This narrator writes a preface titled “Naturally, A Manuscript,” in which he gives an account how he found a copy of the manuscript by the fourteenth-century German monk Adso of Melk. He explains how… (read full character analysis)
When he writes the story of his life, Adso is an old man living in a German monastery and preparing for his own death. However, much of the novel’s action takes place much earlier, when… (read full character analysis)
William is a Franciscan friar from England, where he studied under the scientist and philosopher Roger Bacon. William is a very tall and thin man of about fifty with “sharp and penetrating eyes” and “clumps… (read full character analysis)
Abo is abbot of the unnamed Benedictine abbey in northern Italy. He asks William to discreetly investigate the murders before the arrival of the envoys from the pope and the Emperor, since he worries that… (read full character analysis)
Malachi is the abbey’s librarian. He is suspicious of outsiders and jealously guards the secrecy of the library, which he alone is allowed to enter. Adso observes that Malachi has a face that looks as… (read full character analysis)
Berengar is assistant librarian, described by Adso as “vain” and “lustful”; his sexual desires and intellectual ambition both have tragic consequences. He is consumed with guilt after the death of Adelmo of Otranto, whom… (read full character analysis)
Adelmo was an illuminator known for the beauty and ingenuity of his illustrations. He was very intellectually curious and lively, having engaged in a spirited debate with Jorge on the permissibility of laughter before his… (read full character analysis)
Venantius is a translator who worked in the scriptorium with Adelmo. He is found dead in a barrel of pig’s blood the day after William and Adso arrive at the abbey. Like Adelmo, he… (read full character analysis)
Benno is a student of rhetoric who worked in the scriptorium with Venantius and Adelmo. After Berengar’s death, Malachi makes him assistant librarian. When the book falls into Severinus’s possession, he steals… (read full character analysis)
Jorge is one of the oldest monks at the abbey. Despite his blindness, he has a prodigious memory and knowledge of the library, and the other monks clearly hold him in high regard. He debates… (read full character analysis)
Alindardo is the oldest monk at the abbey, and is thus a useful source of information, showing William and Adso how to enter the labyrinth. He believes that he should have been appointed as librarian… (read full character analysis)
Remigio is the abbey’s cellarer, a former Franciscan who joined the Benedictines to escape religious persecution. Remigio admits that he was the first to find Venantius’s dead body in the abbey’s kitchen, but wasn’t… (read full character analysis)
Salvatore speaks a strange combination of multiple languages, including Latin, an Italian dialect, and Provençale. Adso describes his face and body as “bestial.” Like Remigio, he was a follower of Fra Dolcino and has… (read full character analysis)
Nicholas is the abbey’s master glazier. He is fascinated by William’s glasses—an invention he had only heard of before—and makes William a new pair when his are stolen. After Remigio’s arrest, Nicholas is… (read full character analysis)
Although Fra Dolcino does not appear in the story, other characters frequently refer to him, and Remigio and Salvatore were among his followers. Dolcino was a radical reformer who split off from the Franciscan order… (read full character analysis)
Ubertino is a Franciscan monk and one of the leaders of the Spiritualist movement, a faction within the order that advocates for a return to a state of poverty in the church—a position that puts… (read full character analysis)
Like Ubertino, Michael is a Spiritualist and ally of the Emperor, and believes that the church should adopt a lifestyle of strict poverty. At the end of 1327, Michael has been summoned to Avignon… (read full character analysis)
Bernard is a Dominican who works for the Inquisition—the legal court used by the church to prosecute heresy. He is a staunch supporter of the pope and hates the Spiritualists, and is thus hostile to… (read full character analysis)
Aymaro of Alessandria
Aymaro is a monk known for his often malicious gossip and what Adso calls his “perpetual sneer.” He insults the current abbot, makes insinuations about the relationship between Adelmo and Berengar, is contemptuous of foreigners, and accuses Malachi of sleeping with the novices.
Pacificus of Tivoli, Peter of Sant’Albano, Waldo of Hereford, Magnus of Iona, Patrick of Clonmacnois, Rabano of Toledo
These monks also work in the scriptorium under Malachi. Pacificus and Peter are aligned with the Italian faction, a group of monks including Aymaro and Alindardo who grumble against the increasing power of “foreigners” in the abbey.
Jerome of Kaffa
Jerome is Bishop of Kaffa and also a Franciscan. He shares many of Ubertino and Michael’s views on the poverty of Christ. However, William calls him a fool and doesn’t find his arguments at the disputation very persuasive.
Bertrand del Poggetto
Bertrand is a cardinal who arrives at the abbey in the papal legation to meet with Ubertino and Michael. Like Bernard, he is firm supporter of the pope and a harsh persecutor of heretics.