Re-union of the Friar Preachers at Notre-Dame-de-Prouille,

and their dispersion through Europe



On leaving Rome after Easter in the year 1218, Dominic hastened to join his brethren.  They were sixteen in number, eight Frenchmen, seven Spaniards, and one Englishman.


The Frenchmen were Guillaume Claret, Matthieu de France, Bertrand de Garrigue, Thomas, Pierre Cellani, Etienne de Metz, Noël de Pruille, and Odéric de Normandie.  History has preserved their names and also a few of their distinguishing traits.


Guillaume Claret was a native of Pamiers, and one of the earliest of Dominic’s companions.  The Bishop of Osma, on quitting France, had entrusted him with the temporal administration of the Languedoc mission; and it is said that after being a member of the Order for twenty years, he joined the Cistercians at the Abbey of Bolbonne, and even wished to transfer the convent of Prouille there.


Matthieu de France has passed his youth in the schools of Paris, and had been appointed by Count Montfort to fill the office of Prior of the college of canons, at Saint-Vincent-de-Castres.  While there, he met Dominic, and, after witnessing his ecstasy, devoted himself entirely to his service.  He was the founder of the celebrated monastery of St. Jacques in Paris, and was buried in the choir of the church, at the foot of the stall which he had occupied as prior of that monastery.


Bertrand de Garrigue, named after his birthplace, a little town near Alais in Languedoc, was a man of wonderful austerity.  Dominic advised him, on one occasion, to weep less for his own sins and more for those of other men, and entrusted the government of St. Romain to Bertrand during his last journey to Italy.  Bertrand died in 1230, and was buried at Orange, in a convent where many miracles were wrought by his relics, which in 1427 were removed, by command of Pope Martin V, to the monastery of Friar Preachers in the same town.


Thomas was a distinguished inhabitant of Toulouse, styled by Jourdain de Saxe a man full of grace and eloquence.[1] he and his fellow-citizen, Pierre Cellani, became Dominic’s disciples on the same day.


Pierre Cellani, young, wealthy, and honorable, of noble birth and nobler heart, not only gave himself, but also his house to Dominic.  He founded the monastery of Limoges, and was much venerated through the whole of his career.  After filling the office of Grand Inquisitor, to which post he had been appointed by Gregory IX during most troublous times, he died in the year 1259.


Etienne de Metz resided with Dominic at Carcasonne from the year 1213; he founded the monastery at Metz, hence his historical surname.


Nothing particular is known regarding Noël de Prouille.


Odéric de Normandie was not a priest, but the first lay brother of the Order.


Such was the French element of the Dominican family at this time.  Though few in number, their action was so rapid and extended, that one may well designate France as the mine and crucible whence issued the Friar Preachers.  The daughters of France were also the first members of Notre-Dame-de-Prouille, that cradle of his Order.  Saint-Romain-de-Toulouse owed its birth to two Frenchmen; and later on we shall see Matthew of Paris founding St. Jacques in Paris, and another Frenchman, whose name we know not, founding St. Nicolas in Bologna.


In studying the territorial position, history, and genius of France, we easily discern the part God predestined her to play in the formation of the Apostolic Order.  If she has been termed a nation of soldiers, she is also a nation of missionaries, for her very sword proselytizes. None has contributed more to the spread of Christ’s kingdom in the West; and since the time of the Crusades her name in the Eastern tongues is synonymous with that of Christianity.  At her baptism she received in equal measure the gift of faith and love, and her wonderful position and character threw open to her all the continents of the world.  France is a vessel whose port is Europe, and whose anchors are cast in every sea.  Need we wonder that God selected her to be, in Dominic’s hand, the chief instrument of an Order whose action was destined to be universal?  Spain was not wanting in fealty to the great man to whom she had given birth, and though engrossed in her patient and glorious struggle with the ancient rulers of her soil, she had sent more than one soldier to the spiritual army of her son.  They were these: Dominic de Segovia, Suéro Gomez, Uséro, Pedro de Madrid, and Juan de Navarre.


