Domingo de Guzman, whom the Church honors as Saint Dominic, was of noble family, and was born in 1170 at Calaruega, in the diocese of Osma, in Old Castile. After thorough preparatory instruction he was sent to Palencia, which then contained the university afterwards transferred to Salamanca, and there he spent ten years, six years given to literature and philosophy, and four to theology. At twenty-five Dominic, whose whole life had been one of holiness and studiousness, was ordained a priest and became a member of the cathedral chapter of Osma. This chapter was living in community under a rule of life composed by Saint Augustine. Priests leading such a life are called canons-regular. There were others who followed Saint Augustine’s rule, but in a life of greater seclusion, and these were known as Hermits of Saint Augustine, and communities of these were numerous in Ireland before the Anglo-Norman invasion. A modification of this life and rule formed afterwards the basis for the mendicant order of Augustinian friars.
When the Albigensian rebellion was at its height the bishop of Osma visited Rome in company with Dominic, and obtained permission to absent himself from his diocese for two years in order to preach to the heretics. Other priests came to his help, and he soon realized the need of an order of priests free from the ties of parish and property, and especially devoted to preaching.
In 1215, accompanied by the bishop of Toulouse, he went to Rome to obtain the Holy See’s approval of his new order. While there he one day met Francis of Assisi, who was laying the foundation of another order of mendicant friars, and the two saints instantly recognized one another as brothers in religion and embraced with the kiss of peace. This holy encounter of the two founders is still annually commemorated at Rome by the exchange of visits between Dominicans and Franciscans. Pope Innocent III. consented to the new order, provided a rule already sanctioned by the Church should be adopted for it. Dominic then chose the rule of Saint Augustine, already familiar to him, for it enabled him to organize what he wanted—a body of men that should combine the austere community life of the monk with the active, outdoor life of the secular priest, and yet should differ from each in being untrammelled by the requirement of constant seclusion, the need of property and other resources, or by the limits of parish work. At Toulouse, in 1216, Dominic opened the first house of his order with sixteen friars. In addition to the Friars, or First Order, Dominic, like Saint Francis, established also a Second Order, for nuns, and a Third Order, for lay people living in the world. In the course of time many communities of women were organized out of the Third Order – or Tertiaries – and, in fact, most of the Dominican Sisters in the United States are Tertiaries. The dress finally adopted for the order consists of a white habit and scapular – with capoche for the friars – and a long black mantle. It was the black mantle, worn outdoors, which caused the Friars Preachers to be at one time popularly called in England “Black Friars.” The same year Dominic again visited Kome and obtained from the new pope, Honorius III, a bull fully approving the order.
The Preaching Friars were divided into provinces, each house being under a prior, and each province under a prior-provincial, the whole being directed by a master-general, whose residence was fixed at Eome. Each community elects its prior; the priors again, with a deputy from each community, elect the master-general, this last holding office for life, the others for a term of years. Such was the great Dominican Order of mendicant friars which spread over Europe, becoming illustrious in the universities as well as in missionary work, and, after the discovery of America, doing noble Christian work in the Spanish colonies in spite of the evil example offered to the aborigines by the military and other adventurers.
The holy Dominic, after years of uninterrupted labor, died in the priory of San Niccola at Bologna, surrounded by his brethren, 6 August 1221. In 1233 the process for his canonization was begun, and the bull of canonization was at length promulgated by Pope Gregory IX, the last survivor of those who had known the saint personally.
- “Saint Dominic”. , 1884. CatholicSaints.Info. 7 January 2017. Web. 27 February 2017. <>