As an old man, Adso of Melk recounts how, in 1327, as a young Franciscans novice (a Order of Saint Benedict one in the novel), he and his mentor, Franciscan friar William of Baskerville, traveled to a Benedictine abbey in northern Italy where the Franciscans were to Disputation with Papal emissaries the poverty of Christ. The abbey boasts a famed scriptorium where scribes copy, translate or Illuminated manuscript books. The monk Adelmo of Otranto —a young but famous manuscript illuminator— was suspiciously found dead on a hillside below a tower with only a window which cannot be opened. The abbot seeks help from William, who is renowned for his deductive powers. William is reluctantly drawn in by the intellectual challenge and his desire to disprove fears of a demonic culprit. William also worries the abbot will summon officials of the Inquisition if the mystery remains unsolved.