Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Venetian Nunneries in the Counter-Reformation, 1550-1630

By Mary Rachel Laven


Figures 1, 2 and 3 have been removed from the electronic version of this thesis due to copyright restrictions. The full version can be viewed at the David Wilson Library.In the period following the Council of Trent there were over fifty convents in Venice and its surrounding islands, at times housing more than 3000 nuns. This thesis treats these institutions as an integrated feature of Venetian society, and seeks to illuminate the interactions between nunneries and the outside world at a time when ecclesiastical and state authorities were united in their determination to isolate female religious both physically and emotionally.\ud The five chapters of the thesis explore the following themes:\ud Chapter I examines the web of authorities which governed the nuns of Venice. It analyses the interest which the local church and state displayed in controlling the city's convents, and assesses the degree of self-rule exercised by female religious communities.\ud Chapter II reappraises the circumstances in which so many women entered religion. An analysis of conventual dowries and other payments made by nuns' families casts doubt on the view that monacazione was a cheap way of disposing of superfluous daughters.\ud Chapter III looks at the post-Tridentine drive to enclose all nunneries. Enclosure was often a disruptive and unwelcome innovation, which was inevitably compromised by the practical and emotional demands of female religious. This tension provides a focal-point for this thesis as a case-study in the reception and negotiation of religious reform.\ud Chapter IV details the friendships and recreational pursuits of nuns. These women craved gossip from the outside world and tempted family and friends to visit by means of hospitality, gifts, and offers of practical help.\ud Chapter V extends the discussion of nuns' social interactions to take into account the motives behind their sexual exploits. Trial records provide abundant evidence of men loitering on the edge of enclosure, talking, laughing and flirting with nuns. Here the motivation behind these heterosocial exchanges is considered

Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 1997
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. 1600, for case of suor Ottavia Valier;
  2. 18v. lived at Santa Caterina. Thither Francesco set off; Faustina left the convent
  3. 48); Hufton,
  4. 87; Paschini, p. 37; Logan,
  5. A copy of the patriarchal trial may be found among the records of the proweditori,
  6. Andrea di Zirada; discussed in chapter III,
  7. Bernardo di Murano; discussed in chapter IV,
  8. (1994). Bound? Venice and the Idea of Liberty from Howell to Hume',
  9. (1974). Canosa, Romano, Il velo e it cappuccio. Monacazioniforzate e sessualitä nei conventi femminili in Italia tra 400 e 700
  10. (1994). Characteristics of Italian Anticlericalism',
  11. (1969). Dello stato et forma delle cose ecclesiastiche nel dominio dei signori venetiani, secondo the furono trovate et lasciate dal nunzio Alberto Bolognetti', published in Aldo Stella, Chiesa e stato nelle relazioni dei nunzi pontifici a Venezia (Vatican,
  12. (1993). eds, Un piccolo regno teocratico nel cuore di Venezia: it monastero di San Lorenzo (Venice,
  13. (1992). eds, Venice: A Documentary History, doi
  14. (1995). Fame quello the pare e piace... " L'uso e la trasmissione delle celle nel monastero di Santa Giulia di Brescia (1597-1688)',
  15. Father of the Bride: Fathers, Daughters, and Dowries in Late Medieval and Early Renaissance Venice', Renaissance Quarterly, doi
  16. For discussions of female sexuality, and particularly the unruly lusts of women, see Wiesner,
  17. fos 18v and 39v.
  18. fos 5v and 7v. Francesco dalle Crosette.
  19. Inferno,
  20. (1984). L'archivio di stato di Venezia. Indice generale, storico, descrittivo edanalitico, 2 vols
  21. (1971). L'obituaire de San Daniele (1577-1804): Etude Ddmographique',
  22. (1972). Le Celibat ä la fin du moyen Age: les religieuses de Florence', Annales: doi
  23. Monacazioni forzate', p. 440, emphasizes the importance for a fugitive nun of having 'qualcuno a cui accompagnarsi'.
  24. (1989). Nuns, Wives and Mothers: Women and the Reformation in Germany',
  25. (1993). Patricians and Popolani. The Social Foundations of the Venetian Renaissance State, (Baltimore-London,
  26. Rule of St Basil (1) Monache a San Giorgio dei Greci (Cast. ) [* The location of each convent (sestiere or island) is given in brackets. The following abbreviations have been used:
  27. (1995). Sexuality in the Confessional. A Sacrament Profaned (New YorkOxford, doi
  28. Spirito Santo; discussed in chapter IV,
  29. (1978). Studies in the Religious Life of Venice in the Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries: The Venetian Clergy and Religious Orders, 1520-1630' (unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Cambridge,
  30. Suor Giacoma, a conversa from San Servolo, obligingly called on the friars of
  31. The following cases are concerned with pregnant nuns:
  32. (1970). The Printed Plans and Panoramic Views of Venice (1486-1797)', Saggi e memorie di storia dell'arte, doi
  33. The trial is discussed in some detail on pp. 206-208 of this chapter.
  34. This aspect of the case is discussed in chapter III,
  35. Una capatina in alcuni monasteri veneziani del '500', Rivista d'Italia,
  36. (1910). Women in Religious Communities: The Benedictine Convents in Venice, 1400-1550' (unpublished doctoral thesis,
  37. (1983). Works Arenal, Electa, The Convent as Catalyst for Autonomy: Two Hispanic Nuns of the Seventeenth Century',

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.