Der Name der Rose (The Name of the Rose) (1986)




Director:     Jean-Jacques Annaud.

Starring:      Sean Connery (William of Baskerville), Christian Slater (Adso of Melk), Helmut Qualtinger (Remigio da Varagine), Elya Baskin (Severinus), Michael Lonsdale (The Abbot), Volker Prechtel (Malachia), Feodor Chaliapin Jr. (Jorge de Burgos), William Hickey (Ubertino da Casale), Michael Habeck (Berenger), Urs Althaus (Venantius), Valentina Vargas (The Girl), Ron Perlman (Salvatore), Leopoldo Trieste (Michele da Cesena), Franco Valobra (Jerome of Kaffa), Vernon Dobtcheff (Hugh of Newcastle), F. Murray Abraham (Bernardo Gui). 

 1327, not a true story, but a good depiction of monastery life of the time


A Benedictine Abbey is going to host a council on the Franciscan's Order's belief that the Church should rid itself of wealth.  As if to spoil the affair, a death occurs under mysterious circumstances.  Some of the monks think that the apocalypse is coming, but not all, so the Franciscan monk William of Baskerville is asked to play detective to find out the cause of death.  As he and his assistant Ados of Melk investigate the matter, more deaths occur.  There are other pressures on William and Adso.  The Holy Inquisitioner, Bernardo Gui, arrives and tries to discredit William's investigation.  And a man, who William believes is innocent, has been accused of being the killer. 

The movie is good to watch for insight into monastic life in Western Christianity during the Medieval Ages. (William of Baskerville uses the then popular scholastic method of thought to present his arguments.)


Spoiler Warning:  below is the entire summary of the movie.


The story is told by Monk Adso of a grand experience he had when he was very young. 

1327.  It is the time of the Holy Inquisition.  William of Baskerville, a Franciscan, is traveling with his charge, the young Adso, to a papal conference at a remote abbey.  Ubertino de Caslae, accused of heresy, has already been here for a few weeks.  When the two travelers arrive they see that the handsome young man Brother Adelmo has recently been killed and his body horribly mutilated.  The monks have no natural explanations for the death, so they ascribe it to super-natural forces.  The abbey wants the crime to be covered up before the arrival of the papal delegates. 

William and Adso are introduced to the monks, including the venerable Jorge, an old, blind monk.  William introduces Adso to Ubertino de Casale, who lives in hiding for his critical writings.  The old man warns William about the dangers in the abbey.  William goes outside the abbey walls to look at the death scene.  From the areas of blood and signs of body dragging, William concludes that Brother Adelmo had committed suicide by jumping not from the abbey itself but from the tower.  Then somebody had dragged the body under the abbey walls so that any investigator would conclude that the young man had jumped to his death from the abbey (where the windows cannot be opened). 

News arrives that another dead man has been found.  He was killed elsewhere, brought to the scene of the crime and dumped head first into a huge container of pig's blood.

One particularly important question occurs to William:  "Where are the books?"  For an abbey, there is a dearth of books around the monks.  Since the first death occurred in the tower, William wants to get into that building.  While pondering his question, someone tries to crush the two detectives by pushing a huge block of stone onto them.  They escape with their lives and find that the would-be assassin is a dim-witted hunchback who is a bit crazy and goes by the name Salvatore.

William and Adso visit the study room where the second dead man was last seen.  They want to see the book on which he was working.  But before they can reach the book, someone grabs it and makes off with it.  William and Adso take different paths of pursuit after the thief.  Adso follows the fellow into a back area.  When he hears some mysterious noises, he hides behind a lot of wheat sacks.  There he meets a young peasant girl who flirts with him.  She disrobes and virtually forces herself on the young man.  Adso's flesh is weak and he has sex with her. 

William and Adso want to go to the library, housed in the tower.  But the librarian, Brother Malachia, and the assistant librarian, the very heavy Brother Berengar, do not want to allow them entrance.  Later they find Brother Berengar dead in a vat of water.  He has the same blackened finger tip as the second dead man. 

William has a good idea now of who moved Brother Adelmo's body: Brother Berengar.  Berengar was in lust with Adelmo.  In exchange for having access to a particular rare book in the library, Adelmo consented to have sex with Berengar.  Feeling great remorse, Adelmo threw himself from the tower.  Brother Berengar then moved the body to the abbey grounds so as throw off suspicion from him. 

At night William and Adso get into the inner works of the tower.  They find the library there.  The place consists of a great labyrinth of mysterious passages.  They look for the book  --  a book which kills or for which men will kill.

William is advised to do not further investigations for the great inquisitor Bernardo Gui is arriving very shortly and he will conduct the investigations.  He is also told not to tangle with Gui twice. 

