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For the Paladin skill, see Sanctuary (skill).
For Diablo's refuge, see Chaos Sanctuary.
"This is the place we know as the mortal realm. This is our world. We must pause a moment to think upon this. Our world, unlike all the other worlds, was created by both angels and demons."
Diablo3worldmap

Map of Sanctuary after the destruction of Mount Arreat

Sanctuary, otherwise known as the Mortal Realm,[1] or the Realm of Mortals[2] is the primary setting for the Diablo series.

Lore[]

"The world around us is a vault of riches waiting to be plundered. Every creature, every plant, and every culture can serve us, willingly or not, in our goal to aid the Lords of the Burning Hells."

- Adria(src)

Geography[]

"This is Sanctuary. To protect it, you must cross many lands. Where forgotten evils linger. Yet you must go without fear. Into the heart of the unknown. This burden falls to us. A chance to fight the darkness. To ensure our home's survival."
Sanctuary

Map of Sanctuary before the destruction of the Worldstone

Sanctuary is a large world,[3] and a harsh, dark, and unforgiving one.[4] Its biomes range from frigid mountains to sand-swept canyons.[5] Filled with horrific monsters, one must be merciless towards their enemies if they are to survive in this world.[6] Even the wealthiest areas in Sanctuary are challenging to exist in.[7] As a land plagued by darkness, upholding a semblance of justice in Sanctuary is seemingly an impossible task.[8] Some of Hell's most dangerous creatures have made their way into this world.[9]

The forces that shape Sanctuary are unknown to most of its denizens.[10]

A number of focal points exist within Sanctuary; places that have been "hammered down," that hold Sanctuary's reality together. This is due to the nature of its creation by both angels and demons, who combined their powers into these focal points.[11] Similarly, sites of power exist across Sanctuary, and leylines transmit energy between these sites. The leylines drift, and are difficult to follow.[12] It is common for humans to erect shrines or altars on these sites, and while these structures come and go, the sites themselves remain.[13]

Sanctuary has seasons such as autumn and winter,[14] both of which occur late in Sanctuary's calendar year.[15] Harvest is carried out in the former, in order to survive the rigors of the latter. On the last day of harvest season, the wisest folk lock their doors, hang their wards, hide under their beds, and wait for dawn.[14][16] Winter can be harsh,[17] but those who survive the winter fever retain the strength of the madness it brings.[18] The closer the year moves to winter, the longer the nights become.[19]

Maps of Sanctuary depict two major landmasses, separated by the Twin Seas.[1] The eastern landmass is called Estuar,[20] otherwise known as the Eastern Continent.[7] This is boarded by the Sea of Light,[1] while the western landmass is bordered by the Great Sea.[21] To the north of both continents lies the Frozen Sea.[1] The seas of Sanctuary are vast[22] and volatile, and have claimed the lives of countless foolhardy adventurers.[23]

Sanctuary's landscape has been altered a lot over time,[24] especially due to the Eternal Conflict, the destruction of Mount Arreat being one of the more (in)famous examples.[25] During the Reign of Enmity, Helltides repeatedly morphed Sanctuary's landscape.[26]

Astro-geography[]

Star Map Puzzle

A star chart of Sanctuary

Sanctuary resides in a pocket dimension, separate from both Heaven and Hell.[1] The Priests of Rathma believe that Sanctuary lies upon the back of Trag'Oul,[27] while the Celestial Court holds that Sanctuary is a spherical world.[28] The world possesses a single sun,[29] a single moon[30] and beyond Sanctuary lie stars. Both the moon and stars can affect the practice of magic within Sanctuary.[28] Sanctuary has solstices and equinoxes, and the alignment of heavenly bodies beyond Sanctuary generate power due to the harmonic nature of Creation.[31] The moon sometimes moves in front of the sun, causing an eclipse.[32]

Sanctuary experiences an atmospheric phenomenon known as aurora borealis. Its endless shimmer, an untamable dance, is best admired from afar. For those who cross this unspoken boundary are upended by a most heinous curse.[33]

