Julie Piront

Member of GEMCA

Université de Liège (ULg)
FNRS Postdoctoral Researcher, Art History and Architectural History

Research fields
Art History and Architectural History
Religious Orders
Women’s History
Border of Catholicity (« Catholic Ridge »)
Modern Period (16th-18th centuries)

Postdoctoral project
Bastions of Stones and Prayers in the Margins of Catholic Europe: the Feminine Monasteries Established in the Border Cities (1597-1677). Directory of Sources and Comparison of Buildings

Abstract of the research project

Having pointed to the wide diversity of the buildings realized by the Annonciades in the absence of a predefined model, my thesis emphasized the importance of now moving to the comparative analysis of monasteries of different institutes, but all located within urban environments and in the same area of Catholicity. Participating in the renewal of studies on female monasticism, an approach like this will bring out common (religious, social, urban und cultural) issues that shape the convent buildings designed for and sometimes by women.
The project intends to compare the topography of female monasteries distributed on the Catholic Ridge linking Italy to the North Sea. The northern half of this area (Ancient Burgundian States), between Lille and Beaune, offers a relevant field of investigation especially during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), while female communities are implanted massively in cities on the borders of Protestantism. In this context, monasteries can be interpreted as spiritual “bastions” associated to the work of the Catholic Reformation. By their look of fortresses with barred windows, they constitute a spiritual line of defense against the enemy while expressing the missionary presence of nuns in the heart of cities.
By selecting fourteen key cities representative of the "conventual invasion" and four female congregations with diverse profiles (46 monasteries), the project will approach the architecture of these buildings in anthropological perspective, involving rich and varied sources (remains, plans, iconography, narrative sources and spiritual literature).

PhD thesis

Empreintes architecturales de femmes sur les routes de l’Europe : étude des couvents des annonciades célestes fondés avant 1800, dir. Philippe Bragard, December 2013 (forthcoming publication near the Presses Universitaires de Saint-Etienne).

Among the new religious orders emerged in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Annonciades (called also the Blue Nuns, Monache Turchine, …), founded in Genoa by Vittoria Fornari in 1602, are particularly representative of the movement of the Catholic Reformation. Advocating a renunciation of the world to better spoil in their prayers, the Annonciades can’t develop their spiritual and identity project without a strict enclosure. It must be said that since the mid-sixteenth century, nuns must face the great paradox imposed on them by the decrees of the Council of Trent (1545-1563): to live in a strict enclosure while implanting in urban areas.
In the 54 establishments that they developed and built in Europe, the Annonciades had to find - like other female orders - concrete solutions to face to this architectural ambiguity. It comes out a middle way, a permanent compromise between the material (urban, economic, human, …) constraints and their heavenly aspirations, since the temporary location of the founding members until the construction of permanent buildings. Built with local materials by master builders often recruited locally, the monasteries of the Annonciades are functional, real architectural machineries at the service of the spiritual project of these communities.
Enriched by the analysis of the remains and the abundant written and iconographic sources, the study of the monasteries of the Annonciades allows to bring a new and contrasting light on the post-Tridentine religious architectural production at an European level. Through numerous comparisons with other contemporary female religious congregations, this study allows to distinguish – but also to relativize – the architectural specificities of a religious order, while inserting it in his religious and artistic, but also social and economic context.

Most representative publications

« Images de saintetés, supports d’identité. L’iconographie de Maria Vittoria Fornari, fondatrice des annonciades célestes (XVIIe-XIXe s.) », Revue Mabillon (forthcoming).

Avec M.-É. HENNEAU et D. OBRINGER-GRELOT, Chœur de femmes au cœur de la Savoie. Les annonciades d'Annecy entre clôture stricte et sociabilité urbaine (17e-18e s.), Annecy, Société des Amis du Vieil Annecy et Archives départementales de Haute-Savoie, 2016 (forthcoming).

Avec S. BOULVAIN et M.-É. HENNEAU, « Les chanoinesses de l’ordre du Saint-Sépulcre : du cloître à l’école », dans J.-P. LENSEN (dir.), 400 ans de savoir : des Sépulcrines au Centre Culturel de Visé, Visé, Société Archéo-historique de Visé et Ville de Visé, 2016, p. 18-115.

« Enjeux, idéaux et réalités de l’architecture conventuelle féminine à l’époque moderne », dans Appréhender la passé par le bâti, Journée d’étude des doctorants du LARHRA (23 septembre 2014), Carnets du LARHRA, 2015-1, p. 113-130.

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