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The coat of arms of the Order of the Premonstratensian Canons

The Premonstratensians ( Latin Candidus et Canonicus Ordo Praemonstratensis , "White and Canonical Order of Prémontré"), with the abbreviation O.Praem. , are the largest Roman Catholic order of regulated Canons . The order is an amalgamation of independent monasteries and was founded in 1120 by Norbert von Xanten with thirteen companions in Prémontré near Laon , remotely owned by the Prüm Abbey . Especially in Belgium and the Netherlands , the Premonstratensians are also called Norbertijnen (“Norbertiner”) after their founder . The female branch is the Premonstratensian . The third order is the Premonstratensian Tertiary .


The Prémontré Abbey (around 1780)
Norbert von Xanten
Premonstratensian canon (17th century)
Habit of the Premonstratensian

The founder of the order, Norbert von Xanten, was one of the many traveling preachers in the 12th century who wandered around without property in imitation of the lifestyle of Jesus and his disciples. Numerous followers, men and women, joined Norbert. With them he founded a community in the valley of Prémontré near Laon in 1120, which was based on the ideal of common life in the style of the early church and from which a monastic community soon developed on the basis of the Augustine Rule . Norbert himself kept his life as a traveling preacher and founded other monasteries.

A peculiarity - not unique at this time - of the first premonstratensic communities was that they were double monasteries in which women and men lived, albeit in two organizationally separate convents. Although Norbert was friends with Bernhard von Clairvaux and influenced by the ideals of the Cistercians , u. a. the double monasteries made it clear that the Premonstratensians were originally a very independent movement. Another difference to the monastic orders based on the Benedictine Rule is that the Premonstratensians combined the contemplative monastic life with outward pastoral care (vita mixta) .

The young order experienced a serious crisis when Norbert gave up his poor, but also independent of all institutions, life as a traveling preacher and became Archbishop of Magdeburg in 1126 . Norbert reacted to the disappointment that his change of heart had caused among his followers by giving up his dominant position in the movement of which he was previously the sole leader. Each convent was allowed to choose its own superior. The first abbot of Prémontré, Hugo von Fosses , an old companion of Norbert , gained special significance . It was only through Hugo's organizational work that the Premonstratensian Order came into being in the true sense.

In addition to the canons ( canonici ) , lay brothers ( conversi ) also lived in the settlements of the Norbertines . Similar to the Cistercians, the Premonstratensians contributed to improving agriculture in the first centuries after their formation . Later an aristocratic train prevailed and manual labor was gradually pushed back. Writing and copying books remained important, and teaching also gained in importance.

The double monasteries, originally an essential feature of the order, soon became controversial. In Prémontré itself, this structure was dissolved as early as 1137 or 1141 and the sister community relocated. This is how one proceeded almost everywhere: The double monasteries became two monasteries, one for men and one for women, which were clearly separated from each other. In the second half of the 12th century the order went even further: Now only male monasteries were to be newly admitted to the order, and the existing Premonstratensian convents were to be affiliated with other orders. However, this measure was never implemented consistently.

When the order was recognized by Pope Honorius II in 1126, just six years after its foundation, there were already nine religious houses, and several hundred were built in quick succession throughout Western Europe. Around the middle of the 14th century there are said to have been more than 1,300 male and 400 female monasteries.

The first Premonstratensian monastery was established in German-speaking countries as early as 1122. In that year Otto and Gottfried von Cappenberg handed over their castle and their property to the order for the foundation of the Cappenberg monastery . In the same year, Count Walram II. Paganus von Limburg (1119–1139) donated the Premonstratensian Monastery of Wenau as a double monastery for men and women.

The establishment of Cappenberg resulted in good relations between the young order and the Roman-German king : the noble Cappenbergers were related to the Hohenstaufen dynasty, and the founder of the monastery, Otto von Cappenberg, was Friedrich I's godfather. This personal relationship had an extremely positive economic effect on the entire order . On June 23, 1154, King Friedrich I issued the Premonstratensian Order in the Dortmund Palatinate, which is closest to Cappenberg Abbey, with a privilege according to which the latter was exempted from customs duties throughout the empire.

Premonstratensians took over numerous monasteries from other orders in Germany in the 12th century. Examples are the Steinfeld monastery in the Eifel, which the order took over in 1130, and the Dünnwald women's monastery near Cologne , originally an Augustinian canon monastery, which in turn was taken over by Premonstratensians from Steinfeld in 1143.

In 1235 or 1236, Bishop Eckbert von Bamberg decided to found a Premonstratensian monastery in Griffen in Carinthia, whose canons were appointed from the Veßra monastery in Thuringia. This monastery was the only Premonstratensian monastery in Carinthia, and it remained the only Premonstratensian settlement in Inner Austria .

In 1245, a monastery for Premonstratensian women was founded in the Michelfeld district of the Lower Franconian town of Marktsteft near Kitzingen. This women's convent was subordinate to the Abbot of Oberzell near Würzburg. The Bishop of Würzburg reserved the right to confirm the choice of the prioress. In 1261 the monastery was confirmed by the papal authorities. Because of the decline of monastic discipline, the nuns moved to Tückelhausen, a district of Ochsenfurt, in 1305 .

In the east, the Premonstratensians dedicated themselves primarily to the colonization and Christianization of the Wends and other Slavs east of the Elbe and Oder . The order was also widespread in Bohemia and Moravia . The Olomouc bishop Heinrich Zdik summoned the order to Bohemia in the 12th century and built the Strahov Monastery in Prague for it.

