The Premonstratensians were founded by St Norbert of Xanten at Premontre in 1120. They are sometimes called the ‘Norbertines’, after their founder. They may also be known as ‘White Canons’ because of their habit.
The Order was strongly influenced by the Cistercians which isn’t surprising given that St Norbert was a friend of Bernard of Clairvaux who developed the Cistercian order. The Benedictines and Cluniacs were not regarded as sufficiently austere by either Norbert or Bernard. Bernard and his companions set up their first monastic house at Prémontré. A second house was founded at Magdeburg.
The Premonstratensians are not monks they are Canons Regular. This means that they are priests living as a community. Unlike monks, regular canons do not necessarily follow the order of St Benedict. The Premonstratensians followed the Rule of St Augustine. St Augustine of Hippo laid down a timetable for daily communal devotion and twinned this with the importance of charity, obedience and individual poverty.
The Statutes of Prémontré provided additional guidance to that of St Augustine. There was a focus on contemplation as a way of avoiding the distractions of life.
The canons spread through England during the 12th century. The first group arrived in Colchester but the first foundation was Newhouse, Lincolnshire in 1143.
Beauchief Abbey (pronounced Bee-chief)
Orford Priory (canonesses)
St Botolph’s, Colchester
West Dereham Abbey
West Langdon Abbey
West Ravendale Priory
Talley Abbey – c. 1185.
Gribbin, Joseph A. (2001) The Premonstratensian Order in Late Medieval England