Monday, 9 December 2013


“Study history, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft.” - Winston Churchill

At the weekend we started watching the 2012 eight-part mini-series “The Pillars of the Earth”. This is based on Ken Follett’s book of the same name and is directed by Sergio Mimica-Gezzan. It stars Ian McShane, Matthew Macfadyen, Eddie Redmayne, Hayley Atwell, Natalia Wörner, Anatole Taubman and Rufus Sewell. It is a joint German/Canadian/UK production and has the expansive historical cavalcade type of approach that suits the mini-series format very well – certainly a movie of this book would not have done it justice.

The plot unfolds in the England of 1135 AD, a dark and violent time. King Henry I’s only legitimate heir has died in a shipwreck, and the king has neglected God and the church during his reign. The priests and bishops are most eager to put a religious man on the throne after the poisoning of the king, and in return for swearing allegiance to them, they promise Stephen, the nephew of the king, to enthrone him. A fierce battle of succession ensues between Stephen and King Henry’s only legitimate child Maude.

At this time, a young and ambitious monk named Philip is made Prior of Kingsbridge, a town that has suffered in recent times and that is in dire need to have its church rebuilt. Tom Builder travels through England with his son Alfred, his daughter Martha and after his wife Agnes died in childbirth, they are joined by the two outlaws Ellen and Jack. Finally, Tom finds a job in Shiring, but the earl, Lord Bartholomew is conspiring against the new king Stephen and the William Hamleigh, who was rejected by the lord’s daughter Aliena. Philip, Tom and his family and Aliena are faced with several challenges and hardships, but their paths cross in Kingsbridge, and they all will play a vital role in the construction of the brand new cathedral.

There is intrigue aplenty, politics, love, sex, battle, violence, incest, skullduggery and lots of sweeping, inspiring panoramas of life in the twelfth century at all levels of society. The acting is good, the costumes and sets well-produced and the direction tight enough for such a mammoth undertaking of filming a novel of this scope and intricacy. Be warned that the series contains lots of violence and sex and also some very colourful language and mature themes.

We look forward to watching the rest of this series, but also I believe there is a sequel, “World without End”, which I would like to get hold of to watch too. This sequel doesn't rate as highly on IMDB as does the original series, but nevertheless, it does get good reviews. Definitely worth watching if you like epic historical dramas.


  1. we saw the first episode but did not watch again after that. I suppose we got busy and forgot all about. Perhaps we will revisit.

  2. I've watched this series and also its sequel and enjoyed both very much.

  3. This sounds like a show I would enjoy. I'll have a look for it.

  4. I liked this miniseries very much. I haven't seen the sequel, nor did I know it existed. Thanks for telling us about it, I'll watch that too.