Cover image for The nuns of Sant'Ambrogio : the true story of a convent in scandal
Title:
The nuns of Sant'Ambrogio : the true story of a convent in scandal
Author:
Wolf, Hubert., author.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Nonnen von Sant'Ambrogio. English
Edition:
Unabridged.
Publication Information:
Old Saybrook, Connecticut : Tantor Media Inc., ℗2015.
Physical Description:
13 audio discs (15.5 hours) : digital, CD audio ; 4 3/4 in.
Summary:
In 1858, a German princess who had been recently inducted into the convent of Sant'Ambrogio in Rome wrote a frantic letter to her cousin, a confidant of the Pope, claiming that she was being abused and that she feared for her life. What the subsequent investigation by the Church's Inquisition uncovered were the extraordinary secrets of Sant'Ambrogio and the illicit behavior of the convent's beautiful young mistress, Maria Luisa. Having convinced those under her charge that she was having regular visions and heavenly visitations, Maria Luisa began to lead and coerce her novices into lesbian initiation rites and heresies. She entered into a highly eroticized relationship with a young theologian known as Padre Peters-urging him to dispense upon her, in the privacy and sanctity of the confessional box, what the two of them referred to as the "special blessing."What emerges through the fog of centuries is a sex scandal of ecclesiastical significance, skillfully brought to light and vividly reconstructed in scholarly detail. Offering a broad historical background on female mystics and the cult of the Virgin Mary, and drawing on written testimony and original documents, Hubert Wolf tells the incredible story of how one woman was able to perpetrate deception, heresy, seduction, and murder in the heart of the Church itself.
General Note:
Title from container
Language:
English
Genre:
Added Author:
ISBN:
9781494559137

9781494509132
Format :
Audiobook on CD

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Summary

Summary

In 1858, a German princess who had been recently inducted into the convent of Sant'Ambrogio in Rome wrote a frantic letter to her cousin, a confidant of the Pope, claiming that she was being abused and that she feared for her life. What the subsequent investigation by the Church's Inquisition uncovered were the extraordinary secrets of Sant'Ambrogio and the illicit behavior of the convent's beautiful young mistress, Maria Luisa. Having convinced those under her charge that she was having regular visions and heavenly visitations, Maria Luisa began to lead and coerce her novices into lesbian initiation rites and heresies. She entered into a highly eroticized relationship with a young theologian known as Padre Peters-urging him to dispense upon her, in the privacy and sanctity of the confessional box, what the two of them referred to as the "special blessing." What emerges through the fog of centuries is a sex scandal of ecclesiastical significance, skillfully brought to light and vividly reconstructed in scholarly detail. Offering a broad historical background on female mystics and the cult of the Virgin Mary, and drawing on written testimony and original documents, Hubert Wolf tells the incredible story of how one woman was able to perpetrate deception, heresy, seduction, and murder in the heart of the Church itself.


Reviews 4

Booklist Review

As if the current controversies brewing in the Roman Catholic Church aren't enough, a church historian reaches back in time, unearthing a religious scandal of epic proportions. When German princess Katharina Von Hohenzollern joined the convent of Sant'Ambrogio in Rome in the mid-nineteenth century, she became privy to the convent's salacious secrets, including heresy, sexual abuse, and bizarre lesbian initiation rituals. Eventually perceived as a threat by other convent members, especially Maria Luisa, the convent's beautiful but deranged mistress of novices, she became a target for murder. After surviving several poisoning attempts, she made her escape with the assistance of her cousin, the bishop of Edessa and a confidant of Pope Pius IX. In this meticulously researched account, Wolf unravels the case, the ecclesiastical inquiry, and the aftermath of this disgraceful episode. Religion, sex, and politics reader interest should be high.--Flanagan, Margaret Copyright 2010 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

This sordid tale of sexual indecency, false saints, and murder within a 19th-century convent in Rome has all the trappings of a good thriller. What begins with a 1859 complaint by a German noblewoman against Sant'Ambrogio (specifically, against the corrupt practices of novice mistress Maria Luisa) soon becomes a full-blown scandal: the subsequent investigation implicates prominent clergy in practices that blur the line between mysticism and the carnality. Behind the lurid story, however, are deeper historical conflicts. Both the rise of Romanticism-and its attendant fascination with the supernatural-and struggles over the direction of the modern Church explain the extent of the scandal and the passion with it was investigated. Wolf (Pope and Devil), a professor of ecclesiastical history at the University of Münster, adds detailed historical context and careful explanations to elevate this tale beyond sensationalism into a more serious study of a fascinating real-life melodrama. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

In 1862, following an accusation of criminal acts and an extensive trial, an enclosed religious community located in Rome was quietly dissolved; its inhabitants dispersed and disgraced, its memory effectively erased from church history. The events leading up to this damnatio memoriae were extreme and included deception, heresy, wayward nuns, tainted priests, theft, and murder. Hidden deep in the Inquisition files of the Archive of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith until found by the author, the scandal of Sant'Ambrogio has all the ingredients of lurid sensationalism. Wolf (church theology, Univ. of Munster; Pope and Devil) thoughtfully does not take the "erotic adventures behind convent walls" route. Instead he draws from primary source documents to present a meticulously researched and documented history that provides an explanation for how and why the myriad abuses occurred. Wolf's background information and discussions of the intricacies of 19th-century religious, political, and judicial Roman Catholicism are, somewhat surprisingly, as intriguing as the scandal itself. The result is an unusual volume that is both scholarly and readable. VERDICT An astonishing piece of forgotten history, told from a research-intensive point of view. Recommended for academic and public library collections. [See Prepub Alert, 7/21/14.]-Linda Frederiksen, Washington State Univ. Lib., Vancouver (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

