Part 1 – Introduction & Zelda | Part 3 – Dragon Age & Conclusion (& Bibliography)


3. World of Warcraft

3.1. Game History

World of Warcraft (WoW) is one of the best known and most influential massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG), developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment1.

Currently it consists of a care game and six expantions with the first one released in 1994 and the latest one in 2016. The Warcraft universe also includes other videogames, novels, comics, tabletop games and mangas. In mid-2016, a film adaption was released with the plot settled in the beginning of the video game’s story.

With the franchise universe expanding to other media, a broad range of characters, settings and timelines were established2.

3.2. Background World

The main setting of all games and other media is the planet Azeroth, a high fantasy world. The story starts with the conflict between the human kingdoms being attacked by the orcish Horde3, which came via a dark portal from the destroyed planet called Draenor. During the so-called Great Wars, Azeroth was partially destroyed and some of the nations formed the Alliance. With the release of the later games, other continents of the world with elves, dwarfes etcetera were unveiled4.

3.3. Stormwind and the Cathedral of Light

Stormwind is the capital of the kingdom with the same name, the most powerful and largest one of humans’ in Azeroth. After being destroyed a couple of times by the Horde or a dragon, the city was always rebuilt bigger and more beautiful. Stormwind is well-known for its hard-working inhabitants from all over the world, which makes it a very influential and rich city. It also serves as the capital of the Alliance with Stormwind Keep, a castle, as the political center and the Cathedral of Light as the spiritual one5.

The Cathedral of Light (image 14) is the most striking building of the philosophical religion called Church of Light or Church of the Holy Light and tops most other buildings of the city. Here high-ranking members of the church reside and it is a center for all followers of the philosophical teachings of the Light or Holy Light. Even if the church is organized like a religion with an archbishop as leader of the organization and bishops supporting him, there is no entity or person being honored. The Holy Light is a mystical force in the universe that has to be studied and contemplated. For the followers though it can also grant major powers to combat the darkness. The basis for all teachings are the three virtues: respect, tenacity and compassion. Therefore, the Church of Light counts as Lawful Good.

14_World of Warcraft_Stormwind_Cathedral of Light_1
Cathedral of Light in World of Warcraft, exterior, (c) by Blizzard Entertainment

The exterior of the cathedral shows a highly symmetrical building with a quadratic main spire in the middle, surrounded by four smaller spires in each corner. The first level of the towers has a wide foundation with three Gothic lancet windows on each side. The upper parts of the towers are highlighted in the edges with supporting arch-like works, leading from the first level walls over a pitched roof to the lantern. The lantern consists of a window area and a very pointy top. The main tower in the middle shows the same arrangement, only in larger dimensions.

The cathedral entrance is high above the ground with a big, semicircular or hexagonal stairway leading to it. It is build by a rectangle room with gabled roof and a pointed arch as a portal.

The whole cathedral is built with one type of grey stone, the lancet windows seem to be blue-shaded stained glass and the roofs are covered with brown shingles.

The interior structure (image 15) seems to be a classic basilica with a nave and two lower aisles, separated by cruciform, tapering pillars. The aisles have ribbed vaults and in the outer walls there are pointed windows with stained glass and geometrical, green and white ornaments.

15_World of Warcraft_Stormwind_Cathedral of Light_2
Cathedral of Light in World of Warcraft, interior, (c) by Blizzard Entertainment

The same window design is found in the lower area of the apsis. A long, broad stairway leads to a pedestal with an altar in the middle. Three windows are inserted in the half-round apsis wall. Another window with a matching design but only lower and wider can be found in the calotte.

