Formal status of covenant

I'm curious - what is official status of a covenant? In feudal Europe all land belongs to local King/Emperor/Duke or other feudal landowner. Now - he could give a land to Church directly or to one of the Order of the Church, he could found a city etc. but it is clear that he could not give land to the Order of Hermes. And if that is so - covenant is a bit illegal as it occupies the land of some noble family (which probably breaks the oath of hermes) or - what is even worse - church. I understand that some mages are ex-noble man and could bring land with them into the order but that is not enough.

While reading rulebook I had weird impression that covenants just happen. Is it right?

roughly speaking there are two separate and independent aspects to a covenant:

it has a formal status as a covenant within (and only within(!)) the Order Of Hermes.
Quite how formal that is varies between Tribunals - Novgorod seems mildly surprised if anyone turns up; Stonehenge has many small groups (esp. Ex Misc) who don't bother with formalities, but do stake firm claim locally ... through to Normandy (see "The Lion & The Lily") where even the right to set up a covenant (hermetically) is contested by the Tribunal, and requires you to pre-acquire resources, and to obtain sponsorship and support from your betters.

then it has some sort of relationship with the rest of the world.
This can vary (see the Covenants chapter in 5e core, or better - the 5e book "Covenants")...
The place may be well-hidden (in a Regio, by spells, or by terrain (especially deep forest, or caves, or...)
or inaccessible (island, crags, caves,...), both of which bypass mundanes;
or it may interact with mundanes, in which case you need to define that.

In the latter case, it is true that the Order frowns upon certain relationships: specifically having magi make any Oath of Fealty other than the Hermetic Oath, or other close ties to Nobles ("court wizard") is very much frowned on -- hence the common practice to have a Companion hold the feudal rights, and act as a tame proxy... the Companion "has no magic" and the magi "have no oath"... This covers "village", "manor", "castle", and similar.

Another relationship is to have a low profile, and be present but obscure - a large house or several houses within a City (with eg laboratories in some magical environment, such as basements or regio);
or University (similar to City in being covered by the Dominion, but different neighbours);
or even "church" - a (strange!) monastery or similar... unlikely but possible.

Another difficult but interesting option is the mobile covenant (wagons (see Heirs To Merlin for an example), or ship, or the ever-loved fantasy staple of the Flying Covenant.

IOS - the covenant is located in a magical forest (forest has a reputation of being "Haunted" - certainly is, now - filled with wizards!), and has a large village supporting it. The manor was eventually formalised with a maga's cousin (companion) as "lord", and a loose fealty with the Duke. Turns out the Duke knows "some" about the Order, and likes to hunt dragons (small ones), and is happy to let the covenant alone (hard to exact the normal agricultural tribute out of a deep forest) in return for them setting up hunts for him...
Hermetically, the covenant is much more interesting with allies, enemies, neutrals, and "formally indifferent" (they really do not care if we fail) fellow covenants. The relationships changed over time, too...

I recommend reading the Covenants book for ideas and examples;
also scour Project Redcap ( for saga write-ups, as they usually descirbe the covenant setting and relationships.

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It's really up to you. You are correct that all land belongs to someone--the church or a noble. If you and your troupe wish to play stories where you work out the relationship with the local nobility or church, then by all means play those kinds of stories. If you don't, put the covenant in a location in the wastes in a regio and not worry about it.

Covenants and Lion and the Lily give some good ideas for stories about the right to hold lands. You could have the covenant get a charter from a local noble hard up for cash or you could have a "tame" noble hold the covenant's land and be a companion character.

My, decided non-canon, solution for my saga is that the Order itself owns land.

My reasoning being that, if the Order's existance is recognized by the rest of Mythic Europe, than there is no reason the Order could not hold property much in the same manner that the Church does.

I've had one saga in which the magi came by the land for a covenant because a Saxon noble, without heir and unwilling to give his lands to a Norman overlord or a Norman bishop, gave his manor to the Order upon his death. In another case, a covenant was given lands by a nobleman after the magi helped sort out some serious trouble he was in with powerful faeries. In neither case did the magi owe fealty to a mundane lord.

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Others have replied well, but I'd like to voice the opposing view that covenants do, indeed, "just happen" often enough.

Mythic Europe is not historical Europe. While in historical Europe all land belonged to someone (not necessarily the king - but that, too, in some places), this need not be the case in Mythic Europe.

Consider a feudal lord in Mythic Europe. He has this manor, or castle, or whatever, sitting on the valley right next to his big parcel of land. Etching for expansion, he finds that the land is controlled not by a noble or the Church, but rather by this - fairly large - settlement, led by a group of weird scholars that some whisper are wizards. This has been the situation for hundreds of years, with the local villagers under their rule quite accustomed to it. There may even be dark rumours about nobles that tried to take that place in the past, and their vile fate.

What would the lord do? He could try to take the land by various means, but whether he will succeed or not is up to what works well for your saga. More importantly, it makes perfect sense within Mythic Europe that the covenant and its lands will be left alone, and/or succesfully repel attempts to take their land (just as nobles do).

In my view, most covenants are maintained by tradition. Uniform laws and historical knowledge aren't a norm, so it is perfectly sensible for a place to be run by its own laws, have its own traditions, and so on. Occasionally, people will come about trying to impose new laws onto it - perhaps a king will attempt to conquer it, or so on. For the most part, magi have enough power to resist such attempts, if this makes for a better story. An historical example is given of a French non-noble family, I think called Couchy, in Barbara Touchmans' Broken Mirror that essentially simply had a huge castle, and remained independent of any king - right at the heartland of France - for centuries.

At other times, covenants may reach some sort of de-facto independnece. There are many areas in real historical Europe where the king only had nominal power, and likewise the duke; areas where tradition obliged that the nobility in practice have no authority over the region, and so on. There are "imperial cities", run by the people and paying only taxes (not vassals, so the Code allows it). And so on.

Of course, there are many covenants, and their status should vary. Some might be secluded in regios, others simply secretive, others placed in the wilderness where no one dares enter, others held by force of arms or fear of the wizard's curses, others held by special grant from a noble or even the Church, others functioning openly as a guild or similar organiation, and so on. What the common arrangements are is a matter for you to decide as a storyguide. I can only suggest that variety be maintained, that the nature of the Tribunal and local conditions be considrered, and also I'd join in recommending Covenants for ideas.

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Thanks for the replies. They give me required informations and suggestions for further reading which is just as good. They also pointed some weak points in my view on the situation and make me rethink the whole topic.

Thanks again.

The king or lord might "own" the land, but if nobody's using it in practice you can just grab it. Medieval Europe and presumably Mythic as well have low population densities and what population they have tends to clump together. Almost all legal systems have systems for sitting on land and making it (somewhat) "yours". For instance in Wales you throw a hammer both ways down a road and keep the unsettled stuff between where it lands. Usually farming and staying on the land (or keeping a fire going in a house on it) grants you "ownership" permanently. Of course it's ownership conditional on paying taxes so you could argue it's a secure rental not ownership. Of course by that standard nobody "owns" land now.
So your covenant can keep it's land as long as it hacks a settlement out of the wilderness, which is where most new covenants form. The problems only come when the Lord/King finds out about it and wants you to swear allegiance or pay taxes (which I think counts as such under the Code of Hermes). My suggestion, say you're considering swearing allegiance and will he let you think about it for a while? Offer him "gifts" equal to or greater than the taxes due if he delays imposing his authority. Then go to work diplomatically suggesting all the bad things that can happen if he takes you formally under his wing. Is he prepared to defend the covenant from it's enemies as overlord? Show him enough to make him say "Hell no," and keep pumping out the nice stuff for him.