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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Charitas Pirckheimer

b. circa 1466, Eichstätt, Bavaria; d. 1532, probably Nuremberg, Germany

At the age of twelve, Barbara Pirckheimer entered the Klarakloster, a convent of Poor Clares at Nuremberg, Germany, where her father served as legal advisor to the city council. She took vows in 1483 and began to call herself Charitas (Caritas). As a learned woman with deep ties to the humanist circles of Nuremberg, Charitas maintained a correspondence with many of the great scholars of the day, although her own intellectual sensibility was quite orthodox. She served as the Klarakloster’s abbess from 1503 through the turbulent first decade of the German Reformation. The convent depended upon support from the city council; in the early 1520s, this support became precarious when the council converted to Lutheranism and attempted to close the city’s monasteries. Charitas waged a successful battle to preserve the Klarakloster and wrote an account of the struggle, called Denkwürdigkeiten (Memorabilia), in which she included a record of correspondence between the nuns and their opponents.