The Premonstratensian Order: in Leffe Abbey for 9 centuries…

Notre-Dame de Leffe is an abbey of Premonstratensian canons. They live in a communal structure with specific constraints, which nevertheless leave them a certain freedom. A little bit of history is necessary…

Manual work and confession twice a year are their principal obligations. Contrary to secular canons, principally bound by recitation of the Divine Office, regular canons – of which the Premonstratensians are part – live in a community in the Abbey and are involved in public life, like apostles.

Forerunner of Mendicant orders, the Premonstratensian Order was widespread in northern Europe with 120 abbeys in 1150 and almost 400 in the Middle Ages. Europe therefore witnessed the expansion of this order over the years, until it reached several tens of thousands of adherents throughout the world.

The Premonstratensian Order was founded by Saint Norbert in 1121. Born into a noble family and following a vocation towards priesthood, he shared his worldly possessions with the poor. As an errant preacher appointed by the Pope, Norbert arrived in France and settled in the so-called ‘’Presmontré’’ area in Picardy between Laon and Soissons. The Bishop of Laon accorded him the land to create an abbey.



Saint Norbert then stopped in Namur, near Dinant, close to the future Leffe Abbey. Count Godefroid welcomed him and proposed that he should found Floreffe Abbey in 1121. The Premonstratensian Order was confirmed by Pope Honorius II in 1126.

In 1152, 30 years after the creation of Floreffe Abbey, Henry ‘The Blind’ Count of Namur gave the Sainte-Marie de Leffe church to the Premonstratensians together with its income and outbuildings. The foundation charter dates from 1152 and was 

Today, things have changed greatly…and the Premonstratensian way of life as well. Now they split their time between community life and pastoral work outside. Some are parish priests or chaplains. Others carry out diocesan responsibilities in penitentiary establishments, hospitals and catholic care services. All of them still firmly committed to their historical values…

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