Origin of the Order

The Premonstratensian Order dates back to the 12th century. The vows of the first brothers are dated to December 25, 1120, in Prémontré. The first century saw a tremendous expansion of the order. The first monastery founded in the territory of Bohemia is the Strahov Monastery, which was established from the Rhineland monastery of Steinfeld.

Photographs from the ceremonial service that opened the celebration of the 900th anniversary of the founding of the Premonstratensian Order. At that time, the remains of its founder, St. Norbert, were placed in the choir section of the monastery church.

The Beginning of the Order

The Premonstratensian Order originated in the 12th century. The vows of the first brothers date back to December 25, 1120, in Prémontré. The order experienced significant growth in its first century. The first monastery established in Bohemia is the Strahov Monastery, founded from the Rhenish Steinfeld Monastery.

The Premonstratensians reached Bohemia thanks to the support of the Olomouc Bishop Jindřich Zdík, King Vladislav II, and his wife Gertrude. The first religious from the German Steinfeld were invited to Strahov in Prague in 1142. Soon, Litomyšl (1145) and Hradisko (1150) were founded from Strahov, followed by the establishment of the Louka Monastery near Znojmo in 1190, Teplá in 1193, and later Zábrdovice in 1209. From Zábrdovice, the female monastery in Nová Říše (1211) was founded, which became an abbey for men in 1733. Another foundation from Steinfeld in Bohemia is Želiv (1149), from which Milevsko was founded in 1187. Among the women's monasteries, apart from Nová Říše, were Doksany (shortly after Strahov, around 1143-1144), Louňovice (around 1150), Kounice (1181), and Chotěšov (in the first decade of the 13th century).

In 1126, Hugo de Fosses, Norbert's closest collaborator, took over the leadership of the order and became the abbot of Prémontré in 1128. His main task was to give the order a unified structure. Until then, individual communities were more or less independent. Hugo established a unified organization and structure, governed by general chapters. The head of the order was the general abbot, always the abbot in Prémontré until the French Revolution. The first Statutes of the order were created in Hugo's version shortly after he became the abbot in Prémontré. In the 13th century, the order was divided into circaries (clusters of monasteries based on regional or linguistic considerations). The general abbot had legal authority over all circaries. This division into circaries is still in use today, as are the basic elements of the order's structure.

Like the history of the church, the history of the Premonstratensian Order has seen periods of flourishing, decline, and subsequent growth. The order's most significant expansion was until the 14th century when monasteries contributed to religious and cultural growth. The 15th and 16th centuries saw a crisis in the order, caused by external (Reformation, Hussite wars in our territory) and internal (decline in community life, unsuitable appointments of leaders) reasons. The 17th century saw some circaries gaining the rights of general chapters, weakening the order's centralization. Despite this, stabilization continued until the last quarter of the 18th century. The following decades saw extensive closures of Premonstratensian monasteries: violent dissolution in France during the French Revolution (Prémontré was abolished in 1790), insensitive church reforms by Joseph II in the Habsburg monarchy, and secularization in Germany. By 1835, only 9 male and 6 female monasteries remained in the order. However, efforts to revive the order and religious life began again. Not all efforts were successful, but religious life returned to Belgium, France, Germany, etc. The order's unity was restored thanks to Popes Pius IX and Leo XIII, who convened all abbots at a general chapter in Vienna in 1883. Zikmund Starý, the abbot of Strahov, became the head of the order.

For the Premonstratensians in Bohemia and Moravia, the end of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, despite some problems, was a time of development. The religious survived World War II (some were imprisoned and died in concentration camps), but the greater threat was the communist regime. In 1950, all male religious orders in then Czechoslovakia were forcibly disbanded, and many Premonstratensians were unjustly sentenced in fabricated trials. Strahov's abbot Bohuslav Jarolímek died in prison. Individual communities continued their activities more or less successfully in secrecy, so they could return to their monasteries after 1989 and begin restoring the order's life.

Present Day

Today, we are reconnecting with this rich order tradition. The viability of the order is evidenced, among other things, by missions in Africa, Brazil, South America, and India, supported by monasteries from Europe and North America. The order currently has about 1330 religious brothers and 374 nuns. The Strahov Canonry have 57 members today. Most serve in parishes in Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia (Premonstratensians administer, for example, the parish in Jihlava or the pilgrimage site Svatý Kopeček near Olomouc). The canons also include two dependent houses in Milevsko and in Holíč in the Slovak Republic, and spiritual care is also provided in the renewed women's Premonstratensian monastery in Doksany. The Strahov community is led by Abbot Daniel Peter Janáček.