EMMH Forum Session: Monday, 16 April, 17:15, Room 1.10 St. Katherine’s Lodge

The EMMH Postgraduate Forum is having its next session on Monday 16 April at 17:15 in Room 1.10, St. Katherine’s Lodge. Our guest presenter shall be:


Dr. Gillian Jack (PhD, St. Andrews)


An Act of Charity Against An Act of Wickedness: Prostitutes, Nuns, and Jews in Seventeenth Century Florence


Down a side street in the Oltrarno district of Florence, where few tourists set foot, there is an inscription on the wall of a former nunnery. The inscription describes an extension to the monastery of Sant’Elisabetta delle Convertite funded by Grand Duke Ferdinando II and his mother, the Archduchess Maria Maddalena, in 1627, during the latter’s regency. The Archduchess was a generous patron of nunneries and Sant’Elisabetta benefitted from her largess on numerous occasions. The monastery housed, almost exclusively, former prostitutes who had converted to the religious life, and may have had a particular appeal to the grand duchess who was particularly devoted to her namesake, Mary Magdalene, patron saint of fallen women.

So far, so unremarkable. However, what is striking is that inscription itself was in Latin and Hebrew. There is no obvious reason for this. The Florentine Jewish community had no involvement in the donation. They had been restricted to the ghetto on the other side of the Arno for over fifty years by this time. Why then, was this donation commemorated in Hebrew? Few scholars have engaged with the inscription and the presence of Hebrew remains unexplained. This paper will consider reasons for the inclusion of the language on this plaque and what it might mean for the nuns of Sant’Elisabetta.


We have been receiving a lot of requests to give presentations, so please to continue submitting your requests to present to Konstantin Wertelecki (kw85) to ensure you get a place this term. Places for Fall (2018) are also available to request.

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