In its first century the Order burgeoned in a Europe where feudal life was yielding to the development of great urban centers. Great popes like Innocent III (d. 1216) held three ecumenical councils for Church renewal, attempted to reunite the Eastern Church, and promoted crusades to save France from the Albigensians and Spain and Byzantium from Islam. They also replaced the Hohenstaufen dynasty of Emperor Frederick II with Hapsburgs. But at the century's end this climax of papal power was challenged by the French King Philip the Fair. The richly varied culture of the century was unified by the work of its greatest creation, the medieval university. In university cities throughout Europe Dominican communities contributed significantly to this cultural synthesis.
The life of these communities received its shape from the Rule of St. Augustine applied to the Preachers by the Constitutions written by the first two General Chapters of 1220 and 1221 under Dominic's presidency, completed in 1228, and revised by the great canonist St. Raymond of Pennafort in 1241. The first "Distinction" of these Constitutions, based on those of the Canons of Prémontré with important modifications, dealt with the friars' daily life. The second, marked by St. Dominic's gift for organization, fixed the Order's government, which Sir Ernest Barker says influenced the English constitution and all subsequent democracies.
Supreme legislative and executive power was vested in a General Chapter meeting annually under the presidency of the Master of the Order whom it elected for life. It was composed of delegates elected by Provincial Chapters or in alternate years of Provincials, or of both when a Master was to be elected. Similarly each Province elected a Chapter and Prior Provincial. Each Province was composed of Priories headed by a Conventual Chapter and a Prior directly elected by the professed brethren, which sent its Prior and an elected delegate to the Provincial Chapter. Except the Master, these officers had brief terms.
Although great stress was placed on obedience to the superior, not only was he elected, but his power was limited by the Constitutions and his Chapter, and every priest-friar could speak and vote at least in his Priory Chapter. All friars could also make complaints directly to the Provincial or the Master of the Order when these periodically "visited" each of the convents. Finally there was a system of recall to remove incompetent or negligent superiors.
The first six Masters were remarkable men. Jordan of Saxony (d. 1237) attracted many candidates from the universities. The Spaniard Raymond of Pennafort (resigned 1240) is a major figure in the history of canon law. John of Wildeshausen (the Teutonic, d. 1252), once an imperial diplomat, protected mendicant preaching from the secular clergy, extended the missions to the near East, assumed the burden of the Inquisition, promoted the liturgy and university teaching. Next was Humbert of Romans (resigned 1263) whose writings are so informative for this century. Bl. John of Vercelli (d. 1283), an Italian from Lombardy, in spite of a crippled leg tirelessly visited the Order and guided it by some 22 pastoral letters which indicate that by this time the charity of the Order was growing cold. This decline became a scandal in the time of the Spaniard Munio of Zamora who was deposed by Pope Nicholas IV in 1291 because of his political support of his native country. Étienne de Besançon (1292-94) tried unsuccessfully to check this decline by severity, and Nicholas Boccasini (Bl. Benedict XI) was elected Pope before he could act effectively. Munio's six and Étienne's three encyclicals denounce internal factions, ambition, private life and quarrels with other orders.
From the eight provinces, twenty priories and about 300 friars when Dominic died, the Order grew by 1228 to twelve provinces (Spain, Provence, France, Lombardy, Rome, Hungary, Germany, England, Poland, Scandinavia, Greece and the Holy Land). No new provinces were added before 1300, but some were divided into vicariates. By 1250 there were about 13,000 friars (10,000 priests), but not much growth the rest of the century. The growth of the Second and Third Order will be discussed in Chapter 4. Since the Order was essentially clerical and thus required literacy for all but the lay (cooperator) brothers, it probably recruited principally from the urban middle class. Many of its leaders, however, were university men and not a few of the nobility chose to be mendicant preachers. The Second Order nuns were even more likely to be middle class or nobility because of the requirement of a dowry.
The trend of religious orders today to promote close personal relationships by keeping communities small yielded to other Dominican goals. While Franciscans favored small priories, Dominicans preferred larger ones. Their typical convent had 30 to 50 members and some 100 to 300 in order that the whole pattern of Dominican life be observed, since it required enough to be able to send out preaching bands, while maintaining the contemplative life of study and liturgy at home, along with the necessary tasks of begging and household chores. Moreover, each convent included novices, students, and lay brothers (cooperators).
The writings of Bl. Humbert of Romans provide a vivid picture of thirteenth-century Dominican life. His writings include commentaries on the Constitutions, the Rule, a letter on the vows, and instructions on the offices of the Order. An Instruction of Novices is not his but dates from his time. Into the daily liturgical schedule of the friars were fitted necessary chores, begging, and study. The preachers (always at least by twos) traveled with breviaries and kept up this round of prayer as best they could. Time for moderate recreation, usually after dinner, came to be permitted. Every convent had a church or chapel in severe Gothic style with the choir shielded by a screen, a chapter room for community business and confession of faults, a refectory, and a common dormitory. The dormitory often had study cells on three sides with the library on the other.
Humbert tells us what a Preacher's community should be in his commentary on the very first precept of the Rule of St. Augustine: "Live together in unity and be of one mind and one heart in God, remembering this is the end for which you are gathered." This unity must be in work, word, and heart like that of the early Christians for whom Jesus (John 17) and Paul (Phil 1:3-11) prayed, a unity possible only if the community is one body with one spirit tending to a single goal. Community enables its members to be heard in prayer, to win the good fight, and to grow in every good. Disunity breeds bitterness, waste of energies and spiritual death. Unity is injured by fondness for one's own ideas, by pursuing other than Gospel values, by exclusive friendships, by love of one's own convenience, by stubborn willfulness, by resistance to God's will.
Yet there is also false community based on the world, the flesh, and the devil, which breeds refusal of correction, boldness in evil, and persecution of the good, as among those who conspired to kill Jesus. And there are some who although they do not consort with evil-doers, resist the good and oppose all efforts at reform and even good changes in the Constitutions. Finally, there are those who for the sake of friendship agree with others both in good deeds and bad. True unity is found only in God's will, which preachers to preach peace must themselves follow in peace (xiii-xviiii). This community, however, is not mere external conformity it must be based on the love of true friendship.
Why did this ascetic, dedicated, love-inspired community life begin to decline in the last quarter of the century? Perhaps in striving to meet this ideal the superiors made insufficient use of St. Dominic's moderation and principle of dispensation to make it practical for the weaker brethren, although Humbert's writings indicate a spirit of sober common sense and realism on his part, but this may not everywhere have been the case. From his writings, the encyclical letters of the later Masters, and the enactments of General Chapters, the chief factor seems to have been the decline of common economic life. Many friars found ways around strict poverty by retaining gifts, or obtaining special privileges and dispensations that gave them greater freedom to live their lives beyond community limits.
