Nunneries convents for nuns. The origin of societies for female recluses, or nuns, was probably contemporary with that of monasteries, and both advanced together. The nunneries, or convents, as they are generally termed, though with less accuracy, since convent properly signifies a religious house for either men or women, are now generally devoted to some form of work for the Church. (For an account of their houses and their work in the United States- at the present time, SEE MONACHISM.) The rules of the different nunneries differ widely, but all agree in requiring absolute obedience of all the members. It is only necessary here to specify a few particulars peculiar to the religious orders of females. Of these the most striking perhaps is the strictness, in the regularly authorized orders of nuns, of the "cloister," or enclosure, which no extern is ever permitted to enter, and beyond which the nuns are never permitted to pass without express leave of the bishop. The superior of a nunnery; is termed abbess, princess, or mother superior. The authority of the mother superior is very comprehensive; but it is strictly defined and separated from that of the priest. The officers are, ordinarily speaking, elected by chapters of their own body, with the approval of the bishop, unless the convent be one of the class called exempt houses, which are immediately subject to the authority of the Holy See. The ceremony of the solemn blessing or inauguration of the abbess is reserved to the bishop, or to a priest delegated by him. SEE NOUN.

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