Sanctaphrax is a fictional city-state from Paul Stewart's & Chris Riddell's The Edge Chronicles.



Early history

Sanctaphrax was founded centuries ago when a flight rock growing in The Stone Gardens became far larger than any before. The rock was one of the three "Ancient Ones", the oldest living beings on the Edge; the rock being of the Earth, the Caterbird being of the Air and the Great Clam being of the Water. The rock was tied to the center of Undertown by the Great anchor chain, and the city was soon built upon it. It became a place of learning, and home to hundreds of librarians and professors, acolytes and all manner of academics. They were then split into sky-scholars, who studied the weather and clouds, and earth-scholars, who categorized and researched the flora and fauna of the Deepwoods in the Great Library. An academic named Quode Quanx-Querix founded a school named the Knights Academy, where the protectors of the floating rock were trained. There were three paths initiates could take- Academics-at-Arms, who had various roles, High Professors, who were destined for high office and, most famous of all, the Knights Academic. The roles of the Knights before Stormchasing is unknown, but they may have been charged with gathering information about the Edge for the Great Library, as the Librarian Knights did centuries later.

At some point in the early days of Sanctaphrax, a group of scholars attempted to create life in the ancient laboratory, built deep in the stonecomb. They sucked a glister into the laboratory during a thunderstorm and channeled a bolt of lightning straight into it. But the experiment went terribly wrong. The glister became a monstrous creature that sucked the very life force from the unfortunate scholars. Quode Quanx-Querix led his Knights Academic and Academics-at-Arms down into the tunnels to confront the rogue glister. They suffered great losses, but eventually trapped the creature deep in the maze of tunnels.

Even after this, glister remained a problem. At this time, many buildings were constructed from "cliff-marble". At night this material attracted the tiny, glowing creatures. However, the danger they posed was not realized until one School was completely reconstructed from cliff-marble. But the sheer numbers of glisters not only fed off the emotions the academics inside- they affected them. The school soon degenerated into madness- completely irrational cases of despair and vengefulness. Eventually, one night, a great swarm of glisters covered every wall of the building and terrible sounds could be heard coming from within. When the screams died away, the Academics at Arms entered to discover a bloodbath. As a result, every building made from cliff-marble was destroyed apart from the Western Wall of the Knights Academy.

The inhabitants of Sanctaphrax lived in harmony until a problem arose up - the floating rock was still growing, and becoming ever more buoyant as it expanded. The scholars began to search despairingly through generations of research for a solution- something to weigh the rock down with, or maybe some super-strong material to build a chain out of. It was the sky-scholars who found the answer- Stormphrax.

It was a material that was buoyant in light, but in absolute darkness a thimbleful of Stormphrax weighed as much as a thousand Ironwood trees. The first person to bring back Stormphrax was Quanx-Querix. To find Stormphrax, an academic had to set forth in a sky ship, chasing a Great Storm. When the storm passed over The Twilight Woods, a single bolt of lightning would strike, freeze, and turn into Stormphrax. The academic would then have to take as much as they could back to Sanctaphrax in an illuminated box, and have it stored in the absolute darkness of the treasury. When the shards of Stormphrax were brought back, some academics attempted to prevent them from being taken down to the treasury. A group of goblin guards supported the knights, and became the elite Treasury Guard. The treasury was situated in the Heartrock, in the very centre of the floating rock. The only way to reach the treasury was to travel down the Sanctaphrax tunnel, and then pass the much-feared treasury guard. After this, stormchasing became the chief task of Knights Academic, who would be called upon to stormchase whenever a great storm passed. Other schools were founded too, and over the years ever taller and grander towers were constructed, such as the great mistsifting towers of The School of Mist A few centuries later sky-scholars steadily became more and more influential. Many arrogantly believed that sky-scholarship alone was relevant, and that earth-scholarship threatened the entire city. Unfortunately, a number of these individuals got into high office and waves of purges began. Treasury Day became a celebration of the downfall of the earth-scholars. The Palace of Shadows and its curator, a spindlebug called Tweezel, were abandoned along with the other buildings of the earth-scholarship. There was a time of peace, albeit with a great many plots, feuds and much faction fighting between rival academies and schools, until Linius Pallitax began his research.


Linius was the Most High Academe of Sanctaphrax, and a friend of Orlis Verginix, (also known as Wind Jackal) who was one of the greatest sky pirate captains ever. In The Curse of the Gloamglozer, Linius wanted to revive the great library and return earth studies to Sanctaphrax; however he was distracted by his real dream- to create life, as the First Scholars had attempted. He went into the Stonecomb, an ever twisting and changing maze that made up the inside of the Sanctaphrax rock, and journeyed to the ancient laboratory, a forgotten place that had been sealed off long ago. He succeeded in creating the Gloamglozer, an evil creature that had previously been of legend. His daughter Maris and Orlis’s son Quint managed to rescue Linius, but released the Curse of the Gloamglozer upon the Edge. Unfortunately, Linius’ home, The Palace of Shadows was burned down as the Gloamglozer made its escape. Linius died soon after the fire.

