The central figure of the church is Avacyn herself, an archangel so pure and extremely powerful that she was able to contain Innistrad's darkness and give humans the faith of true eternal rest-in-peace.
Until recently, the presence of Avacyn was so decisive that faith in her gave real power to the clergy and other faithful, a power that pushed back creatures of evil. The blessed silver weapons could destroy the worst horrors and very powerful runes marked with her symbol protected entire villages. The effectiveness of the church was concrete and visible, a welcome weapon in a world of atrocities.
However, the Archangel Avacyn had not been seen in several seasons, and her absence was starting to be felt with the advancement of darkness. Since Avacyn had disappeared, the prayers were not enough to prevent terrible attacks of werewolves to remote villages. Sacred symbols were unable to stop the vampires from taking advantage of travelers passing through the mountains. The dead were not protected against tampering and resuscitation of the flesh ... alchemists, necromancers and ghoulcallers acted carelessly.
This changed upon Liliana Vess's arrival on Innistrad. She forced the cathar Thalia to destroy the silver Helavault, where Avacyn was held, in order to reach one of her personal enemies. Avacyn once again rose over the skies of Innistrad, and the magic of her runes was once again felt. It seemed that peace had returned...
Until Avacyn and her angels became corrupted. Convinced of the evil of humanity, they turned on those they had sworn to protect, in order to "purify" Innistrad. Her crusades blazed a bloody path across this world until she was murdered beneath one of her churches.
Church and State
In Innistrad, church and state are deeply interdependent; there is virtually no separation of the two.
Local governments rely on the power of the Church to keep order and maintain public safety. Often the rule of law is adjudicated by the prelature, lawyers and judges ordained by the Church. All education is handled by the Church, although different sects sometimes establish their own schools and training grounds. Except for merchants and artisans, all professions are part of the Church. Even merchants and artisans are governed by fellowships, which must be sanctioned by the Church.
Faith in the church of Avacyn actually works, but there are no formulas that are consistently successful. Saying the mystical words in the right combination will result in protective magic, but some days it works better than others. And sometimes the evil it's warding against is more powerful than other times. The unreliability of the wards and blessings has led to disagreements over dogma. Although there is still only one church, sects have emerged over disagreements about the right way to do things. The goal of the church is safety, not perfection. Humans want to live in reasonable safety until they die, and then they want to remain peacefully in their graves. Cremation is forbidden because it is believed to result in a restless, angry spirit.
In the Church of Avacyn, there is no conception of heaven and hell. The humans of Innistrad do not believe in a heavenly afterlife to reward their past deeds. And their equivalent of hell is a very literal thing: there are actual cracks in the ground where demons dwell. Avacyn is not expected to eliminate evil in the world or to create a perfect life for everyone. Instead, she is the font of safety and protection. She is the authority to whom the faithful must go before something bad happens, to help ward off those evils that have always been a part of the world.
The archangel Avacyn is the focal point of human worship. She is believed to be the source of all protective magic. It is thought that she controls the seasons and is the force that brings an end to the long and bleak Hunter's Moon. Adherents to Avacyn are called Avacynians, and their church is the Church of Avacyn, or the Avacynian Church.
The archangel Avacyn has a host of angels who serve her.
- The Flight of Goldnight — These angels are associated with the sun, in contrast with Avacyn herself. Once a year during the Harvest Moon season, the sun will not dip below the horizon for two full days, and during this time the moon isn't visible. Known as the Feast of Goldnight, this is the holiest day for the humans. It is the time when the Avacynian enchantments are strongest throughout Innistrad. This flight of soldier-angels lives on the Elgaud Grounds.
- The Flight of Alabaster — These angels personify the Blessed Sleep and are associated with the Hunter's Moon season. They provide magic that wards against the desecration of dead humans and lives in the lofts of Thraben Cathedral.
- The Flight of Herons — These are the angels of birth and purity and are associated with the New Moon season. Their magic is said to ward humans against harm in life (as opposed to the Alabaster host, which wards against harm in death).
- Lunarch — The head of the church. This is a position elected by the council of bishops. It used to be held by a man named Mikaeus, who was killed and turned into a zombie.
- Bishop — The highest order of clergy. They reside in the cathedral at Thraben as members of the Thraben Council, the governing body of the church. Each province has its own bishop, and a handful of other senior priests fill out the rest of the council.
- Mayor — The political leader of a parish. He or she has a mix of administrative and religious duties, but the day-to-day administration is left to the priests.
- Elder — A senior citizen. A council of elders sometimes replaces the mayor.
- Priest — Priests oversee the church and attend to parishioners' needs. They all use mana to weave spells, but with varying degrees of skill.
- Monk — These wandering priests are the lowest order of clergy. Some have been sanctioned by the church to seek out people living alone in the wilderness. But many are fanatics who are no longer formally part of the hierarchy, having said the wrong thing or enforced the wrong dogma and been cast out.
