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The Storks Of La Caridad [Paperback]

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Item description for The Storks Of La Caridad by Florence Byham Weinberg...

Father Ignaz (Ygnacio) Pfefferkorn, a missionary from the Sonora Desert region of northern Mexico, is caught in the Expulsion of all Jesuits in 1767. After enduring eight years of prison and abuse, he is incarcerated in Caridad Monastery where the abbot recruits him to help solve two murders. In the course of his investigations, Father Ignaz finds his own life in peril.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   234
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.9" Width: 5.5" Height: 0.8"
Weight:   0.65 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 30, 2005
Publisher   Twilight Times Books
ISBN  193335321X  
ISBN13  9781933353210  

Availability  128 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 27, 2016 09:07.
Usually ships within one to two business days from La Vergne, TN.
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Reviews - What do customers think about The Storks Of La Caridad?

A must -read!  Aug 12, 2006
"The Storks of La Caridad" is Professor Emerita Florence Weinberg's third historical mystery featuring Father Ygnacio Pfefferkorn, a detective priest character based on an actual historical Jesuit missionary who was forcibly removed from his Sonora Desert mission around 1767 to be imprisoned for 6 years near Cadiz, Spain before being sent to La Caridad and the Norbertines for two years. Weinberg's painstaking research and rich historical detail of an obscure but bloody epoch in church and secular Spanish American history provide a flawless framework for this intriguing tale of bloody survival and a martyr's forgiveness. All notes ring true in the world of Father Ygnacio, but how do they lead to the solution of two murders and the supposed theft of an ancient charter to the monastery in time to preserve Ygnacio's threatened mortal existence? The storks of L Caridad are the natural historians and observers of the intrigues of the abbey. Can Father Ygnacio possibly follow their example and find his way through the maze of danger, before his limited venue as endangered holy sleuth literally expires? "The Storks of La Caridad" is beautifully written, as well as meticulously researched. It will grip its readers, shock them, and confound them. Along the way, much valuable and accurate history will be painlessly assimilated. Perhaps this is the art of historical mystery writing at its best. "The Storks of La Caridad" is a must -read!
Only the Storks Know  Nov 27, 2005

The Storks of La Caridad


Dr. Florence B. Weinberg

Twilight Times Books
Kingsport, Tennessee, 2004


Book Review and Historical Commentary


Br. Terrence Lauerman, O. Praem.

General Introduction:

Not many historically based novels could be expected to have their setting in a Premonstratensian (Norbertine) abbey, particularly an abbey of the historically renegade and currently defunct Spanish Circary. However, that is precisely what Dr. Florence B. Weinberg of San Antonio has done in her new historically inspired novel, The Storks of La Caridad. Her novel deals with the period of the suppression of the Society of Jesus in the latter part of the eighteenth century and the trials and tribulations of a Jesuit priest who ended up in detention with the Norbertine community at Nuestra Señora de La Caridad in Spain.


Dr. Weinberg, who is a retired professor of Spanish and French, taught for twenty-two years at St. John Fisher College in New York and for ten years at Trinity University in Texas. Her expertise and insights into 18th-century Spain and ecclesiastical intrigue are surely evident in her skillful writing which reflects a scholarly view of the religious culture of Spain in that era. She convincingly depicts the daily common life of Norbertines as seen in their food, drink, prayer, architecture, governance, etc.

Norbertine Context:

The historical setting for the novel is the Premonstratensian abbey of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad, founded on a site four kilometers southeast of modern-day Ciudad Rodrigo in northwestern Spain. The abbey was founded between 1165-1168 by Fernando II of Leon in gratitude for his military success in a campaign in Extremadura and for the services lent by the Norbertines. Historically, La Caridad was one of the richest Norbertine foundations in Spain, which perhaps explains why there were some financial and jurisdictional conflicts with the local diocese. Avaricious glances were cast from time to time at attractive Norbertine resources and dependent entities.

