Literature Study GuidesThe Name Of The RoseSecond Day Nones Night Summary

The Name of the Rose | Study Guide

Umberto Eco

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The Name of the Rose | Second Day, Nones–Night | Summary



Second Day, Nones

Abo is preparing the abbey's riches for display during the upcoming meeting. He shows William of Baskerville and Adso of Melk the gold and jewels that are "testimony to the power and holiness of this abbey." They may represent power, but William subtly questions if they're symbols of holiness. William reminds the abbot that they must talk about the upcoming meeting and its "debate on poverty." The purpose of the meeting is to find common ground between the Franciscans and the pope. However, the convoluted and seemingly intractable hostility and distrust between the factions offers little hope of reaching an agreement.

The Franciscan Michael of Cesena will represent his order at the meeting, but the fact that the pope is sending French troops to the meeting threatens Michael. Further, if the attendees find out about the murders in the abbey they may interpret them as an attempt to "influence the judgment and behavior of the papal envoys with acts of violence" and "the papal envoys would suspect a plot against them." The abbot urges William to solve the murder mystery quickly.

William and Abo engage in a rather heated discussion of heresy. The abbot condemns all monastic orders that might in any way disturb the status quo, or the power of the Church. William argues that each minor monastic sect is different, and that not all of them challenge or intend to undermine the Church. While William tries to distinguish the teachings and intents of the different orders, Abo insists they are the same "because they are heretics, and ... because they jeopardize the very order of the civilized world," that is, the world ordered by the Church. William argues that some orders of monks seek to change the world simply for "the possibility of a different life." He further argues that it is illness, poverty, and ignorance that make a new social order so attractive, not a heretical desire to undermine the Church.

Abo wants to prevent William and Adso from pursuing their investigation in the library. William tells Adso they will somehow find their way into the library that night to continue their work.

Second Day, After Vespers

Before going into the refectory, William and Adso meet the abbey's oldest monk, Alinardo of Grottaferrata, sitting in the cloister. They discuss the murder of Venantius, and this leads to the subject of the library. Alinardo has known a series of librarians in his time, but has never been "to the labyrinth." This is the first time William hears about the way the library has been constructed. Alinardo tells William there is a way to get into the library: it's through the ossarium (where the bones of the dead are kept). If William goes to the altar of the chapel and pushes the eyes in the fourth skeleton on the right, a door will open into the ossarium. They can access the library via a staircase from there.

Alinardo and William discuss the death of Venantius. Alinardo suspects Venantius's death is related to someone who entered the labyrinthine library in spite of the ban on unauthorized monks entering there.

Second Day, Compline

William and Adso follow Alinardo's instructions and enter the ossarium. The pair climbs a circular staircase up to the scriptorium. They find Venantius's desk, but they're dismayed to see that someone has rifled through it already and removed a book. William and Adso find only one loose page from the book that had fallen beneath the desk. William puts on his eyeglasses and examines the page but can make little sense of it. But when the flame from Adso's lamp passes near the back of the page, secret writing appears, as if written in invisible ink. The writing makes no sense until William realizes it's a code.

While they are examining the coded page, William and Adso hear a sound on the stairway. They follow the sound, but they cannot catch up with the unknown intruder. When they hear a noise coming from near Venantius's desk, William understands they've been fooled. William rushes back to the desk. When Adso returns to William without having intercepted the intruder, he learns that whoever had taken the book from Venantius's desk also stole William's eyeglasses. Clearly, the intruder intends to prevent William from studying the book. Adso helps William by making a large copy of the strange writing on the page. William can see that the strange markings are zodiac signs, and after some thought he realizes they are repeated in a predictable pattern from which their meaning might be guessed. They need more time to decode the signs, so Adso holds on to the page as they ascend to the library floor above.

Second Day, Night

William and Adso climb the eastern staircase leading to the labyrinth on the forbidden floor of the library. They find themselves in a seven-sided room with four passages leading from it. They choose one passage and begin exploring. They come upon rooms of various shapes, some with windows, some without. Each room contains shelves lined with books, and each passage archway has a Latin inscription above it. They try to orient themselves by the room shapes and the wording of the inscriptions, but soon find they are going in circles, visiting the same rooms over and over again. Sometimes they follow a passage that ends in a blank wall. They try to remember the inscriptions to make sure they don't visit the same room twice, but then they find that some inscriptions are used more than once or the words in one arch are repeated in another arch.

Adso takes his lamp and attempts to find a way out of the labyrinth. He screams as he enters a room that seems to have a huge monster in it. When William runs in, he shows Adso that the monster is really Adso's own image in a distorting mirror. They notice a glow coming from one room; when Adso investigates, the glow is only a smoldering thurible (a censer). Adso starts having terrible visions. He passes out and comes to only when William pulls him out of the room. William explains that the air in the room is contaminated by a toxic substance in the incense "capable of inducing visions." He tells Adso that "certain herbs" might produce such visions.

Finally, William expresses his amazement at how well guarded the library is. He tries to use logic and memory to get them out of the library, but none of his plans work. He wonders if they'll have to spend the night there only to be found the next day by an infuriated librarian. Then seemingly out of nowhere they come upon the staircase. They descend to the ossarium and hurry back to their rooms. The abbot is angry as he stands outside waiting for them. He's been looking for them all night. William tries to explain where they were, but the abbot interrupts. It seems that Berengar has not been seen around the abbey in quite a while, and the abbot "fear[s] some new calamity."


The abbey's power rests in its wealth. Abo states the abbey's wealth is emblematic of "the greater glory of the Lord and of this His place." The attachment to wealth also reflects the hypocrisy of the abbot and the Church because both surely know Christ's teachings on wealth and poverty. Yet, the abbot, like the Church, is "convinced that homage must also be paid through the exterior ornament of the sacred vessel." The Church and its abbot are hypocrites and deceive themselves. Their deceit undermines their authority and power among many Christians who turn to so-called heretical sects.

William tries to explain the attraction of heresy as a rejection of the Church's wealth, power, and corruption. He attempts to convince the abbot that it is the poverty of the faithful that impels them to join supposedly heretical sects that embrace the poverty of Christ and view the wealth of the Church as hypocrisy and greed. But the abbot views all minor sects as indistinguishable and insists they exist only to destroy the Church. He also insists that heresy is heresy and must be crushed.

Spoken words are important signs intended to convey a specific meaning. William is surprised when Alinardo tells him about the library labyrinth: "The library is a great labyrinth, sign of the labyrinth of the world." Perhaps this allusion equates gaining knowledge of the labyrinthine library with acquiring knowledge of the world.

The labyrinth symbolizes a fanatical commitment to keep the library's secret hidden. When William and Adso try to enter the labyrinth, they are overwhelmed by its deliberate confusion. The signs are too numerous to enumerate and too confusing to explain. Even William is confounded when he realizes, "Knowledge is used to conceal, rather than to enlighten ... A perverse mind presides over the holy defense of the library." The symbol of the labyrinth encompasses other themes in the book. Its signs are deliberately ambiguous and unreadable, at least from the perspective of a newcomer, such as William, who is lost within it. It contains a hidden room, seemingly with no entrance or exit. It harbors a forbidden and secret book that must remain hidden to ensure its subject remains unknown. The labyrinth protects this secret book to preserve the dogma of the Church, to undermine heresies, to eliminate doubt among the faithful, and to impose order and control over them.

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