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Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré
Candidus et Canonicus Ordo Praemonstratensis
Type Catholic religious order
HeadquartersViale Giotto, 27, 00153
Rome, Italy
  • Worldwide
Coordinates 41°52′44.07″N12°29′19.39″E / 41.8789083°N 12.4887194°E / 41.8789083; 12.4887194 Coordinates: 41°52′44.07″N12°29′19.39″E / 41.8789083°N 12.4887194°E / 41.8789083; 12.4887194
Region served
1300 (2012) [1]
Josef Wouters
Main organ
General Chapter
Affiliations Catholic Church

The Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré (Latin : Candidus et Canonicus Ordo Praemonstratensis), also known as the Premonstratensians, the Norbertines and, in Britain and Ireland, as the White Canons [2] (from the colour of their habit), is a religious order of canons regular of the Catholic Church founded in Prémontré near Laon in 1120 by Norbert of Xanten, who later became Archbishop of Magdeburg. Premonstratensians are designated by OPraem (Ordo Praemonstratensis) following their name.


Norbert was a friend of Bernard of Clairvaux and was largely influenced by the Cistercian ideals as to both the manner of life and the government of his order. As the Premonstratensians are not monks but canons regular, their work often involves preaching and the exercising of pastoral ministry; they frequently serve in parishes close to their abbeys or priories. [2]


The order was founded in 1120. [3] Saint Norbert had made various efforts to introduce a strict form of canonical life in various communities of canons in Germany; in 1120 he was working in the now-extinct Ancient Diocese of Laon, in Picardy, northeastern France. There, in a rural place called Prémontré, he and thirteen companions established a monastery to be the cradle of a new order. As they were canons regular, they followed the Rule of St. Augustine, but with supplementary statutes that made their life one of great austerity. [2] Common prayer and celebration of the Eucharist was to be the sustaining dynamic of the community. [4]

Religious habit of a Premonstratensian, former Ruti Abbey Ruti - Ortsmuseum - Kloster - Pramostratenser-Habit IMG 5172.JPG
Religious habit of a Premonstratensian, former Rüti Abbey

In 1126, when the order received papal approbation by Pope Honorius II, there were nine houses; others were established in quick succession throughout western Europe, so that at the middle of the fourteenth century there were some 1,300 monasteries for men and 400 for women. The Norbertines played a predominant part in the conversion of the Wends and the bringing of Christianity to the territories around the Elbe and the Oder. In time, mitigations and relaxations emerged, and these gave rise to reforms and semi-independent congregations within the Order. [2]

The Norbertines arrived in England about 1143, first at Newhouse in Lincoln, England; before the dissolution under Henry VIII there were 35 houses. [2] Soon after their arrival in England, they founded Dryburgh Abbey in the Borders area of Scotland, which was followed by other communities at Whithorn Priory, Dercongal Abbey and Tongland Abbey all in the Borders area, as well as Fearn Abbey in the northern part of the nation. Like most orders they were almost completely devastated by the successive onslaughts of the Reformation, French Revolution, and Napoleon, but then experienced a revival in the 19th century. [5]

By the beginning of the nineteenth century the order had become almost extinct, only eight houses surviving, all in the Habsburg monarchy. [2] However, there was something of a resurgence, and at the start of the twentieth century there were 20 monasteries and 1000 priests. As of 2005, the number of monasteries had increased to nearly 100 and spread to every continent. In 1893, Father Bernard Pennings and two other Norbertines from Berne Abbey arrived in the United States of America to minister to Belgian immigrants in northern Wisconsin. De Pere, Wisconsin became the site of the first Norbertine Abbey in the new world. [6]

By their nature as canons regular the Premonstratensians have always engaged in pastoral work of various kinds, including what would now be called retreat centres (nearly everywhere), and care for pilgrims (as at Conques) and, like many religious houses, have often run schools on a variety of scales (Averbode Abbey, Berne Abbey, United States, Australia). In order to support themselves, the different communities have down the centuries, and in modern times, operated small-scale manual activities (SME) such as printing (Averbode Abbey, Tongerlo Abbey, Berne Abbey), farming (Kinshasa, Ireland, Postel Abbey), forestry (Schlägl Abbey, Geras Abbey, Slovakia), and cheese-making (Postel Abbey). They have also entered agreements with breweries (Tongerlo Abbey, Postel Abbey, Park Abbey, Leffe, Grimbergen) and undertaken artistic bookbinding (in Oosterhout). [7] Other activities have included the running of an astronomical observatory (Mira, Grimbergen).

