12. Women abbeys and nunneries across the country
Ministry to the Lord is ministry to society
The original idea of a monastery community to live apart from the world had changed. Monasteries became religious and secular service centers. They were important for the religious and spiritual life in the country, but they were also an important economic factor for the founding families. The most urgent task of the nuns, mostly fetched from the Benedictine mother monastery in Nonnberg, was the prayer for salvation of the founding family. The Kingdom of Heaven was to be secured for the founders by prayer and holding soul masses. In addition, the monastery served the noble ladies and gentlemen as an educational, preservation and supply center. Ultimately, the monastery should be a monument, a memorial to the dead.
Foundations of noble women
Noble women had property and power. When they were married, they received land from the family and a gift from the groom. After the husband's often violent, early death, the property, sometimes the rights and duties of the rulers, fell to them. Young countesses or duchesses remarried for dynastic reasons, sometimes voluntarily. Older women from the aristocracy brought in their inheritance and wealth upon entering the monastery and completed the work started by the husband, the monastery church and the monastery buildings. To perform the liturgical service, they brought an abbess with about 20 nuns from a mother monastery to the convent. They lived a godly life as nuns or canonesses in the monastery until their death and were laid to rest in the monastery church they founded.
Nonnberg Mother Monastery - Austria's oldest women's convent
Nonnberg was built by Bishop Rupert on the remains of a Roman weir under the fortress hill in Salzburg already in 712 as a female antipole to the monastery of St. Peter, donated by the Duke Theotbert of the Agilolfinger family. The first abbesses came from the relatives of the Agilolfingers. Until 1451, the nun convent was reserved for women from noble families. Bourgeois women were until the 19th century accepted only as serving sisters. Nonnberg is the only women's foundation in Austria that has existed since it was founded.
The above illustration from the illustration in the registry of Abbot Otto II Chalhochsperger v. St. Peter (1375 - 1414) shows how St. Benedict usually instructs the “Petersfrauen” and the monks. The importance of nunneries at that time is documented by the many convents originating from the Benedictine Abbey of Nonnberg in:
1010 Göß Abbey near Leoben until 1782, 1020 Traunkirchen until 1573, 1023 St. Georgen am Längsee until 1782, 1029 Sonnburg im Pustertal until 1735, 1035 St. Wallburg-Eichstätt, Gurk 1043 to 1073, 1120 Admont until around 1580, 1132 Erla until 1583.
Other monasteries from earlier centuries were once again led as nunneries. There were Augustinian choir women in St. Florian, and Schlierbach was founded as nunnery before becoming a monk monastery.
However, nunneries, which had been successful for centuries, disappeared in the time of Protestantism. The power of monasteries run by women was broken. Monasteries founded by women passed into male hands in the Counter-Reformation.
© E. Rumpf, R. Hofbauer; Translation: XiBIT Infoguide GmbH