Translation of the Article THE FRIARS PREACHERS from the Dictionnaire de Spiritualité:


B. 15th - 20th CENTURIES
1. Reform of the Order and the Protestant Reformation (1400-1600).
2. The 17th and 18th Centuries.
3. The Renaissance of the Order in the 19th Century.


1. The first Dominicans of Germanic origin deserve special mention because of the part they played in the history of Christian spirituality. They belonged to the whole Church. This was true of the first succesor of St. Dominic, blessed Jordan of Saxony (1222-1237; H. Scheeben, Jordan der Sachse, Vechta, 1937), and of John of Wildeshausen, called the Teutonic (1241-1252). See their notices and that of Diana d'Andalo, DS, vol. 3, col. 853-855. Saint Albert the Great (1206/7-1280) was a universal man, knowledgeable in all the sciences of his time. The whole church recognized his teaching. Nevertheless, he exerted a special influence over the Rhineland. He founded the studium of Cologne in 1248 where for six years he presented his commentary on the mystical writings of Denys. On the other hand, if the authenticity of his mariological and eucharistic writings can no longer be seriously maintained (cf. A. Fries, Messerklarung und Kommuniontraktat, keine Werke Alberts..?, in Freiburger Zeitschrift fur Philosophie und Theologie, vol. 2, 1955, pp. 28-67), enough of his mystical texts remain so that he may be included among the great spiritual writers of the 13th century: thus, for instance, his commentary on Denys, his biblical commentaries and his (unpublished) treatise on the Good.

Ulrich Engelbert of Strasbourg (+1277), a disciple of Albert's, used that first mystical contribution in the parts of his Summa de bono dedicated to the life of prayer; his teaching is strongly marked with neoPlatonism. Dietrich of Freiburg (+ after 1310) also followed the same track. A preacher of the mystical life, he was very much appreciated by nuns. Let us also include Heidenricus (+1263), at first Prior of Leipzig, then Provincial of Poland.

But those whom we have mentioned were merely initiators in the history of spirituality. The leading personality was Master Eckhart (1260?-1327/8). It was he who, with his two principal disciples, Tauler and Seuse (or Suso), set a definitive stamp upon the Rhenish Dominican spiritual movement. It cannot be proven that he himself enjoyed elevated mystical experiences; but he appeared at the very heart of a powerful current of mystical life and gave form to it by interpreting it theologically. In doing so, he followed St. Thomas, while inserting into the Thomistic synthesis certain developments on the doctrine of the image and of the return of creatures into God, inspired by neo-Platonism. In these three spiritual masters the Dominican inspiration is always recognizable. For example one can observe the considerable place given to the discovery of truth in Scripture (cf. especially the Latin sermons of Eckhart), the insistence on the transcendence of God, the sense of the Church and of the apostolate (cf. the doctrine of the mystical body in Eckhart). Each of the three left his special mark on this doctrine. Eckhart was oriented toward pure contemplation; Tauler concerned himself more with practical applications (on Tauler and the "friends of God," see A. Walz, Gottesfreunde und Margarete Ebner, in Historisches Jahrbuch, vol. 72, 1953, pp. 253-265); Suso introduced an affective note marked by ardent devotion to the humanity of Christ, while remaining capable of sublime flights (cf. the Little Book of Truth). One might wonder, moreover, in what measure the devotion of Suso to Christ might not be related to that of Ludolph of Saxony (+1377), who first entered the Friars Preachers (1340) before becoming a Carthusian.

3. We should also mention some 14th century Dominicans, more or less influenced by the three leaders: Henry of Erfurt, whose collections of sermons were often used about 1340. John Korngin of Sterngassen, a contemporary of Eckhart and a strict disciple of St. Thomas. In his writings in German he insists on the divine action in the depths of the soul and the impression of the image of the Trinity. Gerard of Sterngassen, brother of the preceding, composed a Medela animae languentium and a Pratum animae where he deals with mystical questions; notably, the role of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the eight beatitudes. He develops the doctrine of St. Thomas on the contemplative life; but thoughout the text the personal tone of the preacher also shows through. Nicholas Strasbourg, friend and defender of Eckhart, much less speculative than the latter, presents in popular style the themes of conversion, the interior life, the love of God and the imitation of Christ. Whoever wishes to lead an interior life, he explained again, should detach himself from natural knowledge to lose himself for the sake of finding God. Giselher of Slatheim, rector at Cologne and Erfurt, was the author of sermons on the Sunday Gospels. Finally, John der Fuoterer of Strasbourg (+ ca. 1330) was known by Suso at the convent of Basle.

