Monthly Archives: June 2020

The Pastor and the Prostitute: Part II: Sources.

By Adrina Schulz, 30/06/2020

Staatsarchiv des Kantons Zürich (STaZH) A 9.2, Nr. 9. 

(working transcription, there may be errors)

1.         Herr Hanns Ochßner Predicant an der Spanweyd zeigt an vor vier jarren er syner geshëfften wëgen zu Clootten gewëßen unnd wie er sëlbiger nacht thrungkner wyß das Niderdorffer Thor beshlossen gefunden er zu dem Oberdorffer Thor khert daselbsten er nit yngelassen worden unnd derhalben denn graben wider uf gangen sëlbiger zytten habe er inn genanndter Bumaninen huß lüth gespürt unnd er der ursachen auch zuo innen hin in ganngen nach ein maß wyn oder zwo thungken hëllffen unnd so bezëcht worden das er nit wüssen möge was personnen domalen an gemëltem ortt gewëßen doch sigen es keini burger nit gesyn unnd als die anndern hinweg ganngen habe gedachte Bumanin ime küssi Inn die stuben gebracht item nach dem er einen schlaaff gethan were sy nach inn der stuben gewëßen unnd er morgens gesëchen das ir eheman (denn er sëlbiger nacht Inn der kamer gespürt) mit der ax uß dem huß ganngen unnd diewyl nun er verstannde das sy inne sy beshlaaffen habe angegëben welle er dessen gichtig syn unnd sy nit laugnen wiewol er wëgen thrungkenheit unnd (reverenter zmelden) synes lybs bruch nit wüssen möge was er mit iren verrichtet haben möchte unnd habe er uff ir begëren erhalter ursachen wëgen unnd das die sachen vershwigen belybind Hanns Jacoben Ziegler dem pfister von irtwëgen fünff guldi bezahlt unnd der Edelman dritthalben guldi unnd acht shilling von ime empfanngen ob aber ir eheman der ime auch gëlt gehöüshet gewüsst was ursachen sy gedachte ansprach gethan könne er nit sagen

The Pastor and the Prostitute: Part II

1606, Zurich.

By Adrina Schulz, 30/06/2020

Protagonists: Pastor Hans Ochsner, tavernkeeper and prostitute Anna Berger, Berger’s husband Hans Buman

Citation: Staatsarchiv des Kantons Zürich (STaZH) A 9.2, Nr. 9. 

            In this court report from 7.3.1606, Hans Ochsner, the pastor of Spanweid (most likely referring to the almshouse in Zurich rather than the town nearby), was questioned about his encounter with a prostitute four years previously. According to his testimony, he went to the nearby town of Cloten for business and became drunk. He returned to Zurich but was not permitted to enter the city at either of the two gates he tried. Therefore, when he saw people in Anna Berger’s tavern outside the city walls, he entered and drank wine with them, becoming so drunk he could not identify his fellow guests, except to say that they were not citizens. When everyone else left, Berger brought him pillows and he slept in the living room, with both Berger and her husband Hans Buman present. He claimed not to know whether or not he had had sexual relations with Berger, due to his drunkenness and a medical condition (“lybs bruch”). However, he was willing to pay 5 Gulden to Hans Jacob Ziegler and 2 1/2 Gulden and 8 Schillings to Heinrich Freitag in order to keep the affair quiet. He was also willing to admit guilt upon learning that Berger had accused him of having sex with her. The court fined him 25 pounds and dismissed him from his position as pastor.

            This deposition is part of a much larger case, comprising over 200 pages of archival material and involving multiple prostitutes, pimps, go-betweens, and clients. Anna Berger was at the center of the action, as both a prostitute and a pimp, and was later executed, officially for adultery and fornication (“eebrüch und huryg”: STaZH A 27.52, undated). She was questioned several times, and most likely gave Ochsner’s name as her client under torture. Ochsner’s deposition is quite similar to that of the other clients in this case: many claimed drunkenness as the reason that they had had sex with one of the prostitutes and later paid the group for their silence. This mix of prostitution and blackmail was common in the early modern period, in Zurich as well as in Europe more generally (See: Strika 2012; van de Pol 2011). The prostitution ring seems to have maintained control over its clients/victims for many years before the scandal erupted in 1606, leading to extensive investigations and punishments, generally a fine and/or imprisonment for the clients and execution for the prostitutes and pimps. 

