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The life of St. Dominic and a sketch of the Dominican Order online

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University of California.


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Pie Pater Dominice,
Tuorem memor operum,
Sta coram summo Judice,
Pro tuo coetu pauperum.





Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1867, by


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the
Southern District of New York.


St. Dominic's name is revered by many who never pe-
rused his life, and it is likewise execrated by others who
gain their notions of him from false biographies, (if they
may be so called.)

The fragrance of his sanctity fills the entire garden of
the Church, and all within its holy precincts acknowledge
his virtues, even without pausing to learn the peculiar
causes of his distinction, while those without hear nothing
but the foul reports of such as never saw him, never
held any kind of communication with his associates, but
who derived all their knowledge of St. Dominic from
those who wrongly judged him.

England was not the last in joining in this hasty ver-
dict, elicited from incompetent testimony ; nor is she the
last in re-opening the case, setting aside all unqualified
evidence, — nay, in arraigning before the majesty of reason
and of truth the faithful contemporary eye-witnesses of
the Saint, and in giving to the world, as the result of most
careful and impartial scrutiny, the true life of St. Dominic,
of which this is a mere republication.

This English portrait of St. Dominic is a gem, the pre-
cious offering to the sanctuary of Catholic truth, by a
distinguished pen, admired for its rare powers while used
out of the Church, now consecrated in its undiminished



force and elegance by Divine faith. The EnglV < author
in pencilling so exquisitely the portrait of the Saiut, mo-
destly forgot to state who depicted it ; but the merit of
the life before us will be deeply appreciated by all its
readers. The American non-Catholics earnestly searching
after truth will see in St. Dominic the unflinching lover
of truth, — the gentle yet powerful advocate of truth, and
the undying martyr of charity to his fellow man.

And if American Protestants should read St. Dominic's
life, Catholics should especially be familiar with it. It is
well said that the reading of the lives of the saints makes
saints. Our Saviour pronounced dreadfnl woes against
those by whom scandal comes ; and if scandal be a great
evil, because it occasions the ruin of souls redeemed by
Christ's most precious blood, no Christian can doubt the
incalculable blessings that naturally flow from reading
the heroic examples set forth in the lives of the saints.
But St. Dominic's should be peculiarly dear to all our
Catholics, on account of his important relations with the
Catholic world : for he gave to the world the most useful
devotion of the Rosary, of which the Sovereign Pontiffs
have proclaimed him the founder. He obtained from
heaven the extraordinary power of living after death in
thousands and tens of thousands of devoted preachers of
the Catholic truth, through whom he has carried the gos-
pel of Christ to the uttermost bounds of the earth. — He
has adorned the Catholic libraries with the unsurpassed
wisdom of St. Thomas, and a host of others ; he has
given to St. Peter's chair distinguished and saintly occu-
pants ; he has studded the altars of the Church with
most precious gems of virtue and sanctity, and has
given to America her first Saint — the fragrant Rose of


A few words of explanation may seem required as an
apology for presenting the public with a new Biography of
S. I>ominic. The beautiful life of the saint by Pere
Lacordaire seemed to have furnished everything that could
be desired, in clothing the legendary story of his great
patriarch in modern dress. But although there can cer-
tainly be no temptation to pretend to anything like a
rivalry with that eloquent writer, there are some reasons
which appear to make a fresh biography desirable for those
among ourselves who wish to form a more familiar acquaint-
ance with S. Dominic than is furnished in the brief notices
given in English collections of the lives of the saints. It is
true PereLacordaire's life has for some time been translated
into our own language ; but the very beauty of its style is
so essentially French, that no translation can preserve its
peculiar charm, or render it as popular as it deserves to be.
But it is French in something more than idiom; it was
written with the avowed object of advancing the order in
France, and a prominence is therefore given to the Gallican
associations of the Order of Preachers, which, by readers
of another nation, is felt to be undue.

