13th century Dominican Devotion to Mary


Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.*

This paper explores the relationship between Mary and the Dominican Order in the thirteenth century. This period is especially poignant not only because the attitudes and practices that developed in this period have been foundational for what has followed, but also because we Dominicans possess a rich collection of early writings, some of which we call our folklore, the stories of Dominic and the early friars and nuns.1 I will situate the Dominican devotion to Mary within the original purpose of the Order itself and trace the manifestations of this devotion as found in the actual practices of the friars, by examining the underlying Marian beliefs present in the first accounts, in the early art sponsored by the Order, as well as in the early Dominican theological reflections on Mary. Such practices and beliefs laid the foundation for the Dominican propagation of Marian devotions in the form of lay confraternities. I hope that these details—interesting to me as a member of the Order—will not prove as tedious as the slides or videos of someone else’s family.

* Father Denis Wiseman, O.P., was a professor at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. He is currently serving in Eastern Africa. In 2001, he received his S.T.D., with specialization in Marian studies, from the International Marian Research Institute (Dayton, Ohio). His dissertation is entitled “Al nome di Gesu Cristo crocifisso e di Maria dolce: Salvation and Mary in the Life and Writings of Catherine of Siena.”

1 Unfortunately, we do not possess any of Dominic’s homilies or any of his writings other than a brief letter to Dominican nuns in Madrid and two succinct letters regarding the situations of converted heretics.