[[quoteright:297:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/a_canticle_for_liebowitz_2461.jpg]]

''A Canticle for Leibowitz'' is a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by American Walter M. Miller, Jr., first published in 1960. It's based on three short stories Miller contributed to the science fiction magazine ''The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction''; it is the only novel published by the author during his lifetime. Considered one of the classics of science fiction, it has never been out of print and has seen over 25 reprints and editions. Appealing to mainstream and genre critics and readers alike, it won the 1961 Hugo Award for best science fiction novel.

Set in a Roman Catholic monastery in the desert of the Southwestern United States after [[AfterTheEnd a devastating nuclear war]], the story spans thousands of years as civilization rebuilds itself. The monks of the Albertian Order of Leibowitz take up the mission of preserving the surviving remnants of man's scientific knowledge until the day the outside world is again ready for it. The novel has three parts in different time periods and shows how the monastery and the world change over time.

Inspired by the author's participation in the Allied bombing of the monastery at Monte Cassino during UsefulNotes/WorldWarII, the novel is considered a masterpiece by literary critics. It has been compared favorably with the works of Creator/EvelynWaugh, Creator/GrahamGreene, and Walker Percy, and its themes of religion, recurrence, and church versus state have generated a significant body of scholarly research. Miller's follow-up work, ''Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman'', was published posthumously in 1997.
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!!Examples:
* AerithAndBob: Gradually occurs over the centuries, thanks to changes in language and culture.
* AfterTheEnd: The story is set after a nuclear holocaust destroys modern civilization, following the history of post-apolcapypse North America from the early, chaotic period as civilization struggled to reestablish itself all the way up to [[spoiler:the second end]].
* AgeWithoutYouth: The recurring Jew appears to grow older but never dies, a fact which perplexes the other characters.
* AlternateHistory: A honorary one at least. The Deluge was said to have taken place around the late 1960s, with hints of somewhat more advanced technology than the real one. It can also be presumed that Vatican II was never issued in that timeline.
* AltumVidetur: As the ''lingua franca'' of the Church, Latin is used all over the place in the books, sometimes translated, sometimes not.
* AmbiguouslyJewish: It's never outright stated that Isaac Leibowitz was Jewish, though it's heavily implied.
* AndManGrewProud: A common theme is that as society develops high technology and becomes able to build weapons of fantastic power, it loses touch with its spiritual and ethical side.
* AntiIntellectualism: Simplification turned it to radical extreme, ending with hunting down people capable of reading. The fallout of the movement kept humanity on its knees for ''centuries''.
* AnyoneCanDie: And they do by the dozen -- [[spoiler:almost all named characters die during the story and humanity itself managed to destroy the world for the second time]].
* ApocalypseAnarchy: The chaos in the wake of the Flame Deluge and the Simplification that followed all but guaranteed the near-total collapse of civilization. It would be well over a thousand years before mankind surpasses the pre-Deluge world [[spoiler:only to nearly destroy itself ''again'']].
* ApocalypseHow: Class 1, edging towards Class 2, [[FutureImperfect the nuclear war being referred to as]] [[{{Homage}} "The Flame Deluge"]]. [[spoiler:The end implies that the result of the ''second'' nuclear war was a Class 3... on Earth, anyway]].
* ApocalypticLog: The papers Brother Francis finds in the fallout shelter.
* BadassPreacher: It's implied the monks, despite being [[MartialPacifist generally non-violent, have defended the abbey with arms]] multiple times in its history.
* BarbarianTribe: Most prominently in the tribal peoples of "Fiat Homo" and the Plains Nomads of "Fiat Lux".
* BlackComedy: Evident throughout the novel, showing the folly of mankind's existence in contrast to the monks' mission. The Catholic Church itself is also given this treatment in the novel, whether it's the endless theological disputes or the irony of the "Pope's Children". In addition, each part ends with the events being viewed from the perspective of buzzards [[spoiler:though the end has them replaced with a lucky shark]].
