The action of the parable novel was moved to medieval England. The abbot of the Cathedral of the Most-Pure Virgin Mary Joslin planned to finish building the spire that was supposed in the original design of the cathedral, but for some reason remained on paper. Everyone knows that the cathedral has no foundation, but Joslin, who had a vision, believes in a miracle. He feels the cathedral as a particle of himself: even a wooden layout reminds him of a person lying on his back.
But the spire is not built by the holy spirit – it is created by workers, simple, rude people, many of whom are unstable in faith. They are drinking, fighting; they poison Pengoll, the hereditary watchman of the cathedral, who asks the abbot to intercede for him. He sees no point in building a spire, if
Jocelin is brought a letter from his aunt, a former mistress of the king, and now an elderly lady. It was she who gave money to build the spire in the hope that she would be buried in the cathedral. Jocelin refuses to answer the letter.
Immediately there is a conflict with the sacristan, Father Anselm, the spiritual father of Joslin, who does not want to oversee the construction. Under the pressure of Jocelin, he still goes to the cathedral, but Jocelin feels that their long friendship has come to an end. He understands that this is the price of a spire, but he is ready to make sacrifices.
Meanwhile, the master, Roger Kamenshchik, is trying to determine the reliability of the foundation and is convinced that the existing foundation barely survives the cathedral. What can we say about the spire of four hundred feet high! In vain, Jocelin convinces Roger to believe in a miracle: he says that now it will be difficult for him to get workers to build a spire. Jocelin unravels Roger’s true intentions: he wants to wait, when there will be more profitable work, and then leave without starting construction. Here the wife of Roger Rachel approaches, the dark-haired, dark-eyed, assertive, stupidly talkative woman who does not like the abbot. She tactlessly interferes in the conversation of men, teaching the holy father. After letting her speak, Roger promises to build the spire as much as he can. “No, how dare you,” Joslin objected.
The rector is again brought a letter, this time from the bishop. He sends a shrine to the cathedral – a nail from the cross of the Lord. Jocelin sees this as another miracle and hurries to share the news with the master, but he believes only in a cold calculation. Jocelin wants to reconcile with Anselm and allows him to no longer supervise the work, but he requires a written testimony from him.
Autumn is coming. Endless rains lead to the constant water under the cathedral. From the pit, which Roger dug in the cathedral to study the foundation, comes an intolerable stench. “Only by a painful effort of will” Jocelin makes himself remember what an important matter is in the cathedral, constantly evoking a divine vision. The gloomy feeling is intensified by the death of one of the masters who fell from the scaffolding, the old madness of the office and rumors of an epidemic of plague. Jocelin feels that all this is written into an account that will one day be presented to him.
Spring comes, and Jocelyn again gets cheerful. One day, when he entered the cathedral to look at the spire model, he witnessed the meeting of Pengoll Goody’s wife with Roger Kamenshchik. The abbot seems to see the invisible tent that surrounded them, understands the depth of their relationship. He is disgusted, he sees dirt in everything…
This sensation is amplified suddenly by Rachel, who suddenly starts to explain why she and Roger have no children: it turns out that she laughed at the wrong moment, and Roger could not help laughing. But then Jocelin comes up with a seditious thought: he understands that Goody can keep Roger in the cathedral. At night, Jocelin is tormented by a nightmare – it’s for his soul that the angel and the devil are struggling.
Passes Pass, and the tower under the spire begins to grow gradually. Roger constantly something, he argues with the artisans… One day a landslide happens: in the pit dug to check the foundation, the soil floats and falls. The pit is hurriedly strewn with stones, and Jocelin begins to pray, feeling that the whole church is holding on his shoulders with his own will. But Roger now considers himself free from all obligations. In vain, Jocelin tries to persuade him to continue building. And then Jocelin uses the last argument. He informs Roger that he knew about his decision to go to work in Malmesbury and had already written to the abbot there that Roger and the brigade would be busy for a long time on the construction of the spire. Now the abbot will hire other workers.
This conversation undermines the rector’s powers, and he wants to leave, but on the way he witnesses how one of the masters teases Pangoll, alluding to his male impotence. Losing consciousness, Josselyn sees Goody Pengall with his red hair spread out over his chest…
Josselyn is seriously ill. From Adam’s father, he learns that the work on the construction of the spire continues, that Goody is not shown anywhere, and Pangall escaped. With difficulty getting out of bed, Jocelin goes to the cathedral, feeling that he is going crazy; he laughs with a strange, screeching laugh. Now he sees his destiny in direct participation in construction. From the artisans, he learns that Goody, before this childless, is expecting a child. He also discovered that Roger Mason is afraid of heights, but overcomes fear and that he is still building against his will. In a word and a matter of supporting the master, Jocelin forces him to build a spire.
When he again finds Roger and Goody together, he writes to the abbess of the nunnery a letter asking him to accept the “unfortunate, fallen woman.” But Goody manages to avoid such a fate: she has a miscarriage, and she dies. Rachel, who learned about Roger’s connection with Goody, now gets unlimited power over her husband: even the artisans chuckle at the fact that she keeps him on a leash. Roger starts to drink.
The construction of the spire continues, Jocelin is working with the builders, and suddenly he is revealed that they are all righteous, despite their sins. And he himself is torn between an angel and a devil, feeling that he was bewitched by Goody with his red hair.
The Visitor comes to the cathedral with a nail, which must be immured in the base of the spire. Among other things, the Visitor must deal with the denunciations that have been received on Jocelin during all two years of construction. The author of them was Anselm, accusing the abbot of neglecting his duties. In fact, as a result of construction, Anselm simply lost some of his income. Josselyn answers inappropriately. The visitor sees that he has gone insane, and sends him under house arrest.
On the same day, the city collapses bad weather. In fear that the almost completed spire will collapse, Jocelin runs to the cathedral and drives a nail into the base of the spire… Going out into the street, he falls unconscious. When he regains consciousness, he sees an aunt coming from the bed, who personally came to ask him about the burial in the cathedral. He again refuses to her, not wishing that her sinful ashes desecrate the holy place, and in the heat of the dispute she discovers to him that by his brilliant career he owes exclusively to her, or rather, her connection with the king. He also learns that Anselm only portrayed friendship, feeling that when Josselyn can get along well. Knowing that he will not find support among the clergy, Josselyn secretly leaves home to “get forgiveness from the non-Christians.”
He goes to Roger Mason. He’s drunk. He can not forgive Jocelin that he was stronger; in every way curses the spire. Jocelin asks him for forgiveness: he, after all, “believed that he was doing a great thing, but it turned out that he was only bringing people death and sowing hatred.” It turns out that Pangall died at the hands of Roger. Joslin blames himself for having married Pangoll to Goody. He seemed to sacrifice her – he killed her… Roger can not listen to the revelations of the abbot and drives him away. After all, because of Jossdin, who broke his will, he lost Goody, the work, the team of craftsmen.
Joslin loses consciousness and comes to life already at home, in his own bedroom. He feels lightness and humility, freed from the spire, which begins to live his own life now. Jocelin feels that he is free at last and from life, and calls upon the silent young sculptor to explain how to make a tombstone. Rachel comes, who tells that Roger tried to commit suicide, but Jocelin no longer cares about worldly worries. The last before death, it is visited by the thought: “Nothing is done without sin, only God knows where God is.”