- Gavony Riders. The elite cavalry of Innistrad, extensively trained in mounted combat with swords and lances.
- Mausoleum guards. The rank-and-file soldiers of the cathars, wielding little magic but making up for it with their numbers.
- Midnight duelists. Soldiers that patrol the streets, particularly at night, on the lookout for thieves, vampires, and corpse traders.
- Moor chaplains. Battlefield faithful who wield magic and weapons with equal skill. Their magic focuses on healing and protection, so they don’t usually fight on the front lines.
- Gryffbond Order — Cathars of the Gryffbond Order, or simply the gryff-knights, are a type of cathar dedicated to mounted combat in the skies. Their gryffs seem naturally suited to mounted combat, as their agility and poise translate into a smooth but maneuverable ride. Gryff-knights are paired off one-to-one with their gryff companions and stay with that union until one of them dies.
- Inquisitors — Inquisitors are cathars who can be hired out to come to help a parish if they have a particular problem with vampires or devils.
- During Avacyn's absence, the inquisitors led a series of brutal forays into Kessig and the Gavony Moorland. They executed suspected lycanthropes with little or no proof and punished accused heretics in unsanctioned trials. With Avacyn's madness, this savage form of inquisition has become the norm, and inquisitors who still pry into dark mysteries have become a minority.
- Knight-Inquisitor of Saint Raban. Taking their name from the legendary investigator and slayer of werewolves, these cathars serve as inquisitors in the classic sense, investigating mysteries and secrets.
- Parish-blades — Cathars stationed in parishes serve as escorts along roads or protect the cathedral in Thraben. This is an ordained military force that assembles whenever the clergy demands.
- The Quiver of Kessig. An order split off from the parish-blades. Its members specialize in archery and long-range defense and often guard town walls and church roofs against spirits, vampires, specters, demons, and other flying attackers.
The Avacynian archmages are gifted spellcasters with the inborn ability to channel some of the divine power of the archangels. Each lineage of the archmages practices unique techniques passed down from master to student for generations, ultimately tracing back to the archangels and Avacyn herself.
- Spearsages. The archmages of Goldnight, use powerful and aggressive spells associated with the sun, channeling blinding rays of holy light and powerful prayers to bolster their allies’ speed and courage.
- Moonsages. The archmages of Alabaster, are concerned with preserving the Blessed Sleep, preventing humans from returning as zombies. They use preventative and warding spells, banishing the undead to the void and making sure graves remain sealed.
- Springsages. The archmages of Herons, which are healers who use their magic to aid individuals, whole villages, and even the land itself. They act much like wandering priests or monks, traveling the remote reaches to minister to the people, and heal the sick.
- Devisers — Architects and magical engineers.
- Lunar-smiths — Blessed weapons are an important part of Avacynian magic, and these clergy are trained in the art of weapon-making. Certain blessings must be said at certain times during the forging process to make a weapon magically effective against a particular foe. Silversmiths are particularly revered because of the difficulty in imbuing the silver with strong magic, especially anti-lycanthropic magic.
- Runechanters — Runechanters are a specialized branch of the clergy that specializes in engraving blessings on material objects, including weapons. Everything from swords to axes to children's toys has words written on it in an effort to protect its owner. The best runechanters can write so small that hundreds of these blessings can be squeezed into a small space.
After Lunarch Mikaeus died during the siege of Thraben, and his successor Macher was killed in the early days of Avacyn's madness, a Lunarch Council was established, made up of senior bishops of the church with a few cathar leaders in advisory positions. This council was exposed to be controlled by the Skirsdag.
Due to Nahiri's machinations, Avacyn and most other angels became insane and began killing the people of Innistrad. This lead to a mass crisis of faith and severe fragmentation of the church: a central branch that became a full-blown inquisition, and the Order of Saint Traft. The members of the inquisition, led by Seeta, were partly eldrazified and called themselves the 'sinpurged', claiming the transformation was the result of the sin being purged from their bodies.
- Arlinn Kord
- Mikaeus, the Lunarch
- Saint Traft
- Saint Trogan, the Slayer
- The three angelic sisters
- The Magic Creative Team (September 27, 2011). "A Planeswalker's Guide to Innistrad: Gavony and Humans". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Magic Creative Team (April 11, 2012). "Planeswalker's Guide to Avacyn Restored: Part 1". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- The Magic Creative Team (April 18, 2012). "Planeswalker's Guide to Avacyn Restored: Part 2". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Plane Shift Innistrad
- Ken Troop (March 9, 2016). "A Gaze Blank and Pitiless". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- James Wyatt (May 4, 2016). "The Lunarch Inquisition". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- James Wyatt (July 13, 2016). "Saint Traft and the Flight of Nightmares". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.