The Order of Preachers
( ), after the 15th century
more commonly known as the Dominican Order
, is a Catholic religious order
in 1216 in France.
Membership in the Order includes the friars
, congregations of active
, and lay persons affiliated with the
order (formerly known as tertiaries
, now Lay or Secular
A number of other names have been used to refer to both the order
and its members.
England and other countries the Dominicans are referred to
as Black Friars on account of the black
cappa or cloak they wear over their white habits. Dominicans were Blackfriars,
as opposed to Whitefriars (i.e., the Carmelites) or Greyfriars (i.e., Franciscans). They are also distinct from the
Augustinian Friars (the Austin friars)
who wear a similar habit.
France, the Dominicans are also known as
Jacobins, because their first convent in Paris bore the
name Saint Jacques, and Jacques is
Jacobus in Latin.
- Their identification as Dominicans gave rise to the pun that
they were the Domini canes, or
Hounds of the Lord.
Members of the order generally carry the letters
standing for Ordinis Praedicatorum
meaning of the Order of Preachers
, after their
Founded to preach the gospel and to combat heresy, the order is
famed for its intellectual tradition, having produced many leading
theologians and philosophers. The Dominican Order is headed by the
Master of the
, who is currently Father Carlos Azpiroz Costa
Like his contemporary, Francis of
, Dominic saw the need for a new type of organization,
and the quick growth of the Dominicans and Franciscans
during their first century confirms
that the orders of mendicant friars met a need.
accompanied as canon Diego de Acebo, Bishop of Osma on a diplomatic mission to
Denmark, to arrange the marriage between the son of King
Alfonso VIII of Castile and
a niece of King Valdemar II of
Denmark. At that time the south of France was the
stronghold of the Albigensian heresy,
named after the town of Albi.
doctrine held that matter was
evil and only spirit was good, a fundamental challenge to the
notion of incarnation
central to Roman Catholic
. The Albigensians, more commonly known as the Cathars
sect), lived very simply and saw
themselves as more fervent followers of the poor Christ
. Dominic saw the need for a response that
would take the good elements in the Albigensian movement to sway
them back to mainstream Christian thought. The mendicant preacher
emerged from this insight. Unfortunately, Dominic's ideal of
winning the Albigensians over was not held by all office bearers
and the population of Albi was devastated in the Albigensian crusade
Dominic became the spiritual father to several Albigensian women he
had reconciled to the faith, and he established them in a convent
in Prouille. In 1207 Dominic was given authority over the convent
by the local bishop. This convent would become the foundation of
the Dominican nuns, thus making the Dominican nuns older than the
Dominic sought to establish a new kind of order, one that would
bring the dedication and systematic education of the older monastic
orders like the Benedictines
to bear on
the religious problems of the burgeoning population of cities, but
with more organizational flexibility than either monastic orders or
the secular clergy. Dominic's new order was to be a preaching
order, trained to preach in the vernacular
languages but with a sound background
in academic theology
. Rather than earning
their living on vast farms as the monasteries had done, the new
friars would survive by begging, "selling" themselves through
Dominic established a religious community in Toulouse in 1214, to
be governed by the rule of St.
Augustine and statutes to govern the life of the friars,
including the Primitive Constitution.
(The statutes were
inspired by the Constitutions of Prémontré
. ) The founding documents
establish that the Order was founded for two purposes: preaching
and the salvation of souls. The organization of the Order of
Preachers was approved in December 1216 by Pope Honorius III
(see also Religiosam vitam
; Nos attendentes
The Order's origins in battling heterodoxy influenced its later
development and reputation. Many later Dominicans battled heresy as
part of their apostolate. Indeed, many years after St. Dominic
reacted to the Cathars, the first Grand Inquistor of Spain
, Tomás de Torquemada
, would be drawn
from the Dominican order, and the Dominicans were prominent in all
The history of the Order may be divided into three periods:
- The Middle Ages (from their foundation to the beginning of the
- The Modern Period up to the French
- The Contemporary Period.
Dominican friars quickly spread, including to England, where they
appeared in Oxford in
The thirteenth century is the classic age of the Order,
the witness to its brilliant development and intense activity. This
last is manifested especially in the work of teaching. By preaching
it reached all classes of Christian society, fought heresy
, and paganism
by word and book, and by its missions to
the north of Europe
, to Africa
, and Asia
the frontiers of Christendom. Its schools spread throughout the
entire Church; its doctors wrote monumental works in all branches
of knowledge and two among them, Albertus Magnus
, and especially Thomas Aquinas
, founded a school of
philosophy and theology which was to rule the ages to come in the
life of the Church. An enormous number of its members held offices
in Church and State—as popes, cardinals, bishops, legates,
inquisitors, confessors of princes, ambassadors, and
(enforcers of the peace decreed by popes or
The expansion of the Order was not without its problems. The Order
of Preachers, which should have remained a select body, developed
beyond bounds and absorbed some elements ill-fitted to its form of
life. A period of relaxation ensued during the fourteenth century
owing to the general decline of Christian society. The weakening of
doctrinal activity favoured the development here and there of the
ascetic and contemplative life and there sprang up,
especially in Germany and Italy, an intense
and exuberant mysticism with which the names of Meister Eckhart, Heinrich Suso, Johannes Tauler, and St. Catherine of Siena are
, which has also been called "Dominican mysticism.")
