Born today in 1170 in Castile, northern Spain, was St Dominic (above), who went on to found the Dominican Order of preaching friars. He became a priest in his 20s, and in his 30s was chosen by his Bishop to help preach to the Cathars, a Gnostic movement enjoying popularity southern France. His experience of preaching and debate with the Cathars set Dominic on his lifelong mission of preaching, education and personal austerity. The Order of Preachers, later called the Dominicans, was approved by the Pope when Dominic was in his 40s.
‘Before his mother conceived him, she saw in a vision that she would bear in her womb a dog who, with a burning torch in his mouth and leaping from her womb, seemed to set the whole earth on fire. This was to signify that her child would be an eminent preacher who, by “barking” sacred knowledge, would rouse to vigilance souls drowsy with sin, as well as scatter throughout the world the fire which the Lord Jesus Christ came to cast upon the earth.’ Jordan of Saxony, early biographer of St Dominic
Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester, died today in 1171. Aside from building six castles, plus villages, churches and canals, like a proper medieval prince of the Church, he also commissioned the unreasonably huge Winchester Bible, the biggest English Bible of the 12th century, standing a whopping 0.58 metres tall.
Today in 1570, John Felton, a Southwark gentleman, was executed for sticking a Papal Bull, Regnans in excelsis (‘He that reigns on high’), on the gates of the Bishop of London‘s palace. Felton’s act was incendiary, because the Bull, issued by Pope Pius V, excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I and released her subjects from obeying her, which put English Catholics in a highly uncomfortable situation. Felton’s own situation was more than uncomfortable: after being put to the rack, he was hanged, disembowelled and cut into four pieces in St Paul’s Churchyard for his treason.
’The number of the ungodly has so much grown in power that there is no place left in the world which they have not tried to corrupt with their most wicked doctrines; and among others, Elizabeth, the pretended queen of England and the servant of crime, has assisted in this, with whom as in a sanctuary the most pernicious of all have found refuge.’ Regnans in Excelsis, 1570
The Council of Ephesus (also known as the ‘Robber Synod’) opened today in 449. One of the countless councils of the Church in this era that met to decide who Jesus was, this one agreed with Eutyches, a priest from Constantinople, that Jesus had one nature, a mix of human and divine. His opponent Flavian, Archbishop of Constantinople, maintained that the human and divine natures remained unmixed in him, and was therefore beaten to death by monks shortly afterwards. The ‘robber’ nickname was given to it by Pope Leo I, who violently disagreed with the council, though not so violently as the council disagreed with Flavian.