Dominic, founder of the order
1172 - 6 August 1221

Part I

A brief biography.

Dominic de Guzmán, Spanish in full Domingo de Guzmán, was born in 1172 in the town of Caleruega in north-central Spain (Castile) of Don Felix de Guzman, lord of the manor in the village, and Juana de Aza (1140-1202), both members of the lower nobility. From his earliest youth Dominic was trained to become a priest. Such a decision had to be made early since the choice of vocation determined the kind of training a child was given, either for knighthood or priesthood. After he had learned the rudiments,

Dominic was initiated into clerical studies by his mother's brother, a priest. When he was about fourteen, he went to the cathedral school of Palencia to study philosophy and theology. He studied theology for four years, an unusually thorough formation for the average priest in those days. While in Palencia Dominic manifested his great generosity during a famine, using his slender resources to help the poor and gaining additional funds by selling his books.

Completing his studies when he was about twenty-four, he joined the chapter of Canons Regular of the cathedral of Osma, about 1197, and soon afterwards was ordained a priest. Later he became subprior of the chapter.

In 1203, after Dominic had spent almost ten years as a Canon Regular, Diego de Acebes, his Bishop, chose him as companion on an embassy to Denmark to arrange a marriage for the son of King Alfonso VIII of Castile. In passing through southern France, the travellers came to know the Albigensian heretics; in fact, the innkeeper where they stayed on their first night was a member of the sect. Dominic's zeal for souls, which had ripened during his years of contemplative life at Osma, burst into flame. He stayed up all night arguing with his host. With the rising of the sun, the man gave up his heresy and returned to the Catholic faith. Though the Bishop successfully negotiated a marriage for the King's son, the purpose of the trip was defeated when the princess died, or, as some say, entered a monastery.

The Bishop and Dominic discovered this two years later when they returned to her country to escort her to Spain. In Denmark the two men observed the intense missionary activity that the Danish clergy were engaged in among the pagans of the Baltic regions. Apparently aiming to join them, they went to Rome, where the Bishop tendered the resignation of his diocese. Though this was not allowed and the two never again returned to the North, Dominic's missionary zeal had burst into flame and never again burned low. It became an important part of his legacy to the Order.


Pope Innocent III refused the Bishop's resignation and sent him instead to work among the Albigenses. For a long time the Church had been hoping for their conversion. St. Bernard had preached to them, and Innocent had sent legates and preachers to work among them. The Bishop and Dominic obediently turned their steps westward toward France. Arriving at Montpellier, they found the papal legates, among whom was Abbot Arnauld of Citeaux, who were heartily discouraged. Despite all their efforts they had made no headway. After listening attentively, the Bishop sized up the situation and gave solid advice: You must meet fire with fire.

The heretic leaders live an austere life, keep long fasts, travel on foot, and preach in apostolic simplicity. "Send home your retinues then," advised the Bishop, "go about on foot two by two, in imitation of the apostles, and then the Lord will bless your efforts." They dismissed their retinues after Diego had set the example.

They kept only "books and other necessities," as Jordan of Saxony reports. Areas for evangelization were assigned to the new groups of apostolic preachers and they set out to preach. During the following weeks and months they crisscrossed the countryside, preaching and debating with the Albigenses. After each debate, each side presented a written summary of its arguments to its opponents.

The Albigenses subjected one of Dominic's summaries to a trial by fire. Three times they threw it into the fire but each time the flames cast it forth untouched.


In 1206 the papal legates and preachers, depressed at the failure of their mission, consulted the Bishop and Dominic, who reasoned that the heretics would be regained only by an austerity equal to their own; the preachers must tramp the roads barefoot and in poverty. This was the birth of Dominic's "evangelical preaching." An important part of his campaign was the establishment of a priory of nuns at Prouille, formed in 1206 from a group of women converted from the heresy.