Dominic de Segovia was on of the earliest companions of the apostle of Languedoc.  Jourdain de Saxe speaks of him as a man of profound humility, of little learning, but of great virtue.[2] It is related of him that a shameless woman having resolved to test his sanctity, he placed himself between burning brands, saying to the temptress, “If it be true that you love me, now is your time.[3]


Suéro Gomez was one of the leading nobles at the court of Sancho I, king of Portugal.  The report of the Albigensian Crusade had attracted him to Languedoc, where he rendered chivalrous service to the Catholic cause.  But God touched his heart, and recognizing the superiority of that other army, he forsook all to preach Christ Jesus by word and by deed.  He founded the monastery of Santarem on the Tagus, a few leagues from Lisbon; received many marks of confidence from King Alphonso II, and died in 1233.  Many historians have given him the name of Saint. 


The blessed Mannès was Dominic’s brother, but it is not known when or where he joined the Order.  He died about the year 1230, and was buried in the ancestral tomb of Gumiel d’Izan.


Miguel de Fabra was the first reader or professor of theology pertaining to the Order.  He taught in the monastery in Paris, was confessor and preacher to James, king of Aragon, and founded the Spanish monasteries in Majorca and Valencia.  Ancient writers laud his apostolic zeal, the services rendered by him during the war with the Moors, his assiduity in prayer and meditation, and his miracles.  His remains were deposited at first in the general burying-place of Friar Preachers in Valencia; but the Prior having been warned by a prodigy to remove them to a more honorable spot, deposited them with great pomp in the conventual chapel of St. Peter the Martyr.


Nothing remarkable has been handed down to us by tradition respecting Miguel de Uséro and Pedro de Madrid. 


Jean de Navarre was born at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.  He received the Dominican habit on the feast of St. Augustine, 28th of August 1216, and is the only one of Dominic’s early companions who served as witness during the process of his canonization, and from his deposition we learn that they frequently traveled together.


As though each maritime nation must yield its tribute, England, in the person of Laurence, mingled on drop of her blood wit that of France and Spain, and in the first generation of the Dominican dynasty.


The joy experienced on Dominic’s arrival was equaled by the astonishment felt on leaning his determination to disperse his flock at once.  Every one had felt convinced that he would retain it for a long period within the saintly and studious shade of the cloister, instead of apparently destroying the unity of a body already so feeble.  What could be expected from a few men scattered over Europe while their Order was yet unknown?  The Archbishop of Narbonne, the Bishop of Toulouse, the Count of Montfort, and all interested in the new undertaking, entreated Dominic not to endanger its success by such a course of action.  He, calm and immovable in his resolve, replied, “My lords and fathers, do not oppose me, for I well know what I am about.”[3] He thought of the vision in St. Peter’s and heard the two Apostles saying, “Go and preach.”  He had received another warning regarding the speedy fall of the Count of Montfort.  He beheld in a dream a lofty tree covering the earth with its branches and giving shelter to the birds, when suddenly an unexpected stroke felled it to the ground, and scattered all that had fled to it for shelter.  When such mysterious presages are from God, He affords a clue to their meaning.  Dominic understood that Montfort was the tree, the fall of which would overthrow the hopes of the Catholics, and he knew that it would be unwise to build upon a tomb.  In addition to these revelations, a keen insight into human character made him withstand the counsel given him by his friends.  He believed that the apostle is formed rather by action than by contemplation, and that the surest way to recruit his Order was to plant it fearlessly amid the agitations to which the human intellect is exposed.  He imparted this conviction to his disciples in words as striking as true: “Seed germinates when sown, and decays when accumulated.”[4]


