The Name of the Rose

The Finis Africae Symbol Analysis

The Finis Africae Symbol Icon

The finis Africae is a hidden room in the abbey’s labyrinthine library. It is called the “finis Africae”—the “end of Africa,” in Latin—because it is adjacent to the “Leones” rooms containing books by African authors. When William of Baskerville and Adso of Melk visit the labyrinth, they are perplexed to find that the room is seemingly inaccessible, walled up and concealed behind a mirror that reflects ghostly images. Venantius of Salvemec tried to break into the room, but his cryptic note (“The hand over the idol works on the first and the seventh of the four”) serves to further obscure the truth rather than clarify the mystery. The result, then, is yet more misdirection, like the distortions in the mirror; William and Adso only later realize that Venantius was instructing them to press the fourth and seventh letter of the word “quator” (the Latin for “four”) in the phrase written above the “idol,” or the mirror. As William observes, “this place of forbidden knowledge [i.e. the library] is guarded by many and most cunning devices.” Although the ostensible purpose of a library is to preserve knowledge and make it accessible to future generations, this library is designed to keep out intruders and frustrate those who would try to penetrate its mysteries. The finis Africae—the most secret room in the labyrinth—is symbolic of the strict control in place at the abbey over the dissemination of knowledge. When William and Adso do eventually reach the finis Africae by a secret staircase, they find that it contains a forbidden book that Jorge of Burgos had tried to conceal by burying it in this hidden room and murdering those who tried to enter. In this sense, the finis Africae is the most extreme example of the way in which, as William puts it, “knowledge is used to conceal rather than enlighten.” The purpose of the room and all the “cunning devices” that guard it is to keep knowledge secret and hidden, rather than to bring the truth to light.

The Finis Africae Quotes in The Name of the Rose

The The Name of the Rose quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Finis Africae. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Interpretation of Signs Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Mariner Books edition of The Name of the Rose published in 2014.
First Day Quotes

[O]nly the librarian knows, from the collocation of the volume, from its degree of inaccessibility, what secrets, what truths or falsehoods, the volume contains. Only he decides how, when, and whether to give it to the monk who requests it; sometimes he first consults me. Because not all truths are for all ears, not all falsehoods can be recognized as such by a pious soul.

Related Characters: Abo of Fossonova (speaker), Malachi of Hildesheim
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:
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Second Day Quotes

And, Benno added with a smile, how many times had he himself not been stirred by desires of the intellect so violent that to satisfy them he would have consented to complying with others' carnal desires, even against his own inclination.

Related Characters: Benno of Upsala (speaker), Adelmo of Otranto
Related Symbols: The Finis Africae
Page Number: 148
Explanation and Analysis:
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This place of forbidden knowledge is guarded by many and most cunning devices. Knowledge is used to conceal, rather than to enlighten. I don’t like it. A perverse mind presides over the holy defense of the library.

Related Characters: William of Baskerville (speaker)
Page Number: 187-188
Explanation and Analysis:
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Third Day Quotes

There, I said to myself, are the reasons for the silence and the darkness that surround the library: it is the preserve of learning but can maintain this learning unsullied only if it prevents its reaching anyone at all, even the monks themselves. Learning is not like a coin, which remains physically whole even through the most infamous transactions; it is, rather like a very handsome dress, which is worn out through use and ostentation. Is not a book like that, in fact? Its pages crumble, its ink and gold turn dull, if too many hands touch it.

Related Characters: Adso of Melk (speaker)
Page Number: 198
Explanation and Analysis:
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Fourth Day Quotes

“But then,” I said, “what is the use of hiding books, if from the books not hidden you can arrive at the concealed ones?”

“Over the centuries it is no use at all. In a space of years or days it has some use. You see, in fact, how bewildered we are.”

“And is a library then, an instrument not for distributing the truth

but for delaying its appearance?" I asked, dumbfounded.

Related Characters: Adso of Melk (speaker), William of Baskerville (speaker)
Page Number: 306
Explanation and Analysis:
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Fifth Day Quotes

The good of a book lies in its being read. A book is made up of signs that speak of other signs, which in their turn speak of things. Without an eye to read them, a book contains signs that produce no concepts; therefore it is dumb. This library was perhaps born to save the books it houses, but now it lives to bury them.

