“Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett is among the many fascinating books that inspire me to see and understand the world. Although the book is set predominantly in medieval England, it was a trip to Vitoria Spain that inspired Follett to write the sequel “World Without End.”
There, a massive renovation and restoration project was underway on the Santa Maria Cathedral, which dates to the 11th Century. Since 2002, modern day architects have worked to correct and improve upon the original efforts of real life versions of Follett’s main character, stone mason Tom Builder.
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Santa Maria Cathedral in Vitoria Spain
I had read both of Ken Follett’s books when I visited Vitoria, Spain a few years ago, but there’s nothing like looking into the bowels of this 11th century structure and 1,000 years of human intrigue to bring those books and the character of Tom Builder to life.
Unlike similar projects that close the doors while renovation is underway, the leaders of the Santa Maria Cathedral project decided to invite the public to witness what was underway.
We donned hard hats and climbed scaffolding and tried to grasp the magnitude of the human experience that had evolved under these massive granite archways.
Excavations revealed more than 2,000 graves, pottery shards and other artifacts that date to the 8th century. Much of this is now on display at the end of the tour.
Have you read Ken Follett’s books?
At approximately 400,000 words each, Ken Follett’s books on this subject are fairly intense. Movies rarely capture and translate well the richness of the written word. But the ReelZChannel produced a pretty good mini-series titled “World Without End” in 2012 starring Cynthia Nixon and Miranda Richardson. Ridley Scott was the producer.
Although the restoration of the Santa Maria Cathedral is all but complete, a section of the foundation remains exposed for future visitors to appreciate. I hope you are one of them.
Vitoria is located in the province of Álava in northern Spain. One path of the ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela passes through town.