The Cult of the Morninglord (or History of the Church, Part One)

Starting a multi-post deep-dive into Barovian religion with an overview of the Morninglord might have been the smart approach, but I can’t say that much planning went into deciding to write these posts. Instead, this is not part one as I already started this research with a dive into St Andral, but there will hopefully be more on the Morninglord to follow, and who am I to pass up a chance to reference Mountain Goats deep cuts?

Any Realms-savvy dungeon master or player will recognize and connect the title and symbols of the Morninglord to Lathander, the Forgotten Realms’ god of the dawn, the god of beginnings, of spring, birth, and renewal (SCAG p. 32).

We’ve already learned how the Cult of the Morninglord (CotM) supplanted the worship of Andral in Barova. Andral’s worship had died out in the 4th century, Barovian Calendar, but the CotM would not arrive for at least another century.

The worship of the morninglord came from the confused memories of an outlander (i.e not from Barovia/Ravenloft) child saved from Strahd von Zarovich by the elf vampire Jander Sunstar.

We learn from the 3.5E Ravenloft Player’s Handbook (2005) that

The Cult of the Morninglord was born late in the fifth century, after the faith’s founder claimed that when he was a young boy, the Morninglord appeared to him in physical form and protected him from the roaming menaces of the Barovian night.

(p. 67)

This boy’s name and more of his history is detailed in the Ravenloft Gazetteer Vol 1.

One morning in 475 BC, a young outlander boy named Martyn Pelkar stumbled out of the Svalich Woods. Few could predict that the boy’s ramblings about his salvation at the hands of a “golden morning lord” would spawn a cult that somehow made inroads in the hearts of the naturally suspicions and cynical Baroivans.

Ravenloft Gazetteer Vol I, p. 18
An early symbol of the morning lord. A round sunlike symbol drawn on a stained and torn parchment resembling a styalized sun over a road.
The Symbol of the Morninglord, from the Ravenloft Player’s Handbook (3.5E, 2005)

The story seems to go that the boy was in fact saved by Jander Sunstar, the sun elf vampire featured in Vampire of the Mists— the story is not so explicitly told in any of the source books I read, but appears to happen in that novel per a citation in the page for the Morninglord on Mistipedia, a Ravenloft Wiki.

The mantle was eventually picked up from Martyn “the Mad” Pelkar by his first acolyte, Sasha Petrovich, and they gathered a congregation at the “Sanctuary of the Blessed Succor” in the Village of Barovia (Gazetteer I, p. 24). Sasha (aka Alexi) is another character featured in Vampire of the Mists.

The Gazetteer goes on to describe how the center of worship moved to Vallaki and then to Krezk forming the cult’s largest center of worship, the Sanctuary of First Light (what would become the Abbey of St. Markovia in 5E, yet another subject for another day).

The Gazetteer gives us the greatest picture of the worship of the Morninglord, so it is disappointing to find it out of print, even on the Dungeon Master’s Guild and Drive Through RPG, where many of the older Ravenloft books (including the Sword & Sorcery 3.5E Player’s Handbook) are available as PDF and/or for print-on-demand.

It seems poor Martyn combined his Lathander catechism with the sun-elf form of Sunstar to create a sort of bastardized, Ravenloft-specific variation to the Faerun god of the dawn. The promise of a salvation and the end of the darkness became a small beacon of hope for just enough Barovians that the cult was able to establish a foothold, and ultimately enough of a following in Barovia. The Ravenloft Player’s Handbook (3.5E) touches on the “Unspoken Agreement” between deities and the Dark Powers of Ravenloft, and how the absence (or at least distance) of deities can lead to “theological shifts” and divergence in the faith and tenants of a god’s followers between the material planes and the lands within the mists (p. 64).

