Centre for Dominican Studies of Dacia

Preachers of Poverty

- Dominican mediation between Poor and Rich in the Middle Ages

Presentation of session held at the International Medieval Congress (IMC) in Leeds 12 July 2011.

Sponsor: Centre for Dominican Studies of Dacia.

Organiser: Johnny Grandjean Gøgsig Jakobsen, Nordisk Forskningsinstitut, Københavns Universitet.

Moderator/Chair: Torstein Jørgensen, Centre for Medieval Studies, Universitetet i Bergen.


Session abstract

Although often out of rather wealthy family background themselves, the Dominican Friars Preachers were Mendicants, meaning that they were not allowed to have any rent-giving possessions, but instead were supposed to live on the charity of other people. Inevitably, this ideal caused some problems with what was practically possible. Apparently, the friars had more in common with and closer relations to the Rich than to the Poor, but they always preached very eagerly in support of the Poor, this way endorsing Christian charity among the better-off people towards the less fortunate in medieval society. The papers of the session wish to focus on the different aspects of the Friars Preachers’ role as mediators between Poor and Rich in the Middle Ages, both in terms of practical life and in terms of ideology and preaching.


Paper A: Beati pauperes spiritu - blessed are the poor in spirit. Humbert of Romans on the Poor and the Rich

    Kurt Villads Jensen, Institut for Historie, Kultur & Samfundsbeskrivelse, Syddansk Universitet.

With the Dominicans, preaching became a well organized, academic, rhetorical expertise that was exercised and given expression only after years of education and training. And yet it was aimed at addressing everybody, not only the educated elite but also and especially the poor in the spirit. Discussions within the Dominican Order about this dichotomy between learned and popular, and especially in the writings by the master general Humbert of Romans, is the topic of this paper.


Paper B: Beggars in palaces - Dominican ideal and reality on poverty in medieval Northern Europe

    Johnny Grandjean Gøgsig Jakobsen, Nordisk Forskningsinstitut, Københavns Universitet.

The Dominican Friars Preachers were not just preaching the virtues of poverty and on the importance of being generous towards the Poor. They were also themselves supposed to live as Mendicants, that is without any wordly possessions, surviving on the charity of their fellow Christians through major donations and everyday alms. According to their Humanist and Lutheran critics, these monastic beggars lived in palaces and dressed up in the most expensive robes, and still they burdened peasants and burghers with their shameless questing. This paper will seek to show how Friars Preachers in medieval Northern Europe actually related to Rich and Poor in society, and how their mendicant ideals worked in reality, in some places allowing them to become significant landlords - and how such Dominican possession of real estate could produce problems as well as benefits for lay society.  


Paper C: Franciscans in the Holy Land (substitute paper)

    Timo Kirschberger, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen.

For the Franciscan Friars Minor, thirteenth-century Holy Land constituted the perfect Terra Franciscana for martyrdom and missionary activities.  


Centre for Dominican Studies of Dacia

Johnny G.G. Jakobsen, Department of Scandinavian Research, University of Copenhagen

Postal address: Njalsgade 136, DK-2300 Copenhagen, Denmark ● Email: jggj@hum.ku.dk