Years of Experimental Activity (1215-19)


Years of Experimental Activity (1215-19)

Foulques and Dominic anticipated by some weeks the opening of the Council, which was convoked for November 2. They arrived in Rome early in September,(1) and gave the Sovereign Pontiff a full report of all that had been accomplished in Toulouse. The possibility and the timeliness of extending the foundation of the Preachers to the universal Church claimed their consideration. At the moment it was difficult to forecast the attitude of the Council toward the projects of ecclesiastical reform. While awaiting” developments, Innocent III, by his letter of October 8, confirmed the foundation of the monastery at Prouille and took it under his protection.(2)

The Fourth Lateran Council saw the largest assembly of clerics ever gathered in Christian Europe, and the legislation then enacted has affected many matters of ecclesiastical law even to the present day. In the bull of convocation (April 19, 1213), Innocent III assigned as the principal purposes of the Council, “the reform of the universal Church, the reform of morals, the extirpation of heresy, and the strengthening of the faith.”(3) It was the very ground on which Dominic had been spending his zeal for eleven years. The Council held three public sessions between the eleventh and the thirtieth of November. Among its decrees relative to the reform of Christian society, some of the most important revolved directly around the work undertaken by St. Dominic and his fellow workers. Such were those aimed at placing the Church in a position to provide for the great needs reviewed in the introduction to this study: the preaching of the gospel to the Christian people and the instruction of the clergy


On the first point, the tenth canon provides as follows:

Among other things that pertain to the salvation of the Christian people, the food of the word of God is above all necessary, because as the body is nourished by material food, so is the soul nourished by spiritual food, since “not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.” It often happens that bishops, on account of their manifold duties or bodily infirmities, or because of hostile invasions or other reasons, to say nothing of lack of learning, which must be absolutely condemned in them and is not to be tolerated in the future, are themselves unable to minister the word of God to the people, especially in large and widespread dioceses. Wherefore we decree that bishops provide suitable men, powerful in work and word, to exercise with fruitful result the office of preaching; who in place of the bishops, since these cannot do it, diligently visiting the people committed to them, may instruct them by word and example. And when they are in need, let them be supplied with the necessities, lest for want of these they may be compelled to abandon their work at the very beginning. Wherefore we command that in cathedral churches as well as in conventual churches suitable men be appointed whom the bishops may use as coadjutors and assistants, not only in the office of preaching but also in hearing confessions, imposing penances, and in other matters that pertain to the salvation of souls. If anyone neglect to comply with this, he shall be subject to severe punishment.

The regime established at Toulouse six months earlier by Foulques with the institution of the diocesan Preachers was thereby extended to the whole episcopate. The tenth canon of the Council was evidently framed on the letter of Innocent (November 17, 1206) for the establishment of the apostolic missioners of Languedoc, and on the letter of Foulques (1215) for the institution of these missioners as preachers in the Diocese of Toulouse. The only difference was that to the general requirement of preaching by word and example, Dominic and his companions, as revealed by the two documents cited, added to their program the practice of evangelical poverty.

The Bishop of Toulouse must have had an influential place in the congregation which elaborated this canon of the Council, and the Pope as well as Cardinal Ugolino, to show the practical possibility of it, must have emphasized the example of what Foulques had accomplished in his diocese. The Curia was convinced that the bishops would not find men available to carry out what the Council required. After imposing the obligation and enacting the ecclesiastical law in the matter, the Holy See reserved to itself the power to provide the bishops, within a short time, with the preachers whom they themselves could not procure.

Dominic, who had consecrated a dozen years to the apostolate and, for the first time in the history of the Church, had formed a permanent body of preachers, must have attracted the attention of a great number of prelates and must have made the personal acquaintance of many of them. A few years later, he met them again in his journeys through France, Spain, and Italy, and they were disposed to welcome the new Preachers who were willing to discharge the office of preaching without even asking for the material aid(4) which the Council had prescribed. In making such a stipulation, the Council was conforming in one more detail to what the Bishop of Toulouse had already arranged for his diocese.

In the acts of the Council, the eleventh canon, which immediately followed that on the appointment of preachers, provided for ecclesiastical academic instruction, the only kind known at the beginning of the thirteenth century. The canon entitled De magistris scholasticis contains a reference to the scholastic statute of the preceding Council of the Lateran (1179), which had remained ineffectual. The previous measure was reiterated and defined with greater precision. The bishops and their chapters were to install, in each cathedral church, and elsewhere if possible, a master capable of giving free instruction in grammar to the clerics of that church and other churches. Moreover, the metropolitan see was to provide a theologian to teach Sacred Scripture (Sacra pagina) to the priests and candidates for holy orders that they might have proper training in whatever concerns the ministry of souls. The chapters were to assign a prebend to these two classes of masters during the term of their teaching.


The reform of clerical education, or rather its organization, was: “an indispensable preliminary if the Church hoped to cultivate preachers able to instruct the people and to contend with heresy. Unfortunately masters of sacred science were even more rare than preachers. If this were not otherwise known, it would be evident enough when the Fourth Lateran Council declared that the moderate scholastic program of the preceding Council had not been carried out and then limited its hopes to the establishment of a master of theology for each ecclesiastical province. Yet that prescription would also be a dead letter. With the program of preaching ordained by the Council, Dominic embraced that of instruction in the sacred sciences and took a responsibility for the execution of the two reform measures to a degree far exceeding the import of the ordinances of 1215.(5) The Ordo Praedicatorum would also become the Ordo Doctorum, terms found to be identical in ecclesiastical tradition and in the language of the period. They expressed the teaching mission of the Church, confided by right to the bishops and ordinary prelates, as shown in another chapter.

One of the conciliar decrees, however, seemed to run counter to the projects of the Curia and Dominic. The thirteenth canon, relative to the foundations of the new religious orders, says: “Lest too great a diversity of religious orders lead to serious confusion in the Church of God, we strictly forbid anyone in the future to found a new order. Whoever is desirous of entering an order, let him choose one already approved. Similarly, he who should wish to found a new monastery, must accept a rule and institution already approved.”

