A detective thriller set in a medieval monastery. This genre bending story from the pen of Italian author Umberto Eco had “make me into a movie” written all over it.
And so it came to pass that Sean Connery (the first James Bond) and a very young Christian Slater played the roles of priest and young assistant investigating some murderous goings on among Italian monks. The movie of the book was a runaway success and if you have never seen it, please download it as a top priority.
Umberto Eco was something of a post-modernist, which is not necessarily a good thing in my world view. But he redeemed himself with some gripping tomes. Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum are the most memorable. In the former book, Brother William of Baskerville and his assistant Adso must find out why monks are being bumped off.
But this being Umberto Eco, William is also the embodiment of a new type of thinking that was emerging in the Templar period. He is clearly influenced by Thomas of Aquinas who was, to put it crudely, fusing Christianity with the philosophy of Aristotle. He is a friend of Occam and follower of Bacon, thinkers at this time who took an almost scientific interest in getting to the truth.
The medieval world that Eco reveals is bursting with new thoughts but it’s also corrupt, violent and frankly very sinister. This leads us to William’s antagonist, a Dominican friar and Inquisitor called Bernard Gui – who really existed. He is the face of the official church – intolerant and prepared to resort to any measures to protect its wealth and privilege.
It’s men like Bernard Gui who will destroy the Knights Templar, prepared to torture and burn in the name of the faith. Their only raison d’etre was to defend ecclesiastical power. And they understood the deadly power of ideas that could undermine the church. In real life, Gui had taken on the Cathar heresy in France that had threatened to overthrow papal authority in that kingdom.
I won’t plant any spoilers in this blog post – watch and find out what happens!