Back in the library, William and Adso find a secret passage heading down from a hole in the floor.  This gives access to secret rooms.  Adso gets himself lost.  He ties a thread from his rough outer garment to a stationary item so that he will be able to follow the thread that is pulled from his garment back to where he started.  After a few frightening moments, the two come together again.  They then find a locked door through which they cannot pass.  Following the string leads the two back to where they started. 

Salvatore tries to force sex on the young girl and in the struggle a candle falls and sets fire to the room.  Gui has arrived.  He declares the girl a witch.  The girl and Salvatore are taken into custody. 

Adso wants William to tell him how he knows of Gui.  It turns out that Wiliam was an inquisitor, but in the better, early days.  Because he disagreed with a decision of Gui and the Inquistiion, which is unlawful, Gui had William put in prison, tortured and forced to recant. 

Salvatore is tortured to get him to tell the Inquisition who are the murderers.  Meanwhile, someone kills another monk.  Gui makes William one of three judges for the Inquistion.  Salvatore appears before the court.  He fingers Remigio de Varagine.  But Remigio is guilty of just robbing the priests to give to the poor.  Yes, in the past he had killed priests and bishops, but not at this abbey.  The girl, Salvatore and Remigio are found guilty and condemned to be burned at the stake.  William protests the decision, so later he will have to go as a prisoner with Gui to Avigno. 

Another monk dies.  The murderer escapes.  William and Adso head to the locked secret room.  They figure out how to open it and head in.  There they find the venerable Jorge, the blind monk, with the book.  Jorge with the book runs away.  William yells to the monk demanding to see the rare book.  He knows now that the book is the second book of the Poetics of Aristotle dealing with comedy.  He asks Jorge why he is so disturbed by a book on comedy.  Jorge says that religion is too serious of a subject to permit laughter in the abbey.  Because of this, Jorge placed poison on the leaves of the book and the fingers of the soon dead men who touched the book without gloves end up dead with a black finger.  In his hurry Jorge manages to set the book on fire which in turn sets him on fire.  Adso is able to get out of the tower safely.  William is left inside. 

The monks fight the fire.  In all the confusion, the poor people are able to rescue the young girl.  The flames consume the two condemned men.  The poor people than get revenge on Judge Gui by pushing his carriage (with him in it) over a cliff, killing him.  William appears.  He is safe. 

As William and Adso leave the abbey, the young girl tries to get Adso to stay with her.  He hesitates several times, but decides to go with William. 


Good detective story.  The motivation for the monk seems a little strange.  But I guess those monks in Medieval Times could be pretty strange.  So let's go with it.  Sean Connery was great as Brother William.  F. Murray Abraham was appropriately objectionable for the role of Bernado Gui.  Valentina Vargas was appropriately attractive. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

Historical Background:


before 3rd century  --  all Christian monks were hermits.

3rd century  --  St. Anthony was the first Christian to adopt the monastic lifestyle, that is, living in communities of like-minded people and obeying a set of rules for communal living.

c. 320  --  Pachomius of Egypt started to organize his many followers into what became the first Christian monastery.

ca. 529  --  the first of the Benedictine monasteries, established by Saint Benedict of Nursia at Monte Cassino in Italy, founded.  This was the seed of Roman Catholic monasticism.  The Benedictine Order consists of independent Roman Catholic monasteries that observe the Rule of St. Benedict (that is, a book of precepts of moral commandments for proper moral conduct).  The book has become the leading guide in Western Christianity for monastic living in community (among Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Protestants).   The book seeks a middle ground, avoiding the extremes of monastic living: rigid institutionalism and out-of-control individualism.

Each community is an autonomous House.  These communities are loosely formed into Congregations (for example, Cassinese, English, Solesmes, Subiaco, Camaldolese, Sylvestrines).  And the Congregation are represented in the Benedictine Confederation.  Benedictine monks and nuns agree to stay within the monastery and to obey their superior.  Only those Benedictine monks who are ordained priests are members of the Catholic Hierarchy. 

Medieval Ages

Monks spent most of their time praying.  When not praying, the scholastically-oriented monks would engage in such activities as writing, copying, or decorating books, while the non-scholastic monks would do physical labor. 

Around noon, they would have their main meal of bland foods such as poached fish and boiled oats, while listening to the reading of the scriptures.  They had to eat in silence.  (But the monks could used hand gestures to communicate.)

after the first millennium  --  some monasteries became universities, such as at Oxford and Cambridge.  The monasteries usually had good libraries.   

Sometimes they residents of the monastery had to take care of stop-over travelers.  This became a more regular task when lay people started to make pilgrimages to monasteries. 

14th century  -- a very popular method of thought was the scholastic method with its emphasis on dialectical reasoning where all arguments and their contradictions are examined, looking at all sides with an open mind. From this point, using a series of dialectics, the two sides of an argument would be presented in such a way that they would appear to be in agreement (and, therefore, not contradictory).  


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