The succession of England’s crown is in doubt and causes King Henry’s daughter and nephew to compete for the throne. Church politics see Philip elected the new prior, which leaves him indebted to Deacon Waleran.
Fire destroys Kingsbridge church, giving Tom, son Alfred and stepson Jack the chance to build a new cathedral. Ellen is accused of being a witch. William takes Aliena and Richard by surprise in a brutal attack.
Prior Philip and William find themselves in a standoff over access to the Shiring quarry. Jack’s artistic talents take hold. Aliena starts a business to help earn money for Richard’s chance to become a knight.
William wants his father’s title of Earl, but finds a mysterious knight is a rival for the title. King Stephen orders an assassin to kill Jack. Waleran tells Maud the man who betrayed Earl Bartholomew is Philip.
Waleran and Regan engineer the prisoner exchange so that they remain on the winning side of the war. Tom wants Jack and Alfred to be friends, but their rivalry over their work lives and Aliena is too intense.
Richard returns from war to find no money to support his knighthood. Aliena has to choose between her love for Jack and her oath to her father. Waleran uses a disaster at Kingsbridge against Prior Philip.
Kingsbridge becomes prosperous again which infuriates William, who plans an attack that is met with resistance from Richard, Jack and Philip. Waleran and Alfred develop a plot to get rid of Jack for good.
Eight years later, Jack’s fixation with the cathedral leaves him little time or energy for anything else, while Aliena’s fixation with the distant Earldom of Shiring has married her to Alfred, a man she hates. Waleran and Alfred develop a plot to get rid of Jack for good and it seems to be working until evidence comes to light that makes all wrongs rectified.