Skip to main content
Sacred and Secular Spheres: Religious Women in Golden Age Spain
History Compass
  • Elizabeth Lehfeldt, Cleveland State University
Document Type
Publication Date
This article examines the lives of religious women in Golden Age Spain as they managed their institutions and expressed their vocations in an increasingly constrained religious environment. Although convents were supposed to be bound by the Council of Trent's decree of 1563 that nuns observe strict enclosure, the demands of administering their estates and maintaining ties with secular families and patrons meant that nuns often simply ignored or substantially modified this expectation. Prominent ecclesiastics also sought to limit the influence of unenclosed holy women (beatas). Yet these women were often revered figures in their communities. Thus, patronage networks and local acclaim made it possible for them to occupy significant roles despite attempts to silence their voices. Counter to prevailing interpretations of Spain's repressive religious culture during this period, then, the experiences of nuns and beatas demonstrate that religious women continued to exert a visible and influential presence in Tridentine Spain.
Citation Information
Lehfeldt, Elizabeth A. "Sacred and Secular Spheres: Religious Women in Golden Age Spain." History Compass. 3.1 (2005).