6. Waleran Bigod
Waleran is a bishop, a corrupt and ambitious cleric who would do anything for more power. He is the Bishop of Kingsbridge and an ally of Bishop Henry, brother of Stephen.
He is one of the main “bad guys” in The Pillars of the Earth. He is one of the main characters standing against Prior Philip’s dream of building the biggest Gothic cathedral in the world. He doesn’t show any emotions and he seems quite impersonal as a human being, but he proves to be very manipulative. His goal to destroy Abbot Philip is also induced by his plots with William Hamleigh.
About adecade before the action starts in the book, he shows part of the conspiracy against the King, in order to send England in a world ruled by anarchy. He accuses Jack Jackson’s father of stealing an expensive goblet. Philip goes to him when he must report about the plot against King Stephen. All the time, he can be seen as trying and struggling to switch destinies in his favor. He even promises Philip to nominate him as a Prior if Philip does the same for him as Bishop of Kingsbridge, but it’s only a trick. He is also arrogant and obsessed with control, a self centered man who would do everything needed in order to gather more and more power.
5. Tom Builder
Tom Builder is one of the main characters of the story, an idealistic person who, unfortunately finds his wishes too far to be accomplished in real life.
He is a master-builder who, unfortunately, can’t make it till the end of the book. He was first married to Agnes, who dies, he has a brother that doesn’t have a name in the book and then he has a second wife, Ellen and four children: two sons of his own: Alfred and Jonathan, a daughter – Martha and a step son, boy of Ellen – Jack.
His dream of building the huge cathedral starts as a wish to honor his first wife’s memory. After adopting Jack, he teaches the boy all he knows and Jack proves to be a great sculptor and builder, but he fail in giving the best advice to Alfred, his natural son, who grows as a corrupt person, although his father is a decent and kind man.
He comes from a family from the north
He had at least one brother. His first wife’s father was a priest and he works there for a small church in the town. Agnes falls in love with him and she spends one night with him, then they get married. Their first son is Alfred, followed by Matilda, a girl that dies at age of 2 and then a boy who is dead since birth, but Tom would have liked to call him Harold. Later, while Tom was building a chapel, Martha comes into the world. Then, Tom starts building a house for William Hamleigh. Although he likes simple jobs as this one, his great dream is to design and build a church. A difficult period starts for Tom once he is told to stop the work for the house as William’s marriage has been canceled, so there is no more need for the place to live in.
Although he is described as tall and imposing person, Tom is compassionate and kind and he puts a lot of passion in his work. He is a determined person and can be authoritative, but he fails to do it also with Alfred, his son that he loves very much and can’t see him as actually being a cruel and corrupt person.
4. Philip of Kingsbridge
Philip is first a priest and becomes later a Bishop and he is one of the main characters in Pillars of the Earth. He is one of the characters described as POV (you actually get to see the story also from his point of view). He is the main dreamer of Kingsbridge cathedral, but surrounded by lots of secondary plots such as power, conspiracies, family domains and the civil war. Still, his main objective – building the cathedral, gathers all the characters “in the same place”. He’s a good, decent and very religious man.
He comes from Gwynedd, Wales and he has a brother called Francis. While he was only 6 years old, his father “Da” came injured from a battle and their house was soon full of English soldiers that killed both of his parents. In the last second, he and Francis were rescued by Abbot Peter who took them to be raised as monks in a church. When he was young, he had a period of rebellion but when he saw that he isn’t punished for the things he does, even the fleshy thoughts left him and he decided to remain a monk.
His respect for the words in the Bible sometimes makes him take unpopular decisions, such as refusing Aliena’s marriage to Jack. Anyway, most of the characters have a great respect for him.
He worked as an assistant for the Cellarer until his death and then he began wondering which might his role be in the monastery. Francis, his brother has left to become a priest, but he returns with a baby to the monastery and while the other monks take care of the little child, he finds time to speak to his brother in private.
Is now Prior of St John in the Forest, Francis lets him know about the civil war and tells his brother to go in Kingsbridge and warn the monks about Bartholomew being highly loyal to Maud. Philip takes his brother advice and leaves to Kingsbridge saying he is going to visit Prior James, but he actually heads right to the Bishop’s palace. On his way, he meets Tom Builder and his children and shares his dinner with them and become friends. He doesn’t manage to enter the Bishop’s place himself but he meets Waleran Bigod and discusses with him. Philip likes him at first, but they will hate each other later.
Philip is a very devoted character, leading all his life and actions by the rules of the Church and Bible. He even takes decisions which cannot be tolerated by people close to him in the name of the Holly Book, such as his refuse to marry Jack and Aliena, but also sends Ellen away after she disparages the Bible.