Pillars of the Earth

Pillars of the Earth

Book - 1989
Average Rating:
Rate this:
If you liked the Century Trilogy, you'll love the "extraordinary . . . monumental masterpiece" ( Booklist ) that changed the course of Ken Follett's already phenomenal career.

"Follett risks all and comes out a clear winner," extolled  Publishers Weekly  on the release of  The Pillars of the Earth . A departure for the bestselling thriller writer, the historical epic stunned readers and critics alike with its ambitious scope and gripping humanity. Today, it stands as a testament to Follett's unassailable command of the written word and to his universal appeal. 
The Pillars of the Earth  tells the story of Philip, prior of Kingsbridge, a devout and resourceful monk driven to build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has known . . . of Tom, the mason who becomes his architect--a man divided in his soul . . . of the beautiful, elusive Lady Aliena, haunted by a secret shame . . . and of a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state and brother against brother.
A spellbinding epic tale of ambition, anarchy, and absolute power set against the sprawling medieval canvas of twelfth-century England, this is Ken Follett's historical masterpiece.
Publisher: New York : Morrow, c1989
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780451225245
Branch Call Number: F FOL
Characteristics: 973 p. : ill. ; 25 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

WestSlope_TheaH Oct 03, 2018

I was completely engrossed in this novel. I found the characters very compelling and well-developed, with distinctive voices for the four narrators of the story: Tom Builder (a stonemason), Philip (a monk), Aliena (an earl’s daughter), and Jack (Tom’s clever stepson). The story takes place over decades, from Part 1, chronicling 1135-1136, to Part 6, chronicling 1170-1174. Don’t be alarmed by the length—this book was so difficult to put down that I breezed right through it. As a work of historical fiction, I definitely see some crossover appeal for fans of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, and, like Games of Thrones, it too was adapted for TV as a Starz miniseries in 2010. Certainly the history of the medieval era has similar amounts of treachery and violence!* Reading this book made me want to take a trip to Europe to tour grand old cathedrals. This novel really made me consider the building of a cathedral as the legacy of a lifetime. One final reason to pick it up: Ken Follett told the New York Times in 2014 that of more than twenty novels that he’s written, it was his favorite.

*I will caution that if you are sensitive to violence against women or sexual assault in your fiction, you may want to pass.

BostonPL_EileenS Aug 06, 2018

Follett is a must for historical fiction fans. This particular title is centered on the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge in 12th century England and is the first in a trilogy. The Pillars of the Earth has been nominated as one of America's best-loved novels by PBS's The Great American Read.

Feb 22, 2018

Dynasty in all it's Joan-Collinsesque glory in 1100, with some architecture thrown in. Just fun.

Apr 24, 2017

Pillars of the Earth is fine, but The Heaven Tree Trilogy by Edith Pargeter is better, though it is older and harder to find. How is it better? Writing is more finely crafted, the people are more believable, their actions are less annoyingly gratuitous and you will learn a lot about building with stone. If you liked P of the E and want more, look for the Heaven Tree, The Green Branch and The Scarlet Seed and enjoy!

Mar 26, 2017

I watched the DVD first and saw many comments that it differed from the book, so I read the book. I don't even remember how the DVD ended and will watch it again. The book is very good, but really huge (973 pages!) I thought it could have been edited down, but it was an interesting and compelling read. Set during the medieval period of historical drama between the era of church and state (royalty and monastic goals and ambitions). Some complain about the ongoing stories of lust and devotion (around page 600 you welcome them!) but I thought the interaction of real people versus the staid and moral church attitude provided a good contrast with the historical setting. Some members of the church were not so moral and forgiving while the local folk had to deal with issues of survival and existence while under the influence of bad lords and scheming bishops. Based around several people who had been inspired to create a beautiful cathedral. A good book, very interesting, but be prepared to set aside a chunk of time.

Mar 16, 2017

Thought the quality of the writing was disappointing. The story was interesting enough to keep you reading but could have been told with far fewer pages. It was a "C" read for me.

ArapahoeChristineS Oct 03, 2016

A thoroughly engrossing saga. It was violent at times, but I imagine that was common during that time period. Don't let the hefty size of the book scare you; before long you won't want to put it down.

Dec 10, 2015

1000 pages but well developed, fast paced and engrossing.

Oct 27, 2015

I had high expectations of this book but it fell very short. It turns out to be, not so much about cathedral building, as it is an excuse for literary pornography and vulgarity.
The numerous rape scenes and sadistic behaviour of William are the core of this book, not cathedral building. Follett pretends he did research for this book but for one thing, historically, women of that period always covered their hair with a wimple or a bonnet and except in private their hair was always braided or up it some fashion. This book is lurid and disturbing to read. I know modern writers like to expound on violence and rape but frankly
I prefer "brutally raped" to several pages of the description of a rape. I compare this book to "Kristin Lavrandatter" and the contrast leaves Ken Follett in the dust compared to Sigrid Undset. She too has a very long story, over 1000 pages, rape and violence, set in the 15th century Norway, but it is written in a way that brings it to the reader without making one feel like a voyeur of pornography.
I hated this book

Jul 12, 2015

Unfortunately Ken has limited experience of people who are starving.The idea that Tom could have sex every minute of the day having just buried his wife with a new aquintance while at the point of starvation is laughable. It would be best if he left his fantasy out of the book.

View All Comments

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

brihawkins13 Apr 06, 2018

brihawkins13 thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

Jan 22, 2015

Cheetaiean thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

LauraO18 Jul 12, 2012

LauraO18 thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

SHIRLEY (INSITE) HALL thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

Sep 20, 2009

markv thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over


Add Notices

LauraO18 Jul 12, 2012

Frightening or Intense Scenes: Many murders are vividly and graphically described.

LauraO18 Jul 12, 2012

Coarse Language: This title contains coarse language.

LauraO18 Jul 12, 2012

Sexual Content: Detailed and graphic sexual content...a rape of a teenage girl is described in vivid and horrifying detail.

LauraO18 Jul 12, 2012

Violence: Many murders and acts of violence and rape are vividly and graphically described.

Sep 20, 2009

Sexual Content: This title contains Sexual Content.


Add a Summary

Mar 14, 2010

In a time of civil war, famine and religious strife, there rises a magnificent Cathedral in Kingsbridge. Against this backdrop, lives entwine: Tom, the master builder, Aliena, the noblewoman, Philip, the prior of Kingsbridge, Jack, the artist in stone and Ellen, the woman from the forest who casts a curse. At once, this is a sensuous and enduring love story and an epic that shines with the fierce spirit of a passionate age.


Add a Quote

SPL_STARR Jun 16, 2015

"The small boys came early to the hanging."

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Subject Headings


Find it at RPL

To Top