chapter
862 Pages

Entries A to Z

ABBESSES The title of abbess (Latin abbatissa) has been constructed as the feminine form of abbas (abbot/father) to correspond generally to the role of an abbot, the superior in spiritual and temporal matters of a community of monks. It represents the attempt to construct a female superior for a monastery of nuns with legal, ecclesiastical, and spiritual functions of leadership not usually granted to women. Therefore, the office of abbess does not merely exemplify the superior as mother of the community but as a kind of female father with paternal rights.