Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

St Dominic - image and inspiration

My Bavarian friend Dominic Wanner from CBL International has been celebrating his namenstag today, and earlier this evening had a small dinner party in Oriel for some of his family who are in Oxford, and also invited me, both as a friend and as someone who could talk about St Dominic.There are two on-line lives of him here.   I  posted about St Dominic last year in  St Dominic and St Philip  and in St Dominic in art and faith .

As I thought about it the notion came to me that one can think of St Dominic as a man on a number of frontiers. Like all Christians he stood on the frontier of the temporal and the spiritual, and of this life and of  the life of eternity. In addition he came from what had been formed as a frontier region in northern castle, although by his time the actual frontier with Islam lay south of Toledo.Through his home region runs the Camino that took pilgrims, then as perhaps never before or since, to the finis terrae of Santiago
in Galicia, and along which ran so many rich and vacultural contacts. The Pyrennes were another frontier, leading to the frontier zone between Catholicism and Catharism which was to form St Dominic's mission in the years after 1200 and to lead to the foundation of the Dominican Order. As an intellectual who chose to preach to the general public he stood, as does his Order, on that frontier or interface of communicating faithfully and with complete orthodoxy the Christian Gospel.

As a saint he is reminiscent of that other great missionising Spanish-born founder of an intellectual Order, St Ignatius Loyola, and in his recollected cheerfulness and tranquility of St Philip Neri, as I argue in the post I link to above.

A description
by a contemporary gives a good description of his appearance:

Dominic was of middling height and slender build. His face was beautiful and slightly rudduy, and his hair and beard were reddish. He had beautiful eyes. A kind of radiance shone from his forehead and between his eyebrows, which drew everyone to venerate and love him. He always appeared cheerful and happy, except when he was moved by compassion for any trouble which was afflicting his neighbour. He had long beautiful hands, and a powerful, beautiful, resonant voice. He was not bald anywhere, but had a complete ring of hair round his tonsure, fglecked with a little grey

The reference to the radiance of his forehead between his eyebrows may link to the story of his godmother seeing a star on his forehead whn he was an infant.

The tradition of his having reddish hair is continued in these paintings from the mid-fifteenth century by Fra Angelico


Image: dominicansdunlaoghair

St Dominic
Fra Angelico 1437 Perugia altarpice

Image: Wikipedia Commons

In later centuries the tradition was lost as inthis painting by the seventeenth century artist  Claudio Coello , where St Dominic has become architypically Spanish in appearance:

St Dominic
Claudio Coello, c.1685
Prado Museum

 Image: Wikipedia Commons

Thanks to the modern technologies of computer photo-shopping some modern Dominicans have produced this image of their founder, the patron saint of astronomers, to express the continuing Dominican mission in the age of the computer and the internet:


1 comment:

Maureen said...

Dominicans!!! -- they would be using an iPad