As soon as Dominic had papal approval of his Order in 1216 he enrolled his friars at the cathedral school of Toulouse under the English master Alexander Stavensby. He then sent some to study theology, but not secular subjects, at Paris and made foundations in other university centers: Bologna (1218), Palencia (1220), and in the year of his death (1221), Montpellier and Oxford. Yet few Dominicans attended universities; a province could send only three to Paris or two to the other houses of study. Most fratres communi studied in their own priories under a house lector (or later, in a provincial house of studies) where everyone, even the prior, had to attend his lectures. Humbert of Romans in his Offices of the Order (c. xi) says of him:The job of a good lector is to adapt himself to his students' abilities and teach them whatever is useful and helpful easily and understandably; to avoid novel opinions and hold to established, solid views; . . . and always to beware of that hair-splitting wordiness which often results from excessive repetition or from complicated language, etc. He should take pains to help his hearers profit from his lectures, either from the truth of the texts or in understanding useful questions, or through improvement of their lives. He should stick to the letter of the text and avoid digressions ....
Nor should a lector permit others to call him "Master" but only "Brother," nor care for his room, make his bed, take off his boots, or carry his books, though he may have a teaching assistant. He should be willing to admit ignorance and to learn from others. Above all he should not be ambitious to teach in a more prestigious school. After Honorius III in 1221 gave the friars faculties to hear confessions everywhere, the fratres communi chiefly studied not dogmatics nor liturgy (in those days learned by doing) but moral cases. To help them, Paul of Hungary, a canonist Bl. Reginald of Orleans had won to the Order in Bologna, wrote a Summary of Penance and Raymond of Pennafort soon outdid Paul with a Summary of Cases (1224, revised 1235) which made him the patron saint of confessors and canonists. Born near Barcelona, he became a Master of Canon Law at Bologna in 1218, and in 1221 when almost fifty a Dominican in Barcelona. Gregory IX called him to Rome as his confessor, put him in charge of the Church's ministry of reconciliation, and set him to write the Decretals, a major canon law collection. Raymond refused an archbishopric, but was elected third Master of the Order in 1238, resigning after two years when he had revised the Order's Constitutions in correct canonical form. The rest of his long life in Spain he struggled with heresy and evangelized Jews and Moors. His Summary of Cases (still in print in 1744), unlike previous manuals, did not just list sins and penances, but systematically analyzed offenses against God (Book I) and neighbor (II), Church penalties (III), and marriage law (IV). He also wrote a handy summary of this great work and other canonical aids. Though the Summary is the work of a lawyer, it distills the heritage of Christian values. For example:Priests should be hospitable, because (1) as St. Jerome says, the houses of the clergy should be common to all; (2) the piety of hospitality is rewarded both temporally and eternally . . .; (3) Abraham and Lot by hospitality entertained angels (Gn 18:1-15). Yet moderation and discretion should be used in how this hospitality is dispensed, since some guests such as preachers and prelates request hospitality as if it were their due.
Equally influential was the Summary of Vices and Virtues (1236-50) of Guillaume Peyraut (c. 1200-1271) who probably studied at Paris but was a preacher not an academic. The Franciscan chronicler Salimbene calls him "a humble but distinguished and courteous man, though of small stature." He also wrote Sermons, On the Benedictine Profession Formula, On the Education of Religious (often attributed to Humbert of Romans), and On the Education of Princes. His Summa (which reflects the Preachers' fight against Albigensianism) treats the seven sins (gluttony, lust, avarice, sloth, envy, vanity, anger) and the seven virtues (faith, hope, charity, temperance, fortitude, justice, prudence) along with the eight beatitudes and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. He compiled this chiefly from Augustine and Bernard and somewhat from John Damascene, but also from such pagans as Seneca, Cicero, and Macrobius. About the same time Hugh of St. Cher composed extensive scripture commentaries, long popular, and a Mirror of the Church (c. 1240); and the English Provincial, Simon of Hinton, a Summary for Young Students (c. 1250), Aag of Denmark, A Handbook (Rotulus Pugillaris, 1254-1284) and, at the end of the century, John of Freiburg whose Summary for Confessors (1298) was the most popular of all. Such works provided solid, integral instruction in Christian living based on patristic texts.
Other Dominicans besides Peyraut took interest in Christian education. Thus the encyclopedist, Vincent of Beauvais, while tutor to St. Louis IX, wrote On the Education of Noble Sons (1261) and Principles of Moral Instruction (1263), only the first part completed; William of Tournai, On the Instruction of Boys (1264); and James of Cessole of Genoa in 1290, a frequently translated text book comparing Christian life to a game of chess. The vernacular guide of Laurence of Orleans, La Somme de Roi for Philip III (before 1285) on the ethics of government, for a medieval took an unusually positive view of the laity's married life.
The first seven friars Dominic sent to Paris were not well received by the secular faculty, but a letter from Honorius III got for them from the Regent Master, John of St. Albans, his house and chapel of St. Jacques from which they were nicknamed "Jacobins." John also supervised their studies, thus incorporating them in the university, the first religious college so received. Jordan of Saxony, then John of St. Giles, occupied a chair in theology, and Roland of Cremona, a Master from Bologna, a Dominican since 1219, seized the opportunity of a strike by the secular faculty over a fracas between students and police, to take office as a Regent Master in 1229 giving the Order a second chair in theology. He wrote a still unpublished Summa Theologica and a Commentary on Job in which he already made extensive use of Aristotle and exhibited wide knowledge of medicine, the natural sciences and witchcraft.
Roland was succeeded in his "French Chair" by Hugh of St. Cher and then by several less notable Masters, while the "Extern Chair" was occupied by Guerric of St. Quentin who got entangled in the first important doctrinal controversy of the Order. The Bishop and the Masters of Paris in 1241 (1244) condemned ten propositions relating to the beatific vision influenced by the Greek Fathers' view that the blessed see not God's essence but only his "energies." The Dominican Chapters of 1243 and 1244 warned against these theories and the controversy served permanently to fix Catholic doctrine on the face-to-face vision of God.
The next occupant of the Extern Chair was the most remarkable German, St. Albert, known soon as "the Great," and then (after one Elias Brunet) Albert's still greater pupil, Thomas Aquinas. St. Albert, born in Lauingen on the Danube in Swabia about 1200, eldest son of a rich noble, studied at Padua, a university always noted for study of the natural sciences, some day to produce Galileo and William Harvey. In 1223 he was drawn to the Order by Jordan of Saxony and was sent for further study in Bologna and then became a lector of theology in Germany in several houses and finally at Cologne. About 1240 he taught at Paris for four years and, skipping the degree in Liberal Arts, became a Regent Master of Theology.
At this very time the Arts Faculty was fascinated with the many new works of Aristotle not known before in the West which were becoming available in translations through Arabic or directly from Greek, along with commentaries by Islamic scholars, chiefly Averroes (Ibn Rushd, d. 1198). Such studies were already begun at Oxford by Grosseteste and were being continued by the Dominican Robert Kilwardby and the Franciscan Roger Bacon. Although in 1210, 1213, and 1231 church officials had discouraged this enthusiasm as a pagan influence on theological students (and with some reason). Albert seized upon these works and in spite of the many administrative and pastoral duties which were laid on him as he founded a Dominican studium in Cologne, became German provincial, and finally Bishop of Ratisbon in 1260, produced a series of commentaries covering a great part of the Aristotelian corpus along with some works intended to fill out gaps in the Greek's scheme of sciences. After his retirement as bishop Albert hoped to write a great Summa Theologiae but was unable to complete it.
