This article examines the impact of lay patronage on the renewal of convent life in Paris, where at least forty-seven new religious houses for women--nearly one a year--were established during the first half of the seventeenth century. It argues that, at least from the perspective of Paris, the Catholic Reformation was less centralized and more open to individual initiative than we usually imagine as the inheritance of the Council of Trent. Just as the theory of royal absolutism veiled a monarchy whose authority was still highly dependent on informal ties of patronage and clientage, so the authoritarian facade of the Counter-Reformation church veiled an institution that depended heavily on the give and take of mutual accommodation without which no patronage system can work. Convents proliferated with more freedom than is usually thought, and the women who headed them enjoyed more formal and informal authority as a result.


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pp. 469-499
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2004
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