Last updated
Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré
Candidus et Canonicus Ordo Praemonstratensis
COA Premonstratensians.svg
Shield of the Premonstratensians
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 O.Praem. (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 came to 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 Austria. [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 came to the United States to minister to Belgian immigrants in northern Wisconsin. De Pere, Wisconsin, became the site of the first Norbertine Abbey in the new world. [6]

In the twenty-first century, like all canons regular, they follow the Augustinian Rule. In order to “earn their living”, the different communities had, as formerly, to create and operate small industrial activities (SME) such as printing (Averbode Abbey, Tongerlo Abbey, Berne Abbey), farming (Kinshasa, Ireland, Postel Abbey), cheese-making (Postel Abbey), running schools (Averbode Abbey, Berne Abbey, United States, Australia), agreements with breweries (Tongerlo Abbey, Postel Abbey, Park Abbey, Leffe, Grimbergen), retreat centres (nearly everywhere), astronomical observatories (Mira, Grimbergen), artistic bookbinding (in Oosterhout), forestry (Schlägl Abbey, Geras Abbey, Slovakia) and pilgrimages (Conques). [7]

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 Nov. 13. [8]


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 Premonstratentians even had a few double monasteries, [9] 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.

On January 29, 2011, a canonry of the canonesses, the Bethlehem Priory of St. Joseph, was established with the solemn religious profession of the first nine canonesses at the Saint John the Baptist Cathedral, Fresno, California. The priory is located in Tehachapi, California, and by 2013 had grown to 26 members in all. [10] The community was first founded as a public association of the faithful by the Norbertine canons of St. Michael's Abbey, Orange County, California. It is the first canonry of Norbertine canonesses founded in North America.

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 Mary, mother of Jesus in each of its abbeys and priories.


As each abbey or priory is autonomous, practices and apostolates differ; some are contemplative in character whilst others are highly active in pastoral ministry. However, each is guided by the Rule of Saint Augustine as well as the Constitutions established by the General Chapter which is held every 6 years. Demonstrating Norbertine unity, 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.


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 USA. [1]

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


Notable members

Norbertine Saints include, in addition to St Hermann Joseph von Steinfeld (feast May 24) and St Norbert (+1134, f. Jun. 6), Adrian and James of Middleburg, martyrs (+1572, f Jul. 9), Evermode of Ratzeburg (+1178, f. Feb. 17), Frederick of Hallum (or of Mariengaarde) (+1175, f. Feb. 4), Gilbert of Neuffontaines (or of Cappenberg) (+1152, f. Oct. 26), Godfrey of Cappenberg (+1127, f. Jan. 14), Isfrid (Isfried) of Ratzeburg (+1204, f. Jun. 15), Ludolph of Ratzeburg (+1250, f. April 16), and Siard of Mariengaarde (+1230, f. Nov. 14). 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 differ as to whether there was a deliberate plot to conceal Smyth's behaviour, incompetence by his superiors at Kilnacrott Abbey, or some combination of factors.

See also

Related Research Articles

Norbert of Xanten Roman Catholic archbishop and saint

Norbert of Xanten (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.

Canons regular Roman Catholic priests living in community under a religious rule

Canons regular are canons in the Catholic Church who live in community under a rule. They are often organised into religious orders. They are distinguished from clerics regular, a later form of religious life where members also live life under a rule, in that canons regular emphasise a life lived in community. Examples of religious orders of canons regular include the Crosiers, Premonstratensians, and some Augustinians.

A 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.

Evermode of Ratzeburg Norbertine bishop

Evermode, O.Praem., or Evermod, was one of the first Premonstratensian canons regular, and became the lifelong companion of St. Norbert of Xanten, who founded the order in France in 1120. He accompanied the founder to Antwerp and then, in 1126, to the half-pagan town of Magdeburg, where Norbert had been named as bishop. He attended to the bishop on his deathbed and ensured his burial in the church of the Norbertine Priory of Our Lady there, which Norbert had formed from the members of the cathedral chapter. In 1134 he was made acting provost of the Priory of Gottesgnaden.

Corpus Christi Priory church in United Kingdom

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

Mont Cornillon Abbey was a Premonstratensian monastery which occupied a site close to Liège in Belgium. In 1288 the abbey having moved to a new location, it became known as Beaurepart Abbey. It was the home of Saint Juliana of Liège.

