One is surprised not to find a sketch of John the Teuton, as he is ordinarily palled, in Father Touron's First Disciples of Saint Dominic. Still the noted French writer gives an outline of the life of this distinguished German in his Illustrious Men of the Order of Saint Dominic (Hommes Illustres de 1'Ordre de Saint Dominique, 1, 95 ff), where he says expressly that John received the habit from the hands of the holy patriarch. The future Friar Preacher was born in the family castle at Wildesbausen, Westphalia, about 1180. His early education was received in the home land. Then, like many wealthy youths of his country, he attended the universities of Paris and Bologna. Endowed by nature with a splendid mind and a spirit of industry, he amassed a vast store of useful knowledge; for all the primitive chronicles assure us that he was a man of rare parts and accomplishments. Indeed, his history shows that he was brilliant in every way.(1)

Evidently John's parents trained and drilled him well in the Christian life from his tenderest years. Through fidelity to these early lessons, together with correspondence with divine grace, he retained the innocence of his youth, in spite of the temptations thrown in his way during the course of his long student days. While his superior mentality won the admiration of all, his ever correct deportment and kindly nature brought him their friendship. The early chroniclers do not tell us for what position in life he prepared himself by his studies. Yet it seems certain that he had entered the ecclesiastical state at the time of the incident which we have now to relate.

Just as the talented Teuton was finishing his course at Bologna, Frederic II, who was crowned emperor of Germany a few years later, stopped in that city on his way north from Italy. The date of this visit has been given as 1212, when the young monarch was not more than sixteen years old. The prince was highly gifted, had been carefully brought up, and had not yet fallen a victim to the vaulting ambition and other vices which marred his mature life. Despite the disparity in their ages, Frederic and John at once became fast friends. In fact, the subject of this sketch accompanied the youthful potentate to Germany, where he was associated with the court. There, as had been the case at the universities of Paris and Bologna, he won the friendship of all by his broad knowledge, gracious ways, and kindly nature.

In this position John might have expected almost any preferment. But, in his humility, he had no love for honors, whether ecclesiastical or civic. Besides, his pure soul recoiled from the worldliness (and not infrequent wickedness) of courtly life. For these reasons, he set aside his brilliant prospects, and returned to Bologna. Some have said that he went back to the university to resume his studies and obtain the doctorate in canon law. Yet his age and actual profound knowledge render such a supposition quite unlikely. The opinion of those who think he was a papal penitentiary in Bologna seems more probable.(2)

Whatever the cause that took the zealous man back to Italy, it was the way of providence to make his true vocation known to him. Like many of the university students and professors in Bologna, he soon became enamored of Saint Dominic and his way of laboring for the salvation of souls. This was late in 1219, or early in 1220. Although some forty years of age, the pious German did not hesitate to enter the new Order. Dominic gave him the habit, and received his vows -- perhaps at the same time, which was not unusual in the first days of the institute. The earliest chronicles tell us that John was quite advanced in age when he entered the Order; that he was even then a very holy man, as well as a profound scbolar versed in many sciences; that he was an eloquent orator; that he preached with equal fluency and effect in German, French, Italian, and Latin. History shows him to have been one of the greatest and most extraordinary men whom Dominic won to his standard in Italy's renowned university city.(3)

No sooner had John made his profession than the patriarch seems to have sent him out as a general missionary. Touron says he preached with marvellous success in Italy, France, Germany, and Austria. Theoderic of Apolda tells us that the Diocese of Constance was one of the first to which he devoted his zeal. Yet he was soon stationed at Strasburg. Here he was when Honorius III called him to Italy, appointed him a papal penitentiary, and associated him with Conrad of Urach, a Cistercian cardinal and bishop of Porto, to preach the crusade in Germany in favor of the Holy Land. This was in 1224. Later, Gregory IX sent our Friar Preacher into the same country on the same mission with Otho di Monferrato, cardinal deacon and papal legate.(4)

Through his zeal, counsel, and deportment the eminent son of Wildeshausen won the admiration, no less than the friendship, of both these representatives of the Holy See. While they busied themselves with those in authority in behalf of the project of their mission, he preached to the faithful at large. With Otho he travelled extensively through other northern countries, and perhaps accompanied him to England. Everywhere John, in his sermons, used all the force of his eloquence and personal magnetism to induce the Christians to make peace among themselves and to unite their forces against the common enemy -- the Saracens who threatened Europe as well as the Holy Land. Vice, virtue, and Catholic doctrine and life were other topics on which he preached wherever he happened to be. Always did his sermons make a profound impression.