This movement was the prelude to the reforms undertaken, at the end
of the century, by Raymond of
, and continued in the following century. It assumed remarkable
proportions in the congregations of Lombardy and the Netherlands, and in the reforms of Savonarola at Florence.
At the same time the Order found itself face to face with the
. It struggled against pagan
tendencies in Renaissance
, in Italy through Dominici and Savonarola, in Germany
through the theologians of Cologne
also furnished humanism with such advanced writers as Francesco Colonna
(probably the writer of
) and Matteo
. Many Dominicans took part in the artistic activity of
the age, the most prominent being Fra
Reformation to French Revolution
Bartolomé de Las Casas, as a
settler in the New World, was galvanized
by witnessing the brutal torture and genocide of the Native Americans by the
Spanish colonists. He became famous for his advocacy of the
rights of Native Americans, whose cultures, especially in the
Caribbean, he describes with care.
Bartolomé de Las Casas
The modern period consists of the three centuries between the
religious revolution at the beginning of the sixteenth century
) and the French Revolution
and its consequences. At
the beginning of the sixteenth century the order was on the way to
a genuine renaissance when the Revolutionary upheavals occurred.
The progress of heresy cost it six or seven provinces and several
hundreds of convents
, but the discovery of
the New World
opened up a fresh field of
activity. Its gains in America
which arose as a consequence of the Portuguese
conquests in Africa
and the Indies
exceeded the losses of the order in Europe, and the seventeenth
century saw its highest numerical development. The sixteenth
century was a great doctrinal century, and the movement lasted
beyond the middle of the eighteenth century. In modern times the
order lost much of its influence on the political powers, which had
universally fallen into absolutism
and had little
sympathy for the democratic
of the Preachers. The Bourbon
courts of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were
particularly unfavourable to them until the suppression of the
Society of Jesus
In the eighteenth century, there were numerous attempts at reform
which created, especially in France led by Juan dela Cruz,
geographical confusion in the administration. Also during the
eighteenth century, the tyrannical spirit of the European powers
and, still more, the spirit of the age lessened the number of
recruits and the fervour of religious life. The French Revolution
ruined the order in France, and the crises which more or less
rapidly followed considerably lessened or wholly destroyed numerous
Nineteenth century to present
The contemporary period of the history of the Preachers begins with
the restorations of provinces undertaken after the revolutions
which had destroyed the Order in several countries of the Old World
and the New. This period begins more or less in the early
nineteenth century. The revolutions not having totally destroyed
certain of the provinces, nor decimated them, simultaneously, the
Preachers were able to take up the laborious work of restoration in
countries where the civil legislation did not present
During this critical period the number of Preachers seems never to
have sunk below 3,500. The statistics for 1876 give 3,748
religious, but 500 of these had been expelled from their convents
and were engaged in parochial
The statistics for 1910 give a total of 4,472 religious both
nominally and actually engaged in the proper activities of the
Order. In the year 2000, there were 5,171 Dominican friars in
solemn vows, 917 student brothers and 237 novices. Their provinces
cover the world, and include four provinces in the United States.
In the revival movement France held a foremost place, owing to the
reputation and convincing power of the orator, Jean-Baptiste Henri
(1802-1861). He took the habit of a Friar Preacher
at Rome (1839), and the province of France was canonically erected
in 1850. From this province were detached the
province of Lyon, called
Occitania (1862), that of Toulouse (1869), and that of Canada
The French restoration likewise furnished many
laborers to other provinces, to assist in their organization and
progress. From it came the master
who remained longest at the head of the administration
during the nineteenth century, Père Vincent Jandel
(1850-1872). Here should be
mentioned the province of St. Joseph in the United States.
in 1805 by Father Edward Fenwick,
afterwards first Bishop of Cincinnati, Ohio (1821-1832), this province has developed slowly,
but now ranks among the most flourishing and active provinces of
In 1910 it numbered seventeen convents or
secondary houses. In 1905, it established a large house of
studies at Washington,
D.C., called the Dominican House of
The province of France has produced a large number of preachers,
several of whom became renowned. The conferences of
Notre-Dame-de-Paris were inaugurated by Père Lacordaire. The
Dominicans of the province of France furnished most of the orators:
Lacordaire (1835-1836, 1843-1851), Jacques Monsabré
1872-1890), Joseph Ollivier
1897), Thomas Etourneau
(1898-1902). Since 1903 the pulpit of Notre Dame has been occupied
by a succession of Dominicans. Père Henri
(d. 1900) was one of the most esteemed orators of his
time. The house of studies of the province of France publishes
(founded 1859), La Revue des
Sciences Philosophiques et Theologiques
(1907), and La
Revue de la Jeunesse
French Dominicans founded and administer the École Biblique et
Archéologique française de Jérusalem founded in 1890 by Père
(1855-1938), one of the leading international centres for Biblical
research. It is at the École Biblique
that the famed
(both editions) was
Likewise Yves Cardinal Congar
, O.P., one
of the emblematic theologians of the Twentieth century, was a
product of the French province of the Order of Preachers.
province of the Philippines is recruited from Spain, where it has several
preparatory houses. In the Philippines it has charge of the
Aquinas University of
Legazpi and the University of Santo Tomas -- the Pontifical and the Royal university under
the Spanish colonial government for nearly three centuries.
nearly half a century, it was the oldest university under the flag
of the United
States which later occupied the Philippines.
