Order of Premontre, Premonstratensians, Norbertines, and White Canons



TOMUS LXXXIV, 2008, fasc. 1-4


Dirk Van de Perre, Het necrologium van de Sint-Cornelius- en Sint-Cyprianusabdij van Ninove. Tekstuitgave van de oudste twee necrologia (1185/1188-1651 en 1652-1694) met inleiding en annotaties, p. 5-249

Three necrologia have been preserved of the former Premonstratensian abbey at Ninove (Belgium, in the Province of East Flanders), which was part of the Brabant circary. These are currently held in the State Archive at Beveren-Waas under inventory numbers 92, 93 and 94, and are referred to further as necrologium A, B or C, as the case may be.

1. Necrologium A is the oldest. It forms part of the mediaeval Ninove Chapter Book, which also contains the martyrologium and the Rule of St. Augustine. In this parchment codex of 149 folios, the necrologium covers folios 77 to 137 verso. The codex is the result of a single conceptual approach, the writing style in the three parts being the same. On the basis of historical data, hand one of the necrologium can be dated to between 28 September 1185 (death of Abbot Gerard) and 18 November 1188 (death of Walter Hawel). The work was thus effected under the abbacy of Arnold (1185-1190). The necrologium was supplemented by tens of hands after 1188 and up to and including 1651, and is characterized by the many notes written in the margin of the manuscript.

2. Necrologium B is a parchment codex of 186 folios, prepared in 1652 by the Ninove canon Francis Charité. It is a faithful copy of necrologium A and was used from the beginning of 1652; it is supplemented with names to May 1694. A memorandum written by Abbot Ferdinand De Moor on 29 November 1693 indicates that, following the example of Libert De Pape, abbot of Park and father-abbot of the Ninove abbey, he had decided on a complete revision of the necrologium. All names that had no direct connection to the Ninove abbey were scrapped – thereby very substantially shortening the old necrologium – and other names, not included in the old necrologium, but indeed of significance for the abbey’s history, added. At the same time, existing commemorations were moved in order to achieve a balanced spread of names over the days of the year. Abbot De Moor himself added this new necrologium in draft form below the folios of necrologium B and expertly made the text of the old necrologium illegible.

3. Necrologium C is the clean copy of the text appended by Abbot De Moor below the folios of necrologium B. It is a paper codex of 185 folios and new names were included from July 1694 on. This necrologium remained in use until the end of the eighteenth century.

4. The continuity between necrologia A and B is abundantly clear, as is the discontinuity of necrologium C with necrologia A and B. In consequence, this text edition is limited to the publication of A and B. C cannot be regarded as a variant of them, as it is a completely new text, the content of which shows little relation to the text of the old necrologium.


Erik van Mingroot, Hugo van Fosses als kanunnik in Fosses-la-Ville en Cambrai (1087/95-1121/23). Bijdrage tot de ontstaansgeschiedenis van de Orde van Prémontré, p. 250-477

It has repeatedly been stated that Hugh of Fosses (of Cambrai, of Prémontré), companion and collaborator of Norbert of Gennep from the early days – and thus closely involved with the early development of the Premonstratensian Order – was unjustly neglected in both narrative sources and historical literature. In general he only appears there in the shadow of the order’s founder, at least until his nomination as abbot. The purpose of this study therefore, is to learn more about the life of the younger Hugh, and, as far as possible, to follow the course of his life until he finally entered Prémontré.

(§1) Taking account explicitly of the achievements of historical research to date, the starting point has been the stereotypical image in which Hugh’s youth is traditionally portrayed: born at Fosse(s) in the prince-bishopric of Liège in or about 1093 (1085/90 according to a more recent estimation), in a wealthy, possibly noble family, Hugh apparently entered the local chapter of Saint-Foillan, where he was educated, and presumably received priestly ordination; further studies in Liège or Gembloux remain uncertain. According to hagiographical sources he was nevertheless in the service of the bishop of Cambrai, when his name was first mentioned at Valenciennes on 26 March 1119. We will attempt to verify and supplement this hazy image, but it must be indicated from the beginning that the full evidential value of some of the new or revised components of Hugh’s career is only arrived at in the final conclusion of this article.

(§2) Looking back in time, at Fosses-la-Ville, we came, so we think, across Hugh (without a surname) as a tonsured canon-oblate on a list of clerics of Saint-Foillan from the last quarter of the eleventh century. We consequently established the year of his birth (c.1087) and his entry in that secular chapter (c.1095) and we “visualised” his daily existence in the collegiate church – in course of reconstruction – and in the canonical precinct of Fosses. We found him there under the tutelage of cantor Hillin, a scholar of Sigebert of Gembloux, and, in a period of growing animosity between the imperial outlook of Liège and the Gregorian reform movement, serving under four successive provosts of the chapter.

(§3) Crossing over to Cambrai, we could ascertain fromthe ‘job description’ of his chaplaincy under the local Bishop Burchard of Aachen, that Hugh, in 1119, had received only ordination to the subdiaconate, and that he must have beena canon in the cathedral chapter of Our Lady. In addition to his ceremonial and auxiliary tasks, occasionally he must have functioned in the episcopal chancery, like the eight other members of the chapel college. A tentative link can be made on chronological grounds with the chancery-notary ‘BurA’, who drafted and wrote some deeds for the Benedictine abbeys of Anchin and Saint-Nicolas-aux-Bois.

