Humbert of Romans

Blessed Humbert of Romans, O.P.
Master General of the Order of Preachers
Born 1190-1200
Romans-sur-Isère, France
Died 14 July 1277
Valence, Drôme, France
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
(Dominican Order)
Feast 14 July

The Blessed Humbert of Romans, O.P., (1190-1200, Romans-sur-Isère – 14 July 1277, Valence, Drôme, France) was a French Dominican friar who served as the fifth Master General of the Order of Preachers from 1254 to 1263.[1]

Early career

Nothing is known of his early life. The earliest known details of his life show that Humbert studied both Arts and then canon law at the University of Paris, where he was then admitted as a professor. A man of deep piety, subsequently, although he had thought about joining the Carthusians (whom his brother had joined), he entered the Dominican Order on 30 November 1224. After his profession, he was appointed lector of theology at the Dominican priory in Lyon during 1226 and, by 1237, he had become prior of that monastery. In 1240 he was appointed as the Prior Provincial of Tuscany. His presence in Italy led to support for his candidacy in the papal conclave of 1241 (although the Orsini and other noble Romans families seem to have opposed his election).

Humbert returned to France in 1244 as Prior Provincial of the country, replacing Hugh of Saint-Cher, who had been made a cardinal, the first from their Order. During his time as Provincial in his native land, Humbert was charged with producing a lectionary for use by the whole Order.[2]

Master General

Humbert was elected as Master General of the Dominican Order in 1254. His first achievement was the re-organization (and consequent standardization) of the Order's liturgy. A new edition of the Order's Constitutions was prepared, and measures were taken to improve discipline in the Order's houses. Further, he issued new Constitutions for all nuns associated with the Dominican Order, based on those he himself had drawn up while serving as Provincial of France. He instituted the formal collection of information of two of the Order's members, Dominic, the founder, and the martyred Peter of Verona, with the intention of seeking their canonization. As a result of this search for information, Friar Gerald de Frachet produced his Vitae fratrum (Lives of the Brothers).

In 1255, he was called to adjudicate a dispute on the Constitutions of the Carthusian monks. In 1256, he became the godfather of one of the children of the holy King Louis IX of France; and, in 1258, the same king asked for his advice regarding the settlement of a dispute between various noble families. Humbert further encouraged the missionary activities of the friars, and schools to teach Oriental languages were established in Spain.

In governing, he demonstrated both indulgence and severity when either was required, and he combined a broad outlook with a genius for detail. Under his rule, the Order flourished in Italy, Germany, Spain, France, and England. Humbert sent missionaries to the Greeks, Hungarians, Saracens, Armenians, Syrians, Ethiopians, and Tartars. He regulated the liturgy of the Divine Office, determined the suffrages of for the dead, commanded the history of the Order be recorded, and even issued minute decrees concerning the election of superiors, the reading of the Constitutions at meals, the transfer of friars from one house to another and other pertinent regulations.[3]

Opposition to the presence of both Dominicans and Franciscans at the University of Paris during the mid-1250s led to his issuing a joint encyclical with the Franciscan Minister General, urging that the two Orders - often in bitter dispute - should work together for their survival and the maintenance of their university chairs.

Humbert resigned his position as Master of the Order in 1263 at the General Chapter held in London, probably on account of his failing health.[4]


His literary production was geared mainly to the demands of his Order. He composed a Letter on Regular Observance and a commentary on the Rule of Saint Augustine (the Rule which had been adopted by the Dominicans in 1220, though in a modified form); and a treatise On Preaching, which had some success as a collection of exempla, but few manuscripts survive with its initial suggestions regarding the formation of the preacher himself.

Humbert also composed the Opus tripartitum, one of a number of texts by leading intellectuals commissioned by Gregory X to be presented at the Second Council of Lyon in 1274. This document defended church reform, promoted the philosophy of crusades, discussed the relationship of the Church to Arabs, analyzed the causes and effects of the Greek Schism, proposed ways to go about the re-establishment of Christian unity between the two wings of Christianity, and promoted the mission to the heathens.


  1.  Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Humbert of Romans". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  2. Simon Tugwell, Early Dominicans: Selected Writings, The Classics of Western Spirituality (Paulist Press, 1982), p. 32
  3. Editor's Preface to Humbert's Book on Preaching
  4. Simon Tugwell, Early Dominicans: Selected Writings, The Classics of Western Spirituality (Paulist Press, 1982), pp. 33-34

External sources

Preceded by
John of Wildeshausen
Master General of the Dominican Order
Succeeded by
John of Vercelli
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