Order also has several colleges including the Colegio de San Juan de Letran
and six establishments. In China it
administers the missions of North and South Fo-Kien, in the Japanese Empire, those of Formosa (now Taiwan) and Shikoku, besides establishments at New Orleans, at Caracas, and at Rome.
province of Spain has seventeen establishments in the Peninsula and
the Canaries, as well as the missions of Urubamba,
Peru. Since 1910 it has published at Madrid an important
review, La Ciencia Tomista. The province of the
Netherlands has a score of establishments, and the missions of
Curaçao and Puerto Rico.
Other provinces also have their missions. That of Piedmont has
establishments at Constantinople and Smyrna; that of
Toulouse, in Brazil; that of
Lyon, in Cuba, that of
Ireland, in Australia and Trinidad and Tobago; that of Belgium, in the Belgian Congo (now Democratic
Republic of the Congo), and so on.
Doctrinal development has had an important place in the restoration
of the Preachers. Several institutions besides those already
mentioned have played important parts. Such is the Biblical
school at Jerusalem, open to the religious of the Order and to secular
clerics, and which publishes the Revue Biblique.
faculty of theology at the University of Fribourg, confided to the care of the Dominicans in 1890, is
flourishing and has about 250 students.
, established at Rome (1911) by
Master Hyacinth Cormier
, is open to
regulars and seculars for the study of the sacred sciences. To the
reviews mentioned above must be added the Revue Thomiste,
founded by Père Thomas Coconnier
(d. 1908), and the Analecta Ordinis Prædicatorum
Among the numerous writers of the order in this period are:
Cardinals Thomas Zigliara
and Zephirin González
1894), two esteemed philosophers; Father Alberto Guillelmotti
historian of the Pontifical Navy, and Father Heinrich Denifle
, one of the most famous
writers on medieval history (d. 1905).
The Dominican nuns were founded by St. Dominic even before he had
established the friars. They are contemplatives in the cloistered
life. However, due to the influence of the Franciscan Order the
Nuns began to be referred to as the "Second Order" but this is not
exactly correct for the Dominican Order as for the Franciscan
Order. The Friars and Nuns together form the Order of Preachers
properly speaking. The nuns celebrated their 800th anniversary in
Dominican sisters carry on a number of apostolates. They are
distinct from the nuns. The sisters are a way of living the
vocation of a Third Order Dominican.
As well as the friars, Dominican sisters live their lives supported
by four common values, often referred to as the Four Pillars of
Dominican Life, they are: community life, common prayer, study and
service. St. Dominic called this fourfold pattern of life the "holy
preaching." Henri Matisse was so moved by the care that
he received from the Dominican Sisters that he collaborated in the
design and interior decoration of their Chapelle du
Saint-Marie du Rosaire in Vence, France.
Dominican laity are governed by their own rule, the Rule of the Lay
Fraternities of St. Dominic, promulgated by the Master in 1987. It
is the fifth Rule of the Dominican Laity; the first was issued in
The spiritual tradition of Dominic's Order is punctuated not only
by charity, study and preaching, but also by instances of mystical
union. The Dominican emphasis on learning and on charity
distinguishes it from other monastic and mendicant orders. As the
Order first developed on the European continent, learning continued
to be emphasized by these friars and their sisters in Christ. These
religious also struggled for a deeply personal, intimate
relationship with God. When the Order reached England, many of
these attributes were kept, but the English gave the Order
additional, specialized characteristics. This topic will be
discussed at more length below.
Dominic's search for a close relationship with God was determined
and unceasing. He rarely spoke, so little of his interior life is
known. What is known about it comes from accounts written by people
near to him. St. Cecilia remembered him as cheerful, charitable and
full of unceasing vigor. From a number of accounts, singing was
apparently one of Dominic's great delights. Dominic practiced
self-scourging and would mortify himself as he prayed alone in the
chapel at night for 'poor sinners.' He owned a single habit,
refused to carry money, and would allow no one to serve him.
The spirituality evidenced throughout all of the branches of the
Order reflects the spirit and intentions of its founder, though
some of the elements of what later developed may have surprised the
Castilian friar. Fundamentally, Dominic was "a man of prayer who
utilized the full resources of the learning available to him to
preach, to teach, and even materially to assist those searching for
the truth found in the gospel of Christ. It is that spirit which
[Dominic] bequeathed to his followers".
