The original Canons and Nuns of the Gilbertine Order were founded c.1100 by St. Gilbert of Sempringham. They were
the only native English religious order, and were rendered extinct by King Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries.
St. Gilbert of Sempringham, born c.1089, was the son of Sir Jocelyn, a knight. Gilbert was deformed, and shunned
by everyone, including the household's male servants. Gilbert's mother, however, was very attentive to him, and as he
developed in stature, he grew in holiness as well. His deformity made him ineligible for knighthood, so he became a
During his seminary studies, Gilbert noticed the lack of religious orders for women. The established orders of
men refused to take responsibility for women's branches. After ordination, and while acting as spiritual director to
several young ladies, Gilbert gathered some of them into a monastery, gave them the Rule of St. Benedict, and the Order of
Sempringham was born.
Further research has proven, though, that St. Gilbert built seven anchorholds onto the Sempringham church, and gave his
anchoritic directees the Benedictine Rule. Lay women from the area volunteered to assist with the anchoresses' needs.
A wall was built to protect their privacy.
Typical of England, "one thing led to another." The assistants were made into lay sisters, with a year's probation
required. Then canons were formed to minister to the two groups. They were given the Rule of St. Augustine.
The anchoresses became monastics, and the double monastery was built.
Extreme measures were taken to keep the nuns and canons apart. The order expanded to only several houses in England,
and one in Scotland--the reason why the Order of Sempringham did not survive the Dissolution.
In 1989, the Coordinator of Cloister Outreach--when inspired to open a particular volume of the Catholic Encyclopedia--discovered
the Gilbertines and their story. She thought the order's extinction a pity, and continued to research them. A
voice spoke in her heart, and feeling God the Father's incredible desire for the Gilbertines to be renewed, she heard in spirit
the following words:
"In response to a materialistic world, the Gilbertines are to console Me with their austerity. The original Gilbertine
Rite will be used. The canons and nuns will chant the office in monotone, out of austerity of sound. The
monastery will be a miniature of the original Gilbertine oratory in Sempringham, England. The original habit will
On August 8, 2009, Cloister Outreach was inspired to petition the Benedictine and Augustinian Orders to recognize Gilbertian
spirituality as a viable expression within their own charisms. The Benedictine Abbot Primate at the time promised his
prayers for the initiative.
The Gilbertines wore a black tunic adapted from the Augustinians, and the white cloak of the Cistercians.