The Pillars of the Earth

13 Jan

As I said the other day, I just finished reading The Pillars of the Earth over a long snowy weekend. It’s massively long – more than 950 pages, but it only took me three days to read it. I read many books, but not often ones that affect me so much. Almost the kind of book that makes you want to give up reading anything else, because you know nothing else will ever be the same. Of course, you do go on to read something else, but somehow it just can’t live up to what you just found. I feel like this one became part of me, part of my soul. I know the feeling will fade with time, but for now, I feel like I was actually part of that world for a while, the dangerous and daring world of England in the 12th century. I just couldn’t put it down – I had to know how it all turned out in the end.

It tells the story of a small country town that aspires to rise to greatness through the building of a great cathedral. You don’t have to know anything or appreciate cathedrals to enjoy the book though (although I’d recommend having this article on hand). The master builder wants to build it because he wants to make something beautiful. The prior of the monstery wants to build it to give people hope, for the benefit of the town, and the glorification of God. It’s interesting to note the reasons that motivate people in their decisions. Some are purely for personal gain or pleasure. Others base their decisions on their benefit of others, and some feel caught up by destiny and circumstance.

It is the epic adventure tale of knights and peasants. It is a sweeping romance filled with love and heartache. It is the political thriller of kings and nobility, filled with twists and turns and more than a little conspiracy. It tells of pillage and plunder and the corruptive force of the thirst for power. There are battle scenes and love scenes, death and destruction, rebirth and renewal. It has everything. It gives me hope in the eventual triumph of good over evil.

And behind everything is the love of art and architecture, of one man’s quest to use his talents to create something beautiful, something almost beyond human comprehension. Anyone who’s been inside a cathedral can tell you of their awesome and overwhelming effect. I know that some see only wealth and greed and corruption, but I see the need to create something larger and outside of yourself. Something that, when you look at it, appears to tower above the earth against the laws of gravity. Something that seems to come from divine inspiration, rather than human ingenuity. Which, sometimes, I feel can be one and the same.

The book was recently made into a mini-series, which you can bet I’m going to check out at first opportunity. I would highly recommend The Pillars of the Earth to anyone. You won’t want to put it down.

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