On 1 June 2023, Unerhörte Frauen. Die Netzwerke der Nonnen im Mittelalter, a new book on the networks of the nuns in the Middle Ages by Henrike Lähnemann and Eva Schlotheuber came out. It presents the world of the religious women in their own voices and art works, unlocking rich resources, particularly from late medieval Northern German convents. Order here

Update: An English translation is forthcoming with Open Book Publishing under the title The Life of Nuns: Love, Politics, and Religion in Medieval Women’s Convents, due out July 2024!

Remarkable Women (literally: unheard BUT also implying courageous, outspoken…). The Networks of the Nuns in the Middle Ages presents a rich array of original source material which for the first time unlocks the lives of these religious women from their perspective. Based on the diary of a nun from Braunschweig and 1.800 previously unpublished letters from the Benedictine convent of Lüne. Available in German from the publisher Ullstein in the series Propyläen.

From the publisher’s website: Love, Politics and Everyday Life in Medieval Women’s Convents
Half of those who entered a monastic community in the Middle Ages were women. What were their motives? What was their cloistered life like? How did they think and how did they live? Henrike Lähnemann and Eva Schlotheuber offer a lively insight into the largely unknown life and work of religious women. Original source material shows the world of the nuns from their perspective for the first time. Reading sample in German. Reading sample in English.
HENRIKE LÄHNEMANN is the first woman to be appointed to a chair in the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages at the University of Oxford, where she teaches German literature of the Middle Ages and works on textual and visual evidence from the women’s convents of northern Germany.
EVA SCHLOTHEUBER is Professor of Medieval History at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, where she researches and teaches on the education and lifeworld of religious women. She was the first woman to chair the Association of Historians of Germany from 2016 to 2021.
Whole generations of educated, argumentative and enterprising nuns have been overlooked by historiography. Now, Henrike Lähnemann and Eva Schlotheuber’s account shows that nuns were an active and influential part of medieval society. They acted as role models and were in active in exchange with other convents, city representatives and church authority. They self-confidently organised their demanding daily lives, ran the convents as successful businesses and offered the girls studying in the convent school a comprehensive educational programme. In stories from previously inaccessible diaries and letters, the women themselves speak for the first time about many aspects of their lives.

The nuns of Kloster Medingen celebrate Easter, joined in their praise by the lay-people on the right and the angels above
Dombibliothek Hildesheim Ms J 29, fol. 52r, written by Winheid (of Winsen) in 1478, Latin with Middle Low German, handschriftencensus no. 16271, digital images on hab.bodleian = Tafel 13 in the book

The book will be presented in a number of readings and other events across Germany, with a prominent launch on 28 July 2023, 3:30pm at Kloster Lüne hosted by the newly elected Abbess Amélie Gräfin zu Dohna, the 23rd Protestant Abbess of the convent. The launch will start with a special guided tour highlighting the material culture featured in the book, including the title image of the vision of the nun Dorothea von Meding, and will conclude with Vespers on the nuns’ choir.

Book presentations:
18 July 2023 6:15pm guest lecture at the German Department as part of the SFB ‘Andere Ästhetik’ in Tübingen.
19 July 2:15pm as part of the end-of-year celebration of the MAZ (Mittelalterzentrum) at FRIAS (Freiburg Institute of Advanced Studies). Recording of the book presentation on the FRIAS youtube channel.
28 July 3pm at Kloster Lüne, followed by Vespers on the nuns choir
29 July 7pm reading from the book at Kloster Mariensee
22 August 7pm reading from the book at the Jesuitenbibliothek Zürich
18 December 7:30pm reading from the book at the Marktkirche Goslar
21 December 6:45pm as guests on the red sofa at NDR DAS!
11 July 2024, 6:15pm: Studium generale Freiburg: ‘Bücher, über die man spricht’

Recording of the world premiere of the #nuntastic parody song ‘Little Donkey Goes to School’ from the Wienhäuser Liederbuch (No. 18) to a tune from the Rostocker Liederbuch (No. 5, ed. Franz-Josef Holznagel). With ad hoc chorus performance by @FRIAS_UFreiburg audience.
Full recording – warts and all – of the book presentation of ‘Unerhörte Frauen’ in Kloster Lüne by Henrike Lähnemann and Eva Schlotheuber. Introduction: Abbess Amélie Gräfin zu Dohna. Filming: Andrea Lueg.

Reviews

Radio broadcast on 4 June 2pm in the Deutschlandfunk Kultur ‘Religionen’ feature on ‘Religiöse Frauenorte. Einschränkung oder Selbstbestimmung?’
Image for the title of the book and for this talk (which is available here as podcast) by Sabine Wehking, taken with permission from the website of inschriften.net where the full inscription is transcribed and discussed.
DI 76, Lüneburger Klöster, Nr. 221 (Sabine Wehking), in: www.inschriften.net, urn:nbn:de:0238-di076g013k0022104.
Unerhörte Frauen! Book on Medieval Nuns Published
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