Spanish theologian and founder of the Roman Catholic religious order of
Friars Preachers, or Dominicans. He was born Domingo de Guzman about 1170
in Caleruega, Castile. At the age of 17 Dominic entered the University
of Palencia, where he studied theology and philosophy. Known for his generosity,
he is said to have sold all of his possessions to help the poor during
a famine in 1191. About 1196 he became canon of the Cathedral of Osma,
in Castile, and was soon actively engaged in local ecclesiastical reforms.
He accompanied his superior, Didacus of Acebes, bishop of Osma (d. 1207),
on a religious mission to Rome in 1203; on his way back to Spain he was
overwhelmed by the clerical abuses and the prevalence of the Albigensian
heresy (a dualist doctrine that rejected creation as evil, affirming two
eternal principles of good and evil) that he observed in the Languedoc
region of southern France. He observed that the Albigenses were able to
spread their teachings because they were well educated and well organized.
He set up the opposition along similar lines, determined that his preachers
would be even better educated and organized. Dominic and a few companions
were given a house and church at Prouille, near Toulouse, where they began
their life of penance, study, and preaching. In 1206 a convent for women
was formed, and in 1216 the Order of Friars Preachers was granted ecclesiastical
approval. Dominic's preachers traveled throughout Europe, instructing not
only the common people, but civic and religious leaders as well.
Dominic insisted on the importance of education. His friars studied theology
at the University of Paris and canon law at the University of Bologna.
They were also involved in academic pursuits in Toulouse, Madrid, and Rome.
In the four years after the order was recognized, Dominic established the
following priories: six in Lombardy, four in France, three in Tuscany and
Rome, four in Provence, and two in Spain. Dominican preachers went to England,
Scandinavia, Hungary, and Germany.
Dominic died in Bologna on Aug. 6, 1221, during a personal missionary campaign
in northern Italy. He was canonized in 1234. His feast day is August 8.