In early modern Europe, many adolescents both male and female were compelled by their elders to become professed religious, mainly for patrimonial reasons. Ecclesiastical regulations provided a means of contesting their involuntary monachization: making an appeal to the pope, which was then adjudicated by a Roman congretation. Based on records of the Congregation of the Council and other archival materials, this essay examines five seventeenth- and eighteenth-century cases of unwilling nuns in the Republic of Venice who sought annulment of their religious vows. These women faced a particular obstacle: the Venetian government’s prohibition, strictly enforced, of nuns’ and their legal representatives’ appealing to Rome. By fleeing to states in which such appeals were permitted, two of them succeeded in escaping from their undesired destiny.
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