1. As Part 4 begins, we learn that Waleran Bigod and Bishop Henry have switched political sides, realigned once more with King Stephen. Waleran will not give William absolution until he, too, joins King Stephen's side. Waleran already has an alliance with Bishop Henry, a direct link to the king. Why do you think he still needs William? What can the bishop gain from him?

  2. Tom's death has a profound impact on young Jonathan, even though Prior Philip has been more of a father figure to him. Do you think Jonathan somehow knows that Tom is his father?

  3. After Aliena loses everything in the Kingsbridge raid, Richard tells her he cannot take care of her, even though she has cared for him for six years. Is Richard being selfish, or simply being practical? If you were Aliena, how far would you be willing to go to honor the oath she swore to her father?

  4. Ellen has a tendency to curse situations she thinks unjust. Do you think her curse on Alfred and Aliena's marriage has an impact on their problems? Could Ellen really be a witch?

  5. There are many explanations for the cathedral's collapse. Some said Alfred was not a competent master builder, others blamed it on Philip's rush to finish, and Waleran blames Philip's arrogance. Why do you think the cathedral collapsed?

  6. While in Spain, Jack is offered the hand of a wealthy merchant's daughter. How are Aysha and Aliena similar? How are they different? Why does Jack make the decision that he does?

  7. Through Jack, we get a glimpse of the building of the greatest cathedral of the time—Saint-Denis in France. Ken Follett has said: "When I started to look at cathedrals, I wondered: Who built them, and why? The book is my answer to that question." Why do you think the great medieval cathedrals were built? How does the building of Kingsbridge cathedral satisfy the ambitions of the main characters—Tom Builder, Prior Philip, Aliena and Jack? How does it affect the lives of other important characters in the story?

  8. Philip is preaching the story of Job when Jack and Aliena return to Kingsbridge. Why do you think Ken Follett chose to include the story of Job? What omens does the tale hold for Kingsbridge?

  9. Do you think the Weeping Madonna truly brought about a miracle for Meg? Or is it the miracle that Philip prayed for so long ago?

  10.  Jack doesn't learn the truth about his father until he is 20 years old. Ellen says she didn't want him to spend his life avenging his father's death. Do you think she had other reasons for not telling Jack the entire story? If you were Jack, would you want revenge? How far would you go to get answers?

  11.  Richard brings news of William Hamleigh's impending raid to Kingsbridge, but Jack is the one who makes sure protective walls are built in time. Who do you think is the bigger hero? Does Richard grow as a man after assuming some responsibility in his life?

  12.  William Hamleigh sees absolution as a "get out of hell for free" card. Waleran Bigod uses his position in the church to help William take his revenge on Jack and Aliena. How have faith and religion been twisted to justify the plans and ambitions of each main character? Is God's will responsible for the various stories in this novel, or is it simply man's will at work?
Part 4 plot points

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 5 | Part 6

More from the complete reading guide to The Pillars of the Earth.

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