Saint Dominic Biography

Saint Dominic was a Castilian priest who founded the Dominican Order. Check out this biography to know more about his childhood, family life and achievements.

Quick Facts

Birthday: August 8, 1170

Nationality: Spanish

Famous: Spiritual & Religious Leaders Spanish Men

Died At Age: 50

Sun Sign: Leo

Also Known As: Dominic of Osma and Dominic of Caleruega, often called Dominic de Guzmán and Domingo Félix de Guzmán

Born Country: Spain

Born in: Caleruega, Spain

Famous as: Priest

Family:

father: Felix Nunez de Guzman

mother: Joan of Aza

Died on: August 6, 1221

place of death: Bologna

Founder/Co-Founder: Dominican Order

More Facts

education: University of Palencia

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Saint Dominic was a Castilian priest who founded the Dominican Order. Born into a devout family, he was ordained as a canon regular at the age of 24. His quiet meditative life was totally transformed when around the age of 34, he accompanied Bishop Diego de Acebo to Denmark. Traveling through southern France, he discovered that many people there had become Cathars. Very soon, he began a campaign to reconvert them into Christianity but with little result, ultimately realizing that he could do that only if he led an austere life. Dressed in rough cloth, walking across the country, he soon gathered a band of followers, eventually establishing the Order of the Preachers with the blessing of the Pope at the age of 46. He was canonized thirteen years after his death and is now considered the patron saint of the astronomers.

Childhood & Early Years
  • St. Dominic was born as Domingo Félix de Guzmán on 8 August 1170, in Caleruega, a small town, located in the autonomous community of Castile-Leon, Spain. His father, Felix de Guzmán, was possibly the lord of the manor and “an honored and wealthy man in his village”.
  • His mother, Joan de of Aza, renowned for her charity, was beatified in 1828. Dominic was born youngest of their three sons. His oldest brother, Anthony, became a secular priest, who spent his life ministering the poor, while his second brother, Mannes, became a Friar preacher. They also had one sister.
  • While pregnant with Dominic, Joan dreamed of a dog leaping out of her womb, setting the world on fire with a flaming torch he was carrying. Disturbed, she went to Abbey of San Domingo de Silos, where she was told that her son would do the same with his preaching.
  • At the age of seven, Dominic began his elementary education under his maternal uncle, the archpriest of Gumiel d'Izan, studying with him till he was fourteen. Thereafter in 1184, he entered the University of Palencia, where he studied liberal arts for six years and theology for four years.
  • During the 1191 famine, he not only gave away his money, but also sold his clothes and prized manuscripts. Asked by his astounded friends, he said that living skins were more important than dead ones.
  • Since music was a part of his curriculum, one of the four subjects taught in the quadrivium, he soon developed a love for singing. Ave Maris Stella and the Veni Creator were his favorite songs.
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Early Career
  • In 1194, Dominic was ordained as a canons regular in the canonry of the Cathedral of Osma. Here, apart from undertaking his usual priestly duties, he also helped in the reform work, spending his free time in praying and meditating, scarcely going out of the chapter house,
  • His intellect as well as his contemplative and meditative nature soon attracted the attention of his seniors. In 1199, he was made a subprior (assistant to the superior).
  • In 1203, Dominic was chosen to accompany Bishop Diego de Acebo, when King Alfonso VIII of Castile sent him to Denmark to secure a bride for his son. On their way, they passed through Toulouse, France, where they witnessed the rise of Catharism, Christian dualistic belief declared heretic by Pope.
  • In 1204, they made a second journey to Denmark, with the intention of bringing back the betrothed princess; but found that the girl had died in the meantime. They now moved to Rome so that Diego could resign from the post of Bishop and try to convert the Cathars.
  • Pope Innocent III did not endorse their plan, but ordered them to join the papal force in France, which was already working towards converting the Cathars. But once they reached their destination, they found that no work had been done. Dominic also arranged for Catholic-Cathar public debates with little effect.
  • Dominic realized that to win the Cathars one must adopt the same austere way of life as preached by their leaders. He now started wearing rough hair-shirts with an iron chain tied around his waist. He also slept on the floor and ate meagerly. Very soon, he started attracting attention.
  • By 1206, he established a convent in Prouille with nine nuns, who had been converted from Catharism. There, he started running a school so that Christians were not compelled to send their children to Cathar institutions as they had been doing.
  • In 1208, Pope Innocent III ordered crusade against the Cathars, resulting in the fall of several cities. During this period, we find Dominic following the Catholic Army, helping the survivors, reviving Christianity in those towns.
  • Very soon, Dominic’s reputation spread all over the place and many parishes wanted him to become their bishop. However, he refused every offer, instead travelling far and wide, preaching Christianity with unqualified success, returning to Toulouse by 1215.
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Order of Preachers
  • By 1215, the need of new type of organization began to draw on Dominic. He therefore traveled to Rome to seek the permission of the Pope Innocent III, who told him to adopt the rules of an existing order.
  • Returning to Toulouse, he conferred with his sixteen followers, eventually adopting the rule of St. Augustine. Thereafter, he returned to Rome, receiving the formal sanction on 22 December 1216 from Pope Honorius III. With that his order, "The Order of Preachers" ("Ordo Praedicatorum"), became an established body within the church.
  • By August 1217, he began to establish houses in various cities in France, Spain and Italy. Very soon, he also set up school of theology close to the University of Paris and Bologna, thus involving his order in the university studies as well as urban movement.
  • In 1218, Pope Honorius III granted him the convent of San Sisto Vecchio, where he temporarily made his headquarters. Although he spent a lot of time there, he also traveled widely in order to maintain contact with the growing number of his friars, traveling 3380 miles entirely on foot in 1218-1219.
  • In 1219, the Pope invited his order to take up residence at the basilica of Santa Sabina, which they did sometime in early 1220. Concurrently, he continued his tours, attending the first general chapter of the Dominican order, held in Bologna at Pentecost in 1220, traveling also to Lombardy.
  • In 1221, on the advice of the Pope, he started on the task of reforming the nuns, gathering a group of them at San Sisto. However, he would not be there to complete the task.
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Death & Legacy
  • In 1221, St. Dominic traveled to Bologna to attend the second general chapter of the order, held on 30 May. Thereafter, he traveled to Venice to visit Cardinal Ugolino. He returning from there to Bologna in July 1221 feeling "weary and sick with a fever”.
  • St. Dominic breathed his last on 6 August 1221 after three weeks of illness. From his deathbed, he had continued to urge his followers “to have charity, to guard their humility, and to make their treasure out of poverty".
  • In 1234, he was canonized as a saint by Pope Gregory IX. Also considered the patron saint of astronomers, his feast day is celebrated on 8 August.
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- Saint Dominic Biography
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Saint Dominic

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