Out-of-game, if product licensing had been a little different for Sword & Sorcery, the Player’s Handbook and Gazetteers might have been that much more explicit about names for the Ravenloft Pantheon— instead alluding to similar symbols and epithets without name-dropping a Forgotten Realms™ name like Bane or Lathander— an interesting sidestep also seen when comparing Critical Role’s 2017 Tal’Dorei Campaign Guide to the Wizards of the Coast-published Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount (2020).

There is more to the story presented in the Gazetteers that didn’t make it into Curse of Strahd that bears interest, including a “secret society” of undead hunters within the church known as The Dawnslayers, followers of Sasha Petrovich’s legacy dedicated to destroying undead, and vampires in particular (Gazetteer I, p. 24). The legacy of the Dawnslayers would make for an interesting chapter with a cleric or paladin of the Morninglord in Curse of Strahd, but I feel I may have missed the boat for that in my current campaign, as I don’t know that we will be returning to Krezk this late in the story, and I think I’d rather spent the time with the Keepers of the Feather and their worship of Andral.

I couldn’t find much more about The Morninglord (Church OR Cult) in the 2E “Red Box” source books or the later Domains of Dread, noting only that according to Domains and Denizens, “Barovians do not frequent their churches, for they feel that the gods have abandoned them” (p. 8). Both Domains of Dread and the 3.5E books also discuss the Cult of the Morninglord’s following among the Gundarakites, ethnic natives of Gundarak, a valley adjacent to Barovia that Strahd conquered following the Grand Conjunction (Domains of Dread, p. 59, Gazetteer I, p. 24). Because Gundarak, and really, any domain beyond Barovia, is excised from Curse of Strahd, that aspect of the church didn’t factor into my research, but might be an interesting thread to follow were one to expand Barovia from Curse of Strahd‘s three villages to a larger setting drawing from the previous editions.


Curse of Strahd (5E, 2016)
Domains of Dread (2E, 1997)
Domains and Denizens (“Red Box”, 2E, 1994)
Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount (2020)
“The Morninglord” Mistipeida: A Ravenloft Wiki. Accessed 2020-04-21.
Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide (5E, 2015)
Ravenloft Gazetteer Vol I (3.5E, 2002)
Ravenloft Player’s Handbook (3.5E, 2005)
Tal’Dorei Campaign Guide (2017)

The Church of the Morninglord: St Andral

With two clerics (one a cleric of The Morninglord) playing through Curse of Strahd, I find myself fielding a number of questions about the church’s locations and history, and trying to piece together the information as it comes. On a second pass through St Andral’s Church in Vallaki, our curious cleric was examining the empty reliquary under the alter. Father Lucian had disappeared that this point, but she asked if she (as a cleric of the morning lord) was familiar with who St. Andral was, and rolling well enough, I proceeded to tell her… well, I proceeded to panic, as I realized the book gives us next to nothing about St Andral.

What we know for sure:

I was shocked to realize the Curse of Strahd hardcover gives us nothing except the following:

  • St Andral’s bones rest beneath the alter in the church in Vallaki. We don’t have a map to go on, but we can assume the church is slightly larger and slightly grander than the church in Barovia, although the book tells us to re-use that map if needed.
  • St Andral’s remains are indeed blessed and hold have some level of sacred power, as the will hallow the church grounds when returned.

Given these limited details and the need to answer the question, I decided in the moment that St. Andral and Lugdana, the paladin who carried the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, were now the same person, and gave a brief bio she might have reasonably recalled with a high roll on her history check—

St Andral was a paladin in the early days of the church when is was known as “The Cult of the Morninglord”. The Holy Symbol of Ravenkind was delivered to her by an angel in the form of a raven, which she famously used to destroy a nest of vampires.

But What Else Do We Know?

It may be too late to incorporate all of these details into the canon established on the fly, but it’s always interesting to dive into the lore and see what else we can find in the annals of D&D history.

