The House of Black and White is a temple in Braavos dedicated to the Many-Faced God. It serves as the headquarters of the guild of religious assassins known as the Faceless Men. It sits alone on a small island in the lagoon of Braavos. Although it can be reached by boat or bridge from other locations in the city, the island is usually deserted.
The sole entrance to the temple is a door, one-half ebony, the other pale weirwood - thus one black door and one white door.
The interior of the House features a central sanctuary with a large pool in the center. The water filling the pool is poisoned, and is given out to those who are suffering and come to the temple to seek the release of death.
The atrium is lined with statues of many gods from many different faiths, from across both Essos and Westeros. Specifically, they are gods that represent death and the unknown, such as the Stranger from the Faith of the Seven. The Faceless Men believe that all of these death gods are really one god who has revealed Himself to humanity in different ways: the Many-Faced God of Death.
Statues of deities represented in the sanctuary include:
- The Stranger from the Faith of the Seven
- A weirwood face, of the kind carved into heart trees to honor the Old Gods of the Forest
- The Drowned God of the Iron Islands
- The Fiery Heart of the Lord of Light
- The Black Goat of Qohor
- The Lion of Night from Yi Ti
- The Weeping Woman of Lys
The deepest level of the House of Black and White is the Hall of Faces, an enormous vault with stone pillars. The faces of the hundreds who drank the poisoned water in the atrium are kept here individually in small alcoves to be employed as the basis for the face-changing abilities of the Faceless Men.
Arya Stark is brought to the House of Black and White upon her arrival to Braavos. She is turned away by the building's doorkeeper, a priest, but remained in the vicinity for several days hoping to be let in. After a very brief stint as a street urchin, the doorkeeper retrieves her and allows her entry into the House.
Jaqen allows Arya to train as a Faceless Man, as long as she can become "no one", which means ridding herself of all things that belong to herself. Arya throws her possessions into the ocean, except for her sword, which she hides in the beach rocks. The Waif believes Arya to not be ready, however Jaqen states that whether or not she is, it is all the same to the Many-Faced God. Her training is slow, to only cleaning the temple and washing the bodies of the dead. She is unknowingly tested into playing the game of faces, which she does not understand at first but slowly learns what it means to become no one. After passing Jaqen's game, she is allowed into the Hall of Faces, then she is given a task to assassinate an insurance seller who works at the docks.
Arya gives up on her contract as she spots Meryn Trant, one of Arya's personal targets. She lies to Jaqen and continues to follow Trant, taking a face from the Hall and using it to disguise as one of Trant's underaged brothel victims. Before killing Trant, Arya reveals herself to him.
After returning the face to the Hall, she is caught by Jaqen and the Waif. Trant's life was not hers to take, and as punishment, only death can pay for life. Jaqen drinks poison that Arya thought was meant for her and dies. Arya is horrified by the death of her "friend", only to find out that the Waif was now "Jaqen". He explains that Jaqen was no one, something that Arya compromised for herself. Arya removes the dead Jaqen's face to find even more faces underneath. Jaqen was never a real person, just a face, and faces can only be used by those who are "no one". To "someone", a face is poison, and Arya Stark is rendered blind.
After some time as a beggar on the streets of Braavos, Arya is brought back to the house by Jaqen. She continues to perform her duties as a servant without the ability to see and training in combat against the Waif with fighting sticks, until she proves to be capable of with the stick by striking the Waif. Her sight is returned by her drinking water from the central pool at Jaqen's instruction. By drinking it with the knowledge that it is poisoned, she has proved that she has no fear and can become "no one".
Arya is given the task of assassinating the actress Lady Crane. Instead, she develops sympathy for Crane and refuses to complete her mission. The Waif reports this to Jaqen and is given permission to dispatch Arya. The Waif fulfills Arya's original mission by killing Crane, and is killed herself by Arya after she is lured into a dark area, where Arya can fight effectively due to the earlier punishment she received. Arya places the Waif's face in the Hall of Faces and threatens Jaqen with Needle, accusing him of telling the Waif to kill her. Jaqen declares that she has become "no one" by killing the Waif, but she refuses this and leaves the House as "Arya Stark of Winterfell", to Jaqen's approval.
Behind the scenes
The Hall of Faces was actually built as a fully realized set: instead of making one pillar slightly taller than the actors filled with masks and then doubling it up digitally, multiple pillars over thirty feet tall were built to fill out the entire room. The production team even invested the time and resources to make fully 600 individualized face masks in this set, each unique and handcrafted.
The main hall of the House of Black and White was built at the TV series's main interior studios at the Paint Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland - so-called because it was originally a large shipyard where parts of the RMS Titanic were painted; it was later converted into the largest filming studio in Europe. In order to make the large cistern of poisoned water that appears in the middle of the hall, the construction team had to dig down into the floor - and in the process, they discovered some of the tram tracks originally used in the old shipyard to transport pieces of the Titanic over a century ago.
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the House of Black and White sits upon a rocky knoll made of dark grey stone. It has no windows and has a black tile roof. Its wooden doors are twelve feet high and carved. The left door is weirwood, the right ebony. In the center of the doors is a carved moon face ebony on weirwood, weirwood on ebony. Its grey stone steps lead down to the dock.
In the novels, the left door at the entryway is made of white weirwood, and the right side door is made of black ebony. The TV series reversed this, for unknown reasons (Martin may have indicated that like the specifics of character appearances, reversing it didn't matter as long as they were still the appropriate colors), so that the right door is white and the left door is black.
In the center of the main room on the main floor lies a pool ten feet across. Statues of gods stand around the room. There are statues of thirty gods in all. Among them are the Weeping Woman, the Lion of Night, the Hooded Wayfarer, Bakkalon, the Moon-Pale Maiden, the Stranger, and the Merling King.
· Moon Pool · Palace of Justice · Sealord's Palace · Temple of the Lord of Light (Braavos)
· Temple of the Moonsingers