4. A complete idea of spiritual life in the Order of Preachers in Germany requires mention of the vast monastic movement among women, manifested by the development of many monasteries in the south-eastern part of that country, and the great spiritual family of the Friends of God (cf. A. Walz, op. cit.). From those communities emerged some great figures of nuns whose writings characterize their spirituality: Bls. Yolanda of Vianden (+1283), Prioress of Marienthal, and Christine of Stommeln (+1312), directed by Peter of Dacia (+1288); especially Margaret Ebner (+1351) at Medingen, Christine Ebner (+1356) and Adelaide Langmann (+1375) at Engelthal. The first two, directed by the secular priest, Henry of Nordlingen, left accounts of their visions. Others are known through the precious chronicles of Medingen, near Dillingen, of Unterlinden at Colmar (Catherine Gebweiler), of Adelhausen near Freiburg im Breisgau (Anna of Munzingen), of Kirchberg in Wurtemberg, of Toss near Winterthur (Elizabeth Stagel (+ca. 1360); DS, vol, 4, col. 588-589), of Oetenbach near Zurich, of Katherienthal near Diessenhofen, of Engelthal near Nuremberg, of Weiler near Esslingen.

The spiritual texts of those Dominican nuns indicate a certain taste for the marvelous, not that they manifest an unbridled imagination, but rather a desire for sensible intimacy with Christ; hence the sentimental character often present in their devotion to the Child Jesus or the suffering Christ. However, this does not in any sense run counter to a seeking after contemplation of the Trinity, despoiled of all human trappings. Neither did their mysticism neglect the Church; the evils overwhelming Christendom reverberated painfully in their lives. Thus Margaret Ebner, for instance, suffered interiorly the struggles between the papacy and the Empire.

The development of that movement of spirituality, following the decree of Clement IV on February 6, 1267, held the Dominicans responsible for the direction of the nuns. The spiritual experience of the sisters offered theologians abundant material for reflection and, in exchange, the latter were inclined to orient the life of the nuns in the safe ways of authentic mysticism.

See the Quellen und Forschungen cited in the initial bibliography, col. 1423. M. Grabmann, Neuaufgefundene lateinische Werke deutscher Mystiker, Munich, 1922. G. Lohr, Die Kolner Dominikanerschule vom 14 bis 16. Jahrhundert, Cologne, 1948. G. Gieraths, Reichtum des Lebens: die deutsche Dominikaner-Mystik des 14. Jahrhunderts, Dusseldorf, 1956.

On Albert the Great, DS, vol. 1, col. 277-283; add to the bibliography: H. Wilms, Albert der Grosse, Munich, 1930, and C. Scheeben, Albertus Magnus, Cologne, 1954; DS, vol. 2, col. 1981 -1983.

On Eckhart, see DS, vol. 1, col. 449-453; vol. 2, col. 93-116; add to the bibliographies:

On Tauler: see DS, vol. 1, col. 452-453; vol. 2, col. 1993-1994; vol. 3, col. 905-906, 1440-1442.

On Suso: see DS, vol. 2, col. 1994-1995; vol. 3, col. 903-905, 1442-1443.

On the Dionysianism of these authors, see DS, vol. 3, col. 343-349 and 358-361;

On the convents of Dominican nuns: DS, vol. 1, col. 325; bibliography, DS, vol. 4, col. 589.

On the Friends of God, see DS, vol. 1, col. 493-500.

