A Canticle for Leibowitz

by Walter M. Miller Jr.

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Summary and Analysis: Part 1 (Fiat Homo), Chapters 10-11

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Pope Leo Pappas XXI: the Pope of the Catholic Church, who resides in New Rome

Francis departs on his trip to New Rome and, in the second month of his journey by donkey, encounters a robber on a forested mountain far from civilization. The readers learn here that the Valley of the Misborn lies a few miles to the west and is made up of “sports,” who are genetic monstrosities. The Church decided that these sports were, despite their deformities, human beings who possessed immortal souls, and this judgment caused some to call the sports the “Pope’s nephews” or the “Pope’s children.” The robber comes from this valley, and his two children trail along behind him. The robber searches Francis, then examines Francis’s illuminated blueprint copy and the original blueprint. He decides he wants the illuminated copy, but mistakenly assumes that the original blueprint is actually the one Francis has been copying. Francis takes up the robber’s offer to wrestle for the two blueprints, but Francis quickly loses. However, the robber accepts Francis’s pleas to let him keep the original blueprint, and says he will need to pay two heklos of gold if he wants the illuminated copy back. The robber decides to take the donkey after all, and Francis journeys on by foot, with just the original blueprint.

Later, in the basilica in New Rome for the ceremony to canonize Leibowitz, Francis waits. He is amazed by the grandeur of the basilica and the Church officials before the ceremony of canonization begins. The brief ceremony consists of a plea by Aguerra for Leibowitz to be made a saint, a chanting of the Litany of the Saints by the choir, and Pope Leo Pappas XXI’s granting of Aguerra’s request for canonization.

Afterward, Francis joins some other pilgrims to be received by the Pope in the audience room. After a short wait, the Pope arrives and talks with the pilgrims as Francis waits. When the Pope reaches Francis, Francis kisses the Pope’s Fisherman’s ring, and learns that the Church knows about the theft of the illuminated copy. Francis gives the original blueprint to the Pope and is told by the Pope to see Aguerra and deliver a letter from the Church to the abbey once he returns to Utah. Francis briefly confesses to Aguerra, who gives him a purse with two heklos of gold to buy the illuminated copy back. Francis departs and journeys back to his abbey on foot. However, when he reaches the site where he had encountered the robber, no one is there, so Francis sits down to wait for the robber. After a short while, he sees someone on the trail in the distance, and as he waits for the robber, one of the “Pope’s children” kills him with an arrow shot between his eyes.

After some time, a wanderer comes by to bury Francis’s body. Time passes, and a city-state emerges in Utah in the year 3174.

The irony of Francis being killed by one of the Pope’s nephews, or Pope’s children, soon after attending the canonization ceremony highlights several issues. The Pope declared that the deformed people produced by the genetic mutations caused by radiation from the nuclear war were still people who possessed immortal souls. This decision protected the deformed people from being killed, but Francis, a member of the Church, is killed by one of those protected people on his way back from New Rome, which was built after Rome itself was destroyed in the nuclear war. Francis would have set out on his journey to New Rome aware...

(This entire section contains 766 words.)

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of the dangers posed by highway robbers, but the abbey apparently did not have the resources to adequately protect him from theft or murder. The Pope’s declaration also is the first instance of Church policy on matters of life and death impacting the plot of the novel.

The Fisherman’s ring worn by the Pope commemorates the first Pope, Peter, who was said to be a fisherman before being appointed by Christ to lead the Church. Subsequent Popes wear this ring as an emblem of their office. The grandeur of the basilica in New Rome highlights the relative poverty of the rest of the continent: Francis, who was forced to travel by donkey and then by foot to the basilica, in a time when there is apparently no form of transportation faster than a horse or a boat, has clearly never seen anything to compare with the basilica’s majesty and sheer size.


Summary and Analysis: Part 1 (Fiat Homo), Chapters 8-9


Summary and Analysis: Part 2 (Fiat Lux), Chapters 12-13