At the centre of this story, set over a 50 year period in the 13th century, is the Cathedral. Its design and construction in the town of Hagenburg unites an array of unforgettable characters, whose fortunes are inseparable from the shifting political factions and economic interests vying for supremacy. Rettich, a shepherd’s son whose skill at carving wins him a job as an apprentice stone cutter, his sister Grete who will rise from pauper to wealthy landowner, Eugenius von Zabern, the formidable Treasurer of the Diocese, who must balance the Bishop’s complex accounts, and Judah Rosheimer, a Jewish boy who must learn to choose between his skill at trade and his father’s expectation that he should become a Torah scholar. Around this narrative core, Ben Hopkins has constructed his own monumental edifice, a novel that is rich with the vicissitudes of mercantilism, politics, religion, and human enterprise. Ambitious, immersive, a remarkable feat of imagination, Cathedral tells a sweeping story about obsession, mysticism, art, and earthly desire. It deftly combines historical fiction, the literary novel of ideas, and a tale of adventure and intrigue.
Fans of authors like Umberto Eco, Elif Shafak, Hilary Mantel, and Jose Saramago, and readers of first-rate historical fiction will delight at the atmosphere, the beautiful prose, and the vivid characters of Ben Hopkins’s Cathedral.
“There are many things that I detest in this world, and not many things I love. But I think it is clear that the thing that I detest the most of all is that Bottomless Hole that gapes not fifty paces from my Counting Table: The Cathedral.” —Eugenius von Zabern I, anno 1229
“. . . Their brows are not anointed with Holy Oil but with mortar and dust. In turn, they accept the task accorded them, to build the Temple, a place where harmony and order hold temporary reign over the unruly earth.” —Albrecht Kaibach, anno 1318.
Ben Hopkins is a screenwriter, film-maker and novelist. He has lived in London and Istanbul and now lives in Berlin. His films include features and shorts, fiction and documentary, and have won awards at festivals such as Berlin, Locarno, Antalya and Toronto Hot Docs.