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Habit of a Premostratensian

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 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.

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. 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. 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.

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. As of 2005, the number of monasteries had increased to nearly 100 and spread to every continent. In the twenty-first century, like all Canons Regular they follow the Augustinian Rule. According to the Premonstratentian website, there are some 1,000 male and 200 female members of the Order.[1]


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 20 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 Premonstratenian 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 2008, there were Premonstratensian abbeys or priories throughout the world: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom and USA.


  1. ^ [1]

Famous Premonstratensians

Abbeys founded by the Premonstratensians




  • Bellapais Abbey, Cyprus

Czech Republic





  • Csorna Abbey, Hungary
  • Gödöllő Canonry, Hungary
  • Keszthely Abbey, Hungary
  • Türje Abbey, Hungary


  • Annaghdown Abbey, Ireland
  • Ballineval Abbey, Ireland
  • Druim la Croix (White Abbey), Ireland
  • Holy Trinity Abbey, Ireland
  • Kilnamanagh Abbey, Abbeytown, Galway, Ireland
  • Lough Key Abbey, Ireland
  • Tuam Abbey, Ireland
  • Holly Trinity Priory, Attymass, Co Mayo Ireland


The Netherlands

  • Berne Abbey, The Netherlands



  • Premonstratensian Monastery in Jasov, Slovakia ([6] (Slovak) [7] (English))



  • Monastery of Bäckaskog, (Skåne), Sweden (Denmark in century)
  • Monastery of Östra Tommarp, (Skåne), Sweden (Denmark in century)
  • Monastery of Övedskloster, (Skåne), Sweden (Denmark in century)
  • Monastery of Dragsmark, Bohuslän, Sweden (Norway in century)
  • Monastery of Vä, Scania, Sweden (Denmark in century)


The UK

In England

Northern Ireland

  • Carrickfergus Abbey, Ireland




  • Daylesford Abbey [10], Pennsylvania, USA
  • Saint Michael's Abbey [11], California, USA
  • Saint Norbert Abbey [12], Wisconsin, USA
  • Santa María de la Vid Priory [13], New Mexico, USA


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Premonstratensian — Pre*mon stra*ten sian, n. [F. pr[ e]montr[ e], fr. Pr[ e]montr[ e], fr. L. pratum monstratum.] (R. C. Ch.) One of a religious order of regular canons founded by St. Norbert at Pr[ e]montr[ e], in France, in 1119. The members of the order are… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Premonstratensian Canons — • Religious order founded in 1120 by St. Norbert Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Premonstratensian Canons     Premonstratensian Canons      …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Premonstratensian Church (Košice) — The Premonstratensian church ( sk. Premonštrátny kostol), initially Jesuitical church (Slovak: Jezuitský kostol ), is the most valuable Baroque object of Košice, Slovakia, especially notable for its interior.It the Middle Ages, the Royal House (a …   Wikipedia

  • Premonstratensian — noun Etymology: Medieval Latin praemonstratensis, from praemonstratensis of Prémontré, from Praemonstratus Prémontré Date: 1695 a member of an order of canons regular founded by St. Norbert at Prémontré near Laon, France, in 1120 …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Premonstratensian — ▪ religious order byname  White Canon , or  Norbertine , member of  Order of the Canons Regular of Prémontré , abbreviation  O. Praem.        a Roman Catholic religious order founded in 1120 by St. Norbert of Xanten (Norbert of Xanten, Saint),… …   Universalium

  • Premonstratensian — [ˌpri:mɒnstrə tɛnsɪən] noun a monk or nun of an order founded at Prémontré in France in 1120. adjective relating to this order. Origin from med. L. Praemonstratensis, from Praemonstratus (lit. foreshown ), the L. name of the abbey of Prémontré,… …   English new terms dictionary

  • Premonstratensian — order of canons derived from the Augustinians, founded in 1121 …   Medieval glossary

  • premonstratensian — pre·mon·stra·ten·sian …   English syllables

  • premonstratensian — adj. & n. hist. adj. of or relating to an order of regular canons founded at Preacutemontreacute in France in 1120, or of the corresponding order of nuns. n. a member of either of these orders. Etymology: med.L Praemonstratensis f. Praemonstratus …   Useful english dictionary

  • Premonstratensian Canons —    Members of the order founded by St norbert in the twelfth century …   Who’s Who in Christianity

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