Albert's systematic doctrine has still not been satisfactorily studied but he held the traditional view that theology is a scientia ad pietatem, i.e., primarily a practical doctrine directed to the sanctification of the student, consisting primarily in growth in charity.Since the human being is open to God through intellect and affection, no one can be perfect unless he grasps God as He is Wisdom through intellect and as He is Virtue through love (Commentary on Matthew 11:28).
All are called to this perfection by keeping the commandments; religious also by the vows; and pastors in the Church by the duties of their office. The contemplative life is the goal and reward of the active life but is impossible without the active exercise of the virtues, yet action should be informed by contemplation and contemplation should overflow in action (Commentary on Luke, 9:37). "In contemplation truth is drawn out [from the well] which then is poured out in preaching" (Ibid., 4:14). Contemplation reaches its height in the "rapture" of the negative mysticism of the Eastern Fathers, but except in special cases like St. Paul's, this remains faith and not vision in this life. The Holy Spirit's gifts of understanding and wisdom give a certain "vision" and "taste" of God.
Although the numerous works on Mariology attributed to Albert are spurious, throughout his works he manifests a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin and the Eucharist. Above all, Albert inculcates a spirit of dedication to the Truth as the Word of God, which he says alone can give us true freedom.
From Albert two extremely important lines of influence descend. One resulted from his commentaries on the works of the Pseudo-Dionysius and reached to Meister Eckhart in the next century. The Middle Ages believed these pseudonymous writings by some Syrian mystic of the fifth century were by that Athenian Dionysius whom St. Paul converted by his sermon in the Areopagus on the unknown God (Acts 17:34). They transmitted to the Latin West the Neoplatonic theological tradition of Origen and the Cappadocians in a more radical form than St. Augustine's. Bishop Bartholomew of Breganza (Vicenza, d. 1271), a novice of St. Dominic and founder of the Militia of Jesus Christ (a society of aristocratic laity to work for peace), wrote spiritual treatises dependent on this Pseudo-Dionysius: a Treatise on the Deification of the Soul and The Search for Divine Love as introductions to his Commentary on the Song of Songs dedicated to St. Louis IX.
The Aristotelian side of Albert's thought was chosen by his greatest pupil Thomas Aquinas, who used Dionysian works copiously but did not accept their Platonic metaphysics. Thomas was born in 1224/ 5 in Roccasecca Castle near the great Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino between Rome and Naples, son of a knight of Norman ancestory, whose first marriage produced three sons, and his second, five daughters and three sons of which Thomas was youngest. Two of his brothers fought in Emperor Frederick II's army, and the family considered Rinaldo (a troubadour whose songs Dante admired) a martyr because Frederick killed him for siding with the Pope against the Emperor.
As a boy, Thomas was placed with the monks of Monte Cassino as an "oblate." From 1239-1244, however, he studied liberal arts at the University of Naples where he was counseled by a Dominican John of San Giuliano, and in 1244 entered the Order. He then traveled to Bologna with the Master of the Order, John of Wildeshausen, who had been visiting Naples and was going to the General Chapter. On the way Thomas was kidnapped by Rinaldo and another brother. Landulf had recently died and the family took it hard that a son of such promise should join a begging Order rather than enhance the family fortunes as an abbot. Thomas was confned by the family for a year at home and his brothers vainly attempted to have him seduced by a prostitute to change his mind. Thomas, encouraged by his old counselor, John of San Giuliano, refused to remove his habit and spent his time in study. At the end of the year the family gave up and let him go his own way.
From 1245-1248 he made his novitiate in Paris and began study of theology under Albert, with whom he was taken to Cologne when Albert was sent by the Chapter to start a studium there for the German Province; and there in 1250 Thomas was ordained priest. In 1252-1256 he was back in Paris as a Bachelor teaching the Sentences of Peter Lombard and was made a Regent Master from 1256-1259. In 1259 he began his Summa Contra Gentiles to aid preaching to Muslims and Jews. The same year when the friars were attacked by the secular William of St. Amour, Thomas was asked to teach at Naples in his own Roman Province where he continued work on this Summa. From 1261 to 1265 he was lector at Orvieto, then Urban IV's residence, where Thomas composed the Corpus Christi liturgy in 1264 and completed the Contra Gentiles. Urban died that year and Thomas went to Rome as sole professor of a new studium for his province and began the Summa Theologiae. In 1267 he was in Viterbo where Pope Clement IV was resident, but next year was back in Paris for a second regency, 1269-1272, to meet a university crisis.
The Arts Faculty was teaching an Averroist Aristotle, including the eternity of the world and the mortality of the individual soul. This provoked a condemnation by Archbishop Tempier in 1270. Furthermore, the attacks on the friars by William of St. Amour had been revived even more violently by another secular, Master Gerard of Abbeville. Aquinas actively joined the fray but by 1272 returned to Naples to teach and continue the Summa Theologiae. Here on December 6, 1273, his health broke but he attained new spiritual insights. When his faithful companion Reginald of Piperno asked him why he could no longer write, Thomas replied, "After what I have seen, what I have written seems as straw." In 1274 he set out for the Council of Lyons but injured his head in a fall from his horse and died March 7, 1274, in the Cistercian Abbey of Fossanova, southeast of Rome, leaving the Summa incomplete, but disciples finished it with a "Supplement."
Thomas, a quiet man, large in body and mind, was no recluse. Raised in a political family, he taught and preached at the great academic centers of the age, engaged in current controversy, and frequented the courts of kings and popes, who sought his counsel. He served his Order in many ways and was often asked by its superiors for theological and pastoral advice. His inner life was hidden, since in line with his methodology in philosophy and theology his writing is cooly objective. As for his preaching, only dry outlines survive. But his companions testified to his intense devotion to Christ and the Eucharist and his rich mystical experience. He lived the Dominican life fully, intensely centered in thought, dictating to two or three secretaries at the same time, burning himself out at 49.
His theological synthesis, permeated by his basic conviction that theology is a wisdom which guides human life to the contemplation of the mystery of the Triune God, is seen most fully in three works, the Sentences commentary, the Summa Contra Gentiles, and the Summa Theologiae. In the last he aimed to help theological students with a textbook more orderly, concise, clear, and complete than Peter Lombard's; but during the Middle Ages it never managed to replace the Sentences, and was only gradually recognized as of unique value. To these works should be added the incomplete Compendium of Theology (counterpart to St. Bonaventure's completed Breviloqium), written for the fratres cornmuni.
Yet the Summa Theologiae only summarizes much preparatory work not only in the Sentences commentary and Contra Gentiles, but in many shorter works. Aquinas, like most medievals, considered theology to be reflection on the Bible. He wrote commentaries on Job, Psalms I-54, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, the Gospels of Matthew and John, and most of the Epistles of St. Paul, along with the Golden Chain of comments by the Greek and Latin Fathers on the Four Gospels, and two brilliant sermons on the value and scope of the Bible. These commentaries were written at various times and some are only student reportationes.
Many topics in the Summa Theologiae are treated more fully in Aquinas' academic disputations On Truth, On the Power of God, On Evil, etc., and the Quodlibeta (Miscellaneous questions). His commentaries on Boethius' De Trinitate and De hebdomadibus clarify the relation of the human sciences to theology. The commentary on the PseudoDionysian On the Divine Names is important for spiritual theology and that on the Pseudo-Aristotelian De Causis for his criticism of Platonism. Other important treatises fill out this magnificent synthesis.
