Dominicans

A preaching order founded in 1216 by Dominic,* a Castilian who became a canon in the diocese of Osma, where the bishop had adopted the Augustinian Rule for his canons. Dominic became head of this community and remained there until 1203. Having spent several unsuccessful years trying to convert the Albigenses, he applied for papal authority to found a new monastic order devoted to defense of the Faith. It was granted on condition that he choose an established Rule. Dominic chose the Augustinian, and the order was officially established by Honorius III in 1216. In order to devote itself to study and preaching, the order abolished manual labor and had its divine office shortened. Easy movement of the preachers was ensured by requiring members to swear allegiance to the order and not to a particular house. At the two chapter meetings at Bologna in 1220- 21, the order decided to live by voluntary alms and relinquished ownership of property and fixed incomes. The general chapter assigned authority to a master general chosen for life, and members were required to vow obedience directly to him.

Each house was ruled by a prior chosen by its members and sent its prior together with one elected member to an annual provincial chapter which in turn elected a provincial prior for four years. The provinces sent representatives to the general chapter-the supreme legislative authority-which chose the master general. There is a second and third order attached to the Dominican order. The second order consists of nuns who observe a similar rule to that of the men but who live an enclosed and contemplative life somewhat mitigated later by their undertaking to educate girls. The third order is not enclosed, and a majority of its members live active lives in the world.

Well-organized and having preaching at the center of their activities, the Dominicans were particularly useful to the pope for preaching crusades, collecting monetary levies, and the execution of various diplomatic missions. Their zeal for missionary work led them to seize the opportunities for such activity provided by the Spanish and Portuguese explorations in the West and East. They were interested in establishing their order in the centers of intellectual life such as Rome, Paris, and Bologna. This concern was furthered by Dominic's successors-with the result that by the middle of the thirteenth century each province had its own Dominican university. Many of the leaders of European thought in the Middle Ages were Dominicans. They were innovators in the teaching of languages such as Hebrew, Greek and Arabic among the religious. The order is noted for its impressive literary and scholastic output, the works of Thomas Aquinas and Albertus Magnus being famous examples. True to their role as opponents of heresy, the members have produced outstanding works in apologetics. The activity which detracted from their popularity and aroused the hostility of other orders was their involvement in the work of the Inquisition,* which was often staffed by Dominican members. In addition, the rise of new orders, especially the Jesuits, pushed them into the background, but they remain champions of learning and orthodoxy.

B. Jarrett, The English Dominicans (2nd ed., 1927); R.F. Bennett, The Early Dominicans (1937); W.A. Hinnebusch, History of the Dominican Order (1966).