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


1. Poland
2. Bohemia
3. Greece

The history of Dominican spirituality in Hungary, Poland and Lithuania, Bohemia, Greece and the eastern Mediterranean still remains obscure. The Order served those countries from its beginnings and undertook notable missionary activities, especially on the Balkan boundaries of Hungary and the eastern frontiers of Poland. The early days of these provinces gave the Church St. Hyacinth (+1257) (cf. B. Altaner, Die Dominikanermissionen des 13. Jahrhunderts, Habelechwerdt, 1924, pp. 196214; R. J. Loenertz, La vie de saint Hyacinthe du lecteur Stanislas.., AFP vol. 27, 1957, pp. 5-38) and St. Margaret of Hungary (+1270) (BHL, #. 5330-5333). The internal history of the provinces, whose frontiers receded or advanced with political events, was marked like the other provinces by the reform of Raymond of Capua, which was felt there somewhat later and less permanently than elsewhere. The renewal at the beginning of the 17th century made scarcely any impression except perhaps in Poland, judging by the editions of spiritual books. The mid-19th century renewal influenced the provinces of eastern and central Europe later than those in western Europe.

We mention here only a few spiritual authors, since there are not many of them in the present state of research. The Hungarian Province has probably not published a single spiritual work.

1. Poland.

Heidenricus (+1263), Prior of the convent of Leipzig, Provincal of Poland, then Bishop of Chelmno (Kulm), belonged to the Rhineland Dominican school, judging by his treatise De amore sanctae Trinitatis (Th. Kaeppeli, Heidenricus, Bischof von Kulm.., AFP, vol. 30, 1960, pp. 196-205). Two cycles of sermons remain from that first period of the Order; that of Martin Surebski, called Martinus Polonus (+1278) (Sermones de tempore et de sanctis, Strasburg, 1480; Hain, # 10834), who spent most of his active years in attendance on the Popes, and that of Peregrine d'Oppeln, a celebrated Provincial of Poland who died in the first quarter of the 14th century (Sermones de tempore et de sanctis; Hain, # 12580 95.; AFP, vol. 19, 1949, pp. 266-270).

Beginning in the 15th century convents rounded out their territorial possessions and often, in the following century, organized great estates. Ownership of large rural properties and political intrigues were quite characteristic of Dominican history in Poland.

In the 17th century, these preachers may be mentioned: Bartholomew of Przemysl and Hyacinth Suscius (beginning of the century) whose works were published in Polish. Abraham Bzovius (+1637), continuator of the Annales of Baronius, author of collections of sermons and works on the rosary which were published in Italian (Venice), in Latin (Cologne) and in Polish (Quétif-Echard, vol. 2, pp. 488-492). Justin Mieckow (+ ca. 1640), Discursus praedicabiles super litanies lauretanas B.Virginis Mariae.., 2 vols. in folio, Paris, 1642. Fabian Bierkovius of Lemberg (+1647), Orationes ecclesiasticae, Krakow, 1622; two volumes of Polish sermons.

In the 19th century, James Zebedee Falkowski (1778-1836) produced works of devotion and published many volumes of sermons; see DS, vol. 5, col. 43-44. When V. Jandel made visitation of the existing convents in 1856, he remarked that the situation was not very encouraging. Dominican life in Poland today is flourishing; the Province numbered 226 religious in 1960.

R.J. Leonertz, Les origines de l'ancienne historiographic dominicaine en Pologne, AFP, vol. 8, 1938, pp. 124-162; vol. 19, 1949, pp. 49-94.

2. In Bohemia.

The Province of Bohemia was founded in 1301. From the earliest period mention should be made of Rolda of Coldicz (+1327), rector at the convent of Prague and author of two mystical treatises (1312 and 1314): De strenuo milite, a parable inspired by St. Luke (19:12); and Planctus Mariae, and De mansionibus caelestibus. Both are dedicated to Princess Cunegunde, then Abbess of the Poor Clares of Prague. Kolda probably received his formation in Cologne and certainly had some contact with Master Eckhart, vicar general of Bohemia in 1307. These treatises were published by A. Scherzer (Der Prager Lektor Fr. Kolda und seine mystichen Traktate, AFP, vol. 18, 1948, pp. 337-396).

Vl. J. Koudelka (Zur Geschichte der Bohmischen Dominikaner-provinz im Mittelalter, III Bischofe und Schriftsteller, AFP, vol. 27, 1957, pp. 53-81) notes the following spiritual authors: a certain Domaslaus (beginning of the 14th century), author of religious hymns; an anonymous writer of the mid-14th century composed a life of Jesus freely influenced by the Meditationes vitae Christi, then attributed to St. Bonaventure, and adapted in Czech the Golden Legend of James of Voragine; libraries also preserve manuscript sermons by Martin de Bruna (3 sermons from 1346, 1355 and 1356; Prague), by John, called the Carmelite, (sermons in favor of reform, 1398-1401; Bamburg), Paul de Bruna (a sermon on the Last Supper, Prague); Peter of Unicov and Henry of Buda have left sermons on questions raised by John Huss; Nicholas of Wrmnith (sermons in mss from 1428; Vatican); ed.George of Prossnitz (sermons in mss from the beginning of the 16th century; Prague).