At times, over the centuries, Sanctuary and Hell touch in a manner that allows the summoning of demons into the mortal realm to be easier than it might otherwise be.[34] Similarly, the glory of the Heavens sometimes verges onto Sanctuary, turning hidden places into hallowed ground.[35]

Lands of the West[]

Aranoch lies on western shore of the Twin Seas, with the Tamoe Mountain Range separating it from the lands of the West. These lands are collectively known as the Western Kingdoms, and consist of Khanduras, Entsteig, and Westmarch.[1] Off the coast of Westmarch lies a series of islands, one of which is Greyhollow Island[36]. The north most island is Stormpoint.[37]

In the north of the western continent lies the Dreadlands, formerly known as the Northern Steppes. To the east of this realm lies Ivgorod, though as a country, these realm no longer exists bar a single city-state.[1]

South of the western continent lies the Skovos Isles, consisting of four main islands with the names of Philios, Skovos, Lycander, and Skartara.[1]

The northern Part of the ocean to the west of the western continent is the Forgotten Sea; and it is filled with surging tides and fog.[38]

Lands of the East[]

The eastern continent is biodiverse,[39] and prior to its collapse, was dominated by the empire of Kehjistan, which encompassed a full third of Sanctuary's eastern hemisphere.[40] The area covered by Kehjistan can broadly be defined by its northern desert and southern rainforests. To its north lies the Dry Steppes, and further still, Scosglen. Off Scosglen's western coast lies the island of Xiansai.

To Kehjistan's southwest lies the Torajan Jungles, and bordering the Twin Seas, the Marshland. To the far east lies the Swampland.[1]

Lands Unknown[]

Lands and countries are known to exist/have existed whose locations are unclear. These included the now-defunct Samuren Empire,[41] the nation of Wojahn,[42] the island nation of Uie,[43] and the Bakuli Jungle.[44]

History[]

"You don't get to make things right. This world isn't made for redemption."

Sanctuary has always been a deadly world—even before the coming of demons.[45] It possesses a bloody history,[46] filled with struggle and conflict. A number of its casualties have been lost to history.[7]

Origins[]

"Inarius and his new companions altered the frequency or dimensional alignment of the Worldstone, using its power to conceal it from the angels and demons still fighting the Eternal Conflict. They shifted the massive crystal into a pocket dimension, and there they shaped a garden paradise around it: a world of refuge they would call Sanctuary."

- The Books of Kalan (excerpt)(src)

InariusLilith2

Inarius and Lilith create Sanctuary

Sanctuary has its origins with Inarius, Lilith, and the renegade angels and demons who followed them, seeking an escape from the Eternal Conflict. They absconded with the Worldstone from the Pandemonium Fortress and shifted it into a pocket dimension. There, they used its extraordinary power to shape a new world. A refuge free from war, free from unending strife. A Sanctuary.[47]

The coupling of angels and demons resulted in the creation of the nephalem. The nephalem spread across Sanctuary, and their parents realized that their children were more powerful than they. This raised concerns among the renegades, who not only feared the nephalem's power in of itself, but the risk that their offspring might draw the attention of Heaven and Hell. Many of the renegades held the opinion that the nephalem be destroyed, while others believed their children should be spared. Inarius, troubled by the dissension, called for a period of reflection. A period that was broken by Lilith as, maddened by the threat of her children's extinction, turned on the renegade angels and demons.[1]

Lilith was defeated by Inarius, but not before she'd killed almost every angel and demon that had followed them. Enraged, Inarius still couldn't bring himself to slay Lilith, and thus banished her to the Void. Inarius then attuned the Worldstone to cause the powers of the nephalem to diminish over time. Thus led to the subsequent weakening of the nephalem and emergence of their descendants—humanity.[1]

The Sin War[]

"You are all deceived, my brothers. A new age has already begun. Can you not sense them? Ugly creatures, born in shadow. They feel terror, hatred, and the desire to destroy. Yes, but they are not ours yet. They will open their world to us very soon. An invitation we cannot refuse."

