Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 2928
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Strocchia , Sharon T.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Naming a Nun: Spiritual Exemplars and Corporate Identity in Florentine Convents, 1450-1530 [A newly professed nun frequently took a new name to mark her separation from the world and integration into a monastic community. This practice only slowly became common, especially for older girls entering monasteries. By the end of the fifteenth century, the practice, once sporadic, had become the norm. Names with classical or literary resonances were among those most frequently changed to more pious ones. Communities controlled their own naming practices, recycling the names of respected sisters for generations. Title note supplied by Feminae.].
  • Source: Society and Individual in Renaissance Florence.  Edited by William J. Connell.  University of California Press, 2002.  Pages 215 - 240.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Essay
  • Subject (See Also): Ceremonies Commemoration Florence Florence- Le Murate, Benedictine House for Women Florence- San Pier Maggiore, Benedictine House for Women Monastic Enclosure Monasticism Names Taken by Nuns at Religious Profession Nuns Women in Religion
  • Award Note:
  • Geographic Area: Italy
  • Century: 15- 16
  • Primary Evidence:
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  • Abstract: This essay examines the social and religious meanings attached to monastic naming practices in elite Florentine convents between 1450 and 1530. Taking a new name upon entering the religious life was a central act in the transition from lay to religious status, which helped make a nun “dead to the world” and gestured toward a new personal identity. Viewed collectively, the pool of religious names selected by a convent for entering nuns indexed its choices of spiritual patrons and exemplary figures the nuns wished to emulate. Despite the significance of exchanging one’s baptismal name for a monastic one, this practice was voluntary and episodic in nature throughout most of the fifteenth century and only became customary and regularized after 1500. Although reform-minded clerics encouraged these developments, these new practices took root primarily because they offered Florentine religious women a means to articulate their own corporate values and religious models, thereby giving each house a distinctive identity. Three distinct patterns emerge from the pool of names chosen during this period of rapid monastic expansion: first, the names of early Christian exemplars displaced those of medieval saints; second, names signaled a robust development of the cult of the angels; and finally, deceased nuns who were valued highly and remembered fondly in their communities were “remade” by giving their names to new novices. I argue that changes in naming practices between 1450 and 1530 document a growing female monastic self-consciousness and a new sense of community that was simultaneously religious, familial, and fundamentally female. [Abstract submitted to Feminae by the author.]
  • Author's Affiliation: Emory University
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 2002.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 0520232542