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Order coat of arms of the Dominicans
The coat of arms with the Dominican cross
The coat of arms with the coat

The Catholic order of the Dominicans , also the order of preachers , lat. Ordo (fratrum) Praedicatorum ( order abbreviation OP ), was founded in the early 13th century by St. Dominic . The seat of the General Curia of the Order of Preachers is Santa Sabina in Rome .


Foundation and first years

Monument to the Dominican brother Tomás de Berlanga in Soria, Spain

Dominic was born in 1170 in the Castilian town of Caleruega . He completed school and studies in Palencia . In 1196 he entered the cathedral chapter of Osma in Castile, where he was ordained a priest and in 1201 became subprior of the chapter. While traveling in the wake of his bishop Diego de Acevedo in southern France , he was confronted with the successes of the Cathars there . Due to the ascetic way of life and the rhetorical persuasiveness of its preachers, Catharism was very well received by the population. He was tolerated or even encouraged by the local feudal lords, while the theologically and pastoral little ambitious Catholic clergy mainly tried to secure their benefices and secular privileges. Even those of Pope Innocent III. Cistercians commissioned as legates , who saw the focus of their activities not in proselytizing but in political diplomacy and bringing about repressive measures, had primarily incited the hatred of the population, but were unable to take effective measures against Catharism.

Bishop Diego had initially pursued the project of proselytizing the Turks and asked Pope Innocent III. in Rome for exemption from his episcopate. However, missionary work in southern France was the most pressing concern of the Pope. At the end of 1204, the two returned to southern France via Cîteaux and coordinated their missionary work with the papal legates (including Pierre de Castelnau ). With the support of the new bishop of Toulouse, the Cistercian and former trobador Folquet de Marseille , they founded in Prouille (Occitan: Prolha ) near Fanjeaux in 1206/1207 a convent for converted Cathars, who in the first few years according to the rule of the Cistercians lived. While Diego returned to Osma and died there at the end of 1207, Dominikus stayed in southern France and from Prouille continued to devote himself to his inner calling, through a wandering life on foot instead of stately on horseback, in apostolic poverty and through restless commitment as a preacher to the population again to convert to the Catholic faith. This program, which included begging as a form of livelihood and thus contradicted the still valid ecclesiastical regulations, was given its first official approval on November 17, 1206. When the military crusade against the Cathars, which the Pope had been preparing for a long time, came in 1208 (see: Albigensian Crusade ), Dominic was apparently not significantly involved in the organization and propaganda of the crusade, but was primarily responsible for the survivors to convert spiritually in the militarily subjugated region, his missionary work being promoted, among other things, by the fact that the military leader of the crusade, Simon IV. de Montfort , and the new Catholic lords gave the Prouille convent with gifts and privileges.

In 1215, Dominic and six of his companions were approved by Bishop Fulko of Toulouse in a legally binding form as a community of preachers. From the beginning the order was based on the Augustine Rule , which is why the Dominicans are counted among the Augustinian orders . The community appended to these rules constitutions relating to the performance of the preaching commission. The brothers were charged with fighting heresy and preaching the faith, and were given permission to live as itinerant preachers in religious poverty. The funds required for this were given to them through alms of the diocese; what was not used according to the intended purpose had to be reimbursed at the end of the year. This new institution was approved by a papal letter in the same year and then prescribed to all bishops in 1215 by the 10th canon of the IV Lateran Council , there, however, without establishing the principle of apostolic poverty.

Bull " Religiosam vitam " of December 22nd, 1216

On his return to Toulouse, on the feast of the Assumption of Mary in 1217 (August 15) , Dominic sent his confreres into the world - first to Paris and Spain - to found new convents, following the biblical example of Christ in sending the disciples. At the turn of the year he stayed in Rome again and obtained a papal encyclical on February 11, 1218 , in which the preacher's principle of poverty was affirmed and the ministers of the church were asked to support them. In the same year the first Italian convents were founded, in Bologna and by Dominic himself in Rome. From Rome he went via Toulouse to Spain, northern France (Paris) and again to Italy to personally support the establishment and organization of new conventions. The early foundations in Paris and Bologna proved to be particularly momentous, as they made a significant contribution to the fact that the order could soon assume a leading role in medieval science through chairs at the emerging universities and through the establishment of its own general studies .