* Literature/TheBible: As the novel has religious overtones, there are plenty of Biblical references. For instance:
** The book's three parts are titled "Fiat Homo" and "Fiat Lux", which both come from the Creation account in [[Literature/BookOfGenesis Genesis]], and "Fiat Voluntas Tua", which is a line in the Lord's Prayer.
** The account of the Flame Deluge recounted in "Fiat Lux", which is explicitly stated to have been written by someone with a penchant for Scriptural mimicry. The beginning of the story hearkens back to the Book of Job and the Flood narrative in Genesis; the conversation between God and the leader after the nuclear war is reminiscent of God's conversation with Cain after Abel's murder.
* BilingualBonus: With Latin and a little Hebrew, and the bits of German used in the intro of "Fiat Voluntas Tua".
* BittersweetEnding:
** In general, the story chronicles the [[spoiler:second]] rise and fall of civilization, including TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt. But this time, [[SaintlyChurch the Church has learned from the past]] and arranged for [[FlingALightIntoTheFuture a starship to be sent out to the Centaurus colony]].
** "Fiat Homo" likewises ends with a bittersweet note. Francis successfully gives Leibowitz's relics to the Pope, thus leading to the man's canonization [[spoiler:only to be killed by the "Pope's Children" later on]].
* CallBack: When the abbot finds [[spoiler:Francis' skull]] at the very end of the book. It is, of course, symbolic: [[spoiler:Both men complete their mission and ensure that humanity can grow and flourish once more, but neither survives to witness the consequences.]]
* CaptainErsatz: The Green Star is very clearly UsefulNotes/TheRedCross.
* CargoCult: It's mentioned in ''Fiat Homo'' that the more primitive tribals are fond of using relics like broken transistors and radio parts as spiritual items, some occasionally dying from ingesting them. Though even the Catholic Church, via the abbey, indulges in this a bit given how the Memorabilia are treated as nigh sacrosanct.
* TheCatfish: In ''Fiat Homo'', the giant catfish Bo'dollos is rumoured to haunt a lake formed over a crater once occupied by a village and an intercontinental launching pad, complete with "several fascinating subterranean storage tanks". The lake has apparently very good fishing, but the local shepherds avoid it due to their belief that the fish are the souls of the villagers and excavators lost in the lake's creation, and out of fear of Bo'dollos. Incidentally, the site was excavated by a monk known as the Venerable Boedullus.
* TheChessmaster: Hannegan, who is also quite the MagnificentBastard. He played everyone and their dog to do exactly what he wanted them to do, leading to his complete hegemony. It's strongly implied the empire he built is one of the two world superpowers from Fiat Voluntas Tua.
* ChurchMilitant: Abbot Zerchi, which leads him to a HeelRealization after attempting to stop a victim of radiation poisoning and her infant daughter from euthanasia.
* ConvenientlyPreciseTranslation: Averted; Francis has quite a bit of difficulty translating the [[TechnoBabble technical jargon]] he finds in the fallout shelter. Later, a [[UniversalTranslator machine translator]] is invented which (like its RealLife counterparts) is [[MyHovercraftIsFullOfEels somewhat less than reliable]].
* CorruptChurch: What the Catholic Church is blatantly portrayed as in ''St. Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman.'' [[BlackAndGreyMorality It's still to be rooted for over]] TheEmpire, in part because it's not so much a conventional CorruptChurch as it is an exceptionally complex and institutionalized DysfunctionJunction. The [[OnlySaneMan only sane one]] is Cardinal Silentia.
* CrapsackWorld: Although many characters [[TheAntiNihilist choose to interpret it]] as AWorldHalfFull.
* DaysOfFuturePast: The cyclical nature of history is a major theme of the book, with "Fiat Homo" modeled after the Middle Ages, and "Fiat Lux" closely resembling the Renaissance. Likewise, the Texarkana Schism bears more than a passing resemblance to UsefulNotes/HenryVIII's English Reformation. And that's not counting the Manifest Destiny in ''St. Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman,'' or the UsefulNotes/ColdWar analogy in "Fiat Voluntas Tua."
