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Dominic of Silos

(c. 1000—1073)

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abbot. Born at Can˜as in Rioja (Navarre) of a free peasant family, he worked on the family farm for some years before becoming a monk at S. Millan de la Congolla. Ordained priest, he became novice master and then prior. After a dispute over property rights with Garcia III of Navarre, he was exiled with two companions. But Ferdinand I of Old Castile welcomed these monastic refugees and in 1041 gave them the monastery of St Sebastian at Silos (near Burgos), which was then in a critical state. Most of its buildings were in ruins and it had but six monks. Dominic was chosen as abbot and rescued it. Inspired by Cluniac ideals, he rebuilt the church, planned the cloisters, and established a notable scriptorium, one of whose products was the magnificent Apocalypse now in the British Library. The fame of Dominic's holiness and learning soon spread: numerous miracles were attributed to him in life and after death, including healings of all kinds and the liberation of captives from the Moors. At his death the monastery numbered over forty monks: its resources included a flourishing gold and silver workshop, which made possible extensive charity to the local community. Three years after his death, Dominic's body was translated into the church, this being the equivalent of local canonization. Churches and monasteries were dedicated to him from 1085 onwards.

Dominic's caring and curing powers were traditionally associated with pregnancy. Jane of Aza, the mother of the Dominicans' founder, gave him Dominic's name after a fruitful pilgrimage to his shrine some months before his birth. Dominic's pastoral staff was used to bless queens of Spain and it remained by their bedside until they had a safe delivery. Silos was revived as a monastery by Solesmes in the 19th century and flourishes today: its fine double Romanesque cloisters, extensive library, and recordings of Gregorian Chant are specially notable.

Feast: 20 December; translation, 5 January.

Three ancient Lives in S. de Vergara, Vita y milagros del…santo Domingo Manso (1763);M. Ferotin, Histoire de l'Abbaye de Silos (1897); Life by A. Ruiz (1950);D.H.G.E., xiv. 623–7;B.L.S., xii. 161–2;Bibl. SS., iv. 736–7.

Subjects: Religion

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