In The Winter Knights, Quint joins the Knights Academy, along with Vil Spatweed, who had previously been a knife-grinder in Undertown. He changed his name to Vilnix Pompolnious, and excelled to the rank of an upper hall squire. Meanwhile, Sanctaphrax was covered in blizzards, as a sick Cloudeater in open sky was belching them out. When flight rocks are cooled, they become increasingly buoyant, and the Sanctaphrax rock began to pull on the great anchor chain. Huge furnaces were pulled up and down the side of the Sanctaphrax rock to try and warm it up, and the hall master of High Cloud, Hax Vostillix, ordered stormchasing voyages frequently. Many brave knights died as their ship’s flight rocks cooled, sending them hurtling upwards. The death toll soared until Quint and his friends sailed a ship out to open sky and cured the Cloudeater ending the blizzards. Whilst they were away, the gatekeeper guards of Sanctaphrax rebelled and would have wiped out all of the squires and Knights if the treasury guard had not reinforced the defenders. Vilnix murdered Hax Vostillix for revenge, and could not be proved guilty; however, he was banished from the Knights Academy for visiting the school of potions and poisons.

Not long after this, Sanctaphrax came perilously close to disaster. All they knew of this at the time was that the Leagues of Flight under Imbix Hoth, the ruthless right-hand man of Leaguesmaster Ruptus Pentephraxis, had offered to pay for every flight rock harvested that year. This was considered more dignified than the alternative of haggling. Imbix Hoth also commissioned the Academics to create a rock larger than any that had ever existed and paid a monumental amount for it. The Leagues were building up their fleet for a purge of Sky Piracy. However, once the Pirates were destroyed and the remainder of the fleet under his control, Pentephraxis plotted to launch an attack on Sanctaphrax itself. Had he not perished in the Clash of the Sky Galleons when his monstrous flagship Bringer of Doom plummeted into the Deepwoods, the Academics would have been slaughtered.

Vilnix was offered a place as a raintaster; where he stole some Stormphrax, and ground it down to make Phraxdust, a material with the amazing property of purifying water. However, when he tried to make more, an explosion destroyed the raintasters tower, nearly killing him. After his recovery, he rushed to the Knights Academy where Quint was about to be sent stormchasing. He interrupted the ceremony, and impressed the crowds with his Phraxdust. He then built up an argument against the twin Most High Academes, the professors of Light and Darkness, and took their place at the top of the hierarchy.

Many years later Sanctaphrax became too buoyant again, so Vilnix had weights and extra chains added to try and keep Sanctaphrax down. The Undertown factories and foundries worked overtime and pumped out waste into the river Edgewater, and Vilnix had to use Phraxdust to purify the water. This vicious circle would have continued, but Vilnix still didn’t know how he had made the Phraxdust. Whenever anyone tried to grind Stormphrax, it exploded, almost always resulting in death. The crisis got worse until Twig, Quint’s son, returned from a stormchasing voyage with more Stormphrax. Equilibrium returned, and Vilnix was parted from his status and assassinated minutes later. The Professor of Darkness returned to his position as Most High Academe of Sanctaphrax, but unfortunately the Professor of light had died on Twig’s Stormchasing voyage. Twig was knighted as Arbornius Verginix, and left Sanctaphrax to become a sky pirate like his ancestors.

The destruction of Sanctaphrax

Every few thousand years, the Edgewater River dried up and the Mother Storm would descend upon Riverrise, The legendary source of the river, and would rejuvenate its waters at dawn. The previous time the mother storm came to the Edge, its path had been clear. But now, Sanctaphrax was in its way. The Mother Storm was preceded by many bizarre changes in the weather. These included mist which inflamed tempers and hailstones as large as boulders which brought inexplicable despair. These brought the hitherto obscure School of Psycho-Climatic Studies into prominence until the Storm arrived. Twig returned from his voyage into open sky with no memory of what his father had told him there. However, when he journeyed to Riverrise his memory was jogged, and he remembered the impending disaster and realized the solution. The great anchor chain had to be cut, allowing Sanctaphrax to fly away. If it wasn’t cut, the mother storm would waste its energy destroying Sanctaphrax, and would not get to Riverrise. The drought would wipe out all life on the Edge. When Twig and his apprentice, Cowlquape returned. Sanctaphrax (already devastated by the freak weather conditions) was on the very edge of the Mother Storm. Twig had sent word ahead to evacuate Sanctaphrax, although a few of the old professors stayed on it. The professor of darkness could not allow Twig to destroy the city, so he shoved him aside. Twig yelled for Cowlquape to remove the pin that held Sanctaphrax in place, and he did. The Professor of darkness begged Cowlquape to stop, and just before the pin gave, he thrust the great seal of office into Cowlquape’s hand. The chain then unwound and Sanctaphrax flew off, with the Professor of Darkness hanging on to the end of the chain.