This decree was passed by the Council at a time when the two greatest orders of the late Middle Ages were just emerging from their cradle and when the first, in the person of its head, was even then in Rome, ready with a petition for recognition. Almost certainly the thirteenth canon was not inspired by Innocent III. It is even highly probable that the Pope opposed it, before finally yielding to the insistence of the bishops.(6) Representatives of the orders of monks and of canons, who were present in large numbers at the Council, might be expected not to favor any move that would divert from their own establishments the religious impulse everywhere stirring. The old institutions were in a state of decadence, and by a natural instinct of self-preservation, they stood against whatever might cause a greater loss of strength. But the opposition to the establishment of new religious orders, as expressed in the ecclesiastical decree, proceeded rather from the bishops of northern Italy and southern France. From a company of the reconciled Waldenses, Innocent III had established in Lombardy in 1201 the Order of the Humiliati, and in 1208 in Languedoc the Poor Catholics. These new religious, who had retained some of their old antipathy toward the clergy, did not conceal their sentiments in propaganda, and quite generally attracted the disfavor of the bishops in the dioceses where they were carrying on their work as neophytes.(7) Innocent III, whose experience had taught him that the regular and secular clergy was incapable of providing the preachers required to carry on the work of reform, energetically defended his new creations. The opposing bishops found an occasion in the Council to take their revenge and to protect themselves from what they considered a real danger; their viewpoint was perhaps selfish, and in any case somewhat narrow. But an untimely canon of the Council could not stop Innocent III and the Roman Curia from pursuing plans for reform which the state of Christendom rendered urgent, especially since the Council had recognized the need of the reform and approved the program as a whole.

From the Curia, Dominic received formal encouragement to pursue the work begun, and it suggested his return to Toulouse to consider certain pressing problems with his followers. One of these problems was the choice of a rule.(8) Foulques and the leader of his apostolic missioners left Rome and were back in Toulouse early in 1216.(9) The new Preachers had full liberty to go ahead.


They turned first to the choice of a rule and then proceeded with preliminary measures for the organization of their institution. In the Latin Church there were, properly speaking, only two rules, that of St. Benedict, legislator for monastic life, and that for canons regular, known as the Rule of St. Augustine. For a company of clerics like the new Preachers, only the latter would be adaptable. There was no room for hesitation. Brother Dominic had made profession according to this Rule in the chapter of the canons of Osma. He still had the title of canon and, even after the establishment of his Order, continued to hold it,(10) just as he retained and transmitted to his spiritual posterity the habit of a canon regular.

Further, the Rule of St. Augustine was pre-eminently a rule of spiritual life and implied no other obligation than the common life and individual poverty. It left the way open for all the particular observances a body of religious would choose to adopt.(11) The Preachers of Toulouse, therefore, compiled a set of supplementary rules which they called Customs.(12) This legislative document, incorporated in the primitive Constitutions, formed the first part or division of it under the title Liber consuetudinum, a title that it kept until the general chapter of 1249.

The scope of the Customs was limited to the practices of conventual life, or what might be called monastic and canonical observances. No attempt was made to determine the governmental organization of the institute. The new Preachers were creating a work which in end and means had no counterpart in Church history. Therefore they preferred to let experience prove what would be possible, and thus practically to determine the final shape of their institution. Never was a spirit less aprioristic than that of St. Dominic and his first Preachers. But, possessed as they were of a pure and lofty ideal, of intense training in the Christian apostolate, and of a form of life already approved, their progress would be rapid and far-reaching in the realization of a plan clearly conceived and even then partly executed. Experience would show them the changes to make, the adaptation to effect, and the solid foundation on which finally to establish their institution.

In drawing up their Customs, St. Dominic and his companions borrowed parts, notably substantial, from the legislation of Prémontré, the last great reform of the canons regular. That circumstance has induced certain historians, even Dominicans, to say, and quite incorrectly, that the Constitutions of the Preachers reproduced in part those of Prémontré. The section borrowed related exclusively to the canonical Office and monastic observances, the foundation common to all religious life at the time. Whatever was essential to the Order or characteristic of it, its end, means, organization, and government, belonged distinctively to the institution of the Preachers, and nothing like it existed either at Prémontré or in any other community which had yet figured in the history of the Church.

Moreover, even in taking verbatim various elements from the text of the Customs of Prémontré, the Preachers supplemented the articles by notations corresponding to their own end, signalizing what was essential to their purpose. The ministry of preaching was to be zealously promoted, and study was to be intense. A particular urgency marked this last prescription. The Preacher was to study day and night, at home or on a journey. To facilitate the exercise of study, the rule of dispensation was even then applicable for many points, while later it was to become general. Thus dispensation controlled the regime of rigorous asceticism, adopted to rival that of the Cathari clergy. The needs of study also dictated that the choral office should be recited rapidly, and that silence should be rigorously observed in the convent.

The question of poverty, or rather the extent of its practice, was then raised, as we are told by the first historian of St. Dominic.(13) From the beginning of his apostolate in Languedoc, the subprior of Osma had lived on alms in the course of his evangelical journeys and would continue this custom to the end of his life. Moreover, it was the method agreed upon a year earlier in the act of constitution for the Preachers of Toulouse. But would it be possible to impose such a rule on a great body of clerics who were to live in the heart of great cities unsupported by the fruitful manual labor of the ancient monks? Would the material assistance offered by the faithful in exchange for the spiritual benefits of the friars be enough to ensure their subsistence? Everything depended on the success of their enterprise and on the reception given them by the people of the cities. Meanwhile they adopted provisionally the plan established by

Foulques for the diocesan missioners of Toulouse.(14) They would have revenues, but no property. The administration of property would hinder the friars in the exercise of their apostolic mission, while the example of their detachment from the goods of earth was a condition for the efficacy of their preaching. Experience would show to what degree they could push the application of the principle of poverty.


In possession of the Rule of St. Augustine and their Customs, the Preachers were about to realize another step toward their establishment. The Bishop of Toulouse, devoted patron of the work of apostolic preaching, urged the chapter of his cathedral to give the chapel of St. Romanus to Dominic and his companions. The number of the Preachers had increased; “they were about sixteen in number,” says Jordan of Saxony.(15) No longer was the house of Peter Seila large enough, and they required a place for preaching. Near the church the Preachers immediately built their first monastery. The deed of gift executed in the presence of the Bishop in the month of July is very remarkable. Before his journey to the Roman Curia Dominic had had the title, “Minister of Preaching”; here it reads “Master of the Preachers” (Magister Praedicatorum).(16) It was the official title ultimately conferred on him by the Holy See. Doubtless the change occurred in consequence of the negotiations at the Curia relative to the new foundation. In this one point of detail we catch a glimpse of the wise policy of Innocent III and his associates in the establishment of the Order of Preachers: to have the institution at work before creating a law in its regard; to be guided by the light of an experience consciously preordained and promoted.