Aquinas was sensitive to pastoral concerns and wrote replies to many queries from correspondents, Against the Errors of the Greeks (1263) to assist Pope Urban IV prepare for ecumenical discussions at the Council of Lyons, and On the Rule of Princes (incomplete, 1267) at the King of Cyprus' request. Some of his works deal directly with the spiritual life: Against Those Attacking the Worship of God and Religious Life defends the friars against William of St. Amour (1256) and both Against Teaching that Obstructs Vocations to Religious Life (1271) and On the Perfection of the Spiritual Life (1270) against Gerard of Abbeville. Extant also are a brief letter (probably authentic) On Study for a Brother John, and a few sermons (many difficult to authenticate) of which those on the Creed, Our Father, Hail Mary, and Ten Commandments are certainly genuine. Finally, there are the Office of Corpus Christi and a few prayers and poems of uncertain authenticity.
The originality of Aquinas is seen if we compare his work to that of his great Franciscan contemporary St. Bonaventure, their works reflecting the different spirits of their Orders. Bonaventure remained faithful to the philosophical position of Augustine but Aquinas (although like all medievals he was deeply indebted to Augustine) abandoned Platonism and remolded all of theology on Aristotelian lines. He saw, as no Christian theologian before him (and not too many afterwards) had done that Plato's dualistic conception of what it is to be human, is ultimately incompatible with the Christian doctrines of Incarnation and Resurrection.
For Platonists the human person is the soul, and its body only a burden to be laid down. Truth does not come to us through our senses but from an inner light. But for Aquinas the human person is not the soul, but soul and body, because the human soul attains truth by using its bodily senses to explore the material world of change. Only from knowing this world can it extend itself by analogy (not simply by symbol) to truth about the wider spiritual world: its own spirituality and that of God. Even the truths of faith given us by God's grace have to be expressed by analogy with things accessible to sense. "Grace perfects nature," building on it but transforming it. The full implications of this rejection of Platonic dualism for theology are not yet recognized, though Vatican II has pointed the way.
Teaching with Aquinas at Paris was Peter of Tarantaise who was to be the first Dominican Pope, Blessed Innocent V. He had entered the novitiate at sixteen at Lyons where Humbert of Romans had been prior and Guillaume Peyraut and Etienne de Bourbon had lived. He studied in Paris and after some years as a lector became a Regent Master in 1259. The same year he served with Aquinas on the commission which defeated anti-intellectual tendencies in the Order by insisting that theological studies must be grounded in a solid study of the liberal arts and philosophy. In 1264 he was elected Provincial of France but the Chapter sent him to teach in Paris again in 1267, after Aquinas had declared that a series of 108 questionable propositions taken from Peter's Commentary on the Sentences, I, could be understood reasonably. The chief issue was whether such attributes of God as his justice and mercy, are really distinct in our understanding (as Peter maintained) though identical in God.
Peter, elected Provincial again in 1272, was made Bishop of Lyons in 1274 by Pope Gregory X to quiet that troubled city in preparation for an ecumenical council to reunite the Eastern and Western Churches, and then made him cardinal. When Gregory died Peter was elected his successor, taking the name Innocent V, but his pontificate lasted only five months. In this brief time he tried to carry out the Council's work for Church unity and defense against Islam, while working for peace between the King of Sicily, Charles of Anjou and Rudolf of Hapsburg and (more successfully) between Charles and the city of Genoa. But as a Frenchman he too much trusted Charles whose idea of Church reunion was to make himself Emperor over the Byzantines. Some say Charles poisoned the Pope who died suddenly.
Peter's works, still not all published, show that he was more conservatively Augustinian than Aquinas, yet basically Aristotelian in his epistemology and independent in his solution of many problems. His answers in the Sentences commentary, while hardly equal to those of Thomas in profoundity and originality, are remarkable for their clarity and succinctness of expression. For example, he asks whether the gifts of the Holy Spirit differ from the virtues, special gifts, beatitudes, and "fruits" mentioned by St. Paul, but his answer disagrees with that of Aquinas:The virtues are given to act well, gifts to act easily, beatitudes to act perfectly, fruits to act joyfully. Yet these are not given by God or used at the same time (III d. 34, q. 1, a. 4).
Although Paris was the chief center of Dominican study, after the Chapter of 1221 Dominic had sent twelve friars from Bologna to found houses at Canterbury, London, and Oxford. The first Dominican theologian at Oxford, a friend of Grossteste and St. Edmund Abingdon, was Robert Bacon (d. 1248), probably a student at Paris before joining the Order. Not much of his writings, except his biography of St. Edmund, are extant. Apparently he was a conservative Augustinian. His pupil Richard Fishacre (d. 1248) introduced more modern methods based on an increasing use of Aristotle and used Lombard's Sentences as the basic theology text. Next came Simon of Hinton (d. after 1261) whose Summa for Young Students was mentioned earlier.
The most important English Dominican of the century, however, was Robert Kilwardby (d. 1279) who became Archbishop of Canterbury and then cardinal. He had studied at Paris but became a Master at Oxford, and wrote a commentary on the Sentences showing a vast knowledge both of Augustine and Aristotle, as well as useful concordances of the Church Fathers. An able philosopher, he commented on works of Aristotle, Porphyry, Priscian, and Boethius and wrote a very important On the Origin of the Sciences. His letter to Dominican novices on poverty, answering Franciscan criticisms, gives us insight into his Dominican spirit. But today he is best known as a severe critic of Aquinas. His attacks along with the Franciscan William de la Mare's Correctory of Friar Thomas produced a number of replies by the Dominicans Thomas of Sutton (d. 1315), Richard Knapwell (d. 1288), and William of Hothum, Archbishop of Dublin (d. 1298). By defending Thomas they established a firm tradition which preserved his reputation after the condemnation of 1277. Thus this century ended with the Dominicans thoroughly at home in the greatest university centers of Europe: Paris, Oxford, Bologna, and Cologne; with a strong tradition of study, and the great model of Aquinas, soon to be canonized in 1323, freed of any suspicion of heterodoxy.
Since in the Middle Ages liturgical rites varied considerably from town to town, itinerant preachers needed their own rite. The Franciscans chose the Roman rite and invented the portable breviary. The Preachers also adopted the Roman rite but with some variations in the offertory and communion prayers, a preparation of the gifts at the beginning of low Masses and by the seated celebrant at solemn Masses, many special sequences, and a simplified chant. After several tries, they composed their own liturgical books, published by Humbert of Romans in 1256 and papally approved by petition of John of Vercelli in 1267. This "Dominican rite" was in use until Vatican II.
In the 1200s the Order made three special devotional additions to Catholic piety: First, Hugh of St. Cher (inspired by St. Julienne of Liège -- not a Dominican) promoted the Feast of Corpus Christi, officially approved in 1264; and St. Thomas Aquinas, at the request of the Pope, composed (or revised) its liturgical texts. Second, responding to the protests of the Council of Lyons in 1274 against widespread blasphemy, John of Vercelli preached reverence for the Holy Name of Jesus. Third, in the time of Jordan of Saxony, the Salve Regina procession after Night Prayer was instituted to deliver a poor Brother Bernard from the devil. The antiphon was not new, but the procession from the choir (in medieval churches screened from the people) to the Virgin's altar to kneel there at "Turn then, most gracious advocate, thy eyes of mercy toward us," as the leader sprinkled them with holy water. So popular was this custom, many other orders adopted it. The friars (who knew the Psalter by heart) on rising also recited the Little Office of the Virgin (the gradual psalms) in the dormitory, and weekly the Office of the Dead with a procession through the cloister dedicated to them.
