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The Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré, also known as the Premonstratensians, the Norbertines, or in Britain and Ireland as the White Canons (from the colour of their habit), are a Roman Catholic religious order of canons regular founded at Prémontré near Laon in 1120 by Saint Norbert, who later became Archbishop of Magdeburg. Premonstratensians are designated by O.Praem (Ordo Praemonstratensis) following their name.

Norbert was a friend of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and so 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.


The Order was founded in 1120.<ref name="geudens">Geudens, Francis Martin. "Premonstratensian Canons." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 16 Jun. 2013</ref> 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 Diocese of Laon, in the Picardy province of 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. Common prayer and celebration of the Eucharist was to be the sustaining dynamic of the community.<ref name="depere">"St. Norbert of Xanten", Norbertines of Saint Norbert Abbey, De Pere, Wisconsin</ref>

In 1126, when it 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 rivers. In time mitigations and relaxations emerged, and these gave rise to reforms and semi-independent congregations within the Order. The Norbertines came to England about 1143, first at Newhouse in Lincoln, and before the dissolution under Henry VIII there were 35 houses. 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.<ref name="staley">Staley, Tony. "Home to a Living History", St. Norbert College Magazine, Fall 2009</ref>

By the beginning of the nineteenth century the order had become almost extinct, only eight houses surviving, all in Austria. However, there was something of a resurgence, and at the start of the twentieth century there were 20 monasteries and 1,000 priests. Template:As of, 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. DePere became the site of the first Norbertine Abbey in the new world.<ref name="daylesford" />

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, Tongerlo, Berne), farming (Kinshasa, Ireland, Postel), cheese-making (Postel), running schools (Averbode, Berne, USA, Australia), agreements with breweries (Tongerlo, Postel, Park, Leffe, Grimbergen), retreat centres (nearly everywhere), astronomical observatories (Mira, Grimbergen), artistic bookbinding (Oosterhout), forestry (Schlägl, Geras, Slovakia) and pilgrimages (Conques).<ref name="abbaye">"The Premonstratensians", Abbaye Notre-Dame de Leffe</ref> According to the Premonstratentian website, there are some 1,000 male and 200 female members of the Order.<ref name="premontre">"Who Are The Premonstratensians?", The Premonstratensians</ref>


Cloistered Norbertine Sisters in Imbramowice, Poland

The Order has several abbeys (usually called convents) of women who, though technically called canonesses, are more commonly termed Norbertine Sisters. 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 sisters as being on an equal footing with that of its priests and brothers. In the Middle Ages the Premonstratentians even had a few communities where men and women lived in abbeys located next to each other, 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 a community of canons. On January 29, 2011, the sisters' canonry of the Bethlehem Priory of St. Joseph was established with the solemn profession of the first nine canonesses at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Fresno, California. The Priory is located in Tehachapi, California and currently counts 25 members in all. 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 the Blessed Virgin Mary 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.<ref name="premontre" />

Famous Premonstratensians

  • Robert J. Cornell (1919–2009), Democratic U.S. Congressman from Wisconsin from 1975–1979 and professor of political science at St. Norbert College.
  • Prokop Diviš (1698–1765), Czech inventor
  • Jean Druys (?–1635), Belgian canon regular and abbot
  • Charles-Louis Hugo (1667–1739), French historian and bishop
  • St. Hermann Joseph von Steinfeld (1150?–1241), German canon regular and mystic
  • Johann Lohel (1549–1622), Bohemian prior who later became archbishop of Prague.
  • Brendan Smyth (1927–1997), Roman Catholic priest and prolific child molester.
  • Werenfried van Straaten (1913–2003), known for his humanitarian work, particularly as founder of the international Catholic association Aid to the Church in Need.
  • Francis Wichmans (1596–1661), Belgian abbot
  • Johann Zahn (1631–1707), German canon who wrote on the camera obscura and who invented an early camera.

Abbeys founded by the Premonstratensians

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  • Stift Geras, Lower Austria<ref name="stiftgeras">Template:Cite web</ref>
  • Stift Griffen, Carinthia, dissolved
  • Stift Pernegg, Lower Austria, dissolved<ref name="stiftgeras" />
  • Stift Schlägl, Upper Austria
  • Stift Wilten, Tyrol
  • St Norbert Priory,Queens Park, Perth
  • Averbode Abbey
  • Bonne-Espérance Abbey
  • Cornillon Abbey
  • Floreffe Abbey
  • Grimbergen Abbey
  • Heylissem Abbey
  • Park Abbey
  • Postel Abbey
  • Tongerlo Abbey
  • Bellapais Abbey
Czech Republic
  • Hradisko Abbey, Olomouc
  • Chot?šov Abbey
  • Milevsko Abbey
  • Nová ?íše Abbey
  • Strahov Abbey
  • Teplá Abbey
  • Želiv Abbey
  • Louka Abbey, Znojmo
  • Børglum Abbey north central Jutland
  • Ardenne Abbey
  • St Jean de Falaise Abbey (1127 Gonfroy, founder and first prior)
  • Moncel Abbey
  • Pont-à-Mousson Abbey
  • Prémontré Abbey
  • All Saints' Abbey, dissolved
  • Hamborn Abbey, North Rhine-Westphalia
  • Lorsch Abbey, dissolved
  • Obermarchtal Abbey, dissolved
  • Pöhlde Abbey, dissolved
  • Schussenried Abbey, dissolved
  • Speinshart Abbey, Bavaria
  • Steingaden Abbey, dissolved
  • Roggenburg Abbey, Bavaria
  • Rot an der Rot Abbey, dissolved
  • Weissenau Abbey, dissolved
  • Windberg Abbey, Bavaria)
  • Csorna Abbey, Csorna
  • Gödöll? Canonry, Gödöll?
  • Keszthely Abbey, Keszthely
  • Türje Abbey, Türje
  • Jánoshida Abbey, Jánoshida
  • Nyulak-szigete Abbey, Margitsziget, Budapest
  • Csút Abbey, Csút
  • Ócsa Abbey, Ócsa
  • Gyulafirátót Abbey, Gyulafirátót
  • Majk Abbey, Majk
  • Zsámbék Abbey, Zsámbék
  • Árpás Abbey, Árpás


