Based on the best-selling novel by Ken Follett, set in 12th-century England, this lavish new miniseries (2010) centers on the building of a vast cathedral. Politics, war, romance, ambition, and a stellar cast--Rufus Sewell, Ian McShane (Deadwood), Donald Sutherland, Matthew Macfadyen--kept viewers glued to their sets on both sides of the Atlantic. "Fabulous"--Guardian (UK). "Shows how a miniseries can be done right"--New York Daily News. 8 episodes, 6 hrs 40 min, 3 DVD or Blu-ray discs.
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Season 1, Episode 1: Anarchy
On the death of King Henry I, there is a schism in the succession leading eventually to civil war during a period now known as the Anarchy. Before his death, the King had sought the support of the noblemen and the clergy in favor of his newborn grandson, the future Henry II and requested that they all recognize his daughter Maude as the rightful ruler until his grandson comes of age. Henry's nephew Stephen has his eye on the throne and with the support of the Church, is soon crowned King. Maude has her supporters however, including Bartholomew, the Earl of Shiring, whose nemesis Percy Hamleigh would like nothing better than to find an excuse to take his lands and his title. Meanwhile a monk, Philip, returns to Kingsbridge Priory when his mentor falls gravely ill and receives an interesting offer from Father Waleran - in return for the Priory's support in making him Bishop, Philip will be made Prior. Meanwhile, Tom Builder, a stone mason, travels the countryside with his wife, daughter and son looking for any work that will feed them in these hard times. When his wife dies in childbirth he decides to leave the newborn on her grave but returns to retrieve him only to find that the infant has been taken. Ellen and her near-mute son Jack join Tom and his family in his travels.
Season 1, Episode 2: Master Builder
Tom Builder, his children, Ellen and her son Jack arrive at Kingsbridge Priory in the hope of finding work. The church is in need of repair but Prior Philip has no money and is unable to hire them. After the church burns down, Tom presents a plan for a new a new style of church with pointed arches and large windows. Philip decides to ask the King for funds and learns a hard lesson in politics after making a deal, or so he thought, with Percy Hamleigh's scheming wife. His dealings with the Hamleighs also earns him the enmity of Bishop Waleran. With Philip away from the Priory, Tom's son accuses Ellen of witchcraft and she is arrested. Valeran is most keen for the trial to begin and it's revealed she may be privy to a deeply held secret she revealed to him during confession. Meanwhile William Hamleigh, son of the new Earl of Shiring visits the castle and assaults Bartholomew daughter Aliena. She swears she will get her revenge and restore the title and property to her brother. In France, Maude prepares for battle.
Season 1, Episode 3: Redemption
Construction of the new church at Kingsbridge Priory is underway. They have too few men and Prior Philip hopes the sale of this year's wool will give them the money they need to hire more workers. When the time comes to quarry the stone William Hamleigh prevents Tom Builder from starting working leading to a major confrontation with the monks of the Priory. Meanwhile, Aliena and her brother Richard travel to Winchester to witness their father's execution and plead for mercy. King Stephen refuses but does offer Richard a place in his army. Aliena comes up with a scheme to make enough money to buy Richard the horse and armor he will need to be a Knight. King Stephen has also been having nightmares and a visit to Kingsbridge Priory to view the progress of the church construction pushes him over the edge.
Season 1, Episode 4: Battlefield
William applies to have his father's title of Earl transferred to him, and discovers a mysterious knight is also a rival for the Earldom. King Stephen, frightened by Jack's appearance, orders an assassin to kill him. The battle between King Stephen and Maud sees each side's leader being taken hostage. Philip is tortured into a confession when Waleran tells Maud that he is the man who betrayed Earl Bartholomew.
Season 1, Episode 5: Legacy
Princess Maude seems to have gained the upper hand having defeated King Stephen on the battlefield and taken him prisoner. Her brother, Gloucester, has been taken prisoner by the other side however and a prisoner exchange is arranged. It doesn't go well however and the self-styled Empress Maude and King Stephen are again at war. Philip's life is saved when his brother unexpectedly arrives in Lincoln. He manages to get access to the quarry to complete the cathedral and also a license to hold a market. Aliena's suggestion that they hold a fleece fair in direct competition with Shiring has tragic results. Jack and a jealous Alfred continue to fight and bicker and forces Tom to choose between them. Bishop Waleran reveals his true ambition.
Season 1, Episode 6: Witchcraft
The war is over and Maude has returned to France leaving King Stephen once again unchallenged. Richard returns to Kingsbridge just after William Hamleigh's attack on the market. Aliena has lost everything and can no longer support Richard's knighthood. Alfred sees an opportunity and asks Aliena to marry him, promising to support Richard as well. After Tom Builder's funeral, Alfred also offers himself as master builder promising to build a vaulted roof made of stone. When the day to bless the church arrives 8 months later, tragedy strikes leaving many dead. Events also reveal Aliena's betrayal of Alfred who promptly throws her out of the house. The tragedy also has an unwelcome effect on Bishop Waleran and Prior Philip. Jack meanwhile has long ago left Kingsbridge and gone off to France to find his father's family. Now without a place to live, Aliena sets off to find him.
Season 1, Episode 7: New Beginnings
As a result of his journeys, Jack has learned how to fulfill Tom Builder's dream of a cathedral filled with light. Aliena tracks Jack by following the trail of his carvings. Waleran offers Philip a new position, but it means that Philip must always obey Waleran. Kingsbridge becomes prosperous again which infuriates Regan and William, who plan an attack that is met with resistance from Richard, Jack and Philip.
Season 1, Episode 8: The Work of Angels
Eight years later, Jack's fixation with the cathedral leaves him little time or energy for anything else, while Aliena's fixation with the distant Earldom of Shiring has married her to Alfred, a man she hates. Waleran and Alfred develop a plot to get rid of Jack for good and it seems to be working until evidence comes to light that makes all wrongs rectified.
Packaging: Boxed set
Run Time: 6 hours, 40 minutes
Number of Discs: 3
Subtitles: English, French
Color or B&W: Color
Region Code: 1
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
"Shows how a miniseries can be done right"--New York Daily News