Glossary entry for
St. Dominic

St. Dominic was the founder (in 1216) of a mendicant order of friars and nuns (the Dominicans, as you might guess). The following passage is extracted from an interview with Van in the June 22, 1972 issue of "Rolling Stone":

[Van] I'd been working on this song about the scene going down in Belfast. And I wasn't sure what I was writing but anyway the central image seemed to be this church called St. Dominic's where people were gathering to pray or hear a mass for peace in Northern Ireland. Anyway, a few weeks ago I was in Reno [Nevada] for a gig at the University of Nevada. And while we were having dinner I picked up the newspaper and just opened it to a page and there in front of me was an announcement about a mass for peace in Belfast to be said the next day at St. Dominic's church in San Francisco [California]. Like I'd never even heard of a St. Dominic's church.

[John Grissim, Jr., interviewer with R.S.] What did you end up titling it?

[Van] "St. Dominic's Preview". You know something? I haven't a clue to what it means.

There have been a number of theories about what the "preview" refers to. Jim McCloskey suggests that "the title of the song refers to St Dominic's Purview or Purvue. The Purview of a cathedral or church is the area immediately surrounding it (usually in a market-town or city) which was under its jurisdiction (rather than under the jurisdiction of the civil authority)".

Looking at it from another angle, Cris Bowers reports his discovery (in a public television show on early Italian Renaissance art) of a painting of the Last Judgment being revealed to St. Dominic in a vision. He suggests that "maybe the St. Dominic's Preview [is] a view of the end of the world", and wonders

Is it possible that Van's pointing out the futility of what he sees and pointing to what are, for him, transcendent truths out the futility of what he sees, directing us instead to what are, for him, transcendent truths that lie beyond?

Van-L list member Jan I. Zamojski sends the following (May, 2001):
"The 13th-century text reproduced below serves as an intriguing gloss on "Saint Dominic's Preview" and can be found translated in its entirety at part of a website maintained by the Dominican Order."

The Legend of St Dominic by Blessed Cecilia Cesarine, O.S.B.
This Legend was dictated by Blessed Cecilia in her old age and is from a very ancient parchment kept in St Agnes' monastery in Bologna for centuries and now in the public archives.

Once when St Dominic was passing the night in the church in prayer, about midnight he went out and entered the dormitory. After looking at his brethren he resumed his prayer at the entrance of the dormitory . . . and was caught up in spirit from where he was standing to the throne of God, and there he beheld our Lord, and the Blessed Virgin sitting on his right hand, whilst she appeared to our holy father to be wearing a mantle of deep blue colour. As he gazed round he saw religious men of every Order in the Church standing in God's presence, but not one of his own family, so he began to weep bitterly and would not presume to come near our Lord and his holy mother. Thereupon she made a sign with her hand for him to draw nigh, but still he did not dare to do so until our Lord also beckoned to him; then he came up and threw himself down before them, weeping as if his heart would break. Then Christ bade him arise, and asked him gently: "Why weepest thou thus sorrowfully?" "I am grieving," said St Dominic, "because I see here members of every religious Order, but of my own not one." Then our Lord said: "And would you see your Order?" To this the saint answered trembling: "Yes, Lord, of a surety I would." Placing his hand lovingly on the Blessed Virgin's shoulder, Christ replied: "I have given over your Order to my mother's care." At this the Blessed Virgin drew back her mantle, and opening it wide before St Dominic, it seemed to enclose nearly the whole of that heavenly country, so vast was it, and beneath it he saw a great host of his brethren. Casting himself down, St Dominic returned right hearty thanks to Christ and his holy mother; soon the vision passed away, and once again regaining his natural consciousness he rang the bell for matins. When the morning office was over he summoned the brethren to the chapter-house, and there spoke to them with burning words, exhorting them to love and reverence ever the blessed Virgin, and amongst the rest he told them of his vision.

Source: Lives of the Brethren of the Order of Preachers, 1206-1259. Translated by Placid Conway, O.P. Edited, with Notes and Introduction, by Bede Jarrett, O.P. London: Blackfriars Publications, 1955.

With respect to other references in this song, Jim McCloskey notes that

Other references in the song are purely Northern Irish --- 'flags and emblems' is a reference to the Flags and Emblems Act of the former Northern Ireland Parliament at Stormont. This was a law which outlawed all public expression of Irish nationalism --- the (public) singing of certain songs, the display of the Irish flag and certain other symbols or emblems deemed to be republican or nationalist. It was a feature of life in Belfast and Derry in the 40's, 50's and 60's and a great focus of resentment in the nationalist community

Van references in:

Part of the unofficial website