* {{Deconstruction}}: Of the idea common in more secularly-oriented science fiction that technological progress necessarily implies social progress. ''Canticle'' makes the point that no matter how advanced the technology gets, the human heart is inclined to a certain moral laziness that needs to be carefully and consciously guarded against if people aspire to be anything more than barbarians with fancy toys.
* DistantFinale: 1,200 years after "Fiat Homo".
* DividedStatesOfAmerica: By the time of "Fiat Lux", where America used to be consists of several city-state "empires" which don't even speak the same language.
* DownerEnding: It's very easy to interpret the very bitter note of the BittersweetEnding as outright downer. [[spoiler:Humanity destroyed itself for the second time, learning nothing from the past. The magnitude of the destruction is implied as much more severe than the first time around. But what really seals it is how the monks left the Earth -- for good]]. Whatever and whoever survives, ''if'' it's even possible to survive, is left for themselves.
* {{Eagleland}}: The series is set entirely within the American landmass. The papacy has its seat in the vicinity of where UsefulNotes/StLouis used to be, and retreats to UsefulNotes/{{Denver}} after the Texarkanan Schism.
* [[SocietyMarchesOn Ecclesiology Marches On]]: The novel was published just three years before Vatican II de-emphasized the use of Latin within the Church. And the texts for a votive Mass for Pilgrims and Travelers, movingly said [[spoiler:before the rocket launches]], have not migrated to the current liturgical books.
* TheEmpire: Texark, which grows under Hannegan's rule exceptionally.
* EternalEnglish: Averted. "Modern" English is very much a dead language in the future, and must be studied like one. It's implied that, much like Latin after the fall of the Roman Empire, [[LanguageDrift different dialects of English grew and evolved into full-blown, mutually unintelligible languages]].
* EveryoneCallsHimBarkeep: The Poet who lives at the abbey is only referred to by his occupation, or disparagingly as the Poet-sirrah. Even after he [[spoiler:becomes a folk saint]], he's only ever called Poet.
* EvilLuddite: The Simplification was the backlash of a group of self-proclaimed "[[DumbIsGood simpletons]]" against scientists and other intellectuals, whom they blamed for the Flame Deluge. Leibowitz himself was one of their victims. The initial movement quickly get out of hand and turned into a very literal witch hunt. First the politicians, then scientists, teachers, students, and finally people who can read.
* FantasticCatholicism: Due to internal organization and bit of luck, Catholic Church was one of few, if not ''the only'' institution to survive Flame Deluge and definitely the only one to thrive. The story almost entirely focuses on the monastery started by Leibowitz, preserving as much knowledge of the old world as possible.
* FantasticReligiousWeirdness: The story essentially chronicles how the Catholic Church manages to survive (and, in so doing, help ensure the survival of humanity) after an apocalyptic nuclear war knocks human progress back a thousand years or so. Some issues, such as whether or not [[WhatMeasureIsANonHuman mutants have proper souls and thus can be regarded as fully human]], are mentioned in passing.
* FantasyCounterpartCulture: As noted, post-apocalyptic America is essentially medieval Europe, with a Dark Age, a Renaissance and modernity, and the appropriate conflicts between science and faith. By the end of the book, the two poles of the international system are loosely based on the Cold War. [[spoiler:And then the Flame Deluge repeats -- with one key difference]].
* FeudalFuture: Justified, seeing that an Age of Simplification leads to a new dark age.
* FlingALightIntoTheFuture:
** After the Flame Deluge, the entire purpose of the monks' work is to preserve a fragment of human knowledge for future generations who will be able to understand it better.
** After civilization rises again, [[spoiler:and falls again,]] the church survives by sending off a mission ship to one of the offworld colonies.
* FlyingDutchman: The Wandering Jew. Maybe.
* FutureImperfect: So much. Often PlayedForLaughs though, especially when the Church relocates the Prime Meridian in order to liberate it from the influence of the "Green Witch".
** When Brother Francis finds the fallout shelter at the beginning of the book, he thinks it was meant as a prison to hold a terrible monster called a Fallout, as by that point no-one remembered what nuclear fallout actually ''was'', and folk myth had given the name to a race of terrible demons born from the Flame Deluge.
