Nuns: A History of Convent Life, 1450-1700

Nuns: A History of Convent Life, 1450-1700

Nuns: A History of Convent Life, 1450-1700

Nuns: A History of Convent Life, 1450-1700

Synopsis

Cloistered and inaccessible 'brides of Christ'? Nuns tells the fascinating stories of the women who have lived in religious communities. Drawing on the nuns' own words, Silvia Evangelisti explores how they came to the cloister, how they responded to monastic discipline, and how they pursued their spiritual, intellectual and missionary activities. The book looks not only at the individual stories of outstanding historical figures such as Teresa of Avila, but also at the wider picture of convent life, what it symbolised to contemporaries, how it reflected and related to the world beyond the cloister, and what it means in the world today.

Excerpt

For many of us, nuns are a remote reality, detached from the world. But we are all more or less familiar with the sight of convents. Convents are part of both the urban setting and the rural landscape of a number of Western countries. Some still exist, while others have been turned into museums and become part of the national heritage, or have been transformed into schools, university departments, hotels, or—less happily—into hospitals, prisons, and army quarters. We are also familiar with the inside of these places: small rooms, internal cloisters, corridors, austere and imposing refectories, all spaces that often boast an impressive range of frescos, paintings, and architectural features. We may have visited these buildings or stayed in them, or simply learnt about them in novels, specialized publications, paintings, and films. This book deals with the women who lived in such places before they became what they are now. It invites the readers to go back a few centuries to discover what life was like in these communities, and to see how nuns, despite their small numbers, took on crucial social roles. Hopefully the following pages will persuade them that nuns' lives were not at all remote from those of their contemporaries. Their history is as remote from us as any other part of the past can often be—a faraway land, inexplicable but partly accessible.

Nuns have recently attracted many fans. Female monastic communities, as well as individual nuns, have been the object of careful scrutiny by scholars seeking to explore their ecstatic visions, intellectual aspirations, and creativity in the domains of the visual arts, music, and the theatre. . .

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