Humbert of Romans
, the Master
General of the Order from 1254 to 1263, was a great administrator,
as well as preacher and writer. It was under his tenure as Master
General that the sisters in the Order were given official
membership. Humbert was a great lover of languages, and encouraged
linguistic studies among the Dominicans, primarily Arabic, because
of the missionary work friars were pursuing in the East. He also
wanted his friars to reach excellence in their preaching, and this
was his most lasting contribution to the Order. The growth of the
spirituality of young preachers was his first priority. He once
cried to his students:". . . consider how excellent this office [of
preaching] is, because it is apostolic; how useful, because it is
directly ordained for the salvation of souls; how perilous, because
few have in them, or perform, what the office requires, for it is
not without great danger. . . . Item, take note that this office
calls for excellency of life, so that just as the preacher speaks
from a raised position, so he may also preach the Gospel from the
mountain of an excellent life"
Humbert is at the center of ascetic writers in the Dominican Order.
In this role, he added significantly to its spirituality. His
writings are permeated with "religious good sense," and he used
uncomplicated language that could edify even the weakest member.
Humbert advised his readers:"[young Dominicans] are also to be
instructed not to be eager to see visions or work miracles, since
these avail little to salvation, and sometimes we are fooled by
them; but rather they should be eager to do good in which salvation
consists. Also, they should be taught not to be sad if they do not
enjoy the divine consolations they hear others have; but they
should know the loving Father for some reason sometimes withholds
these. Again, they should learn that if they lack the grace of
compunction or devotion they should not think they are not in the
state of grace as long as they have good will, which is all that
The English Dominicans took this to heart, and made it the focal
point of their mysticism, as will be seen below.
Another who contributed significantly to the spirituality of the
Order is Albertus Magnus
, the only
person of the period to be given the appellation "Great". His
influence on the brotherhood permeated nearly every aspect of
Dominican life. Albert was a scientist, philosopher, theologian,
spiritual writer, ecumenist, and diplomat. Under the auspices of
Humbert of Romans, Albert molded the curriculum of studies for all
Dominican students, introduced Aristotle to the classroom and
probed the work of Neoplatonists
. Indeed, it was the thirty
years of work done by Thomas Aquinas
and himself (1245-1274) that allowed for the inclusion of
Aristotelian study in the curriculum of Dominican schools.
One of Albert's greatest contributions was his study of Dionysus the Areopagite
, a mystical
theologian whose words left an indelible imprint in the medieval
period. Magnus' writings made a significant contribution to German
mysticism, which became vibrant in the minds of the Beguines and
women such as Hildegard of
and Mechthild of
. Mysticism, for the purposes of this study, refers to
the conviction that all believers have the capability to experience
God's love. This love may manifest itself through brief ecstatic
experiences, such that one may be engulfed by God and gain an
immediate knowledge of Him, which is unknowable through the
Albertus Magnus championed the idea, drawn from Dionysus, that
positive knowledge of God is possible, but obscure. Thus, it is
easier to state what God is not, than to state what God is:". . .
we affirm things of God only relatively, that is, casually, whereas
we deny things of God absolutely, that is, with reference to what
He is in Himself. And there is no contradiction between a relative
affirmation and an absolute negation. It is not contradictory to
say that someone is white-toothed and not white".
Albert the Great was the first theologian to clarify how wisdom and
understanding enhance one's faith in God. According to him, these
are the tools that God uses to commune with a contemplative. Love
in the soul is both the cause and result of true understanding and
judgement. It causes not only an intellectual knowledge of God, but
a spiritual and emotional knowledge as well. Contemplation is the
means whereby one can obtain this goal of understanding. Things
that once seemed static and unchanging become full of possibility
and perfection. The contemplative then knows that God is, but she
does not know what God is. Thus, contemplation forever produces a
mystified, imperfect knowledge of God. The soul is exalted beyond
the rest of God's creation but it cannot see God Himself.
Charity and Meekness
As the image of God grows within man, he learns to rely less on an
intellectual pursuit of virtue and more on an affective pursuit of
charity and meekness. Meekness and charity guide Christians to
acknowledge that they are nothing without the One (Christ) who
created them, sustains them, and guides them. Thus, man then
directs his path to that One, and the love for, and of, Christ
guides man's very nature to become centered on the One, and on his
neighbor as well. Charity is the manifestation of the pure love of
Christ, both for and by His follower.
Although the ultimate attainment for this type of mysticism is
union with God, it is not necessarily visionary, nor does it hope
only for ecstatic experiences; instead, mystical life is successful
if it is imbued with charity. The goal is just as much to become
like Christ as it is to become one with Him. Those who believe in
Christ should first have faith in Him without becoming engaged in
such overwhelming phenomena.
The Dominican Order was affected by a number of elemental
influences. Its early members imbued the order with a mysticism and
learning. The Europeans of the Order embraced ecstatic mysticism on
a grand scale and looked to a union with the Creator. The English
Dominicans looked for this complete unity as well, but were not so
focused on ecstatic experiences. Instead, their goal was to emulate
the moral life of Christ more completely. The Dartford nuns were
surrounded by all of these legacies, and used them to create
something unique. Though they are not called mystics, they are
known for their piety toward God and their determination to live
lives devoted to, and in emulation of, Him.
Dartford Priory was established long after the primary period of
monastic foundation in England had ended. It emulated, then, the
monasteries found in Europe—mainly France and German—as well as the
monastic traditions of their English Dominican brothers. As already
stated, the first nuns to inhabit Dartford were sent from Poissy
Priory in France.