Raphael Louis OECHSLIN

B. 15th - 20th CENTURIES

1. Reform of the Order and the Protestant Reformation (1400-1600).

REFORM in the Order is bound up with the name of Blessed Raymond of Capua who resided in Germany and died in 1399 at Nuremberg In his time, Conrad of Prussia had already opened at Colmar in 1389 the first reformed convent of Germany. With him were, among others, Conrad's brother, Thomas of Prussia, Franz von Retz (+ cat 1425), a professor at the University of Vienna, the Provincial, James von Stubach, James Sprenger (+1495), Prior of Cologne (DS, vol. 5, col. 1062-1065), John Krutzer, a Canon of Basle who had become a Dominican, the scholar Servatius Fanckel (+1508) (Queller.., vol. 21, 1926, pp. 1-3), two great spiritual writers of the reform in Germany, John Nider (+1438) (DS, vol. 1, col. 335; Hain, n. 11780-11854) and John Herolt (+1468) (DS, vol. 1, col. 335; Hain, n. 8473-8522), and finally the historiographer of the reform, John Meyer (+1485).

Their ideal was a return to the primitive spirit, their watchword, uniformity of observance. On encountering a woman mystic who was seeking perfection by straining all the powers of her soul, the reform prescribed a more humble ideal founded above all on fidelity to t-he rule. In this spirit, extraordinary penances remained the exception; ecstasies were scarcely mentioned, Ascesis was limited, according to the rule, to the practice of the precepts and evangelical counsels. For the rest, peace of conscience and a joyful hope of heavenly reward seemed sufficient. Beside the spiritual exaltation of the preceding age, one might be tempted to consider this ideal reduced to essentials, this ascesis judiciously regulated by reason illuminated by faith as the sign of a weakening of the spiritual life. Nothing would be further from the truth, for, if observance is not an idle word, if total fidelity is inspired by love, one may call it, within the framework of daily life, true heroism, a true mystical blossoming, human perfection reaching unto sanctity in the light of the splendor of the hereafter. Men who were masters of spirituality knew how to put it into practice generously. For example, the contemporaries of John Nider, according to the testimony of John Meyer (Chronica brevis.., in Quellen.., vol. 29, 1933, pp. 86, 90), declared that they had never seen a man showered with more graces and virtues, or endowed with such precious qualities. Moreover, the Church, placing on the altars B1. James of Ulm (+1491), recognized the high value of that ideal.

The apostolic zeal of the men of the reform and the spiritual trends which inspired them, excelled especially in their ministry to nuns. At Schonensteinbach, Conrad of Prussia opened the first reformed monastery of women, and introduced the observances of convents of men (common life, night office, abstinence, strict silence), but also and above all, as the essential point of the rule, extremely rigorous enclosure. The difference in spirit which distinguished the reformed groups from the preceding period was more clearly evident again among the nuns than among the friars. The biographies of the sisters of Toss, of Adelhausen, of Kirchberg, are remarkable for the expression of the most delicate spiritual concepts: those by John Meyer of the first reformed sisters (Buch der Reformacio.., in Quellen.., vol. 2-3, 1908-1909) are characterized by sobriety and by the evidence they give of well-balanced judgment, and detachment from all self-will. And yet these women, Klaravon Ostérn (+1447), the first at Eifer to be won over to the reform, the courageous Prioress Klaranna von Hohenburg (+1423), Katharina Langmentelin (+1442) always ready for sacrifice, Agnes Vigin (+1461), do not seem inferior to the great nuns of the mystical period either by the sincerity of their detachment or by the ardor of their charity. The reform movement began with a few nuns; it spread from house to house, monasteries adopting enclosure one after another. Finally almost all embraced regular observance. In the service of the sisters, Peter von Gengenbach was especially earnest, although his initiatives were not always well-advised, the prudent John Meyer succeeded in winning over to the reform the three monasteries of Freiburg-im-Breisgau; and later Wendelin Fabri (+ after 1533; DS, vol. 5, col. 24-25). See H. Wilms, Geschichte der deutschen Dominikanerinnen, Dulmen, 1920.


The faithful likewise benefited from the apostolate of the reformed Dominicans. Among the Preachers of this period, John von Munnerstadt, Gaspard Grunwald and the four Fathers Schwartz (on John and Peter "Nigri," cf. Stammler-Langosch, vol. 4, col. 130-134), one finds none of the lofty speculations of an Eckhart, nor the effusions of a Suso, nor the reflexions of a Tauler on the apprehension of God, but only teachings on heaven and hell, sin and penance, and the acquisition of virtue. A little book by James Sprenger on death and the Pilgrimage to Sion by John Meyer reflect this same spirit. Characteristic of the period was the development of devotion to the rosary. One of the first confraternities founded by James Sprenger in Cologne in 1475, headed by the Emperor and the princes of the Empire, quickly increased its membership. Sprenger, Marc von Weida (+ cat 1516) and Bernard of Luxemburg (+1535), well-known preachers of the rosary also left writings on the same subject.



