*Vatican City. Enclave in Rome that is the center of the Roman Catholic Church and headquarters of the pope. There the novel opens in a prologue that describes an elegant garden in which three Italian cardinals select the new bishop of Santa Fe as they drink fine French wines. This scene contrasts sharply with the harsh world that the relocated priests will find in the American Southwest.
*Canada. Mission field from which Bishop Latour and Father Vaillant are removed and sent to New Mexico. The Italian cardinals who make the decision to relocate the missionaries express concern about the tendency of priests in the Southwest to lead dissolute lives and agree that the diocese’s new bishop must come from a different culture so that he can impose order and orthodoxy in this new diocese. The cardinals are oblivious to the difficulty of the transition they are asking the French missionaries to make by moving from the cold climate of Canada to the hot arid deserts of the American southwest. The novel then describes the missionaries’ harrowing trip across inhospitable mountains, rivers, oceans, and deserts in their journey from Canada to Santa Fe.
*New Mexico. Territory in the American Southwest that the United States occupied in the late 1840’s, after winning the Mexican-American War. Most of the novel is centered in this arid region, particularly around...
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