St Norbert

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Bishop and founder. Born into an aristocratic family near Cleves in Germany, in around 1080. Norbert embarked on a comfortable career holding several posts at the wealthy courts of Archbishop Frederick I and Emperor Henry V.

When he was about 35, he had a riding accident, narrowly escaping death, and underwent a sudden conversion which made him give up his life at court to become a priest. Soon after his ordination he tried to reform the canons of Xanten, asking them to give up their luxurious lifestyle and devote more time to prayer and pastoral duties. His appeal was treated with contempt, so he left the court to become an itinerant preacher. He founded a community of reformed canons under the rule of St Augustine at Premontre. This was the first house of the Premonstratensians (now normally called the Norbertines). The new order was very popular in Western Europe because it combined the priesthood with an austere daily life.

In 1126 he was chosen as archbishop of Magdeburg and introduced many reforms into his diocese, fighting corrupt practices among the clergy and laity. In 1130 he put all his influence behind Pope Innocent t II in his struggle with the antipope Pierleone. Norbert was appointed Chancellor for Italy by Emperor Lothair II. There was more than one attempt on his life.

In the 20 years that he lived after his conversion he made a great mark on his era. He died in Magdeburg in 1134 and was canonised in 1582. His relics were moved to the abbey church of his order at Strahove near Prague. His emblem is a monstrance.

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