A NUNNERY IN THE SOCIETY OF THE BAROQUE ERA. THE LIFE OF POZNAN BENEDICTINE NUNS IN THE LIGHT OF THEIR CHRONICLES (17TH - 18TH C.) (Polish title below)
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(Polish title: Klasztor zenski w spoleczenstwie doby baroku. Z zycia codziennego benedyktynek poznanskich w swietle ich wlasnych kronik (XVII-XVIII w.) Research on the history of religious orders in mediaeval and modern Europe indicates that monasteries and nunneries were not entirely separated from secular life. They were centres of farming, craft and culture; they often had political influence. The article explores the position of a nunnery in the Polish society of the baroque era against the European background. The research is based on the chronicles of Poznan Benedictine nuns from the 17th - 18th c. The chronicles cover the times when after the Council of Trent the rules of enclosure were toughened and extended to all nunneries. This made their functioning and daily life more difficult. It seems that the relationships between the Poznan Benedictines and the Church hierarchy (bishops, confessors) were sometimes troubled. Contrary to expectations, the chronicles do not show the nunnery as a quiet place: there are rumours, denunciations, intrigues and conflicts caused by personality clashes. Such problems could not be overcome by severe penance and punishment. The nunnery was not free of the deeply-rooted idea of class privileges. The nuns coming from magnate families thought they could do things forbidden to others. The Benedictines shared interest in economic matters with the lay women of the epoch, which was troubled with wars, epidemics and natural disasters. The chronicles abound in details connected with water and food supplies, the use of the nunnery's moderate income and the management of its estates. The everyday life problems of the nunnery were not much different from the everyday life problems of local gentry. Despite the enclosure, nuns often left the nunnery because of epidemics or to visit relatives, while the nunnery was often visited by lay ladies, who stayed there for family or health reasons. Another link between the nunnery and the lay society was the shared religiousness of the epoch, including such elements as the belief in a connection between the world of the dead and of the living, in the devil's interference with events, in witches, witchcraft, dreams and visions. The chronicles do not allow us to fully reconstruct the mentality of nuns or their everyday life. They have not recorded the content of meditations and contemplations or information on forms of prayer and recreation. Nevertheless, the record gives us a picture of nuns functioning in a way typical of the daily life of the epoch and mentally rooted in the Polish baroque era. Despite the enclosure the Poznan Benedictines were affected by society's concerns and troubles, such as epidemics, wars and economic disturbances following from a crisis in agriculture and monetary problems. Although the life of the Polish nun differed from the life of the laity and her religiousness was more intense, she was still part of the baroque culture. Contrary to the theoretical assumptions of the model, the nunnery and the outer world were closely connected as elements of the same reality.
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