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Dominic, Saint

friars dog dominicans preaching

Dominic de Guzman, founder of the Dominican order (Friars Preachers), was born in Spain and died in Bologna. While a canon of the cathedral chapter at Osma, Dominic and his bishop were sent on a royal mission to Scandinavia. As they crossed the Pyrenees, Dominic encountered the dualistic Albigensians in southern France. Later, he returned to preach to these heretics and founded an order (c.1206) whose emphasis would be on *preaching and teaching. He established communities for nuns and friars in southern France, Italy, and Spain, and sent the friars to teach at universities (e.g., Paris and Bologna). He received papal approval for his order in 1216 and adopted the Rule of Saint *Augustine as the foundation for the Order of Preachers—which was devoted to study, education, *prayer, and preaching. Dominic was canonized in 1234, by which point the Dominicans were already a large and well-organized group who continued to expand through the later medieval period.


Dominic and scenes from his life appear in art from the thirteenth century onward; as a single figure he is often identifiable by the black hooded cloak (the Dominicans are hence also called the Black Friars) and white habit of the order. He may be shown with a star on his breast, shoulder, or forehead (indi- Page 71  cating the star which purportedly appeared over his head when he was christened as an infant); he may carry books, a lily (symbol of his purity), or be accompanied by a dog holding a flaming torch in its mouth. His mother was said to have seen this dog in a dream before Dominic’s birth with the premonition that the dog would set the world on fire; it is also perhaps a pun on the Latin Domini canes —the Dominicans as the “watchdogs of the Lord” in their combat against heresy. Dominic is also frequently shown with rosary beads, a method of prayer he advocated and encouraged (though did not invent, as some traditions recount).


Narrative scenes include images of Dominic preaching, receiving the Gospels and a staff from Saints *Peter and *Paul in a vision, supporting a crumbling church with his shoulder (as recorded in a dream of Pope Innocent III), in an apocryphal meeting with Saint *Francis, plus various *miracles (saving *pilgrims from drowning, bringing a boy killed in a riding accident back to life, and *angels appearing to feed Dominic and several companions).

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