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Nuns and Nunneries in Renaissance Florence

Sharon T. Strocchia

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Winner, Helen and Howard R. Marraro Prize, American Catholic Historical Association

The 15th century was a time of dramatic and decisive change for nuns and nunneries in Florence. In the course of that century, the city’s convents evolved from small, semiautonomous communities to large civic institutions. By 1552, roughly one in eight Florentine women lived in a religious community. Historian Sharon T. Strocchia analyzes this stunning growth of female monasticism, revealing the important roles these women and institutions played in the social, economic, and political history of Renaissance…

Winner, Helen and Howard R. Marraro Prize, American Catholic Historical Association

The 15th century was a time of dramatic and decisive change for nuns and nunneries in Florence. In the course of that century, the city’s convents evolved from small, semiautonomous communities to large civic institutions. By 1552, roughly one in eight Florentine women lived in a religious community. Historian Sharon T. Strocchia analyzes this stunning growth of female monasticism, revealing the important roles these women and institutions played in the social, economic, and political history of Renaissance Florence.

It became common practice during this time for unmarried women in elite society to enter convents. This unprecedented concentration of highly educated and well-connected women transformed convents into sites of great patronage and social and political influence. As their economic influence also grew, convents found new ways of supporting themselves; they established schools, produced manuscripts, and manufactured textiles.

Strocchia has mined previously untapped archival materials to uncover how convents shaped one of the principal cities of Renaissance Europe. She demonstrates the importance of nuns and nunneries to the booming Florentine textile industry and shows the contributions that ordinary nuns made to Florentine life in their roles as scribes, stewards, artisans, teachers, and community leaders. In doing so, Strocchia argues that the ideals and institutions that defined Florence were influenced in great part by the city’s powerful female monastics.

Nuns and Nunneries in Renaissance Florence shows for the first time how religious women effected broad historical change and helped write the grand narrative of medieval and Renaissance Europe. The book is a valuable text for students and scholars in early modern European history, religion, women’s studies, and economic history.

Reviews

Reviews

Strocchia examines the complex interrelationships between Florentine nuns and the laity, the secular government, and the religious hierarchy. The author skillfully analyzes extensive archival and printed sources.

Strocchia performs a service both to convent studies and to historians of Renaissance Florence by bringing these two fields together... Convents, long a hazy presence on the rich scholarly map of Renaissance Florence, now have their political and economic contours there clearly charted.

An enjoyable, well-written account by a gifted historian clearly knowledgeable about her subject.

Strocchia makes a significant contribution to the developing body of work on women's religious life in the Renaissance... providing a plethora of research avenues for the interested scholar and an interesting glimpse of Renaissance life for the general reader.

A convincing and wide-ranging analysis of a crucial facet of Renaissance Florence.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
280
ISBN
9781421411842
Illustration Description
11 halftones, 1 line drawing
Table of Contents

List of Tables, Graphs, and Figures
Preface
1. The Growth of Florentine Convents
Convents in Crisis
The Midcentury Resurgence
The Rush to the Convent
2. Nuns, Neighbors, and Kinsmen
From Neighborhood

List of Tables, Graphs, and Figures
Preface
1. The Growth of Florentine Convents
Convents in Crisis
The Midcentury Resurgence
The Rush to the Convent
2. Nuns, Neighbors, and Kinsmen
From Neighborhood Enclaves to Citywide Institutions
Property and the Topography of Power
Defenders of the Parish
3. The Renaissance Convent Economy
The Structure of Convent Finance
The Paradox of ''Private'' Wealth
Balancing the Budget
The Medici and the Monte
4. Invisible Hands: Renaissance Nuns at Work
Economic Strategies and Opportunities
The Century of Silk: Nuns and Textile Production
Three Case Studies in Textile Work
Books and Educational Activities
5. Contesting the Boundaries of Enclosure
The Practice of Open Reclusion, 1300–1450
Privatization, Enclosure, and Reform, 1430–1500
The Florentine ''Night Officers''
Ecclesiastical Reform Initiatives, 1500–1540
Conclusion
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Sharon T. Strocchia

Sharon T. Strocchia is a professor of history at Emory University and author of Death and Ritual in Renaissance Florence, also published by Johns Hopkins.