** One of the monks in "Fiat Lux" suggests that the Pre-Deluge Church may have used arc lamps on their altars instead of candles. The Abbot is not pleased.
** Brother Francis plays an important role in getting Leibowitz canonized. Centuries later, one monk doesn't even remember who he is.
** Thon Taddeo is described as a brilliant genius comparable to UsefulNotes/AlbertEinstein. But by the time of ''Fiat Voluntas Tua,'' even the monks have trouble recalling his name.
** The circumstances behind the Flame Deluge and its immediate aftermath, such as who the U.S. President was at the time or who fired first, are hotly contested. Yet ''every'' monk seems to take for granted that Leibowitz's wife had a gold tooth.
** The narration regarding the Simpletons and the last days of the pre-Deluge world reads like a liturgical sermon that would be more fitting for Martin Luther's time than Martin Luther King Jr.'s;
--->Let us stone and disembowel and burn the ones who did this thing. Let us make a holocaust of those who wrought this crime, together with their hirelings and their wise men; burning, let them perish, and all their works, their names, and even their memories. Let us destroy them all, and teach our children that the world is new, that they may know nothing of the deeds that went before. Let us make a great simplification, and then the world shall begin again.
** Hilariously enough, the Simpletons' rallying cry, which managed to survive intact down the generations, sounds much more like what working-class Americans would say.
--->Simpletons! Yes, yes! I'm a simpleton! Are you a simpleton? We'll build a town and we'll name it Simple Town, because by then all the smart bastards that caused all this, they'll be dead! Simpletons! Let's go! This ought to show 'em! Anybody here not a simpleton? Get the bastard, if there is!
* TheGadfly: The Poet in ''Fiat Lux''. He manages to get a number of unpleasant topics out in the open that would be difficult for the monks to broach on their own.
* GadgeteerGenius: Brother Kornhoer, who builds the first working electrical generator solely by following textbooks explaining electricity and theoretical power-generation. He even notes the only reason he stopped at arc lamp rather than proper light bulb was lack of proper materials.
* GainaxEnding: The Second Coming of Christ (or the return of the Virgin Mary) is [[spoiler:a tomato saleswoman's green-eyed radiation-eating conjoined fetus head, at least if the priest thinking this hasn't just gone insane]].
* HateSink: How to justify Poet killing a man in cold blood? Well of course, let said man order a slaughter of unarmed civilians, while getting his own hands dirty!
* HereWeGoAgain / HistoryRepeats / [[spoiler:EternalRecurrence]] : One of the main themes of the novel is the cyclical nature of human history.
* HeroicResolve: Poet is surprised by his own sudden surge of heroism, when he [[spoiler:attacks Texarkanan officer, who was busy killing scared civilians. This ends with MutualKill]], while Poet notes the irony of getting involved into conflict that doesn't bother him in the slightest.
* HopeSpot: The ''Quo Peregrinatur'' starship. It leaves the Earth before things go [=FUBAR=].
* IdiotHero: Brother Francis Gerard, who is quite the WideEyedIdealist. [[spoiler:It eventually gets him killed]].
* ImAHumanitarian: Some of the mutants practice cannibalism even long after the basic shortage of food ceased to be a factor.
* InYourNatureToDestroyYourselves: Why humanity develops nuclear weapons and [[spoiler:destroys civilization a second time]].
* InsufferableGenius: Justified with Thon Taddeo. He feels miserable himself, because in all his brilliance, he is merely rediscovering things obvious to the "ancients". A brief visit in the monastery to read part of the collected books sends him on a brink of depression how all his contemporary "genius" is a common knowledge from the past. This makes him feel insecure and actively lashing against people questioning his authority.
* InsultBackfire: The "Simplification" didn't really swing into high gear until some of the last scholars called the rampaging mobs "bloodthirsty simpletons."
* IstanbulNotConstantinople: Texark and the Misery (Missouri) River.
** The town near the abbey has its name corrupted to "Sanly Bowitts".
** The city known today as Amarillo (Texas) is shown on maps in the sequel as "Yellow". ("Amarillo" is Spanish for "yellow".)
