The beginnings of the Dominican Order (more formally known as the Order of Friars Preachers) belong in the context of the papacy’s campaigns against the Albigensian heretics in southwestern France. The founder of the order, Dominic Guzman (canonized in 1234), was a member of one of the papal legations commissioned to preach against Catharism in Languedoc. During this time he gathered a group of preachers around him that formed the basis for the foundation of the Dominican Order in 1217. When the crusade against the Albigensians was put into motion after 1209, Dominic came into close contact with the crusaders and their leaders, who supported his community of friars financially. Although Dominic and his followers did not become crusaders, they were, as part of the papal faction in Languedoc, pursuing the same aim as the crusaders, the eradication of heresy, albeit with different means.
Not long after the formal establishment of the Dominican Order, the friars became involved in the business of the cross and, alongside their Franciscan counterparts, went on to become arguably the most important group of crusade propagandists of the later Middle Ages. As early as the 1220s, the papacy commissioned individual friars to preach the cross, such as, for example, John of Wildeshausen, who later became the fourth master-general of the order, and the canon lawyer Raymond of Penyaforte, who preached the crusade to Mallorca in the late 1220s. From the 1230s onward, Dominican friars were called upon by the papacy to preach in support of most crusades throughout the later Middle Ages. As with the Franciscans, the Europe-wide presence of the order, combined with a strict internal hierarchy, made the Dominicans an ideal agent for spreading and at the same time controlling crusade propaganda. In the thirteenth century the Dominicans were given special responsibility for recruiting and organizing the crusading support for the Teutonic Order in the Baltic region, an area that they had already singled out for their missionary activities.
Alongside their preaching activities, Dominican friars also collected taxes, vow redemptions, and money donated in support of the crusades. The Dominican Order was evidently seen by the papacy as particularly reliable in matters of crusade propaganda. In contrast to the Franciscan Order, it was not hampered by internal strife (at least not to the same extent), and its leaders took an active personal interest in the crusades. Besides those already mentioned, important members of the order such as Humbert of Romans, Peter the Martyr, Albert the Great, and John of Capistrano all preached the crusade; Catherine of Siena, a Dominican tertiary, was also one of the most fervent promoters of the crusade in the fourteenth century. Of these, Humbert of Romans was probably the most influential crusade propagandist, not only compiling model sermons for the use of other crusade preachers but also writing a popular crusade- preaching handbook, De predicatione crucis, which was read throughout the later Middle Ages and was among the earliest books to be published in print in the fifteenth century.
The Dominican Order thus played a vital role in sustaining the crusade movement. The Dominicans’ support of the crusades was linked to their status as an exempt order of the church, subject only to the papacy, and corresponded well to their active support of papal government and policy. As theologians, canon lawyers, inquisitors, crusade preachers, and pastoral reformers Dominican friars were closely involved in the implementation of the papacy’s strategies of church reform. The Dominican Order actively supported the papacy’s crusade policy because that policy was used as an instrument to enforce orthodoxy and strengthen the doctrinal, political, and institutional authority of the church. But like the Franciscans, the Dominicans also embraced the pastoral dimension of crusading, its appeal to Christocentric spirituality, and its strong penitential thrust. The Dominicans also combined their support of the crusades with their interest in missionizing non-Christian peoples and nonCatholic Christians, which is borne out by the early foundation of Dominican priories in the countries along the Baltic coast, in the Balkans, and in Greece, Cyprus, and Palestine in the wake of the crusades.