After Nicholas Biceps who died in 1390, too soon to have been able to inaugurate the reform, Henry of Bitterfeld (+1404?) played the preponderant role in the Province, as a result of his friendship with the Archbishop of Prague, John of Jenstejn (+1400), his teaching at the studium of the cathedral (at least, from 1393 until his death), and his writings and various connections.

His treatise De formatione et reformatione ordinis praedicatorum (beginning of 1389; ms in the possession of the Dominicans of Vienna, codex 44 (266), fol. 123a-157a; etc.) clearly reflects the spirituality of the reform and demonstrates the influence probably exerted by Bitterfeld on Raymond of Capua and his decree of reform of Dec. 1, 1390. The first part develops the requirements of the vows. With regard to poverty, Bitterfeld emphasizes the distressing consequences of the excessive wealth of communities and of a too individualistic life. In the latter part, he advocates especially as a means of reform that each convent strive for the life of observance, which would then spread throughout the Order. He proposes to begin with Bologna, and then to take on a reformed convent in each province. Bitterreld obviously did not fall into the excess of many observants who wished to minimize studies and reject humanist culture.

As a matter of fact, one novel proposal of the reform was not realized: it was probably Bitterfeld who presented the project of founding an isolated convent in the forest near Raudnitz where, in strict observance, the brothers would devote themselves to contemplation and study and from which they would go forth only to preach. Archbishop Jenstejn offered a piece of land. But a conflict with the King obliged Bitterfeld to abandon the idea.

In the matter of uniform observance, Bitterfeld was influenced by the trend of the Devotio moderna, whose center in Bohemia was the abbey of the canons regular of Raudnitz. Jenstejn himself was on very good terms with the abbey.

Another base of operations of the reform was a small group of preachers from the secular clergy: Konrad Waldhauser, Milic of Kremsier and Matthias of Janov, who, supported by several university professors, stimulated the piety of the laity as well as the clergy. A series of works of devotion appeared: meditations on the life and passion of Christ and various translations of ascetical and mystical writings. Among these, Henry of Bitterfeld composed his De vita contemplative et active, dedicated to Queen Hedwig of Poland (between 1391 and 1399; ms Munich, col. 28449).

That popular movement of piety, not always orthodox perhaps, was marked, among other things, by a great eucharistic devotion. A controversy arose, provoked by demands in favor of frequent communion for the laity. The Dominicans entered the fray. Bitterfeld, whose doctrine was unimpeachable, managed to keep minds precisely to the point by his teaching and his two works, De institutione sacramenti Eucharistiae (1389/90; ms) and Determinatio de crebra communione (1391; ms). The latter, which justifies frequent communion for the laity, avoids speculative questions and develops what is capable of stimulating fervor (note the frequent use of the term fervor). Besides St. Thomas, he often makes use of St. Bonaventure. Here we have a very important spiritual trend which exerted such great influence that episopal decisions were profoundly modified by it. Whereas the diocesan synod of 1388 permitted only monthly communion to the laity, that of October 13, 1391, authorized daily communion. Thanks to Henry of Bitterfeld, this decision anticipated the Roman decree of 1905 by several centuries.

See Vl. J Koudelka, Heinrich von Bitterfeld, AFP, vol. 23, 1953, pp. 5-65.

3. In Greece.

The history of the Dominicans at the eastern end of the Mediterranean is more a question of theology and communication between Rome and the Orientals than of spirituality. Besides the convent of Constantinople (destroyed in 1261, later reestablished), their most permanent establishments were those on the islands of Cypress, Rhodes and Crete. The members of these communities were often Italians and provided many bishops for the local dioceses. The reform of Raymond of Capua did not take root in the Province and religious life does not seem to have flourished to any great extent.

However, mention should be made of some theologians: Philip Incontri of Pera (14th century) (AFP, vol. 18, 1948, pp. 265-280; vol. 23, 1953, pp. 163-183); the three brothers Maximus, Theodore and Andrew Chrysoberges, deceased before 1430 (AFP, vol. 9, 1939, pp. 5-61-, 338; Catholicisme, vol. 2, 1949, col. 1114-1115); etc.

Manuel Calecas, who entered the Order shortly before his death (1410), "is a good representative of the pro-Latin and latinizing circle in Byzantium, a historical circle of great importance because, as a result of their contacts with Italian humanism, its members prepared the way for the passage into the West of the Greek Christian and classical heritage (R.J. Loenertz, in Catholicisme, vol. 2, 1949, col. 378; Quetif-Echard, vol. 1, pp. 718-720; AFP, vol. 17, 1947, pp. 195-207)."

Walz, pp. 219-224, 236-242, 410-411, 416-421, 519-520.

Raphael-Louis OECHSLIN

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