Dominican Order Celebrates the 800th Anniversary
of the Founding of the Prouilhe Monastery
(posted February 22, 2006)

This display in Madden Hall celebrates
the 800th anniversary of the founding
of the monastery in Prouilhe.

This year marks the 800th anniversary of the monastery in Prouilhe, France, founded by St. Dominic Guzman. This first monastery, founded in 1206, is the cornerstone of the Dominican Order and the Dominican Family. The Adrian Dominican Sisters, founded in 1879, belong to the Order of Preachers, whose members include brothers, contemplative nuns, congregations of contemplative and apostolic sisters, and lay persons. A photographic display celebrating the 8 th century of Prouilhe’s founding was created by Nadine Foley, OP, with assistance from John MacNaughton, Office of Communication. The display is located on the first floor of Madden Hall at the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse.

In the 13th century, Dominic encountered in his journeys through France the heretical Cathari. This sect contrasted a god of evil, creator of the material world, with the god of goodness, creator of the invisible spiritual world. Poorly trained in theology and doctrine, the Cathari were able to exert a strong influence on the people. Dominic, however, was able to convert many of the Cathari and bring them back to the proper understanding of the teaching of Christ. Among his converts were a number of noble women and young girls who were then unable to remain with families hostile to Catholicism. Rejected by their families, they could not be abandoned.

Dominic, with the cooperation of his bishop Diego, of Osma, Spain, decided to group these women together in a convent where life would be just as demanding as they had experienced with the Cathari. According to legend, Dominic, standing on a parapet at Fanjeaux, saw a firebrand streak across the sky and land in the spot that is Prouilhe. Dominic saw it as a sign from God determining the place for the monastery he would found for the first women converts from the Cathari. The convent would also be used as a “stop-over” for the Dominican missionary friars whose evangelism they supported, not only by their prayers but also in material ways. They were settled in the village of Prouilhe at the end of 1206.

In 1212, as the number of sisters grew, the building of a new, but modest, monastery began. Dominic insured support for the sisters by obtaining grants for them and additional property from surrounding landowners. Because the women could not read, he helped them to memorize the Gospels and the psalms and instructed them in liturgical prayer.