Due to a need for more space and some earthquake damage, La Caridad began to build an expanded church and living facilities in 1761, and construction continued for some years after that. By 1814, however, the abbey closed its doors as a functioning religious facility due to the ravages of the Napoleonic incursion. Nevertheless, the Norbertine community carried on in some fashion with triennial abbots being appointed until 1835. Unfortunately, by the mid 1830s, all religious communities were suppressed by the Liberal reform governments in Spain, inspired by the anticlerical thought flowing out of the French Revolution. By no later than 1842, the buildings and property of La Caridad were in private ownership. Yet its basic structure has remained intact to the present. The unused church, abbot's quarters, cloister garden, kitchen, and enclosing walls still stand; and they are maintained in good condition by the private owners. However, the cells in the upper cloister where the Norbertines resided are in a ruined state, perhaps due to vandalism by Napoleonic troops who pillaged the general area of Ciudad Rodrigo and billeted in the abbey.

As with all religious communities at the time of the nineteenth-century invasion, suppression, and "desamortización", all the moveable assets, documents, and furnishings of La Caridad were seized, relocated, destroyed, or sold to the highest bidder. Fortunately, a compendium of the abbey's records, the Becerro, was saved and is now housed in the archives of the Episcopal Palace in Ciudad Rodrigo. Likewise, a statue from the abbey depicting Our Lady of Charity found its way to the Cathedral of Ciudad Rodrigo where it can be venerated today. Valuable elements from other Spanish Norbertine abbeys also ended up in far-removed places. For instance, the rare stone tombs of the Counts of Urgel from Bellpuig de las Avellanas (Cataluña) were purchased by the Cloisters Museum in New York, and many capitals from the abbey of Aguilar de Campóo (Palencia) reside in the National Archeological Museum in Madrid. One of the most egregious (yet amusing) examples of this expropriation of Norbertine church property was the removal of the stone statue of St. Norbert from a dominant position on the facade of San Norberto in Madrid, only to be resculpted as a lion to grace a pedestal at the crossing of Arganzuela and Toledo Streets in another section of that capital city!

A few of the other sixteeen Norbertine abbey structures in Spain fared better toward the end of the nineteenth century when some religious orders were reestablished and acquired suitable facilities before they deteriorated beyond repair. For instance, La Vid became an Augustinian monastery; and Bellpuig became a Marist novitiate and retreat house. Other Norbertine abbeys met the same fate as that of San Norberto in Madrid which was torn down stone by stone during the French Napoleonic invasions of the early nineteenth century. The French seem to have had a particular aversion to the Norbertines who were founded in Premontre, France.

Jesuit Context:

Following the example of the Portuguese in 1759 and the French in 1764, King Carlos III of Spain in 1767 suppressed the Jesuits in all of the Spanish Empire. All Jesuits were forced by the Spanish Crown to withdraw from ministry. Some entered some sort of detention while others were simply set adrift to find refuge wherever and however they could. Of the original fifty-one Jesuits arrested in the Sonora-Arizona region, there were only twenty-seven survivors of the death march through Mexico while on their way to imprisonment in Spain. The Jesuits were herded like cattle by Spanish soldiers on horseback wielding whips as they walked from Matape to Guyamas on the Gulf of California where they were corralled for a year. Then they were then taken by ship to San Blas where they were imprisoned for six months in a swampy area. The final march across Mexico via the capital ended up on the Atlantic coast at Vera Cruz where the survivors embarked for Cadiz, Spain. Their further confinement was designed to encourage them to reveal where they might have concealed gold or wealth in the mission territories as well as to protect imperial secrets from the enemies of the Spanish Empire.

Historical Characters:

Ignaz Pfefferkorn, one of the historical Jesuit missionaries who is the protagonist of the novel, was forced to withdraw from his mission in the Sonora Desert. Upon his arrival in Spain, he entered into punitive confinement for six years in a prison near Cadiz, Spain, before being sent for benevolent house arrest for two and a half years with the Norbertines at La Caridad. Ultimately, he was repatriated to his homeland in German territory. He was noted for musical skills playing the violin and for scholarly knowledge as a naturalist.