            The discrepancy between Ochsner and Berger’s punishments, as well as between those of the clients and prostitutes more generally, does not stem from an explicitly gendered law. The Zurich mandates against fornication and adultery proscribed punishment for both sexes, with the penalties increasing for repeated crimes, from fines and imprisonment to exile to execution (See: Campi/Wälchli 2011; Grünenfelder 2007). Thus, a client who only had sex with a prostitute once could escape with a comparatively light punishment, while a prostitute with many clients had inevitably taken part in multiple offenses, and thus received a harsher–even capital–sentence. Interestingly, Ochsner’s status as pastor does not seem to have affected his punishment significantly. He was fined the same amount as Caspar Hirt, a clothmaker whose deposition was recorded on the same day. Furthermore, while Ochsner was also removed from his position as pastor, a similar fate befell secular municipal leaders in similar circumstances (See the case of Thomann zur Linden from 1608: STaZH A 8.4, Nr. 51). Thus, at least in the early seventeenth century, men were punished for their sexual activities with prostitutes no matter their class or religious status, though far more lightly than were the prostitutes themselves.

            Finally, Ochsner’s deposition echoes the previously discussed case of Pastor Hans Göldi. Ochsner and Göldi told similar stories of traveling, drinking, and then accidentally coming into contact with a prostitute, and were both punished for their actions. The main difference is that while in the Göldi case, the prostitute involved remained anonymous and free, in the Ochsner case almost 20 years later, Anna Berger was named, interrogated, and finally executed. This change follows a general trend in the Zurich court records, as prostitutes began to be identified and brought before court around the turn of the seventeenth century (this is discussed in more detail in my chapter of the forthcoming book Zürichs Gelebte Reformation, to be published in 2021). It is not yet clear why this development occurred during these decades–the mandates against adultery and fornication discussed in the previous paragraph had been promulgated decades earlier. But whatever the reason, these changes negatively impacted the legal treatment of prostitutes, while the punishment of their clients remained unchanged.

For a full transcription of this court protocol, see the archival materials page.

For a discussion of why why I use the word prostitute rather than sex worker or source terminology, see my personal page.

Nuns and the Forgery of Their Accounts: Sources.

By Isabel Harvey, 18/06/2020

Archivio Apostolico Vaticano, Congregazione dei Vescovi e Regolari, Positiones, 1605, Lett. M-P. Perugia, Tutti i monasteri.

Letter 1: The secular authorities of Perugia ask Rome to authorize their bishop to review the accounts furnished in 1601 by convents. 

Perche nella notola dell’intrate de’ Monasterij di Monache di Perugia, mandata à cotesta sacra l’anno 1601, si pretende siano errore di molta consideratione, cagionati massime dalle Monache istesse, le quali non ne diedero la giusta assegna; humiliss.te detta Città  la sacra Congregatione à degnarsi di ordinare, che si vedano di nuovo dette entrate puntualmente da Vescovo, et Vicelegato di essa col’intervento di due Cittadini, et di rimandarle ne poi nuova notola, assinche possa pigliare quella resolutione che a essa più piacerà. Che tutto…

Letter 2: The secular authorities of Perugia explain their point of view on the economic reform and ask for an independent commissioner to be sent by Rome to investigate the situation in the women’s monasteries. 

