Delivered in 2001 by V Rev Fr Allan White OP
in the Bute Hall as part of the celebration of the
550th Jubilee of the University of Glasgow
The Early Friars and the University
This new Order of Preachers, as the Pope allowed it to be called, was to be an Order of Doctors too. Study was essential for the intelligent preaching of the faith. As Humbert of Romans, one of the first and greatest of the Masters of the Order wrote, ‘first the bow is bent in study, then the arrow is released in preaching.’ Unfortunately, he did not go on to give further advice about improving your aim. Dominic’s friars were to go to the universities of Europe, use their resources and make foundations to attract recruits. In Paris, the leading theology faculty of the time, they met with great success. Large numbers of students and even Masters joined them, bringing their schools with them and thus integrating the Dominicans, as they were to be called into the academic structures of Europe.
They reached Oxford in 1221, Edinburgh in 1230/31 and Glasgow about 1246. The majority of their houses were founded by King Alexander II in the principal towns of Scotland. The main foundations were thus made in the twenty or so years after 1230. Scottish Dominican friars are to be found throughout the medieval centuries as masters of Ordnance, like Brother Andrew Lissouris, who was also an architect and the King’s favourite joiner, bishops, including a whole string of Argyll, and a whisky distiller, Friar John Cor, who made whisky for the King. Glasgow was an episcopal foundation by William de Bondington and his cathedral chapter, possibly with the intention of promoting clerical and pastoral renewal in his diocese. It also provided useful space for official civic or ecclesiastical functions in 1301 Edward I of England had stayed three days in the Blackfriars, we do not how welcome a guest he was, but his bill was paid by an English Dominican who had come with him, he is described as being ‘skilful in the Scots language’. The three days in the Blackfriars cost the King six shillings.
Link to full text.
See Fr. White’s article, “Dominicans and the Scottish University Tradition,” New Blackfriars 82 (2001) 434 – 449.