Dominicans, or Order of Preachers (OP = Ordo fratrum praedicatorum). Founded by St. Dominic, sanctioned by the church in 1216, entrusted with the execution of the Inquisition in 1232; in the high and late Middle Ages it was the most influential of the 4 Mendicant Orders.
The three main concerns of the Dominicans are study and academic education, promotion of spiritual religious life and missionary work. The first Austrian community was set up in Friesach in 1217. In 1232 a female order of Dominicans developed, leading a contemplative life under strict enclosure. The Dominican order, as opposed to the older orders, was part of the world of the urban middle-class and played an important role in the development of the Gothic style ("Bettelordenskirchen" = churches of mendicant orders). The oldest surviving hall churches in Austria were built by the Dominicans (with 2 naves 1269 in Imbach in the Kremstal valley and with 3 naves in Retz). Under Joseph II all Dominican monasteries were abolished. The order was reorganised In the 19th century. Today's communities (Friesach, Vienna, Retz, Graz) were integrated into the newly-founded upper German province of Germania superior in 1939.
Communities of the Dominican nuns exist in Vienna, Salzburg, Friesach, Gleisdorf (Styria), Lienz, Altenstadt, Bludenz, Bregenz (Marienberg and Thalbach) and Gauenstein in Vorarlberg (Dominican nuns of the Third Order).