Many Dominicans defended from the pulpit Catholic teachings on the spiritual life: at Cologne, John Host von Romberg (+ ca 1533); at Ulm, Peter Hutz (+1540); at Basle, Ambrose Pelargus (+1561).

Others published scholarly refutations, such as James Hochstraten, John Mensing (+ after 1532; De Ecclesiae Christi sacerdotio, Cologne, (+1532) or Conrad Kollin (+1536) (Epithalamii Lutherani eversio, Cologne, 1627) Some plunged into popular controversy, among them Michael Vehe (+ before 1539) and Peter Sylvius (+ ca 1547) According to a specialist of the epoch, "it can be declared that in the difficult combat the Church was obliged to maintain in Germany in the 16th century, no religious congregation provided as many writers in defense of the faith, or better ones than the Order of St. Dominic (N. Paulus, Die deutschen Dominikaner in Kampfe gegen Luther, Freiburg-im Breisgau, 1903, p. VI)." Whatever could be considered good in the camp of the innovators was promptly adapted to the service of the Catholic cause. John Dietenberger (+1537) presented his translation of the Bible (Mainz, 1533) in opposition to Luther's; John Fabri (+1558) (DS, vol. 5,col. 21-24) composed a catechism and a manual on confession; Michael Vehe, a collection of hymns. These men were not satisfied with defending their spiritual ideal by the spoken and written word, they contributed even more by the witness of their conduct, sometimes that of their blood, as in the case of St. John of Cologne, martyred at Brielle in 1572 as one of the martyrs of Gorcum.

2. The 17th and 18th Centuries.


The battle for truth had gradually exhausted the energies of the German Dominicans. Their existence in the regions now become Protestant was very difficult. Almost all the convents of the Province of Saxony definitively closed. In the Province of Teutonia the elders died off without leaving successors of the same stature. The Order endured years of decadence reminiscent of the evil days of the Great Schism. However, from the second decade of the 17th century, thanks in part to foreign aid, when the Portuguese Peter Baptista was Provincial (1619 to 1624), and the Spaniard Cosmo Morelles (+1636) was Regent of the studium of Cologne, a renewal developed in conscious reaction to a Protestantism which had become more unfeeling and cold.

Although the Order remained faithful to its essential task, it was adapting nevertheless to the conditions of the time by mitigating observance and stressing, as a spiritual ideal the elements of joy and interior peace latent in Catholic dogma and morality. Baroque religious art presented an analogous phenomenon. The Order was now making extensive use of dispensations and personal privileges. It multiplied important tasks and offices in which the majority participated in a spirit of detachment. A taste for music and for polyphonic singing and rich liturgical vestments of the period accentuated the stately beauty of divine services.

To regulate the exercises of the interior life and to ward off a diminution of observance, the Order, in imitation of Ignatian prayer, restored the former orationes secretae previously used after matins and afte compline. Althought from 1505 on, the tendency to systematize spiritual exercixes was growng, not until 1777 were two half-hour meditations imposed daily on all religious. The 17th century introduced the custom of retreats and finally fixed the time at ten days annually. At the monastery of St. Catherine of Augsburg, the ten-day exercises began in 1630.


The contribution of German Dominicans to the strictly spiritual life and trends was seemingly insignificant judging by the writings produced. In these two centuries, scarcely more than two works of this type can be pointed out; Conrad Brockhausen (beginning of the 18th century) wrote his Idea novitii religiosi (coll. Bibliotheca FF. Pradicatorum ascetica antique 1, Rome, 1898 and Henry Preissig his Recollectio spiritus (Bamberg, 1761).

1) The essential contribution was certainly preaching which seemed to be little influenced by the baroque tendencies to exuberance of language. Dedicated to Christian morals, virtues and vices, it was based generally on the Gospels of Sundays and feasts. The manuscript collections of the preachers of the convent of Warburg deserve special mention. The most prominent among them were John Andrew Coppenstein (+ cat 1626). Hyacinth Ferler (+1735), Ulrich Reiss (+I795), etc.. We list here some titles of published works.