Hundreds of years later during the Third Age of Flight Nate Quarter and his comrades discover that the great floating city has returned, blown back from Open Sky by the turbulent storms that prevail there. The band are astonished to see that although the city was lost all those centuries, its condition is still pristine and its Academics still living, the same ones it took with it when released. Throughout the book, mysterious serene figures clothed in the robes of the old Academics, have been leading the poor and desperate towards a "Shining City of Spires" at the end of the world. Nate and his friends realise Sanctaphrax is this so-called haven but are suspicious of the unexplained perfection, even moreso when the Professor recognizes the leader as the long dead Linius Pallitax. Splitting from the group, he ventures to the Great Library and is reunited with his long-lost brother (the reason the group came to the Edge was to look for him) who takes him down into the Great Laboratory and shows it has recently been used again for its original awful purpose; to create Gloamglozers. Up in the city the poor Deepwooders and Nate's group are horrified when all the "Academics" suddenly morph into these terrible creatures and gloatingly begin to feast on their fear whilst chasing them ever closer to the edge of the rock and certain death. Meanwhile Nate comes face to face with "Linius" who reveals himself to be the original Gloamglozer mockingly assuming the form of the one that gave it life. The beast is ecstatic to learn Nate is Quint's, the one that scarred it and thwarted its murdering of Linius, descendant and is about to murder him when Quint, Twig and Rook (the Immortals) return from the Mother Storm as echoes of their youth. Quint plucks out the red glister from the heart of the Gloamglozer and Twig and Rook destroy the rest; the nightmare that plagued the Edge for hundreds of years is gone at last. The Immortals explain to Nate that the unnatural life the Gloamglozer possessed caused the Stonesickness that put an end to the First Age of Flight and now with it gone the Edge can begin to heal itself. A cleansing rain of Riverrise water begins to fall as the Immortals fade into glisters as their life-cycles can finally begin themselves again. The Floating Rock and the Stone Gardens as well as the rest of the Edge is cured of Stonesickness and the Deepwooders lured there by the Gloamglozer decide to stay and live there.

New Sanctaphrax

When the Mother storm crossed the Stone Gardens, a single bolt of lightning hit one of the floating rocks. This then grew to the size of the original Sanctaphrax rock, and was named New Sanctaphrax. Cowlquape then became the Most High Academe of the new city. However, the rock was soon stricken by Stone-Sickness, causing a great rift in the now sinking city. The Earth-Scholars believed that the cure was to be found in the Deepwoods. The Sky-Scholars believed that the rock needed to be struck by lightning, conducted through a great metal spike.

A single building was built, the Tower of Night. This tower was designed by Vox Verlix. The upper levels could be home to the Sky-Scholars, who constructed Midnight's Spike, intended to conduct the lightning strike. The Earth-Scholars could attempt to find alternative cures in the lower levels.

Vox then assembled a faction of Sky-Scholars known as the Guardians of Night and overthrew Cowlquape and became the Most High Acadame. Before long, however, Vox found he had a rival in the form of Orbix Xaxis, who drove him and the librarians out of Sanctaphrax. The lower levels of the Tower of Night, formerly used by the Earth-Scholars, now became a vast prison, incarcerating, among many others, Cowlquape. Vox took refuge in the Palace of Statues. However, Undertown was now cut off from the Deepwoods. Vox then designed the Great mire Road, which ran from Undertown to the Eastern Roost of the Shrykes, who took control of it. By then, Vox and his Chancellor Amberfuce were demanding crippling taxes, provoking loud protests from the Undertowners and Librarians. Amberfuce determined to have the Librarians destroyed, and realized that only the Guardians would be able to carry this out. To persuade Xaxis, Vox designed a great cradle of wood- the Sanctaphrax Forest- to support the Sanctaphrax rock. The guardians launched a murderous attack on the Librarians. However, a small number of librarians escaped into the Sewers. Turning to the matter of constructing the Sanctaphrax Forest, Amberfuce found that the Undertowners were refusing to do the backbreaking work. To the pampered and arrogant Ghostwaif, there was only solution- mass enslavement. He then enlisted the services of General Tytugg's Goblin army. Over the next few months, Tytugg's army traveled in disguise to Undertown. Once ready, Tytugg struck in which would be remembered as the Week of Blood, the greatest atrocity in the history of Undertown. Every Undertowner in the poorer areas was rounded up and all those too weak, sick or old to work were simply killed on the spot. The survivors were then put to digging mass graves before starting work on the Forest. Then, the General, who was now in absolute control of Undertown, took over the running of the Forest, for which the Guardians paid him directly meaning he wouldn't need to share the money with Vox, and the various sweatshops. He began sending assassins to the Palace of Statues in an attempt to eliminate Vox and declare himself Most High Acadame. At this time, the legendary Captain Twig returned to launch a raid on the Tower of Night and rescue his old ally Cowlquape. The Guardians were dealt a severe blow in this episode, with the Tower of Night damaged and many Guardians killed.