- Diablo(src)

Over the subsequent millennia, the nephalem faded from Sanctuary, becoming the origin of various myths. Humanity, however, spread across Sanctuary, ignorant of its origins. However, because of the actions of Jere Harash, Hell was made aware of the existence of the mortal realm. The Prime Evils, sensing the dormant power of the nephalem within these mortal beings, resolved to corrupt humanity to turn into a weapon against Heaven. To gain followers, the Triune was founded—a seemingly benevolent religion that was in reality a front for this darker purpose. The Triune spread in number and influence across Kehjan, with only its highest echelons knowing the truth behind the faith.[1]

Inarius, aware of what the Triune really was, and afraid of what would happen if Heaven discovered humanity's existence in the same way Hell had, formed the Cathedral of Light to counter the Triune's influence. Thus began the Sin War, as the two faiths warred to claim the hearts of humankind. This spiraled into open conflict as Lilith returned to Sanctuary, awakening the powers of the nephalem in a mortal named Uldyssian ul-Diomed. Lilith sought to rid Sanctuary of the influence of both Inarius and Hell, but she was willing to sacrifice as many lives as necessary to make that happen. After discovering Lilith's true nature, Uldyssian refused to be her pawn, and turned his wrath against both the Triune and Cathedral. The Sin War concluded with a three-way battle between Heaven, Hell, and Uldyssian's Edyrem, ending in Uldyssian's self-sacrifice.[1]

In the aftermath of the battle, a peace was brokered between Heaven and Hell. The memories of the Edyrem would be erased, and humanity would be free to chart its own destiny, be it towards the Light or Darkness. The Prime Evils however, had no intention of honoring the truce, and would continue their efforts to corrupt humanity.[1]

Freedom Imperfect[]

History marched on. The Mage Clan Wars ended the Age of Magic, ushering in the Age of Faith.[1] Notably, the events of the conflict 'stained' the fabric of Sanctuary, making it easier for demons to manifest within the mortal realm.[48] The Age of Faith would see the formation of Zakarum, though the teachings of Akarat flourished in obscurity for the next millennium.[49]

The Dark Exile likewise changed the fortunes of Sanctuary, and not for the better. In the time since the Sin War, the Prime Evils had continued to focus on subverting humanity to their side,[1] while the Lesser Evils believed that the Primes were afraid to continue the war with Heaven.[50] The result was a civil war in Hell, which saw the Prime Evils banished to Sanctuary. This led to Tyrael creating the Horadrim, which spent over a decade hunting down and imprisoning the three Primes. Before their capture, the Primes had spread terror, hatred, and destruction throughout humanity for years, and while all three were eventually imprisoned, this was a temporary victory, for Diablo, Mephisto, and Baal would all come to corrupt their jailers in time.[1] Furthermore, like with the Mage Clan Wars, the events of the Dark Exile negatively affected the very nature of the mortal realm. Unnatural and evil forced influenced most, if not all, of Sanctuary's native creatures to some degree.[51]

Following the sealing of the Primes, the Zakarum faith emerged into prominence. While the religion had been founded a millennium before, the conversion of Emperor Tassara of Kehjistan to the faith, and subsequent election of the first Que-Hegan, Zakarum was formally codified.[49] The subsequent Zakarum Crusade spread the faith to the far west, ensuring that few reigions of Sanctuary were untouched by the faith.[1] However, two centuries later, this was followed by the Zakarum Inquisition, which led to the suppression of other faiths and schisms within the church.[1]

Return of the Primes[]

The 1260s saw a series of cataclysmic events rock the mortal realm. By this point, Zakarum had been corrupted by Mephisto, who sent his servant, Lazarus, to awake Diablo in Tristram. This led to the Darkening of Tristram, which saw the deaths of King Leoric and Queen Asylla, the abduction of their son, Albrecht, and general calamity befalling the town. While Diablo was ultimately defeated by a trio of heroes, this was naught but a phyric victory. Diablo corrupted Aidan (the hero who had slain him), who, under Diablo's thrall, journeyed eastward in the guise of the Dark Wanderer.[1]

Under the guidance of Deckard Cain, a new group of heroes pursued the Wanderer, but were always one step behind. Baal was freed from his prison in Aranoch, and in Travincal, the three Primes were reunited for the first time in centuries. The heroes were forced to fight their way through Travincal, slay the members of the Zakarum High Council, and in so doing, topple Sanctuary's largest faith. Ultimately, Mephisto was slain in Travincal, and Diablo in Hell itself. Baal, however, remained at large, and mustered an army to march on Mount Arreat itself.[1]

