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Cathedral of the Sea: A Novel

Cathedral of the Sea: A Novel

4.1 74
by Ildefonso Falcones

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The “riveting”(The Washington Post) #1 international bestseller—now in paperback in the U.S.

In the tradition of Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth, here is a thrilling historical novel of friendship and revenge, plague and hope, love and war, set in the golden age of 14th-century Barcelona. Arnau Estanyol


The “riveting”(The Washington Post) #1 international bestseller—now in paperback in the U.S.

In the tradition of Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth, here is a thrilling historical novel of friendship and revenge, plague and hope, love and war, set in the golden age of 14th-century Barcelona. Arnau Estanyol arrives in Barcelona and joins the powerful guild of stone-workers building the magnificent cathedral of Santa Maria del Mar, while his adoptive brother Joan studies to become a priest. As Arnau prospers, he secretly falls in love with a forbidden woman. When he is betrayed and hauled before the Inquisitor, he finds himself face-to-face with his own brother. Will he lose his life just as his beloved cathedral is finally completed, or will his brother spare him?

Editorial Reviews

El Mundo
With Cathedral of the Sea, Ildefonso Falcones dethrones Eduardo Mendoza and Arturo Perez Reverte . . . and has become Spain's new Dan Brown.
Diana Gabaldon
Cathedral of the Sea could be subtitled "Nobles Behaving Badly." Whenever an aristocrat enters a scene, expect Big Trouble. Arrogant knights, debt-ridden barons, conniving wives, greedy kings—it's soap opera on a grand scale, made believable and enthralling by the inclusion of the commonplace brutalities and small compassions of life in medieval Barcelona…Though uncomplicated, the prose is powerful, no doubt due in part to the skill of the translator, Nick Caistor; the simplicity allows us to appreciate the riveting story without the distraction of ornamental language. Falcones has an eye for the singular, telling detail, and if his characters are simply drawn, they're believable.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Medieval Spain's caste system can't keep a good man down in this absorbing epic, a Spanish-language bestseller. Arnau Estanyol, son of a fugitive peasant, starts out in 14th-century Barcelona as a lowly porter who carries stone blocks to a cathedral construction site and ends up a rich moneylender who saves the city from pillaging and frees the serfs of a barony he acquires by marriage. Alas, his dizzying social assent and defiance of the feudal order provoke enraged aristocrats-his status-obsessed wife included-into siccing the Inquisition on him. Arnau is a kindhearted, somewhat passive figure who combines piety, industry and cosmopolitanism to challenge a corrupt, dogmatic church and a parasitic nobility. The plot features thwarted romance, war, plague, immolations and self-immolations, set in a Machiavellian world ruled by privilege, cronyism and brute force. The melodrama is sometimes laid on thick, but Falcones's rich portrait of medieval society is fascinating. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Centered on the life of Arnau, born to a peasant farmer in Catalonia, this weighty novel spans 55 years of medieval history. Orphaned at the age of 14 and responsible for his young adopted brother, Arnau becomes a bastaix and carries enormous blocks of stone on his back from a quarry to be used in the construction of a new Barcelona cathedral, Santa Maria de la Mar. But Arnau is not destined to be a mere laborer. The 14th century is a time of great social upheaval, and class and economic boundaries are stretched to the breaking point, allowing even the child of a peasant to gain influence, wealth, and status. Though there are momentary glimpses of exceptionally fine writing, most of this novel is tediously dry, concentrating more on history and less on character and plot. How is it possible that one of the most fascinating periods of Spanish history-a century that saw recurring plagues, wars, social and economic revolution, the rise of a powerful merchant class, and the Great Inquisition with its persecution of Jews and heretics-could be rendered in such a pedantic fashion? For a far more spirited work on a similar theme, stick with Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth . [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/08; Falcones's debut novel was a Spanish best seller, and rights have been sold in 32 countries.-Ed.]-Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Municipal Libs., AK