It would seem that the apostolic man, whose name was now a household word throughout Europe, had scarcely fulfilled his papal commissions in the Germanic countries, which included a re-establishment of church discipline there, when he was sent to Hungary as provincial. Possibly Paul of Hungary, the province's founder, requested his appointment to that post, for they had been friends in Bologna. Various dates, extending from 1227 to 1231, have been given for John's assumption of this office. Perhaps it was after the appointment of Father Theoderic as bishop among the Cumans (1227 or 1228) ; but it would likely be impossible now to discover the precise time. While engaged in the works we have described, the subject of our sketch remained stationed at the Alsacian capital, which has led some to call him John of Strasburg. Others give him the name of John of Germany.(5)

Although somewhat different in character, John's labors as provincial of Hungary were not less conspicuous for zeal, tireless energy, holiness of life, and good accomplished than had been his efforts in other places. However, he did not fill the office many years. The Greek schism and INIanicheanism had made tremendous inroads into Bosnia, then a part of the Hungarian domination. The bishop of Bosna (the present Diacovar), whose name we did not discover, had to be deposed because infected with heresy. Then, with authority given to him by the Holy See, the Cistercian cardinal and legate to Hungary, James di Pecorara, appointed the provincial of the Friars Preacher to the vacant see. This was late in 1233, or early in 1234. He accepted the honor only under obedience.(6)

In this high position the life of John the Teuton was as simple and edifying as those of Saints Augustine, John Chrysostom, Ambrose, and other bishops of the early Church, whose characters have come down to us through history. He is said to have taken them for his models. He increased rather than relaxed his labors. Back and forth he traversed his extensive diocese afoot, leading, or driving ahead of him, a little ass which carried his books and vestments. He was at once bishop and missionary. His preaching was incessant; his charity exhaustless. On himself he spent next to nothing, for he regarded the revenues of his diocese as the patrimony of the poor; and there were many such within the territory of his jurisdiction. There was no trouble that he would not undergo in order to turn sinners from their ways of evil. He never tired of doing good to others. In his works of mercy, whether spiritual or corporal, he obtained valuable assistance from Prince Coloman, the duke of Slavonia.

Thus it is no wonder that our Friar-Preacher prelate was loved and esteemed not merely in every part of his own diocese, but throughout Hungary as well. Meek, humble, mortified, and peace-loving though he was, he knew no fear when duty or obedience obliged him to act. We have an apt illustration of this side of his character in a difficulty between Gregory IX and Andrew II, which resulted in an excommunication of the Hungarian king. Robert, the archbishop of Gran, declined to preach the sentence, as ordered by the Pope; but John the Teuton braved the wrath of his two immediate superiors, and obeyed without hesitation. At the same time, he began a quiet intermediation which soon brought the trouble to an end. Neither the king nor the metropolitan took offense at his sermons, for they knew that he was honestly guided by his conscience.

Blinded by his humility we might almost say, only the man of God himself failed to realize the immense good he was affecting in the cause of religion. Besides, like a true religious, from the time he accepted the miter in obedience to authority, he felt an irresistible impulse to return to the lowlier life of a harvester of souls among the Friars Preacher. Again and again he begged Gregory IX to permit him to give up his bishopric and resume his former humble station. Finally, late in 1237, the Holy Father accepted his resignation. Perhaps John himself was the only one who rejoiced over the outcome of his repeated request. Saints often seem to have peculiar views of their own lives and deeds.

Freed from his undesired honors and responsibilities, the holy man returned to his former confrères with a glad heart. In his spirit of poverty, he had even forsworn all claim to the pension for support which canon law allowed him from the diocese he relinquished. Without reserve or hesitation, he took his place in the ranks of his brethren. In observance, in obedience, in zeal for the salvation of souls-in all things good, he was the same model that he bad been before his elevation to the episcopacy. Never was he beard to refer to his quondam dignity, save in the one instance which we have now to mention.