(§4) With the intention of making further inroads in this study, in order to have a provisional chronological table at one’s disposal, it was necessary to compare the information from Cambrai, of a prosopographical nature, withthe biographical and chronographical co-ordinates from Norbertine hagiographical sources, and to test, once more, the trustworthiness of these dates of reference for the period 1119-1121, with the help of existing literature.

(§5) With that chronological framework as the background, it was then possible to make a careful consultation of the twelfth-century obituary from the cathedral chapter of Cambrai. In order to use this source for the current study, we were, in the absence of preliminary studies, compelled to carry out previously the source-criticism of origin, as regards stratification, time of composition – for the primary text, between June 1116 and January 1126 – and authorship. Due to the frequency of the name ‘Hugh’, especially around the cathedral of Cambrai, we had to take into consideration ten clerics with that forename, to see who is the likely to have been Hugh of Fosses. These same individuals could also be traced in a list of benefactors of Cambrai cathedral– dependent on the obituary – from c.1190; in addition we shall meet five other candidates in the course of this study.

(§6) Focussing on all these candidates, we have next drawn upon a matriculation register from the cathedral chapter of Cambrai. We have dated this roll between 1116-1124/26 after a time-consuming dating procedure,mainly based on the enrolment of Radward, chaplain to the emperor and canon in the chapters of Antwerp and Cambrai, known from the foundation story of St. Michael’s Abbey, Antwerp. We found there, in the column of subdeacons, three Hugh’s: ‘Hugo A’, ‘Hugo M’ and lastly ‘Hugo S’, to whom we have assigned – with caveats – the locative surname de Sarto or Sartensis. The latter, who is of particular interest for us, was, according to the aforesaid list of canons, also an active member of the famous cathedral choir.

(§7) In order to verify this evidence, weeventually called upon the allographic signatures of a large section of charters from the bishops of Cambrai from 1100 to 1133. It was established that the delegation of members of the cathedral chapter was changed very frequently, and that one or two canons with the name of ‘Hugo’ regularly appeared as witnesses. It is apparent that over the passage of time – when taking statistics in account – in one of the three occurrences of the name, the signer must have been the Hugh we are searching for. Before 1121, in fact only on one occasion do all three of our candidates appear collectively, namely in a charter for the Benedictine abbey of Saint-Ghislain, exactly in the spring of 1119: one of them must certainly have been Hugh of ‘Fosses’. We can conclude from this that our search must be confined to the three selected incumbents.

(§8-9) By an (unavoidable) process of elimination, we thereupon have identified two of Hugh’s putative confrères: canon Hugh Abbas (Hugh A – initially the foremost nominee for the current investigation) and, after laborious research, canon Hugh of Morchies (Hugh M), whom we have both already encountered in the obituary, and incognito in the matriculation register of the cathedral chapter. Consequently, the way was at last made free for identifying Hugh of Fosses himself.

(§10) The third canon, Hugh S, must therefore have been Hugh of ‘Fosses’. Taking account of his personal contacts with the cathedral dean Erlebold I († December 24/25, 1117), highly esteemed by Guibert of Nogent, and with the lineage of the Erleboldi or Erlebaud of Cantaing-Cantigneul – combined with his personal problems of a familial and financial nature from 1119-1121, attested in the Vitae of St. Norbert – we believe that he can be recognized in a notice from the obituary. This mentions a cathedral canon, by the name of Hugh, who conferred upon the cathedral chapter a share of the revenue of a seignorial mill–probably obtained from the estate of the dean – at Cantigneul, in the vicinity of the episcopal city, expressly for the foundation of an annual commemoration for the deceased members of his family: his father (Roger), brother and nephew.

It is absolutely necessary that the new data thus far obtained on the person of Bl. Hugh be further explored, checked, underpinned, and put into context. It is therefore our intention to examine when, and the precise circumstances in which Hugh arrived at Cambrai (§11); if, indeed, he had been active as a part-time scribe in the episcopal chancery (§12); how the providential meeting with Norbert at Valenciennes featuresin his assignment as episcopal chaplain (§13); if and at what stage he had really received holy orders in this period (§14); what his personal social environment and circle of acquaintances at Cambrai was like (§15). Next we intend to reconstruct, as much as possible, from Hugh’s standpoint, his missionary journey of 1119 at the side of Norbert of Gennep, until their arrival at Rheims (§16); to probe the circumstances and the duration of his return to Cambrai in 1119-1121 (§17); to go deeper into the foundation charter of the abbey of Floreffe from 1121 (§18), and into the role of Hugh, probablynow as an archchaplain, in the genesis of that important document (§19); to reinterpret the well-known description of his native district in the Vita A Norberti (§20) and to outline its relationship to Namur and Floreffe (§21); to define the part taken by Hugh in the crucial decisions made by Norbertin this period (§22); to ascertain how he gradually entered Prémontré in 1121-1123 and was appointed prior there (§23); to return intentionally to the city of Cambrai, once again, on the occasion of the fire disaster of 1123, which St. Norbert ‘extinguished’ (§24); and to determine if and how Prior Hugh intervened in the foundation of the oldest Premonstratensian abbeys in the diocese of Cambrai (§25).

By summarizing this complex investigation and judiciously combining the – sometimes surprising – results of the inquiry, we shall attempt, in conclusion, to sketch a new profile of the young Hugh (filius Rogeri?)of ‘Fosses’ (§26). At the same time we shall strive to complete, and occasionally to adapt, the early history of the Order of Prémontré by better distinguishing Hugh’s role in this regard.

Chronicon, p. 478-495

Index, p. 496-499

Index tomi LXXXIV, 2008, p. 500

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