Battle Sisters

Sisters of Battle

In the fictional universe of Warhammer 40,000, the Sisters of Battle, also known as the Orders Militant of the Adepta Sororitas (often mislabeled as Adeptus Sororitas), are the female warriors belonging to the Ecclesiarchy, the religious arm of the Imperial government also known as the Adeptus Ministorum, and devotedly serve the Emperor of Mankind. The Sisters of Battle serve to enforce the Imperial religion, seeking out and destroying heretics that defy the Emperor's Will.

They were officially founded in 36th Millennium by the Ecclesiarch Alexis XXII as Ordes Militant. Originally, they were their own army, but, like the Grey Knights, the Sisters of Battle were joined by the Inquisition and given new allies for their army. They have forged particularly close ties to a part of the Imperial Inquisition, the Ordo Hereticus or "Witch Hunters", which is tasked to hunt down and destroy heretics and unsanctioned psychics (commonly known as "rogue psykers" or "witches").

Together, the Sisters of Battle and the Ordo Hereticus gained a new rulebook: Codex Witch Hunters. Sisters of Battle are now a playable race in the Dawn of War expansion, Soulstorm.


The Adepta Sororitas has its origins on the world of San Leor. An order known as the Daughters of the Emperor, an all-female cult dedicated to worship of the Emperor, had been discovered there by members of the Ecclesiarchy. Goge Vandire, the High Lord of the Administratum (and also Ecclesiarch of the Adeptus Ministorum), decided to pay a visit to San Leor and recruit the Daughters into his own private army. The Daughters, at first, refused to accept his authority. Vandire decided to show them that he was blessed by the Emperor - he instructed a soldier in his entourage to shoot him, which after a brief hesitation, he did. However, thanks to the protective field generated by the Rosarius of the Ecclesiarch (which no one but Vandire himself was aware of), Vandire was not harmed. The Daughters took this to be a sign, and swore allegiance to Vandire virtually on the spot. They became the Brides of the Emperor, and were Vandire's most loyal followers.

During the Siege of the Ecclesiarchal Palace, the Adeptus Custodes, the praetorians of the Emperor himself, tried to approach the Brides and convince them of Vandire's treachery. In a last ditch effort to convince them, the Custodes took Alicia Dominica, leader of the Brides, and her chosen bodyguards deep into the Imperial Palace where they stood before the Emperor himself. What happened there remains unknown - Dominica and her companions were sworn to secrecy - but it became clear that the Brides, who reverted to the title of Daughters of the Emperor, had been awakened to the evil that Vandire represented. Marching into his audience chamber, Dominica paused only to condemn Vandire for his crimes before she beheaded the power-crazed dictator. Reportedly, Vandire's final words were "I don't have time to die - I'm too busy!"

After this episode, the Decree Passive was proclaimed by newly appointed Ecclesiarch Sebastian Thor, forbidding the Ecclesiarchy from having any men under arms. Under the literal interpretation of the decree however, the Adepta Sororitas were not obligated to disband because the decree made no mention of "women under arms." Thor, recognizing the need for the Ecclesiarchy to have some kind of force and internal regulator, allowed them to remain, even if the spirit of the decree was rather blatantly disregarded.

The Founding

When Thor first took over, there were only 4,000 Daughters of the Emperor, but this quickly expanded to over 10,000 after the Adepta Sororitas (Sisters of Battle) was founded. It was his successor, Alexis the XII, who divided the Sisters into two home worlds and four Orders Militant led by Alicia Dominica and three of her companions who wanted to lead their sisters into battle. The last two major Orders Militant were created two and a half Millennia later in honor of the last of Alicia Dominica's companions. Their Orders were later expanded to hold more than 15,000 Sisters, but their current standing places each Order with no more than 7,000 members.

Today, the Sisters of Battle are spread across the galaxy in their various conflicts; however, two locations (Terra and Ophelia VII) are held as more sacred than all others and are home to most of the Orders' convents. Ophelia VII is the Oldest Cardinal World and home of the Synod Ministra. As Terra is covered with administrative buildings, Ophelia VII is covered with Cathederals and places of worship. Beneath these buildings are vast prisons that hold heretics ready to confess and repent for their sins.