In 1220, when there were already almost 60 branches, Dominic held the first general assembly of the order at Pentecost in Bologna. The general chapter supplemented the first version ( prima distinctio ) of the statutes of 1216 with a secunda distinctio and gave the order its basic organizational form, which is still valid today. At the same time, it sealed the development from an order of canons to a mendicant order sui generis by tightening the principle of poverty by excluding personal as well as communal property and fixed income. After recent sermons in northern Italy, where Honorius III. had called for action against the Cathars who had come from southern France , Dominic died on August 6, 1221 in Bologna.

High Middle Ages and Late Middle Ages (13th to 15th centuries)

The statutes and regulations of the order compiled by the second master of the order Jordan of Saxony as Constitutiones were brought into a systematic order by his successor Raimund von Peñafort , one of the greatest canonists of his time, and have since been repeatedly changed or supplemented by the general chapters. Since the early days, however, there has been a certain pragmatism in the application of the regulations, in that in individual cases dispensations were possible and indeed were often granted in order to remove obstacles in the practice of study or the sermon. Since the General Chapter of 1236, violations of the Constitutiones were no longer judged as sin , but as an offense to be redeemed by penance .

The strict principle of poverty was relaxed in the course of the 14th century by the fact that individual members of the order accepted benefits and thereby introduced the vita privata as custom. Due to the great occidental schism , the order was at times torn into three "observances". In 1390, Raimund von Capua, the general master of the Roman- Urbanian observance, initiated a reform movement that was supposed to push back the vita privata and renew the vita apostolica . This led to the establishment of reform conventions, which in turn joined together to form reform congregations and reform provinces. As a binding regulation, the original principle of poverty was abolished de jure when Martin V in 1425 initially allowed individual convents and Sixtus IV in 1475 allowed the entire order to own property and a fixed income.

Like other mendicant orders , the Dominicans developed an anti-Jewish attitude through their missionary zeal in the late Middle Ages. The most common anti-Jewish script of the Middle Ages came from a Dominican, the Spaniard Alfonso de Buenhombre. His bogus letter from Rabbi Samuel , who posed as the work of a converted Jew, dealt with the dispersion of the Jews among the peoples and their causes. The letter, written in Latin in 1339, has been translated into almost all languages ​​of the West and has survived in more than three hundred manuscripts.


“Domini canes” in Marburg

The Dominicans introduced since the beginning of the Inquisition in the early 13th century in the pontifical mandate inquisitors for the detection and prosecution of heretics . Due to the experience that the Order had gathered early on in dealing with heretics, as well as its intellectual orientation, it offered particularly good conditions for this. As early as 1231–33, Pope Gregory IX. In his letter Ille humani generis, which has been issued several times, several Dominican convents were commissioned to prosecute heresies. The Dominicans, who were therefore also referred to with a play on words as domini canes ( dogs of the Lord ) , became particularly active in southern France in the inquisitorial fight against the Cathars . In addition to inquisitors from the ranks of other orders, such as the Franciscans , Dominicans worked as inquisitors throughout the Middle Ages, especially in France, Italy and the Holy Roman Empire . Important Dominican inquisitors were u. a. Bernard Gui († 1331), Walter Kerlinger († 1373), Tomás de Torquemada († 1498), the first Inquisitor General of the Spanish Inquisition , or Jakob van Hoogstraten († 1527). Conversely, members of the Dominican Order also fell victim to the Inquisition, such as Giordano Bruno .

Dominicans also participated in the beginnings of the witch hunt , including Nicolas Jacquier († 1472) or Heinrich Kramer († 1505), the author of the witch hammer .

In 2000, the provincial chapter of the Dominican Province of Teutonia took a critical position on the historical participation of the Dominicans in the Inquisition and witch hunt ( see here ).

Church building

Significant historical Dominican churches , also known as Predigerkirchen, are the French Church in Bern and other examples in Basel , Eisenach , Erfurt , Regensburg , Rottweil and Zurich . Many of them are no longer in the possession of the Dominican Order.

In 1953, the well-known Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier built the church and monastery of the Dominicans Sainte-Marie de la Tourette near Lyon.

20th century

In the 1950s and 1960s, the order experienced "renewed bloom" in German-speaking countries. New convents were founded or re-established: in Braunschweig (1952), in Münster (1961), in Hamburg (1962) and in Bremen (1968).

