Caris is the feisty daughter of wool dealer Edmund Wooler. She is a direct descendent of Tom Builder, the hero of the first half of The Pillars of the Earth. As a child, she announces that she is going to be a doctor – but girls cannot study medicine in medieval Europe. However, she refuses to accept this prohibition. Her determination brings her into conflict with the church, and blights her relationship with the man she loves.
Merthin is descended from Jack Builder, the stepson of Tom and the architect of Kingsbridge Cathedral. He has inherited Jack’s genius. But for the conservative citizens who rule Kingsbridge he is too much of a rule-breaker, and like Jack he is forced to leave.
Ralph is Merthin’s brother, but a very different character – strong, aggressive, impatient of books, an accomplished rider and hunter. He will use his warlike skills to rise to the very top of medieval society.
Gwenda is the daughter of a dirt-poor labourer and one of five starving children. She is plain-looking, but determined to marry Wulfric – the handsomest, wealthiest boy in the village. Wulfric is engaged to the coquettish Annet, daughter of a prosperous peasant. But Gwenda refuses to believe she cannot win his heart.
Brother Godwyn, also a descendant of Tom Builder, is a cousin of Caris. He becomes a monk at a young age and is determined to become prior of Kingsbridge – and he is not particular about the means he will use to get there.
See a comprehensive chart showing the characters in both The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End.