Sisters on Armageddon

A few of the Orders fought at the Third Armageddon War, but it was the Order of our Martyred Lady who largely represented the Sisters of Battle in the Armageddon sector. It was they who were the sole protectors of the Ecclesiarchy and the faithful of Hive Tempestora during the Third Armageddon War. Their base of operations was the Sanctorum of St. Katherine in Hive Tempestora, which became the centre for Ecclesiarchal activities on Armageddon and thus, refuge of the faithful from invaders.

Hive Tempestora was assaulted during the Third Armageddon war by a surprise assault of Orks emerging from the Boiling Sea. The Sisters were the defence for Hive Tempestora, but the surprise and size of the Ork attack caught the Imperial forces unawares. This allowed the Orks to quickly steal control from the Sisters.

The Sisters were forced further into tunnels of the Hive with each attack by the Orks. When the Orks reached the heart of the Hive, the Imperial command structure began to break down as the hordes rapidly pushed on. Several units were dispatched to defend areas which had already been overrun and the few Hive militia they could rally proved to be ineffective against the Orks. They fought a losing battle until they were eventually forced against the great armoured doors of the Sanctorum.

Here, the Sisters could not retreat any further and it was their duty to defend their sanctuary with their lives. The Order rallied against the Orks and called for every member of the Ecclesiarchy to fight and die in defence of Armageddon's most holy site. It was a battle of attrition and with the sheer weight of numbers the Orks gradually overwhelmed the Sisters. It was a charge by Warboss Nargrim and his elite Nobz that caused the Sister's line to crumble. The lines of Sisters, broken and scattered, attempted to form up again but were readily cut down by the huge tide of Orks. After just hours since the initial invasion by the Orks, no human was left alive inside Hive Tempestora and corpses stained the sacred ground.

With the massive destruction at Tempestora, reminiscent of the Tyranid's destruction of the Ultramarines at Ultramar, the Order of Our Martyred Lady was devastated and left with less than three companies upon Armageddon. The loss of Tempestora's Sanctorum devastated the morale of the Sisterhood, and they fought to recover from such a dishonor. Though they lost greatly at the beginning of the campaign, their aid was essential in the final defense of the planet.

On the other side of Armageddon, the Order of the Argent Shroud, with its five companies under the leadership of Canoness Carmina, were used by General Kurov in the Fire Deserts during the war. They later joined with their fellow Sisters to retake the Holy Sanctorum and restore their lost honor.


Divisions of the Adepta Sororitas
Convent Convent Sanctorum Convent Prioris
Home World Ophelia VII Terra
Orders Militant Order of Our Martyred Lady
Order of the Valorous Heart
Order of the Bloody Rose
Order of the Sacred Rose
Order of the Ebon Chalice
Order of the Argent Shroud
Orders Hospitaller Order of the Eternal Candle
Order of Serenity
Order of the Cleansing Water
Order of the Torch
Orders Famulous Order of the Key
Order of the Gate
Order of the Holy Seal
Order of the Sacred Coin
Orders Dialogous Order of the Holy Word
Order of the Quill
Order of the Sacred Oath
Order of the Lexicon
In the beginning, there were only four Orders Militant created by Sister Alicia Dominica and her three fellow Crusading Sisters: Sister Silvana, Sister Lucia, and Sister Katherine.

  • Order of Our Martyred Lady (Sister Katherine, Formerly Order of the Fiery Heart)
  • Order of the Valorous Heart (Sister Lucia)
  • Order of the Ebon Chalice (Sister Alicia Dominica)
  • Order of the Argent Shroud (Sister Silvana)

Then mid 38th Millennium, two Orders were added by Ecclesiarch Deacis VI. The Order of the Bloody Rose was created to honor Sister Mina and the Order of the Sacred Rose was created to honor Sister Arabella. Although neither Sister Mina or Sister Arabella led their fellow Sisters into battle, they were martyred just the same and honored as such.

Later, Orders were created to deal with non-combatant roles. They were the Orders Hospitaller (dealing with medical aid and purification of the body), Orders Famulous (dealing with law, diplomacy and relations between the Ecclesiarchy and the Imperium), and Orders Dialogous (dealing with research, preaching, and communication). Blind also makes references to Orders Pronatus (dealing with the recovery of holy relics). These are very small Orders, with the only Order Pronatus mentioned being the Order of the Eternal Gate.

