Venice in the sixteenth century was home to over fifty convents. But these weren't just spiritual institutions, they were also dumping grounds for the "unmarriageable" women of Venetian noble families.
Thrust into a life for which they had no vocation, many women found it hard to give up the trappings of the outside world. Tales of nuns favouring elegant dress, frivolous entertainment and fine food were rife. Reports of more lascivious behaviour also crept out, and the convents became associated with sexual corruption on a grand scale. Subjected to a series of investigations into immortal behaviour, the nuns' freedoms were viciously curtailed.
Combining the reports of the investigations and trials with statements from the nuns themselves, Mary Laven lifts the veil on a world of oppression and enforced chastity, and recounts the nuns' own desperate attempts to fight back.