Other real historical figures woven into the fictional events of the novel are: Gregorio Cañada y Lobato, triennial abbot of La Caridad; Géronimo Gómez Flores, triennial abbot of San Norberto in Madrid; Cayetano Antonio Cuadrillero y Mota, bishop of Ciudad Rodrigo.

Story Line:

Upon a skeleton of factual dates, people, and events, the author superimposed a fictional mystery relating the murder of two Norbertines involved in a community debate concerning the efforts of the local bishop to take over the parish of Robledillo de Gata. The parish was accredited to La Caridad and represented a source of financial income for the community. Surprisingly, the abbot engaged the help of the intellectually gifted Jesuit internee, Ignaz Pfefferkorn, to find out the identity and motives of those in the community responsible for the murders and the theft of a fictional charter granting the abbey perpetual control of the surrounding lands and parishes, including the dependent parish in question.

A basic issue of the unfolding mystery story is whether the Jesuit guest can piece together the events in the world inside the troubled Norbertine community in order to understand the situation before he becomes a third murder victim. The wise and free storks inhabiting the abbey bell tower observe and understand all the troubling events in the abbey. Can a caged bird such as Pfefferkorn come to understand the abbey intrigues as well as the wise and informed storks?

Personal Involvement:

Some months ago, I had the pleasure of communicating with Dr. Weinberg concerning some possible archival resources for discovering the facts concerning Norbertine history in Spain. Having done some Norbertine archival work in Spain and having visited some of the sites of former Norbertine abbeys there during my graduate studies in Spain, I was quite interested in facilitating her work. Although many of the archival fonts proved disappointing in many cases, she was able to discover enough information to compete her work. One of the basic notions about the Spanish Norbertines during the Counter Reformation is reflected in the novel. The rejection of the canonical white habit of the Order and the adoption of a monastic black one for the Spanish Circary is seen in the garb of the community at La Caridad. Philip II and the specially approved Jeronymite visitators who reformed the Order didn't want Norbertines to be linked to or confused with anything going on in heretical North Europe, even to the extent of what the Norbertine habit might be.

Although not reflected in the novel, the triennial abbots who floated around from abbey to abbey every three years in Spain could have added an interesting historical element to the plot of The Storks of La Caridad . These peripatetic leaders surely represented unique evidence of the flux in abbatial leadership in the reformed Spanish Premonstratensian abbeys of yesteryear. Were their wanderings perhaps a source of weakness in dealing with local bishops and bureaucrats in Madrid? Maybe only the storks who inhabited the bell tower of La Caridad know if this could be true.
Before all the technology and forensics there was...  Jul 10, 2005
thinking. Jesuit Ignaz Pfefferkorn wants to life the life he has chosen, but he is good at solving murders. Without even fingerprinting Pfefferkorn must look at the evidence, talk with people, and come to an understanding of what really happened. The evidence is trampled and overlooked. People don't tell the whole truth. Yet Pfefferkorn is able, through much effort to learn the motives and solve the murder. Twists and turns and a final twist make this well worth reading. Ignaz Pfefferkorn really existed and really was rounded up by the Church and placed in prison. This makes the story more believable and complete. There are two other Pfefferkorn mysteries by Florence Weinberg that are set in northern Mexico rather than in Spain.
Oh, Brother!  Jul 9, 2005
We are used to amateur detectives who, between a cup o' tea at Scotland Yard and a glass of sherry on the Orient Express, find out that the butler did it in the pantry with a bronze statue. These detectives are classic, borderline conservative, without life of their own and, heaven forbid! sexuality. Enter Ignaz Pfefferkorn, a man bearing a name easier to sneeze than pronounce, who, prisoner of his story and History, solves a mystery in a Spanish monastery of the late 18th century. By the way, he is a (good looking) priest and a Jesuit. So, sexuality? Well, do not hold your breath but our man has feelings. On top of this, he really existed and most characters and events in the book are historical. Florence Weinberg respectfully has filled the voids to let Pfefferkorn live for us, guide us and interest us in the meanders of that era. You may still not solve the mystery of faith after reading this book, but you certainly will have faith in mystery.

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