Dominic had retained monastic practices which made of the whole life of a friars' convent (only the nuns had "monasteries") into a liturgy. The brethren always wore the habit (it was all they had) and slept in it. They kept silence everywhere but the parlor, especially after Night Prayer. Generally, all slept in a common dormitory which had study cells around the walls, each with a desk and a bench. At meals in the refectory all sat on one side of the tables around three walls to be served from the other, while hearing the Rule or the Church Fathers read. The Hours were always sung in plain chant, with many gestures of bowing, kneeling, prostrating, and processing, as St. Dominic loved to pray.
After the midnight Matins (today's "Office of Readings"), the brethren remained in Church for some time in silent meditation, often before some altar dedicated to a favorite saint. Each morning at a brief community meeting ("Chapter") after Prime, the Martyrology was read and the prior made announcements, corrections, or assigned the day's jobs. At times at a Chapter each friar confessed his faults against the Rule and publicly confronted others with their faults. Humbert of Romans also tells of a circator who made periodic inspections of every room in the house and at Chapter reported if the rule was anywhere broken. Then the prior corrected, punished, and forgave, or required a friar to beg another's forgiveness.
This prayer was supported by a rigorous asceticism. Friars kept the Lenten fast from the Feast of the Cross, September 14, until Easter and, except when sick, were vegetarians. They retired soon after sundown, slept on straw mattresses and rose between midnight and three. Only one change of habit and only scratchy woolen underclothing were permitted, since linen and cotton were for the rich. Each day some had to beg on the streets for food for the community which went hungry if they were unsuccessful.
In his commentaries On the Rule (cc. 46-71), On the Constitutions (cc. 23-b8) and his Offices (Novice Master, cc. 15-20), Humbert thoroughly discusses the friars' prayer and penance, for example:As to meditation the novices are to be instructed to use the opportunities for it when traveling, or in the cloister, or the garden, or walking elsewhere at leisure, or when praying privately in their cells, or when resting in bed but still awake. These meditations should concern sometimes the general or particular gifts of God, or the thanks due Him and the ingratitude of men, or the works of creation and those of redemption such as Christ's Passion, or the rewards of the good and the punishments of the wicked, or about justice already done and mercies granted, or creatures, or the Scriptures, or one's own defects and one's progress, or the devils' deceits and the ministries of angels, or the saints' examples and the perverted's perversities, or one's inner life and external behavior, or about events to be remembered and things to be done, or the omnipotence of God, his wisdom, goodness, severity, mercy, justice and his judgments manifest or hidden. From reflections of this sort are to be drawn various affections: now hope, now fear, sorrow, tears over evils, aspirations to the good, wonder, exclamation, thanksgiving, supplication, shame, reverence, and so forth, all better learned by experience than taught.They are also to be instructed not to be eager to see visions or work miracles, since these avail little to salvation, and sometimes we are fooled by them; but rather they should be eager to do good in which salvation consists. Also, they should be taught not to be sad if they do enjoy the divine consolations they hear others have; but they should know the loving Father for some reason sometimes withholds these. Again, they should learn that if they lack the grace of compunction or devotion they should not think they are not in the state of grace as long as they have good will which is all that God regards.
Humbert praises liturgical prayer, insists also on the need for private prayer, and warns that prayer does not justify shirking assigned work. In keeping with his warning about excessive interest in extraordinary experiences, the friars of this century wrote little about interior life. Three exceptions, however, need notice. The first is Bl. Bartholomew of Breganza (d.c. 1271) already mentioned for his Pseudo- Dionysian treatises and also as a preacher of the great "Alleluia" revival. A second is Peter of Dacia (Sweden, d. 1289) who as a student at Cologne was fascinated by the ecstatic Bl. Christine of Stommeln and wrote in her honor a mystical poem with a prose commentary. To that he added an account of his visits to her and 63 letters exchanged among their friends and them, with also a biography and a separate account of her childhood by her pastor. This material gives not only a vivid (and somewhat odd) picture of Bl. Christine, but also of her Dominican friends, e.g., the report of how a Cologne abbess invited four friars from different countries to meet Christine and to debate in scholastic manner the question, "Which gift of Christ was greater -- his gift of the Church to Peter or of his Mother to John?"
A third, very different type of writer was Robert de Usèz (d. 1296), a French aristocrat who already had a reputation as a prophet when he was received into the Order by a provincial Chapter. He wrote two brief works, The Book of Visions and The Book of the Lord's Words, partly autobiographical but mainly in the prophetic, apocalyptic style. The first foretells the coming of the Antichrist, the Bark of Peter drifting rudderless, a great schism. The second, cloaked in allegory, sides with Celestine V against Boniface VIII who urged that Pope to resign and then jailed him.
To look deeper into the interior life of Dominicans in the 1200s we must turn from the public objectivity of the Preachers to the women of the Order who lived the enclosed contemplative life. Besides what we know of St. Dominic's own foundations of nuns recounted in Chapter 1, we also have the primitive Constitutions of San Sisto Vecchio in Rome and the recollections of Bl. Cecilia Caesarini, a founding member also mentioned in that chapter. These Constitutions, extant in a slight adaptation, were approved for the Penitents of St. Mary Magdalene by Gregory IX in 1232. Essentially the same as the friars', they provided for a stricter cloister, but with a small adjoining community of friars, just as at Prouille in Dominic's time. These friars were the nuns' chaplains and agents for their economic and external business. The nuns, however, elected their own prioress and other officials, yet to be exempt from the bishop's control were visited by the friars' provincial who could remove the prioress when necessary for peace or observance.
Also preserved are the important letters from BI. Jordan of Saxony to BI. Diana d'Andalo, whose story was told in Chapter 1. Jordan was much older than Diana and treats her as his spiritual daughter, but he also puts great trust in her, relying on her understanding and encouragement, especially in his deep grief over the loss of his friend Henry. The tenderness and humanity of these letters reveals that the austerity of Dominican life and the urgency of its mission did not stifle affective life, even if it tempered it.
Not all the brethren, however, shared Dominic's and Jordan's respect for women or their understanding of women's role in an Order of Preachers, although St. Peter of Verona and St. Raymond of Pennafort each left a letter like Jordan's. The Chapter of 1228 actually forbade the brethren to affiliate any further convents of nuns to the Order for fear too many friars might be tied down to chaplaincies and thus taken from preaching. Acceptance of such affiliation also made the friars responsible for the economic needs of the nuns. This ban was tightened by the Chapters of 1234, 1238, and 1242. The nuns succeeded in their appeal to Pope Innocent IV, but John of Wildeshausen in 1252 was finally able to stop this affiliation. It was through the efforts of Cardinal Hugh of St. Cher and the acquiescence of Humbert of Romans that this was gradually reversed until Clement IV in 1267 finally provided a legal process for affiliation.