In the following pages, the course of .the saint's life has
been followed with no view save that of giving his character
in its true historical light; and for this end, the simple
narrative of facts, without comment or explanation, has been
felt to be sufficient. We are much mistaken if the best
defence that can be offered of S. Dominic's character, so
long the subject of the strangest misrepresentation, be not
to be found in the unvarnished story of his life, drawn from
the testimony of those who saw him face to face, and whose
writings form the principal material from which the follow-
ing pages have been compiled. «


There are some subjects which our readers may be dis-
appointed in finding so briefly touched upon in a life of S.
Dominic. But we have felt that several of the disputed
points, commonly discussed by his biographers, have little
real interest to the student of his character. We have not,
therefore, entered at length into the history of the
Albigensian war, or of the foundation of the Inquisition,
preferring to leave the doubts arising out of these subjects
to be resolved by others, whose object is the critical
examination of historical questions. Our only task has
been to lay before our readers the personal portrait of one
whose influence in the Church of Christ must endure so
long as the religious and apostolic life shall be found
within her bosom.

The authorities from which we have drawn our sketch
have been chiefly Mamachi's Annals, with the ancient
chronicles and memoirs reprinted in that work, including the
Acts of Bologna, the memoir of Sister Cecilia, and that of
blessed Humbert; Polidori's life, which follows the facts,
and in many places the text, of blessed Jordan ; Ferdinand
Castiglio's history of the order, and the life of S. Dominic
by Touron; whilst in the account of the early fathers of the
order, great use has been made of F. Michel Pio's work
entitled "Progenie dell' Ordine in Italia" (which collects
all the particulars given by Gerard de Frachet and the old
writers), and of the biographical sketches of F. Marchese in
his "•Diario Domenicano."

The summary of the history of the Friars Preachers
subsequent to the death of S. Dominic, has been chiefly
taken from Touron's great work on "the Illustrious Men of
the Order." In selecting a few out of the many names that
called for notice, we have necessarily omitted a number that
will readily suggest themselves to our readers ; but our
object has been to avoid - wearying them with a mere
enumeration of authors and learned works, and, without
attempting such ^i complete sketch as our limited space
rendered impossible, to suggest something of the general
features of the order, as illustrated by the lives of its
greatest men.



The birth of Dominic. His youth and university life, 1.


Dominic is appointed canon of Osma. His mission to the north in
company with Diego of Azevedo, 6.


Pilgrimage to Rome. First labours among the Albigenses, 9.




>minic in Languedoc. The miracles of Fanjeaux and Montreal.
The foundation of the Convent of Prouille, 14


Diego returns to Spain. His death. Dominic remains in Langue-
doc. The murder of Peter de Castelnau, and the commencement
of the Albigensian war, 20. •


Proclamation of the Crusade. Simon de Montfort. Dominio
among the heretics. His apostolic labours, 27.


The institution of the Rosary. The Council of Lavaur. The battle
ofMuret, 41.



Dominic commences the foundation of his order at Toulouse. The
grant of Fulk of Toulouse. Dominic's second visit to Home.
The Council of Lateran. Innocent III. approves the plan of
the Order. Meeting of Dominic and Francis, 52.


Dominic's return to France. The brethren assemble at Prouille to
choose a rule. The spirit of the Order. Some account of the
first followers of Dominic. Tne convent of S. Romain, 62.


Dominicls third visit to Koine. Confirmation of the Order by
HUlionus 111. Dominic's vision in St. Peter's. He is appointed
master of the Sacred Palace. Ugolino of Ostia, 72.


Dominic returns to Toulouse. He disperses the community of
S. Eomain. His address to the people of Languedoc. Future
affairs of the totter in that country, 77. '


Dominic's fourth vist to Konie. His mode of travelling, 86.


The convent of S. Sixtus. Rapid increase of the Order. Miracles
and popularity of S. Dominic. The visit of the angels, 92.


The monatstery of Santa Maria in Trastevere. Dominic is ap-
pointed to reform and inclose the community. His sucoess.
Their settlement at S. Sixtus. The restoration to life of the
Lord Napoleon. Sister Cecilia, 102.



Affairs of the Order in France. First settlement of the brethren
at the convent of S. James at Paris. Foundation at R i f >1ft g'"' a -
Character of the religious houses of the Ul'fler. Settlement of
the Friars in Spain and Portugal. Brothers Tancrod and Henry
of Eome, 108.


