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Gilbert of Sempringham, St

Gilbert of Sempringham, St (c.1083–1189). Founder of the Gilbertines, a purely English order. A wealthy Norman knight's son, Gilbert became incumbent at Sempringham (Lincs.), where (c.1131) he allowed a group of devout women to use a building next to the church. On the abbot of Rievaulx's advice he added lay sisters and brothers, in Cistercian fashion, to care for their physical needs. Failing to persuade the general chapter of Cîteaux to oversee the order, he was confirmed as administrator by Pope Eugenius III (1147), himself a Cistercian. Gilbert then added secular canons—like Augustinians—to act as chaplains. Growth was so rapid that by his death there were 1,500–2,000 members and, in addition to many leper-hospitals and orphanages, he had founded more than a dozen monasteries. His longevity appears well documented. He was canonized in 1202.

Revd Dr William M. Marshall

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