In 1208 the papal legate, Peter de Castelnau, was murdered by an emissary of the Count of Toulouse. The Pope called upon the Christian princes to take up arms. The leader on the papal side was Simon de Montfort, a subject of the King of France. The Albigensian leader was Raymond VI, count of Toulouse, an opponent of the King of France and brother-in-law of King John of England, lord of neighbouring Aquitaine.
Dominic's work, though confined to the Prouille area, continued, and six others eventually joined him. Meanwhile, the civil war dragged on until Simon's victory at Muret in 1213. The Catholic party entered Toulouse, and Dominic and his friends were welcomed by the Bishop, Foulques, and established as "diocesan preachers" in 1215.

One of the successes of Diego and Dominic was the conversion of a number of women from Albigensianism. They established a monastery for them at Prouille, near Fanjeaux, their own headquarters
in 1206. This became the first monastery of the Dominican Second Order. Dominic became its father, spiritual guide, and lawgiver, a position entrusted to him by Bishop Diego when he returned to his diocese late in 1207 to recruit preachers, raise funds for the apostolate, and to regulate his diocese.


He died in December 1207 soon after his return to Spain. Legate Raoul had died the previous July. A further calamity befell the missions in January, 1208, when the Albigenses assassinated Legate Peter of Castelnau, a fiery, impatient man, who constantly antagonized them. At the end of his patience, Innocent III proclaimed a crusade against the heretics. When hostilities broke out, a peaceful apostolate became extremely difficult, but Dominic and a handful of companions persevered with their preaching despite every discouragement. Gradually Dominic came to realize that only a religious Order could give the Church the continuous supply of trained preachers it needed.

Experience had shown that volunteer preachers did not come in sufficient numbers and did not always persevere. The character of the Cathar heresy taught Dominic another lesson. Their leaders were austere, educated men, well versed in the Scriptures, who preached convincingly. These facts influenced the kind of Order Dominic founded. Its members would not only assume the usual obligations of religious but would systematically study the Scriptures.

Dominic remained true to his training and experience. Within the month that he founded the Order, he enrolled six disciples in the lecture course of Alexander Stavensby at the cathedral school of Toulouse. He himself had an excellent education and a deep love of God's word. He always carried Matthew's Gospel and Paul's Epistles. Constantly he urged the friars "by word and letter" to study the books of the Old and New Testaments. Studying the Scriptures was the medieval way of studying theology. The Bible was the chief textbook of the schools and universities. All other studies prepared the students to enter the classes of the master of theology, who unfolded the deepest meanings of the Sacred Text.
Against this background, Dominic's sending seven friars to Paris in August, 1217, takes on new meaning. By preference he founded houses in university cities, at Bologna, Palencia, Montpellier, and Oxford. By design he sought to enrol university students in the Order.

The founding of the Order

Dominic and his companions first discussed the founding of an Order seriously during 1213 and 1214 at Fanjeaux. In the spring of 1215 they were ready, and Bishop Fulk of Toulouse established them as a preaching brotherhood for his diocese. Dominic gave vows to Thomas and Peter Seila, citizens of Toulouse. Seila deeded some houses he owned to the Order. The larger became the Order's first priory when Dominic and the brethren took up their residence there. Soon afterwards the Bishop gave the church of St. Romanus for their community prayers. Thus the Order of Preachers began on a small scale with episcopal approval. 

The next step was to obtain papal confirmation of the foundation. The opportunity came when Bishop Fulk set out for Rome in 1215, with Dominic in his company, to attend the Fourth Lateran Council. Jordan describes their project: "They petitioned the Lord Pope Innocent to confirm for Brother Dominic and his disciples an Order that would be an Order of Preachers; likewise that he would confirm the revenues that had been assigned to the brothers by the count and by the Bishop." A hurdle to confirmation had to be faced. On the agenda for the Council was a proposal to prohibit the founding of new religious Orders.
To surmount it, Innocent advised Dominic to choose one of the existing religious Rules. He promised that when this had been done, he would confirm the Order.

In the spring of 1216, Dominic and the friars chose the Rule of St. Augustine and framed statutes to supplement it. These became the first half of the permanent Constitutions of the Order. Adapted from the Constitutions of Premontre, they regulated the religious life of the friars. Nothing was legislated until four years later to govern the Order's apostolate.

 Dominic wisely waited to learn from experience what laws and organization would best suit a preaching Order. In October, the friars added to the property of St. Romanus' church and began to build "a cloister with cells above it suitable for study and sleeping." Returning to Rome, Dominic "obtained to the fullest extent both the confirmation of his Order as he conceived it as well as the other things he desired."

