1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Abbey/Premonstratensians
|Abbey sub-article navigator|
The Premonstratensian regular canons, or White canons, had as many as 35 houses in England, of which the most perfect remaining are those of Easby. Yorkshire, and Bayham, Kent. The head house of the order in England was Welbeck. This order was a reformed branch of the Austin canons, founded, A.D. 1119, by Norbert (born at Xanten, on the Lower Rhine, c. 1080) at Premontre, a secluded marshy valley in the forest of Coucy in the diocese of Laon. The order spread widely. Even in the founder's lifetime it possessed houses in Syria and Palestine. It long maintained its rigid austerity, till in the course of years wealth impaired its discipline, and its members sank into indolence and luxury. The Premonstratensians were brought to England shortly after A.D. 1140, and were first settled at Newhouse, in Lincolnshire, near the Humber. The ground-plan of Easby Abbey, owing to its situation on the edge of the steeply sloping banks of a river, is singularly irregular. The cloister is duly placed on the south side of the church, and the chief buildings occupy their usual positions round it. But the cloister garth, as at Chichester, is not rectangular, and all the surrounding buildings are thus made to sprawl in a very awkward fashion. The church follows the plan adopted by the Austin canons in their northern abbeys, and has only one aisle to the nave—that to the north; while the choir is long, narrow and aisleless. Each transept has an aisle to the east, forming three chapels.
The church at Bayham was destitute of aisles either to nave or choir. The latter terminated in a three-sided apse. This church is remarkable for its exceeding narrowness in proportion to its length. Extending in longitudinal dimensions 257 ft., it is not more than 25 ft. broad. Stern Premonstratensian canons wanted no congregations, and cared for no possessions; therefore they built their church like a long room.