Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
Library. Forbidden and mysterious area of the abbey, located in the Aedificium, a large octagonal building housing the kitchen and refectory on its lower floor and the library and scriptorium on its upper floor. The scriptorium is a writing room in the abbey that leads to the main entrance to the library. As was usual in medieval times, the scriptorium is located near the kitchens so that the warmth from cooking fires would help keep the monks warm as they worked.
Most medieval monasteries had libraries because their monks were engaged in religious study and had to undertake daily reading. The abbey’s library serves to preserve manuscripts and provide income and power for the abbey when nobles pay for handwritten copies of manuscripts. Significantly, at this abbey, only the librarian and his assistant are allowed to enter the library itself; they decide who may or may not see certain manuscripts, and only they understand the complex structure of the library.
The labyrinthine design of the library connects it with the medieval mazes often built into cathedrals. The library is designed much like the maze on the floor of the Rheims Cathedral in France. In church symbolism, the maze would be the world, and walking the maze would be a way of reenacting the complex and distracting obstacles in life.
The ossarium, a bone vault leading to a secret entrance into the library, serves a practical purpose as a cemetery and a spiritual purpose as a “memento mori,” reminding all that they will die (and frightening them away from the secret entrance to the library).
Sections of the library are coded according to geographical areas on a medieval map. For example, the finis Africae houses forbidden books–those written by pagan authors that Jorge of Burgos (the former head librarian) considers most dangerous; therefore, it is protected by distorting mirrors and hallucinatory drugs. Aristotle’s Comedy is lodged in the finis Africae because it is the book that Jorge most feared would lead the world astray; this manuscript includes both Arabic and Syriac texts, which indicate that the Comedy was transmitted to the Christian world through infidels.
Church. The abbey’s sturdy church is, like many medieval churches, decorated with carvings intended to inspire religious feeling in the illiterate peasant. When the narrator Adso, a Benedictine novice assigned as William’s scribe, first beholds the church’s carvings, they prompt in him a vision instructing him to write down what he sees; this vision is an allusion to the seven trumpets of the Apocalypse, a theme that permeates the novel.
*Abbey of Melk. Benedictine abbey on the banks of the Danube in Austria. Adso is from this monastery, which, like the fictional abbey, had a library that was gutted by fire.
Baskerville. Fictional English town from which the amateur detective Brother William comes. This place is important for its symbolic name, which connects Brother William to Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, who solved a famous murder mystery at the equally fictional Baskerville Hall.
*Abbey of Cluny. Benedictine abbey in France that was one of the most important centers of Christianity in the fourteenth century. Bernard of Cluny wrote a poem from which the title of the novel is taken. The long poem is a denunciation of immoral clergymen and of the wickedness of the world. While the meaning of the “rose” of the novel’s title may be debated, to Bernard, the rose symbolized the brevity and sadness of mortal life.
*Avignon (a-vee-nyo[n]). City on the east bank of France’s Rhône River that was the temporary seat of the papacy during the period in which the novel is set. It is from Avignon that Pope John XXII promulgates papal bulls against the Franciscans.