In 2015 there were some 1000 male and 200 female members of the Order. [1]

The Feast of All Norbertine Saints and Blesseds is celebrated internally on November 13. [8]

The Norbertines have also had a major presence in the area of Green Bay, Wisconsin, owning WBAY television and radio stations until the mid-1970s. The Nobertines ran two local boys high schools until 1990 and still run four local schools in De Pere and Green Bay. Among these schools is St. Norbert College, the only Norbertine higher education institution in the world. [9]


Norbertine canonesses in Imbramowice, Poland JRKRUK 20130606 NORBERTANKI IMBRAMOWICE IMG 9376.jpg
Norbertine canonesses in Imbramowice, Poland

The Order has several abbeys of women who, though technically called canonesses, follow the life of an enclosed religious order and are therefore more commonly termed Norbertine nuns. Like the Norbertine communities for men, those for women are autonomous. Unusually, within the religious communities of the Catholic Church, the Norbertine Order has always seen the spiritual life of the canonesses as being on an equal footing with that of its priests and lay brothers. In the Middle Ages, the Premonstratensians even had a few double monasteries, [10] where men and women lived in cloisters located next to each other as part of the same abbey, the communities demonstrating their unity by sharing the church building. Today, it is common for a foundation of canonesses to have links not only with other canonesses, but also with a community of canons.[ citation needed ]

Premonstratensian Rite

The Premonstratensians were among the religious orders with their own rite who kept this rite after Pope Pius V suppressed such rites with a continuous tradition of less than two hundred years. The Premonstratensian Rite was especially characterized by a ritual solemnity. The Premonstratensian Rite was also characterized by an emphasis on the Paschal mystery unique among the Latin rites. This was especially seen in the solemnity with which the daily conventional High Mass and office was celebrated during the Easter octave, especially vespers which concluded with a procession to the baptismal font, a practice paralleled among the Latin rites only in similar processions still found in the Ambrosian Rite. Another unique practice of the Premonstratensian Rite was the celebration of a daily votive Mass in honor of the Virgin Mary in each of its abbeys and priories.[ citation needed ]


Since Norbertine abbeys (and most priories) are autonomous, practices and apostolates are different, depending on the needs of the local Church. Some houses are contemplative in character whilst others are highly active in pastoral ministry. However, each is guided by the Rule of Saint Augustine and the Constitutions established by the General Chapter, which is held every six years.

The general Chapter includes representatives from both male and female communities. The head of the Order, termed Abbot General, resides in Rome, and he is assisted in his duties by the Definitors (High Council) as well as commissions established for various aspects of the Order's life such as liturgy and inter-abbey communications.[ citation needed ]


As of 2012, there were Premonstratensian abbeys or priories throughout the world: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the USA. [1]

There are seven circaries (Premonstratensian term for an ecclesiastical province [11] ): [12]


Notable members

Norbertine Saints

Norbertine Blesseds include Beatrice of Engelport (+1275, f. Mar. 12/13) Bronislava of Poland (or of Zwierzniec) (+1259, f. Aug. 30), Gerlach of Valkenburg (+1172, Jan. 5), Gertrude of Aldenberg (Altenburg), Abbess (+1297, f. Aug. 13), Hugh of Fosse (+1164, f. Feb. 10), Hroznata of Teplá (+1217, f. Jul. 14), Jakob Kern of Geras (+1924, f. Oct. 20), Oda of Bonne Rivreuille (+1158, f. Apr. 20), Peter-Adrian Toulorge of Blanchelande, Martyr (+1793, f. Oct. 13), and Ricvera of Clastres (+1136, f. Oct. 29).

Norbertines celebrate "all Norbertine Saints and Blesseds" on Nov. 13. [22]


St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin, United States, is the only institution of higher education sponsored by the Order. Elsewhere they also sponsor/operate schools or serve in pastoral care capacities at parish schools.