Dominic supervised the construction of their convent and attended to the installation of his friars at St. Romanus. Once the work was materially and spiritually under way, he set out for Rome and arrived there late in November or early in December, 1216. Innocent III, the pontiff without peer, had died on July 16, and Cardinal Honorius Savelli succeeded him two days later. The tiara rested on another head, but the policy of the Curia remained unchanged. Cardinal Ugolino, a nephew of the deceased Pope, who would handle the gravest ecclesiastical business of the new pontificate, would have maintained, himself alone if necessary, a perfect continuity of policy. Dominic’s arrival was expected in Rome and, we may say without fear of error, anticipated with high hope.


In face of the conciliar prohibition of new religious institutions and of the choice of the Rule of St. Augustine by the Preachers, the Order was to be established as a foundation of canons regular. On December 22, Honorius promulgated in favor of Brother Dominic, prior of St. Romanus, and of his companions, a solemn bull of constitution.(17) It was in every way similar in style to that used in the bulls issued for the canonical foundations of the late twelfth century. And yet the life of Dominic from the year 1205 on, his achievements and his projects, one as they were with those of the Curia, marked the new Preachers as distinctly different from the clerics of the former chapters of canons regular. Recognizing the character of their new role, Honorius on the same day issued a bull, unusual in style, and more astonishing in import than unusual in form, in which be proclaimed the mission of the Canons of St. Romanus of Toulouse. The Pope, addressing Dominic, said: “Considering that the brethren of your Order are to be champions of the faith and the true lights of the world ( pugiles fidei et vera mundi lumina), we confirm your Order and take it under our government.”(18) The expression vera mundi lumina is taken from the hymn for the feast of the Holy Apostles.

Passing over certain minor features peculiar to this document, such as its superscription, dated exceptionally from Santa Sabina, the Basilica in which Honorius was to establish the Order of Preachers a few years later, our attention centers particularly on two points. For purposes of brevity we shall begin with the last.


In the first bull, Religiosam vitam, Honorius, according to the traditional formula, placed the new foundation under his protection. In the second, issued as a letter of confirmation of the preceding, the Pope declared that he personally took in hand the government of the Order — ipsum ordinem suscipimus sub nostra gubernatione. Honorius could not have more clearly said that he regarded the new militia as his own instrument and his own property and that he would watch over it that it might realize the high destiny he had just decreed for it with prophetic accent. In fact, the Pope had in a few words illuminated the eminent and exceptional vocation of the Preachers, not as to their mission only, nor even as to the end assigned to the Order, but he heralded their vocation as something of which he was perfectly sure, as if the realization of it were already open to his vision: “Your brethren will be the champions of the faith and the true lights of the world.”(19)

The purpose of the Order was here determined with express finality: to fight for the faith and to enlighten the Church. All ecclesiastical tradition had recognized that as the office of preachers, and it seems that the Pope might have been content to declare, as he often did, that Dominic and his brethren were official preachers in the Church. But even that would not have embraced all that the papacy desired and intended. The call was not simply for preachers, but for champions of the faith, invincible athletes of Christ, as another announcement a month later showed;(20) the hope was not merely for educated clerics in an age when such were rare, but for those who would be luminaries in Christendom. In the course of the thirteenth century, the successors of Honorius III repeated these comparisons and emphasized them further in describing what was then being achieved by the sons of St. Dominic.

It is difficult for us to understand expressions such as these from Honorius III in regard to an institution still in the formative stage, when we are aware of the extreme reserve of the Church in encouraging religious groups that appealed for or received from her a first indication of favor. In saying that Dominic and his followers would be the champions of the faith and the lights of the world, did the Church not fear to crush a modest institution under the weight of an unlikely destiny? Was not the Church incurring the risk of an enormous deception?

Honorius III was not of such a mind. Not for an instant did flinch; nor was there a shadow of doubt. His words do not express a wish nor a hope: they tell of certitude. But if the Holy See was ready to proceed with such confidence when Dominic appeared in Rome in the month of December, 1216, Dominic had inspired the Church with unbounded trust. Rome already knew every fiber in the being of this canon of Osma, who had struggled alone for twelve years against all obstacles without any sign of weakness. His was a zeal and a faith which the Church had not found in any of his contemporaries. Thus the attitude of the Holy See toward the institution of the Preachers casts more light on the past of Dominic and on what he was then about to do than could all his contemporaries, although their evidence is the same.

From what has just been reviewed with painstaking care, it will be evident how far from the truth are the historians, Dominicans or others, who judged that the Church was hesitant in entertaining Dominic’s projects, because Innocent III required him to choose a rule already existing. It would be nearer the truth to say that, when Dominic proposed his plans, the Holy See uttered a sigh of relief and cried: “At last!” But that would not be the whole truth. The Roman Curia had known Dominic since the year 1204,(21) when it had sent him with his Bishop into Languedoc and had created in his favor, for the first time in the history of the Church, apostolic preaching. From then on, through her legates or through Foulques of Toulouse, the Holy See had never lost sight of the man of her hopes. When the time came, she confirmed a work in which it would be impossible henceforth to distinguish the part of the Church’s band from that of Dominic.

Unaware of the general pattern that shaped the life and action of the Founder of the Preachers, historians have not thoroughly understood a problem which is utterly simple once the leading thread is found. To regard Dominic as the agent and the liegeman of the Church detracts neither from his merits nor from his glory; quite the contrary. The former subprior of Osma, who thought of preaching the gospel to the Cumans with his Bishop, had only one aspiration: to win souls, to win them with and through the Church. Therefore, when Honorius III officially established the Order of Preachers and undertook the government of it himself, he gave release to a power in reserve and long latent, but henceforth free to spend its force in the full light of Christendom.