Around this time, a mysterious group led by Felix Lodd appeared. The group was known as the Ghosts of Screetown.From the ruins, they raided the dungeons of the Tower of Night and when possible, attacked Goblin slavers and escorted their prisoners to the Great Mire Road and provided them with the money to get across. From there, these former slaves headed for the Free Glades.

Not long afterwards, the bitter Vox Verlix formulated a plan to destroy the Shrykes, Goblins, Guardians and Librarians alike. Secretly, he designed a device which he named "Vox's Baby", which was filled with a highly explosive mixture of Phraxdust and Bloodoak acorns. At this time, great clouds were gathering over Undertown. Vox planned to use his Baby to trigger not just a storm, but a Dark Maelstrom. The guardians of Night were an easy matter, as far as this plan went. Even if Midnight's Spike was struck by lightning, the ferocity of the storm would ruin New Sanctaphrax, and Undertown would be decimated. Vox planned to warn the Librarians that a Dark Maelstrom was on its way. He needed them to get him to safety. By now, however, Mother Muleclaw of the Shrykes had gathered her army to the Eastern Roost, and the Goblin army was in complete control of Undertown. So Vox proposed a ruse of revealing the Eastern and Western Entrances of the Great Library to the Shrykes and Goblins respectively. By then however, the Librarians would have evacuated. Vox claimed that the storm would strike at Eleven Hours, but requested that he be carried out of Undertown by Ten Hours. However, he lied to them that he could merely predict it. He left his servant Speegspeel to trigger his Baby- before the Librarians could escape the path of the Dark Maelstrom.

At the same time, Orbix Xaxis was plotting his own scheme to destroy the Librarians. For months, he had been feeding captive Librarians to a group of monstrous Rock Demons. However, one Guardian named Xanth Filatine, who had at one point been sent as a spy to the Free Glades, was doing his best to prevent this. As jailer, he tried to find reasons to free Librarians during interrogations. On the eve of the Great Storm, he sabotaged Midnight's Spike.

True to Vox's plan, the Goblins and Shrykes advanced through the entrances know to them and met on the Blackwood Bridge. There followed one of the most savage battles in the history of the Edge, though few present escaped. Some goblin soldiers are known to have joined the Undertowners and headed for the Free Glades. However, Vox's true intentions were guessed by a Librarian Knight named Rook Barkwater. He delayed the activation of the Baby and killed Speegspeel. Delayed though it was however, Vox's Baby still fulfilled its terrible purpose.

The effects were calamitous. Those Goblins and Shrykes still fighting in the Sewers all drowned. At the pinnacle of the Tower of Night Orbix Xaxis perished, struck by the full force of a lightning bolt that had been building up for months. The Guardians were completely wiped out and New Sanctaphrax utterly destroyed. This was the end of the last floating city.

List of locations

Old Sanctaphrax

The Seven Major Schools

  • The Academy of Wind
  • The College of Cloud
  • The College of Rain
  • The Institute of Ice and Snow
  • The Knights Academy
  • The School of Light and Darkness
  • The School of Mist

The Fourteen Lesser Schools

  • The Academy of Balm
  • The Academy of Breeze
  • The Academy of Dawn
  • The Academy of Drizzle
  • The Academy of Dusk
  • The Academy of Fog
  • The Academy of Gloom
  • The Academy of Gust
  • The Academy of Hailstones
  • The Academy of Lightning
  • The Academy of Sleet
  • The Academy of Squall
  • The Academy of Thunder
  • The Academy of Whirlwind

Two Hundred Viaduct Schools

  • Numerous

school of psycho-climatic school of potions and poisons


  • The Palace of Shadows
  • The Great Hall
  • The Great Library
  • The Loftus Observatory
  • Fountain House School
  • West Landing
  • East Landing

New Sanctaphrax

  • The Tower of Night
  • The Sanctaphrax Forest

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