Schools founded or sponsored by the order include:


Northern Ireland's Historical Abuse Inquiry investigated reports that Brendan Smyth, a member of the Norbertine Order, was allowed to continue paedophilia for more than four decades, even after Smyth himself had admitted in 1994, the same year that he was jailed for his crimes, that "Over the years of religious life it could be that I have sexually abused between 50 and 100 children. That number could even be doubled or perhaps even more." [24] [25] [26] Reviewers of the case agree that there was a deliberate plot to conceal Smyth's behaviour, incompetence by his superiors at Kilnacrott Abbey.[ citation needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Norbert of Xanten</span> Bishop of the Catholic Church, founder of the Premonstratensian order of canons regular

Norbert of Xanten, O. Praem (Xanten-Magdeburg), also known as Norbert Gennep, was a bishop of the Catholic Church, founder of the Premonstratensian order of canons regular, and is venerated as a saint. Norbert was canonized by Pope Gregory XIII in the year 1582, and his statue appears above the Piazza colonnade of St. Peter's Square in Rome.

Canoness is a member of a religious community of women living a simple life. Many communities observe the monastic Rule of St. Augustine. The name corresponds to the male equivalent, a canon. The origin and Rule are common to both. As with the canons, there are two types: canonesses regular, who follow the Augustinian Rule, and secular canonesses, who follow no monastic Rule of Life.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Evermode of Ratzeburg</span> Norbertine bishop

Evermode, or Evermod, was one of the first Premonstratensian canons regular, and became the lifelong companion of Norbert of Xanten, who founded the order in France in 1120.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Corpus Christi Priory</span> Roman Catholic Premonstratensian priory in Manchester, England

Corpus Christi Priory was a Roman Catholic Premonstratensian priory in Manchester, England.

The Premonstratensian Rite or Norbertine Rite is the liturgical rite, distinct from the Roman Rite, specific to the Premonstratensian Order of the Roman Catholic Church

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Floreffe Abbey</span>

Floreffe Abbey is a former Premonstratensian monastery, the second of the order to be founded, situated in Wallonia on the Sambre at Floreffe, about 11 km southwest of Namur, Belgium.

Independent Augustinian communities are Roman Catholic religious communities that follow the Augustinian Rule, but are not under the jurisdiction of the Prior General of the Augustinian hermits in Rome.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tupholme Abbey</span>

Tupholme Abbey was a Premonstratensian abbey close to the River Witham some 10+12 miles (16.9 km) east of the city of Lincoln, England. The Witham valley in Lincolnshire is notable for its high concentration of monasteries—there were six on the east bank and three on the west—all presumably drawn to the area by the usefulness of the River Witham for transport and by the wealth that it transported. The abbey was largely destroyed by 1538, after being seized during Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bonne-Espérance Abbey</span>

Bonne-Espérance Abbey was a Premonstratensian abbey that existed from 1130 to the end of the 18th century, located in Vellereille-les-Brayeux in the Walloon municipality of Estinnes, province of Hainaut, Diocese of Tournai, in present-day Belgium.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Frederick of Hallum</span>

Saint Frederick of Hallum was a Premonstratensian priest and regular canon, founder and first abbot of Mariengaarde Abbey in Friesland in the Netherlands.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Frigolet Abbey</span> Abbey located in Bouches-du-Rhône, in France

Frigolet AbbeyThe Pontifical Shrine of Our Lady of Good Remedy and Saint Joseph is a grand Premonstratensian monastery complex in southern France. It is located in the territorial commune of Tarascon, in the region of the Montagnette, the parishes of which are served by the canons of the monastery. It was originally associated with the Order of Saint Benedict.

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Berne Abbey, a Dutch abbey of the Premonstratensians, or Norbertines, in Heeswijk, North Brabant, is a religious community in the Netherlands. It has 27 brothers and priests.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St. Norbert Abbey</span> Norbertine monastery in De Pere, Wisconsin

St. Norbert Abbey is a Roman Catholic monastery of Canons Regular of Premontre, located in De Pere, Wisconsin. The Abbey is named after Saint Norbert of Xanten, the founder of the order, after whom, members are known as, "Norbertines". St. Norbert Abbey was established in 1898 by Norbertines from Berne Abbey in the Netherlands. St. Norbert's is the oldest religious community of its kind the United States, serving as the Mother Canonry to Norbertines across North America.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">National Shrine of Saint Joseph (De Pere, Wisconsin)</span>

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Isfrid of Ratzeburg</span>

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hugh Allan (abbot)</span> Hugh David Renwich Turnbull Allan biography

Hugh David Renwich Turnbull Allan, O.Praem. is a Premonstratensian canon regular and Roman Catholic priest who is the Apostolic Administrator of the Prefecture of the Falkland Islands and Ecclesiastical Superior of the Mission sui iuris of the islands of Ascension, St Helena and Tristan da Cunha.


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