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
No one expects the Spanish Inquisition. Set in 14th-century Catalonia, Barcelona attorney Falcones's sprawling medieval family saga, a bestseller in Spain, starts with a nasty little bit of prima nocta, which, come to think of it, got another bestselling medieval epic, Braveheart, rolling. The dastardly lord Llorenc de Bellera comes calling on good Bernat Estanyol on his wedding night and declares, in lawyerly lingo, " ‘In accordance with one of my rights as your lord, I have decided to lie with your wife on her first night of marriage.' " Not a friendly thing to do, as the lovely Francesca discovers, but not the last unfriendly act on Llorenc's part, as Bernat's sturdy son Arnau discovers. Arnau has bigger fish to fry before arranging to avenge the family honor: First he has to go fight against the assembled enemies of Catalonia, then take care of some trouble with his brother, who, the bloodlines being all confused by now, has taken to behaving like Llorenc, but this time in priestly habit. Despite his misfortunes, Bernat remains a good-natured man-he dares, for instance, to smile at a Jew. Arnau inherits the sense of equitability and fair play, though Falcones can't help observing that Arnau's Jewish pal has "a piercing gaze and hook nose," certainly not the best traits in an inquisitorial age. Brother Joan, for his part, finds that there's good work to be had in being an inquisitor, heading north to do his thing, since "most of the doctrines that the Catholic church considered heretical came through Catalonia from France." Much snarling and mustache-twisting and muttering in Latin and sword-crossing ensues; stones are lifted, a cathedral is built, heretics are burned, all business asusual in such climes. Less learned than the work of compatriot Arturo Perez-Reverte, but more intelligent than the average beach book.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
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Penguin Group
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File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Ildefonso Falcones is a well-known attorney who lives Barcelona. He found fame when his novel Il Catedral del Mar sold over a million copies and has been #1 on the Spanish bestseller lists for ten months. In Spain, he is often compared to Ken Follett and his book had drawn numerous comparisons to Follett’s masterpiece The Pillars of the Earth. Falcones has also been called “the new Dan Brown” by El Mundo. Now, Dutton brings this giant international bestseller to an American audience.