Fair Barovia

St. Andral’s Church and Father Lucian appear in Claudio Pozas’ Fair Barovia (4E, Dragon Magazine #207), but doesn’t give us much more in the way of new information— only:

The Morninglord was originally a religion brought to Barovia by traveling adventurers. In time, that religion was mixed with the traditional Barovian worship of hallowed saints of the past.

In addition to St. Andral, other Barovian saints include St. Ecaterine, St. Bogdan, and St. Markovia.

Fair Barovia, Dragon Magazine #207, p.51

For more of Fair Baroiva and its relationship to Curse of Strahd, I can’t recommend enough this excellent article from Powerscore RPG. Saints Ecaterine and Bogdan and their relics both appear in Expedition to Castle Ravenloft (3.5E) alongside St. Markovia.

The church (or cult) of the Morninglord deserves its own space in another post, but if we want to learn more about this “traditional Barovan worship”, we can look next to Sword & Sorcery’s Ravenloft Gazetteers for third edition.

The Church of Andral

The Church of Andral predates Sergei von Zarovich’s ill-fated wedding in 351 Barovian Calendar (BC), having been founded in 168 BC to worship a sun god known as Ahndrel or Eundrel. By the fourth century BC, the church had died out, eventually supplanted by the worship of The Morninglord (Ravenloft Gazetteer Vol 1, p. 16).

One option might be, perhaps this is a good reason nothing is known about St. Andral himself— the name remained in the recesses of the church history as the worship of the Morninglord became more established in Barovia (which only happened after the mists descended on the valley). Andral became forgotten, the god demoted to saint with no other miraculous events or valiant martyrdom attached to his name. The bones could belong to anyone, given power by others’ faith in their divinity.

One other fun fact I learned in this research that doesn’t have much bearing on our St Andral is that according to the same Gazetteer, the leader of The Keepers of the Black Feather, Keeva Sixtywinters is, in fact, a cleric of Andral, the last keeping the original faith alive (p. 38).


So with nothing else on St Andral, what else can we learn about Lugdana, the Paladin? Her only mention in Curse of Strahd is in the entry for the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind.

The Holy Symbol of Ravenkind is a unique holy symbol sacred to the good-hearted faithful of Barovia. It predates the establishment of any church in Barovia. According to legend, it was delivered to a paladin named Lugdana by a giant raven — or an angel in the form of a giant raven. Lugdana used the holy symbol to root out and destroy nests of vampires until her death. The high priests of Ravenloft kept and wore the holy symbol after Lugdana’s passing.

Curse of Strahd, p. 222

The holy symbol has its own place in Ravenloft’s history, but Lugdana appears previously in Expedition to Castle Ravenloft, which seems it be, like Curse of Strahd, a semi-reboot of Barovia stripped away from the second and third editions’ expansive Ravenloft settings. I couldn’t find mention of her in any of the 2e or 3e books.

Alongside much of the same information about the holy symbol, we learn “[Lugdana] was among the earliest settlers of the valley” (Expedition p. 214). Lugdana would later die battling a fiend named Chernovog (cue Mussorgsky) summoned by a band of witches at Lysaga Hill— a location that does not exist in Curse of Strahd, but perhaps could be combined with Yester Hill instead (Expedition p. 217).

Where to Go From Here

I’m keen to explore the “Church of Andral” aspect of the Barovian church and the Keepers of the Feather’s relationship with the “old ways” in our campaign, I think it would be an interesting place to go once the Martikovs learn the party has acquired the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind. We’ve only just learned the family’s secret and their relationship with the birds of the valley, and I’m sure the party will meet them again soon. As is often the case I wish I’d know just a bit more and had done this research before the questions came up, but many times we don’t quite know where the party will end up next and don’t anticipate exactly which clues and mysteries we need to have ready for them.


Curse of Strahd (5E, 2016)
Expedition to Castle Ravenloft (3.5E, 2006)
Fair Barovia (4E, Dragon Magazine #207, 2012)
Ravenloft Gazetteer Vol. 1 (3.5E, 2002)