A priest and an accomplished ecclesiastical historian, Wolf (Univ. of Münster, Germany) had the appropriate credentials to gain access to records of the Holy Office (or Inquisition) in the Vatican Archives when they were opened for research in 1998. Wolf located the extensive records of the case on which his book is based in a hallway, where they were unexpectedly shelved. He carefully analyzed the records and then incorporated them in this insightful, remarkable cultural history of 19th-century Catholicism. The convent scandal that serves as the pivot and point of departure for the book involved both heretical beliefs and immoral activities. What makes the book significant and of lasting importance, however, is Wolf's contextualization of the scandal. He carefully describes the lines of authority in the church hierarchy, the institutional structure and juridical practices of the Inquisition, popular Catholic beliefs that involved mysticism and the Virgin Mary, and the politics generated by competing individuals who were close to the pope and by various religious orders--with special attention to the Jesuits and Dominicans--in the context of the Napoleonic wars and rise of modern European nation-states. This is a brilliant piece of work! Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals; general readers. --Gene R. Thursby, emeritus, University of Florida


Excerpts

Excerpts

Prologue   "Save, Save Me!"   "Shortly after eight o'clock on Monday, July 25, the Archbishop of Edessa--sent by the Lord--finally came to me. There was no time for waiting; this was the one and only time to get saved. To him, I had to reveal everything and had to implore him to help me escape the convent as swiftly as possible. It all went well: my prayers were fulfilled, and I was understood." These dramatic words were set down by Princess Katharina von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen in a com- plaint she submitted to the pope in summer 1859. They were written barely five weeks after her escape from the convent of Sant'Ambrogio in Rome--or rather, after her cousin, Archbishop Gustav Adolf zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst, managed to secure her release--and they describe the sensational conclusion to her adventure inside the walls of a Roman Catholic convent. It was an adventure for which she had narrowly avoided paying with her life.   She had been humiliated, isolated from her fellow nuns, cut off from the outside world, and--since she was party to the convent secrets and therefore regarded as a danger--somebody had tried to silence her. They had even made several attempts to poison her. At half past three in the afternoon on July 26, 1859, after almost exactly fifteen months, she finally left Sant'Ambrogio della Massima. Her life as Sister Luisa Maria of Saint Joseph, a nun in the Regulated Third Order of Holy Saint Francis in Rome, had begun so promisingly. And now here she was, being saved in the nick of time, rescued from imminent danger of death.   In her written complaint, the princess gave her failure as a nun and her thrilling escape from the convent a typically pious interpretation, casting it as salvation by Christ the Lord. This somehow made the experience bearable for her. But the final dramatic episode, and the preceding months she had spent under the constant fear of death, would come to define her whole life. After July 26, 1859, nothing would ever be the same again. Her plight had been genuinely existential: her life really was threatened in Sant'Ambrogio. Even years later, she was still traumatized by the attempts to poison her. This is all brought vividly to life in her Erlebnisse (Experiences), a book written by her close collaborator Christiane Gmeiner in 1870, more than a decade after the terrible events in Rome. According to this auto-biographical source, Katharina had managed to smuggle a letter out of the convent during the night of July 24, 1859. This was handed to Archbishop Hohenlohe in the Vatican.   The princess waited in a state of great anxiety until she was called into the parlor at half past seven in the morning. Fearful and almost breathless, the princess hurried downstairs to the archbishop, to whom she called out in great agitation: "save, save me!" At first, he did not understand her, and was almost afraid his cousin had run mad, but by and by she managed to convince him that she was mistress of her senses, and that her fear was not unfounded. Now he understood her pleas to leave the convent, and he promised to do everything in his power to arrange this as soon as possible-- though the first appointment he was able to make was not until the following day.   The words are Christiane Gmeiner's, recounting in the third person what the princess had told her in her own words.   Katharina von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen's account sounds like a story from the depths of the Middle Ages, and confirms many of the common clichés and prejudices about life in Catholic convents and monasteries. But this story takes place in the modern world of the mid-nineteenth century. And the setting isn't a secluded mountain convent at the world's edge, but the center of the capital city of Christianity, little more than half a mile from the Vatican--home to the representative of Jesus Christ on earth.   What really happened in Sant'Ambrogio? Were these poisonings simply the fantasy of a highly strung aristocrat, or were they genuine attempts on Katharina's life? She was a princess of the house of Hohenzollern and a close relative of Wilhelm I, the man who would later become king of Prussia and the German emperor. So how did Katharina come to take her vows in such a strict religious order in the first place--and why in Rome? Excerpted from The Nuns of Sant'Ambrogio by Hubert Wolf. Copyright © 2015 by Hubert Wolf. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpted from The Nuns of Sant'Ambrogio: The True Story of a Convent in Scandal by Hubert Wolf All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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