Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

I was thinking of purchasing a game that was themed to this book but have not read it. Is there anything anti-catholic in the book?

I have read the book, and I find it very even-handed, and not anti-catholic. It takes place in the middle ages, and the Church is prominant, with some good Catholics and some bad ones, just like reality.

Very good book, by the way.


The theme of the game is building a cathedral. It sounds very interesting.


Has anyone played the game that could offer a comment or two? Please… I’d hate to spend $40 dollars and find the theme unacceptable.

BTW: I have read the followup “World Without End” has been deemed anti-Catholic.

I had considered getting this game a while back and if not for the price i might have (not saying it’s overpriced but in the end i decided to go with a couple of $20 games instead of a $40+ game).

In case you haven’t seen it, you might want to check out this Board Games With Scott video: Pillars of the Earth

Where did you read this. I can’t seem to find any information on this subject…

I think I’m going crazy. :whacky:

Please tell me this book was originally entitled Cathedral


I read both books. Loved the first one. The second one IMO increasingly seems to reveal how the author feels about catholicism rather than a fair-handed treatment of the subject.
The church has surely contained both heroes and villains in history, but the latter book especially portrays secularists as the source of true advancement in culture, thought and overall civilization. (Not to mention making a heroine out of a woman who had an abortion and never seems to have truly regretted it, other than rare occassional stabs of conscience).

The authors seems to be of the opinion that the church contributed to the good of civilization only insomuch as she happened to be in the position of power and occassionally got lucky enough to have a coincidentally decent human being come into power in one of her institutions.

Real catholics, on the other hand, tend to believe that God is the source of all human goodness and that the closer we get to Him, the better humans we become.

If I may repost something here that I recently posted on Catholic Online, it begins to address this accusation. I admit I am only about 1/8th of the way through the book, but I seem to be detecting this bias early on.

I just started listening to this book (via MP3) and, like its predecessor, Pillars of the Earth, found it immediately engaging, tragic, and fascinating. For those not familiar with either mega best seller, they are books of historical fiction that take place in the fictional town of Kingsbridge, England during the medieval period. Pillars takes place in the 12th century, and WWE in the 14th. Both center around builders and craftsmen of the time, but being decently well researched works, their lives are dominated by the two powers of the age, the local lords and the church.

First, it must be understood, Follett is an atheist, and avowedly so. He is not an agnostic, he specifically believes in no higher power in the universe.

The first book, while a brutally honest look at life in the 12th century, did not strike me as having a particular agenda. There were good churchmen and bad churchmen, good men and women who also who were secular and unbelievers, and bad ones as well. Evenhanded, overall.

I’m about 15% through WWE, and I suspect that Follett’s anti-Catholicism is peeking out noticeably. So far we have seen a bishop fornicating with a noblewoman, a friar who makes accusations of witchcraft against women who practice herbal medicine in order to collect the donations of a grateful populace after her execution, the same friar violating his vows of poverty by taking advantage of the largesse of his monastic brethren (“Friar Murdo was a particularly unpleasant example: fat, dirty, greedy, often drunk, and sometimes seen in the company of prostitutes. But he was also a charismatic preacher who could hold a crowd of hundreds with his colorful, theologically dubious sermons.”), a monk cynically conspire to go to Oxford merely to advance his own career with a naked and admitted lust for power, a prior deny the request out of jealousy of the other monk’s intelligence and out of a desire to control him, and another monk refuse to oppose the selling of a young woman into slavery by her father in return for a cow.

Yes, all but condone selling a young girl into slavery. Here’s the excerpt:

[quote=“Ken Follett, World Without End”] “All right, enough of that,” Godwyn said. “What’s going on?”

Caris said: “Joby here wants to sell Gwenda for a cow. Tell him he can’t.”

Joby said: “She’s my daughter, sir, and she’s eighteen years old and a maid, so she’s mine to do with what I will.”

Godwyn said: “All the same, it seems a shameful business, selling your children.”

Joby became pathetic. “I wouldn’t do it, sir, only I’ve three more at home, and I’m a landless laborer, with no means to feed the children through the winter, unless I have a cow, and our old one has died.”

There was a sympathetic murmur from the growing crowd. They knew about winter hardship, and the extremes to which a man might have to go to feed his family. Gwenda began to despair.

