Solemnity of St. Norbert of Xanten, O. Praem.

Norbert of Xanten

Norbert of Xanten

(c. 1080, 1134)


  • Gospel book = Preacher
  • Palm branch = Peacemaker
  • Chalice = Defender of the Eucharist
  • Mitre, crozier, and pallium = archbishop
  • Figure = the heretic Tanchelm

Norbert was born of noble parents around the year 1080 in Xanten in the northern Rhineland. As a child, he was presented to the Cathedral Chapter of St. Victor in Xanten, where he was later ordained subdeacon. Emperor Henry V took note of Norbert’s gifts and charm and called him into his personal service at the imperial court. There, Norbert led a worldly lifestyle.

In the year 1115, thrown from his horse and nearly killed in a thunderstorm, he repented and began to lead the life of a penitent. Ordained to the diaconate and to the priesthood on the same day, he wandered about the countryside, preaching the word of God, railing against the abuses of the clergy, and reconciling enemies. One of the earliest paintings of Norbert depicts him holding the Gospel book and the palm branch of peace. Criticized and persecuted by members of the hierarchy, Norbert sought and obtained approval for his preaching from Pope Gelasius II and later from Pope Calixtus II, who encouraged him to settle and found a community in the diocese of Laon in northern France.

There, in the desolate valley wilderness of Prémontré, Norbert laid the foundations for his religious order. He chose the rule of St. Augustine, becoming one of the most avid reformers of the day. The community was marked by its austerity of life, its poverty, its intense liturgical life of prayer, and, above all, its complete fidelity to the ideal of community life as depicted in the Augustinian rule.

On July 25, 1126, Norbert was reluctantly ordained archbishop of Magdeburg and relinquished the leadership of his order to begin the work of shepherding the vast diocese on the northeastern frontier of the German Empire.

During his years as archbishop, Norbert fought strenuously for the freedom of the church against secular princes and proved himself an ardent champion of the cause of the Roman Pontiff. He was instrumental in the downfall of the anti-pope Anacletus II and the return of Pope Innocent II to his throne. Weakened by his travels and labors, Norbert returned to Magdeburg where he died on June 6, 1134.

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Date(s) - Sunday June 6, 2021
All day


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