Fu già del Vescovo di Cagli Visitatore Apostolico in conformita del sacro Concilio prefisso il numero in ciascuno Monastero di Monache della Città di Perugia secondo le forze dell’intrate loro, le quali in quel tempo furono molto ben viste, et considerate; Il quale numero fu poi anco confirmato, et accresciuto da Bossop. et Ercolani Vescovi di d.a Città secondo l’accrescimento dell’intrate, et con d.o numero hanno sempre vestito, et le monache sono del continuo vissute comodossimamente. Piacque alla sac. de Vescovi l’anno 1601 di dar ordine al moderno Vescovo, che col’intervento di alcuni Cittadini dà deputarsi dal magistrato, si dovessero rivedere l’intrate di ciascun Monasterio, et dar bene poi conto. Fu eseguito detto ordine; Ma perche detti Cittadini non furno chiamati in tempo, et non intervennero à fare il calcolo, et meno le monache istesse, pensando di fare le conditioni loro migliori, diedero la giusta assegna. Ne nacque, che essendo detta notola piena di errori, et Mancamenti, è stato diminuito il numero in tredici Monasterij  della Città di duecento trenta quattro luoghi in pregiud.o gradissimo dei Cittadini poveri, li quali havendo ripiene le loro case di zitelle non possono per la povertà loro ne maritarle, ne monacarle, restando in grandissimo pericolo, et gelosia del’honestà loro per molti accidenti, che possono nascere: Onde si ricorre per rimedio ai S.mi Piedi della S.tà V. supplicandola humiliss.te che si degni concedere a d.a Città un Commissario Apostolico con auttorità di rivedere dette intrate, affinche fatta la debita diligenza si possa giustamente acrescere, ò sminuire il numero prefisso delle Monache, dove, et secondo si troverà soprabbondanza, ò mancamento di entrate; E perche la Città non ha modo far la spesa di un Comissario, che venisse a posta di Roma, si mette in consideratione alla S.V. la persona di qualche Vescovo con vicino, ò di qualunque Abbate de Monasterij di quella Città, o di Vicelegato, ò pure dell’ Cardinale Bevilacqua legato. Assicurando V. che per una volta non potrà fare a d.a Città gratia di maggiore, et di più universale sodisfattione…

Letter 3: The secular authorities of Perugia ask Rome to accelerate the decision-making process about the convents’ financial situation.

Piacque alli giorni passati à cotesta sac. à preci della Città di Perugia di ordinare, che si debbano rivedere l’intrata de’ Monasterij di Monache di essa da Monsig.nre Vescovo, et Vilegato unitamente. E perche d.o Vescovo si trova hora in Roma, dove, si dice sia per trattenersi qualche mese l’istessa Città le SS. VV. che per più celere espeditione del negotio, piaccia loro cometterlo insieme con d.o Vice legato al Vicario di esso Vescovo. Che tutto …

Letter 4: The accounts of the convent of Sant’Antonio di Padova (Perugia) given by:

Soror Gabriella Ministra 

Sor Eustochia Vicaria

Sor Lafemia; Sor Raffaella; Sor Marta; Sor Agnes; Sor Victoria

Il Monasterio nostro di S. Antonio di Paduva di Perugia … R.di Padri che ha annui tam.te di Intrata come più abasso li diremo e cosi sinceramente et per la verità deciamo e Referiamo alle Paternita loro come figlie d’obedietia e per obedire  al precetto fattoci dalle R.P. loro et de ordine del molto P. Ministro mio superiore

Di grano annuatamente computato un’anno col’altro raccoglio il nostro Monasterio ne suoi beni some octanta e di avantaggio quale valutato a scudi 5 la soma fanno la somma de scudi quattro cento : some 80 =  400

Di Restituigli circun’anno raccoglio some dieci, et oltre quale valutati a scudi quattro la somma fanno scudi quaranti: some 10 = 40

Di Vino annuatamente uno anno col altro raccoglie Barili quattrocento che valutati a paoli cinque il Barilo fanno scudi doicento: barili 400 = 200

Di olio ciaschuno anno venti et oltre che a paoli 20 il fanno scudi quaranti: 20  = 40

Di Denari di censi e Pigione di case caschuno anno scudi cento et oltre : e censi   = 100

Dalla Comunità di Perugia per fare stelleti. annuamente scudi diaciasette = 17

Da suore Particolari per lassite fatte loro da loro parenti ciascun anno scudi cento tre = 130

Datecime de suore in tutto de numero 30 a ragione di scudi otto per suora che cosi hanno obbligho di dare al monastero al meno in tutto scudi trecento dodici = 312