At his epoch three cities ruled in Europe – Rome, Paris, and Bologna: Rome by its Pontiff, and Paris and Bologna by their universities, whither the youth of all nations resorted.  Dominic selected these three cities as the headquarters of his Order, members of which were to be instantly dispatched to each place.  He could not forget his native land, although it had not yet taken part in the general European movement, neither could he desert Languedoc, which had received the first-fruits of his labors.  We see, then, what a task he had undertaken, and the means with which he intended to accomplish it.  He deemed sixteen men sufficient for Prouille, Toulouse, Rome, Paris, Bologna, and Spain.  He did not stop there, but, as we have already seen, aspired to convert the nations of the East, having already let his beard grow after the Oriental manner, so that he might be ready to start with the first favorable wind.  The same forethought prompted him to desire his brethren to elect canonically one of their number to replace him at his departure.  Having arranged everything in his own mind, and enjoyed for a time the happiness of living with his children, he convoked them to the monastery of Prouille for the approaching Feast of the Assumption.  Among the numerous multitude that thronged the church of Prouille that day, while some were attracted by the ancient sanctity of the spot  and others by curiosity, the Prelates, Knights, and Simon, Count of Montfort, were drawn thither by feelings of piety and affection.  At that altar, which had so often witnessed his secret tears, Dominic offered the Holy Sacrifice, received the solemn vows of his Religious, who until then were only bound by a sentiment of fidelity, or by simple vows, and having ended his address to them, turned to the people saying, “For many years I have exhorted you tenderly; preaching, praying, and weeping, but all to no purpose.  The Spanish proverb says, ‘Where benedictions avail not, the rod may be effectual.’  We shall now stir up the princes and Prelates, who will, alas! Arm nations and kingdoms to march against this territory; and many will perish by the sword; lands will be ravaged, walls overthrown, you will be reduced to servitude, and thus will the rod avail where benediction and gentleness were in vain.”[5]  These farewells, addressed by Dominic to the ungrateful country which had been for twelve years the scene of his arduous labors, sound as expostulations addressed to those who would one day traduce his name.  They clearly show us the character of that apostolate, which consisted of gentleness, exhortations, prayers, and tears.  The prophetic menace recalls our Lord’s well known lamentation over Jerusalem: “If thou also hadst known, and that in this thy day, the things that are to thy peace; but now they are hidden from thine eyes.  For the day shall come upon thee, and thy enemies shall cast a trench around thee, and compass thee round, and straiten thee on every side, and beat thee flat upon the ground, and thy children who are in thee, and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another, because thou hast not known the time of thy visitation.[6]  Dominic does not say that eh will stir up the Princes and Prelates, but merging his own personality in that of Christendom, makes use of words denoting, not individual, but collective action: “Against you we shall stir up princes and prelates.” Standing aloof from all that was wrought by justice and the sword, Dominic, lamenting over the coming woes, goes forth guiltless of human blood.  He quits France, and in so doing, leaves the scene of conflict and the tumult of affairs.  He is about to found monasteries in Italy, France, and Spain; and, staff in hand and wallet on back, will dedicate to this peaceful work the remainder of a life already exhausted by self-sacrifice.


The public ceremony ended, Dominic made known to his Friars his intentions regarding their future destination.  Guillaume Claret and Noël de Prouille were to remain at the monastery of Notre-Dame-de-Prouille, Thomas and Pierre Cellani, at Toulouse; Dominic de Segovia, Suéro Gomez, Miguel de Uzéro, and Pedro de Madrid were allotted to Spain.  Paris was to receive the three Frenchmen, Matthieu de France, Bertrand de Garrigue, and Odéric de Normandie; also the Spaniards, consisting of the Blessed Mannès, Miguel de Fabra and Juan de Navarre, and the Englishman Laurence, Dominic reserving only Etienne de Metz as coadjutor in the foundation of the monasteries of Bologna and Rome.  Before separating, the Friars elected Matthew de France as Abbot, that is to say, as Superior-General of the Order, under the supreme authority of Dominic.  This title, somewhat suggestive of magnificence, on account of the exalted rank held by the heads of the ancient monastic orders, was never again conferred, but was replaced by the lowlier title of Master.


If this partition of the world among a few men appear extraordinary, the attendant circumstances were still more so.  The new apostles set out on foot, destitute of money and all human resources, entrusted with the double mission of preaching, and founding monasteries.  One of their number, Juan de Madrid, refused these conditions, and demanded money.  Dominic, seeing a Friar Preacher so distrustful of Providence, threw himself weeping at the feet of this son of little faith, but, unable to conquer his distrust, ordered twelve deniers to be given him.


Just as these arrangements were completed, the aged Raymond re-entered Toulouse on the 13th of September 1217, exactly four years after the battle of Muret.  The work of the Abbot of Cîteaux was destroyed, and that of God completed.






[1] Vie de St. Dominique, chap. i.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Actes de Bologne, deposition of Jean de Navarre, n. 2.

[4] Constantin d’Orviéto, n. 21; le B. Humbert, n. 26.

[5] Manuscrit de Prouille, Records of the Monastery of Toulouse, by Père Percin, p. 20. n. 47.

[6] St. Luke xix. 42-44.



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