Each Order follows the same basic hierarchical structure:

  • Order: Led by the head Canoness called the Canoness Superior and runs the Entire Order.
  • Preceptory: An organisation of individual convents with up to 1,000 Sisters, equivalent to an Adeptus Astartes Chapter, led by a Canoness Preceptor.
  • Commandery: Normally smaller convents or detachments of militant Sisters with up to 200 Sisters, led by a Canoness Commander.
  • Mission: The smallest organisation of Sisters, consisting of a few units and can be led by a Canoness or the lesser Palatine.


Though not surgically enhanced or cybernetically upgraded like the Space Marines, they do wear similar power armour and have the same general unit set-up, although they tend to prefer heat- and flame-based weapons, because of the 'purifying' effect of fire, inspired mainly by the popular portrayal of the Emperor as a cleansing fire. This creates an interesting situation as the sororitas lean towards two extremes of weapon types: melta weapons for anti-tank and flame weapons for anti-infantry, both of which being heat based guns. Also, like their male counter-parts, they wear the marking determined by their designation, which are Orders instead of Chapters.

As they lack the extensive biological/technological upgrades that turn an ordinary human male into a superhuman Space Marine, they cannot be considered to be in the same class of "supersoldier" in terms of combat ability and endurance, though their armour and weapons are well beyond those of other "normal" humans, such as the Imperial Guard. They also gain powerful faith-based abilities to help them combat their foes.

Along with physical changes, each order has its own specific color scheme and symbols:

  • Order of Our Martyred Lady wears black armor and red cloth with black lining and grey weapons.
  • Order of the Valorous Heart wears black armor and black cloth with white lining and grey weapons.
  • Order of the Ebon Chalice wears black armor and white cloth with black lining and grey weapons.
  • Order of the Argent Shroud wears silver armor and white cloth with red lining and red weapons.
  • Order of the Bloody Rose wears red armor and black cloth with white lining and black weapons.
  • Order of the Sacred Rose wears white armor and black cloth with black lining and black weapons.

Notable Members

The Founders

These six sisters are Alicia Dominica and her faithful companions who joined her in witnessing the Truth of the Golden Throne. They are the founders of the Sisters of Battle and are the most sacred Saints of the Adepta Sororitas.

Sister Alicia Dominica

After Vandire's Reign of Blood, Alicia continued battling against heresy along with Sister Silvana, Sister Mina, Sister Lucia, Sister Katherine and Sister Arabella, her loyal Sisters from before the Golden Throne incident.

It was under her command that the Sororitas was formed as a Chamber Militant and later joined with the Witch Hunters. She, along with her loyal Sisters (the previous listed Silvana, Mina, Lucia, Katherine and Arabella) were named Living Saints and headed an order of their own.

After several centuries, Alicia finally fell in battle. However, it was recorded that she was shot hundreds of times before one laser weapon finally found a weakness in her armor. The symbol of Dominica's Order is the ebon skull chalice that was part of her vision from her experience at the Golden Throne, but few beyond those original Sisters know what the symbol actually means.

Alicia's Companions

Sister Katherine

Saint Katherine was Alicia Dominica's Second in Command and founded the Order of the Fiery Heart. The Order was named based on her fierce personality and her intense desire to destroy heretics. She led her Sisters across the Galaxy spreading the Imperial faith, and eventually visited the world of Sanctus Lys where she hid her golden power armour and The Ardent Blade that was later recovered by Saint Celestine. When Katherine was martyred by a cult of heretics, her order was renamed as the Order of Our Martyred Lady due the deep mourning of her fellow Sisters.

Sister Silvana

Saint Silvana was the leader of the Order of the Argent Shroud. She was one of the first Sisters to lead crusades in the name of the Emperor. Her death came at the hand of an assassin, but her body mysteriously vanished. In its place was a silver duplication of her bones which became the most sacred symbol to the Order of the Argent Shroud and its namesake.

Sister Mina

Saint Mina had a reputation for being fierce, mysterious, and deadly in battle. She was murdered by a blood cult, whose agents had attacked her while praying. Her body was found along with the shrine, covered in the blood and the corpses of twenty of her attackers. Her symbol, the red rose, represents her strong character and her final death. Thus, the Order of the Bloody Rose was created to honor her spirit and her martyrdom.

Sister Lucia

Saint Lucia bravely led the Order of the Valorous Heart. She was the youngest of Alicia Dominica's companion. She was martyred after her capture by a cult that tortured her before her death. Without Lucia's knowledge, a group of her fellow sisters were also captured, but not one of them gave into the pain. Their silence, along with Lucia's, who was under the greatest torture, gave the order their name.

