Nuns and Nunneries in Renaissance Florence
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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The study of religious women in late medieval and early modern Europe has recently emerged as a vibrant field in its own right. Drawing on an abundance of riches, scholars have explored various forms of female spirituality and cultural production ranging from food practices to female-authored texts and music. Whether motivated by intensely felt spiritual convictions or profound distaste ...
1. The Growth of Florentine Convents
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Around 1338, the Florentine chronicler Giovanni Villani estimated that his native city supported 500 nuns out of an urban population of roughly 100,000 to120,000, or 1 religious woman for every 220 inhabitants.1 Villaniâs figures may be suspect, but they nevertheless capture an essential truth: nuns and nunneries were not a prominent feature in the urban landscape of late medieval Florence. ...
2. Nuns, Neighbors, and Kinsmen
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Nuns and nunneries were bound up with the physical, social, and spiritual geography of Renaissance Florence in complex ways. Richard Trexler was among the first to argue that the dense concentration of nuns living around vulnerable spatial zones like walls and gateways bolstered divine protection of the city.1 A few conventsâS. Pier Maggiore, S. Ambrogio, S. Annaâbecame destinations ...
3. The Renaissance Convent Economy
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The Renaissance convent economy not only conditioned the nature of monastic experience but formed a pivot around which complex political and moral questions turned. Religious women in late medieval and Renaissance Europe defined their religiosity in part through their relation to money and property, which at times brought them into conflict with ecclesiastical authorities and contemporary ...
4. Invisible Hands: Renaissance Nuns at Work
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One of the primary revenue streams supporting the mixed Renaissance convent economy was paid labor. Although scholars have long noted nunsâ engagement with economic activities such as handiwork, teaching, and property management, we lack a clear understanding of the prevalence and significance of work to female religious communities across medieval and early modern Europe.1 Sev-...
5. Contesting the Boundaries of Enclosure
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For centuries, the literary figure of the wayward nun has dominated views of Renaissance convent life. Whether intended to titillate readers or condemn clerical hypocrisy, ribald stories of bawdy nuns and their daring lovers reflect a deep-seated fascination with what one scholar has called ââeros in the convent.ââ1 These imaginative tales depict Renaissance convents as sexual hothouses akin to broth-...
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Between the Black Death and the beginning of the Medici principate, convents were transformed from small, semiautonomous communities into large civic institutions serving family, church, and state. I have argued that fifteenth-century developments were pivotal to the ways this transformation played out. The first two chapters of my account emphasize the political uses to which convents were ...
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One of the joys of finishing a long project is having the opportunity to thank the individuals and institutions whose contributions were vital. This project was launched at the National Humanities Center under the sponsorship of the American Council of Learned Societies and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation. I would like to thank the directors and library staff of the center for their invaluable ...
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Page Count: 280
Illustrations: 11 halftones, 1 line drawing
Publication Year: 2009