Da Intrata di sette suore morte da poiche fu prohibito il vestire suore a Ragione di scudi vinticinque per suore fanno scudi 175 = 175

Dalla vendita di strillati che si vendano ordinariamente a diversi ciascuno anno scudi 20 in circa = 20

Da… mille di carne porcina… ha per l’abisogno del monasterio ciascun anno da suo beni val.ta a pauli Vinticinque, il cento scudi 22 e mezzo = 22,5

Da some mille di legna che ciascun anno si fanno et tagliano ne bene del monasterio e si recevino di elemosina a rag.e di scudi quindici la soma, scudi cento cinquanta = 150

Da … 900 di sale quale hanno annuatamente dalla R. Camera Apostolica ch’è quasi l’abisogno del scudi sei in circa = 6

Sommano in tutto le sopradette intrate arrivatamente come si vede scudi mille sei cento dodici e cinquanta = 1612,5

Nuns and the Forgery of Their Accounts

By Isabel Harvey, 18/06/2020

Protagonists: Nuns from the eight poorest monasteries of Perugia. 

Sources: Archivio Apostolico Vaticano, Congregazione dei Vescovi e Regolari, Positiones, 1605, Lett. M-P. Perugia, Tutti i monasteri. (See the sources here)

Clement VIII (1592–1605) marked his pontificate by enacting reform measures according to the Tridentine decrees, especially regarding the finances of the Church. These reforms also targeted women’s convents. In fact, it was only under Clement VIII that the decree De regularibus et monialibus, adopted in 1563 during the twenty-fifth and last session of the Council of Trent, became an imperative in the dioceses of the Pontifical States. The Tridentine decree addressed the accusations of Martin Luther and his followers about the dissolute life of the regular clergy who took advantage of social and religious spaces as well as the economy of the sixteenth century. The solution adopted in Trent was largely an economic reform: Chapter Two of the decree reminded the regular orders about their vow of poverty; Chapter Three obliged all monasteries to own property from which they could draw rental income in order to eradicate the need for mendicancy; and Chapter 16 prohibited the acceptance of novices – and their dowries! – before they were of age to enter the convent.

Therefore, beginning in 1599–1600, Clement VIII, assisted by the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars, started a wide-scale undertaking of reform and consolidation of the finances of women’s monastic communities. Because their land and real estate holdings were far from sufficient to feed all the nuns and support the proper daily life of the convents, the nuns had created a system allowing them to compensate for their low incomes; but this system quickly became a vicious circle. The nuns were accustomed to accept their recruits several years before they were old enough to take their vows at 16 years old. The convent received the dowry at the time of the agreement and it as often used immediately to buy food instead of being invested in a property that could bring a stable income for the future without damaging the initial capital. Later, nuns found themselves in the position of having to accept a girl without sufficient means to feed her. To overcome this problem, convents had a secondary solution: to accept supernumerary girls. The number of nuns per convent was fixed by papal decree, but it was possible to take in more girls if they paid a double dowry. This provision helped to relieve debts permanently, as half of the dowry was used to repay debts while the other half could be invested in stable properties. But it became so widely used that monasteries often counted double, or even triple, residents. Consequently, overpopulation was chronic, as in Perugia’s female monasteries.

So, towards the end of the sixteenth century, the financial situation of most women’s monastic community was critical: the convents of the Papal States were increasingly entangled in debt and overpopulation. The situation was further aggravated by a series of disastrous harvests that reduce the profitability of their patrimony. On 1 May 1592, the Bishop of Perugia summed up the situation of the women’s monasteries of his diocese as follows: “having consumed all the alms that they got for the whole year by the ordinary distribution, they remain without any allocation or credit to be able to maintain themselves.”(1) This difficult spring in Perugia was not a unique situation. The secular and ecclesiastical authorities in the cities were aware of difficult financial situation of convents and had sought over the years to diminish the deficits as best they can by putting in place emergency solutions. For example, in 1574 in Perugia, confraternities were forced to give help to the eight poorest convents of the city. The idea was to give sporadic help to the nuns, for a few years, until their numbers were reduced. But a generation later, in 1600, the situation only got worse, and the confraternities are still obliged to pay a contribution to the convents every year.(2)