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Cathedral of the Sea 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 74 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Life in the fourteenth century Barcelona where the city is at its peak--the peasant fishermen decide to build, with money from some, and hard work from others, the biggest cathedral near the ocean: Santa Maria del Mar. The construction of the cathedral draws a parallel life to the protagonist, Arnau, a peasant who's violated by his feudal lord on his wedding night. He escapes to Barcelona, where he earns citizenship and with it, his freedom. He starts carrying rocks for the cathedral's construction, and then he plays a major role in defending the city from its enemies. In doing so, he saves the Jewish population and is adopted by a one of them who makes him his apprentice and then a merchant. But with privileges also come the envy and treason from his enemies landing him in trouble with the inquisition.... La Catedral del Mar is the story where loyalty, vengeance, treason, love, disease, and war mix in a world marked by religious intolerance, ambition, and social status. All of these factors make this novel not only a page-turner, but also the most fascinating and ambitious recreation of the feudal age.
Chocolate-Dog More than 1 year ago
The cover is what attracted me to the book and the short summary of the story on the back. It appeared to me to be the story of someone building a cathedral and its religious importance. When I started reading the book I almost quit because I usually do not like stories that take place during such uncivilized and barbaric times as the Spanish Inquisition. But I told myself I was going to give it a chance so I kept reading and I'm glad I did. I learned quite a bit about the history and life during the Inquisition. The author was able to minimize the barbaric ways without taking away from the history of the times to the point I was able to concentrate on the story which turned out to be a mixture of a love story intertwined with the construction of this wonderful cathedral. I would recommend this book to anyone. Don't give up on it after just a few chapters. Keep reading. You'll be glad you did!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Becoming very sick of books that just drag on too long in a world where everyone is trying to write "The Epic", it's refreshing to read a book that it worthy of epic status. The plot of this book is nothing short of mesmerizing, built on well-developed characters with talents, flaws, spirituality. Humanism, politics, spirituality, and love all combine into a historical fiction that I could not put down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Everything that you hope for in a book about this time period is here. Very good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have passed this book onto 4 other people and they have all loved it. I couldn't recommend it more!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While overall, I enjoyed this book, one thing was really annoying. When the author wanted to educate the reader about practices or customs in the middle ages, he would simply have a character actually educate or lecture a younger character. It stuck out like a sore thumb each time. Also, there were a fair amount of typos. The comparison to Pillars of the Earth is thin.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sometimes, a book cover just compels you to pick it up and give it a chance, this was that book for me. I am very pleased with this purchase and have recommended to several friends. This is a beautiful and captivating story in such a dark period of humanity.
pointerbd More than 1 year ago
I admit I originally purchased this book because of the genre and the good reviews it had received- and being a bargain book the price was worth the risk. When the book arrived and I saw the size of it I was a bit daunted. However,once I started reading a few pages I was hooked. Having recently visited Barcelona and the Catalan region of southern France, I was immediatly intrigued by the historical detail and perspective that the book provided. A must read for true fans of Historical Fiction. This is writing at its best- would make a great movie!
KWR57 More than 1 year ago
This is what historical fiction is all about. Great characters. Epic story lines and historical relevance. Falcones attention to detail puts you there in Barcelona circa the early 14th century. He educates while entertaining us. His characters are believable and easy to root for. If you like this genre, than you'll love this novel. I highly recommend it to any reader.
XOgigiXO More than 1 year ago
This story develops around the building of The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona in 1300's. This novel kept me reading late at night. I was intrigued by the power of Love, Perseverance, Injustice, Social Status, and the Inquisition at that time.I was amazed to learn about how Religion and Social Status determine peoples lives in the 1300's. The writter keeps you intrigued from beginning to end.
JMB9517 More than 1 year ago
When I went into Barnes and Noble to make a purchase, I had no idea that I would fall in love with this book. It has been almost two years since I have read it, but the plot, characters, everything are still in my head. This book is captivating, and you will fall in love with characters. This book is a perfectly orchestrated masterpiece!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is great historical novel. I read it in Spanish and I could not put it down. Even though it takes place during the inquisition, it's characters want you to follow their experiences. With regards to your description, you need to make a correction. Mar, the girl he is in love with, is the daughter of Ramon one of the men that had helped Arnau. The jewish girl is the daughter of Hadei. 'When Arnau, who secretly loves a forbidden Jewish woman named Mar...'
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read
Cycling_Chef More than 1 year ago
This historical fiction door stopper captures the reality of life in the Middle Ages including the harshness and cruelty that many other authors of this genre tend to gloss over. At times the translation made the reading a little awkward, but I easily became involved with the characters who include every dimension of Catalan society from royalty to slaves, merchants to prostitutes and Christians, Moors and Jews. The fast moving plot kept my interest although trying to follow the regional kings and the details of their wars became a bit tiresome. However, just when I thought the book might be slowing down, another realistic crisis hit the pages: starvation, the plague, the Inquisition,… This book has been compared to PILLARS OF THE EARTH because the plot revolves around the building of a cathedral, but I think CATHEDRAL OF THE SEA would best be enjoyed by a more narrow audience of hardcore historical fiction readers who want to learn about Cataluña's culture and this period in Barcelona's history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I know... a book which includes the Spanish Inquisition, unbounded brutality and religious bigotry - what could be more depressing?! The pettiness and baseness of mankind remains unchanged even by centuries of eduction and"enlightenment". This would be a good read for the student of world history. The writer researched his subject matter and provided enough information to have a feel for the times and issues peasants, and the disenfranchised of society would have lived through. While the historical details were very interesting, it was not enough for me to become emotionally committed to the characters. HOWEVER one plus - the book did make me most grateful I live at this point in history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a beautiful story. Others have compared it to " Pillars of the Earth", but the story is only loosely similar, both are great stories though. A couple of parts are akward where the story stumbles trying to give factual historical information regarding wars and changes in leadership, which tells that the writer is inexperienced but the book is a work of love and it shows. The characters are well developed and believable. I truly enjoyed reading this book and would highly recomend. I gave it four stars only because of the flow being interrupted and for the fact that I reserve five stars for very few books I feel are the best for whatever reason that peticular book appeals to my senses, my brain, and emotions. Well this is just my opinion anyway.
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i really enjoyed the book. you dont get the pillars of the earth at all which i was afraid i would be re reading. great characters.
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