Order of Saint Dominic
The Order of Saint Dominic belongs to the group of mendicant orders, consisting of professed brothers, lay brothers and novices.
It was founded in Toulouse, France, in the year of 1216, by Saint Dominic de Guzman, a Castilian priest born in Caleruega on June 24, 1170, who found his vocation at an early age.
He died on August 6, 1221, in Bologna, and was canonised in 1234, in Rome, by Pope Gregory XX.
The structure of the Dominican Order, as established by Saint Dominic, remained essentially unaltered over the first couple of centuries.
From a jurisdictional point of view, the Order was guided by the following principles:
1 – common rights for all religious subjects;
2 – the edicts of the Holy See, in the case of preachers;
3 – the rule of Saint Augustine as commonly adopted by canon law;
4 – the constitutions of the order as defined during the general chapters;
5 – the edicts of general chapters or the Master-General;
6 – its own recognised practises
The Dominicans were not monks but friars. This means they were not so isolated and played a more active role in the secular community (such as through charity work, helping the poor, preaching and evangelism). The order’s vocation was, in essence, the ‘saving of souls’ through preaching and the proclamation of the gospel, in an effort to combat heresy. For this reason, it is also called the Order of Preachers. Its survival depended on the donations and generosity of others, since it had renounced all worldly goods, owing to its vow of poverty.
Its members lived in communities whose day-to-day was defined by celebrating the liturgy, following the canonical hours and the resolute dedication to study, while living a life of chastity and obedience.
The Dominican Order is based on the truth, or in other words, the study, reflection and preaching of truth, as revealed by Jesus Christ and the Church (according to the scholastic method). It should come as no surprise that many members of the order became famous theologians, writers, preachers and even inquisitors. Its teaching, contemplation and intellectual debate gave birth to some of the great thinkers and contributed immeasurably to the history of Europe and the world.
To be a prior was not the same thing as being an abbot, or a kind of “pater”, but rather it required you to be administrator or servant of the house and its friars. To be in service to your fellow man, but invested with an authority of sacred origin.
The prior was also zealous in his dedication to the divine faith within the house and knew every single member of his community.
This order was widely accepted within Portugal, and although the Portuguese province was lost to the closure of the Religious Orders in 1834, it was officially restored on March 11, 1962.
One of the most prestigious Dominican communities in Portugal was founded in 1388 – The Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitória, better known as the Monastery of Batalha.
We know that the majority of priors from Batalha were academics, as was the case with Friar Lourenço Lampreia, first prior of the monastery with a doctorate in Theology.
Moreover, most of the friars were extremely learned which made the choice of a prior, of the highest standard, very important. These were a group that had authority over the remaining members of the house, whether through their teachings or monastic duties, or the proximity some members enjoyed with the aristocracy, namely as confessors, which later contributed to the founding of an university of theology at the convent of Batalha, with lecturers such as Friar Bartolomeu dos Mártires.