Dominic was still in Rome, devising plans for action with the Curia when Honorius III addressed to him and to the Preachers of St. Romanus, the letter of January 21, 1217,(22) in which the Pope earnestly urged them to pursue their mission as preachers, and, if necessary, even to the giving of their lives. He praised the fragrance of their reputation and their eloquence, calling them invincible athletes of Christ and his special sons.(23) A few days earlier (January 19), Honorius III had dispatched letters to the University of Paris, inviting the masters and students to establish schools in Toulouse.(24) Evidently by this measure the Pope hoped to bring an academic personnel into the path of Dominic that he might therein find recruits. It was early in Lent when Dominic left Rome again and journeyed toward Toulouse.


After a few months in the company of his brethren, Dominic told them that the time for their dispersal had come. His friends remonstrated. The work had scarcely begun; it would come to ruin. The master of the Preachers answered: “Let me do what I will; I know what I desire. Hoarded, the grain rots; cast to the wind, it brings forth fruit.”(25) While he himself maintained the general direction of the Order, he suggested that his companions designate Brother Matthew of France as abbot.(26) Matthew was a man from the North who had come into the Midi as chaplain to Simon de Montfort. On August 15, feast of the Assumption, the friars were dispersed. Four were sent to Spain and eight to Paris under the leadership of the abbot of the Order. The first members of the Parisian band arrived there September 12.(27) That autumn Dominic himself set out for Rome. He was there for the opening of the new year.(28) On February 11, Honorius III addressed encyclical letters to all the prelates of Christendom to recommend to them the ministry of the Preachers and urge provision for their needs, because their only title was poverty. Friars who came from Spain and Paris brought Dominic tidings of the two groups sent out from Toulouse. Without delay, the master dispatched the three messengers to Bologna to establish a convent there.(29) During this time the saint himself opened near the Colosseum the monastery of St. Sixtus, which the Pope placed at his disposal.(30) Thus, within six months Dominic’s friars were established at Toulouse, the capital of heresy; at Paris and Bologna, the two great university centers of Europe; at Rome, the center of Christendom. “And these men,” writes Jordan of Saxony,(31) “were for the most part moderately lettered and simple; but the prayers of Dominic supported them and divine power multiplied them.”

Dominic’s stay at Rome was signalized by a precious conquest, that of Reginald, dean of St. Aignan of Orléans, a former master of the University of Paris where he had taught canon law. Cured miraculously, he entered the Order and, after a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the company of his Bishop, he joined the friars at Bologna, December 21, 1218.(32) Difficulty had attended the beginnings of the Preachers in this city; but, on hearing the eloquent voice of Reginald, students and celebrated masters flocked in numbers into the Order, which abandoned its first dwelling and established itself in the quarter of the schools at St. Nicholas of the Vineyard.(33) Among those won by Reginald to the ways of perfection was a young girl belonging to one of the first families of Bologna, Diana of Andalò. St. Dominic received her vows in the following year, and she became the cornerstone of the Convent of St. Agnes.


Meanwhile, after Reginald took passage for the Holy Land early in the autumn of 1218, Dominic left Rome for Spain, where the mission of the friars sent from Toulouse had encountered reverses.(34) On the way he visited the friars of that city and chose some of their number to establish a convent at Lyons.(35) In Spain, Dominic repaired the failure of the preceding year, establishing two convents at Segovia and Madrid;(36) then he directed his steps toward Paris. It was early in 1219,(37) when he arrived and found a flourishing house there. The eight friars who had reached Paris in September, 1217, settled in a modest dwelling near Notre Dame. At the request of Honorius III, John of Barastre, dean of St. Quentin and professor of theology at the University, and also the University itself had granted to the Preachers the chapel and the hospice of St. Jacques in the street of that name, near the Porte d’Orléans. That placed them in the University quarter; for they had been sent to Paris to found a convent, to preach, and to study theology. John of Barastre became their professor, perhaps before Honorius expressly asked this service, as revealed later in the Pope’s letter of May 4, 1221.(38)

The foundation of the Parisian Preachers had prospered rapidly. At the time of Dominic’s visit, the friars numbered thirty, and some had been assigned the previous year to Orleans to establish a convent there.(39)

True to his practice of prompt dispersal, Dominic appointed Peter Selia of Toulouse to go from Paris to open a house at Limoges.(40) Plans were then made for foundations at Reims, Metz, and other places, all of which were realized in a short time.(41) Four years later, even with all the new foundations provided for, there were one hundred twenty religious in the convent of St. Jacques.(42) Dominic might well have thought that his friars had found their land of promise in the heart of the Parisian academic world. The rising University, in turn, recognized in the active collaboration of the Preachers a power and a support in the attainment of that concentration and autonomy which it sought to secure, after the manner of the communes in their efforts at emancipation.

Dominic, with his clear penetration, quickly grasped the Parisian situation and evaluated the forces at play. After a short stay there, he set out for Italy and soon reached Bologna.(43)


In this great university city the Preachers, under the magnetic influence of Reginald of Orléans, had acquired a position superior perhaps even to that achieved at Paris, thanks to the exceptional recruits won by the vicar for Dominic, not only among the students but even among the masters, some of whom were already celebrated. This recruiting continued under Dominic’s encouragement. With a view to accelerating the Parisian growth, Dominic transferred Reginald to Paris, to the great desolation of the friars in Bologna. The former master at the University had time only to make his appearance again on the banks of the Seine. He died a holy death soon after, but not before he had gained to the Order, Jordan of Saxony with two of his friends. Jordan, a master of arts and bachelor of theology, became the first successor of Dominic and the great recruiter for the Order in the universities and schools of the time.(44)

Very soon after his arrival in Bologna, Dominic entered into communication with Cardinal Ugolino, at that time legate in Lombardy. He gave the prelate a report on the progress of the work as he had just examined it in the course of his journeys. One of the first questions discussed between the legate and Dominic was that of absolute poverty. In the case of the convents established, experience had shown the possibility of their subsisting even without revenue. It was concluded that the Order would henceforth live by begging. In consequence of this resolution, Dominic had a document destroyed by which a wealthy inhabitant of Bologna had just made an important donation to the convent of St. Nicholas.(45) Here, as elsewhere, the Master of the Preachers gave time and energy to the intellectual and religious training of his brethren and then, as was his custom, he scattered the grain which had been heaped at St. Nicholas. The friars departed from there to open new houses at Bergamo, Milan, and Florence.(46)

In the month of October,(47) Dominic left for Viterbo, where the Curia resided. During his stay, he founded a convent in that city and gave Honorius III an account of the general state of the institution of the Preachers and of the problems that had arisen. On November 15, the Pope wrote again to the prelates, as he would write many times, to recommend the Order and its apostolic ministry.(48) The next day, doubtless after the report on the Parisian schools as made by Dominic, but with a more positive intention of preparing the way for the universal influence of the Order through its schools of theology, Honorius III addressed letters to the Church in Paris and other centers, urging the execution of the academic decrees of the Lateran, which were nowhere being carried into effect.(49) In their first general chapter, the celebration of which was near, the Preachers would provide for this need by making each of their convents a school of theology, finding inspiration for their academic organization in the papal letters.