Humbert occasionally has some hard things to say about women but his model "Sermon to Women" in his Treatise on Preaching gives a number of reasons why women are superior to men: Adam was created outside Paradise; Eve in it. He was made out of mud; she out of his living body. Moreover, she was created not from his feet but from his very heart. Again, God could have taken flesh from a man, but in the Incarnation he took his flesh from a woman. Pilate's wife alone tried to prevent the crucifixion of Christ and in his resurrection Christ first appeared to Mary Magdalen.
By the end of the century there were 141 monasteries of nuns (74 in Germany) directly under the jurisdiction of the Order and many more under bishops but affiliated to the Order by habit, rule, and spiritual direction. This rapid proliferation of communities of women can be partially explained by the condition of medieval women. Because of many wars there was a marked surplus of women over men. Women were expected to marry very early, with little or no formal education, and to husbands chosen by their parents largely for economic and political reasons. The one way to escape from oppressive domestic situations or loneliness and perhaps to obtain a little education and freedom of spirit was through religious life.
Some of the convents were refuges for women of the aristocracy, others were more middle-class. It is not clear that women of the working and peasant classes were often received, since a dowry was necessary to assist in the support of the community. The nuns had to read Latin if they were to be choir-sisters and some nuns achieved learning, but not many. All had to learn crafts for the support of the community, such as weaving, sewing, manuscript copying and illumination.
Since the 1100s there had developed in the Church, especially in northern Europe, a type of consecrated life for women called beguines and for men called beghards (the names probably meant "beggars"). They sometimes lived with their families or as hermits or wanderers, or they formed communities called beguinages. Such communities, however, differed from convents or monasteries because they had no strict cloister and the members did not take vows enforced by church law.
The relation of these individuals and communities to the local bishop was canonically vague, and outside episcopal control they could become eccentric or scandalous in behavior and heretical in the notions they spread among the faithful impressed by their ascetic way of life. Hence the bishops and ultimately the Popes and councils repeatedly attempted to control and even suppress this form of life. From the time of Innocent III the problem was solved by encouraging or forcing these pious people to enter canonical religious orders or affiliate with them. Since the older orders often refused to accept them, they turned to the mendicants. Thus in addition to the nuns who constituted the "Second Order," the First Order of Preachers took under its wing a large number of beguines into its "Third Order," its own form of the much older Order of Penance, as did the Franciscans. These communities of women tended to develop a style much like that of the cloistered nuns but remained distinct either by the fact that they were not exempt from episcopal control or by a less rigorous and restricted style of life. Outstanding examples of these two types of Dominican life for women are the nuns St. Margaret of Hungary and a beguine related to the Order, Mechtilde of Magdeburg.
Margaret (1242-1271) was the daughter of the King of Hungary, Bela IV, dedicated by her parents from birth in petition for the freeing of the country from the Tartars. Her father built a royal monastery, St. Mary of the Isle, for her at Veszprem where she received the habit at the age of four and at 12 made profession to Humbert of Romans at a meeting of the General Chapter at Buda in 1254. Her sister Constance became Queen of Ruthenia and Cunegund, Queen of Poland, and her ambitious father sought to have Margaret dispensed from her vows when she was eighteen so she might marry the King of Bohemia, but Margaret refused three times to marry him or anyone else and obtained the solemn consecration for virgins which made dispensation impossible. She would not become prioress as Diana d'Andolo had done. A vivid picture of her character is furnished in her Acts of Canonization by the nuns who lived with her. She lived in total humility, engaging in the most menial tasks even in winter when her hands bled from the cold. She constantly fasted and refused nice clothes and royal comforts, remarking she preferred the odor of sanctity when dead to smelling sweet only when alive. She spent her days in prayer and caring for the poor war-stricken people, lavishing on them whatever gifts her royal family sent her.
Mechtilde of Magdeburg is still better known to us by her The Flowing Light of the Godhead in verse and prose. From it we learn she was born about 1209 in East Germany, probably of upper-class parents.I, an unworthy sinner, was greeted so powerfully by the Holy Spirit in my twelfth year, when I was alone, that I could no longer have given way to any serious daily sin. The loving greeting came every day and caused me both love and sorrow (IV, 1).
She educated her younger brother Baldwin and secured his entrance to the Dominican Order, where he became a subprior and manuscript copiest. Although her home life was happy, at about 23 she entered a begumage at Magdeburg. When she was 43, she wrote her revelations at the request of her Dominican director, Heinrich of Halle, and when he expressed amazement a woman could write so deeply, she replied that if the Holy Spirit could speak through mere men such as the cowardly apostles, the indecisive Moses, or the boy Daniel, why not through a female sinner? When Heinrich published the work, many were shocked and urged her to burn it, but in prayer God reassured her: "The Truth may no man burn." Worn out by this opposition and perhaps after the death of Heinrich, her health and sight failing, in 1270 Mechtilde at the age of 63 found refuge with the Cistercian nuns at Helfta.
The Helfta community was a real haven since it included St. Mechtilde of Hakeborn (1241-1298) and St. Gertrude the Great (1256-1301) who were to become two of the major mystical writers of the Middle Ages. These learned women, who knew Latin and had Dominican spiritual directors, make copious reference in their writings not only to the Bible but also to Augustine, Bernard, Albert the Great, and Aquinas. No doubt the aged Mechtilde of Magdeburg was an important influence on these younger nuns. During her last years she completed her own revelations which after her death the nuns collected. They were translated from her Low German to High German about 1345 by Henry of Nordlingen, a secular priest closely associated with Dominican mystics of the Rhineland, the only extant version of the whole, although the part written at Magdeburg survives in Latin translation by a Dominican. This incomplete Latin version of Mechtilde's writings was probably known to Dante, who in the Divine Comedy (Purgatorio XXVIII) beautifully pictures her (or a composite figure of both Mechtilde's) as that Matelda who guards the Earthly Paradise, gathering flowers on the river bank in the freshness of the morning light.
Although Mechtilde of Magdeburg remained a beguine, her spirituality is clearly Dominican. She herself exclaims, "Dominic, my dear Father! I have a small share in thee for which I have longed many a day," and she recounts how:On St. Dominic's day I prayed to our Lord for the Order of Preachers. Our Lord deigned to honour my request by coming Himself and bringing St. Dominic whom I love above all saints .... Our Lord said, "I will tell you two things more. When Dominic laughed he laughed with real sweetness of the Holy Spirit and when he wept he wept with such fidelity that he thought first of his brethren and set them before my eyes, this he did also for Holy Church .... Two things I cherish so dearly in the Order of Preachers that they always rejoice my heart. The first is the holiness of their lives; the second their great service to Holy Church. Added to that they greet my Holy Trinity with seven things, sighing, weeping, living desire, earnest self-conquest, sorrow of exile, true humility, joyful love. They also honour my Three Names with seven outward things: praiseful singing, true preaching, real absolution, compassionate comfort, friendly help, holy example, and are also a vigorous body of Christian believers." Our Lord said, moreover, "Their alms which they give to the poor for love of me are so holy that the sins of the poor who receive them are thereby diminished and the devil can never stay where their alms are eaten. That comes from the holiness of their poverty."
