For centuries, credit for writing manuscripts, hymns, and other written relics from the Renaissance period has gone primarily to the monks. Their texts have survived all of these hundreds of years, and we continue to appreciate and value their impact on our human history and development. But what of the women who had also promised themselves to their God and the work they might have done to further the import of written word to the masses? Melissa Moreton has devoted her post-doctoral Fellowship to discovering the mysteries behind these unnamed nuns!
Melissa Moreton | Image Via Graduate College University of Iowa
Moreton had been doing graduate research in Florence, Italy and it was there that she discovered there was little to no information on the work that Renaissance nuns almost certainly accomplished during their time in the convents. She found that a lot of the liturgical texts, books on religious rituals, entries about girls entering the convents, and various histories written by women were published anonymously. Now, she has made it her mission to uncover the truth behind these anonymous texts, and give recognition to the accomplishments of these hard-working women. She is working in tandem with a medieval scholar Professor Emerita Constance Berman to pay them due respect.
Most of the manuscripts nuns made were devotional [for prayer, study, contemplation] and liturgical, books that the nuns sung from in the choir and those that helped them perform important religious rituals. They also copied theological texts and kept administrative documents, used to keep track of their financial transactions and the daily operations of the house. They wrote extensive convent histories, called chronicles, and books of entry and death, which recorded the names and information of the women who entered as girls and commemorated them in death.
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In her research, Moreton has also discovered that not only were the nuns writing texts centered around God and the Church, but also various plays and pieces of art. Their books are littered with beautiful designs and intricate calligraphy that showcase a testament to their craft and passion for creation. She finds it unfortunate that it is the monks who receive all credit when it comes to the work and she cannot wait to devote her research project to this endeavor.
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