In Perugia, the economic reform began in December 1599, at the monastery of Santa Maria delle Povere, when the bishop abruptly refused to give the veil to two new recruits, who had already paid their dowries: “which he says, having claimed the command of Your Most Illustrious Lord, in forbidding that no mendicant monastery can accept girls.”(3) The principle behind this reform was simple: to reduce the number of nuns in every monastery, so that the rents provided by their patrimony became sufficient to meet their needs. But with the ban on accepting new girls, the situation was catastrophic: nuns would have to repay dowries that had already been spent. 

In moments of panic and incomprehension, some nuns did not hesitate to go beyond the limits of acceptability or legality in seeking a survival strategy during this process of reform. This was the case with several convents in Perugia that chose to manipulate their accounts. In 1601, at the request of the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars, the Bishop of Perugia obliged all convents to provide the episcopal see with the details of their accounts, stating their patrimony and the annuities they produced each year, other revenues in money or goods, debts to repaid, and the expenses necessary for the everyday life, according to the number of nuns. The abbesses took this step without fully understanding the logic behind the economic reform, but “thinking that they should arrange it to their best interest.”(4) Consequently, many convents voluntarily provided erroneous figures. This was what the Episcopal administration of Perugia discovered in 1605: in 1601, the nuns of several convents had voluntarily reduced their income, so as to force the confraternities to give them subsidies: “in the book of the incomes of nuns’ monasteries of Perugia, sent to this sacred Congregation in the year 1601, there is an important error, caused by the nuns who did not give the right numbers.”(5) However, the consequence of such falsification was the opposite of what nuns were looking for: new recruits were completely blocked in order to reduce the number of convents’ inhabitants. The nuns had not foreseen such a consequence: they thought that the previous solutions would be reactivated and that they would obtain financial help from the confraternities. But the ecclesiastical authorities were rigid, symbolizing the new economic discipline that Clement VIII chose to impose on the monasteries of his lands.

(1) Vatican Apostolic Archive (ASV), Congregation of Bishops and Regulars (CVR), Positiones (POS), 1592, Lett. M-P. Perugia, 1 May 1592. “havendo consumati tutti quell’elemosine, che per ordinaria distributione gli toccavano per tutto l’anno, restano senza alcuno assignamento, e credito da potersi mantenere

(2) ASV, CVR, POS, 1600, Lett. M-P. Perugia, 26 January 1600.

(3) ASV, CVR, POS, 1600, Lett. M-P. Perugia, Convent of Santa Maria delle Povere. 17 December 1599. “il quale dice, haver havuto ordine dalle Signorie Vostre Illustrissime e prohibitione, che nessuno Monasterio mendicante accettar zitelle.

(4) ASV, CVR, POS, 1605, Lett. M-P. Perugia. “pensando di fare le conditioni loro migliori

(5) ASV, CVR, POS, 1605, Lett. M-P. Perugia. “Perche nella notola dell’intrate de’ Monasterij di Monache di Perugia, mandata à cotesta sacra Congregazione l’anno 1601, si pretende siano errore di molta consideratione, cagionati massime dalle Monache istesse, le quali non ne diedero la giusta assegna”

A prioress corrects a laybrother

By Emma Gabe

Scholars have long studied the relationship between religious women and clergymen in terms of gender, but class and social standing also interact with questions of gender and religious authority. One episode from the Unterlinden sister-book illustrates how social status could elevate the roles and responsibilities of religious women. A sister-book is a collection of hagiographical stories written by Dominican nuns in the first half of the fourteenth century recording the mystical experiences of the nuns in their convent. Even though they are hagiographical texts that describe religious visions, among other experiences, from an historical perspective we can still catch glimpses into the daily lives and responsibilities of the nuns in the contexts of these experiences.

