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Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa…

Death Comes to the Archbishop (original 1927; edition 1935)

by Willa Cather (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,2171031,181 (4.02)2 / 684
Title:Death Comes to the Archbishop
Authors:Willa Cather (Author)
Info:Heinemann (1935), Edition: 4th impression of the Popular Edition.

Work details

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather (1927)

  1. 00
    The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich (noveltea)
  2. 01
    The Professor's House by Willa Cather (shaunie)
    shaunie: If you enjoy Cather's wonderful writing this is just as well written and has a much more enthralling story.
  3. 01
    Lamy of Santa Fe by Paul Horgan (inge87)
    inge87: Biography of the real-life Jean Marie Latour — Archbishop Lamy

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English (101)  Spanish (2)  All (103)
Showing 1-5 of 101 (next | show all)
In the year 1851, the priest Jean Latour is sent to the new American territory of New Mexico, to re-establish the Roman Catholic Church among the people there. For over 30 years, he works among them, becoming greatly beloved.

This is a lovely, refreshing book. It describes the beauty of the southwestern landscape as well as the events of a lifetime of service. Based on the life of the first bishop of New Mexico, this book made me want to revisit Santa Fe and see the cathedral there again. Recommended. ( )
  foggidawn | Mar 17, 2018 |
Excerpts from my original GR review (Jun 09):
- A Frenchman bishop's pilgrimage among the untamed people of rugged New Mexico territory in the mid 1800s
- The youngish bishop Jean Marie LaTour's travels and travails with lifelong friend and confidante father Vaillant forms the center of the story. This is very much a place and character driven novel. Cather is quite colorful and evocative in her descriptions of the harsh landscape.
- A good observation in our classic lit meeting was that a major theme here may have been "progressive catholicism" in that Father LaTour is some decades ahead of his time in his pragmatism and tolerance in dealing with the highly localized customs and church practices. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Feb 24, 2018 |
This book is loosely based on the life of the first Bishop of the New Mexico Territory, Jean-Baptiste Ramy. It is 1851 and Jean Marie Latour has just been named Vicar Apostolic of New Mexico and Bishop of Agathonica in partibus. The New Mexico Territory is vast and new to the United States having just been won from Mexico in the war, so his diocese is a large one. The seat of it is located at Sante Fe. The Bishop did not come alone, though. He was followed once again by his longtime friend Father Joseph Valliant whom he met in Seminary back in France and with whom he has been doing mission work with in America ever since.

The two are an unlikely pair as Valliant has always been sickly, yet hardy in his faith. He is able to raise money for the things the church really needs but basically never takes anything for himself with only a rare occurrence. Latour is hardy in health by his faith has doubts at times. He is good at running the churches and organizing things and does accept the odd nice gift from a parishioner. They compliment each other nicely. I really prefer Father Valliant over Bishop Latour. He's a much more likable fellow and in the book, he has many more friends.

They both have their work cut out for them as the Mexican priests don't want to be under the rule of the Americans. And they have no interest to be under the rule of a new French Bishop. There are some good priests and there are some churches that are in need of priests so Valliant and Latour must travel to them to do Mass. Some of these churches are Native American churches and they must contend with their dual religions of Catholicism and the old ways. The author also deals with, to some small extent, how the Native Americans have been treated by both the Americans and the Mexicans, which is interesting considering this book was published in 1927.

The problem priests believe in being able to run wild and have sex with whatever woman they choose and pick up money from ventures that are not necessarily legal or morally right. Latour sends Valliant out to one of the churches to preach for a while and bring the congregation back to the righteous path rather than the party path and gives the priest a rest so he can reflect on what he did wrong. But the other two priests prove more wily and harder to deal with and a different solution must present itself.

This book is not really a novel with a plot so much as a collection of vignettes. With this title, I must admit I was hoping for something a bit, well, sexier, like a murder mystery or a suspense novel. But instead I got a good, but a not too exciting book, about a Bishop and a priest who tries to set up an American diocese in the old west. The descriptions will make you really feel as though you are there, but they can also go on and on in excruciating detail. Overall this wasn't a bad book if it's your cup of tea. ( )
  nicolewbrown | Nov 29, 2017 |
This novel is based on the lives of two historical figures, Jean-Baptiste Lamy and Joseph Projectus Machebeuf and rather than any one singular plot, is the stylized re-telling of their lives serving as Roman Catholic clergy in New Mexico. The narrative has frequent digressions, either in terms of stories related to the pair (including the story of the Our Lady of Guadeloupe and the murder of an oppressive Spanish priest at Acoma Pueblo) or through their recollections. The narrator is in the Third-Person Omniscient style. Interwoven in the narrative are fictionalized accounts of actual historical figures, including Kit Carson, Manuel Antonio Chaves and Pope Gregory XVI.

