The Memory of Ostuni

The texts on display in this room tell the story of the Benedictine Monastery in Ostuni from 1533, listing the assets of the Monastery as well as telling the story of the city, the local Church and narrating the lives of the most pious nuns. We can also find volumes from the Capital Archives of the Cathedral of Ostuni and precious ex-voti from the churches of the old town.

The arrival of the Benedictine order in Ostuni is dated 1519 with the building of the monastery in the centre of the inhabited city. From then on, the community welcomed many young women from the nobility, both as boarders and as novices, who had chosen to follow the way of life «ora et labora» (Latin, meaning ‘prayer and work’). Young girls were admitted from the age of 6, in order to receive the necessary scholastic, moral and religious education. After a period of 6 years many of them returned to their families to get married, while others became novices. During this period the families were obliged to offer a dowry to cover the Mother Abbess’s living costs and were asked to provide proof of their religious conformity to the rules laid down by the monastery.

The substantial dowries provided by the families of the young novices guaranteed the upkeeping of the community, especially thanks to the property income. The nuns, who divided themselves into choristers (usually from the nobility and because of this literate) and ‘converse’ (from humble backgrounds, and mostly illiterate), were expert – as can be seen in the second room of the Museum – in the production of sacred vestments embroidered using gold thread and in the arts of music and painting.

Teodoro De Giorgio