Sister Charitas of Nuremberg 1467 - 1532

Charitas was one of six sisters who all became nuns, four of them Poor Clares. Charitas (Barbara) and her sister Klara entered in Nuremberg, and Charitas was elected Abbess just as the reformation was getting a grip on that city. Her one brother was the philosopher and art patron Willibald Pirkheimer (he was always receiving letters from the painter Albrecht Durer which tended to begin “You are my one hope on earth...can you lend me 500 crowns?”) Charitas was educated in the arts and sciences and wrote elegant Latin, Erasmus compared her to Margaret the daughter of St Thomas More. She was visited by and corresponded with many of the great of her age.

It was the interception of her letter in support of a leading Catholic theologian, Jerome Emfer, that betrayed her. When the Lutherans took over the city council in 1524, the friars who served the monastery were dismissed and a succession of forty Lutheran ministers sent to convert the nuns. Their sermons were expertly heckled and their success was nil. The community was deprived of the sacraments and their novices were dragged away by main force during a riot. They were spared temporarily, by the intervention of that gentle Protestant scholar Philip Melanchthon, of whom Charitas wrote, “ He speaks at length of the new doctrine, but he is convinced of our good faith in trusting in grace and not in works. He even admits that one can save one’s soul in the cloister just as well as in the world!”

They kept their faith alive, praying together - “Where two or three are gathered together in my name...” Only one nun of the whole community deserted. As the opportunity presented itself, the Blessed Sacrament was smuggled in to them. In they end they were cut off entirely, but remained faithful, dying one by one. The last sister of the community, Sr Felicitas, died in 1591.