Dominic at Santa Sahina. The vocation of S. Hyacinth. Regi-
nald of Orleans. The Blessed Virgin bestows on him the habit
of the Order, 118.


Dominic's life at Eome. The rule of the Order. Description of
his person and appearance. His prayer, and manner of hfe, 125.


Attacks of the Devil. Legends of S. Sabina and S. Sixtus, 133.


Dominic leaves Rome. He visits Bologna on his way to Spain.
Incidents of his journey. He preaches at Segovia. Foundations
there, and at Madrid. His continual prayer, 142.


Return to S. Romain. He proceeds to Paris. Jordan of Saxony.
Interview with Alexander, King of Scotland. Return to Italv,


The Convent of Bologna. Effects of Reginald's preaching and
government. Fervour of the Community of S. Nicholas.
Conversion of Fathers Roland and Moneta. Dispersion of
the brethren through the cities of Northern Italy. Reginald's
novices. Robaldo. Bonviso of Placentia. Stephen of Spain.
Rodolph of Faenza. Reginald is sent to Paris. Jordan joins
the Order. Reginald's success- and death, 158.




£*""ljominic journeys through Italy, and returns to Eome for the fifth
~~^iffie: - lrfCTe"ffSB"T>f ^the Order. Characters of the first fathers.
Interview with S. Francis. Favours of the Holy See, 173.

**<First gen


Tirst general Chapter at Bologna^ Law of poverty. The Order
spreads through Europe. Dominic's illness at Milan. Yisit to
Siena. Tancred. Apostolic journeys through Italy. Return to
Bologna, and conversion of Master Conrad. John of Yicenza.
Anecdotes, 178.


Heretics of northern Italy. Foundation of the third Order. Last
visit to Home. Meeting with Fulk of Toulouse. Second general
chapter. Division of the Order into provinces. Blessed Paul
of Hungary. S. Peter Martyr, 190.


The Order in England. Arrival at Oxford of Gilbert de Fresnoy.
Celebrated Englishmen of the Order. "Walter Malclerk, Bacon,
and Fishacre. The Order and the Universities. The German
province, 199.


Dominic's last missionary journey. His return to Bologna, and
illness. His death. Kevelations of his glory. His canoniza-
tion, and the translation of his relics, 207.


Dominic's writings. His supposed defence of the Immaculate
Conception. His portraits By Fra Angelico, and in the verses
of Dante. Observations on the Order, 218.





Progress of the Order after the death of S. Dominio. Missions. ^
Rjise ofjhe. JDpminican school of theology. Albert the Gr3at ^^
and S. Thomas. The Universities. Influence of the Order on
langnag e, poetry , and society. S. Raymund Ponnafort. In-
ffiience on other religions bodies, 225


The 14th century. Pestilence of 1348. The great schism. S.
Catherine of Siena. Reform of the Order. S. Vincent Ferrer.
Greatness of the Order during this period. Its foreign missions.
Its prelates. S. Antoninus. Council of Basle. Zeal of the
Order in defence of the Holy See. Council of Florence. John
Torquemada, 261.


Santa Maria Novella. Passavanti. Connection of art with reli-
gious reform. B. John Dominic. Foundation of the convent _-V-
of Fiesole. Fra Angelico. Savonarola ; his idea of Christian \

art and literature : his fall. Fra Bartolomeo. Bartholomew
of the Martyrs at the court of Pius IT. Later artists of the
Order, 279.


Close of the 15th century. Discovery of America. First Dominican
missions in the new world. Bartholomew de Las Casas. Jerome
Loaysa. S. Louis Bertrand. The Philippine Islands, 317.


The 16th century. Revival of biblical learning. Zenobius
Acciajoli. Giustiniani. Sanctes Pagninus. Sixtes of Siena.
Cajetan. Scenes of the Reformation. Persecutions in Ireland.
Irish martyrs. Dominican Popes. The Council of Trent, 334



Declension of religion in the 17th century. Distinguished
reformers of the Order. Sebastian Michaelis. Anthony le
Quieu. John B. Carre. Cardinal Howard. Massoulie. Fatalis
Alexander. Distinguished religious women. Juliana Morelle.
Vittoria Dolara, 353.


