Another interesting fact is that the Gilbertine Order allowed Monasteries and Convents to be built near each other or together and to make use of the same church. This came about after St Gilbert of Sempringham, who originally wished to found a men's order, found that to be impossible to do. Instead, he accepted seven women whom he had taught in the village school. In 1131 he founded an order of nuns based on the Cistercian Rule.
Eventually, Gilbert added lay sisters to do the daily chores of his religious house, so that the nuns could attend to their duties, and lay brothers to work in the fields.
In 1147 he left England for France to seek assistance from the Cistercian Order Cîteaux. He asked them to take on the running of his foundations. The Cistercians declined because they felt unable to administer houses for both men and women, but Pope Eugenius III, (who was also a Cistercian) intervened to ask the abbot, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, to assist Gilbert in drawing up Institutes for a new Order. Pope Eugenius then appointed Gilbert as the first Master of the Order of Sempringham or Gilbertines.
They wore black cassocks with white hood and scapular, believing that from heaven they would appear as white crosses on black backgrounds.
Interestingly in a time of male dominance, the Gilbertine churches were divided into two parts and shared - with the nuns taking the larger half.
There were 26 Gilbertine 'houses' by the time of the dissolution.