  • Annaghdown Abbey
  • Ballineval Abbey
  • Holy Trinity Abbey, Trinity Island, Lough Oughter, Co. Cavan
  • Kilnamanagh Abbey, Abbeytown, Galway
  • Lough Key Abbey
  • Tuam Abbey
  • Holly Trinity Priory, Attymass, Co Mayo Ireland
  • St. Antimo's Abbey, Siena
The Netherlands
  • Berne Abbey
  • St. Olav's Abbey, Tønsberg, Tønsberg
  • Imbramowice
  • ?ukowo - it was
  • Wooden Monastery, Sibiu, Sibiu
  • Premonstratensian Monastery in Jasov
  • Turóc Abbey, Turóc
  • Monastery of Santa María de los Huertos, Los Huertos, Segovia
  • Monastery of Santa María la Real in Aguilar de Campoo, Aguilar de Campoo, Palencia
  • Santa María de La Vid, La Vid y Barrios, Burgos (currently Augustinian)
Sweden (Denmark in 12th-13th century)
  • Monastery of Bäckaskog, Skåne (Denmark in 13th century)
  • Monastery of Östra Tommarp, Skåne (Denmark in 12th century)
  • Monastery of Övedskloster, Skåne (Denmark in 12th century)
  • Monastery of Dragsmark, Bohuslän, Sweden (Norway in 13th century)
  • Monastery of Vä, Scania, Sweden (Denmark in 12th century)
  • Bellelay Abbey (Abbaye de Bellelay), Bellelay
  • Bollingen Priory (Kloster Bollingen), Bollingen
  • Fontaine-André Abbey, Neuchâtel
  • Gottstatt Abbey, Orpund
  • Grandgourt Abbey, Grandgourt
  • Humilimont Abbey, Vuippens-Marsens
  • Lac de Joux Abbey, L'Abbaye
  • Mount Zion Abbey (Stift Berg Sion), Gommiswald
  • Romainmôtier Abbey, Romainmôtier-Envy
  • Rueyres Priory, Chardonne
  • Rüti Abbey (Kloster Rüti), Rüti
  • St. Jacob's Abbey im Prättigau, Klosters
Transsylvania (Romania)
  • Váradhegyfok Canony, Nagyvárad
  • Brassó Abbey, Brassó
  • Szeben Abbey, Nagyszeben
United Kingdom


  • Alnwick Abbey, Lincolnshire
  • Barlings Abbey, Lincolnshire
  • Bayham Abbey, East Sussex
  • Beauchief Abbey, Sheffield
  • Beeleigh Abbey, Essex
  • Blanchland Abbey, Northumberland
  • Cockersand Abbey, Lancashire


  • Coverham Abbey, N Yorkshire
  • Croxton Abbey, Leicestershire
  • Dale Abbey, Derbyshire
  • Durford Abbey, Sussex
  • Easby Abbey, N Yorkshire
  • Egglestone Abbey, County Durham
  • Hagnaby Abbey, Lincolnshire
  • Halesowen Abbey, W Midlands (Formerly Shropshire)
  • Langley Abbey, Norfolk
  • Lavendon Abbey, Buckinghamshire
  • Leiston Abbey, Suffolk
  • Newbo Abbey, Lincolnshire
  • Newhouse Abbey, Lincolnshire
  • Our Lady of England Priory, W Sussex (Current house)
  • St. Radegund's Abbey, Kent
  • Shapp Abbey, Cumbria
  • St. Philip's Priory, Essex (Current house)
  • Sulby Abbey, Northamptonshire
  • Titchfield Abbey, Hampshire
  • Torre Abbey, Devon
  • Tupholme Abbey, Lincolnshire
  • Welbeck Abbey, Nottinghamshire
  • Wendling Abbey, Norfolk
  • West Langdon Abbey, Kent

Northern Ireland

  • Carrickfergus Abbey
  • Druim la Croix (White Abbey)


  • Dercongal Abbey
  • Dryburgh Abbey
  • Fearn Abbey
  • Soulseat Abbey
  • Tongland Abbey
  • Whithorn Priory


  • Talley Abbey ('Abaty Talyllychau')
  • St. Norbert Abbey, De Pere, Wisconsin<ref name="depere" />
  • Daylesford Abbey, Pennsylvania<ref name="daylesford">Template:Cite web</ref>
  • St. Michael's Abbey, California
  • St. Moses the Black, Jackson, Mississippi<ref name="depere" />
  • Santa Maria de la Vid Abbey, New Mexico







  • Template:1911
  • Hippolyte Helyot, Histoire des ordres réligieux (1714).
  • Max Heimbucher, Orden u. Kongregationen (1907), ii. 56.
  • Wolfgang Grassl, Culture of Place: An Intellectual Profile of the Premonstratensian Order. Nordhausen: Bautz, 2012.


External links

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