Despite his age and long years of hard labor, our former prelate was still strong and active physically, as well as virile and alert mentally. None showed more readiness than he for any kind of work. Indeed, he was never happier than when employed in labor that redounded to the welfare of religion, or the salvation of souls. Yet he shrank from authority. However, his brethren felt that the Order should not be deprived of

the advantages of his rare leadership. For this reason, the general chapter of Bologna (at Pentecost, 1238) appointed him provincial of Lombardy. In his surprise and dismay, John, as a final resort, claimed that his episcopal character excused him from accepting the office. But the fathers had anticipated this reluctance, and obtained a brief from Gregory IX which commanded obedience to their wills. To the gratification. of all, when he read the papal document, the holy man bowed to their wishes without further protest.(7)

As the reader may surmise from previous sketches, particularly that of Father John di Scledo (commonly called John of Vicenza), the provincialship in Lombardy was an exceedingly difficult position for any one at that time. For the subject of our narrative it was specially hard and delicate. On the one hand, the fathers of the province were tooth and nail opposed to Frederic II. In fact, their country was in the league formed against the German monarch in northern Italy, for he aimed at nothing short of the subjugation of the entire peninsula to his sway; and, in consequence, his hand was always raised against the Holy See as the greatest power that stood between him and the object of his ambition. On the other hand, John the Teuton was a subject of Frederic, no less than bound to him by bonds of an earlier friendship which had not been broken. War, together with the cruelties and excesses of warfare, reigned on every side.

Only a man of the most irreproachable integrity, together with the most consummate diplomacy, could have governed the Province of Lombary under such conditions without off ense to one or other of the opposing parties. John succeeded admirably. Ever unruffled and forbearing himself, he counselled his subjects to be patient, kind, charitable, and to refrain from all public criticism; but, under no circumstances, to acquiesce in whatever was opposed to the Holy See or the good of religion. Rome showed itself more than pleased with the fathers' spirit of ready obedience, as well as with their fearless defense of the Church. Frederic could not complain of their conduct.

The provincial himself never suffered his citizenship, or his friendly feeling towards the emperor, to stand in the way of his duty, which he always did in a manner that gave no offense. More than once he met Frederic personally; and on these occasions he did not hesitate to reproach him for his vices, ambition, and guidance by evil advisers. But he was studious to do this in private. Before the public he was quiet. Nor was the German potentate slow to appreciate this thoughtful consideration. He retained his former regard for John, and not infrequently expressed the esteem in which he held the great Friar Preacher, of whose untarnished virtue he had the clearest proofs.

Saint Raymond of Peñafort resigned the master-generalship of the Order in 1240. Thus it fell to the fathers assembled in general chapter at Paris, May 19, 1241, to elect a successor to him. John the Teuton attended the assembly as provincial of Lombardy. His government, because eminently successful in every way, even under the most adverse circumstances, had attracted widespread attention. This, no doubt, had its part in making him at once the unanimous choice for the place. He seems to have been the only one surprised at the result of the votes. So great was his reluctance to the position that it required all the eloquence and persuasion of Hugh of Saint Cher, who spoke in the name of the electors, to induce him to accept it. The sequel proved that they would have sought in vain for one more capable of filling the office.

Whilst Frederic II appears to have esteemed the Friars Preacher, he dreaded the fearless spirit with which they defended the Church and obeyed the orders of its supreme head. It was to the chapter that elected John of Wildesbausen that the emperor directed the letter on this subject, from which we quoted in the sketch of Father John di Scledo. What the reply was, or whether it was even answered, we do not know. Possibly, when he learned that his old-time friend had been chosen Master General, the potentate expected no reply.

Through a great part of his superiorship of more than eleven years, because of the repeated wrangles between Frederic and the Holy See, John was obliged to use the greatest care and prudence that he might steer clear of papal disfavor for his Order on the one hand, and civic persecution in many parts on the other. The question came up in the general chapters of 1246, 1247, and 1248. In all of them the resolution was: "We must ever obey the orders of the Pope. Yet we must refrain from criticism of the civil authority, and avoid expressing our personal opinions on the thorny questions, either among ourselves or with others." Largely through the wise guidance of their leader, the efforts of the fathers for the preservation of harmony were as successful as had been those of the Province of Lombardy while he was provincial there. Certainly it was a splendid exhibition of candid diplomacy, in which his well-known zeal for the good of souls, the welfare of religion, and the glory of God stood him in excellent stead.

