residents banished from the territory, an action that could not be used against convents as their residents were usually the daughters of local families and would have nowhere outside the territory to go.) Finally urban authorities often gave up their direct attacks, and simply forbade the taking in of new novices so that the convents slowly died out. A few also followed the central German pattern of becoming Protestant; one convent in Ulm, for example, survived as a Protestant institution until the nineteenth century.

The distinction between Protestant and Catholic that is so important in understanding the religious and intellectual history of sixteenth-century Europe may have ultimately been less important to the women who lived in convents or other communal groups than the distinction between their pattern of life and that of the majority of lay women. Evidence from convents in Brunswick and Augsburg indicates that Protestant and Catholic women lived together quite peacefully for decades, protected by the walls of their convent from the religious conflicts surrounding them. Women in the Netherlands and England, denied the possibility of continuing in their convents, continued to live together, letting their formal religious affiliation remain a matter of speculation, both for contemporaries and for historians. The Protestant championing of marriage and family life, which some nuns accepted with great enthusiasm as a message of liberation from the convent, was viewed by others as a negation of the value of the life they had been living; they thus did all in their power to continue in their chosen path.

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