The Order in the Present

Constitution of the Order

What distinguishes the Order of the Brothers Preachers from its foundation is its democratic constitution. All brothers share responsibility for the realization of the goals of the religious community. There is a say at all levels. All superiors are elected for a time. Important decisions are made by the fraternity or their respective delegates in the conventual, provincial or general chapter . The superior general of the Dominicans is called the master of the order (Magister Ordinis). The current Master of the Order (since July 2019) is Gerard Francisco Timoner .

The smallest building block of the order is a monastery, the so-called convent , which traditionally consists of at least six members. Here the brothers live together in community, hold the choir prayer together and fulfill their tasks in the study, in the sermon inside and outside the convent and partly also in taking on tasks of parish or categorical pastoral care (hospital, prison, counseling services, etc.). The superior of a convent is called a prior and is elected for three years. He is confirmed by the next higher superior, the provincial superior . Smaller branches are called domus (house). The convents and houses are united to form provinces, today a total of 42, each headed by a provincial. He is elected for four years at the provincial chapter that meets every four years and is composed of the elected priors and additionally elected delegates. The provincial is confirmed by the order master , the highest superior of the order. The master of the order, in turn, is elected for nine years by the general chapter , the supreme legislative assembly. Voters here are the elected provincials and delegates elected by the provinces.


The spirituality of the Order is determined by the aim: “to proclaim the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to all the world” (Pope Honorius III ). The sermon flows from the fullness of contemplation, so that Thomas Aquinas was able to formulate: “ contemplari et contemplata aliis tradere ” (“dedicate oneself to contemplation and pass on the fruit of contemplation”). The specific way of life of the Dominicans, for whom community life, solemn common choral prayer and constant study are characteristic, leads to preaching in word and other apostolic activities.


Dominicans, 2012

Today the Dominicans have the following priorities for their actions:

  • The catechesis in non-Christian cultures, intellectual systems, social movements and religious traditions.
  • Justice in the world: critical analysis of the origins, forms and structures of justice in our world and commitment to human liberation.
  • Using social communication tools to preach the word of God.


The Dominican monastery in Mainz (new building in the center of the picture)

Today there are around 6,000 brothers worldwide, as well as 3,000 nuns and over 30,000 active sisters in congregations of the third order (see Dominican Sisters ). The Dominican lay communities of both sexes lead a spiritual life in the spirit of the Dominican tradition, but live in the world, pursue a profession and can also be married.

The province of Teutonia (founded in 1221) includes 9 convents: Cologne ( provincialate ), Düsseldorf, Vechta, Hamburg , Berlin, Braunschweig , Leipzig , Worms, Mainz (study center). The novitiate has been in Worms since 1993, where the Dominicans settled ten years after the order was founded in 1216. There is also a smaller branch (Domus) in the pilgrimage site of Klausen near Trier. Until 2013, the province of Teutonia had a vicariate in Bolivia with 6 branches (Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Cochabamba, Pampagrande, Comarapa, Samaipata, Mairana, Potosi). The Vicariate became independent in 2013 as the Vice Province of Bolivia.

The southern German-Austrian province comprises four convents: one in Baden-Württemberg (Freiburg), two in Bavaria (Augsburg, Munich) and one in Austria (Vienna).

See also: List of Dominican Monasteries .

The coat of arms of the Dominicans

Crux Dominicana , the Dominican cross

Two different motifs can be found as the coat of arms of the Dominican Order, the lily cross and the coat of arms .

The current coat of arms of the Dominicans shows a black and silver cross of lilies in a shield, eight in black and silver . The lily cross has appeared since the 15th century and is therefore older than the black and silver ecclesian coat of arms. It is an emblem originally assigned to the Inquisition and has only been widely used as a symbol for the order of preachers since the 17th century.

The coat of arms (heraldic: coat train ) is a silver tip on a black field - it is interpreted as "over the white robe of joy the black coat of penance as a sign of humility and readiness to repent". It first appeared in a Venetian processionary in 1494 and then became the common symbol for the Dominicans in Europe.

The actually older lily cross replaced the coat of arms only at the turn of the 20th century, at the general chapter in Bologna in 1961 the coat of arms was declared a binding badge of the Dominican Order, which was repealed by the general chapter of 1965 in Bogotá. Since then the use of both coats of arms is optional.

