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Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  23,073 Ratings  ·  1,868 Reviews
Death Comes for the Archbishop is a 1927 novel by Willa Cather. It concerns the attempts of a Catholic bishop and a priest to establish a diocese in New Mexico Territory.

The novel was included on Time's 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005[1] and Modern Library's list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.

Death Comes for the Archbishop i
Kindle Edition
Published (first published 1927)
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Ben Winch
Oct 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american, anglo, 5-stars
Oh... my... God. This is beautiful. I'm only halfway through it but I don't care how it ends; every chapter is so complete in itself, every word such unmitigated pleasure that I would be stunned – absolutely floored – if Cather somehow fumbled the ball in the next 150 pages. This is it. The work of a writer with nothing to prove. A writer so humble, her words so transparent, that she seems to disappear behind the curtain of the text, her elegant shadow barely visible in its folds. At age twenty, ...more
But in the Old World he found himself homesick for the New. It was a feeling he could not explain; a feeling that old age did not weigh so heavily upon a man in New Mexico as in the Puy-de Dome. ...In New Mexico he always awoke a young man; not until he rose and began to shave did he realize that he was growing older. His first consciousness was a sense of the light dry wind blowing in through the windows, with the fragrance of hot sun and sage-brush and sweet clover; a wind that made one's body ...more
Henry Avila
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Two young French priests newly out of the seminary, in France, where they first met, ( destined to become bishops of the Catholic Church, in the New World , one an Archbishop ) became close friends until death struck. Jean Marie Latour ( Jean -Baptiste Lamy, the original Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico ) and Joseph Vaillant ( Joseph Projectus Machebeuf, Denver, Colorado's, first bishop) recruited by the Irish born bishop from Cincinnati, Ohio for missionary work in America, where only a relat ...more
Jun 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Highlight here is the incredible depiction of two missionaries who undertake the megaharsh task of converting the Navajos of New Mexico to Catholicism. It describes what happens when a new policy, or way of life, is instilled into people who are far away from the Old World. There are little vignettes of savagery, of holy manifestation (including a very succinct telling of San Diego and his visitation from the Virgin Mary), of hypocrites (of course!!!), etc. It is a vivid book, full of life & ...more
Diane S ☔
May 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Late 1800's and The Catholic Church sends two priests to reawaken the lessening faith in New Mexico and eventually other territories. Every chapter tackles a new story, a different priest, and the lives they are living in the different missions. Some had quite an opulent lifestyle, some had children and some had amassed a great deal of money. The descriptions of the landscape are masterfully done, and the distance between them that the Bishop had to travel was awe inspiring, especially on mule. ...more
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-completed
Coming to the end of this book was like a sad farewell to some very good friends. Father Joseph, Father Letour, their many friends and acquaintances who built solid and strong relationships with them over the years, and their country. Oh my. Their beautiful country.

Father Joseph and Father Letour, both originally from France, were sent to the land of New Mexico shortly after it had been annexed. They were young men whose mission was to bring spiritual counsel and comfort to the people of this Ne
Mar 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: adults
Shelves: own, fiction
I'm glad I didn't know Kit Carson would be a character in Death Comes for the Archbishop; if I had, I might never have opened the book. Indeed, a weight of glumness descended on me as I realized the entire narrative would take place in New Mexico Territory, between the years 1851-1888. I foresaw dust, and tumbleweed clumps, unrestrainedly tumbling through bleak moonlike terrain. These things hold little allure for me; they're why I don't watch westerns. And it's true, the novel is filled with de ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: هفتم فوریه سال 2017 میلادی
عنوان: مرگ سراغ اسقف اعظم میآید؛ نویسنده: ویلا کادر (کتر)؛ مترجم: سلما رضوانجو؛ تهران، نشر شورآفرین، 1393، در 275 ص، شابک: 9786006955599؛ قرن 20 م
ویلا کاتر (1873 تا 1947 میلادی)، نویسنده امریکایی برنده ی جایزه ی پولیتزر ستایشگر غم و نومیدی ست، ایشان بیشتر شهرت خود را از طریق خلق رمانهایی به دست آورده اند که: به زندگی نخستین مهاجران اروپایی ساکن در ایالات غربی امریکا میپرداخت، و از شیوه های زندگی در دشتهای
Although I have read this book before, that was long enough ago that this was essentially like reading the book for the first time.