Her mysticism is a form of the bridal mysticism (Brautmystik) scripturally based on The Song of Songs. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as the symbol of His love for the Church and for sinners (based on John 13:25 and 19:31-37) was well known in Dominican circles, e.g., by the mystic Jutta de Sangerhausen (d. 1260) who also lived near Helfta and had a Dominican director, Bishop Heidenreich of Kulm. But Mechtilde is the first person in the history of Christian spirituality to mention actual visions of the Sacred Heart. For example:During a grave illness which troubled me, God revealed himself to my soul and showed me his wounded heart, saying, "See what they have done to me!" And my soul answered: "Alas, Lord why have you suffered such an injury? Your pure blood which you sweat so profusely when you prayed [in Gethsemane] would have sufficed to redeem the whole world!" "My Father," he replied, "was not satisfied with that alone. My poverty, labors, sufferings, and mockery were only a knock at the door of heaven until that hour when my Heart's Blood flowed over the earth. Only then were the gates of the Kingdom opened."
Like St. John the Evangelist, Mechtilde is convinced that Love is Light (that is, that God can be truly known only by those who love Him), but that Light is also Love (that is, that enlightened faith is necessary to love God truly) and that this Light and Love are made known to us in the humanity of Jesus Christ. It is this equation that connects her poetry with the Dominican spirituality of the Word.
Although Mechtilde is the only notable Dominican spiritual writer of this century it was a time rich in Dominican women known for their sanctity. Besides those already mentioned, one should note Margaret of Ypres (d. 1237) a penitent (not a nun) who died when only 21; Bl. Zedislava Berka (d. 1252), a Slavic married woman, inspired by St. Hyacinth of Poland who during the Mongol invasions of Eastern Europe established a hostelry for refugees; Heneln of Hungary (d. 1270), novice mistress of St. Margaret and a stigmatic, Ingrid of Sweden (d. 1282) and her sister Christine, wealthy women and friends of Peter of Dacia, who founded a monastery of nuns in Skanningen after a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and several trips to Rome; Bl. Beneventura Bojani (d. 1292), a penitent, and many others.
Preaching the Word
By the end of the 1200s some 557 convents of the Order of Preachers housed some 15,000 members, but not all preached. Many simply lived a monastic life. Most of many extant sermons are in Latin for the clergy not the laity; few of them have been published, translated or analyzed. At first reading, those published seem dry, moralistic, heavy with far-fetched biblical allegories and tiresome catalogues of virtues and vices. But these "sermons" are usually mere outlines to aid the preacher's memory, skeletons lacking the flesh and blood of actual delivery. What held the laity were the exempla or stories which, like the illuminations of medieval manuscripts, vividly illustrated these sermons.
A fair sample of a Latin sermon is that for the feast of the martyred soldiers, St. Maurice and his Companions, to the Dominican students at St. Jacques in Paris on September 22, 1230, by John of St. Giles, with the Master of the Order, Bl. Jordan of Saxony present. John, an Englishman, had studied medicine at Oxford, Paris, and Montpellier, served as physician to King Philip Augustus, taught medicine at Montpellier, and then turned theologian at Paris.
Medieval preachers, unlike the Church Fathers, seldom commented on an entire biblical passage. To be more topical and directly relevant, a preacher usually began with a "text" or "theme," usually a single sentence from the day's liturgy. John announced his text: "Is there any numbering of His troops? Yet over which of them does not His light rise" (Jb 25:3). Then his "pro-theme," a second text to be related to the principal theme and used to catch the listeners' attention, on this occasion: "Keep these words in your heart" (Lk 9:44), therefore, "Keep the words of Scripture in your hearts, not just your notebooks." John warned them not to be like the proud mountains of Gelboa (II Sm 1:21) which shed the rain from their stony flanks but yielded no harvest. Rather pray for God's rain of grace to soften their hard hearts and inspire John to sow the seed of the Word.
Then John applied the first half of the text, "Is there any numbering of his troops," to St. Maurice and his fellow martyrs, subdividing it into four points, each illustrated by copious quotations taken widely from the Scriptures: (1) If kings have many soldiers and honor them, so must God. (2) None of Maurice's companions fled martyrdom, although they were not vowed religious. (3) They even competed to die first. (4) They threw down their arms and fought only with the weapons of faith. Then he applied the second half of his text, "Yet over which of them does his light not rise?" directly to the students, offering them as spiritual arms: (1) The light of grace. (2) The light of reason, not to be abused by reducing theology to philosophy or by deserting their vows for worldly riches. Was not the story of the widow of Naim in the day's Gospel (Lk 7:11-17) an allegory of the Church mourning over her sons, the clergy, dead from avarice? (3) The light of good intentions leading to conversion. (4) The light of faith, which enabled the martyrs to achieve their victory over the devil. John concluded, "While you have the light, believe in the light that you may be sons of light" (John 12:36).
But before he finished, John, struck by the application of the Word to himself, a courtly physician and ambitious academic, suddenly stopped, came down from the pulpit and begged from Master Jordan the habit of the Order, then returned to finish his sermon as a Dominican novice! As a Dominican he taught at Paris, Toulouse and Oxford, noted as a peacemaker, dying c. 1260.
To realize why the elaborate divisions and subdivisions of such sermons and their allegorical exegesis, tedious to us, appealed to the sensibility of that age, compare them with its poetry, architecture, and art. A Gothic cathedral charms not by simplicity or symmetry, but by its hierarchy of forms within forms and the variety and fantasy of its symbolism. It synthesizes the abstract with the concrete and picturesque. Similarly, this sermon style interested by the ingenuity of its symbolism, allegory, and curious stories of events both marvelous and earthy, yet fitted these firmly into rigorously logical outlines to fix doctrinal and moral principles in the hearers' minds, always emphasizing humility and our need for grace. Luther echoed such sermons.
We can appreciate the evangelical spirituality of this age best, not from these extant sermon outlines, but from the great flood of preaching aids these Dominicans produced in the 1200s and which preachers used for many years. At a time when the high cost of hand-copied books made such handy helps popular Dominicans worked in teams to produce them. Foremost were the Bible study aids. Dominican novices had to memorize the Psalms, the Gospel According to St. Matthew, and St. Paul's Epistles, but Dominican sermons all made a wide-ranging use of the whole Bible. Hugh of St. Cher (1200-1263), a student of the first Dominican theologian at Paris, Roland of Cremona, twice Provincial of France and Vicar General of the Order, was the leader in this field. Made Cardinal of Santa Sabina by Innocent IV in 1244, he attended the ecumenical Council of Lyons, reformed the Carmelite rule and liturgy, and was papal legate to Germany, where he first approved the feast of Corpus Christi. Under Alexander IV he sat on the commission that condemned William of St. Amour's attack on the mendicants. In the midst of this busy life, however, his great love was the Bible of which he wrote:St. Paul tells Timothy, "Until I arrive, devote yourself to reading Scripture, to preaching and teaching (1 Tm 4:13) . . . as if you could see in a mirror what you should be like and how to teach others .... This text applies alike to contemplatives who should listen to reading, to preachers who themselves should listen to preaching, and to teachers whose office is to teach but first must learn. Before you are judged, examine yourself, and before you speak, learn" (Si 18:19).
