Floreffe, ABBEY OF, pleasantly situated on the right bank of the Sambre, about seven miles southwest of Namur, Belgium, owes its foundation to Godfrey, Count of Namur, and his wife Ermensendis. When St. Norbert, in the year after the foundation of his order, returned from Cologne with a rich treasure of relics for his new church at Premontre, Godfrey and Ermensendis went to meet him and received him in their castle at Namur. So edified were they with what they had seen and heard, that they besought the saint to found a house at Floreffe. The charter by which they made over a church and house to Norbert and his order bears the date of November 27, 1121, so that Floreffe is chronologically speaking, the second abbey of the order. Norbert laid the foundations of the church which was called Salve, and the abbey received the sweet name of Flos Mariae, the Flower of Mary. The chronicles of Floreffe record the following event: While celebrating Mass at Floreffe, the saint saw a drop of Blood issuing from the Sacred Host on the paten. Distrusting his own eyes, he said to the deacon who assisted him: “Brother, do you see what I see?” “Yes, Father”, answered the deacon, “I see a drop of Blood which gives out a brilliant light.” The altar stone on which St. Norbert celebrated Mass is still preserved at Floreffe. St. Norbert placed Richard, one of his first disciples, at the head of the young community. The second abbot, Almaric, was commissioned by Pope Innocent II to preach the Gospel in Palestine. Accompanied by a band of chosen religious of Floreffe, he journeyed to the Holy Land and founded the abbey of St. Habacuc (1137). Philip, Count of Namur, gave to Weric, the sixth abbot, a large piece of the Holy Cross which he had received from his brother Baldwin, Emperor of Constantinople. The chronicles record that twice, namely in 1204 and 1254, Blood flowed from this relic on the Feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross; the miracle being witnessed by the religious and by a large concourse of people. At the suppression of the Abbey of Floreffe, the relic was removed to a place of safety. When a few years ago, the Norbertine canons, who had been expelled from France, bought an old Augustinian Monastery at Bois-Seigneur-Isaac, this precious relic was restored to them, so that it is again in the custody of the sons of St. Norbert. All the abbeys and convents founded by the Abbey of Floreffe have ceased to exist with the exception of Postel and Leffe. Louis de Fromantau, elected in 1791, was the fifty-fifth and last abbot of Floreffe. When the French Republican army over-ran Belgium, the religious were expelled, and the abbey with all its possessions was confiscated. Put up for sale in 1797, it was bought back for the abbot and his community. After the Concordat the abbot and a few of his religious returned to the abbey, but so great were the difficulties that after the death of the last religious the abbey became the property of the Bishop of Namur and is now the seat of a flourishing seminary.
F. M. GEUDENS