- "Every girl in the Seven Kingdoms dreamed of him, but he was mine by oath. And when I finally saw him on our wedding day in the Sept of Baelor, lean and fierce and black-bearded, it was the happiest moment of my life."
- ―Cersei Lannister
The Great Sept of Baelor, also called the Great Sept or just the Sept of Baelor, is a massive sept, the center of religious worship for the Faith of the Seven and the seat of the High Septon of the Faith. It is located in King's Landing, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms, and is the largest single building in the city, though the Red Keep complex sprawls over a larger area. Great religious ceremonies are held there. It is also the sept personally used by the royal family, thus royal weddings are held at the Great Sept in massive ceremonies.
The sept is named for King Baelor Targaryen, a king noted for his religious piety and pacifism. A statue of King Baelor is located in the square in front of the sept.
The inside of the sept is decorated with paintings of the seven-pointed star and sculptures depicting the Seven different aspects of the godhead. Votive offerings and lit candles are placed at the base of statues of the Seven.
The main sanctum chamber can comfortably seat seven hundred people. There are other spaces within the complex that can seat larger numbers.
When Eddard Stark agrees to falsely confess to the crimes of treason to ensure the safety of his children, Queen Regent Cersei Lannister decides to hold the confession on the steps of the Great Sept in front of a large crowd. However, rather than allow Eddard to take the black and join the Night's Watch as agreed, King Joffrey Baratheon rashly orders that Eddard be beheaded. This order is quickly carried out by the King's Justice, Ser Ilyn Payne, over the objections of Cersei and the King's other counselors.
King Joffrey visits the Great Sept along with Margaery Tyrell as well as Queen Cersei and Lady Olenna Tyrell as part of the preparations for the royal wedding. Joffrey gleefully narrates to Margaery the circumstances of the deaths of the members of House Targaryen buried in the Sept, while Cersei and Olenna discuss the seven hundred people the Great Sept can hold. Cersei also mentions that although most of the Targaryen kings and queens are buried in the Great Sept, Robert Baratheon's remains were returned to Storm's End as per his instructions. Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark are married at the Great Sept of Baelor.
Behind the scenes
The large hole in the dome of the roof of the main sanctum is known as an Oculus, like the one in the roof of the Pantheon in Rome. Oculi by definition are open to the sky, so rain or snow will enter the building through them. Usually, buildings that utilize oculi are so tall that light rain and snow will evaporate long before they hit the floor although a drain should be used in the event of heavy rain.
In the books
In A Song of Ice and Fire, the Great Sept of Baelor is located atop Visenya's Hill in King's Landing. It consists of the traditional seven-sided structure, albeit on a huge scale, with seven slender towers topped by crystals rising from it. There is a grand square in front of the Sept, from where the High Septon can address the masses.
Prior to the invasion of Aegon the Conqueror, the center of the Faith in Westeros was the Starry Sept of Oldtown. When Aegon captured Oldtown after his great victory on the Field of Fire, the High Septon advised Lord Hightower to surrender the city and swear fealty. The High Septon had received a vision from the Seven advising him to bless Aegon's cause. Aegon, his family and his followers converted to the Faith, burning the idols of the old gods of Valyria, but refused to give up the ancient Valyrian practices of polygamy and incest. When Aegon died and the throne passed to his son, born of incest, the Faith launched a bloody uprising against him which was eventually crushed.
Relations between House Targaryen and the Faith were repaired when King Baelor I Targaryen ascended the throne. Septon and king, Baelor was holy and devout, and ordered the building of a huge sept in King's Landing for the glory of the Seven. The building, completed after Baelor's death, was named in his honor.
According to the tradition of the Seven and the laws of the city, blood is not allowed to be spilled on the site of the Great Sept. Joffrey's execution of Eddard on the steps breaks this law and custom, to the distress of the High Septon. Tensions between the Crown and the Faith remain high long after the execution, mainly due to the outrage of the faithful who believed Stark's execution profaned the sept.
According to the TV series official pronunciation guide developed for the cast and crew, "Baelor" is pronounced "BAY-lor".