Pontificate of Benedict XIII. Missions and martyrs of Chiua.
Dominican saints. Conclusion, 364.


— coo —


The birth of Dominic. His youth and university life.

It was in the year 1170, during the pontificate of
Alexander III., that Dominic Gusman, the founder of the
order of Friars Preachers, was born at his father's castle
of Calargo, in Old Castile. The history of a genealogy,
however illustrious, seems scarcely to find its place in the
biography of a saint ; though indeed few families can boast
of one more honourable than that of the Castilian Gusmans.
But if their long line of chivalrous ancestors, and the royal
privileges granted to them by the kings of Spain, have no
claim to be noticed here, the immediate ancestors of S.
Dominic possesed at least one distinction which had a more
powerful influence on his life. They were a family of
saints. The household of his father, Don Felix Gusman,
was so remarkable for the religious character of its inmates,
that it was said to resemble rather a monastery than a
knightly castle. His mother, Joanna of Aza, after being
constantly held in popular veneration, has, almost within
our own time, received the solemn beatification of the
Church. The same testimony has been borne to the hetric
sanctity of Manez, her second son ; and though Antonio,
the eldest of the three brothers, has not indeed received
similar honours, yet was he no unworthy member of his
'illustrious family. We read of him that he became a
secular priest, in which position he might have aspired to
the highest ecclesiastical distinctions ; but, enamoured of
holy poverty, he distributed his patrimony to the poor, and


retired to an hospital where he spent the remainder of hia
days in humble ministering to the sick.

The future greatness of her youger son was announced
to Johanna even before his birth. The mysterious vision
of a dog, bearing in his mouth a lighted torch which set
fire to the world, appeared to indicate the power of that
doctrine which should kindle and illuminate men's hearts
through the ministry of his words. The noble lady who
held him at the font saw, as the water was poured on his
head, a brilliant star shining on the infant's forehead :
and this circumstance, which is mentioned in the earliest
life which we have of the saint (that of Blessed ^Jordan),
bears a singular connection with the beautiful description
of his appearance in after-life, left by his spiritual daugh-
ter, the Blessed Cecilia ; in which she says, among other
things, that "from his forehead, and between his brows,
there shone forth a kind of radiant light, which filled
men with respect and love." Nor were the expectations
which were excited by these prodigies in any way dimi-
nished by the promises of his childhood. His early years
were passed in a holy household, and his first impressions
were received from the all-powerful influence of a saintly
mother. Amid the associations of a Christian family, his
mind was moulded into a religious shape even from his
cradle ; and the effect of this training is to be traced in
the character of his maturer sanctity. From first to last
we admire the same profound and unruffled tranquillity
of soul. So far as his interior life is revealed to us, he
seems to have kndwn nothing of those storms and agita-
tions through which the human mind so often works its
wa} r to God; nothing seems to have interrupted the up-
ward growth of his soul ; and even the tales of his combats
with the powers of evil give us more the idea of triumphs
achieved, than of temptations suffered and overcome.

When seven years old, he was committed to the charge
of his uncle, the arch-priest of Gumiel di Izan, a town
not far from Calaroga. Here he grew up in the service *"
of the altar, finding his pleasure in frequenting the
churches, and learning to recite the divine oflice, in sing-
ing hymns, and serving at mass, and other public cere-


monies ; and in all those numberless little devout offices
which make the life of so many Catholic boys much like
that of the child Samuel in the Temple. To Dominic
they were all labours of love ; and his biographers dwell
on the devotion kindled in the hearts of those who saw
the grave and reverent manner with which he bore him-
self in the presence of the Most Holy Sacrament, or
busied himself in the cleaning and adorning of the altar.
At fourteen he was sent to the university of Palencia,
then one of the most celebrated in Spain. He was but
young to be suddenly removed from so retired and
sheltered a home into intercourse with a world, of which
as yet he knew nothing. With how many would such a
change have brought only the rapid loss of all which had
hitherto rendered his life so innocent and happy. But
to Dominic it did but give room for larger growth in
holiness. During the ten years of his residence at
Palencia, he was equally distinguished for his application
to study, and for the angelic purity of his life. Worldly
pleasures afforded no seductions to. one who from his very
birth had received an attraction to the things of God.
Even human science failed to satisfy his desires, and he
hastened to apply himself to the study of theology, as to
the only fountain whose limpid waters were capable of
quenching the thirst of his soul after the highest truth.
He spent four years in the most profound application to
philosophy and sacred letters ; often spending his nights
as well as his days over his books ; and, convinced that
Divine Science can only be acquired by a mind that has
learnt to subjugate the flesh, he practised a rigid austerity,
and for ten years never broke the rule he imposed on him-
self at the commencement of his studies, to abstain entirely
from wine.