On December 22, 1216, Honorius III (Innocent had died in July) granted a bull of confirmation, approving the Order as a body of Canons Regular. A second bull, issued on January 21, 1217, recognized the newness of Dominic's ideas and approved his foundation as "an Order that would be called and would be an Order of Preachers." Honorius addressed its members as "Christ's unconquered athletes, armed with the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation. Fearing not those who can kill the body, you valiantly thrust the word of God which is keener than any two-edged sword, against the foes of the faith."

The rest of Dominic's life was spent either in Rome, where he was given the Church of San Sisto, or travelling. In 1218-19 he made a great tour (3,380 miles entirely on foot) from Rome to Toulouse and Spain and back, via Paris and Milano, and in 1220 a tour of Lombardy. Everywhere his communities were growing, and he planned many new foundations covering the key points of France and northern Italy. In Rome the Pope gave him the delicate task of reforming various groups of nuns, whom he finally gathered at San Sisto in 1221, when the men moved to Santa Sabina, which is still the residence of the master General of the order.

At Pentecost in 1220 the first General chapter of the order was held at Bologna, and a system of democratic representative government was devised. At the second General chapter, held on Pentecost in 1221, also at Bologna, the order was divided geographically into provinces. Dominic filled the last six weeks of his life, following the second General chapter, with intense preaching throughout Lombardy. When he returned to Bologna at the end of July, he was burning with fever. He died on the feast of the Transfiguration, August 6, 1221.Gregory IX canonized him on July 3, 1234, comparing him as he did so to the apostles and to the great founders, Benedict, Bernard, Francis. His flame has never gone out.

Source: William, A. Hinnebusch, O.P.: The Dominicans, a short history. 1975.

Saint Dominic's feast day

Saint Dominic died in Bologna on August 6, 1221. His friend Pope Gregory IX placed him on the list of Saints in 1234. In accordance with a honourable custom, Dominic’s dying day is his anniversary. But at 6 august Pope Sixtus II became commemorated. So the feast day of Saint Dominic was fixed in 1234 on 5 August.
The General Romen Calendar of 1558 moved the feast of Saint Dominic to 4 august.
Pope Paul VI moved in 1969 Saint Dominic’s day to August 7, but that is the death of Saint Cajetanus (1469-1534), founder of the Theatines. At the insistence of the Provost of the Teatimes, the Master of the Dominican Order, Anicetus Fernandez, asked the Romen authorities to move Saint Dominic’s day. He hoped for August 4.
But on March 26, 1970, the ‘Congregation of Sacred Rites and Ceremonies’ fixed the date for Saint Dominic’s commemoration on August 8. So Saint Dominic remains a wandering pilgrim during the centuries!

For the legends of Saint Dominic: click  PART  III.

                                                      The real face of Saint Dominic.

The Dominican Order preserved the relics of Saint Dominic in the tomb in the Saint Dominic's chapel at the basilica of San Domenico in Bologna. During WO II the relics were safeguarded. After the war, before the translation to the basilica in Bologna, Pope Pius XII, lay Dominican, authorized the Dominicans of Bologna to investigate the relics of the Founder. Because the Provincial of Lombardy had not received permission to open the casket, Professor Fabio Frassetto of the University of Bologna examined the remains by X-ray.

Many photographs were taken from many angles.
Almost all the bones are still there after nearly eight hundred years (1221).


The marble bust by Carlo Pini (1946).

Pilipinas 2008, Mi 4026, Sc --.

Doctors and anthropologists were able to study the photographs and give an accurate description of the skeleton and physical characteristics of Saint Dominic.

In 1946, Carlo Pini sculptured a marble bust according to anthropometric measurements of the skull as determined by Professor Fabio Frassetto.


This sculpture is preserved in the Saint Dominic's chapel in the San Domenico in Bologna. The X-ray film can be seen along the back wall of this chapel, where the remains of the saint rest in the splendid Arca di San Domenico under the cupola.


 The profile of Saint Dominic by sister Cecilia (1243).

