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 Bishop Fulk of Toulouse established them as a preaching brotherhood for his diocese and Dominic received the vows of Thomas and Peter Seila, citizens of Toulouse. Seila deeded some houses he owned to the Order, one of which (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 to the brothers.

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 (November 1215).

Pope Innocent was petitioned to confirm the new foundation as a religious Order. On the agenda for the fourth Lateran 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 to govern the Order’s apostolate until four years later. Dominic waited to learn from experience what laws and organisation would best suit an Order of Preachers.

In October 1216 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 both the confirmation of his Order as he conceived it as well as the other things he desired for the work of the Order. On 22nd December, Honorius III (Innocent III had died in July) granted a bull of confirmation, approving the Order as a body of Canons Regular. A second bull, issued on 21st January 1217, recognised the newness of Dominic’s ideas and approved the foundation as an Order of Preachers.