Father Jean Marie Latour A French Jesuit missionary priest who first serves the Church in Sandusky, Ohio, and is named the Vicar Apostolic of New Mexico and Bishop of Agathonica. He is physically handsome, generous, and a gentleman at all times. He finds it difficult to make new friends and is, therefore, lonely when his childhood friend and subordinate Father Vaillant is away for extended periods; however, he appreciates solitude in which to meditate and prefers the high, airy places of New Mexico.
Father Joseph Vaillant A French Jesuit missionary priest and subordinate and best friend of Father Jean Marie Latour. Although he is physically unattractive, he makes friends easily and his personality is perfectly suited to winning souls for the Church. He is extremely devout yet impulsive and sometimes too vehement. He frequently battles illnesses, requiring him to spend time recuperating at the Archbishop's diocese in Santa Fe.
Padre Marino Lucero A miserly friend and sometimes enemy of Father Martinez. With Martinez, he forms a schismatic church in defiance of Latour.
Padre Antonio Jose Martinez The priest of the Taos parish. He is a charismatic man with a great singing voice for Mass but actively challenges the Church's views on priestly celibacy. He is suspected of fathering many children and of orchestrating the Bent massacre for his personal gains.
Fray Baltazar Montoya A priest of Acoma whose story is told to Latour. He enslaves the Indians of Acoma in order to keep his gardens and orchards watered. He owns a picture of St. Joseph, which, he tells the superstitious Indians, possesses the power to bring rain. He uses the picture to blackmail the Indians to do his bidding. When a young Indian boy dies when struck by a mug thrown by a drunkenly angry Montoya, the Indians rebel by throwing Montoya from a cliff.
Padre Gallegos The priest of Albuquerque is a hedonist who gambles, dances, and is slothful. He has turned each of the Church's Holy Days into festivals. He is also lazy, bandaging his foot and complaining falsely of gout to relieve him from consideration to accompany the Bishop to Acoma.
Jacinto An Indian guide from the Pecos pueblo. He distrusts white men but comes to respect Latour. He takes Latour to a secret ceremonial cave containing Catholic artifacts.
Padre Jesus de Baca An elderly priest at Isleta who is nearly blind. Latour admires the man's devout nature, which is contrasted with the worldliness of Padre Gallegos.
Zeb Orchard A white trader who tells Latour that he believes the Indians keep a magical animal@ — perhaps a snake@ — hidden in the mountains. When he was a boy, his parents hid a young girl's baby whom she suspected the Indians were going to sacrifice to the snake.
Trinidad A dim-witted student of Padre Martinez who is believed to be the priest's son. He is heavy yet persists in having himself crucified during Holy Week despite the fact that the cross cannot hold his girth.
Magdalena The wife of Buck Scales who warns the priests away from Scales's home. She later escapes her abusive husband and testifies against him. She becomes a devout Catholic and works for Latour in Santa Fe.
Buck Scales A sociopathic murderer and robber who abuses his terrified young wife, Magdalena. He plans to murder Latour and Vaillant, but Magdalena warns the priests and they escape.
Sada An elderly Catholic slave of the Protestant Smith family. She escapes one evening to pray at Latour's church and, consequently, reinvigorates his faith.
Kit Carson A frontiersman admired for his marksmanship, he is nonetheless a ruthless administrator of the U.S. government's policies of removing the Navajos from their land. His actions against the Indians deeply disturb Latour, although Carson's compassionate side is also depicted.
Mrs. Kit Carson A Mexican woman with no education but great intelligence. She advises Latour on matters concerning Padres Lucerno and Martinez.
Don Antonio Olivares A wealthy landowner and patron of Father Latour's Santa Fe cathedral. He dies before bequeathing the monies he's promised Latour.
Dona Isabella Olivares A beautiful and vain woman and widow of Don Olivares. Her vanity at disclosing her true age nearly results in her brothers-in-law attempting to challenge her husband's will.
Inez Olivares The daughter of Dona Isabella and, perhaps, Don Olivares. She is plain but sings beautifully and is a devout Catholic who teaches singing in a convent and sings in the cathedral choir in New Orleans.
Pablo A Mexican servant of the Olivares household who gossips speculate is a lover of Dona Isabella.
Don Manuel Chavez The lone survivor of an Indian massacre, Chavez prides himself on his Castilian heritage and marksmanship with a bow and arrow. He is jealous of Kit Carson's fame as an Indian fighter. As a young man, he hunted Indians for sport.
Father Taladrid A Spanish priest brought by Latour from Rome to replace Padre Martinez.
Philomene Vaillant's younger sister, a Mother Superior at a convent in Puy-de-Dome. She and the nuns in the convent make ornate vestments for Vaillant.
Manuel Lujon A wealthy Mexican rancher who gives Vaillant two mules. He is also a frequent poker partner for Padre Martinez.
Benito The widower who lives at Aqua Secreta.
Padre Escolastico Herrara A priest who returns from a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Guadalupe in Mexico. He tells Latour of the miracle of Guadalupe witnessed by Juan Diego.
Garcia Maria de Allande, Father Ferrand, the Venetian and the Frenchman The four priests in the novel's prologue set in Rome. Allande is the Spanish host and Ferrand is the American Bishop. They decide that Latour will be elevated to Bishop of New Mexico.
Bernard Ducrot A young priest who becomes like a son to Latour. He takes care of Latour in his declining years.
Eusabio A proud Navajo leader, admired for his strength and intelligence, who befriends Latour.
Manuelito Leader of the Navajos who attempts to enlist Latour's intercession on the tribe's behalf to the U.S. government.
M. Molny The French architect who builds the Santa Fe cathedral and who visits the Navajo country with Latour.
Father Revardy A French priest who assist Vaillant for twenty years. Although dying himself, he hurries to Denver to attend Vaillant's funeral.
Boyd O'Reilly A young Irish lawyer from Boston who manages the Olivares' affairs and tries to get Mrs. Olivares to admit her age but has no success until he enlists the aid of Latour and Vaillant.