Despite the efforts of the Barbarians, Sescheron fell to Baal's army, and Harrogath came under siege. The treachery of Nihlathak allowed Baal to enter Mount Arreat itself, and while the Lord of Destruction was slain by the heroes, this was not before Baal had corrupted the Worldstone. If nothing was done, Baal's destructive energies would corrupt all of humanity. Thus, Tyrael used El'druin to shatter the Worldstone. The resulting explosion devastated the Northern Steppes, turning it into the hellish, toxic landscape that would become known as the Dreadlands.[1]

Age of Unmaking[]

"A nightmare come to life. Sanctuary's unmaking is nearly upon us. As the armies of Hell breach our world, the Lord of Terror torments us with visions, crushing our spirits before corrupting our souls. Steel yourself. Do not let him shatter your resolve. Though Diablo assaults our minds with images of power pouring from his domain, he has also exposed the power hidden within. If there is any hope for Sanctuary at all, its fortunes are held in the hands of the fearless."

After the destruction of the Worldstone, blight began to overrun the world's oceans and forests, and a wasting sickness began to spread through its cities.[52] Where once the Worldstone had hid Sanctuary from Heaven and Hell, now the world was open to the eyes of angels and demons, and both stared intently at the mortal realm. The essence of Sanctuary itself and every person on it began to change. By this stage, human civilization was fragmented, with only a few functioning cities left on Sanctuary.[53]

Hell Rifts-cine

Hell Rifts open on Sanctuary, as its denizens are driven to madness

c. 1273, Diablo's growing influence warped sections of Sanctuary into nightmarish hellscapes.[54] Foreboding creept across the world as thousands found their dreams plagued by unexplained nightmares. The dread of the afflicted gave way to madness. Tales of self-mutilation and depraved crimes spread like silent fire. In shadowed places across the world, the air was rent as hellish maws[55][55] burst out of the world's topsoil.[54] As Diablo's emergence drew nigh, demons paved the way for his manifestation, running rampant across the mortal realm.[56]

The End of Days[]

After twenty years of relative calm, calamity once again befell Sanctuary. Azmodan and Belial, who had been enemies since the Dark Exile, both shared the same goal of subjugating humanity into their fold.[57] Belial came to impersonate Hakan II of Kehjistan, and Tyrael, having forsaken his immortality to aid humanity, descended to the mortal realm as the Fallen Star. There, he allied with a group of heroes, including the Nephalem and Leah, the ward of Deckard Cain.[47]

The heroes travelled to Caldeum where they allied with Adria. She helped them uncover the location of the Black Soulstone, which could trap multiple essences of both angels and demons, and permanently destroy them. Black Soulstone in hand, they confronted Belial and revealed his great deception. Defeating him, they sealed him inside the Black Soulstone, leaving Azmodan as the last Great Evil to be imprisoned.[47]

They didn't need to wait long, as Azmodan launched an invasion of Sanctuary, besieging the fortress of Bastion's Keep. After a titanic battle, Azmodan was defeated, and in turn imprisoned inside the Black Soulstone. However, it was at this point that Adria revealed her true colors as a servant of Diablo. Enacting a plan over 20 years in the making, Leah served as Diablo's host, leading the Lord of Terror to be reborn as a singular Prime Evil, incorporating all the essences of the Great Evils into a singular being.[47]

Ultimately, Diablo was defeated, but peace was not to last, as months later, Sanctuary was assaulted by the Reapers; a force of undead thralls and angels in service to Malthael. With the Great Evils defeated, Malthael reasoned that humanity was the last "demonic" force left in Creation, and thus, had to be eliminated.[58]

The Reapers assaulted numerous cities and populations.[59] Making matters worse, Malthael took the Black Soulstone for himself and used it to tear out the demonic essence of humanity across Sanctuary. Malthael was confronted by the Nephalem inside the Pandemonium Fortress, and in the ensuing battle, Malthael destroyed the Black Soulstone to take the essences of the Great Evils into himself. Even this was not enough to stop the Nephalem however, and the Angel of Death was defeated.[47] However, not only was Diablo freed by Malthael's death, but by this point, 50%[60] (or even 90%) of the human race having been killed.[61][61] Misery followed for mankind as religious schisms, war, and famine ravaged Sanctuary.[59]

