Medieval Nun Faked Dying To Pursue ‘The Approach Of Carnal Lust,’ Archives Reveal

Centuries earlier than most English ladies might freely select the route of their lives, there was Joan of Leeds, a rebellious medieval nun who went to excessive lengths in an try to forge her personal path.

The 14th-century nun apparently faked her personal demise by making a dummy “within the likeness of her physique” earlier than working away from her convent, in keeping with archivists on the College of York. However her escape was found.

“She now wanders at giant to the infamous peril to her soul and to the scandal of all of her order,” Archbishop of York William Melton wrote (in Latin) about Joan in a file e-book dated 1318, the Guardian studies.

Archivists on the College of York resurfaced particulars about Joan’s story final week, whereas translating and digitizing 16 registers wherein the archbishops of York documented their enterprise between 1304 and 1405. 

An entry in Archbishop William Melton's record book for 1318 tells the story of Joan of Leeds.



An entry in Archbishop William Melton’s file e-book for 1318 tells the story of Joan of Leeds.

Joan was apparently so fed up along with her life at St. Clement’s Nunnery in York that she concocted a wild plan to flee from her vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Based on a marginal word within the register, Joan simulated “a bodily sickness” and “pretended to be lifeless.” With the assistance of some accomplices, she tricked her fellow Benedictine sisters into burying a lookalike dummy “in a sacred house” amongst precise deceased members of her order.

Joan fled about 30 miles away, to the city of Beverley, in keeping with the Church Instances. When rumors about her scandalous escapade lastly reached Melton, the horrified archbishop ordered a church official in Beverley to ship her again to the convent.

Melton’s word within the register describes how Joan had “impudently forged apart the propriety of faith and the modesty of her intercourse” and faked her demise “in a crafty, nefarious method.”

“Having turned her again on decency and the nice of faith, seduced by indecency, she concerned herself irreverently and perverted her path of life arrogantly to the best way of carnal lust and away from poverty and obedience,” Melton wrote.

A close-up image of a marginal note in Latin about Joan of Leeds. 



An in depth-up picture of a marginal word in Latin about Joan of Leeds. 

College of York historian Sarah Rees Jones, who’s main the digitizing challenge, instructed HuffPost that her workforce isn’t certain if Joan ever returned to the convent ― both willingly or by power.

Higher-class ladies of Joan’s time sometimes had two life choices: becoming a member of a convent or coming into into an organized marriage. Most different ladies of the interval needed to work for his or her residing, sometimes in crafts or agriculture. Some ladies owned actual property or labored in retail, Rees Jones stated.

However no matter life they could have carved out for themselves, all these ladies nonetheless lived in a largely “patriarchal society,” Rees Jones stated. “There have been limits to how far they may achieve and even enter many professions, nonetheless much less positions of public authority,” she stated.

Coming into a convent typically meant entry to a greater and safer way of life. Spiritual life was additionally a method to keep away from marriage and the dangers then related to childbirth.

Gary Brannan, an archivist, and Sarah Rees Jones, director of the University of York's Centre for Medieval Studies, examine o



Gary Brannan, an archivist, and Sarah Rees Jones, director of the College of York’s Centre for Medieval Research, study one of many registers of the archbishops of York.

Little is understood about Joan’s background earlier than she entered the convent. Nuns in her area got here from a variety of households, from artisans to gentry, Rees Jones stated. Girls had been allowed to profess a nun’s vows after they had been as younger as 14. It was imagined to be a voluntary choice, however the historian stated there are some tales of younger nuns and monks from Joan’s time having been compelled into non secular life. 

It wasn’t uncommon for individuals to have a change of coronary heart after coming into a convent or monastery. Sometimes, these runaway monks and nuns had been punished for his or her actions, Rees Jones stated ― confined for a while, disadvantaged of meals and even overwhelmed.

Joan’s adventures had been additionally not the primary scandal to plague St. Clement’s Nunnery. Lower than 20 years earlier, a nun named Cecily apparently fled from the convent beneath the duvet of evening, discarding her nun’s robes to pursue a life along with her lover in a close-by city.



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