and not just for his own selfish gain. He had consuming desires, such that they were his guiding force throughout the campaign. He was also followed by a trail of miracles, one such being that a bolter shell embedded in his chest but failed to detonate.
He commanded many forces and he had an equally notable General, Sejanus, who was always at his side. He was the one that told Macharius that his men would follow him no further, that Ultima Macharia was the end. They would not go into the Halo Zone, outside of the reach of the Astronomican. Macharius wept as he heard of his mens’ refusal to go on, tears of rage and of sorrow.
Macharius had two vessels as his flagships in the campaign. First, he used the Mars Class Battle Cruiser Pax Imperium, but when that was heavily damaged at the battle of Charaxdis, Macharius was convinced to move his flagship to the Emperor Class Battleship Lord of Light. Macharius always preferred speed and agility, but his generals would not let him move off the heavy ship. On Macharius’s death, the Lord of Light was decommissioned and placed in orbit above the shrine world of Macharia as a tribute in his honor.
Macharius was the second to hold the title of Lord Commander Solar. His brilliance as a general is further acknowledged as the Macharian Cross, awarded for innovative thinking in battle, is named after him.
Real Life Inspiration
Macharius is based on the historical figure of Alexander the Great, born in the year 356 BC; Macharius was born in 356.M41. The name of Macharius’s father, Pella, derives from Pella the capital of ancient Macedonia and the birthplace of Alexander.
Lesser patron saints of the Guard
- St. Angevin who conquered the Calixis Sector in the 39th millennium.
- St. Jerome the Pure who was martyred 888.M33. His host was defeated after challenging the then mortal Periclitor. Put to death after being forced to witness each of his followers eviscerated.
- St. Leonis the Blind, the missionary who was martyred after having his eyes removed while spreading the word of the Emperor across the wilder systems of the Scarus sector.
- St. Phistinius, the subject of the Imperial Proverb: And Saint Phistinius went unto the enemy unarmed and unarmored.