Premonstratensians (Fr.pre monstre, meadow pointed out), or Norbertines, a religious order in the Roman Catholic church, founded in the diocese of Laon, France, in 1120, by St. Norbert, a canon regular from Xanten, Germany, who became archbishop of Magdeburg in 1126, died in 1134, and was canonized in 1582. On a meadow in the forest of Coucy, pointed out to him as he believed from heaven, Norbert gathered his first disciples, and gave them the strict rule of St. Augustine. They were at first a congregation of regular canons, and as such were confirmed in 1126 by Pope Honorius II.; but gradually they assumed all the distinctive peculiarities of a monastic community. The order spread very rapidly, and became very popular in France by aiding in the suppression of the Albigen-ses; and in Germany it accumulated immense riches, and several of the abbots were raised to the rank of princes of the empire. The abbot of the parent convent of Pr6montre\ near Coucy, had the title of general, and he formed with three other French abbots the supreme council of the order. A female branch of the order was established simultaneously with that of monks, and, as in several other orders founded at that time, the female convents were at first contiguous to those of the monks, and only separated from them by a wall.
At the time of the reformation the order had about 2,000 convents, of which about 500 were for women. The strictness of the primitive rule having been abandoned, reformed congregations " of the strict observance" were established in Spain (1573) and in France, which however remained in connection with the other convents, and the union was strengthened by new statutes in 1630. In the 18th century the number of convents greatly decreased, and the female branch became almost entirely extinct. The Premonstratensians are at present (1875) suppressed in Italy, Spain, the German empire, and Switzerland.