The Medieval Cult of Saint Dominic of Silos

Article excerpt

The Medieval Cult of Saint Dominic of Silos. By Anthony Lappin. [Modern Humanities Research Association Texts and Dissertations, Volume 56.] (Leeds: Maney Publishing for the Modern Humanities Research Association. 2002. Pp. xiii, 445. Paperback.)

St. Dominic of Silos (d. 1073) began his monastic career in the Castilian abbey of San Millán de la Cogolla. His outspoken opposition to the monetary demands of King García of Navarre reflected the concern of eleventh-century reformers to defend church properly, but it resulted in his ouster from the monastery. Nevertheless, encouraged by Fernando I of Leon-Castile, he set about restoring the abbey of Silos, rebuilding dilapidated structures and introducing the Cluniac reform. After his death he was heralded as a saint. Some thirty years later the monk Grimaldus wrote his life. In addition to typical instances of Dominic's piety, Grimaldus also described miracles wrought through his intercession. Not only was Dominic revered as an exorcist capable of expelling demons, but also as one who facilitated the escape of Christians taken prisoner by the Muslims and reduced to slavery.

Lappin divides his book into two parts. The first, a detailed study of the Vita, displays a wide acquaintance with ancient and medieval hagiographical literature. After summarizing the exorcisms attributed to Dominic, he assesses modern efforts at psychological explanation. As Dominic was perceived as a liberator of captives his cult became popular in frontier communities exposed to warfare with the Muslims. Reflecting contemporary ecclesiastical attitudes, Grimaldus tended to think of soldiers as being motivated solely by a desire for booty, but he was pleased to record their devotion to Dominic. While he regarded Islam as pernicious and Muhammad as a false prophet, Grimaldus was evenhanded in his treatment of Muslims. The spread of Dominic's cult southward ultimately had the effect of discouraging pilgrimages to Silos itself.

Part two concerns popular devotion to St. Dominic later in the thirteenth century. …


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