Lucia is commonly depicted with a drop of blood running down her cheek. Sometimes, she is represented with Vandire's severed head, that they received after Dominica executed him. All of this reinforces her image of the ideal Battle Sister.

Sister Arabella

Sister Arabella was later Martyred and the Order of the Sacred Rose was made in her honor. There is not much information about Arabella or the situation surrounding her Martyrdom.

Later Figures

Modern Saints

Saint Celestine

Saint Celestine, the Hieromartyr of the Palatine Crusade, was a Sister Repentia serving the Order of Our Martyred Lady. During fighting at the capital of Eurytion, an apostate world involved in the Palatine Crusade, she fought with great valor, but later was struck down. As the fighting was ended and lost, her body was recovered and taken back with the other Sisters. According to witnesses, "she accounted for over one hundred schismatics during the assault, her Eviscerator cleaving them into ragged chunks as she and her sisters screamed for absolution". The next day, Celestine rose from apparent death and was apparently unharmed. Under her lead, the capital fell that day and the Crusade was soon continued with new vigor.

Before attacking the Palatine's capital world, Celestine went to the world of Sanctus Lys and entered into a place called the Shrine of the Fiery Heart. When she returned, she was armoured in golden artificer armour (Armour of Saint Katherine) and carried a bright blade (the Ardent Blade). Her new appearance, combined with the other miracles, caused Lord Ansgar and other Thorians to declare her as a Living Saint. This would not last, because she was assumed to be destroyed when the renegade Warmaster Forrax caused the explosion of his palace after coming under attack by the Adepta Sororitas.

Saint Praxedes

Saint Praxedes of Ophelia VII, former Canoness in the Order of Our Martyred Lady fought in the Second Tyrannic War (against the Hive Fleet Kraken) on the Cardinal World of Okassis. She led the Caladenian Imperial Guardsmen with her Sisters into battle and single handedly defeated a Hive Tyrant. After buying enough time to allow those of the world to escape, all contact was lost and she was honored as a Martyr for her valiant effort.

Helena the Virtuous

Although not a Saint, Helena is renowned among the Adepta Sororitas and, as a Prioress, is a member of each of the Orders Militants. She began as a member of the Order of the Key and rose to the position of Canoness. Because of her remarkable faith and her calm demenour, she is revered among the Sisters and the Ecclesiarchy as a great leader.

Saint Anais

Saint Anais was the saint that fought alongside the Sisters of Battle in the RTS-game Soulstorm. She appeared only when an opposing faction attacked the Adepta Sororitas headquarter.

Stern, Ephrael

Ephrael is the main character of Daemonifuge, a graphic novel by Kev Walker. She was a Seraphim ranked Sister for the Order of Our Martyred Lady. Mysteriously, she was the sole survivor out of 1,200 that was sent to the planet Parnis. Inquisitor Silas Hand originally was sent to identify if she was tainted by Chaos. This led to no conclusion, and Hand was forced to return with her to the planet Parnis. During the return, their vessel's navigator was possessed by Chaos and destroyed their ship the "Hammer of Thor." Escaping, both Hand and Stern were able to land upon the surface. However, they soon confronted the Daemon Asteroth. Only Stern managed to live through the battle, and she is now hunted by the Ordo Malleus.

Celestian Miriya

Celestian Miriya is the main character of Faith and Fire, a novel by James Swallow. She is a member of the Order of the Martyred Lady. It was her duty to transport a psyker, Torris Vaun, after he was captured. Nevertheless, mid-transport of the prisoner aboard the ship "Mercutio," they were attacked by traitors on the ship. Vaun was freed and Miriya's fellow Sister, Lethe Catena, was killed.

Continuing onto her destination of Neva, Miriya was forced the capital Noroc to account for failure of delivering the prisoner by Lord Deacon Viktor LaHayn. LaHayn demanded Miriya to suffer for her actions. It would be her duty to find Vaun. After much searching, Vaun later made himself known when he, leading a group of criminals, attacked and kidnapped the Governor, Emmel. It was Miriya who later allowed him to escape as Vaun's allies destroyed everything they could, including the Nova's Cathederal.

