|Monastery at Prouille|
Mother Francis Raphael observed that the political upheaval and religious battles of the 12th century had resulted in the impoverishment of many noble families who were forced to conceal their faith in order to survive. Consequently their children were educated by men and women who placed more worldly interests ahead of religious conviction. This was especially detrimental to the proper upbringing of girls who gave themselves to child-bearing at early age and lacked the opportunity to find proper spiritual guidance later in life. The fact they would then pass on their own misguided instruction to their offspring only served to augment the problem. “This evil was very soon perceived by the quick eye of Dominic, and so deplorably did he feel the cruelty which exposed these souls to the certain ruin of their religious principles, that he determined on a very strenuous effort to oppose it, and to provide some means for the education of the daughters of Catholics in the true faith. For this purpose he resolved to found a monastery, where, within the protection of strict enclosure, and under the charge of a few holy women whom he gathered together out of the suffering provinces, these children might be nurtured under the Church's shadow. The spot chosen for this purpose was Prouille.”
The monastery founded by Saint Dominic at Prouille in 1207 was situated in a small village at the foot of the Pyrenees and dedicated to Our Lady. Notre Dame de Prouille is the first of numerous monasteries, convents and schools placed under Our Lady’s patronage by the Dominican Order. Count Simon de Montfort joined Saint Dominic in crusading against the Albigensian heresy and offered his financial support and military protection of Prouille. The little community consisted at first of nine women of distinction converted by the preaching and miracles of Saint Dominic but in time it flourished to over a hundred members and gave rise to at least twelve other Dominican foundations. Although popular legend says that the Blessed Virgin appeared to Saint Dominic at Prouille, Mother Francis Raphael points out that this event more likely occurred at the sanctuary of Notre Dame de Dreche near Albi. Notre Dame de Prouille is still noteworthy as the first of thousands of religious institutions dedicated to Our Lady founded by the Dominican Order.
Drane, Augusta Theodosia (Mother Francis Raphael), The Life of St. Dominic and a Sketch of the Dominican Order with an Introduction to the America edition by Rev Joseph Sadoc Alemany, D.D., P. O’Shea Publisher, New York, New York, 1867, (p. 18-29).