* JumpingOffTheSlipperySlope: The Simplification in a nutshell, which quickly lost any sense of control or order, turning an anti-intellectualism movement into a mob lynching people able to read and thus becoming the final nail in the civilization's coffin.
* JustBeforeTheEnd: The third part of the book starts after the initial, limited exchange of warheads already happened. It goes only worse from there.
* JustifiedTitle: Lebowitz is canonized over the course of the course of the work, so it makes sense. As a bit of a GeniusBonus, it's designed to grab the prospective reader's attention be wondering why a Canticle (A Christian song) is being sung for Leibowitz (A commonly Jewish last name).
* KillSat: The Asian space platforms that destroy Texarkana [[spoiler:and the abbey]] in the end.
* KnightTemplar: All three of the abbots, each in his own way.
* LiteralMetaphor: The Old Jew in Dom Paulo's time claims to be several thousand years old, but it's established that as the Diaspora is more thinly scattered than ever, he may be the only Jew for hundreds if not thousands of miles. Thus, he copes with his isolation by seeing himself as the embodiment of all Jewish history. Whether he is ''also'' the immortal Wandering Jew is ambiguous.
* LostTechnology: Electricity and computers are unknown to the monks. Humanity at large does figure out how to build them for themselves later in the story. At which point the monks' goal has shifted from protecting the Memorabilia to protecting ''all'' knowledge.
** On a lesser note, concrete gets forgotten. Brother Francis talks about the ancient stones with metal rods inside of it as something almost mystical. It's also implied the first monastery was build at least partially from concrete rubble.
** Somewhere between the time directly after the Flame Deluge and ''Fiat Homo'', the information about blueprints being blue and white because they are a negative of the original plans was forgotten or lost. Cue monks spending ''weeks'' on carefully covering entire pages in rare blue ink ''by hand'', [[CriticalResearchFailure dead-sure it's the way how it's supposed to be done]].
** Notably averted with printing press and movable type. One of the abbots before ''Fiat Homo'' quickly realised printing press only makes sense if they are going to mass-produce those books. Otherwise it will simply take more time and effort to print them in few copies than to hand-write them. Eventually the press is used when there is demand for the books stored in the abbey.
* MaybeMagicMaybeMundane:
** Benjamin may feature as the immortal WanderingJew. Or maybe not. The story is vague about [[spoiler:[[UnreliableNarrator whether or not]] the whole thing is Zerchi's DyingDream]].
** The fate of Rachel and the strangeness of the Poet and also count.
* MeaningfulName:
** Many of the place names in the stories vaguely refer to places that readers might know; some, like UsefulNotes/{{Denver}} and Chihuahua, survive remarkably intact.
** The Memorabilia that Leibowitz first started and continued by the abbey's monks over the centuries is for all intents and purposes the collected ''memory'' of the old world.
* MercyKill: What the medics authorize for radiation victims. The monks, especially Abbot Zerchi, [[DoesThisRemindYouOfAnything protest against them vociferously with signs]].
** Poet performs one on [[spoiler:the officer he wounded himself]].
* {{Mutants}}: After the Flame Deluge, mutations became common among humanity as a result of the high radiation levels. The mutants are described as coming in many different flavors, from simply having patches of skin in various shades to a full-on MultipleHeadCase. They are known as "the Pope's Children" after the Pope issues an edict that they are not to be harmed. [[spoiler:Unfortunately for Brother Francis, they didn't return the favor]]. Other times, the are called "the children of the Fallout" for rather obvious reasons.
* MysteriousWatcher: The Old Jew, who lives on a mesa and watches over the abbey.
* NoOSHACompliance: One of the monks ends up blinded, because he was manually operating an arc lamp without proper eye protection. Nobody even ''knew'' how damaging it will be for his eyes, so he ended up operating the lamp for few days.
* OutgrownSuchSillySuperstitions: What the secularists want to believe, despite consistent evidence that the monks are actually closer-to-earth.
** Curiously, it's implied that in general, people were no more religious than they were before the Deluge.
** It's even lampshaded during the debate with Thon Taddeo that it never ''was'' any better at all. Just richer or poorer.
