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Reviewed by:
  • La Provincia Domenicana di Grecia
  • Charles Frazee
La Provincia Domenicana di Grecia. By Tommaso Violante, O.P. [Institutum Historicum Fratrum Praedicatorum Romae, Dissertationes historicae, Fasciculus XXV.] (Rome: Istituto Storico Domenicano. 1999. Pp. 393. paperback.)

The success of the Fourth Crusade inaugurated a new epoch in the relations between the Latin and Greek churches. Pope Innocent III, who first expressed shock at the news of the diversion of the expedition, afterwards decided that it was all part of God's plan to effect a full reconciliation between the churches. His successors were of the same opinion.

The papal agents in the East were monks, primarily Cistercians, and the recently formed orders of friars, Franciscans and Dominicans. In 1228, while Gregory IX was pope, a General Council of the latter meeting in Paris under Jordan of Saxony, the head of the order immediately after St. Dominic, responded to the request for missionaries to the East and organized a Dominican province in Greece. The friars were to serve both the French and Italian colonists in the East, but trained in the Greek language as well as theology, they were to seek converts from the native orthodox. Father Violante's book tells the story of the four hundred years of the Dominican presence in fulfilling their charge.

During the first flush of enthusiasm, the Order opened houses in Constantinople and in the lands that now make up modern Greece. In the beginning they were seven in number: Thebes, Clarence, Modon, and Andreville on the mainland, Negroponte on Euboea, and Candia on Crete. The author notes that four were located in Venetian territories, where the Dominicans enjoyed a comfortable relationship with the civil officials of the Republic of St. Mark. Later the order placed a convent on Chios, which, in the fourteenth century, came under Genoese control.

St. Hyacinth may have been the founder of the friary in Constantinople, but the name of its church is variously given as St. Paul or St. Dominic. The sources are unclear, but for certain the Dominicans had an establishment by 1234. They remained there until the Byzantine restoration forced the closing of the friary. [End Page 295] Toward the end of the thirteenth century William Bernard, a Provençal from Gaillac, re-established the Dominican presence in Constantinople.

The friars spent their time in offering the sacraments to the Latins and, by preaching and writing, sought to win over the Greeks. Demonstrating the high regard for the friars in Constantinople, several Greeks, the most prominent of them Demetrios Kydones, Manuel Kalekas, and the brothers Theodore, Maximos, and Andrew Chrysoberges, not only became Catholic converts, but joined the Dominicans. Kydones translated portions of the theological books of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine, which were only then made available to Greek theologians.

Violante points with pride to the Dominican contributions to the two councils of Lyon, the Order's continued interest in leading the theological debate between the churches, and the many bishops in the East who came from their ranks. It was thanks to the bilingual Dominican archbishop of Corinth, William of Moerbeke, that St. Thomas Aquinas had translations of many of Aristotle's works.

The author has made a judicious choice of both primary and secondary sources, and for any scholar interested in the Latin East, his work will now become the standard on the contributions of the Order. Today, visitors can still discover a connection to the Dominican province of Greece at the Arap Cami in Galata, close by the Golden Horn, which once was the church of St. Paul. Modern Andravida in the Peloponnesos, formerly Andreville, capital of the Duchy of Morea, holds a few walls of the Gothic church of the Holy Wisdom. Better than the monuments, cloistered Dominican nuns still dutifully keep the hours on the island of Santorini.

Charles Frazee
Episcopal School of Theology at Claremont


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pp. 295-296
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