Divine lightning. 900 years of the Norbertines–
Organisation: PARCUM vzw
Norbert was born in around 1080 in Gennep, a town that is nowadays in the Netherlands, near to the German border. As the second son of the Count of Gennep, Norbert was destined for a fine career in the service of the Holy Roman Empire. But fate decided otherwise.
One day, when he was out riding, a flash of lighting made his horse rear. Norbert was thrown to the ground. It was a moment of great impact, in every sense. On regaining consciousness, Norbert vowed to live a simple life of poverty. He renounced his wealth and privilege and became a poor itinerant preacher. Gradually, the thought of founding his own religious order grew in him. Norbert requested and received papal permission to do this and on Christmas Night, 1121, in Prémontré, northern France, Norbert and his followers founded the first Premonstratensian abbey: the Norbertine Order had been born.
Throughout the twelfth century, the Norbertine Order expanded considerably, especially in the Low Countries. Several other abbeys were founded, among them, in 1129, our own Park Abbey. Park Abbey flourished and grew to become an important religious, economic and cultural force in the wider area. During its own almost 900 years of existence, it has had a rich and eventful history.
Divine light(ning). 900 years of the Norbertines examines the order’s many interactions with society and the resulting Norbertine impact. Outstanding masterpieces and hidden gems from Norbertine abbeys still active in Belgium and the Netherlands will be on display. But you will also see pieces that formerly belonged to the order: a Rubens sketch; the Park Abbey Bible from 1148; a beautiful book of maps from Averbode Abbey; the Tsgrooten Antiphonary choir book from 1522; and an enclosed garden that was constructed with great care and devotion by a Norbertine canoness.