Venice in the late Renaissance was a city of fabulous wealth, reckless creativity, and growing social unrest as its maritime empire crumbled. It was also a city of walls and secrets, ghettos and cloisters - including fifty convents housing three thousand nuns, many of them refined, upper-class women who had been immured against their will. In this utterly fascinating book, Cambridge historian Mary Lavan uncovers the long-hidden stories of the "Virgins of Venice" and the secret, often surprising, lives they led." Sifting through records kept during the Counter-Reformation, Laven has created a detailed and dramatic tapestry of resourceful, determined, often passionate women who managed to lead fulfilling lives despite their virtual imprisonment. Far from being precincts of piety and silence, the convents of Venice were hotbeds of political scheming, colorful pageantry, gorgeous decoration, and illicit love affairs. One nun was so determined to sleep with her lover that she painstakingly chipped a hole in a stone wall so he could climb through under cover of night. Another expressed her individuality through obsessive gift giving while keeping records of the dangerous flirtations going on around her. Still others exercised considerable clandestine power in the dangerous game of Venetian politics.
Penguin Books, 2003. ISBN: 9780140298291. 284 pp.Softcover. Fine.
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