Evidence for the strength of the English Dominican nuns' vocation
is strong itself. Even on the eve of the Dissolution, Prioress Jane
Vane wrote to Cromwell on behalf of a postulant, saying that though
she had not actually been professed, she was professed in her heart
and in the eyes of God. This is only one such example of
dedication. Profession in Dartford Priory seems, then, to have been
made based on personal commitment, and one's personal association
Throughout the centuries, the Holy Rosary
been an important element among the Dominicans. Pope Pius XI
- The Rosary of Mary is the principle and foundation on which
the very Order of Saint Dominic rests for making perfect the life
of its members and obtaining the salvation of others.
Histories of the Holy Rosary
its origin to Saint Dominic
through the Blessed Virgin Mary
Our Lady of the Rosary
title received by the Marian
to Saint Dominic
1208 in the church of Prouille
in which the
Virgin Mary gave the Rosary to him. For centuries, Dominicans have
been instrumental in spreading the rosary and emphasizing the
Catholic belief in the power of the
On January 1, 2008, the Master of the Order declared a year of
dedication to the Rosary.
Missionary Activity of the Dominicans
The Dominican Order came into being in the Middle Ages at a time
when religion began to be contemplated in a new way. Men who gave
themselves and their souls completely into the keeping of God were
no longer expected to stay behind the walls of a cold and quiet
cloister. Instead, they traveled among the people, taking as their
examples the apostles of the primitive Church. Out of this ideal
emerged two orders of mendicant friars: one, the Friars Minor, was
led by Francis of Assisi
other, the Friars Preachers, by Dominic of Guzman
The man who established the Dominican Order offered his followers a
lofty and abiding cause. Dominic inspired his followers with
loyalty to learning and virtue, a deep recognition of the spiritual
power of worldly deprivation and the religious state, and a highly
developed governmental structure. He also produced a group people
who succeeded in converting Albigensians
to the orthodox faith. At the same
time, Dominic inspired the members of his Order to develop a
"mixed" spirituality. They were both active in preaching, and
contemplative in study, prayer and meditation. The brethren of the
Dominican Order were urban and learned, as well as contemplative
and mystical in their spirituality. While these traits had an
impact on the women of the Order, the nuns especially absorbed the
latter characteristics and made those characteristics their own. In
England, the Dominican nuns blended these elements with the
defining characteristics of English Dominican spirituality and
created a spirituality and collective personality that set them
As the father of the Order of Preachers, Dominic had a lasting
influence on a group of people who sought to fulfill his ideals. As
a young adolescent, he had a particular love of theology and the
Scriptures became the foundation of his spirituality. Dominic
studied in Palencia for a decade and maintained a dedication to
purpose and a self-sacrificing attitude that caused the poor of the
city to love him. During his sojourn in Palencia, Spain experienced a dreadful famine, prompting
Dominic to sell all of his beloved books and other equipment to
help his neighbors.
Dominic was also noticed by important members of the religious
community of Spain. After he completed his studies, Bishop
Martin Bazan and Prior Diego d'Achebes appointed Dominic to the
cathedral chapter and he became a regular canon under the Rule of St. Augustine and the
Constitutions for the cathedral church of Osma.
the age of twenty-four or twenty-five, he was ordained to the
In the spring of 1203, Dominic joined Prior Diego on an embassy to
Denmark for the monarchy of Spain. Dominic was fired by a reforming zeal
after they encountered Albigensian heretics at Toulouse.
He set about reconverting the region to
orthodox Christianity. On the return trip to Spain, the two
brethren met with a group of papal legates who were determined to
triumph over the Manichean
Diego saw immediately one of the paramount reasons for the spread
of the unorthodox movement: the representatives of the Holy Church
acted and moved with an offensive amount of pomp and ceremony. On
the other hand, the Cathars
lived in a state
of apostolic self-sacrifice that was widely appealing. For these
reasons, Prior Diego suggested that the papal legates begin to live
a reformed apostolic life. The legates agreed to change if they
could find a strong leader. The prior took up the challenge, and he
and Dominic dedicated themselves to the conversion of the
Dominican Convent Established
As time passed, Prior Diego sanctioned the building of a monastery
for girls whose parents had sent them to the care of the
Albigensians because their families were too poor to fulfill their
basic needs. The monastery was at Prouille
and would later become Dominic's headquarters for his missionary
effort there. Prior Diego died, after two years in the mission
field, on his return trip to Spain. When his preaching companions
heard of his death, all save Dominic and a very small number of
others returned to their homes.
Founding of the Order of Preachers
In July 1215, with the approbation of Bishop Foulques of Toulouse,
Dominic ordered his followers into an institutional life. Its
purpose was revolutionary in the pastoral ministry of the Catholic
Church. These priests were organized and well trained in religious
studies. Many men influenced the shape and character of the
Dominican Order, but it was Dominic himself who combined the
available components into a vital and vigorous, whole existence.