2) The spiritual tendencies of the period slipped easily into the framework of the old confraternities, such as those of the rosary. The rosary devotion was predominant and its recitation seems to have been the most widespread form of private prayer. Many works at that time proposed to keep alive the confraternities and Marian devotion in general. The most important of those produced by the German Dominicans is that of Coppenstein (De fraternitatis SS. Rosarii B. Mariae Virginis ortu, progressu, statu atque praecellentia, Cologne, 1613).

In the same genre, Leonard Fossacus, De Rosario et Psalterio Deiparentis Mariae (Freiburg-im-Breisgau, 1640) concluded with a collection of meditations (De sacris XV mysteriis... meditandis, pp. 412505). The anonymous Schatz-Kammer des hl Rosenkranz was published by the convent of Constance (1661). The latter contains, without pagination, twelve meditations for the first Sundays of the month (Schlussel zu der geistlichen Schatz-Kammer).

Confraternities of the rosary were probably more or less regularly stimulated by short writings such as those Prognostica vitae aeternae seu verisimilia praedestinationis signa offered as a New Year's gift to the confraternity of scholars of Cologne in 1644. Knowledge of this literature would probably reveal interesting glimpses of the spiritual life of the confraternities of that period.

In direct opposition to Protestantism, in Austria a daily Office was celebrated before the Blessed Sacrament exposed, which was very successful (cf. also J.A. Coppenstein, Passionis D.N. Jusu Christi quadripartitae praedicatio quadrihoraria, Mainz, 1615, followed by the De ortu gloriosae fraternitatis ter SS. Sacramenti Eucharistiae, 95 p.). Among the most popular devotions sponsored by the Dominicans was the fifteen Tuesdays of St. Dominic.

In other areas of religious literature, hagiography, apologetics, etc. the German Dominicans also have their place.


In spite of its apparent spiritual poverty, and of ceertain concessions to the spirit of the itmes, some German Dominicans manifested eminent fidelity to the ideal of their Order. One was the novice Fidelis Kircher; Raymond Cunrath who transferred to the Congregation della Sanita (Naples): another, Apollinaris Nittermayer, a preacher and spiritual director much in demand at Eichstatt. In almost all monastéries of women, the 18th century produced authentic spiritual personalities, indeed even mystics: at Katherinenthal the Prioress Josepha von Rottenberg; at Worishofen Cecilia Mayer; at Altenhohenau Columba Weigl (+1783) and Paula Grassle (+1793); at Bamberg the lay sister Columba Schonath (+1787); at Hadamar Magdalena Lorger; at Weesen Josepha Kumy (+1817). Not only were those convents not in decadence, but they continued to be, in the midst of misery and persecution, nurseries of saints, guarantors of renewal (cf. Wilms. op. cit , pp. 226-330).

3. The Renaissance of the Order in the 19th Century.

At the end of the 18th century, Josephism was exerting a disastrous influence. The convents of Austria, united since 1702 to those of Hungary in the same Province, endured the interference of the government of Joseph II which was fatal to religious life. In Germany, secularization was pushed so far that, shortly after 1800, all convents were ruined, and only a few were able barely to support a miserable existence for a short time. The last vicar general, Vincent Mayer, for a long time pastor of Egling, died in 1844 at Medingen.

1. Vincent Jandel, upon his accession as head of the Order, began an energetic effort in 1852 toward the REESTABLISHMENT OF THE ORDER in Germany. The fact that after 1855 the convents of Austria were no longer hampered in their relations with Rome helped a great deal. Soon two Alsatian Fathers came to Niederrhein; in 1860 the collaboration of the former Prior of Vienna, Dominic Lentz, and of the descendant of the Counts of Stolburg, Ceslaus de Robinano, made possible the erection of the convent of Dusseldorf. Other foundations followed, so that today there are twenty Dominican houses including those in Austria, in German-speaking countries: a modest figure, it is true, compared to the hundred and twenty convents at the end of the 13th century.

