English Monastic Life – The Gilbertines

Gilbertine CanonGilbertine NunArticle

The Canons of Saint Gilbert of Sempringham are said to have been established in A.D. 1139, although the actual date appears to be uncertain, some annals putting the foundation as early as A.D. 1131, others as late as A.D. 1148. Saint Gilbert, the founder, was Rector of Sempringham and composed his rule from those of Saint Austin and Saint Benedict. It was a dual Order, for both men and women; the former followed Saint Augustine’s code with some additions, whilst the women took the Cistercian recension of the Benedictine Rule.

These canons, according to Dugdale, had a black habit with a white cloak and a hood lined with lamb’s wool. The women were in black with a white cap. In the double monasteries the canons and nuns lived in separate houses having no communication. At first the Order flourished greatly. Saint Gilbert in his lifetime founded thirteen houses, nine for men and women and four for men only. In these there are said to have been seven hundred canons and fifteen hundred sisters.

The Order was under the rule of a general superior, called the master or prior-general. His leave was necessary for the admission of members, and, in fact, to initiate business or at least give validity to the proposals of any house. There were, in all, some twenty-six of these establishments in England at the time of the general dissolution. Four only of these were considered as ranking among the greater monasteries whose income was above £200 a year.

MLA Citation

  • Dom Adrian Gasquet. “The Gilbertines”. English Monastic Life, 1904. CatholicSaints.Info. 28 November 2018. Web. 18 April 2021. <>