By Livia Lupi

August 4th is the feast day of St Dominic of Guzmán, who was born in 1170 in a Castilian aristocratic family. He entered the community of monks at the cathedral of Osma in Spain, and in 1203 he accompanied the prior Diego de Acevedo on a diplomatic mission through France. This journey exposed Dominic to the disastrous effects of the Albigensian or Cathar heresy,which envisaged all aspects of material life as evil. Dominic’s endeavors for the eradication of this doctrine led him to the establishment of a new order of preachers, formally approved by Honorius III in 1216. Dominic died in 1221 in Bologna, where his tomb lies in a church dedicated to him. He was canonised in 1234.

After its establishment, the Dominican Order became one of the most prominent monastic orders in the whole of Europe, focusing on theology and preaching while also fostering the talent of figures like the theologian St Thomas Aquinas and the painter Fra Angelico, both Dominican monks. The Order also played a crucial role in the Counter Reformation and in the Inquisition, and to this day it exerts great influence in the field of theology. 

References: Ludovico Ferretti and Antonino Santangelo, “Domenico di Guzmán, San,” Enciclopedia Treccani; “domenicano, ordine,” Enciclopedia Treccani; Sebastian Bullough, “Saint Dominic,” Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Fra Angelico, St Dominic, detail from The Mocking of Christ, c.1440-42, Cell 7, Museo di San Marco, Florence. Fresco.

El Greco, St Dominic Praying, c. 1605, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Oil on canvas.

San Domenico, Bologna, 1228-124.

Nicola Pisano, Ark of St Dominic, begun 1264, San Domenico, Bologna. Marble.

Andrea di Bonaiuto, Triumph of St Thomas Aquinas “Doctor Angelicus,” 1366, Santa Maria Novella, Florence. Fresco.

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