A short entry about the nickname of the Dominicans – “domini canes” (Eng. “hounds of the Lord”)
In the medieval Dominican church Santa Maria Novella in Florence visitors find impressive frescoes. One of them is called (in English) Allegory of the Active and Triumphant Church and of the Dominican order. It was created by the 14th-century Italian painter Andrea di Bonaiuto da Firenze or Andrea da Firenze. You can see it in the Spanish Chapel (or, actually, Cappellone degli Spagnoli).
A part of this fresco apparently illustrates, among other people, three Dominican saints – St Peter of Verona, the founder of this Catholic order St Dominic and the famous Doctor of the Church St Thomas Aquinas – and black and white spotted hounds. St Thomas seems to debate and teach non-Christians as well as heretics, while St Dominic preaches to a group of people.
St Peter of Verona appears to order black and white spotted dogs or hounds to fight off wolves. The hounds represent the Dominicans, alluding to their nickname.
Dominicans wear white habits and black cloaks. Thus, they are / were referred to as Blackfriars in England. Because the Dominicans zealously preached, adhered to doctrinal law and acted against heretics, they received the nickname “domini canes” or, in English, “hounds of the Lord or God”. It was a Latin pun on Dominicans (domini means, in English, of the Lord and canes means dogs or hounds).