Today commemorates the martyrdom of Abbot Aegidius de Marle (Giles of Marle) and his 26 companions in 1291, Norbertines of the Abbey at Acre. St John at Acre was the home to Premonstratensians who had fled the houses of St. Habbakuk and St. Samuel after attacks by Moslem forces which had killed the majority of religious. Those who fled came to Acre which itself fell at the hands of Saladin. On November 8th 1291 Abbot Aegidius was cut into pieces before the eyes of his brethren so as to induce them to renounce their faith, none did so and thus they went to their deaths as martyrs for the faith of Christ.
The Canons Regular of Prémontré were associated with the Holy Land from almost the very beginnings of the Order. The Canons of Floreffe responded to the call of Innocent III by sending Abbot Amalric and his companions to preach in Palestine in 1136. There they established the Abbey of St. Habbakuk, at Ramleh where the relics of St. Habbakuk and St. Joseph of Aramathia were venerated. In 1154 Amalric was made Archbishop of Sidon. With the resurgence of the Muslim forces 23 religious fled the abbey in 1156 and those who remained fled in 1187.
The Abbey of St. Samuel, 8 m north east of Jerusalem, containing the relics of the prophet venerated by Christians, Jews and Muslims alike was offered by King Baldwin II of Jerusalem to St. Bernard for his Cistercians. Bernard instead advised the king to offer it to the sons of St. Norbert, whom he recommended to the king in the most praiseworthy words. Under Balwin’s successor, King Falcro, the Norbertines came to St. Samuel in 1141. In 1187 the greater number of religious were murdered at the hands of the Muslims, though some managed to escape to Acre. Latterly the abbey was restored under the direction of the Abbot General Gervase and Abbot Hillin of Floreffe until in 1244 the religious again were martyred and those who survived fled for the last time. The church buildings were used as a mosque, and only finally destroyed by the Ottomans in 1917.
Aerial view of the site of St. Samuel