Dominic went on to Rome and there gave new life to the establishment of the friars. First he transferred all the religious to the ancient Basilica of Santa Sabina on Mount Aventine,(50) near the palace of the Savelli, the family of Honorius III, and he gathered together in the Convent of St. Sixtus, left free after the departure of the friars, the nuns of several Roman convents whose reform the Holy See had long desired.(51) Cardinal Ugolino presided over the ceremony of the transfer, and the rule of Prouille was introduced into the new Convent.(52) In the plan of the Curia, St. Sixtus was to become a model house, and subsequently the Sovereign Pontiffs granted its rule to numerous convents of women under the name of the Rule of St. Sixtus of Rome.(53)

It was during his stay at Santa Sabina a that the master of the Preachers gave the habit of the Order to two young Polish clerics, Hyacinth and Ceslaus, who had come to Rome with their uncle, the Bishop of Cracow. They were destined by Dominic to establish the Order in their native land, and the first, as St. Hyacinth, has received the title of “Apostle of Poland.”(54)

When Dominic left Rome it was to revisit Bologna, where the first great assemblies of the Order would be held on the feast of Pentecost, May 17, 1220.(55)


The original of this bull has not been preserved; furthermore, it was not registered (the formality being onerous, the registration of the consistorial privilege Religiosam vitam normally sufficed). Since the bull is unsupported by the classic evidence of authentication, it is, from the documentary viewpoint, not so good a proof as the privilege, which does possess such evidence. The matter was examined recently in a judicious and erudite study by Father Bihl (Archivum Franciscanum, XXVII [1934], 262-63). He rightly avoided concluding that the bull was not authentic, The difficulty we encountered in getting access to certain works of the sixteenth century prevents our treating this question fully here; nevertheless we think we can sufficiently establish the authenticity of the bull.

Though original sources fail, the literary tradition stands. The two texts, Religiosam vitam and Nos attendentes, have a continuously common history. Both were published only at a late date. They were not available in any document we examined for the thirteenth century in particular, or in the bullary of Rodez (Archivum O.P., V [19351, 441), or in that of Dresden (Archivum O.P., VI [ 1936], 225 ff.). This may be explained by the fact that the collections of medieval charters had a practical purpose: these two documents, which were soon replaced by others giving more extended privileges, no longer had immediate interest; they were forgotten. Early in the fourteenth century, Bernard Guidonis noted a privilege of confirmation of the Order, given at St. Peter’s, December 22, 1216 — this might have been the consistorial privilege (Martène, Script., VI, 401); it is certain that the Holy See confirmed most of the orders of the thirteenth century by the grant of the privilege Religiosam vitam or an equivalent. We do not quote Scheeben’s opinion in regard to this privilege, or his unjust criticism of historians who had previously considered the question. (Cf. Der heilige Dominikus, p. 211; Archivum O.P., VI [1p36], 218, n. 2). St. Antoninus contributes nothing further.

The first editions of our texts seem to date from some time not earlier than the sixteenth century. In the course of his travels at that period, the General Vincent Bandelli made a choice collection of juridical documents. Under his direction these two texts appeared for the first time and simultaneously in 1504, in a collection of 118 diplomas, edited by Albert de Castillo “Palmerio Botonto procurante” (Privilegia majora et principaliora . . . ordinis . . . , Venice, 1504; Bullarium O.P., I, 47 no. II, n. 1; cf. Echard II, 10, 48; Bullarium O.P., I, xi).

Brémond-Ripoll indicate the date as 1506 instead of 1504; perhaps there was a second edition. We have not come across this work, but think that very likely the Bollandist Cuyper (Acta Sanctorum, August, 1, 444) was referring to it when he noted the inclusion of the bull Nos attendentes in the principal edition of the Dominican Constitutions by Vincent Bandelli (Regula S. Augustini, etc., Milan, 1505). It is certain that Bandelli’s text does not contain this bull, nor do the later editions in the sixteenth century. We have consulted two different editions of 1505 in the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris, as well as editions of 1507, 1515, 1565, 1650. This last edition alone contains the text of the bull, interpolated in a dissertation of Bandelli; the copy in the Bibliothèque Nationale which belonged to Father Quétif, as well as most of the other copies mentioned, has in this passage a note by this celebrated scholar, indicating the interpolation. The bull is included in the 1690 edition, edited by Father Cloche; further, there is the possibility that in 1505 Castillo’s collection may have been added to the Constitutions of Bandelli in one or other volume; we have not found evidence of this, but the case is probable. Bandelli’s work is not a single whole, but consists of a collection of tracts with separate pagings. For several years Castillo was the editor of the publications of the Master General. This explains Cuyper’s statement, which led to some lack of precision in the note of Father Bihl.

After the year 1504, many editions of these two documents were published, and they were almost always published together.

From the first, the editors gave a record of the originals from which the copies were made. Albert de Castillo (Botonto) took the bull Nos attendentes from an original preserved at Prouille with its leaden seals (Acta Sanctorum, loc. cit.) Étienne Usodimare (cf. Bullarium O.P., I, 4, no. 2, n. 1) edited it among the documents which he described thus: “only those which have been procured from archetypes or authentic transcriptions of them”‘ (Echard, II, 143).

