Contemplata aliis Tradere

A meagre contribution to the mission and work of the Order of Preachers: my reflections, thoughts, ideas and the occasional rant on matters mainly theological, philosophical and ecclesiastical, drawn primarily from my reading and experience of life and the world. Striving to be always Catholic, firmly Christian and essentially Dominican, flavoured with dashes of Von Balthasar.

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Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

A son of the English Province of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans); born in Malaysia but have lived in the USA, Singapore, the UK & the Philippines for varying durations. A pilgrim and way-farer, a searcher for Truth on the journey of Life... "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!" - Hilaire Belloc

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Caleruega is a small village near Burgos in Castilla la Vieja (old Castille)... it is a village so unknown to most tourists that many bypass it as they travel the road to the famous Benedictine monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos. Few realize that another Santo Domingo, named after that holy abbot of Silos, was born in this village of Caleruega, just 20 minutes drive across the hills from Silos. The Santo Domingo of Caleruega (shown on right in a striking 13th century statue from Caleruega's museum), born of the Guzman family is the father of one of the Church's great religious orders, a family of Preachers who have served the Church and preached the Truth to all nations for 800 years; indeed 2006 marks the 800th year of the Dominican charism which began in 1206 in Prouille, France.

And yet, the simplicity of Caleruega where, as Fra' Paul Mills OP put it, there is not an "industry of St Dominic" - so that the village maintains a contemplative tranquility and unspoilt quality - is for me also a mark of the humility of our holy father St Dominic. We were told by fray Jesus, our gentle and kind guide that when the faithful wished to build a great basilica in honour of St Dominic in Caleruega, Blessed Mannes de Guzman OP, brother of St Dominic objected that his brother would not have wanted such an accord and so the church remains a simple building. You can glimpse this church in the background of the photo below. Br Paul and I are standing outside the friars' convent in Caleruega.

In fact, the ancient church of St Sebastian (below left) where St Dominic was baptized still dominates the main plaza of Caleruega and is larger than St Dominic's church. The font in which this great son of the Church was baptized is no longer here as it was taken to Madrid by the King Alfonso X the Wise (himself related to St Dominic) where it is still used for royal baptisms.

A special site in St Dominic's church is in the crypt where Blessed Mannes showed the people of Caleruega the site of Dominic's birth. It is also said to be the site of Bl Jane de Aza and Ven Felix de Guzman's marital bed! Apparently devotees of the saint started taking soil away from the site until eventually a spring gushed up and so a well was built. To this day, people still come to drink from St Dominic's well (below right, in front of the altar of St Dominic) as it is believed to cause child-birth and even fecundity of vocations! It was a special moment indeed for me as we drank from this well, praying for an increase of vocations to our Province and Order and as we sang the antiphon in praise of our holy father: "O lumen Ecclesiae... Aquam sapientiae..."

Also in the crypt of the church was the beautiful and poignant tomb of fray Emmanuel Suarez OP, Master of the Order from 1946 - 1954 (shown below). This Spaniard successor of St Dominic was instrumental in the development of Caleruega as a place of Dominican pilgrimage and spirituality but he was tragically killed in a car accident. He is buried here in his beloved Caleruega in a monumental tomb designed and executed by the father of a Spanish Dominican friar in the 1950s.

Next to St Dominic's church is the Royal Monastery of St Dominic where enclosed nuns of the Order have been living since July 1270. We were able to visit the cloister (below) and the museum which included a lovely alabaster statue of St Dominic which features the oldest extant usage of the Dominican shield and a beautiful statue of the Annunciation which came from the nuns' first convent at San Esteban de Gormez in the diocese of Osma.

Part of the nuns' convent is the noble house of the Guzman family (above) which is where St Dominic lived as a child. It was given to the nuns by the King of Spain in the 13th century. Right next to the Guzman family home is a tower built in the 12th century as part of the fortifications built by the Christian monarchs of Spain as a defense against the Muslims and as a vital part of the strategy for the re-conquest of Spain. The torreon of Caleruega (below right) is now part of the friars' lovely convent and is a distinctive feature of the village. It was fascinating to note that the arms of the Aza and Guzman families placed on the tower had ten 'cauldrons' in total which indicated that Caleruega fed at least 100 soldiers.

What is noteworthy about Caleruega is that the whole Guzman family is still revered by the village folk. Indeed, fray Jesus was keen to explain to us that in Caleruega, the people have long considered that Dominic's older brother, Antonio, was the most holy in the family and it is supposedly a source of consternation to them why he remains just a Venerable and not a canonized saint! His relics along with those of his father, Ven Felix and Bl Mannes are enshrined in St Dominic's church.

Also revered is St Dominic's mother, Bl Jane of Aza whose image is very much evident in Caleruega. We were able to visit the wine cellar of the noble house (left) where Bl Jane is said to have prayed and filled the wine barrels with fine wine after she had given the wine away to the poor, much to the ire of her husband! This story gave our novice master a new-found devotion to Bl Jane!

In the mosaic below from the crypt of St Dominic's church, she is shown as the matriarch at the centre of her holy family with St Dominic and Ven Felix on the her right and Bl Mannes and Ven Antonio on her left. May they pray for us!

From Caleruega, we followed in Bl Jane's footsteps and made our way to Silos and the ancient monastery where she once went on pilgrimage to the tomb of Santo Domingo and prayed there as she bore her youngest son in her womb; she named him Domingo after the holy abbot of Silos.

The beauty of Caleruega (right, showing landscape as one approaches the village from Silos) and its relative obscurity and peace is that one is still able to visit the place and catch a glimpse of the spirit of the holy Guzman family. One still experiences the tranquil seclusion of this village and contemplates in the holy silence which is the 'pater praedicatorum', the father of preachers. That same silence 800 years ago gave rise to our holy father St Dominic who was inspired to found a family of Preachers of the Truth... in Caleruega, every son and daughter of St Dominic finds their spiritual home.


Blogger Danny & Debbie Otero said...

Many thanks for the stories about 'la familia Guzmán.' And it is good to know that there is no 'industry of St. Dominic' to spoil the village. Clearly, our Holy Father Dominic would prefer it this way!

1:20 am  
Blogger Moniales said...

Sigh! How wonderful! Thanks for the pictures! Did you try the nuns' cookies?
Every year the nuns send us a newsletter about the festivities for St. Dominic. I'd rather go to Calaruega than Assisi anyday!

5:59 pm  
Blogger Br Lawrence, O.P. said...

While in Salamanca, we tasted pastries made by several Dominican monasteries but not from Caleruega. However, we did share a chocolate cake in Caleruega with the friars and that was made by the nuns next door!

As for Assisi: yours is a typically Dominican sentiment which I'm inclined to agree with!!

11:05 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Bro. Lawrence,

I have waited for these (and more) pictures and stories. I am much grateful. God bless you.

Fr. TerryOP

9:25 am  
Blogger Br Lawrence, O.P. said...

Fr Terry, I ought to add that in all our photos from Spain, Br Paul and I are wearing our Made-in-the-Philippines habits! So my beloved Pilipinas was very much close to my heart as we toured Dominic's homeland.

11:36 pm  

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