and Sicily. Some 1,513 monasteries and convents were suppressed in the first wave of reforms, but by 1654, when the commission completed its work, the Franciscans had already regained 200 convents out of the 442 which had been suppressed, while the Hermits of Saint Augustine had regained 123 out of 342. A total of 323 institutions had thus reopened. This rapid rebound of the regulars came both from pressure exerted by the orders themselves and from requests made by local authorities, arguing the usefulness of the ' conventini' (little convents) for pastoral service in inaccessible and isolated places, as small hospices for pilgrims and travellers, and as therapeutic centres where exorcist friars operated.
Developing in parallel to these reforms were initiatives which applied the recommendations of the Council of Trent to the female convents. The cornerstone of these reforms was the financial reorganization of the convents and the imposition of the cloister for all nuns who had made solemn vows. The latter transformation was particularly difficult, due to the resistance of the nuns themselves and their families, especially in the noble convents. But economic improvements were also difficult to achieve. The administration of the convents was reorganized, and many were changed into schools for girls, a process which was explicitly ratified in the eighteenth century by Leopold's reforms in Tuscany
Rome would return to the reform of the male orders after 1694 during the pontificate of Innocent XII through the establishment of another commission for regular discipline. But once again the different orders succeeded in blocking the reforms, and in 1695 they even achieved a de facto suppression of the maximum number of entries, which had been in force for forty years. As a consequence there would be a continuing rise in the number of regulars throughout the first half of the eighteenth century.
The ecclesiastical reforms of Habsburg Enlightened despotism were particularly successful with regard to the regular clergy. In Josephist Lombardy, the 291 male monasteries and convents which existed in 1767-72 would be reduced to 200 by 1790-92, while the total number of regulars was reduced by 74 per cent. A similar trend may be found for the female convents, which were reduced from 164 in 1771 to only sixty-seven by 1790. In the Tuscany of Peter Leopold, 130 monasteries and convents out of 345 disappeared between 1765 and 1789, with a total reduction in the religious population of 43 per cent. Here too the female religious orders underwent an even more dramatic reduction, with the 237 convents existing in 1765 declining to 128 by 1768. In the meantime the number of 'veiled' nuns was almost cut in half: from 5,141 in 1767 to 2,670 in 1782.
Was this article helpful?