Zamora's Nuns in the Oven

Sexual improprieties and rows between religious orders - not 1990s scandal sheet headlines about the Catholic Church, but a tale from 13th-century Spain, unravelled here by Peter Linehan.

On a dry day it takes less than fifteen minutes to walk from the cathedral which stands at the highest point of the city of Zamora in western Spain, to cross the bridge over the Duero, and reach the gates of the convent of Las Dueñas, just to the south of it. Once the enchanting mist has lifted from the swirling river, the abode of the Dominican nuns is clearly visible from the hilltop. Indeed, from this vantage point all the areas of the city of Zamora with which this story is concerned are clearly visible. In the year 1279 that was part of the trouble.

That, and uproar and rumour:

Uproar and rumour of certain of the said nuns as well as of the local people having drawn to our attention the many quarrels and the discord dividing the said nuns, in accordance with the duty of our office.

In July 1279 the Bishop of Zamora paid the convent of Las Dueñas a visit which not all its inmates altogether welcomed.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email if you have any problems.