The influence of a holy life is never unfelt by those
who would be the last to imitate its example. Dominic's
companions bore witness, by their respect, to the subli-
mity of a virtue far above the standard of their own lives.
Boy as he was, none ever spoke with him without going
away the better for his words, and feeling the charm
of that Divine grace which shone even in his exterior
B 2


gestures. " It was a thing most marvellous and lovely U
behold," says Theodoric of Apoldia ; " this man, a boy in
years, but a sage in wisdom ; superior to the pleasures of
his age, he thirsted only after justice; and not to lose
time, he preferred the bosom of his mother the Church,
to the aimless and objectless life of the foolish world
around him. The sacred repose of her tabernacle was
his resting-place; all his time was equally divided be-
tween prayer and study ; and God rewarded the fervent
love with which he kept His commandments, by bestowing
on him such a spirit of wisdom and understanding, as made
it easy for him to resolve the most deep and difficult ques-

Before we quit his University life, two circumstances
must be recorded, which happened during its course, and
illustrate the peculiar gentleness and tenderness of his
character. Such terms may seem strange to a Pro-
testant reader, for there is, as it were, a traditional
portrait of S. Dominic, handed down from one age to
another by means of epithets, which writers are content
to repeat, and readers to receive, without a thought of
inquiry as to their justice. We can scarcely open a book
which professes to give the history of the thirteenth
century and its religious features, without finding some-
thing about " the cruel and blood-thirsty Dominic," or the
" gloomy founder of the Inquisition;" and under this
popular idea the imagination depicts him as a dark-
browed, mysterious zealot, without a touch of human
tenderness, remorselessly handing over to the flames the
victims of his morose fanaticism. The author of the well-
known " Handbook," from which so many English travel-
lers gather their little stock of knowledge on Italian
matters, finds something of an almost providential signi-
ficancy in the fact that the tree planted by the father of
the Friars Preachers in his convent-garden at Bologna,
should be the " dark and melancholy cypress." And all
the while the true tradition of his character is one pre-
eminently of joy and gentleness. With his fair auburn
hair and beaming smile, he does not present in his exterior
a more perfect contrast to the received notion of the


Spanish Iiquisitor, than may he found in the tales of
tender-hearted compassion, which are almost all we know of
him during the first twenty years of his life. We find
him, in the midst of the famine which then desolated
Spain, so sensibly touched with the sufferings of the
people, that not only did he give all he had, in alms,
selling his very clothes to feed the poor, — but he set a
yet nobler example of charity to his fellow-students by a t
sacrifice which may well be believed to have been a hard
one. His dear and precious books were all that remained
to give; and even those he parted with, that their price
might be distributed to the starving multitudes. To
estimate the cost of such an act, we must remember the
rarity and costliness of manuscripts in those days, many
having probably been laboriously copied out by his own
hands. Yet when one of his companions expressed astonish-
ment that he should deprive himself of the means of
pursuing his studies, he replied, in words preserved by
Theodoric of Apoldia, and treasured by after-writers as
the first which have come down to posterity, "Would
you have me study off those dead parchments, when there
were men dying of hunger?" This example roused the
charity of the professors and students of the university,
and an effort was soon made which relieved the sufferers
from their most urgent wants. On another occasion,
finding a poor woman in great distress on account of the
captivity of her only son, who had been taken by the
Moors, Dominic, having no money to offer for his ransom,
desired her to take him and sell him, and release her son

Online LibraryR. S AlemanyThe life of St. Dominic and a sketch of the Dominican Order → online text (page 1 of 37)