Shrine of St. Frideswide, Christ Church Cathedral Oxford.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

St. Dominic of Silos, 20 December. (Santo Domingo de Silos)

St. Dominic depicted in the robes of a mitered abbot. 
     Santo Domingo de Silos, as he is called in the Spanish language, was born in the rural town of Canas in Castille around the beginning of the 11th century. He was a shepherd for much his childhood and his family was part of the Spanish peasant class, which endured some of the worst conditions of all of Europe's lower classes. His career is all the more remarkable in light of his humble birth. While still young, he entered the benedictine abbey at La Rioja, called San Millan. There he eventually became Prior but was deposed by the King of Navarre, Garcia III, when he refused to allow the confiscation of some of the Priory's land. A refugee of that northern Spanish kingdom, Dominic won the patronage of King Ferdinand I of Leon, who placed him as the Abbot of the Abbey at Silos, where only six brothers lived in its ruinous state. Dominic gradually rebuilt the monastery, increasing the number of brothers, and establishing a library and scriptorium and thus, increasing its reputation, especially as a center for the Mozarabic Liturgy, the rite of the ancient Visigoth Church. Remembering his humble origins, much of the new wealth of the Abbey at Silos was used to free Christian slaves from the Muslim Moors, who occupied almost the entire southern half of Spain in the 11th century, territory which, previous to Moorish control, was Christian. Dominic died on this day in 1073. Three years later, his relics were translated into the Abbey Church where they became the center of his cult and where, in 1170, Joan of Aza, prayed for a child, promising to name him Dominic-who would became the famous Spanish saint and founder of the Dominican Order of Preachers. Dominic of Silos is venerated in both the Roman and Anglican Churches.

     Dominic became the head of a dying church. But with a combination of liturgical and historical studies, charity for Christian neighbors and the insistence of the importance of the monastery's involvement and prominence, and that of the greater Church in general, in secular society. His life and works remain significant to the  modern church as a model to rebuild redundant churches and establish new ones as centers of ecclesiastical liturgy and study, and as dispensers of charity might which could bring the church back to its position as a center of public devotion and relief.

The romanesque, 'double decker' cloister of the Abbey. 

The Abbey, in Leon, Spain, actually dates to the Visigothic Church of the 7th century. The Abbey remained a center of the Mozarabic Rite after the death of St. Dominic although, like rest of the Church, except for the Archdiocese of Milan, it eventually switched to the  Latin Rite. As monasticism has had little part in the core of the Roman Catholic Church for sometime, Silos seems to have begun to disintegrate again in the 19th century, when it sold many of the manuscripts from its library. Since then, the monastery has rejuvenated itself as a center of Gregorian Chant, for which it is known world wide....St. Dominic's mission continues.

Chant from the Mozarabic Antiphonary of the Abbey.

One of the Abbey's many recordings of Gregorian Chant: Puer Natus in Bethlehem.

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