Floreffe Abbey monastery

Floreffe Abbey is a former Premonstratensian monastery, the second of the order to be founded, situated 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.

Charles-Hyacinthe Hugo, also called Louis-Charles Hugo, was a Lorrain Premonstratensian author.

Bonne-Espérance Abbey former Premonstratensian monastery in Belgium

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.

Frederick of Hallum Dutch saint

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

Frigolet Abbey Abbey located in Bouches-du-Rhône, in France

Frigolet Abbey is a Premonstratensian monastery in southern France. It is located in the territory of the 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.

St. Philip's Priory situated on New London Road in Chelmsford, Essex, UK is a Premonstratensian priory of canons regular. It is dedicated to Our Lady Queen of Sorrows and St. Philip Benizi.

Berne Abbey

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

St. Norbert Abbey

St. Norbert Abbey is the mother canonry of the Premonstratensian Order in the United States. Located on 160 acres (0.65 km2) of land east of the Fox River in De Pere, Wisconsin, it falls within the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Green Bay.

St. Michaels Abbey (Orange County, California)

Saint Michael's Abbey is a monastery of Roman Catholic Canons Regular of the Order of Premontre in Silverado, Orange County, California. The members of the community combine a monastic-style life with the active ministry of ordained priests. The Abbey is located on 35 acres (140,000 m2) on El Toro Road at the juncture of English Canyon and Live Oak Canyon in Trabuco Canyon.

Daylesford Abbey is located approximately 20 miles west of Philadelphia located in Paoli, in Chester County, Pennsylvania. It is a Roman Catholic community of men of the Norbertine Order, also known as Canons Regular of Premontre.


  1. 1 2 3 "Who are the Premonstratensians?".
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Premonstratensians". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  3. "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Premonstratensian Canons". Retrieved 2020-04-24.
  4. 1 2 3 "Saint Norbert of Xanten History at Saint Norbert Abbey in De Pere, Wisconsin". Archived from the original on 2013-11-06.
  5. "Staley, Tony. "Home to a Living History", St. Norbert College Magazine, Fall 2009". Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved 2013-06-16.
  6. 1 2 "Daylesford Abbey". 2010. Archived from the original on 18 July 2012. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
  7. Abbaye Notre-Dame de Leffe. "Abbaye Notre-Dame de Leffe".
  8. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-11-17. Retrieved 2015-11-14.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. "Premontre Sisters - Norbertine Sisters in the World - Premonstratensian Orders - Life of Saint Norbert - Rule of St. Augustine". Retrieved 2020-04-24.
  10. "Norbertine nuns' monastery expansion blessed".
  11. 'circary' definition, English-German Dictionary.
  12. "Places".
  13. "St. Philip's Priory, Chelmsford". 2012. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
  14. "St. Michael's Abbey of the Norbertine Fathers". St. Michael's Abbey. Archived from the original on 2013-03-22.
  15. "Welcome to the Norbertine Community of New Mexico!". 2012. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
  16. "Jasov - Slovakia - Slovakia travel guide". 2012. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
  17. "Stift Geras | community". 2011. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
  18. "Startseite - Prämonstratenser Chorherren Stift Wilten, Innsbruck". 2012. Retrieved 19 July 2012.(in German)
  19. Putte, F. vande & C. Carton (1849). Chronicon et cartularium abbatiae Sancti Nicolai Furnensis, ordinis Premonstratensis (in French). Bruges: VandeCasteele-Werbrouck.
  20. "Houses of Premonstratensian canons: Abbey of Bayham", A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 2 (1973), pp. 86–89. Date accessed: 16 June 2013.
  21. "Canons Regular of Prémontré,". 2011. Archived from the original on 20 May 2012. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
  23. "About Us — History". Cardinal Gracias High School . Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  24. "Brendan Smyth: Paedophile priest told doctor he may have sexually abused hundreds of children". Daily Mirror . 23 June 2015.
  25. "Warning before paedophile priest's ordination ignored". The Irish News . 23 June 2015. Archived from the original on 2015-06-23. Retrieved 2015-06-23.
  26. "Profile of Father Brendan Smyth". BBC. 15 March 2010.