Gerard Eliason, an artist. He goes to Rome, where he becomes a Dominican monk named Brother Clement. Believing his fiancée is dead, he returns to his homeland to find she is alive and has borne him a son. After becoming a parson at Gouda, he lives apart from Margaret, his beloved, but allows her to help him in his religious work.
Elias, Gerard’s father, a Dutch cloth and leather merchant. He does not want his artist son to marry Margaret Brandt and has him imprisoned; however, Elias is finally reconciled to her.
Katherine, Elias’ wife. Like her husband, she does not want her son to marry Margaret.
Margaret Van Eyck
Margaret Van Eyck, sister of the famous painter Jan Van Eyck. She is Gerard’s teacher.
Reicht Heynes, Margaret Van Eyck’s servant, who encourages Gerard as an artist.
Peter Brandt, an old man befriended by Gerard.
Margaret Brandt, Peter’s daughter. She is betrothed to Gerard and bears him a son. When he returns to Holland as a monk, she helps him in his religious work.
Gerard, son of Gerard and Margaret Brandt, who grows up to be Erasmus, the famous scholar.
Ghysbrecht Van Swieten
Ghysbrecht Van Swieten, burgomaster of Gerard’s village. He is an evil man who cheats his people and makes life difficult for Gerard and Margaret.
Giles, Gerard’s dwarf brother, who helps Gerard escape from prison.
Kate, Gerard’s crippled sister, who helps Gerard escape from prison.
Denys, a Burgundian soldier who befriends Gerard on his way to Italy. Denys is a worldly but loyal man. He finds Margaret Brandt and befriends her for Gerard’s sake.
Martin, an old retired soldier who procures a pardon for Gerard after the young man’s escape from prison.
Hans Memling, a messenger who takes false word to Gerard that Margaret has died.
Pietro, a young artist in Rome with whom Gerard works for a time.
Fra Colonna, a classical scholar for whom Gerard works in decorating manuscripts.
Luke Peterson, a suitor for Margaret Brandt’s hand in marriage.