3.4. Comparison – Exterior

According to a blog about the San Diego Comic Con 2013 and a link to a tweet by Nick Carpenter, till 2016 the Vice President of Art & Cinematic Development for Blizzard Entertainment and co-producer of the Warcraft movie, the design for the Cathedral of Light in Stormwind was inspired by the Mormon temple in San Diego 6 (image 16). It cannot be confirmed totally, but the resemblance is uncanny. The temple consists of two squared buildings with a main spire and four smaller ones on the edges, which are connected by a lower building with a cloister-like upper part. Like in Stormwind, the main spires have three pointed windows in the lower part but in the Mormon temple there are six long windows which fill the outer walls between the small spires.

16_San_Diego_LDS_Temple,_twilight
The San Diego California Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, exterior, dedicated 1993, (c) by Eric Ward under CC BY-SA 2.0

It is built completely of white stones of the same kind, giving it a consistent and divergent look. The sharp edges and pointy windows and spires together with the homogeneous design evoke an association with crystals and thereby an association to the few religious architectures of expressionism that were realized or more to the conceptual designs of this influential movement. Expressionism also used Gothic structures and motives and transformed it into new designs.

The San Diego California Temple was the 47th temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and it was dedicated in 1993 after an announcement already in 1984.

The Cathedral of Light in the movie „Worldcraft – The Beginning“, 2016

The resemblance with the temple in San Diego is even more convincing with the CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) realization of the Cathedral of Light in the first World of Warcraft movie from 2016. Here, the cathedral is shown as a prestigious and monumental building, overtopping the surrounding city like a white crystal mountain (images 17 and 18). It features the same composition as the game version with a main spire and side spires but here more of them were arranged around the middle part. Also the dimensions were increased. The tower levels consist of romanesque windows without glass filling and galleries. Besides the low spires around the main building, a Gothic sanctuary with supporting arches was added to the building, giving it a definite religious orientation which is based on Christian sacral buildings.

The arrangement of the spires and towers with the arches defining each level and the complete white stone material used reminds of the bell towers from Italy like the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa (1173 – 1372, image 19) or the one with Gothic decorations in Florence (finished 1298 – 1359, image 20). Obviously, there is no direct way of reception and no copies of elements or styles but the influences and a general orientation can be seen.

The mentioned Gothic sanctuary is shown as a stereotyped sanctuary with ambulatory and supporting arches. The supporting architecture is narrow in comparison to realistic ones like at the cathedrals Notre-Dame-de-Paris (1163 – 1345, image 21) or Notre-Dame de Reims (1210 – 1311, without the west front, image 22). But again, the general inspiration is clearly found in the Gothic cathedrals.


Part 1 – Introduction & Zelda

Part 2 – World of Warcraft

Part 3 – Dragon Age & Conclusion (& Bibliography)

I do not own the copyright of the images. References and owners are noted in the image description.


  1. Current data about active players are not published anymore since 2015. The highpoint was reached with 12 million players. WoW is still one of the best selling games ever. More data can be found here (link checked on 28.06.2018): https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/208146/umfrage/anzahl-der-abonnenten-von-world-of-warcraft/.
  2. A good overview about the different media, characters and the game itself can be found on http://www.worldofwarcraft.com.
  3. The background story of Azeroth is of course longer, with fighting gods and powerful forces attacking the world. Pleet, Kathleen; Stickney, Anne: World of Warcraft: Das ultimative Kompendium. Stuttgart 2016, p. 11.
  4. Pleet, Kathleen; Stickney, Anne: World of Warcraft: Das ultimative Kompendium, Stuttgart 2016, p. 14f.
  5. Pleet, Kathleen; Stickney, Anne: World of Warcraft: Das ultimative Kompendium. Stuttgart 2016, p. 88f.
  6. http://warcraft.blizzplanet.com/blog/comments/sdcc-2013-blizzplanet-photos-pre-blizzard-licensing-panel (checked on 24.06.2018).https://twitter.com/FubarNick/status/357949539103154176 (checked on 24.06.2018).

About the Author Dominic Riemenschneider

Independent scholar & PhD candidate in Art History with research about the Fantastic, its reception and roots in art and architecture. Also offering services, workshops and lectures about the Fantastic and the connection to real world events, society and developments.