Who Were The First Nuns?

“Monasticisim” means a way of life devoted to religion. A “monastery” is a house where men who have taken religious vows live. These men are usually monks, but priests and brothers also may live in monasteries.

A “convent” is a house where women who have taken religious vows live. These women are called “nuns”. Monasticisism was practised long before Christian times. A group of Jews, the Essenes, lived a community life and shared their property.

Christian monasticisim began in Egypt during the thrid century A.D Groups of men left society to live alone and pray. Religious orders of women have also existed since very early times. In fact, some people believe there were organized convents for women before there where any for men!


In the year 270, St. Anthony, considered, to be the founder of monasticisim, is said to have placed his sister in nunery. So there must have been must have been nuns as early as that time. In Christian history, when an order of monks or friars began, a branch for women was usually formed.

Most religous orders of women today follow the rule of St. Augustine or St. Francis. They take vows just as men’s orders do. They live in convents, each of which has its own habit (style of clothing).

Until the seventeenth century, nuns usually stayed in the convent and spent their lives in prayer. But since that time, many orders of nuns go out to work with people in schools, hospitals, orphanages, and homes for the aged.

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