Medieval Nuns

Learn about medieval Nuns and the role of the Nun in medieval Society


During the medieval times, alongside the monks, medieval nuns were also active in the propagation of the Christian faith.

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At the initial stages, during the early medieval times, the medieval nuns belonged to the Benedictine Order which was established by St Benedict in 529 AD. With the passage of time, various new orders of medieval nuns were established.


Medieval Nun definition

A medieval nun by definition was a member of female religious order who was bound by certain vows that acted as requirements of the order. These vows for a medieval nun included poverty, chastity, and obedience. Other than serving other human beings, medieval nuns also led lives as ascetics in monasteries or convents.



Purpose of a medieval Nun

The purpose of a medieval nun was twofold. She could either lead her life in the service of other human beings or she could simply lead her life in constant prayer and contemplation in medieval monasteries and convents. In either case, the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience were applicable.

  • Medieval Nuns were part of the Benedict order created by St Benedict
  • There were several vows that Medieval Nuns had to follow including Chastity, obedience and poverty.
  • Nuns were part of a religious order and bound by the rules of the order and took vows towards it.
  • Some Medieval Nuns could devote their lives to looking after other human beings
  • Medieval Nuns could spend their lives in constant prayer and contemplation

Set Christian symbols with holy bible, nun, church

Medieval Nun’s Status

The status of a medieval nun during the medieval ages was higher than ordinary women, although not higher than the women of nobility.

During the middle medieval times, the cult of the Virgin Mary became popular which asserted the high status of women because it was a woman who gave birth to the son of God. Thus a medieval nun commanded considerable esteem and respect.


Medieval Nun’s Daily Life

The daily life of a medieval nun was divided into worship, working in the monastery, and reading. Many nuns spent some time of their daily life in prayer and meditation.

Some of the regular tasks in the daily life of a medieval nun included washing and cooking and procuring vegetables and grains for cooking. She also provided education and medical service to the community and indulged in weaving and embroidery.


Medieval Nuns chatting in the portal of a church

Medieval Nun’s clothing

A nun’s habit was the most important component of the clothing of a medieval nun. The Benedictine Nuns used white or grey habits but with the passage of time, the black colour became predominant.

The habit was tied around the waist with a cloth or a leather belt. A medieval Nun also wore a scapula which was a piece of woolen cloth worn over the soldiers. Other garments used in the clothing of a medieval nun included a wimple and veil attached to scapula and a crucifix around the neck.


Where did a medieval Nun live

The medieval nun who spent her life in community service did not have a permanent abode. She could live in different monasteries and convents. However, a medieval nun who had devoted her life to prayer and meditation generally spent her life inside a monastery or a convent and hardly ever left it.


Summary of medieval Nun

Just like the religious monks, women who devoted their lives to God’s work were called medieval nuns. Nuns were bound by the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and spent their lives in community service, prayer, and meditation.

Other than these obligations, their daily lives also included various chores such as cooking and washing. The Black robe was known as nun’s habit and was the common dress of a medieval nun.

  • The status of a Medieval Nun was higher than that of a normal medieval woman
  • Medieval Nuns spent much of their time working in a monastery, reading and in prayer
  • The piece of cloth that Medieval Nuns wore over their shoulders is called a Scapular
  • The most important part of a Medieval Nuns clothing was the habit
  • Medieval Nuns always wore a crucifix around their necks

Swedish Nun who was famous for founding order of Nuns in Sweden

We hope you found this article about medieval Nuns interesting and informative, if you want to learn more about medieval clergy including Medieval Nuns please visit the links at the bottom of this Medieval Nuns page that will give you information on medieval Popes, Monks, Friars etc.