Two centuries later Bremond-Ripoll stated that Prouille possessed the original of the bull, and there was also at Rome an authentic copy. In fact, the cartulary of Prouille compiled sometime before that by Cambefort (Histoire et cartulaire du prieuré de Prouille, 1659, a manuscript which the religious fortunately recovered after the Revolution, but which we have not been able to consult; they have, however, kindly answered all our questions about this bull) contains the bull Nos attendentes, although it does not mention the privilege Religiosam vitam, the original of which our authors agreed in placing at Toulouse, where it still is. During the Revolution the charter room of Prouille was demolished and the loss was great (cf. Guiraud, Cart. I, v-viii); then disappeared the leaden-sealed bull which was used from the time of the first edition to guarantee the text of Nos attendentes. Though the disappearance is regrettable, we do not think it authorizes our rejecting the authenticity of the document in question. As to the reference to the future which surprised Father Bihl (futuros pugiles fidei), such expressions are not unusual in the bulls of popes to the Preachers (cf. Laurent, no. 101: novella plantatio, quae speratur fructum multiplicem allatura, “a new garden which is expected to bear abundant fruit”).

The authenticity of the traditional date (apud sanctam Sabinam; X1 Kal. ianuarii) presents a more difficult problem; a study of the different editions on this point has revealed surprising anomalies. It must remain an open question, since we are still without certain information needed for its solution. All things considered, however, the bull can certainly be dated before July, 1217, the first anniversary of Honorius III, and probably before the month of February, when St. Dominic left Rome.

In conclusion, we add that the text of the bull contains the words et protectione in all the old editions, Cambefort included. Balme (II, 88) is, we believe, the first who suppressed it, without explanation or apparent reason: perhaps by a mere lapsus calami.


1 They saw the Pope early in October. See Laurent, no. 62.

2 Ibid.

3 Potthast, nos. 4706 f.; Mansi, Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio, XXII, 961.

4 The Pope emphasized this point in the bulls of recommendation of the Preachers, “who, explaining the word of God freely and faithfully, have adopted the title of poverty” (Laurent, nos. 84, 87, 97, 103, 112, 123, 127, 129). Conrad, bishop of Metz, echoed this: “since the Order of Preachers seeks nothing from its preaching, but the lucre of souls” (Laurent, no. 136).

5 The Order of Preachers could evidently not pursue anything short of what was projected in the program accorded by Innocent III to the Poor Catholics, who seven years earlier in the same province had devoted themselves to the same task, in the face of the same urgent needs, a task for which they were, however, vastly less well prepared. This was their program: “Since a great number of us are clerics and nearly all educated, we have determined to engage assiduously in reading, exhortation, teaching and disputation against all sects of error. The disputations, however, should be tried on by brethren who are more learned, proved in the Catholic faith, and instructed in the law of the Lord so that the adversaries of the Catholic and apostolic faith may be confounded. Moreover, with the assistance of those more upright and enlightened in the law of the Lord and in the writings of the Holy Fathers, we have decreed that the word of God should be taught in our schools to members of our company and our friends, with the license of prelates and with due veneration, by skillful brethren trained in Sacred Scripture, that by sound teaching they may have power to convince an erring people and use every means to draw them to the faith and recall them to the bosom of the Holy Roman Church” (PL, CCXV, 1513). This undertaking represents the whole extent of instruction in that epoch; it was limited in its exercise, only because of the necessity of keeping in its own sphere within the ecclesiastical order this group of converts which included laymen. None of these restrictions applied for the Order of Preachers.

6 Grundmann, Religiöse Bewegungen im, Mittelalter, pp. 140-53.

7 Pierron, Die Katholischen Armen, pp. 32 f., 109-13, 132 f.; Grundmann, pp. 113-16.

8 See infra, pp. 291 ff., 422-46.

9 It seems that Dominic was already at Prouille on March 2 (Laurent, no. 66).

10 Most of the charters of Prouille give him the official title Dominus Dominicus oxomensis canonicus (“Lord Dominic, canon of Osma”). He called himself simply Brother Dominic (Laurent, nos. 5, 7, 24); Brother Dominic, preacher (no. 10);Brother Dominic chaplain of Fanjeaux (no. 54); Brother Dominic, prior of Prouille (no. 41); cf. Jordan, no. 21.

11 See infra, pp. 241 ff.

12 Jordan, no. 42; see infra, chap. 24, where there is a study of these first Customs. The name Liber consuetudinum, was officially suppressed only in the chapters of 1249-51 (Acta capitulorum generalium Ordinis Praedicatorum, I, 43, 48, 55).

13 Jordan, no. 42.

14 Laurent, no. 60.

15 Jordan no. 44; see Mamachi, Annales Ordinis Praedicatorum, App., pp. 362 ff.; Altaner, Der heilige Dominikus, p. 16. Scheeben (p. 189) reckons twenty or twenty-two friars.

16 Laurent, no. 70. The term “master” was used frequently in the twelfth century, and especially with religious, to designate the head of a group or community (master of monks, master of lay brothers, master of boys, master of the granges, master of bakers). Unlike the titles of lord and abbot, it had the advantage of not being associated with power or temporal business. Robert of Arbrissel had selected it for himself through humility, in preference to any other title for a superior (Vita; PL, CLXII, 1052). It was used also among the hospitallers and in certain orders of women (for example, the Order of Sempringham; Laurent, no. 100), and in military orders in consequence of their origin among the hospitallers. The leaders of the Preaching in Narbonne likewise had the title of Master. Dominic himself used it in a charter of 1213 (Laurent, no. 41, where the title is equivalent to prior; and it has the same meaning in nos. 124, 126, 134). It was quite natural that Dominic, who revived the old papal preaching, should have had the title, magister praedicatorum, “master of preachers” (Laurent, no. 70; or even “master of preaching,” ibid., no. 134) and, when the Preaching of Toulouse developed into a world order, “Master of the Order of Preachers” (1221; Laurent, nos. 138, 151). The title, therefore, was finally used to designate the head of the Preachers, and the terra “prior of the Order,” employed until then by the Pope, was dropped. Once again the humble title of “master” took the place of that of “abbot,” a term which their canonical origin might have suggested to the Preachers (Jordan, no. 48).

