In the 14th century, Catalonia's ships dominated the western Mediterranean. Barcelona's Santa Maria del Mar church was built in 54 years in this century, so quickly as cathedrals go that it is all in one style, a high, spacious, unadorned Gothic.
Arnau, the main character in this novel, sees the cathedral start and lives to celebrate its completion. Born a serf, he survives perils, saves Barcelona from Pedro the Cruel of Castile, and is made a baron. His evil enemies plot to have him away from the city's political life. His lifelong goodness to his fellow-workers, to clients and to outcasts such as the Moors and Jews will make things change for the good.