The Great Enmity[]

Death-necro

The plight of mankind

After the defeat of Malthael, monsters became an issue all over Sanctuary. Scouts regularly reported to Tyrael on these events, so he could best send the Nephalem to where they were most needed. As time wore on, Tyrael began to realize that the tasks of the Nephalem were never-ending.[62]

Over the next five decades, Sanctuary became a bleak and shattered hellscape, bereft of hope and beset by demons. Chaos threatened to consume Sanctuary as evil and impiety continued to spread. Depraved demons and wildlife roamed the land unchecked, as terrified townsfolk huddled in dark corners, trying to survive one more day.[63] This period of time became known as "the Great Enmity."[64]

Demons gained control over areas of Sanctuary, the most afflicted being those subsumed by helltides.[65] Belial spread his falsehoods to make the mortal realm ever more fractious.[66]

In light of the power vacuum Malthael's actions had created, some rose up to attempt to fill the void, including the Zakarum church and a resurgent Temple of the Triune.[67] With the return of Lilith to Sanctuary, more demons rose from Hell to blight the mortal realm,[68] and a new wave of cultists and worshippers were spawned, but regardless of one's faith, all prayers remained unanswered.[63] Lilith herself began a brutal campaign to conquer the now ruined world.[69] The Fields of Hatred formed as a result of her presence.[65]

After Lilith's death, demons from the darkest reaches of Hell manifested within Sanctuary, ushering in a new era of death and wanton destruction.[70]

Trivia[]

"Sanctuary should always be items glittering in dark dungeons. Tales of powerful heroes standing against the onslaught of hell. Lands where trials, treasure, and terrible monsters lie around every corner, equal parts familiar and boundless in its possibilities."
WikiLogoSmall
This section contains facts and trivia relevant to this article.
Sanctuary-ruins

The ruins of Sanctuary

  • It has been joked that everything in Sanctuary (except cows) kills people.[71]
  • In comparison to the real-world, much of Sanctuary is comparable to the Medieval period.[72]
  • A map of Sanctuary is mounted on the wall at Blizzard's HQ.[73]
  • The original creation of Sanctuary and the initial period of peace has been referred to as (the equivalent of) Eden.[74]
  • Sanctuary has been referred to as appearing as a "pale red dot" to Heaven and Hell,[53] though it is unclear if this is a literal statement.
    • The term may be based off the Pale Blue Dot; a picture of Earth, and phrase used to describe Earth later popularized by Carl Sagan.
  • Sanctuary appears to possess a magnetic field, given how compasses operate in the setting.[75]

Development[]

  • The nature of the Diablo setting (dark fantasy) existed as far back as the original design document, though the name "Sanctuary" was not in use in this time. What was also pitched, but never implemented, was the idea of a "living fungus world."[76]
  • While developing Sanctuary, Blizzard Entertainment took a lot of inspiration from pop culture references. These came from comics, TV shows, movies, and especially roleplaying games.[77]

References[]

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Locations in the Diablo universe

Astral RealmBurning HellsDeluged PlaneEtherFractured PlaneHigh HeavensLimboMirrored WorldNephalem RiftsObliterated RealmPandemoniumRealm of the BanishedRealm of the DeadRealm of ShadowRealms of FateVoidWastelands

SanctuaryAncients' CradleAranochBakuli JungleBilefen (Valostre, defunct) • Cold Isles (Pelghain, defunct) • DreadlandsDry SteppesEastern SteppesFractured PeaksGreyhollow IslandHawezarIvgorod (defunct) • Kehjistan (defunct) • MarshlandNahantuSamauren Empire (defunct) • ScosglenSharval WildsShassar Sea (Fahiran Empire, defunct) • Shimmering TropicSkovos IslesStormpointUieWestern Kingdoms (EntsteigKhandurasWestmarch) • WojahnXiansai
Related — Towns

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