Caritas attained a reputation as one of the most learned women of her time as a result of her study of the classics, the Church Fathers, the Bible and other works that often were made available to her by her brother Willibald, an avid bibliophile and translator with whom she carried on a life-long correspondence. Her letters (often in Latin) reflect the extent to which she devoted herself to the pursuit of knowledge, while at the same time performing her many duties as abbess of St. Clare’s. […]

The City Council [of Nurnberg] planned to replace the Franciscans who had been the preachers and confessors to St. Clare’s with different preachers who were proponents of the “new doctrine” of Lutheranism. What was probably imagined as a rather simple matter of persuading the nuns to accept the new scheme turned out to be more complicated and problematical than anticipated. Caritas Pirckheimer proved to be a thorn in the side of the City Council. She did not yield to the pressure that was exerted on the convent and showed remarkable courage and determination in defending her sisters’ rights to continue to practice their faith as they felt they were entitled to, having made oaths to God alone and not to men. This was a position of independence that was, after all, not to very far removed from some of the fundamental tenets of the new Protestant faith, although it was often clothed in theological language which served to obfuscate the issues rather than highlight their similarities.

Caritas Pirckheimer: A Journal of the Reformation Years 1524-1528, transl. by Paul MacKenzie (2006)


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