Philip was born in Gwynedd, Wales. When he was six years old, his father, known only as Da, came home wounded from a battle.[1]Their house was quickly invaded by English soldiers loyal to King Henry, who killed both his Da and his mother, Mam. Before they were able to kill Philip and his younger brother Francis, Abbot Peter appeared, stopped the soldiers, and looked after the boys, eventually taking them into the church to be raised as monks. There, Philip lived in harmony, save a year in his youth when he rebelled against the system. He soon grew out of this stage, and entered a new era of his life, where lusts of the flesh soon dominated his pubescent thoughts. These too passed quickly and faded from his mind altogether.

Philip worked as the assistant to the cellarer, before being elevated to the post upon the cellarer's death. After his brother Francis left to become a priest, Philip and Abbot Peter discussed Philip's purpose, determining that the young monk was meant for more in servitude to God.

Pillars of the EarthEdit

Part IEdit

Philip, as prior of St-John-in-the-Forest, takes in a newborn baby boy found by one of the men in his service, Johnny Eightpence. The child is in fact the abandoned son of Tom Builder and his deceased wife, Agnes. The monks deign it appropriate to raise the child, whom they dub Jonathan, in service of God, training him to live frugally and thoughtfully with the rest of the monks at the priory.

Later, Philip is visited by his brother Francis, now a priest working in the service of Bartholomew, the earl of Shiring. Francis tells him of a looming civil war and instructs his brother to go to Kingsbridge to warn the bishop of the conspiracy between Bartholomew and Robert of Gloucester to raise a rebellion against the would-be king, Stephen of Blois.

Philip makes up the ruse that he is travelling to Kingsbridge to see Prior James, but instead heads to the bishop's palace on the way there. On the road he meets Tom Builder and his family -- Ellen, Alfred, Jack and Martha -- with whom he shares bread, cheese and pears as an act of charity. Tom tells him of his lack of work, and in this way they become acquainted. Philip discusses the abandoned child found by one of his brothers at the priory, but Tom does not let on that Jonathan is indeed his own, and they part ways with Philip soon thereafter.

Although unable to get an audience with the bishop, Philip does meet Waleran Bigod, who listens thoughtfully to the news of Earl Bartholomew's plan. It is here Philip learns that Stephen of Blois has claimed the English throne and was crowned at Westminster. Waleran then dismisses Philip who, while riding to Kingsbridge to see Prior James later that day, determines Waleran manipulated the conversation, and did not promise his help in the matter so concerning to Philip and Francis.

Appearance and PersonalityEdit

Philip is Welsh. He is also short in stature, with bright blue eyes and black hair, shaved as is typical for monks of the time. Later in life he becomes stout, and his hair turns grey.

Philip is extremely devoted to the Church. Most of his decisions

Prior Philip

are based around this devotion, including some of his less popular actions, such as refusing to marry Aliena and Jack. Philip is also very sympathetic, but he has little tolerance for anyone who doesn't appreciate his ways -- or God's -- however, he is ready to forgive easily, as he does when Ellen desecrates the Bible. He lives an austere lifestyle so that he may follow God's teachings better, and unlike most of the book's characters, he cares little for sex or intimacy. That said, he doesn't begrudge anyone their lives and choices, as he is very content with his own.


  1. "Pillars of the Earth", pg.90