Founded in the first half of the thirteenth century in Colmar, France, Underlinden grew into a wealthy convent that boasted a high level of education and sanctity. In one episode, Adelheid de Rivelden, the second prioress, learned of the misbehaviour of one of the convent’s laybrothers and corrected him. Fearing for his soul, she prayed and received a vision of Jesus as a baby in which she was assured of the laybrother’s eternal salvation. The prioress exercised temporal authority over the laybrothers and the discrepancy in their social statuses likely heightened her authority: despite being elected, prioresses usually derived from powerful aristocratic families, while the laybrother, although he could come from a variety of social backgrounds, he was likely below the prioress’ social standing. Educated laybrothers helped run the convent’s estates, while others worked the fields and provided manual labour. Nevertheless, all laybrothers, in their profession oaths, swore obedience to the prioress. Interestingly, in this episode we see how the prioress’ authority over the laybrother extended to his spiritual wellbeing. Despite her gender, she was expected to supervise and guide his religious and spiritual behaviour. In fact, his behaviour and the way she responds to it affect her own salvation.

Tempore prioratus sui eadem soror beata in perturbatione animi fuit aliquando posita et timore propter cuiusdam conuersi nostri excessum, quem inprimis aliquantulum remissius restrinxerat neglienciusque correxerat, quam censura forte iusticie exigebat. Hinc ergo periculum sibi grauiter pertimescens, et fratrem, nisi cicius respisceret, in anima periturum. Quapropter in vigilia gloriose natiuitatis Domini tota deuocione conuersa ad deprecandum pro eo Dominum, ut illum de precipio illius ruine clementer eripere dignaretur, sibique pie culpam huius negliencie relaxaret…

In the time of her prioress-ship that same blessed sister (Adelheid de Rivelden) was placed once in distress of the mind and fear on account of the deviation of a certain laybrother of ours, whom she had constrained at first in a fashion a little bit more relaxed and had corrected him more negligently than perhaps the judgment of justice called for. From that point, therefore, she grew seriously fearful of the danger to herself, and that the brother was going to perish in soul unless she took care of him quickly. For this reason, in the vigil of the glorious birth of the Lord, she turned with complete devotion to the Lord for the purpose of begging the Lord for him, that He might deem worthy to snatch him mercifully from the precipice of his ruin, and that she might release herself piously from the error of her negligence…

At this point, she receives a vision of Jesus as a child, and the sight of the child filled her with joy and comfort. In this vision, she knew that the laybrother would be saved.

Hausit quoque ex illius beatissimi paruuli consorcio et conspectu inmensam diuine consolacionis dulcedinem et gratiarum habundanciam magnam ualde, certificata etiam per diuinam reuelacionem in eadem uisione de salute eterna superius memorati fratris conuersi, pro quo sollicite et deuote Domino supplicarat. Quem in gratia Dei sancteque religionis perseueraturum proposito et saluandum in spiritu preuidit, certissimeque deinceps tenuit, nullatenus de salute illius dubitans, etiam si ipsum post letalis criminis admissum conspexisset protinus spiritum exalare…

Also she drank from the company and sight of this most blessed little one the immense sweetness of divine consolation and the especially great abundance of graces, having been assured also through the divine revelation in the same vision about the eternal salvation of the abovementioned laybrother, for whom she had prayed to the Lord anxiously and devotedly. She foresaw, in the grace of God and holy religion, that he was about to persevere in conduct and was about to be saved in spirit, and then she understood certainly, by no means doubting his salvation, even if, after the admission of his deadly crime, she had seen him die (breath out his spirit)…

Through her prayer, the prioress saves the laybrother, which further reveals her religious authority as an intercessory power. In fact, in witnessing the admission of his crime and subsequently securing his salvation, the prioress arguably takes on the role of confessor to the lay brother. Despite her gender, her spiritual authority mirrors her temporal authority.

Source: Colmar, Bibliothèque municipale, Cod. 0926 (508), ff. 53r–54r. For an edited version, see Jeanne Ancelet-Hustance, “Les ‘vitae sororum’ d’Unterlinden: Édition critique du manuscript 508 de la bibliothèque de Colmar” Archives d’histoire doctrinale et littéraire du Moyen Âge 5 (1930): 403–04.