The Nuns of Sant'Ambrogio: The True Story of a Convent in Scandal

Hubert Wolf, trans. from the German by Ruth Martin. Knopf, $30 (496p) ISBN 978-0-385-35190-4
This sordid tale of sexual indecency, false saints, and murder within a 19th-century convent in Rome has all the trappings of a good thriller. What begins with a 1859 complaint by a German noblewoman against Sant'Ambrogio (specifically, against the corrupt practices of novice mistress Maria Luisa) soon becomes a full-blown scandal: the subsequent investigation implicates prominent clergy in practices that blur the line between mysticism and the carnality. Behind the lurid story, however, are deeper historical conflicts. Both the rise of Romanticism—and its attendant fascination with the supernatural—and struggles over the direction of the modern Church explain the extent of the scandal and the passion with it was investigated. Wolf (Pope and Devil), a professor of ecclesiastical history at the University of Münster, adds detailed historical context and careful explanations to elevate this tale beyond sensationalism into a more serious study of a fascinating real-life melodrama. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/24/2014
Release date: 01/13/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
MP3 CD - 978-1-4945-5913-7
Compact Disc - 978-1-4945-0913-2
Paperback - 496 pages - 978-0-8041-6980-6
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