When the Chaos finally settled, it was apparent that LaHayn was not all he claimed to be. After much research, Miriya's allies unraveled the plot that involved the freeing of Vaun and the connection to LaHayn. With accusations flying, the planet erupted into war and the Sisters of Battle were brought in full force. After much destruction and warfare, Miriya finally managed to capture Vaun. It was with his interrogation that a greater plot was revealed; Vaun was a product of experimentation on psykers. Miriya, Verity (her vital assistant), and the fellow Sisters Cassandra and Isabel uncovered and destroyed this plot, ending such heretical influences; however, because of the methods used by Miriya and of the original ordeal with Vaun, she was relieved of her position as a Celestian elite and was reduced to a line rank Sister of Battle by Canoness Galatea. It is not known what has happened to her since.

In Game

The Sisters of Battle were introduced as a playable army in 1997, having only been seen before in pictures. They have recently been given a minor facelift and their army list has been expanded and incorporated into Codex Witch Hunters. Due to their similarities to the Adeptus Astartes, they are afforded much equipment similar to their male counterparts'. They are, however, less resilient than the Space Marines but cost less to compensate. Their organisation is also quite similar to the Astartes, being led by a commander, and having many varied tactical based squads.

HQ and Elites

As members of the Witch Hunters, the Sisters of Battle are able to field either an Inquisitor or an Adepta Sororitas Heroine. The Heroines are faithful characters (Canoness adds two faith points, Palatine adds one) and are able to be joined with a retinue of Celestians.

They are allowed to bring Priests (HQ characters that don't count as a choice), Arco-flagellants (Elite choice heretics who have been "brain scrubbed" and re-programmed for combat), Celestians (Elite choice veterans that contribute a faith point), Sisters Repentia (Elite choice Sisters trying to redeem "slights" of faith) or Assassins of the Officio Assassinorum (elites).

Troops and Fast Attack Squads

Battle Sisters make up the bulk of a Sisters of Battle Army. However, since they are connected to Witch Hunters, they may field Inquisitorial Storm Troopers, Inducted Imperial Guardsmen, or Grey Knights using the "by the authority of the Immortal Emperor of Mankind" rule.

Their Fast Attack units are the Seraphim, and Dominion squads. The Seraphim are stronger sisters who are given jump packs and represent an angelic presence in battle (giving bonuses to allies and a faith point). The Dominion Squads are an additional Fast Attack unit that rides a transport into combat.

The Retributor squads are Sisters of Battle armed with heavy weapons.


The Sisters of Battle have access to the widespread Rhino transport. However, they do not have access to other Marine vehicles such as Bikes, Land Speeders, Land Raiders, Razorbacks, Predators, Vindicators or Whirlwinds.

Sisters have two unique Rhino variants. The first known as the Immolator, which is similar to the Razorback in reducing transport capacity for additional weaponry, but the Immolator is armed with twin-linked heavy flamers, twin-linked heavy bolters, or twin-linked multi-meltas. The Sisters' other variant is the Exorcist, similar in some ways to the Space Marines' Whirlwind; the Exorcist is a multiple missile-launching platform that fires deadly salvos of Exorcist Missiles. The Exorcist, however, requires line of sight and is much more suitable for destroying enemy vehicles due to the high strength of its missiles and the variable number of shots.

Dreadnoughts are also unavailable, but with the help of a priest the Sisters of Battle can request the use of Penitent Engines, Dreadnought-esque machines that are cheaper but weaker than their space marine counterparts. Penitent engines are also just as uncontrollable as Chaos Dreadnoughts.

They also lack the heavy armoured tanks of the Space Marines: such vehicles like the Predator and Vindicator have no direct equivalent, while the nigh supreme Land Raider is almost completely forgotten, unless taken as a dedicated transport for an inquisitor. However, Land Speeders, Bike Squadrons, Rough Riders, Predators, Dreadnoughts, Land Raiders and Leman Russ Battle Tanks may be added if their equivalent inducted/allied force is added using the "by the authority of the Immortal Emperor of Mankind" rule.


The Sisters bear a resemblance to several knightly orders from Medieval Europe, and have a strong Gothic feel. Many of their heroines have the personae and attitude of Joan of Arc (especially in Martyrdom and Sainthood). Being an elite army of female zealots, they also bear some resemblance to the Fish Speakers from Frank Herbert's Dune universe, although they notably lack the superhuman speed and training that the Fish Speakers are known for.

The design of the models themselves have a strong fire motif, which may have came from the fact that fire has been seen as something that can cleanse the impure. They also take the Gothic appearance of the Imperium to the extreme: the Exorcist tank is shaped like an organ on wheels. Forge World produces alternate versions of their tanks, which have a more "military" and less gothic look.


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