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Dominican nuns and sisters

800 years of Dominican books

St Dominic established the first priory of women in late 1206 or early 1207, so there were Dominican nuns before he established the Order of Preachers in 1216. In contrast to the friars Dominican nuns are an enclosed order. The first community was founded at Prouille in Languedoc where St Dominic was then preaching against the Cathar heretics, and some of the women who joined the priory of Prouille were converts from the Cathars who had returned to the true Catholic faith and renounced their heresy. In England in the Middle Ages there was only one priory, at Dartford, founded by King Edward III in 1346 although the new buildings were not ready to receive the nuns until 1356. Four nuns from the French royal Dominican nunnery of Poissy were part of the initial intake at Dartford, together with ten English women. Dartford Priory was dissolved at the Reformation in 1539 and although Dominican nuns were re-established at Carisbrooke on the Isle of Wight in 1866, sadly the priory closed down in 1989. However, the participation of women in the Order in England still flourishes as a result of the establishment of several communities of Dominican Sisters, notably those of St Catherine of Siena.

Image reproduced by kind permission of the Syndics of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.