Over time, many rules and customs were interpreted and applied more negligently, leading to various reforms and the emergence of semi-independent communities. At the beginning of the 19th century, the order had almost completely disappeared as a result of the Reformation and several waves of secularization, and only eight houses remained (all in Austria-Hungary ). At the beginning of the 20th century there were again 20 religious houses with around 1,000 priests. Today the order has around 100 branches and is present on all continents.

Character of the community

The Premonstratensians, like the Augustinian Canons and the Canons of the Cross , are regular canons . That is, it is a community of priests with religious vows and not monks. You follow the Augustine rule , so you are an Augustinian order , and take the vows of poverty, abstinence and obedience. Their way of life also largely follows monastic standards. This includes observing the Liturgy of the Hours and the communal meal in the refectory.

A distinction must be made between the members of the Third Order ( Premonstratensian-Tertiary ).

Abbot-General of the Premonstratensian

The highest representative of the Premonstratensian Order is the Abbot General. He is the chief superior of all officials and members of the order. He represents the Order externally and before the Holy See . Its main internal task is the cohesion and connection of the Premonstratensian religious houses scattered all over the world. The seat of the Abbot General is the Generalate with the General Curia (Curia generalitia) in Rome. From here the Abbot General and his officials direct the affairs of the Order. He still bears the title Dominus Praemonstratensis (Lord of Prémontré) with the addition of Amplissimus (Most Sublime). His salutation is Monsignor . Traditionally, he is entitled to wear a pileolus , a biretta and a cappa magna in purple.

The Abbot General of the Premonstratensians is elected by the General Chapter, which meets every six years. Before the French Revolution , the Abbot of Prémontré was the Order's Abbot General. Abbots-General since 1869 (the number refers to the succession of Premonstratensian Abbots-General):

  • 56. Hieronymus von Zeidler (Strahov Abbey / Prague), 1869–1870
  • 57. Sigismund Stary (Strahov Abbey / Prague), 1883–1905
  • 58. Norbert Schachinger ( Schlägl Abbey / Austria), 1906–1922
  • 59. Gummarus Crets (Averbode Abbey / Belgium), 1922–1937
  • 60. Hubertus Noots (Tongerlo Abbey / Belgium), 1937–1962
  • 61. Norbert Calmels (1908–1985) ( Saint-Michel-de-Frigolet Abbey / France), 1962–1982
  • 62. Marcel van de Ven (Berne Abbey / Netherlands), 1982–1996
  • 63. Hermenegild Noyens (Tongerlo Abbey / Belgium), 1996–2003
  • 64. Thomas Handgrätinger ( Windberg Abbey / Germany), 2003–2018
  • 65. Jos Wouters ( Averbode Abbey / Belgium), since 2018

Important Premonstratensians

See also


  • Norbert Backmund: Monasticon Praemonstratense, Tomi Primi Editio Secunda, Pars prima et Secunda, Berlin / New York 1983.
  • Donatian De Clerck, Gabriel Wolf (Ed.): Hagiologion. Life pictures of the saints, the blessed and the great figures of the Premonstratensian order . Extended new edition. Poppe-Verlag, Windberg 2014, ISBN 978-3-932931-94-9 .
  • Joachim Ehlers: Noble Foundation and Personal Conversion. On the social history of the early Premonstratensian convents . In: Klaus Zernack (Ed.): History and Constitutional Structure. Frankfurt festival donation for Walter Schlesinger . Wiesbaden 1973.
  • Ingrid Ehlers-Kisseler: The Beginnings of the Premonstratensians in the Archdiocese of Cologne (Rheinisches Archiv 137), Böhlau, Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 1997.
  • Burkhard Gehle: The Premonstratensians in Cologne and Dünnwald . Gruener, Amsterdam 1978.
  • Wolfgang Grassl: Culture of Place: An Intellectual Profile of the Premonstratensian Order . Bautz, Nordhausen 2012.
  • Thomas Handgrätinger (Ed.): Sent like him. The Order of the Premonstratensian Canons today. Echter Verlag, Würzburg 1984, ISBN 3-429-00906-5 .
  • Wilhelm Kohl : The early Premonstratensian monasteries in northwest Germany in the field of tension between large families . In: Lutz Fenske: Institutions, culture and society in the Middle Ages. Festschrift for Josef Fleckenstein on his 65th birthday . Sigmaringen 1984, pp. 393-414.
  • Hildegard Kroll: Expansion and recruitment of the Premonstratensians 1120–1150 . In: Analecta Praemonstratensia, Vol. 54, 1978, pp. 36-56.
  • Franz Winter : The Premonstratensians of the twelfth century and their significance for northern Germany. A contribution to the Christianization and Germanization of the Wendenland . Berlin 1865 ( digitized version ) from the Bavarian State Library.

Web links

Commons : Premonstratensian  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Norbert Reimann: The becoming of the city . In: Stadtarchiv Dortmund, Gustav Luntowski (Hrsg.): History of the city of Dortmund (=  Dortmund services . Volume 2 ). Harenberg, Dortmund 1994, ISBN 3-611-00397-2 .
  2. entry in the Order lexicon list: Generaläbte the Norbertine of online orders , stand of 19 February 2008
  3. Belgian is the new Abbot General of the Premonstratensians., August 1, 2018, accessed on August 3, 2018 .