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Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa…

Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)

by Willa Cather

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,2791051,628 (4.02)2 / 692
  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 (103)  Spanish (2)  All languages (105)
Showing 1-5 of 103 (next | show all)
A book full of beauty which I cannot love. There is a smugness to the tone and attitudes that made me want to toss it across the room more than once. ( )
  quondame | Jul 19, 2018 |
4.5 solid stars. Death Comes for the Archbishop is a quick read in which Willa Cather writes in lyrical prose and renders descriptions that conjure up the Southwest as clearly as a painting by Georgia O'Keefe. "The plain was there, under one's feet, but what one saw when one looked about was that brilliant blue world of stinging air and moving cloud. Even the mountains were mere anthills under it. Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the floor of the sky." She sweeps us into this world and puts us down on the desert floor with a soft hush instead of a thud.

At the beginning of the story, two Catholic priests come to the newly minted territory of New Mexico, one of them destined to become the first Archbishop of New Mexico and the other, his faithful friend and companion, to influence the simple people they find there. Cather shows both sides of life in a difficult environment, both sides of its people, and both sides of the church that serves them. The Archbishop is surely a man to be admired and respected, but it is the much simpler Father Joseph who captured my heart and true admiration...a sentiment with which his friend and "superior" would not have disagreed.

Cather has a feel for people and places and, without embellishing them, she gives them all the depth and breadth that they would have in real life. Her words flow, like music, and while she does not give a tight structure of plot (more like a vignette of life as it passes), she does make us see beyond the surface of these men and glimpse their souls.

A most enjoyable read and a bit of fresh air. I feel cleansed. ( )
  phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 103 (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.

» see all 9 descriptions

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