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Saint Dominic
16th century portrait of St.Dominic by Giovanni Bellini.
Born 1170, Calaruega, Province of Burgos, Kingdom of Castile (now modern-day Castile-Leon, Spain)
Died August 6, 1221, Bologna, Province of Bologna, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Canonized 1234
Major shrine San Domenico, Bologna
Feast August 8
August 4 (Traditional Roman Catholics)
Attributes Chaplet, dog, star, lilies, Dominican Habit, tonsure[1]
Patronage Astronomers; astronomy; Dominican Republic; falsely accused people; Santo Domingo Indian Pueblo, Valletta, Birgu (Malta)

Saint Dominic (Spanish: Domingo), also known as Dominic of Osma, often called Dominic de Guzmán and Domingo de Guzmán Garcés (1170 – August 6, 1221) was the founder of the Friars Preachers, popularly called the Dominicans or Order of Preachers (OP), a Catholic religious order. Dominic is the patron saint of astronomers.[2]


Life of St. Dominic


Birth and parentage

Dominic was born in Caleruega, halfway between Osma and Aranda de Duero in Old Castile, Spain. He was named after Saint Dominic of Silos, who is said to be the patron saint of hopeful mothers and the Benedictine Abbey of Santo Domingo de Silos, a few miles north of Caleruega.[citation needed]

In the earliest narrative source, by Jordan of Saxony, Dominic's parents are not named. The story is told that before his birth his mother dreamed that a dog leapt from her womb carrying a torch in its mouth, and "seemed to set the earth on fire." This story is likely to have emerged when his order became known, after his name, as the Dominican order, in Latin Dominicanus and by a play of words was interpreted as Domini canis, the Lord's hound.[citation needed] Jordan adds that Dominic was brought up by his parents and a maternal uncle who was an archbishop.[3] The failure to name them is not surprising, since Jordan's work is a history of the early years of the Order rather than a biography of Dominic. A later source, still of the 13th century, gives the names of Dominic's mother and father as Juana and Felix.[4] Nearly a century after Dominic's birth, a local author asserts that Dominic's father was "vir venerabilis et dives in populo suo" ("an honoured and wealthy man in his village").[5] The earliest statement that Dominic's father belonged to the family de Guzmán , and that his mother belonged to the Aça or Aza family, occurs in the travel narrative of Pero Tafur, written in 1439 or soon after.[6]

Education and early career

Dominic was educated in the schools of Palencia, afterwards a university, where he devoted six years to the arts and four to theology.[citation needed] In 1191, when Spain was desolated by a terrible famine, Dominic was just finishing his theological studies.[citation needed] He gave away his money and sold his clothes, his furniture and even his precious manuscripts, that he might relieve distress. When his companions expressed astonishment that he should sell his books, Dominic replied: "Would you have me study off these dead skins, when men are dying of hunger?"[citation needed] This utterance belongs to the few of Dominic's sayings that have passed to posterity. In 1194, around twenty-five years old, Dominic joined the Canons Regular in the canonry of Osma, following the rule of Saint Augustine.[citation needed]

Saint Dominic saw the need for a new type of organization to address the needs of his time, one that would bring the dedication and systematic education of the older monastic orders 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.

In 1203 or 1204 he accompanied Diego de Acebo, the Bishop of Osma, on a diplomatic mission for Alfonso VIII, King of Castile, in order to secure a bride in Denmark for crown prince Ferdinand.[7] The mission made its way to Denmark via the south of France.