Dominic needed a framework—a rule—with which to organize these
components. The Rule of St. Augustine was an obvious choice for the
Dominican Order, according to Dominic's successor, Jordan of
Saxony, because it lent itself to the "salvation of souls through
preaching". By this choice, however, the Dominican brothers
designated themselves not monks, but canons-regular. They could
practice ministry and common life while existing in individual
Dominic's education at Palencia gave him the knowledge he needed to
overcome the Manicheans. With charity, the other concept that most
defines the work and spirituality of the Order, study became the
method most used by the Dominicans in working to defend the Church
against the perils that hounded it, and also of enlarging its
authority over larger areas of the known world. In Dominic's
thinking, it was impossible for men to preach what they did not or
could not understand. When the brethren left Prouille, then, to
begin their apostolic work, Dominic sent Matthew of Paris
to establish a school near
the University of Paris. This was the first of many Dominican
schools established by the brethren, some near large universities
By 1300, the enthusiasm for preaching and conversion within the
Order lessened. Mysticism, full of the ideas Albertus Magnus
expostulated, became the devotion of the greatest minds and hands
within the organization. It became a "powerful instrument of
personal and theological transformation both within the Order of
Preachers and throughout the wider reaches of Christendom.
Although Albertus Magnus did much to instill mysticism in the Order
of Preachers, it is a concept that reaches back to the Hebrew
Bible. In the tradition of Holy Writ, the impossibility of coming
face to face with God is a recurring motif, thus the commandment
against graven images (Exodus 20.4-5). As time passed, Jewish and
early Christian writings presented the idea of 'unknowing,' where
God's presence was enveloped in a dark cloud. These images arose
out of a confusing mass of ambiguous and ambivalent statements
regarding the nature of God and man's relationship to Him.
Other passages attest to the opposite circumstance: that of seeing
God and talking with Him. Obviously, the conflict between seeing
and not-seeing exists in early texts as well as later ones. It also
permeates the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. The consequence
is a paradox that emerges repeatedly throughout Christian Scripture
and the mysticism found in the early foundations of the
All of these ideas associated with mysticism were at play in the
spirituality of the Dominican community, and not only among the
men. In Europe, in fact, it was often the female members of the
Order, such as Catherine of
, Mechthild of
, Christine of
, Margaret Ebner
Elsbet Stagl, that gained reputations for having mystical
experiences. Notable male members of the Order associated with
mysticism include Meister Eckhart
and Henry Suso
Although Dominic and the early brethren had instituted female
Dominican houses at Prouille and other places by 1227, some of the
brethren of the Order had misgivings about the necessity of female
religious establishments in an Order whose major purpose was
preaching, a duty in which women could not traditionally engage. In
spite of these doubts, women's houses dotted the countryside
throughout Europe. There were seventy-four Dominican female houses
in Germany, forty-two in Italy, nine in France, eight in Spain, six
in Bohemia, three in Hungary, and three in Poland. Many of the
German religious houses that lodged women had been home to
communities of women, such as Beguines
that became Dominican once they were taught by the traveling
preachers and put under the jurisdiction of the Dominican
authoritative structure. A number of these houses became centers of
study and mystical spirituality in the fourteenth century. There
were one hundred and fifty-seven nunneries in the Order by 1358. In
that year, the number lessened due to disasters like the Black
In places besides Germany, convents were founded as retreats from
the world for women of the upper classes. These were original
projects funded by wealthy patrons, including other women. Among
these was Countess Margaret of Flanders who established the
monastery of Lille, while Bal-Duchesse at Oudergern near Brussels
was built with the wealth of Adelaide of Burgundy, Duchess of
Female houses differed from male Dominican houses in a lack of
apostolic work for the women. Instead, the sisters chanted the
and kept all the
monastic observances. Their lives were often much more strict than
their brothers' lives. The sisters had no government of their own,
but lived under the authority of the general and provincial
chapters of the Order. They were compelled to obey all the rules
and shared in all the applicable privileges of the Order. Like the
Priory of Dartford
, all Dominican
nunneries were under the jurisdiction of friars. The friars served
as their confessors, priests, teachers and spiritual mentors.
Women could not be professed to the Dominican religious life before
the age of thirteen. The formula for profession contained in the
(1250) demands that nuns pledge obedience to
God, the Blessed Virgin, their prioress and her successors
according to the Rule of St. Augustine and the institute of the
Order, until death. The clothing of the sisters consisted of a
white tunic and scapular, a leather belt, a black mantle, and a
black veil. Candidates to profession were tested to reveal whether
they were actually married women who had merely separated from
their husbands. Their intellectual abilities were also tested. Nuns
were to be silent in places of prayer, the cloister, the dormitory,
and refectory. Silence was maintained unless the prioress granted
an exception for a specific cause. Speaking was allowed in the
common parlor, but it was subordinate to strict rules, and the
prioress, subprioress or other senior nun had to be present.
Because the nuns of the Order did not preach among the people, the
need to engage in study was not as immediate or intense as it was
for men. They did participate, however, in a number of intellectual
activities. Along with sewing and embroidery, nuns often engaged in
reading and discussing correspondence from Church leaders. In the
Strassburg monastery of St. Margaret, some of the nuns could
converse fluently in Latin. Learning still had an elevated place in
the lives of these religious. In fact, Margarette Reglerin, a
daughter of a wealthy Nuremberg family, was dismissed from a
convent because she did not have the ability or will to
As heirs of the Dominican priory of Poissy in France, the Dartford
sisters were also heirs to a tradition of profound learning and
piety. Sections of translations of spiritual writings in Dartford's
library, such as Suso's Little Book of Eternal Wisdom and Laurent
du Bois' La Somme le Roi, show that the "ghoostli" link to Europe
was not lost in the crossing of the Channel. It survived in the
minds of the nuns. Also, the nuns shared a unique identity with
Poissy as a religious house founded by a royal house. The English
nuns were proud of this heritage, and aware that many of them
shared in England's great history as members of the noble class, as
will be seen in the next chapter.