17 Religiosam vitam; Laurent, no. 74,

18 With regard to the bull Nos attendentes, see the note at the close of this chapter (pp. 49-51).

19 The biblical allegories used in the bulls of the popes in the thirteenth century should not be compared with the hyperbolic images and extravagant forms of the humanist style that had its effect even on the language of the Church. In that age, biblical and ecclesiastical symbols had a precise meaning determined by the allegorical theology then in full flower; it was a truly technical language, To give still more weight to the papal bulls, there was the strong, prudent, and minute wording of the pontifical documents. To describe the Preachers by a verse from the hymn of the Apostles was to confer the title on them with its traditional meaning. To understand the import and challenge of the appellation, attention should be given to the activity of the schismatics and heretics of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, from the Cathari to the Apostolics of Gerard Segarelli, to say nothing of the Waldenses, in their efforts to arrogate to themselves the name and prerogatives of “successors or vicars of the apostles”: an unlimited right to preach independent of the bishops. It was precisely this prerogative and this title which up to that time the popes most energetically refused.

20 Laurent, no. 77.

21 Or 1205, or the beginning of 1206.

22 Laurent, no. 77.

23 He assigned their apostolic labor, moreover, “unto the remission of sins,” which was equivalent to the indulgence, granted for the crusaders.

24 Laurent, no. 76.

25 Processus (Bologna), no. 26; Jordan, nos. 47, 62; Ferrand, no. 31. The last words quoted are not those of St. Dominic; they are a reflection of Peter Ferrand.

26 Jordan, no. 48. Matthew was known at the time of the dispersal as Abbot of St. Romanus of the Order of Preachers (Laurent, no. 92), Prior of the Order of Preachers (title also given by the Pope to St. Dominic, no. 101), then Abbot of the Order of Preachers at Paris (no. 111). Before the dispersal, the superior of St. Romanus held only the title of Prior of St. Romanus. (Laurent, nos. 70-75, 77, 79, 80.)
The title of abbot was inspired by the canons, among whom the abbot represented a person superior to the local prior. In this title Matthew found himself in a position similar to that of the abbot of St. Victor or the abbot of Prémontré, at the head of an incipient canonical congregation. It was but a provisional office, an experiment, which in fact did not exclude the higher authority of St. Dominic. It disappeared from the juridical constitution of the Order in 1220.
Scheeben (pp. 238-39) was wrong in contesting the value of Jordan, no. 48. If, as he thinks, he is warranted in affirming, contrary to Jordan, that Matthew was elected abbot in 1217 only to provide a local prior at St. Romanus, there would be no reason for sending him at once to Paris.

27 Jordan, nos. 48-52. For the date of August 15, see Salanhac, no. 11.

28 December 13, 1217, safe-conduct given at the siege of Toulouse by Simon de Montfort (Laurent, no. 82); February 11, 1218, be obtained a bull at the Lateran (no. 84).

29 Jordan, no. 55.

30 It is unquestionable that an installation of friars at St. Sixtus preceded the founding of the sisters’ convent (Froger de Peña speaks of conventus romanus) (cf. Processus of Bologna, no. 46). Constantine (no. 37), directly informed by the procurator of the friars of that time, mentions forty religious (cf. nos. 35-39, 54; Altaner, p. 63); this number as included in the story of a miracle is probably exaggerated; so evidently are the one hundred friars of Sister Cecilia (Mamachi, App., P. 250; cf. pp. 247, 252, 262).
As Echard (1, 82 ff.) and all the modem historians placed the transfer of the nuns to St. Sixtus early in 1220, it was natural to assign to the preceding sojourn of St. Dominic in Rome ( 1218) the temporary installation of some friars in the church left vacant on account of the negligence of the incumbents, the Canons of Sempringham (Laurent, no. 88). In fact, in that very year, when steps (perhaps Protestations) were made by these canons, the Pope began proceedings which ended in their vacating St. Sixtus and his granting it to the Preachers (Laurent, no. 100).
Scheeben (pp. 293, 328 ff.) places the transfer of the sisters in the spring of 1221. Busy in Bologna in 1218, Dominic did not have friars to leave in Rome (ibid., p. 252); if there was any friar at St. Sixtus, it was only after 1220. The arguments adduced seem solid; attention must be given to the publication on Jordan (App. nos. 28, 37), where the author sets forth his critical proof. In spite of what is held by Scheeben (p. 448, n. 164), we may suppose that the Roman convent of the friars was Moved to Santa Sabina before 1222, when it was necessary to vacate their Place for the sisters. Whatever disdain may be felt for the embellishment in the story of Sister Cecilia, the substance of her information on this point cannot be disregarded (cf. Altaner, p. 168). See also Zucchi, Le origini del Monastero di S. Sisto (1937), pp. 142-57.

31 Jordan, no. 62.

32 Ibid., nos. 56-58.

33 Ibid., no. 60; Laurent, no. 93.

34 Jordan, nos. 49, 59.

35 Mamachi, pp. 486 f.; Bourbon, no. 7. The date, 1218, is not certain. It is indicated by Bernard Guidonis and estimated according to the place occupied by the representatives of this convent at the provincial chapter.

36 Jordan, no. 59. .

37 Dominic was in Segovia for Christmas, 1218 (Frachet, 71). He left for Paris in 1219 (after March 25); cf. Jordan, no. 59. As he remained only a short time in Paris (Jordan, no. 60) and arrived in Bologna in summer (Processus [Bologna], nos. 41, 46), it must have been near the month of May when he reached Paris. The charter (Laurent, no. 95) shows that at that date he was no longer in Madrid.

38 Laurent, no. 140.

39 Jordan, nos. 54, 59. The erection, properly so called, of a convent took place later. In the provincial chapter (Echard, Scriptores Ordinis Praedicatorum, I, vi) Orléans rank after Reims, Metz, and Poitiers, a fact which places its foundation at the earliest in 1221.

40 Martène, Veterum scriptorum . . . collectio, VI, 463 ff.; Frachet, Vitae Fratrum, passim; Salanhac, Tractatus brevis, no. 7.

41 Bishop Conrad of Metz, “following the example of the Pope,” gave a house to the Preachers (April 22, 1221) for a convent within the city (Laurent, no. 136). Reims had been founded before Metz (Echard, loc. cit.).

42 According to a bull of Honorius III, September 15. 1224. See Denifle, Archiv für Literatur, I, 189.

43 In the summer of 1219. See Jordan, no. 60; Processus canonizationis (Bologna), no. 41.

44 Jordan, nos. 65, 67 ff.

45 Processus (Bologna), no.32. Ugolino was at Bologna in June and July, 1219, then at Florence and Perugia. Levi, Documenti ad illustrazione del Registro del Card. Ugolino, p. 245.