I believe this is the fifth of Cather's books that I have read (this both the first and the most recent) and confirms my appreciation for her skills in presenting the landscapes of the American West, the developing American way of life as it pushes west, and the varying and various peoples who lived on and from the land. Cather had mentioned the canyons of the Southw
Jan 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Terence by: Michael Dirda & GR Friends Elizabeth & Stephanie
Michael Dirda has an essay in Classics for Pleasure on Willa Cather that focuses on this book. That and the gentle prodding of two GR Friends convinced me to give this author another chance. I had been "traumatized" in a high school English class reading My Antonia and had never quite recovered. I don't blame my teacher. I wasn't forced to read the book except insofar as he gave us a list of "great American literature" and told us to choose a book and write a paper on it. As the crusader knight ...more
Richard Derus
Nov 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rating: 5* of five

This book is a survivor. Closing in on 90 years after its initial appearance, it's still on must-read lists. For a good reason: It's a neither-fish-not-fowl book. As a history, it's a good novel; as a novel, it's fascinating history. Enough fiction was larded onto the flesh of New Mexico's post-annexation history to make this a tasty roast.

Like a roast, it's served in slices, as the stories of Latour/Lamy's progress in creating the Archdiocese of New Mexico are too numerous to
Once before he had been carried out of the body thus to a place far away. He had turned a corner and come upon an old woman with a basket of yellow flowers; sprays of yellow sending out a honey-sweet perfume. Mimosa - but before he could think of the name he was overcome by a feeling of place, was dropped, cassock and all, into a garden in the south of France where he had been sent one winter in his childhood...
It's rare these days in reading that I'll come across a childhood thought or f
Dhanaraj Rajan
The Verdict:

It is an excellent piece of literature. Instantly, it has become one of my personal favourites meaning it would be read by me for many more times in the future. In short, I will carry it with me as long as I have the ability and sanity to read and understand.

An Introduction:

This book is about two ‘pioneering French missionaries’ and their missions in New Mexico. The novel is based on the true life stories of Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy, the first Archbishop of Santa Fe and his com
Andrew Schirmer
Jan 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english, yankee
Bach almost persuades me to be a Christian, Virginia Woolf quotes the painter and art critic Roger Fry, the subject of her tender biographical work, as saying. Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop nearly did the same for me in regards to the Roman Catholic Church--an organization so bilious, corrupted, and scandal-ridden these days it would take a miracle for them to make a proselyte out of me.

Indeed, Death Comes for the Archbishop is a sort of miracle. Nine short chapters of unclutter

1851. Central New Mexico. Catholic priests. Indians. Mexicans. The story of the Catholic Church in this new American territory. The friendship between two priests who leave their native, beloved France to become the church leaders in the new territory with the remote Santa Fe as their destination.

It feels good to open a book that was written in the 1800s. and listen to the voices of the people who populated that part of history . Their long-forgotten tales open brand new and fresh before our ver
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read my review here, another edition:
Jennifer (aka EM)
Beautiful, scenic - my fave bits were the descriptions of the SW landscape and the hints that Cather gives us of how hard that life was for the two RC missionaries who head out to save the souls there. But what it didn't give me - which is what I like in my priestly books - is an intimate view of either their struggle with their faith or their devotion to it when challenged.

Cather teased me with the stuff that I wanted to know much more about -- the relocation and slaughter of the Navajos and th
Early in life, a young Frenchman knows he will become a Catholic priest. He meets another man in seminary, they become fast friends and go to Paris to prepare to establish the Catholic church in the New World. The two go initially to Ohio, but ten years later are called to build a diocese in the newly acquired territory of New Mexico. It is then when they both discover where they are supposed to be and what truly they are supposed to do in life. That early decision leads to places and relationsh ...more
Mike Puma
Sep 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, classic-lit
Death Comes for the Archbishop is a beautiful story, beautifully told. Suffused with the color of the desert Southwest, unusually (or surprisingly) respectful of the indigenous populations of New Mexico in the 1800s (both Native American and Mexican), and very Roman Catholic in its sympathies. In spite of its heavily religious themes and imagery, this is a very good story and well worth the reader’s time.

The book I finished just before starting this classic was Christopher Hitchens’ God Is Not
Death Comes For the Archbishop is a book that appears to be about almost nothing but is really about a lot.

