The Order of St Gilbert of Sempringham was the only medieval monastic order founded in England; although St Gilbert late in life founded houses of canons (priests living together under a rule), most of the monastic communities he founded were double monasteries housing both men and women, although the sexes were strictly separated. The men followed the Rule of St Augustine; the women, that of St Benedict.
The Cistercian General Chapter of 1147 which rejected Gilbert's monasteries did not do so solely because of misogyny, for at the same assembly the Cistercians accepted into their number the double house of Obazine (which had both monks and a large number of nuns) as well as the Congregation of Savigny (which had three houses of women in addition to the 40 for men).
The Gilbertines were probably rejected by Citeaux because St Gilbert wished to abandon his monasteries in order to become a wandering preacher. The Cistercians were unwilling to take on the administration of a few small houses for women in the Lincolnshire fens, far from any other Cistercian houses, without the help and influence of their founder.
J. M. B. PORTER
Department of History
University of Nottingham
14 SeptemberReuse content