an order of mendicants founded by Dominic (q.v.) de Guzman about the year 1215. In England they were generally called Black Friars from their garments, in France Jacobins, from the fact that their first French house was in the Rue St. Jacques, at Paris. They called themselves commonly Preaching Friars (Fratres Prcedicatores), from their office of preaching.
I. History. — Dominic projected the order when he was preaching against the Albigenses (q.v.); but the Council of Lateran, in 1215, declared itself against any increase of the monastic orders. Nevertheless Innocent III was prevailed upon to approve of the order on condition that it should assimilate itself as closely as possible to one already in existence. The successor of Innocent, Honorius III, was less reluctant, and confirmed the Dominicans as a new and independent order. It spread rapidly over all Christian countries. In 1221 thirteen of the friars went to England for the purpose of establishing the order, and Stephen Langton, then archbishop of Canterbury, giving his approval, they fixed their first house at Oxford. Their second house was in London. At the time of the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII there were 58 houses in England and Wales.
When the second general chapter was held, in 1221, at Bologna, 60 convents, belonging to eight provinces, were represented, and a great many friars were sent out to establish new houses. In 1278 the number of their convents amounted to 417. In 1233 the Inquisition (q.v.) was transferred to them by the Pope. This gave them a powerful and pernicious influence in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and France. They showed so much eagerness in hunting up and prosecuting heretics that a popular pun changed the name Dominicans into Domini canes (the dogs of the Lord). Although endowed in 1272 with all the privileges of the mendicant orders, they soon gave up begging, and, after being allowed in 1425 to accept donations, they accumulated great wealth. Together with the Franciscans, they became the chief representatives of the theological science of the Middle Ages, occupied a large number of the theological chairs at the universities, and became in most controversies not only the rivals, but also the bitter opponents of the Franciscans. The greatest theologian among them in the Middle Ages was Thomas Aquinas (q.v.), whom they have ever since followed as a standard authority. Among their other celebrities are Albertus Magnus, Eccard, Tauler, Suso, Savonarola, Las Casas, Vincent Ferrier, and Vincent of Beauvais. As theologians, they were mostly Nominalists, Augustinians, and opponents of the Immaculate Conception. In literature in general they have had great influence, as the Magister sacri palatii at Rome, in whose hands is the censorship of books, has always been taken from their order. They secured great popular favor not only by their preaching, but by the establishment of an order of tertiarians, open to laymen. The people were also gained by them especially by the spreading of the use of the Rosary (q.v.), which was introduced by them, and which became, in consequence of the many indulgences attached to it by the popes, a very popular form of worship. The Dominicans also belonged to the most zealous laborers in the foreign missions of the Roman Church. Many of their members were sent to the East; and in Armenia, in particular, they succeeded in uniting a great many Armenians with the Roman Church. After the discovery and conquest of America by the Spaniards, the Dominicans protected the natives from being enslaved, but gave, on the other hand, the first impulse to the, importation of slaves from Africa. In America, and in the West and East Indies, they surpassed all other orders in power, numbers, and riches. In Europe, on the contrary, the reputation and influence of the order rapidly declined. The conduct of Tetzel (q.v.) in preaching the papal indulgences brought odium upon the whole order, and the development of the Inquisition in Spain, under the management of the Dominicans, attached to their name a stain which will never be blotted out. In the countries which embraced Protestantism they lost over 400 convents, while in Roman Catholic countries they were generally superseded, as confessors at the court and as teachers at the universities, by the Jesuits. Several attempts to reform the order were made in the 15th and 16th centuries, but led only to the establishment of 12 reformed congregations. The whole order was never brought back to its original simplicity and vigor. Yet they still counted in the 18th century more than 1000 convents of monks and nuns in 45 provinces, 11 of which were outside of Europe. In consequence of the French Revolution, they lost all their convents in France and Belgium, nearly all in Germany, and many in Italy; and in the 19th century they were entirely suppressed in Spain, Portugal, and Sardinia. In 1832 the emperor of Russia suppressed in the sole province of Mohilew 55 Dominican convents. In Father Lacordaire the order received a member of great reputation and influence, and through him the order was re-established in France in 1845. In Austria the Dominicans reluctantly submitted, in 1858, to certain reforms which the Pope ordered to be introduced. According to the provisions made, all the novices are to be bound to the ancient rule, which will also be established in every convent as soon as it will have a majority of reformed monks. The order is on the increase in the United States of North America and in France, and established its first convent in Prussia in 1860. The Dominicans entered the United States in 1539, but their missions have been less extensive than those of the Franciscans and Jesuits. The first bishop of New York, Luke Concanen, had been assistant general of the order. A great activity in behalf of its spreading was at a later period displayed by father (later bishop) Fenwick, a native of Maryland, who entered the novitiate at Bornhem, Belgium. He established the convent of St. Rose, Springfield, Kentucky, which is now the novitiate of the order in the United States.
II. Constitution. — The constitution of the order was adopted at a general chapter in 1220, and is in all essential points like that of the other mendicant orders. At the head of the order is a general, who is elected by a general chapter for life, and is assisted in the exercise of his office by a number of definitores. The order is divided into provinces, at the head of which is a provincial, who is elected at a provincial chapter by the superiors of the houses, who are. called priors. Their habit consists of a white garment and scapular, with a white mantle and hood ending in a point.
III. Statistics. — The Dominicans have still convents in Italy (4 in the city of Rone, with about 100 members), France (10 in 1862), Belgium, Holland, England, Ireland (about 50 members in 1843), Austria (37 convents with 202 members in 1843), Prussia (first convent established in 1860), Poland (in 1841, 16 houses with 160 members), Spain, Russia, Turkey, Mexico, Central and South America, and the United States, where they have houses in New York, Ohio, Kentucky, and Wisconsin. In 1862 the total number of convents was estimated at 360 houses, with 4000 members. See Fehr's Geschichte der Miischsorden; Helyot, Ordres Religieux; Malvendi, Annales Ordinis Prcedicatorum (Romae, 1746); Castillo and Lopez, Historia general de S. Domingo y de su Orden de Predicatores (Madrid, 1612 sq. 6 volumes, fol.); Antonius Senensis, Chronic. Fratrum Praedicat. (Paris, 1585, 8vo). A complete list of all the saints, martyrs, writers, etc., of the order is given in Annee Dominicaine (Paris, 1678 sq. 13 volumes, 4to). The complete statutes of the order may be found in Holstenii Codex Regularum (Augsburg, 1759, 6 volumes, fol.).