It looks almost like a miracle that the General managed to retain the friendship and esteem of Frederic until the end. In the tactful hands of our humble Friar Preacher, the haughty monarch, who dreaded neither Sovereign Pontiff nor papal excommunication, became really humble. Thomas of Cantimpré tells us that John was practically the only person in whom Frederic had complete confidence. The holy man also managed to remain in the best graces of the Holy See. As Blessed Humbert of Romans expresses it, he was well known and highly esteemed at the Roman court as well as at that of Emperor Frederic.(8)

Although he was more than three score years of age at the time of his election, the new General set about his work with the energy of a much younger man. Before him that office had been filled by three saints, Dominic of Caleruega, Jordan of Saxony, and Raymond of Peflafort; and he followed the example which they left him. We shall not attempt to give an account of the various general chapters over which he presided, for this would require much space, as well as perhaps prove tedious to the reader. Suffice it to say that he never failed to convoke one each twelvemonth. At each of these assemblies he begged to be relieved of his post of honor; but the humble petition was always instantly rejected.

Saint Dominic barely had time to initiate a course of studies for his Order. Blessed Jordan placed it on a, solid footing. Saint Raymond developed it further. John the Teuton carried it to the apogee of its perfection. All four were scholars of high standing, who appreciated the importance of such work. It was considered in practically every chapter held under John. His sane ideas on the subject may be seen from the fact that he ever insisted on the solidity of the doctrine taught the young men. He forbade novelties and vain, useless subtleties. Those who were to be employed in preaching, or on the foreign missions (among schismatics, heretics, and pagans), he would have give themselves specially to the study of polemical philosophy and theology, that they might the better propound and defend the faith. He ordered that his confrères should ,study and write only serious, useful books. At the chapter of Paris in 1243, he prohibited the theologians of the Order, under the severest penaltles, from holding, defending, or teaching any of the ten rash opinions which had lately been condemned by the university. There was nothing lie insisted on more strongly than sane, sound doctrine.(9)

To no one perhaps is greater credit due for the Dominican liturgy than to John of Wildeshausen. This subject was also considered in several chapters under his generalship. Another point on which he dwelt both in these assemblages and in his letters was charitynot only among themselves, but also towards all others. Charity, he felt, was the soul of the religious life. None could have been more solicitous for regular discipline and observance of the rule. Zeal for the true faith and the salvation of souls he inculcated in season and out of season. In his earnestness about one of the chief works of the Order (preaching), wherever he happened to be, he wanted to hear the sermons of the fathers, that he might see with his own eyes if they were true to their vocation.

Prior to John's term of office, the general chapters were held alternately at Bologna and Paris. Under him they began to be convoked in other places. The first change was the assemblage of Cologne in 1245. In this connection, we may mention the fact that it was at this time that the man of God took Saint Thomas of Aquin, then a novice, with him from Rome to the German city, where he placed him under the training of Albert the Great. The chapters of Paris (1246), Montpellier (1247), Paris (1248), and Treves (1249) canne next in order. Then followed the assembly of London (1250) mentioned in the sketch of Clement of Scotland. During this year John seems to have visited the houses in Ireland and Scotland as well as those in England, for he never spared himself in this sort of work.

The holy man was not less on the road than had been Jordan of Saxony. Like Jordan too, he ever travelled afoot, making his way from house to house, and from province to province, carrying his staff in one hand, and his Bible in the other. Indeed, the early writers state that he extended his peregrinations farther tilan any General before him.(10) A true son of Saint Dominic, he preached wherever and whenever he had an opportunity. The renown of his eloquence and holiness always brought him a large audience.