Devotion to the Virgin Mary was another very important aspect of
Dominican spirituality, especially for female members. As an Order,
the Dominicans believed that they were established through the good
graces of Christ's mother, and through prayers she sent
missionaries to save the souls of nonbelievers. All Dominicans sang
the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin each day and saluted her as
Dominican Province began at the second general chapter of the
Dominican Order in Bologna during the spring of 1221.
Dominic dispatched twelve friars to England under the guidance of
their English prior, Gilbert of Fresney. They landed in Dover on
August 5, 1221. The province came officially into being at its
first provincial chapter in 1230.
The English Province was a component of the international Order
from which it obtained its laws, direction and instructions. It was
also, however, a group comprised of Englishmen. Its direct
supervisors were from England, and the members of the English
Province dwelt and labored in English cities, towns, villages, and
roadways. English and European ingredients constantly came in
contact. The international side of the province's existence
influenced the national, and the national responded to, adapted,
and sometimes constrained the international.
The first Dominican site in England was at Oxford, in the parishes
of St. Edward and St. Adelaide. The friars built an oratory to the
Blessed Virgin Mary and by 1265, the brethren, in keeping with
their devotion to study, began erecting a school. Actually, the
Dominican brothers likely began a school immediately after their
arrival, as priories were legally schools. Information about the
schools of the English Province is limited, but a few facts are
known. Much of the information available is taken from visitation
records. The "visitation" was a section of the province through
which visitors to each priory could describe the state of its
religious life and its studies to the next chapter. There were four
such visits in England and Wales—Oxford, London, Cambridge and
York. All Dominican students were required to learn grammar, old
and new logic, natural philosophy and theology. Of all of the
curricular areas, however, theology was the most important. This is
not surprising when one remembers Dominic's zeal for it.
English Dominican mysticism in the late medieval period differed
from European strands of it in that, whereas European Dominican
mysticism tended to concentrate on ecstatic experiences of union
with the divine, English Dominican mysticism's ultimate focus was
on a crucial dynamic in one's personal relationship with God. This
was an essential moral imitation of the Savior as an ideal for
religious change, and as the means for reformation of humanity's
nature as an image of divinity. This type of mysticism carried with
it four elements. First, spiritually it emulated the moral essence
of Christ's life. Second, there was a connection linking moral
emulation of Christ's life and humanity's disposition as images of
the divine. Third, English Dominican mysticism focused on an
embodied spirituality with a structured love of fellow men at its
center. Finally, the supreme aspiration of this mysticism was
either an ethical or an actual union with God.
For English Dominican mystics, the mystical experience was not
expressed just in one moment of the full knowledge of God, but in
the journey of, or process of, faith. This then led to an
understanding that was directed toward an experiential knowledge of
divinity. It is important to understand, however, that for these
mystics it was possible to pursue mystical life without the visions
and voices that are usually associated with such a relationship
with God. They experienced a mystical process that allowed them, in
the end, to experience what they had already gained knowledge of
through their faith only.
The center of all mystical experience is, of course, Christ.
English Dominicans sought to gain a full knowledge of Christ
through an imitation of His life. English mystics of all types
tended to focus on the moral values that the events in Christ's
life exemplified. This led to a "progressive understanding of the
meanings of Scripture--literal, moral, allegorical, and
anagogical"--that was contained within the mystical journey itself.
From these considerations of Scripture comes the simplest way to
imitate Christ: an emulation of the moral actions and attitudes
that Jesus demonstrated in His earthly ministry becomes the most
significant way to feel and have knowledge of God.
The English concentrated on the spirit of the events of Christ's
life, not the literality of events. They neither expected nor
sought the appearance of the stigmata or any other physical
manifestation. They wanted to create in themselves that environment
that allowed Jesus to fulfill His divine mission, insofar as they
were able. At the center of this environment was love: the love
that Christ showed for humanity in becoming human. Christ's love
reveals the mercy of God and His care for His creation. English
Dominican mystics sought through this love to become images of God.
Love led to spiritual growth that, in turn, reflected an increase
in love for God and humanity. This increase in universal love
allowed men's wills to conform to God's will, just as Christ's will
submitted to the Father's will.
Concerning humanity as the image of Christ, English Dominican
spirituality concentrated on the moral implications of
image-bearing rather than the philosophical foundations of the
. The process of Christ's life,
and the process of image-bearing, amends humanity to God's image.
