Blessed Benedict XI

Stained glass window from St. Dominic’s Church in Washington, D.C. Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P.
Stained glass window from St. Dominic’s Church in Washington, D.C. Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P.

The following reflection is part of an ongoing series about the life of St. Dominic & the Order of Friars Preachers.

A Dominican friar who later became pope, Benedict XI (1240 – 1304) was born Nicholas Boccasina to poor parents in Treviso, Italy. As a child, he was placed in the care of an uncle who was a priest there. He proved highly intelligent, so his uncle taught him Latin and other clerical subjects. Benedict was elected master general of the Order in 1296 and was made a cardinal in 1298. He later became bishop of Ostia and as papal legate to Hungary attempted to settle the civil war there. Benedict supported Pope Bonafice VIII’s decree excommunicating Phillip IV, king of France. While William of Nogaret, Phillip’s councilor, imprisoned Boniface in the castle of Agnami in France, Benedict rallied papal forces to rescue him. On October 22, 1303, Benedict was elected pope but died after serving only eight months. He wrote a volume of sermons and commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, the psalms, and the Apocalypse.

Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. (a member of the English Province) was invited by the Dominican Foundation to take pictures of some of the locations where our friars serve throughout the Northeast. During his time in Washington, D.C., Fr. Lew photographed the interior of the Church of St. Dominic. St. Dominic’s has been the church where our friars are ordained to the priesthood each May. Surrounding the church, is a collection of beautiful stained glass windows that chronicle the life of St. Dominic & the foundation of the Order of Preachers. Fr. Lew accomplished a great work by capturing the splendor of these windows, and in the process, the life of a towering saint.