Dominic, Jordan, and Raymond were everywhere beloved by the hierarchy, by the clergy of every rank, and by the people in every walk of life. John was similarly blessed. He drew vocations from all quarters. Under his guidance, the provinces grew; the houses increased; the numbers multiplied. His predecessors had shown great interest in the foreign missions among pagans, heretics, and schismatics. His was not less. Under continued impulse from him they were magnified in every way -- even reached the zenith of their glory and extent. For them he drew confrères from all parts of the Order. Whilst the history of these wandering harvesters of souls will never be adequately known on earth, it is certainly recorded in letters of gold in the book of eternal life.

Another thing that added to the prestige of the Order was the number of its members renowned for their sanctity, their learning, or their labors in every field of religious and apostolic activity. The Holy See employed many of them in the most arduous and responsible positions. The love of Innocent IV, who reigned at this period, for John and his confr6res, no less than his trust in them, may be seen from papal documents. Not a few bishops, with due authorization, became Friars Preacher, either that they might end their days in such holy company, or broaden their sphere of usefulness. It is no exaggeration when Father Mortier says: "John the Teuton, as another Elias, guided the chariot of Saint Dominic in the midst of the most dazzling splendor, and to heights that have not been surpassed since."(11)

Like Jordan of Saxony, John of Wildesbausen was strongly adverse to seeing members of his Order raised to posts of honor. Indeed, this sentiment prevailed throughout the institute. When John assumed the reins of authority, there were some thirty former Friars Preacher already wearing the miter, in spite of Jordan's protests. Time and again John also made known his objections to the Holy See, for he felt that such promotions, apart from depriving his religious institute of the services of able men, were dangerous to discipline and to the spirit of humility which should constitute one of its chief adornments. Once he said to Innocent IV: "Saint Dominic did not found an Order of Bishops, but an Order of Preachers. Peter did not give him keys, but a staff ; and Paul a book, instead of the pallium. It helps us little, if our confr&res are made bishops. We want them to become saints, preachers, doctors, apostles, martyrs -- yes! Prelates -- no!"(12)

This formal, strong complaint was not without its justification. Innocent always consoled the holy man in his grief; yet he continued to miter Friars Preacher, whenever he believed that the broader good of the Church demanded it. In this way, during the eleven and a half years of his own generalship, John the Teuton saw thirty-five of his confrères made bishops, nine metropolitans, one a patriarch, and one a cardinal. It was enough to alarm any man of God. Doubtless it was a great consolation for him to know that by far the greater number of them had accepted their honors only under obedience.

Our zealous General presided over his twelfth and last chapter in Bologna. This was at the Pentecost of 1252.

Then, in obedience to an order from Innocent IV, he joined his confrère, Cardinal Hugh of Saint Cher, who had been sent as papal legate to Germany, where both Church and State were in turmoil in consequence of the death of Emperor Frederic II. John reached Colmar on August 10, 1252. This place had been the theater of some of his ardent sermons in years gone by. Since then it had been enriched by a large and zealous community of his brethren, together with the historic Unterlinden convent of Dominican Sisters. Pursuant to his custom, he began to preach with his whole heart and soul. He miscalculated his strength, for he suddenly became very ill. Unable longer to labor, he went to his old home, Strasburg. There he surrendered his soul to God in the night of November 4-5, 1252, invoking the Blessed Virgin, and surrounded by his sorrowing brethren.

In the death of John of Wildeshausen the entire Order mourned the loss of a true and deeply beloved father. Documents of the day leave no doubt about this. Humbert of Romans writes: "This holy man lived a most innocent life, and was blessed with the purest of morals. While he ever assiduously practised and fostered what was good, with equal zeal he opposed and combatted what was evil. Long and patiently did he bear many and great labors in the Order. He died in the odor of sanctity in the year of our Lord 1252 -- at Strasburg, where he had spent years and accomplished much good. He was buried with every honor in the church of his brethren there."(13) In view of the brevity of that time, and the little written about the early fathers, this short encomium is equal to a volume in our day.