When they crossed the Pyrenees, Dominic and Diego encountered the Cathars. They found themselves in an atmosphere of heresy. The country was filled with preachers of strange doctrines, who had become alienated from the Church and had little respect for Dominic, his bishop, or their Roman pontiff. The shocking experiences of this journey inspired in Dominic a desire to aid in the extermination of heresy.[citation needed] He was also deeply impressed by an important and significant observation. Many of these heretical preachers were not ignorant fanatics, but well-trained and cultured men. Entire communities seemed to be possessed by a desire for knowledge and for righteousness. Dominic clearly perceived that only preachers of a high order, capable of advancing reasonable argument, could overthrow the Cathar heresy.[citation needed]Traveling up again to Denmark in 1204 or 1205 and finding that the intended bride had died, Diego and Dominic returned by way of Rome and Citeaux.[citation needed] Dominic then stayed a number of years in the south of France working among the Cathars.[citation needed] In late 1206 or early 1207, with the help of bishop Foulques of Toulouse, and thanks to the generosity of Guillaume and Raymonde Claret, Diego and Dominic were able to set up a first monastic community at Prouille near Carcassonne, intended largely as a refuge for women who had previously lived in Cathar religious houses.[citation needed] Soon afterwards Diego returned to his diocese, perhaps to bring back more preachers, but died before accomplishing this task. Still in 1207, Dominic took part in the last large scale public debate between Cathars and Catholics, at Pamiers.[citation needed]

Depiction of a disputation between St. Dominic and the Cathars (Albigensians), in which the books of both were thrown on a fire and St. Dominic's books were miraculously preserved from the flames. Painting by Pedro Berruguete.

Foundation of the Dominicans

In 1208 Dominic encountered the papal legates returning in pomp to Rome, foiled in their attempt to counter the growing sect. To them he administered his famous rebuke: "It is not by the display of power and pomp, cavalcades of retainers, and richly-houseled palfreys, or by gorgeous apparel, that the heretics win proselytes; it is by zealous preaching, by apostolic humility, by austerity, by seeming, it is true, but by seeming holiness. Zeal must be met by zeal, humility by humility, false sanctity by real sanctity, preaching falsehood by preaching truth."

A small group of colleagues formed around Dominic, but soon left him since the challenge and rigours of a simple lifestyle together with demanding preaching discouraged them. Finally Dominic gathered a number of men who remained faithful to the vision of active witness to the Albigensians as well as a way of preaching which combined intellectual rigour with a popular and approachable style. By departing from accepted church practices and learning from the Albigensians, Dominic laid the ground for what would become a major tenet of the Dominican order over time - to find truth no matter where it may be.[citation needed]

In 1215, Dominic established himself, with six followers, in a house given by Pierre Seila, a rich resident of Toulouse. He subjected himself and his companions to the monastic rules of prayer and penance; and meanwhile bishop Foulques gave them written authority to preach throughout the territory of Toulouse. Thus the scheme of establishing an order of Preaching Friars began to assume definite shape in Dominic's mind.

The final result of his deliberations was the establishment of his order. In the same year, the year of the Fourth Lateran Council, Dominic and Foulques went to Rome to secure the approval of the Pope, Innocent III. Dominic returned to Rome a year later, and was finally granted written authority in December 1216 and January 1217 by the new pope, Honorius III for an order to be named "The Order of Preachers" ("Ordo Praedicatorum", or "O.P.," popularly known as the Dominican Order).[8] This organization has as its motto "to praise, to bless, to preach" (Latin: Laudare, benedicere, praedicare), taken from the Preface of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Roman Missal.

Dominic's later life

His chapel at Basilica of San Domenico, Bologna

Dominic now made his headquarters at Rome, although he traveled extensively to maintain contact with his growing brotherhood of monks. It was in the winter of 1216–1217, at the house of Ugolino de' Conti, that he first met William of Montferrat, afterwards a close friend.

When arriving in Bologna in January 1218, he saw immediately that this university city was most convenient as his center of activity. Soon a convent was established at the Mascarella church by the Blessed Reginald of Orléans. Soon afterwards they had to move to the church of San Nicolò of the Vineyards. Dominic settled in this church and held in this church the first two General Chapters of the order. He died there on 6 August 1221 and was moved into a simple sarcophagus in 1233.

San Domenico Guzman - Fresco in Cantarana - Denise Schenardi, 2007

The church was later expanded and grew into the Basilica of Saint Dominic, consecrated by Pope Innocent IV in 1251. In 1267 Dominic's remains were moved to the exquisite shrine, made by Nicola Pisano and his workshop, Arnolfo di Cambio and with later additions by Niccolò dell'Arca and the young Michelangelo. At the back of this shrine, the head of Dominic is enshrined in a huge, golden reliquary, a masterpiece of the goldsmith Jacopo Roseto da Bologna (1383).

