Definitions

Premonstratensian

Premonstratensian

The Norbertines, also known as the Premonstratensians (OPraem) and 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 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-exinct Diocese of Laon, in the Picardie region 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.

History

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.

Canonesses

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 commmunities 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.

Structure

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.

Notes

Famous Premonstratensians

Abbeys founded by the Premonstratensians

Austria

Belgium

Cyprus

Czech Republic

Denmark

France

Germany

Ireland

Slovakia

The UK

In England

Northern Ireland

Scotland

Wales

USA

References

External links

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