While Santo Ecce-Homo was certainly not the most important Dominican monastery in Colombia, it played an important role in the colonization of the area. What Father Ariza presents to us is not exactly the history of the monastery, but rather a collection of facts, undigested raw material about it extracted from its “Libro de Cuentas” and arranged in rather strict chronological order. The author has done little synthesis. For example, nowhere can one find the income of the monastery, although he has given us a detailed summary of all conceivable financial transactions in which the monastery was involved. This omission is serious because an entire chapter is devoted to the expropriation of the monastery’s property during the nineteenth century, which was predicated partially on the friars’ ability to support themselves. One has the impression that the author really did not understand the financial structure of the monastery. In several instances, “capellanías” are mentioned in a vague manner (p. 145), and the terminology relating to them is improperly used.

Possibly the most interesting chapter of the book is the one dealing with the expropriation of the monastery’s property. In this chapter, Father Ariza expresses harsh opinions concerning the role of the Colombian government. There is no question that the expropriation was a violation of the principle of private property. And eventually it hurt the entire country by depriving the Church of the means to train its members, and consequently curtailing its contribution to Colombian cultural and social progress. It also dealt a heavy if not deadly blow to privately endowed educational and charitable institutions by taking away their income.

However, the mortmain question of the nineteenth century cannot be reduced to simple terms. To contend today that congress had no authority to deal with property rights or the economic structure of the country is to deny the principle of self-determination that underlay the movement for independence, which, as the author maintains, was supported by the majority of Dominican priests in Colombia. Also entries in the Libro de Cuentas of the monastery make it obvious that the priests could not maintain close supervision over the property of the monastery. If the monastery was losing part of its endowment through legal suits and poor administration, then its reorganization was necessary. To wait for governmental action in the 1820s was procrastination.

Finally, the author did not fully explore the reasons for closing Ecce Homo and other monasteries in Colombia. If the monastery lacked adequate personnel during the 1820s, this shortage was due not only to the Wars for Independence but also to ecclesiastical policy regarding social qualifications for the priesthood. The author himself mentions the case of a very worthy member of the monastery, an Indian, who never achieved the priesthood for unexplained reasons. It is known that the policy of some religious orders was not to accept non-Europeans as members. Obviously this policy must have caused the orders to be understaffed at the time of independence.

In general, historians and others interested in Colombian history will find this book helpful for the amount of factual information about a single ecclesiastical institution. In fact, this work could very well serve as the main source of a short monograph on the Monasterio de Ecce Homo.