The novel addresses the lives of two French missionary priests in the American southwest. They travel, establish churches, get a little older, part, meet, part again, and talk through the nuances of their faith and expanding roles in the Catholic church among Mexicans and Native Americans with wildly different perspectives of faith but respect for good men. I like how Cather avoids what can
May 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 sweep ...more
Eddie Watkins
I have heard there is a tremendously moving death scene near - as would be expected - the end of this book. Though I am of the firm conviction that one should live until one dies I cannot apply this principle, by analogy, to my own reading of this book. I doubt very seriously I can finish it. I am nearly 200 pages in and I still have no idea who Father Latour is. He is little more than a cypher on mule back who only slightly intrigues. All I know of him is that he will eventually die. It is poss ...more
Aug 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any Christian
My favorite by Cather; read this aloud when we did our family Grand Circle trip, especially the part in New Mexico. Such a gentle, quiet story. I know that my children were not touched by it as I am/was, but I'm still glad they know about it. It is a fictionalized account of the real life of the first archbishop of the western territory, a simple, saintly man who lived his faith without fuss or fanfare. The book is actually soothing to read, but I think it takes a certain maturity to fully appre ...more
Jackie "the Librarian"
Jul 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historical fiction readers
Jesuit priests come to New Mexico in the 1800's to proselytise and to build a cathedral in the desert landscape. No, it doesn't sound promising, does it? But to my happy surprise (reading this as a college freshman, and one who favored SF over historical fiction) I fell in love with the two Jesuit priests in this book, and their mules.

Not only that, the way Cather writes about the New Mexican landscape made me fall in love with the desert. Here, the land is one of the characters.

Just wonderful
Jan 05, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite things about keeping track and reviewing the books I've read is that doing so pushes me to read things out of my comfort zone. It makes me want to tackle the classics. Much more often than I used to, I pick up a work of non-fiction - a genre I used to happily skip over. In other words, I'm much more aware of what I read and a lot more choosy.

Death Comes For The Archbishop is a book I chose because it is a classic. Willa Catha's name was mentioned somewhere, and I gritted my te
Jun 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
80 pages in or so and now I feel the need to say a few words.

How does one write a western about missionaries in New Mexico? I think it's foolish to assume that the conventions of the western narrative would be applied in such a story. But if you were to mix some of the familiar tropes of the western (The purifier comes to settle the land and the wild lawless society, a narrative much like Shane... or High Planes Drifter) with a biblical theme, in this case the problem presented at the Pentecost
I savored near every page of Cather's look at the nineteenth century Southwest through a fictional narrative of the lives of two missionary priests.

In Commonweal when asked about the genesis of her book Cather describes how learning of the life, times and friendship of two men of the early catholic church in the Southwest:
The first Archbishop of Santa Fe, Jean Baptiste Lamy and his friend and one time vicar, Joseph Projectus Machebeuf (1812-1889), the first Bishop of Denver who would later be r
Genia Lukin
I think that this book goes into the small but not-insignificant department of what I call "cute" books.

"Cute" books are books that don't necessarily carry a world-shattering message, are not always elevated to the point of rocking the reader's world, or revealing some life-changing messages. Cute books are books that are a pleasure to read, whose characters are genuinely personable, the descriptions are poetic, and the atmosphere as a whole is one of hidden pleasure, rather than of angst and w
Mar 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have only one word to describe this writer - genius.

I read through the novel convinced that Willa Cather was a Catholic, and a particularly deep and perceptive one. I then looked her up on Wiki and discovered she had been born a Baptist and had become an Episcopalian in 1922. I could hardly believe it. Wiki also described her as 'a resolutely private person'. I could believe that - she had a breadth and penetration of mind that put her completely out of step with the prejudices of her time: he
May 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
This is one of my favorite books and among Cather's best. I've wanted to pick it up again, so when a friend suggested we read it 'together,' I agreed. I like to read at my own pace, but I also like to share thoughts with a friend, so we'll see how this goes.

Second reading: A chapter a week or so (2.5 months total) was definitely not my reading style. Most of the chapters I ended up reading twice. But it’s done and we both enjoyed the book. She was totally enthralled with Cather’s writing style.

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Wilella Sibert Cather was born in Back Creek Valley (Gore), Virginia, in December 7, 1873. Her novels on frontier life brought her to national recognition. In 1923 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her novel, One of Ours (1922), set during World War I. She grew up in Virginia and Nebraska. She then attended the University of Nebraska, initially planning to become a physician, but after writin ...more
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