Saint Dominic House
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Saint Dominic (or Dominique) founder of the "Order of the Preachers" more known under the name the Dominican Order, lived in Toulouse during different time periods between 1210 and 1216.
His first stay in Toulouse, between April 1210 and May 1211, was actually the longest and was prompted by the help that Fulk, bishop of Toulouse and a friend of Dominique's, needed in order to fight the spread of catharism.
Actually Saint Dominique first arrived in the region that is now the south west of France in 1206 when, being on his way to his native Spain from a trip to Danemark and encountering the Catharism phenomenon, this new heresy that was taking Languedoc by storm, decided to remain here.
Brother Dominique became deeply involved in the fight against the heretical doctrine. His arms were unlike the ones of the Albigensian crusaders' - the lances and the spears -, they were the preaching, the prayer and the power of a humble life personal example.
In the spring of 1207 Dominique participates along other catholic notables to a public debate that opposes them to the local cathar leaders. The historic records vary as to where the debate took place - the villages of Montréal and Fanjeaux (both not far from Toulouse) are given as the two location by different sources - but all describe the "proof by fire" event that took place at the end of the debate when the paper on which Saint Dominique wrote some arguments drawn from Holy Scripture being thrown three times in the fire was three times rejected intact by the flames.
In the fall of 1207 Dominique participates at the Pamiers conference (held in the city of Pamiers again not far from Toulouse) that was to be the last ideological debate between the cathars and the Catholic Church.
In April 1215 - after "heretic" Toulouse fell to the crusaders armies lead by Simon de Monfort - Saint Dominic received from Pierre Seilhan a house built on the ancient Toulouse city roman fortification, where he and other brothers preachers settled (later Seilhan himself joined the Dominican order and used to joke that it was not him who joined the order but the order formed in his house).
This small religious brotherhood that formed in Toulouse in 1215 became the first "Dominican" community. It was later - after its expansion and its attachment to the rules of Saint Augustin - recognized by Pope Honorius III in 1216 as a new religious order under the name of "Order of Preachers", the "Ordo Praedicatorum".
The Papal bull confirming the establishment of the order is still in existence in the archives of Toulouse.
The house that is to this day called "Seilhan House" can still be seen at 7 Place du Parlement in Toulouse.
It was restored in the 17th century and comprises, at its second floor, 4 halls.
The first hall called "Saint Dominic Hall" displays a series 6 paintings dating from the 18th century depicting scenes from the Saint's life, paintings that are originally from Germany.
The second hall is dedicated to Henri-Dominique Lacordaire (May 12, 1802 – November 21, 1861) the French priest credited with the reestablishment of the Dominican Order in the post-revolutionary France. It contains a collection of Lacordaire personal effects.
The third hall is dedicated to Saint Thomas d'Aquin, the famous Dominican monk considered one of the leading masters of the Catholic theology (his relics are kept in the Jacobin Convent in Toulouse).
The fourth hall is the oratory where Saint Dominique used to pray and is the one that keeps the most its resemblance with the room the way it was during the saint's time. It was added in the 17th century a beautiful "French style" ceiling.
From the house one can reach a former chapel that is now an amphitheatre belonging to the Catholic Institute of Toulouse whose ceiling is adorned with 15, 17th century, paintings depicting scenes from the life of Saint Dominic.
For more information related with the life and work of Saint Dominic in the southwest of France click here
Entrance is by donation.
(A very friendly and knowledgeable guide offers guided tours.)
Not only the paintings are beautiful but the prayer room has something very touching, knowing that the same walls were touched,seen by Saint Dominique!