In 1243, as part of the process towards Dominic's canonisation, information was gathered about him from a variety of sources. One of these was Sister Cecilia, who at 16 was part of the first community at San Sisto, Rome, and new Saint Dominic very well.
She gave a description of his physical appearance:

     "He was of middle height, his countenance beautiful with little colouring, his hair and beard very fair, and his eyes strikingly fine. A certain radiance shone from his forehead and from under his eyelashes attracting love and respect. His hands were long and beautiful, and his voice strong and sonorous. -- He was always radiant and joyful, except when moved to compassion by some misfortune of his neighbours. "

Sister Cecilia's description is proved reliable by the scientific examination. She said he was of medium height -- the measurements show that he was 1.7 metres tall. At the bottom of the reliquary, the examiners found some shreds of Saint Dominic's hair. It was exactly the colour that Cecilia had said it was.

Source: Site OPFAM, 2 November 2008.
            :  wikipedia

Before 1946, all the paintings et cetera are symbolic, without the white habit, black cloak and capuchon.
As founder of an Order Dominic
carries a book and as a holy man a lily. 




Niccoló Circignano




Madonna of the Rosary (Dominic receives the rosary),
 by Niccoló Circignano (il Pomarancio il Vecchio) +1597.

Preserved in the parish church of Saint John the Baptist in Pomarancio, Italy.


                                                        Italy 1997, Mi 2521, Sc 2164.

Postmark Pomarancio 18.07.1997.


Claudio Coello

2 March1642-30 April 1693


Dominic de Guzmán by Claudio Coello (02.03.1642-20.04.1693),
Spanish painter.

Prado Museum, Madrid.


Sierra Leone 2000, Mi 3687, Sc 2342 e.



Antonio Correggio
August 1494-5 March 1534


Antonio Correggio. (08.1494-05.03.1534).
The mystic marriage of St. Catherine with Saints Francis
and Dominic with lilly.
National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Cambodia  1984, Mi 622, Sc 542, sh 547.

The same painting issued by: Laos 1984, Mi 758, Sc 569.

Vietnam 1984, Mi Bl 31, Sc --

Grazio Cossoli


This stamp, dedicated to the fifth centenary of the birth of St. Pius V,
is inspired by the altarpiece by Grazio Cossoli (1597), which is placed in the Chapel of the Rosary, located in Santa Croce di Bosco Marengo,
in the Province of Alessandria, Italy.

The altarpiece, painted to commemorate the victory in the Battle of Lepanto (07.10.1571), shows Our Lady of the Rosary between St. Dominic and Saint Catherine of Siena, venerated
by Cardinal Bonelli and St. Pius V, as well as by Philip II and Doge Mocenigo.

Vatican City 2004, Mi 1483, Sc     

Albrecht Dürer
                             21 May 1471-6 April 1528


Albrecht Dürer completed his great altarpiece The Feast of the Rose Garlands for the funeral chapel of the Germans in the church of St. Bartholomew in Venezia in 1506.
The Child gives a
garland of roses to Pope Julius II. The Madonna gives a garland  to the Emperor Maximilian. Dominic, in Mary’s name, to clergymen  and civil authorities. The painting is now preserved in the Narodni Galerie at Prague.


Dürer's painting, or details, are many times reproduced on stamps.

Aitutaki 1986, Mi 596, Sc 404d: The Virgin with Child.
Chad 1984, Mi B; 215, Sc 510: central part with Saint Dominic.


Czechoslovakia 1989, Mi Bl 92, Sc 2743.




Czechoslovakia 1968, Mi 1805, Sc 1555:the entire  painting. Czechoslovakia 1971, Mi 2036, Sc 1781: detail without Dominic.
Fujeira 1971, Mi 665, Sc --:central part without Dominic.

Germany 1961/64, Mi 350, Sc 827: head of Dürer.
West Berlin 1961, Mi 202, Sc JN179:head of Dürer. 

Grenada 1001, Mi 2378, Sc2029:  the Child.

Nicaragua 1978, Mi l 109, Sc C953: central part with Dominic.

Niger 1979, Michel Bl 22; Sc 486: the whole painting.