Throughout his life, Dominic is said to have zealously practiced rigorous self-denial. He abstained from meat and observed stated fasts and periods of silence. He selected the worst accommodations and the meanest clothes, and never allowed himself the luxury of a bed. When traveling, he beguiled the journey with spiritual instruction and prayers. As soon as he passed the limits of towns and villages, he took off his shoes, and, however sharp the stones or thorns, he trudged on his way barefooted. Rain and other discomforts elicited from his lips nothing but praises to God.

Death came at the age of fifty-one and found him exhausted with the austerities and labors of his eventful career. He had reached the convent of St Nicholas at Bologna, Italy, weary and sick with a fever. He refused the repose of a bed and made the monks lay him on some sacking stretched upon the ground. The brief time that remained to him was spent in exhorting his followers to have charity, to guard their humility, and to make their treasure out of poverty. He died at noon on 6 August 1220.

There is a church of St Dominic de Guzman in Sto. Domingo, Albay, Philippines


Pedro Berruguete, St Dominic Presiding over an Auto de fe (around 1495[9]).

What part Dominic personally had in the proceedings of the episcopal Medieval Inquisition has been disputed for many centuries. The historical sources from Dominic's own time period tell us nothing about his involvement in the Inquisition. This is all the more striking when we consider that several early Dominicans, including some of Dominic's first followers, did become inquisitors. In fact, the notion that Dominic had been an inquisitor only began in the 14th century through the writings of a famous Dominican inquisitor, Bernard Gui, who tried to paint his Order's founder as a participant in the Institution. In the 15th century, Dominic would be depicted as presiding at an auto da fé, later offering German Protestant critics of the Catholic Church a convenient publicity weapon against the very Order whose theologically informed preaching had proven to be a formidable opponent in the lands of the Reformation. Thus a 14th century invention soon became a part of the Black Legend.


The spread of the Rosary, a Marian devotion, is attributed to the preaching of St. Dominic,[10][11] though this fact is disputed among historians. The Rosary has for centuries been at the heart of the Dominican Order. Pope Pius XI stated that: "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." [12]

For centuries, Dominicans have been instrumental in spreading the rosary and emphasizing the Catholic belief in the power of the rosary.[13]

Patrick Cardinal Hayes of New York provided his imprimatur in support of the fifteen rosary promises attributed to Saint Dominic and Alan de Rupe.[14] In this attribution, based on some Catholic beliefs on the power of prayer the Blessed Virgin Mary reportedly made fifteen specific promises regarding the power of the rosary to Christians who pray the rosary.[15] The fifteen rosary promises range from heavenly protection from misfortune to assurance of sanctification, and to meriting a high degree of glory in heaven.[16] He was later a war genral.

See also


  1. ^ "St. Dominic - Iconography". Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Jordan of Saxony, "Libellus de principiis, 4." The dream has been thought to allude to the medieval pun on the name of the Dominicans, Domini canes, "dogs of the Lord"; it has also been argued that the dream suggested the pun.
  4. ^ Pedro Ferrando, "Legenda Sancti Dominici, 4." Juana is customarily rendered "Jane" in English.
  5. ^ Cerrato, Rodrigo de Vita S. Dominic
  6. ^ Pero Tafur, Andanças e viajes (tr. Malcolm Letts, p. 31), describing a pilgrimage to Dominic's burial place. Tafur's book is dedicated to a member of the Guzmán family.
  7. ^ Jordan of Saxony, "Libellus de principiis" p. 14-20; Gérard de Frachet, "Chronica prima" [MOPH 1.321].
  8. ^ See "Religiosam vitam"; "Nos attendentes"
  9. ^ *Page of the painting at Prado Museum.
  10. ^ "The Rosary". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ Robert Feeney. "St. Dominic and the Rosary". Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  13. ^ History of the Dominicans
  14. ^ Rosary promises
  15. ^ Dominican Fathers on the Rosary
  16. ^


External links


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