It's pub day for Sancta Sanctorum, Outland's latest novel! Originally published in Italy and translated into English by Giulia De Gasperi, Sancta Sanctorum is the story of a teenaged young man who realizes that the superhero-like saints he's been taught to revere may not be the heroes he believes. On the run from a corrupt church due to his own connection with a relic, his only allies are a group known as the martyrs, who open his eyes to some of the truths the church has hidden.
In honor of the publication date, Gilbert wrote a bit about the novel and his process for Outland blog readers!
I am Gilbert Gallo, and I live in the thrilling world of Sancta Sanctorum. Yes, that’s right—I live in Italy, the land where most of the Saints were born or lived.
Here, saints are a constant presence in our everyday lives: they watch over you from the high pinnacles of cathedrals, their statues often bring you fresh water from the fountains, and their paintings inspire greatness and altruism when you admire them.
As I child, I always admired them, and thought they were our “human guardian angels.” When I grew up, I realized they were not “angels,” but people. People like me and like you who did great things: heroes. The miracles they performed made them even greater than "ordinary" heroes, so I realized they were in all aspects true superheroes!
I am a big fan of superheroes, so I wondered: what if an endangered earth was saved by Saints instead of superheroes? In Italy, every city has its “defender Saint,” called the "Patron." So I wondered: what if Patrons protected cities like Spider-Man protects New York, or Batman protects Gotham City?
What an incredibly fascinating world that would be!
I immediately imagined a “modern” world with a dark fantasy twist: demons are everywhere, and only the Saints can save us. Using their miraculous superpowers, the saints are the only ones who can keep the apparently invincible demons at bay. Yes, you correctly understood—shooting ordinary bullets at a demon won’t accomplish anything. You have to resort to alchemy, magic or miracles.
When it comes to magic items, you will find no better "artifact" than the so-called Holy Relics. They are objects which belonged to a Saint, often pieces of the Saint’s own body. In the world of Sancta Sanctorum, these Relics are the most sought-after objects. If you own a Relic, you can bring a Saint back to life from the ancient past. And that Saint will do your biddings.
Way stronger than your average genie's lamp, don’t you think?
Owning a Relic means having power. And who owns most of the Relics? The Patriarch, of course, the new, absolute leader of the New Church, Dei Invicti Operae. He is the only one who knows how to "transform" a Relic into a Saint. And he is the only one who can legally own a Relic. Should you ever find a Holy Relic somewhere, you’d better turn it immediately into the Church’s custody. Or else, you’ll be sentenced to death.
Don’t worry, thanks to the New Church and the Saints, the world now can live an apparently "normal" life.
But "normal life" is boring, don’t you think?
That’s where the main conflict in the book comes. There are people who found an alternative way to use the Holy Relics’ powers. They stay human but gain superpowers, like a Saint. They call themselves the Martyrs, because they are constantly hunted down by the Church, who seeks their Relics.
Martyrs want to stop the Patriarch, because they claim that, once the last Demon is wiped out, the Church will then exterminate every single human sinner to create a perfect, sinless utopia where only Saints live.
That’s the part I like most: who is right? Who is wrong? Which side will you join?
I've always believed that "right" and "wrong" are simply different points of view, and I did my best to create a fast-paced, modern fantasy setting where these themes can be addressed the best way.
Being a superhero doesn’t necessarily mean being right, don’t you think?
In Sancta Sanctorum everyone claims to be "right," something that also happens in the real world. So, are we really sure my book is fantasy? Or is it just a speculation on a possible present/future?