Therefore, besides many other works including a commentary on the Mass, Hugh prepared three fundamental Bible study aids: (1) Probably the first Concordance of the Latin Bible; (2) Postillae or exegetical notes on the entire Bible in its literal and spiritual senses; (3) Correctorium or textual correction of the Latin Bible, much needed because hand-copied Bibles often varied wildly. Although it led to some rivalry with Franciscan scholars, its ultimate fruit was the Gutenberg Bible which was based on the Bible of the University of Paris. The commentaries on much of the Bible by Nicholas of Gorran (1232-1295) of that university also were widely used.
Since the biblical Word of God must always be understood in the light of the living Tradition of the Christian community, the medieval preacher confirmed his reading of the Bible from the Church Fathers, as well as secular auctoritates on the sciences and arts. The most comprehensive attempt to supply preachers with such information was undertaken by Vincent of Beauvais (d. 1264), who anthologized excerpts from a wide variety of authorities on natural science (Mirror of Nature) and biblical and world history (Mirror of History). To these a later author (c. 1325) added the Mirror of Morals. This vast treasury of facts and quotes continued to be copied or printed into the seventeenth century. Thus our modern encyclopedias began as handy treasuries of illustrations for preachers.
Similar motives led the Dominicans of St. Jacques to collect exempla or stories for sermons which were partly published by Etienne de Bourbon (d. 1261) in a vast collection, entitled from its arrangement, On the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Etienne was an Inquisitor known for his efforts to eliminate superstitions such as the cult at the tomb of a saint who was really a dog! The same fund of exempla was used in the more famous Bible of the Poor published by Nicholas of Hanape (d. 1291), Patriarch of Jerusalem who died heroically in the Muslim siege of Acre. These collections of exempla delight historians by the vivid light they cast on medieval culture. To them should be added Nicholas of Biard's the Poorman's Dictionary, and the Alphabet of Stories attributed to Etienne de Besançon (1294).
Since sermons on saints' days had been made popular by the Pseudo-Gregorian Dialogue on the Lives and Miracles of the Italian Fathers (c. 700), all preachers needed a handy book of saints' lives. This was supplied by the Golden (or Lombard) Legend of the Archbishop of Genoa, BI. James of Voragine (Varazze, d. 1298), one of the most popular books of the Middle Ages, later used by Ignatius of Loyola and Teresa of Avila, and the favorite handbook of artists. One of its many sources was the earlier chronicle of Jean de Mailly.
Today even when we have learned to stomach the hyperbolic, oral style of medieval hagiography in these legenda, we are still troubled by a faith so preoccupied with external, physical signs of sanctity, odd miracles and gruesome asceticism, and so little with the quality of that sanctity itself. These narratives, constructed of folk-tale motifs, little resemble our experiences of Christian life. Yet, in my opinion, the 1200s and 1900s differ only in that: (1) They exaggerated the number of miracles, but we minimize them. (2) We judge an event miraculous only if scientifically verified; they feared to doubt such reports lest they be thought impious. (3) We exaggerate the subjective element in our perception of the world because of our pluralistic culture, while they, because of their cultural uniformity, minimized it.
Thomas of Cantimpré (or of Brabant, i.e., Belgium; d. c. 1272) was interested in the saints of his own time. His curious work, The Whole Good from Bees, like the Lives of the Brethren of Gerard de Frachet (cf. Chapter 1), collects traditions about St. Dominic and other early Dominicans. He also wrote biographies of a number of holy women who were not Dominicans and an encyclopedia of natural science similar to Vincent of Beauvais' Mirror of Nature, entitled On the Nature of Things, to provide illustrations from which moral lessons might be drawn, since for medievals nature was no less wonderful than were miracles.
Still another kind of aid for preachers who had to dispute with Jews and Muslims was encouraged by Raymond of Pennafort (c. 1220-1284) who, after he retired as Master of the Order, urged Thomas Aquinas to write the Summa Contra Gentiles to meet unbelievers on their own grounds. Raymond and after him another Master of the Order, Humbert of Romans (1200-1277) founded schools with faculties of eight or nine for the study of Hebrew and Arabic and the theological literature written in them at Barcelona and Tunis. William of Tripoli (d. after 1273) wrote a Treatise on the Condition of the Saracens and on the Pseudoprophet Muhammad based on Arabic sources. It is said he converted many Muslims in Palestine, acted as ambassador of St. Louis IX to the Mongol Kahn, and tried to join Marco Polo's expedition.
Thomas Agni (d. 1277), Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, wrote another work on Islam, and Raymond Martin in 1277 published a great one, The Dagger of the Faith, used for centuries as a fund of information and apologetics. A Belgian, William of Moerbeke (d. 1286), participant in the Council of Lyons and in 1278 Archbishop of Corinth, worked for church reunion and translated many works of Aristotle and other Greek authors with remarkable accuracy, some at the request of St. Thomas Aquinas. While Master of the Order, Humbert of Romans, in his On Preaching the Cross Against the Saracens urged missionaries to read the Qur'an and in his important memoir on church reform at the Council of Lyons he treated relations with the Orthodox and Muslims. These works could not anticipate the ecumenical spirit of Vatican II, yet they sought to share the Gospel with all humanity. Humbert's great Treatise on the Formation of Preachers gives us the clearest view of the motivation of these Dominican preachers; they saw their preaching as a supreme work of love, yet a harder life than the asceticism of the Cistercians.
Humbert argues that preaching even excels celebrating Mass and the sacraments since without the faith that comes from hearing the sacraments cannot be effective. But how can we relate these lofty motives to the fact that the office of preacher was so often joined to that of inquisitor to which many Dominicans were called by the popes? One of these, Bl. William of Arnauld, was martyred in 1242 along with eleven companions including Franciscans and two other Dominicans; and then in 1252 St. Peter Martyr of Verona was was, after St. Dominic, the first of the Order to be canonized. But today we are more likely to sympathize with the heretics than those they martyred. Is it not a bitter, even demonic irony that an Order founded to preach the Gospel of peace should so quickly have become a persecutor!
Yet to view the Inquisition from the perspective of modern ideas of the rights of conscience is anachronistic. Medievals saw heresy as subversion of both church and state. The Inquisition was started to prevent by peaceful means (and by force only if the former failed) the spread of this subversion. Hence the inquisitors were first of all preachers, striving to free those innocently "brain-washed" by heretical tactics and to convert the leaders by theological debate. If they failed they released the "stubborn" heretics to the government for the harsh criminal justice of those times. The Inquisition's own methods of inquiry, which seem to us barbarous, were based on current secular legal procedures and were then thought to be moderate and just, carefully observing "due process" as then understood.
The popes entrusted the Inquisition to Dominicans precisely because they were theologically trained preachers. Theirs was a dangerous task requiring courage and prudence. St. Peter of Verona's life shows he was no fanatic but a man of peace. In 1233 when the Inquisition began, Bl. Guala of Bergamo and Bl. John of Vicenza were successfully preaching "the Great Alleluia," a peace movement to reconcile the Emperor and Pope and end feuding among the cities of Lombardy. Similarly, the zealous preacher of the Spanish Crusades, St. Peter Gonzalez (d. 1246, often confused with St. Elmo, as patron of sailors), urged easy terms for the Muslim enemy after the surrender of Cordoba in 1226. Ultimately, Inquisition and Crusades failed although led by brave, often saintly men driven by evil times to solve by force what can be solved only by prayer, preaching, and martyrdom.
Yet this first century of the Order of Preachers yielded a rich harvest of the sown Word.