If, as Mortier remarks, the fourth Master General could have gathered around him at the hour of his death the great phalanx of holy, eminent, and learned men over whom he ruled, he could scarcely have failed to leave this world with no little joy and honest spiritual pride in his heart. Over seventy of them, of whom fiftytwo were martyrs, have been accorded the honors of the altar. Verily, "the Order attained to great heights in his day" (In diebus ejus Ordo multum sublimatus est).(14)

Throughout his religious institute and wherever he labored John was regarded as a saint. A number of marvels were attributed to him. After his death a cult towards him developed. He was buried in the first church of the fathers, which stood outside the walls of Strasburg. At the general chapter held there in 1260, now that the Order's new temple of prayer had been completed within the city, his relies were translated thither. Walter von Geroldseck, bishop of Strasburg, presided at the ceremony, and the city turned out for the occasion.

Evidently Bela IV, king of Hungary, and his wife, Queen Mary, heard that this translation of the venerable Friar Preacher's relies was to take place at the time of the chapter. Out of gratitude for favors received through intercession to him, they both wrote letters to the assembled fathers, attesting these and other similar extraordinary occurrences with which they were acquainted, as well as the great veneration in which John was held throughout their country. Humbert of Romans, his successor as Master General, had the two royal documents incorporated in the Lives of the Brethren (Vitae Fratrum), that they might be preserved for posterity.(15)

The cult towards the man of God followed his remains to their new place of rest. Thither the faithful flocked for more than two and a half centuries to pray at his tomb. Shortly after the outbreak of Martin Luther, the followers of the rebel and incontinent priest from Eisleben became so strong in Strasburg that they gained the aseendency, seized the church and priory of Saint Bartholomew, which belonged to the Friars Preacher, and converted them to their own use. However, this profanation did not, and could not, efface the memory of Christ's holy ambassador, or destroy the veneration for him.

Devotion towards our early German missionary still exists wherever he labored, but especially in the Order over which lie presided with so much brilliancy and success. In the cathedral of his diocese, at Diacovar, is a painting which symbolizes the old-time struggles of the faithful in behalf of their religion. The Church is impersonated by a Friar Preacher, who may well be none other than the subject of this paper. Around him are grouped numbers of brave Bosnians. Documentary proof of this ages-long veneration for John of Wildeshausen abounds. Many pray for the day when the Holy See will give it an official approval.


1. ALBERTI, fol. 36-37; Année Dominicaine, XI (November), 91 ff; BZOVIUS (Bzowski), XIII, col. 572, 615; CANTIMPRE, Thomas of, De Apibus, Book II, Chap. 57, sec. 55 ff; CASTILLO, pp. 231-237; FRACHET, de, passim (Reichert ed.); HUMBERT of Romans, Chronicon; MALVENDA, pp. 308-309, 440, 633; MAMACHI, pp. 600-601, 644; MARCHESE, VI, 25-28; MORTIER, I, 287 ff; RAYNALDI, op. cit., 1238, No. 53; PIO, col. 172-173; QUETIF-ECHARD, I, 111-113.

2. Touron thinks that John went back to Bologna to study again. But this seems to be erroneous. (Ed. note).

3. All the writers agree on these points. (Ed. note)

4. Mortier thinks that Otho was from Tournai; but Eubel's Hierarchia Catholica (I, 6) shows this to be an error. (Ed. note).

5. See sketch of Paul of Hungary. There is a considerable divergency of opinion as to the date when John became provincial of Hungary. Mortier thinks it could not have been before 1231. (Ed. note).

6. See Eubel's Hierarchia Catholica, I, 6, 142, and Gams' Series Episcoporum, p. 368.

7. HUMBERT of Romans, Chronicon -- in QUETIF-ECHARD, I, 111, and in MAMACHI, col. 305.

8. For the facts given since note 7 see also Acta Capitulorum Generalium (Reichert ed.); CANTIMPRE, as in note 1, and HUMBERT of Romans, as in the preceding note.

9. These ten condemned propositions are given on page 107 of volume I of Touron's Hommes Illustres de I'Ordre de Saint Dominique. Censorious Matthew Paris says they were taught by a number of Dominicans and Franciscans. Mortier partly agrees with him. However, neither the authority of the one nor the argument of the other brings any conviction. Touron criticises Paris sharply. (Ed. note).

10. See note 7.

11. Bullarium Ordinis Praedicatorum, 1, 117 ff ; MORTIER, I, 300.

12. MORTIER, I, 390-391.

13. See note 7.

14. MORTIER, I, 388, 409.

15. Reichert ed., pp. 310 ff.