Well-known Dominicans

See also



Overviews and general presentations

  • William A. Hinnebusch OP: Brief history of the Dominican order (= Dominican sources and testimonies , vol. 4). From the American by Christophe Holzer and Winfried Locher OP and Winfried Locher. St. Benno Verlag, Leipzig 2004, ISBN 3-7462-1688-5 .
  • Elias H. Füllenbach (Ed.): More than black and white. 800 years of the Dominican Order . Verlag Friedrich Pustet, Regensburg 2016, ISBN 978-3-7917-2757-8 .

Individual epochs

  • Wolfram Hoyer (Ed.): Jordan von Sachsen. From the beginnings of the order of preachers (= Dominican sources and testimonies , vol. 3). St. Benno Verlag, Leipzig 2002, ISBN 3-7462-1574-9 .
  • Achim Todenhöfer: Apostolic ideal in a social context. On the genesis of the architecture of the European mendicant order in the 13th century. In: Marburger Jahrbuch für Kunstwissenschaft , Vol. 34 (2007), pp. 43–75.

Individual regions

  • Ingo Ulpts: The mendicant orders in Mecklenburg. A contribution to the history of the Franciscans, Poor Clares, Dominicans and Augustinian Hermits in the Middle Ages (= Saxonia Franciscana , Vol. 6). Coelde, Werl 1995, ISBN 3-87163-216-3 .
  • Johannes Schütz: Guardian of Reality. The Dominican Order in Scandinavian Medieval Society , Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2014.
  • Yvonne Arras: The Dominicans of the Neckar-Alb region in the Augsburg Chronicle by Karl Welz OP († 1809) and Emerich Rueff OP († 1814). In: Hohenzollerischer Geschichtsverein (Hrsg.): Journal for Hohenzollerische Landesgeschichte. 51./52. Tape. Sigmaringen 2015/2016. (With an edition of part I of the manuscript 2002/90 diocese archive Augsburg).


  • Ulrich Engel (Ed.): Dominican Spirituality (= Dominican sources and testimonies , Vol. 1). St. Benno Verlag, Leipzig 2000, ISBN 3-7462-1358-4 .
  • Timothy Radcliffe: Community in Dialogue. Encouragement to religious life (= Dominican sources and testimonies , vol. 2). St. Benno Verlag, Leipzig 2001, ISBN 3-7462-1450-5 .
  • Thomas Eggensperger, Ulrich Engel : Dominicans: History and Spirituality . Topos-Tb, Kevelaer 2010, ISBN 978-3-8367-0709-1 .

Saints and blessed

  • Gerfried A. Bramlage OP: The saints and blessed of the Dominican order . Werth, Warburg 1985.

Articles in encyclopedias

Movies and audio files

Web links

Commons : Dominican Order  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Dominicans  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Dominic. In: Robert-Henri Bautier: Lexicon of the Middle Ages. Vol. 4, Munich 2002.
  2. Martin H. Jung : Christians and Jews. The history of their relationships. Darmstadt 2008, pp. 109–110.
  3. See Pierre Mandonnet: Note de symbolique médiévale: Domini canes . In: ders. U. a .: Saint Dominique . Paris 1938, Vol. 2, pp. 69-81; Meinolf Schumacher : Doctors with the tongue. Licking dogs in European literature . Bielefeld 2003.
  4. ^ Elias H. Füllenbach: On the history of the order in the 19th and 20th centuries . In the S. (Ed.): More than black and white. 800 years of the Dominican Order . Verlag Friedrich Pustet, Regensburg 2016, pp. 147–165, quotation p. 164.
  5. Croatia: Dominicans celebrate General Chapter in Trogir , Vatican Radio , August 4, 2013
  6. Helmut Weick: Worked in Worms very early on. In: Wormser Zeitung , September 12, 2016, accessed on September 7, 2019.
  7. Wolfram Hoyer: 75 years of the Dominican Order Province of St. Albert in southern Germany and Austria 1939-2014
  8. Angelus Walz: The coat of arms of the order of preachers. In: Roman quarterly for Christian antiquity and for church history XLVII (1939), pp. 111–147; quoted according to OA: Which coats of arms do the Dominicans use? (blog entry) Orden-online, May 16, 2008, accessed February 27, 2010 .
  9. When performance counted at the sermon. Accessed August 31, 2018 .