Related Characters: William of Baskerville (speaker), Benno of Upsala
Page Number: 422-423
Explanation and Analysis:
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Seventh Day Quotes

The library had been doomed by its own impenetrability, by the mystery that protected it, by its few entrances. The church, maternally open to all in the hour of prayer, was open to all in the hour of succor. But there was no more water, or at least very little could be found stored, and the wells supplied it with a parsimony that did not correspond to the urgency of the need.

Related Characters: Adso of Melk (speaker), Nicholas of Morimondo
Related Symbols: The Finis Africae
Page Number: 524
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Finis Africae Symbol Timeline in The Name of the Rose

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Finis Africae appears in The Name of the Rose. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Second Day
Knowledge and Secrecy Theme Icon
Judgement and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...Venantius and Adelmo to approach Berengar separately and ask for a forbidden book labeled “ finis Africae ” in the catalogue. (full context)
The Interpretation of Signs Theme Icon
Knowledge and Secrecy Theme Icon
Judgement and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...sleep with Berengar in exchange for access to the forbidden book located in the “ finis Africae .” From this information, William hypothesizes that a distressed and guilty Adelmo went to Jorge... (full context)
Fourth Day
The Interpretation of Signs Theme Icon
Knowledge and Secrecy Theme Icon
...so William hypothesizes that it has been walled up. This room must be the “ finis Africae ”—the end of Africa. Venantius’s notes referred to the “idolum,” which William realizes means the... (full context)
Sixth Day
The Interpretation of Signs Theme Icon
...abbot, who is one of the few remaining people who knows the secret of the finis Africae . (full context)
The Interpretation of Signs Theme Icon
...heading northwards. Adso shouts after him, saying he wants to see what is in the finis Africae as well, but William tells him “You have already seen it!” (full context)
The Interpretation of Signs Theme Icon
Knowledge and Secrecy Theme Icon
...Back in the scriptorium, he sees a catalogue entry for a mysterious book labeled “ finis Africae ” containing four titles bound together, including a copy of the Coena. William then makes... (full context)
The Interpretation of Signs Theme Icon
Knowledge and Secrecy Theme Icon
...between Berengar and Adelmo. Rather, everything turns on the theft of a book from the finis Africae . Abo demands to know whether William has contravened his orders and entered the finis... (full context)
Knowledge and Secrecy Theme Icon
...of Italian monks from revolting against “foreign” librarians. William determines that they must enter the finis Africae , since “the final answer must be there,” and in doing so save someone’s life.... (full context)
The Interpretation of Signs Theme Icon
...hadn’t gone inside simply to close the Aedificium: Adso suggests that he’s gone into the finis Africae . William agrees that this may be the case, but they still don’t know how... (full context)
Knowledge and Secrecy Theme Icon
...William and Adso hear a muffled noise. William surmises that Abo tried to enter the finis Africae through a secret passageway and has been trapped inside. William tells Adso that they must... (full context)
Seventh Day
Knowledge and Secrecy Theme Icon
The finis Africae is similar in shape to the other three heptagonal rooms inside the towers. Jorge is... (full context)
Knowledge and Secrecy Theme Icon
Religion and Politics Theme Icon
...abbot because Abo had asked him (spurred on by the Italian faction) to open the finis Africae and reveal the forbidden book. Jorge pretended to agree and said that he would kill... (full context)
The Interpretation of Signs Theme Icon
Knowledge and Secrecy Theme Icon
...Berengar had been sexually intimate with him in exchange for the forbidden book from the finis Africae , prompting Malachi, who was in love with Berengar, to kill Severinus out of jealousy.... (full context)
The Interpretation of Signs Theme Icon
...one page from the next. This was how Venantius died, then: he broke into the finis Africae , and found the forbidden book. When he read it, he ingested the poison. He... (full context)
Knowledge and Secrecy Theme Icon
...fearing there would be an inquiry, since after all, Venantius had only gotten into the finis Africae after he showed the book to Adelmo. He flung the body into the vat of... (full context)
The Subversive Power of Laughter Theme Icon
Judgement and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...out the lights, saying “now I am the one who sees best.” Jorge escapes the finis Africae in the dark, and William and Adso quickly realize that he is shutting the mirror... (full context)