Abbess

Abbess

(Lat. abbatissa), the superior or head of an abbey of nuns, bearing the same relation to them as the abbot to the monks. An abbess possesses in general the same dignity and authority as an abbot, except that she cannot exercise the spiritual functions appertaining to the priesthood (Conc. Trident. Sess. 25, c. 7). Generally the abbess must be chosen from the nuns of the same convent; she must be sprung from legitimate marriage, must be over forty years old, and must have observed the vows for eight years. In case of emergency, however, any nun of the order who is thirty years old, and has professed five years, may be elected. In Germany fifteen abbesses (of Essen, Elten, Quedlinburg, Herford, Gandersheim, etc.) had formerly the right of sending a representative to the German Diet, and possessed a kind of episcopal jurisdiction, which they exercised through an official. After the Reformation the superiors of several German abbeys, which were changed into Protestant institutions of ladies living in common, retained the title "abbess." SEE ABBEY; SEE ABBOT .

 
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