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Virgins of Venice

Enclosed Lives and Broken Vows in the Renaissance Convent

Mary Laven

Venice in the late Renaissance was a city of fabulous wealth, reckless creativity, and growing social unrest. It was also a city of walls and secrets, ghettos and cloisters. In this captivating book, Cambridge historian Mary Laven uncovers the long-hidden stories of the Virgins of Venice and the surprising lives they led. Laven has created a detailed and dramatic tapestry of resourceful, determined, often passionate women who managed to lead fulfilling lives despite their virtual imprisonment. Far from being precincts of piety and silence, the convents were hotbeds of political scheming, colorful pageantry, and illicit love. Rich in intrigue and gossip, eye-opening in its revelations, Virgins of Venice brings to life a culturally vibrant period in Venice and the hidden residents who dwelled behind its walls.

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Hardcover 284 pages

About the author

Mary Laven lectures in History at the University of Cambridge, and is a Fellow of Jesus College. She grew up in Canterbury, and apart from interludes in Venice and York, has spent most of her subsequent life in Cambridge.

She loves Italy, archives, beer, and walking around the suburbs of unfamiliar cities. Her first book, Virgins of Venice: Enclosed Lives and Broken Vows in the Renaissance Convent, won the John Llewellyn Rhys prize.