Niue 1978, Mi Bl 8,9; Sc 232: central part with Dominic.

Niue 1987, Mi 731, Bl 111,112; Sc 550:central part
with Dominic.
Paraguay 1987, Mi 4172, C704: central part without Dominic.
Sierra Leone 1991, Mi --, Sc 1437: The Virgin and central part.

Fra Angelico
ca.1395-18 February 1455 

EM 29: Madonna della Stella,
(84x51 cm, 1434). Three Dominicans:
at the left Peter of Verona; in the
middle Saint Dominic and on the right Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Gambia 1991, Mi 1290, Sc 1168.

EM 31: The coronation of the Virgin, before 1434.
Tempera on panel, 69
x 37 cm. Central part.  
Museo di San Marco, Firenze.

Gambia 1991, Mi Bl 137, Sc 1170.




EM 33: The coronation of the Virgin.
Tempera on panel, 213x211 cm., 1434-1435.
Preserved in Musée du Louvre, Paris, named Pala du Louvre.

'The altarpiece designed by Fra Angelico for the church of San Domenico in Fiesole shows the coronation of the Virgin surrounded by music making Angels and Saints in gorgeous raiment decorated with gold, kneeling below on a tiled floor. Coloured marble steps lead to the Gothic throne on which more saints are standing ,seen from below.
The Virgin is kneeling humbly to receive the crown from Christ.'
Bartz, o.c. p. 54.  Sovereign Military Order of Malta (S.M.O.M.) 2007,
Sassone 880-886, Block 88.Picture of the block is incorrect.


On the predella events (legends) of the life of Saint Dominic. These are to see in
Dominic, founder of the Order. Part III  The legends.



EM 34: The coronation of the Virgin.
Tempera on panel
, 112 x 114 cm., ca. 1434/1435.

Many Dominican Saints: Dominic and
one unknown
Dominican to the left;
Peter Martyr, Catherine of Siena
to the right.
Galleria degli Uffici, Firenze.


                              Grenada 1997, Mi Bl 480 ; Sc 2732.

Also Dominica 1996, Mi Bl 318, Sc






EM 53: Lamentation over the Dead Christ, 1436-1441.
Tempera on panel, 105 x 164 cm.
Museo di San Marco,
To the left Saint Dominic and to the right blessed Villana
de' Botti.

Palestinian Authority 2001, Mi 175, Sc 142.

Antigua and Barbuda 1992, Mi 1625, 1626; Sc 1557, 1558.

Idem with overprint Barbuda Mail: Barbuda 1992, Mi 1381,1382,
1280, 1281.





EM 60 A: Pala di San Marco (San Marco Altarpiece). Tempera on panel,
x 227 cm., ca. 1439-1442.
On this panel the patron saint of Cosimo de'Medici:

Cosmas and Damian (at the foot of the Virgin), his brother's namesake, Lorenzo, and saint Mark, the patron saint of the church (on the left).
On the right St. Dominic, St. Francis and  St. Peter Martyr.

Preserved in the Museo di San Marco, Firenze.


Central African Republic 1981, Mi Bl 155; Sc C262B.

On this block the painting without the predella.

The same painting, but only the right hand side:
Antigua and Barbuda 1991, Mi 1589, Bl 220; Sc





EM 77: Transfiguration of Christ.

Fresco 179 x 148 cm., ca. 1441. To the right S. Dominic.

Museo di San Marco, cell 6, Firenze.


Equatorial Guinea 1974, Mi 347, Sc 7433.







 EM 78: The mockery of Christ.

 Fresco 187 x 151 cm., (detail), ca. 1441, in the 7th cell
 of the first dormitory of the Museo di San Marco 


 Vatican City 1971, Mi 587, Sc 510.


France 1998, Corbara, Postmark 08.08.1998.





EM 101: The Crucifixion. Fresco 550 x 950 cm., 1441/1442. Dominic, right.

Museo di San Marco, Chapter Room, Firenze.


Nicaragua 1968, Mi 1479, Sc C649.  With overprint Mi 1485, Sc C655.




To  works of art  PART   II  or to the legends  PART  III


Return to   REGISTER  A                Return  to   HOMEPAGE