The name of the rose

Is a novel by Umberto Eco, set in the early 14th century of our current era. In it, he writes of the theological disputes of the time with the pope living in Avignon and other disputes in the secular arm of things.

The two themes that are carried to the end of the novel attempt to answer two questions, did Jesus and by extension, the first apostles preach poverty? Did they own property? The second question is whether Jesus laughed? On these two questions, lie all the disputes in the novel.

The disagreements between the pope and the Fransciscans, Minorites and all the others introduced by Eco depend really on the intepretation of poverty that one adopts. The simple people who follow Fra Dolcino and others like him believe in poverty. They loot not to own but to have in common.

On the other end, that is, in the Abbey, life depends on the question of whether Jesus laughed. Any pursuit of this knowledge becomes, literally, a matter of life and death. Jorges through his various ploys kills or is an accomplice in the deaths that occur in the abbey within the duration of 7 days that our narrator was there.

Inquisitors like Bishop Benard Qui can only be appeased when someone dies at the stake. His commitment to truth leaves no room for doubt. He would kill an innocent person if it served his end arguing that god would recognize his own. Jorges kills so people can remain ignorant.

Alinardo is ignored because everyone believes his ramblings are those of a bitter old man. Maybe Abo’s life would have been spared or the monks like Malachi too, had he been taken seriously. But maybethe fate of the library was sealed from the time Bro William was assigned the task of investigating the death of Adelmo.

Why did temporal power allow itself to be involved in the inquisition which was really a dispute between the churches? Why allow the bishops to keep their hands clean in a matter that was entirely a doctrinal dispute?

What is it of relics that there always seems to be a person claiming to have one? And the more absurd it is, the higher it is valued?

If you are looking for holiday reading, this is a good one.

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

8 thoughts on “The name of the rose

  1. renudepride says:

    A very solid recommendation for a summer reading. The author seems to write in harmony with the truth. The questions about poverty and laughter represent the minor concerns that have defined religious practices and thinking for ageless times. Does it really make any difference? I hardly think so. 🙂 Naked hugs!


  2. john zande says:

    I tried to read Foucault’s Pendulum, but had to give up.

    Name of the Rose — loved the film.


  3. rautakyy says:

    There are actually already at least two filmatizations of the Name of the Rose. Both of them are fairly loyal to the book, wich in itself is rare on book filmatizations, but interrestingly they are also somewhat different. I like the way both of them looked and felt, altough when the soldiers appear, they are, on both occasion, depicted quite – should I say – loosely on the military garments and armour of the time they are depicting. Not as disturbingly like in so many other films set in the medieval era, where the historicity of the gear and props are like Napoleonic era soldiers of the Great Army re-enacting the 1944 Battle of the Bulge with tin foil hats and modern assault rifles.

    The book is really good, methinks. I have heard historians and medievalists say, that the book gives an unfair view on how the Church treated knowledge, because without the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, there would no longer exist books from the antiquity and no universities would have been founded. It is pretty much a detective book, not some attempt to give an all encompassing picture on medieval philosophy or the functions of the Inquisition. I find this line of argumentation faulty, because in the fall of the Western part of the Roman empire it was precisely the Church, that attacked the former knowledge, philosophers and such. That early part of the medieval era is not called the “dark ages” for nothing. One of the reasons we can thank the Church today for saving all that knowledge in the latter part of the medieval times, is precisely because it had set itself in a position of power, so that none other even could have the organization to set up universities and grabbed all the literature, so it was the only one system that could save any of it, from the wrath of the early Church.

    Yes, in the medieval times there were civilized men among the Church both in the early more fanatical and later during the more scholastical era, but the sheer amount of violence during the rise of the Christianity to political power and as the only allowed religion in all of Europe has been forgotten and deliberately hidden. It seems to me, that this is a real challenge to the integrity of some of the researchers, because their particular religion of peace and love shows it’s ugly face precisely like all the others, when it is expanding.

    Oh, and I liked the Foucault’s Pendulum also, but the Baudolino was, altough entertaining, yet a bit too DaDa even for me at the end.


    • makagutu says:

      I am sure I have not watched any of the films based off the novel.

      I have heard historians and medievalists say, that the book gives an unfair view on how the Church treated knowledge,

      while this reading is possible, especially when you look at the restrictions placed on the library or the lengths Jorge’s goes to prevent the reading of a particular book. But on the other hand, we have monks present at the Abbey for scholarship purposes only. The abbey is a centre of learning even if only transcription takes place and only a few monks are involved. It would have been added to the list of moral failures of the church if apart from its other failures, it included destruction of books. Which to some extent happened.

      I don’t think I am going to look for Baudolino.


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