Sim said: “Shameful you may think it, Brother Godwyn, but is it a sin?” He spoke as if he already knew the answer, and Gwenda guessed he might have had this argument before, in a different place.

With obvious reluctance, Godwyn said: “The Bible does appear to sanction selling your daughter into slavery. The book of Exodus, chapter twenty-one.”

“Well, there you are, then!” said Joby. “It’s a Christian act!”

As far as I can tell so far, the only churchmen positively portrayed are a very minor character who heads the prior’s mission in the forest, and has been in perhaps two scenes so far, and a former knight who becomes a monk for sanctuary and to do penance for his sins. He has spoken not at all (“on screen”) since entering the monastery, but has been seen as a positive force by some of the other characters.

The heroes of the book are none of them particularly devout.

[quote=“Ken Follett, World Without End”] “Perhaps, but God has ordained it otherwise.”
Caris felt frustrated with the way adults trotted out this truism every time they were stuck for an answer.

Her beloved, Merthin, has already fornicated twice and shows no pangs of conscience other than that it was not with Caris. I’ve seen no piety of any kind from Wulfric, Gwenda, or any of the other protagonists

One scene I will repeat here verbatim. Edmund is the parish guild master (head merchant of the town) and Anthony is his brother, prior of the cathedral and monastery:

[quote=“Ken Follett, World Without End”] “God will provide.”

Edmund’s red face flushed with anger, turning a purplish color. “When you were a boy, our father’s business fed you and clothed you and paid for your education. Since you’ve been a monk, the citizens of this town and the peasants of the surrounding countryside have kept you alive by paying you rents, tithes, charges for market stalls, bridge tolls, and a dozen other different fees. All your life you’ve lived like a flea on the backs of hardworking people. And now you have the nerve to tell us that God provides.”

“That’s perilously close to blasphemy.”

“Don’t forget that I’ve known you since you were born, Anthony. You always had a talent for avoiding work.” Edmund’s voice, so often raised in a shout, now dropped—a sign, Caris knew, that he was really furious. “When it was time to empty out the privy, you went off to bed, so that you would be rested for school the next day. Father’s gift to God, you always had the best of everything, and never lifted your hand to earn it. Strengthening food, the warmest bedroom, the best clothes—I was the only boy who wore his younger brother’s cast-off outfits!”

Has anyone else read this book, and does it get any better? I endured Pillars of the Earth through the tragedies that befell the protagonists because the payoff at the end was worth it, but if I’m going to have to wade through a loveless arranged marriage, a life of slavery, and a life of persecution…AND constant attacks on my church, I don’t think it’s worth the payoff at the end, no matter what it is.

Honestly didn’t care for ‘Pillars’ that much. The historical aspect of how the Cathederal gets built was good, but the plot and characters left a lot to be desired.

I thought the pagan ‘witches’ were treated much better than the christians-- as I remember it, the pagan character was consistently wise, patient and good.

I’ve heard it’s being made into a movie…

One of my priest friends was appalled to hear I was re-reading ‘Tale of Two Cities’ because it was so anti-Catholic. True: it is. But it’s also a great read with real literary values. If a youngster was reading it, I’d want to have a conversation about how the Church was viewed in England at the time of Dickens, but I read it when I was young strictly for the plot, didn’t really notice the anti-Catholic stuff till my second or third read…



Here’s some hints on what lies ahead: The knight turned monk is gay, but celibate. Caris tries her hand at lesbianism in the convent, but finds it isn’t really for her. :rolleyes: Merthin is driven out of town, marries another, has a child, loses the wife in plague outbreaks and returns to woo Caris out of the convent because he never really loved the wife he lost.

There’s plenty more to disgust you as well. Sin happening in books I can handle. Even portrayal of systematic corruption in the Church is forgiveable in a historical novel because there WAS plenty of it in real life.

Those aren’t my real problems with the second book. My major problem with the second book is the clear theme and message: “Human introspection, individuality and contemplation is the source of all advancement in civilizations. Religion is, at best neutral and more commonly a negative influence that restricts human potential.”

That’s the theme you’ll find flowig beneath the entire second book. To be sure, it is entertaining at times. Just keep your guard up against the propaganda.

In all fairness, the mother superior before Caris is a positive religious figure, but the story line does nothing to suggest that her positive attributes are attributable to her faith.

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