Restoration awakened a renewal of the spiritual life. Jandel,resumed the program of Raymond of Capua: uniformity of observance, common life, night office and abstinence. However, not only were men less physically strong, but the needs of the apostolate had become heavier. The former ideal had to be modified. The principle of observance remained, but with the necessary adaptations for a modern ministry. Zeal for souls, so strongly stated in the Constitutions of the Order, must come first.

To respond to the increasing needs of the ministry, the Preachers resumed an apostolic work already undertaken in the 18th century, preaching retreats to women religious and the laity. The Order accepted the administration of parishes in various places, with the accompanying work and schools. In 1913 a mission was opened in China at Fokien. All this apostolic activity corresponded to the authentic ideal of the Order.

2. This spirit influenced the life of DOMINICAN NUNS as well. Several Austrian monasteries and four convents in Germany, after years of a silent cloistered life, in the light of repeated requests, undertook more external activities and engaged in teaching. Worishofen, Augsburg, Spire, and Ratisbonne turned in that direction, and thus experienced an unexpected development. They paid the price, it must be added, of certain compromises, sometimes going even so far as to adopt the rule of the Third Order. Augsburg founded various establishments in the vicinity, and, under the direction of Mauritia Tiefenbock (+1900), sent the first colony of religious missionary women to South Africa. Providence blessed their efforts. They are working there today, divided into several congregations. At Arenburg, with the help of the sisters of Schwyz, the Congregation of St. Catherine of Siena for the care of the sick was founded. The sisters of Neusatzeck undertook the same ministry at Baden. In Austria, in addition to the former monasteries, two new congregations, in Wien-Hacking and in Salzburg were established. Even in second Order convents, the characteristic of present-day spirituality has been evident: zeal for souls. Ratisbonne and the new foundation of Aquinata Lauter (+1883) at Wettenhausen unite teaching with the following of the ancient observances. The old, purely monastic convents of Switzerland, Weesen and Schwyz, as well as the foundations of Klara Moes (+1895) in Limpertsberg and Clausen are dedicated to the work of reparation. Everywhere concern for the salvation of souls is foremost (cf. Wilms, op. cit., pp. 331-411).

3. Apostolic expansion of the Dominican spiritual ideal the importance given to the THIRD-ORDER SECULAR. A number of its members were prominent figures in the Catholic renewal of the 19th century: Arnold Janssen (+1909), founded the Missionary Society of the Divine Word at Steyl. With his first companions he became a member of the Third Order, and attached his whole apostolate to it. The Bishop of Trier, Matthias Eberhard (+1876) (DS, vol. 4, col. 30) joined the Third Order so as to better imitate the spirit of Lacordaire. Prince Charles of Lowenstein, who died at the convent of Cologne as Father Raymond (1921), labored for a long time as a tertiary in the service of the Church and charity.

4. SPIRITUAL PERSONALITIES. The pioneers of this new ideal were great preachers among whom can be mentioned: Peter Meilinger, Hyacinth Schonberger, Norbert Geggerle, Raymond Lentz, Albert Kern, Henry Pflugbeil, Mannes Rings (+1924), Bonaventure Krotz (+1914) and his crusade for the conquest of the world for Christ. Among the writers who dealt with spiritual subjects should be mentioned particularly Henry Suso Denifle (+1905), who restored to honor the writings of the Dominican mystics of the Middle Ages (DS, vol. 3, col. 238-241), and Albert Weiss (+1925) (LTR, vol. 12, 1938, col. 706-797) who never ceased, in his many works, to return to the spiritual ideal which is Christ the Savior of the world. Albert Weiss himself lived what he taught to others, just as Ceslaus de Robiano and Titus Horten died in the odor of sanctity,

In the Quellen und Forschungen zur Geschichte des Dominikanerordens in Deutschland (Leipzig, 1907 95), see especially: vol. 2 - 3, Johannes Meyer, Buch der Reformatio Predigerordens (ed. B.M. Reichert): vol. 19, G. Lohr, Die Teutonia im 15. Jahrhundert; vol. 23, A. Walz, Statistisches uber die Suddeutsche Ordensprovinz.

Good bibliographical notices can be found in W. Stammler - K. Langosch, 5 vols., Berlin-Leipzig, 1933-1955.

Hieronymus WILMS

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