In the prologue, Bishop Montferrand, a French bishop who works in the New World, is soliciting 3 cardinals at Rome to pick his candidate for the newly created diocese of New Mexico (which has recently passed into American hands). Bishop Montferrand is successful in getting his candidate, the Auvergnat Jean-Marie Latour, recommended by the cardinals. Cather describes the garden setting in great detail. It is carved into the mountains overlooking Rome. The setting is refined and cultivated, underscored by the cardinal's tastes for fine wine, gourmet food, and art. As the Catholic Church has become the predominant civilizing element of Europe, so too will it serve to civilize the American Southwest.

The host cardinal admits that his knowledge of the North American continent derives primarily from the Leatherstocking novels of James Fenimore Cooper. But he is eager to champion Ferrand's nomination to the Vicarate if it means he can retrieve an El Greco painting of St. Francis of Assisi his great-grandfather had donated from his collection to a Franciscan missionary priest in the New World.

The cardinals find Bishop Ferrand's single-mindedness annoying, and change the subject to current political and cultural events. Bishop Ferrand is unable to take part in the conversation and worries that he has been on the frontier so long that he can no longer engage in clever discussion. Sensing that Ferrand might have second-thoughts about appointing Latour to such a remote, uncivilized, and desolate post, Allande tells Ferrand that it is too late.

Father Latour is described as a thirty-five-year-old French Jesuit missionary. The French Jesuits are believed by the cardinals to be great organizers. Ferrand predicts that the New Mexico territory will "drink up [Latour's] youth and strength as it does the rain." Latour also will be called upon to make great personal sacrifices, perhaps even becoming a martyr.

Cather foreshadows the color themes she dedicates to the southwestern landscape by describing the dome of St. Peter's as bluish-gray with "a flash of copper light." Later, as the sun sets, Cather describes the sky as "waves of rose and gold." She will eventually use various shades of copper and gold to describe the terrain of New Mexico. In addition, her description of the "soft metallic surface" of St. Peter's contrasts with the hardness of the American frontier depicted by the bishop. Cather also describes the light as both intense and soft, revealing the relative easiness of European life in comparison to the lives of American missionaries. ( )
  jwhenderson | Aug 3, 2017 |
In agreement with other reviews found here. Relaxing ( )
  jenniebooks | Jun 7, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 101 (next | show all)
Each event in this book is concrete, yet symbolic, and opens into living myth. The reader is invited to contemplate the question: What is a life well lived? This question is asked in a story so fine it brings the old words “wisdom” and “beauty” to life again.

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Willa Catherprimary authorall editionscalculated
Byatt, A. S.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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One summer evening in the year 1848, three Cardinals and a missionary Bishop from America were dining together in the gardens of a villa in the Sabine hills, overlooking Rome.
But in reality the Bishop was not there at all [on his sickbed, in his wandering imagination]; he was standing in a tip-tilted green field among his native mountains, and he was trying to give consolation to a young man who was being torn in two before his eyes by the desire to go and the necessity to stay. He was trying to forge a new Will in that devout and exhausted priest; and the time was short, for the diligence for Paris was already rumbling down the mountain gorge.
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Book description
One summer evening in the year of 1848 three Cardinals and a missionary, dining in a villa near Rome, decide the fate of a simple parish priest, the Frenchman Jean Marie Latour. He is to go to New Mexico to win for Catholicism the South-West of America, a country where the Faith has slumbered for centuries. There, together with his old friend Father Vaillant, Latour makes his home. To the carnelian hills and ochre-yellow deserts of this almost pagan land he brings the refined traditions of French culture and Christian belief. Slowly, gently he reforms and revivifies, after forty years of love and service achieving a final reconciliation between his faith and the sensual peasant people of New Mexico: a harmony embodied in the realisation of his most cherished dream - a Romanesque cathedral, carved from the Mexican rock, gold as sunlight.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679728899, Paperback)

Willa Cather's best known novel; a narrative that recounts a life lived simply in the silence of the southwestern desert.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:41 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

The story of a French priest who goes to New Mexico and with another priest win the southwest for the Catholic Church. After forty years, he dies--the archbishop of Santa Fe.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 descriptions

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