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Western Christianity


Doctrines Dominican belief and practice are based upon the statutes of the order's founder Dominic de Guzman (ca. 1171-1221). Like other orders, the Dominicans commit themselves to a life of poverty and chastity. Dominic taught that his followers should adopt a life of total poverty in imitation of the early Christian apostles and place themselves on the same level as the poorest classes of society. Originally their income derived from living as beggars. Today they are supported by charitable contributions and money acquired through work.
The Dominicans are friars rather than monks. Unlike monks, who belongs to a single house or monastery, a friar can be transferred to any house in any part of the world. Dominicans do not isolate themselves from the world but go out into the world in order to spread the Gospel. This is reflected in their mottoes: "To share with others the fruits of our contemplation" and "Preaching and the salvation of people".

History The Dominicans were founded in 1216 by Dominic de Guzman with the purpose of preaching Christian doctrine in the new cities of Europe and to those who had moved away from the church.
In 1233 Pope Gregory IX entrusted the Dominicans with the responsibility of discovering and suppressing heresy. The organ for this was the Inquisition which developed into a vicious instrument for the persecution of heretics, Jews and Muslims.
The rigorous theological training undertaken by the Dominicans enabled them to acquire enormous influence in the new European universities. Within forty years of the founding of the order, its members were established among the universities of Paris, Bolgne, Cologne and Oxford. The most distinguished Dominican scholar, Thomas Aquinas, sought to integrate philosophy and theology through incorporating Aristotle into Christian doctrine. In 1278 the Aristotelian system was officially adopted by the Roman Catholic Church.
The Dominicans have played a major role in the church's missionary work. Dominican preachers were sent out throughout Europe and were among the earliest missionaries in the Spanish and Portuguese colonisation of Latin America. Dominicans continue to be active today, particularly as preachers and educators.

Symbols Dominicans are identified by their distinctive habits. The Dominican habit consists of a white woollen gown with a white belt around the waist. Over this is a white scapular (a long strip of cloth worn over the shoulders). Covering these is a black cloak with a hood. The white part of the habit denotes purity of life; the black denotes mortification and penance. Dominicans are also known as 'Blackfriars' after the black cloak and hood that is worn over the white habits.

Adherents Dominican communities continue to be active today. There are now 7000 Dominican friars, 4500 Dominican nuns, and 40,000 sisters (Harris et al. 1994, 75).

Main Centre
 The Vatican.