Saturday, April 30, 2011
156. the PILLARS of the EARTH
Set in medieval England, this absorbing and immense historical fiction encompasses generations of church builders whose aim is to built the most magnificent Kingsbridge Cathedral. The intricate plot includes a tapestry of love, greed, power, war, religion, politics of government and church, and is told with a heavy but necessary dose of descriptive architectural information as well as memorable strong characters such as Prior Philip, the two church builders Tom and Jack, Ellen, Aliena and Prince William Hamleigh. An epic saga worth reading!
'The small boys came early to the hanging.'(opening line)
'The girl turned her hypnotic golden eyes on the three strangers, the knight, the monk and the priest, and then she pronounced her curse, calling out the terrible words in ringing tones:"I curse you with sickness and sorrow, with hunger and pain; your house shall be consumed by fire, and your children shall die on the gallows; your enemies shall prosper, and you shall grow old in sadness and regret, and die in foulness and agony...'(15)
'Any fool can get into a fight, but a wise man knows how to stay out of them.'(34)
'They were inside the walled cathedral close, which occupied the moment taking it in. Just seeing and hearing and smelling it gave him a thrill like a sunny day. As they arrived behind the cartload of stone, two more carts were leaving empty. In lean-to-sheds all along the side walls of the church, masons could be seen sculpting the stone blocks, with iron chisels and big wooden hammers, into the shapes that would be put together to form plinths, columns, capitals, shafts, buttresses, arches, windows, sills, pinnacles and parapets... To most people it was a scene of chaos, but Tom saw a large and complex mechanism which he itched to control. He knew what each was doing and he could see instantly how far the work had progressed. They were building the east facade.'(45)
'Hunger is the best seasoning.'(62)
'...excessive pride is a familiar sin, but a man may just as easily frustrate the will of God through excessive humility.'(136)
'William hated churches. They were cold and dim even in fine weather, and there was always that faintly corrupt smell lingering in the dark corners and the low tunnels of the ailes. Worst of all, churches made him think of the torments of hell, and he was frightened of hell.'(157)
'Tom designed the three levels of the nave wall -- arcade, gallery and clerestory -- strictly in the proportions 3:1:2. The arcade was half the height of the wall, and the gallery was one third of the rest. Proportion was everything in a church: it gave a subliminal feeling or rightness to the whole building. Studying the finished drawing, Tom thought it looked perfectly graceful. But would Phillip think so? Tom could see the tiers of arches marching down the length of the church, with their moldings and carvings picked out by an afternoon sun... but would Philip see the same?'(290)
'High-born people make poor servants. They are disobedient, resentful, thoughtless, touchy, and they think they're working hard even though they do less than everyone else -- so they cause trouble among the rest of the staff.'(364)
'To swear an oath is to put your soul at risk... Never take an oath unless you're sure you would rather die than break it.'(376)
'Having faith in God did not mean sitting back and doing nothing. It meant believing that you would find success if you did your best honestly and energetically. Philip's holy duty was to do all he could to prevent the cathedral from falling into the hands of cynical and immoral people who would exploit it for their own aggrandizement.''(417)
'The first casualty of civil war was justice.'(475)
'... Jack was too absorbed in his work to hear the bell. He was mesmerized by the challenge of making soft, round shapes of hard rock. The stone had a will of its own, and if he tried to make it do something it did not want to do, it would fight him, and his chisel would slip, or dig in too deeply, spoiling the shapes. But once he had got to know the lump of rock in front of him he could transform it. The more difficult the task, the more fascinated he was. He was beginning to feel that the decorative carving demanded by Tom was too easy. Zigzags, lozenges, dogtooth, spirals and plain roll moldings bored him, and even these leaves were rather stiff and repetitive. He wanted to curve natural-looking foliage, pliable and irregular, and copy the different shapes of real leaves, oak and ash and birch...'(520)
'She stood in what would be the crossing and looked at the chancel. It was finished but for the roof, and the builders were getting ready for the next phase, the transepts: already the plan had been laid out on the ground on either side of her with stakes and string, and the men had started digging the foundations. The towering walls in front of her cast long shadows in the late-afternoon sun. It was a mild day, but the cathedral felt cold. Aliena looked for a long time at the rows of round arches, large at ground level, small above, and mid-sized on top. There was something deeply satisfying about the regular rhythm of arch, pier, arch, pier.'(614)
'He would never work on another church like Kingsbridge Cathedral, he thought as he sat in the warm Spanish afternoon, listening vaguely to the laughter of the women somewhere deep in the big cool house. He still wanted to build the most beautiful cathedral in the world, but it would not be a massive, solid, fortress-like structures. He wanted to use the new techniques, the rib-vaults and the pointed arches... A picture of a church was forming in his mind. The details were hazy but the overall feeling was very strong: it was a spacious, airy building, with sunlight pouring through its huge windows, and an arched vault so high it seemed to reach heaven.'(685)
'Aliena shaded her eyes. The sunlight coming through the windows at the east end of the church dazzled her. Like a vision, a figure walked her out of the blaze of colored sunshine. He looked as if his hair was on fire. He came closer. It was Jack... Aliena felt faint.'(696)
'The purpose of a wall is to force a delay on the enemy while he's in an exposed position, and enable the defender to bombard him from a sheltered position.'(745)
'Aliena felt an affinity for Ellen: they were both oddities, women who did not fit into the mold.'(788)
'... castles taken by cowardice, trickery or treachery.'(849)
'The more he thought about it, the better he liked it. He visualized the church from the west. The half-arches would look like the wings of a flight of birds, all in a line, just about to take off. They need not be massive. As long as they were well made they could be slender and elegant, light yet strong, just like a bird's wing. Winged buttresses, he thought, for a church so light it could fly.'(874)
'"The seventh step of humility is reached when a man not only confesses with his tongue that he is most lowly and inferior to others, but in his inmost heart believes so." Philip knew he had not yet reached that stage of humility. He had achieved a great deal in his sixty-two years, and he had achieved it through courage and determination and the use of his brain; and he needed to remind himself constantly that the real reason for his success was that he had enjoyed the help of God, without which all his efforts would have come to nothing.'(931)
'Was it possible?
There was something familiar about this situation, he realized. A mutilated corpse, a crowd of onlookers, and some soldiers in the distance: where had he seen this before? What should happen next, he felt, was that a small group of followers of the dead man would range themselves against all the power and authority of the mighty empire.
Of course. That was how Christianity started.'(960)
New American Library Deluxe Edition
Book qualifies for: 100+ Reading Challenge
So sorry for the double posting. My new laptop is confusing me. I should remember to change the publish post date, to prevent these accidental premature postings. Is there anyway to delete a post completely so it does not show on the dashboard? Any other tips for a computer novice like me?