* PatchworkStory: The book started out as three short stories, "A Canticle for Leibowitz", "And the Light Is Risen", and "The Last Canticle".
* PatronSaint: The monastery's founder, St. Leibowitz, becomes the patron saint of electricians once the world has them again. There is also a reference to Saint Raul the Cyclopean, patron of the misborn.
* PersecutedIntellectuals: Part of the aftermath of global nuclear war. After the enraged survivors slaughter the scientists who developed the bombs, they begin to target other scientists... and then other scholars... and then anyone with a formal education... and finally, anyone who could ''read.'' The result is a society of "[[EvilLuddite simpletons]]" where admitting that you know ''anything'' can get you [[BurnTheWitch burned at the stake]].
* PosthumousCharacter: Saint Leibowitz, though just how posthumous he really is is up for debate.
* ProudWarriorRaceGuy: The nomadic chief. [[spoiler:Which makes him all that easier to exploit and use by Hannegan]].
* RagnarokProofing: Bits and pieces of the pre-Deluge world become increasingly rare as time passes. Even in ''Fiat Homo,'' it's stated that many of the ruins were picked by scavengers long before. It's also mentioned, however, that a group of monks stumbled on a relatively intact nuclear missile facility hidden beneath a village [[spoiler:which they accidentally detonate]].
* ReasonableAuthorityFigure: Pope Leo XXI.
* TheRemnant: The Catholic Church is a surviving constant from the pre-Deluge world. By ''Fiat Lux'' it's the only institution from the old world still around.
* SaintlyChurch: The Catholic Church is portrayed both realistically ''and'' sympathetically.
* ScavengerWorld: At least initially. Fiat Homo takes place six centuries after the Flame Deluge and there is barely anything left to scavenge at this point.
* ScienceIsBad:
** Subverted, if not outright defied. One of the chief conflicts of the story is how to use the knowledge gained from civilization's renaissance properly. Science and knowledge in general in itself is not bad, but people's applications of it can be.
** In-universe, it's this sort of attitude that led to the Simplification immediately after the Flame Deluge. People blamed the scientists and intellectuals for the war and started lynching them ''en masse.''
* ScienceHero:
** Leibowitz himself. He was some humble engineer, who eventually died for the cause of preserving human knowledge for the future generations.
** Thon Taddeo serves as a deconstruction, showing how pursuit for knowledge without any sort of moral guidance can cause more harm and damage than it's worth.
* SecretlyDying: [[spoiler:Poet was shot in the guts]] by that cavalry officer. The narration doesn't make it clear for a while.
* TheSpymaster: The Vatican Diplomatic Service has gained notoriety, to say the least.
* StandardSciFiHistory: Subverted. Although humanity does recover from World War III and rebuilds civilization, history ends up repeating itself. This differentiates the book from other works at the time, which tended to treat history as linear instead of cyclical.
** This also to a degree defines the conflict between Thon Taddeo and the presiding Abbot in ''Fiat Lux''.
* TestosteronePoisoning: In-universe. Members of the nomad tribe Hannegan allied with drink (animal) blood, considering water a "women drink". This makes the younger of the two emissaries send to make the pact quite uneasy.
* TorchesAndPitchforks: The Simplification, where most technology and knowledge was actively destroyed in a backlash against technology after the nuclear war. Which in turn made any organized recovery from the Flame Deluge impossible and send humanity back to pre-medieval stage.
* TranslationConvention: The language the characters speak is not actually English, but a distant descendant of it which is translated for the reader. See EternalEnglish.
* TranslatorMicrobes: A large device in Abbot Zirchi's office. It kind-of works.
* WalkingTheEarth: The Old Jew takes to wandering at times.
* WhatHappenedToTheMouse: The fate of Benjamin (and his true nature) is left unclear, as is that of Rachel.
* WideEyedIdealist: Brother Francis is honest, sincere, and hopeful, though he does take the basic honesty and decency of others for granted. This latter fact [[spoiler:ultimately gets him killed on his trip back from New Rome]].
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