The ChurchThe Church is a powerful but weakening organization within the Spice and Wolf universe. Although what religion the church practices is never explicitly mentioned, it is heavily implied that the institution is based on the Roman Catholic Church of the middle European ages. The connections to this tradition are made by the recognizable regalia worn by nuns, average priests as well as high-ranking churchmen. There is also a reference in the very first episode of a "Holy Father" as the Pope would be spoken of in our world. Furthermore, several apparently recognizable scriptures are quoted in a number of the anime episodes. On the other hand, there remains a strong ambiguity in what church is truly being portrayed in this world.
Not Always a MatchAlthough places of worship, in their architecture, are like Cathedrals with their high towers--as in our European tradition—the viewers' eyes never go to the top of those towers, and crosses are never shown. Moreover, neither the bishop seen above, nor the nun Merta, shown below, wear crosses but instead display what appears to be a hand-held scythe around their necks. Readers and viewers should remember a similar experiences in works of fantasy of institutions which call themselves "churches" but may, in fact, be very different from the institution of the church here in our reality. Such as in the case, for example, in The Golden Compass.
Great Power Which is Growing and is Usually OppressiveThe Church's influence in Lawrence's and Holo's world is vast and expanding; anything the Church says people must obey, even the king. It is also portrayed in a primarily negative manner. In the first episode of the anime, "Wolf and Best Clothes," Lawrence has a stiff conversation with a soldier who clearly, as also a member of the church (see illustration on right--note the symbole is not the cross), wants a heavy hand to brought down on the pagans living in nearby in Pasloe. The knight complains that the authorities, including the Holy Father, are choosing to do nothing about it. Lawrence keeps his conversation neutral but then makes his way on to Pasloe itself, which is in a happy mood of festival. (As Lawrence arrvies we hear lively music with flute and recorder). He meets friendly townspeople sharing drink as well as the pretty Cheo. It is only later that the viewer learns that the townspeople think of their "god" as a fun myth rather than a true deity. Still of the two, pagans come across as a lot more pleasant to be around than members of the church. The knight's comments also emphasize that in this world, the church is in the ascendency. It has the power to begin changing the map. Pagans live in many towns but it is the church which seems to be expanding.
Actual Beliefs?As to specific tenets of belief of the Church, not much is said. There is the expected disapproval of alternative faiths, such as paganism. In episoid two of the anime, "Wolf and Distant Past," viewers learn that the church believes one God created all that is, a belief which Holo finds silly. There is also the important concept of sexual morality and of marriage. Any system the Church views as heretical will have serious problems in the future, considering the various historical references the series make. This first became apparent during coin speculation/insider trading incident in which the Medio Trading Company kidnaps Holo and uses her as leverage to make Milone Trading Company look like heretics.
Shepherdesses and NunsThere are very few positive figures connected to the church. Nora Arendt can be looked upon as one since her role of growing up in convent annex, and her personality place her close to being a "novitiate." (almost a nun). However, by the time she encounters Lawrence and Holo, her skills in shepherding have brought her under suspicion by the very institution which should protect her and she, herself, longs to leave the control of the church. Still, she is apparently still a devout believer as is apparently Lawrence, himself (an interesting situation with a goddess as his business partner). See her entry on this wiki for the blessing Nora gives to Lawrence which gives some sense of how "nun-like" she remains even as a shepherd. The prayer us under "Skills." While showing the spiritual side of Nora the prayer also illustrates the ambiguity of the Church's beliefs. This quote is interesting. By the blessing of God in the heavens, By the protection of the spirits of the land, The word of God is carried on the wind, And the blessings of the spirits of the land Inhabit the very grass eaten by the lamb." This is a beutiful thing but it is certainly not Catholic-Christian or Jewish.
Neither faith speaks of communication with the spirits of wind or land in canonical texts. There is a long tradition of spirits in the Talmude, and as Jay Michaelson notes within in his online article: "The Talmud has a rich, though vague, demonology. But these are viewed as powers to control not to be communed with, Meanwhile in Christian texts Satan is, in fact, called the "prince of the power of the air" in Ephesians 2:2. This once again brings to light that the church within the world of Spice and Wolf has some fundamental differences from the spiritual beliefs of the Earthly institution here it resembles. It is especially interesting that within Nora's prayer there seems to be room in her conservative belief system for spirits of power--which is fortunate since Holo is standing right beside her (or drinking across her at table). Holo herself does not seem to be bond to even the term "god" to describe herself. As she tells Lawrence at one point "I am not so grand, not as a god. I am Holo, and Holo is all that I am." (Season 1, Episode 1)Getting back to the religious connection of shepherds to what many would recognize as Christianity, there is, of course, the fact that shepherds play a strong role even throughout Biblical narratives. King David's 23rd psalm, "All we like sheep have gone astray" (Isaiah 53:6) the sheperds who came to the manger (Luke 2:8-14), and even Christ's own claim as a "good sheperd" (John 10: 11-18) all illustrate the strong traditiononal, spiritual connection with this profession. Even the word "Pastor" which among protestants means the leader of a congregation comes from the same pastoral term of shepherd (see the range of definitions at theFree Dictionary).
However, it is the nun Merta, who works with the scribe Ligro as a librarian, who is both sweet and intelligent (and quite pretty--with eyes like Nora) who provides the one positive representative of this faith. Thus at the very end of the anime series in episodes 11 and 12 the viewers are introduced to a positive churchwoman, but she stands in contrast to the ecclesiastic political positioning going on in the Renos in which the merchant Eve finds herself dealing with corrupt and ambitious churchmen in the same episode.
- Ruvinheigen - a city run by the church