The idea of the "image of God" demonstrates both the ability of man
to move toward God (as partakers in Christ's redeeming sacrifice),
and that, on some level, man is always an image of God. As their
love and knowledge of God grows and is sanctified by faith and
experience, the image of God within man becomes ever more bright
- Laudare, Benedicere, Praedicare
- :To praise, to bless and to preach
- :(from the Dominican Missal, Preface of the Blessed Virgin
- Contemplari et Contemplata Aliis Tradere
- :To study and to hand on the fruits of study (or, to
contemplate and to hand on the fruits of contemplation)
Dominican saints and blesseds
Numerous Dominicans were included in the canonization of the
117 martyrs of Vietnam
group of martyrs in Nagasaki
, including St.
Numerous Dominicans have been beatified, including Blessed Jordan of Saxony
, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
, Pope Blessed Innocent V
, Pope Blessed Benedict XI
, and Blessed Reginald of
- The word friar is etymologically related to the word
for brother in Latin.
- The reference to "hounds" draws on the tradition that St.
Dominic's mother, while pregnant with him, had a vision of a black
and white dog with a torch in its mouth; wherever the dog went, it
set fire to the earth. It was explained that the vision was
fulfilled when Dominic and his followers went forth, clad in black
and white, setting fire to the earth with the Gospel. In English,
the word "hound" has two further meanings that may be drawn upon. A
hound is loyal, and the Dominicans have a reputation as obedient
servants of the faith. And a hound pursues its quarry ("hounds"),
with perhaps a sometimes negative connotation or reference to the
order's involvement with the Holy Inquisition.
- argues the Dominicans and other mendicant orders were an
adaptation to the rise of the profit economy in medieval
- Rule of St. Augustine (pdf)
- Primitive Constitution
- OP 800 -
- See also the Lay Dominican Web Library.
- Woods, 31-32.
- Woods, 32.
- Woods, 34.
- Woods, 35.
- Bennett, 83. Quoted from Humbert, Biblitheca Maxima Veterum
Patrum, vol. xxv. (Lyon, 1677)
- Woods, 37.
- Woods, 37. Quoted from Benedict Ashley, The Dominicans
(Collegeville, MN, 1990).
- Woods, 38.
- Bennett, 66.
- Woods, 39.
- Ross, 162
- Tugwell, 153. See also, Wood, 41.
- Hinnebusch, History of the Dominican Order, 299. See also,
Tugwell, 40-95, 134-98.
- Ross, 169.
- Ross, 162.
- Lee, "Monastic and Secular Learning," 61.
- See Guy Bedouelle, Saint Dominic. The Grace of the
Word (Ignatius 1987).
- Robert Feeney, The Rosary: "The Little Summa" ISBN
- Catherine Beebe, St. Dominic and the Rosary ISBN
- History of the Dominicans
- Re-discovering the Rosary as a means of contemplation
International Dominican Information
- Felix Randal: Dominican Year of the Rosary
- Hinnebusch, The History of the Dominican Order, 7.
- Hinnebusch, The History of the Dominican Order, 17.
- Tugwell, 53
- Hinnebusch, The History of the Dominican Order, 19.
- Hinnebusch, The History of the Dominican Order, 20.
- Hinnebusch, The History of the Dominican Order, 23.
- Tugwell, 54-55
- Tugwell, 389
- Woods, 29-30
- Hinnebusch, The History of the Dominican Order, 41.
- Hinnebusch, The History of the Dominican Order, 44.
- Hinnebusch, The History of the Dominican Order, 44. See also
- The women of the Order also established schools for the
children of the local gentry amps
- Bennett, 71. This was especially true of the Dominicans in
Germany and France.
- Woods, 44. Albertus Magnus helped shape English Dominican
thought through his idea that God is knowable, but obscure.
Additionally, the English friars shared his belief that wisdom and
understanding enhance one's faith in God. The English Dominicans
also studied classical writers. This was also part of his
- Woods, 45-47.
- Woods, 48.
- Woods, 110.
- Lee, Nunneries, Learning, and Spirituality, 13.
- Lee, Nunneries, Learning, and Spirituality, 14.
- Hinnebusch, History of the Dominican Order, 337.
- Lee, Nunneries, Learning, and Spirituality, 70-73.
- Hinnebsch, History of the Domiican Order, 382
- Lee, Nunneries, Learning, and Spirituality, 30.
- Lee, Nunneries, Learning, and Spirituality, 31.
- Hinnebusch, History of the Dominican Order, 384
- Lee, Nunneries, Learning, and Spirituality, 152.
- William Hinnebusch. The Early English Friars Preachers, 1.
- William Hinnebusch. The Early English Friars Preachers, 2.
- William Hinnebusch. The Early English Friars Preachers, 4.
- Hinnebusch, Early English Friars Preachers, 6. There was a
dispute over this oratory in 1228.
- Hinnebusch, Early English Friars Preachers, 8-9.
- Maura O'Carroll, "The Educational Organisation of the
Dominicans in England and Wales 1221-1348: A Multidisciplinary
Approach," Archivum Fratrum Praedicatorum 50 (1980): 32.
- Ross, 160
- Ross, 163
- Ross, 164
- The appearance of St. Francis's and Catherine of
is well known.
- Clark, 83
- Clark, 90-98. See also, Ross, 165
- Ross, 166-167
Dominic's Priory, Hampstead, London NW5, the residence of the
Provincial of the Dominican friars in England and Scotland