46 Bergamo was founded before Milan; Galvagni de la Fiamma places in 1219 the undertaking of St. Dominic which began the foundation in Milan (Monumenta Ordinis Fratrum Praedicatorum historica, 11, 23). The friars were established there in 1220 (Processus [Bologna], nos. 6, 20, 22; Laurent, no. 118). Florence was a station for the friars before 1221 (Processus, no. 46).

47 He arrived there before November 15 (Laurent, no. 97). It is possible that from that time the friars had a foothold in Viterbo, but there is no mention of a convent.

48 Laurent, no. 97; the bull is addressed to the prelates of Spain.

49 Denifle, Chartularium universitatis parisiensis, p. 93. An identical letter was addressed to the Churches of Palestine six days later (Laurent, no. 98).

50 If the installation at Santa Sabina does not date from 1220, at least it is from 1221. The official grant was made only in June, 1222 (Bullarium O.P., I, 15). But the terms of the bull show that there had been a concession earlier. Before that concession the Pope said that the friars had no hospitium in Rome. At that time St. Sixtus was no longer theirs; Conrad of Metz could not have alluded to St. Sixtus, therefore, when he said in 1221: “the Pope has conferred on them a house in Rome” (Laurent no. 136). It is possible that the Pope was waiting for the completion of the building that he was having done at Santa Sabina, before giving the title to the property, on June 5, 1222, to the new Master of the Order, elected not many days before.

51 Laurent, no. 137. These texts substantiate in the main the account of Humbert of Romans (see infra, note 86), of Sister Cecilia (Mamachi, p. 262) and of Brother Benedict of Montefiascone (Echard, I, 83).

52 Laurent, no. 104. We do not agree with Scheeben (pp. 328-29), that the presence of the cardinals, whom Sister Cecilia speaks of (Mamachi pp. 248-63), is unlikely and should consequently be disregarded. The violent opposition by the sisters’ relatives to the establishment of the new regime, especially their opposition to the cloister, and their invectives against the ribaldus ignotus, so deeply impressed on the contemporary memory, renders only too legitimate Dominic’s desire to be supported by the authority of some cardinals. It was not a commission managing the affair but official representation intended to preside at the ceremonies of the transfer and installation of the sisters. Even the most distinguished cardinals of our day not hesitate to perform such offices. It is very remarkable that Sister Cecilia, in Bologna, more than sixty years after the event, named without any mistake the three cardinals in Rome in 1220 and at the beginning of 1221. See Potthast, nos. 678-79 and Levi, p. 245-48. There are the signatures of Ugolino, Etienne, and Nicholas on an act of May 3, 1221 (Potthast, no. 6576). According to Sister Cecilia, the transfer occurred on February 16, 1220, or February 28, 1221 (Mamachi, P.262).

53 “For in the world there were various unobservant houses of nuns. That they might live more worthily, by the authority of the Pope he assembled these nuns and gave them enclosure at St. Sixtus. On the model of this convent, many others were created in different countries, and there would have been more had the Friars Preachers been disposed to undertake them.” Humbert of Romans, Sermones ad diversos status (1508), sermon. 48. on the influence of their Rule, which in the first part of the thirteenth century, along with the Rule of Cardinal Hugh and the Cistercian constitutions, governed most of the regular houses of women, see Grundmann, pp. 233-37. It is significant that Prouille, whence the Rule first spread, was said in a later charter to follow the Rule of St. Sixtus (Guiraud, Cart., I, 7). The Rule had a great influence in Germany.

54 Mamachi, p. 578. No author of the thirteenth century speaks of these Dominican beginnings of St. Hyacinth. The classic record is based entirely on the unverifiable testimony of Stanislas of Cracow, which in this matter and in many others contains many evident and serious errors. (See Mamachi, p. 578.) Scheeben (p. 332) quite rightly refused to rely on this document. See Altaner, Die Dominikaner missionen des 18. Jahrh. (1924), pp. 196 ff., 203 ff.

55 In the thirteenth century the feast of Pentecost was the constitutional date for the general chapter of the Order of Preachers. The chapter of 1220 inaugurated the tradition, according to Jordan (nos. 75, 86); he left Paris to go to Bologna somewhat more than a month before Pentecost (May 17); that was the length of time spent on the journey. Dominic, it seems, was still at Viterbo on May 6 (Laurent, no. 112).

56 Laurent, no. 75.


St. Dominic and the Order of Preachers

  1. St. Dominic and His Work ~ Part One
  2. Christendom in the Early Thirteenth Century
  3. The Order of Preachers in Formation
  4. Years of Experimental Activity (1215-19)
  5. Constitutional Organization (1220-21)
  6. Character of St. Dominic
  7. Nature of the Order of Preachers
  8. Development and Activity of the Preachers
  9. Academic Organization
  10. The Doctrinal Life and the Thomistic School
  11. Literary Productivity
  12. Apostolic Work
  13. Influence on Ecclesiastical and Civil Society
  14. Foreign Missions
  15. Sanctity and the Mystical Life
  16. Liturgy and Art
  17. The Plight of Preaching in the Twelfth Century
  18. Efforts of the Church to Revive Preaching
  19. The Ordo Praedicatorum
  20. The Academic Crisis at the Beginning of the Thirteenth Century and the Foundation of the Order of Preachers

From the Rule of St. Augustine to the Rule of St. Dominic

PART TWO ~ Section One

The Rule of St. Augustine

  1. Introduction & What is the Rule of St. Augustine?
  2. The Rule of St. Augustine Composed of Two Texts
  3. The Rule Decapitated
PART TWO ~ Section Two

The Augustinian Rule of St. Dominic

  1. Introduction & The Rule of St. Augustine, Teacher of the Apostolic Life
  2. The Legislation of the Preachers
  3. The Project of the Rule
PART TWO ~ Appendixes
  1. An Embassy into the Marches
  2. The Birth of St. Mary of Prouille
  3. The Sancta Praedicatio in Narbonne (1204-8)
  4. Innocent III, Diego, and Dominic in 1206
  5. St. Dominic and the Pope in 1215
  6. Domini Canes by Pierre Mandonnet, O.P.
  7. Bibliography