Community ID
Alternate Names
Monastery of St Peter in Salzburg (Their monastic brethren were known as the Petersherren.)
Archdiocese of Salzburg
Modern Location
The convent of the Petersfrauen stood in the current location of the Franciscan Convent, flanked on one side by the Abbey of St. Peter and the Franciscan Church (Stadtpfarrkirche) on the other.
Corporate Status
Double monastery
S. Anna (Chorkapelle), Holy Virgin Mary (Pfarrkirche/Liebfrauenkirche)
Date Founded
ca. 1110/1113 (Schellhorn (Die Petersfrauen) cites historical evidence to argue that the circumstances of St. Peter’s Abbey during the early 12th century could not have supported the founding of a dependent female community. Thus, he uses the first legitimate doc
Date Terminated
ca. 1583. The exact reason for the convent’s termination remains unclear, though seems related to secret scheming of ecclesiastical authorities. According to Schellhorn (Die Petersfrauen), the idea to raze the women’s house appeared twice prior to its occurrence
Religious Order
Foundation Information

The convent of the Petersfrauen was founded by its brother institution, the Abbey of St. Peter. The abbot of St. Peter oversaw both the monastery and the convent. A female prioress or Meisterin was chosen by the abbot with the counsel of the older nuns to lead the Petersfrauen. This position was held for life.

Notable Heads

The abbot of St. Peter was head of both monastery and convent. A prioress or mistress was chosen by the abbot to lead the convent. These two titles were used interchangeably, though the latter was more common by the end of the 14th century. It seems that the female leader was always a Petersfrau and never sent from another cloister, as was common practice elsewhere.
Abbot Johannes II. Rossius (1364-1375) introduced music to the sisters’ worship. Until 1365, the Petersfrauen had merely spoken the Divine Office. Abbot Johannes saw that the nuns received instruction in singing the majority of their Chorgebet, in addition to presenting them with antiphonaries and graduals. In return, the women promised their benefactor a Jahrtag.
Abbot Otto II. provided leadership and guidance to the monastery and convent at St. Peter’s from 1375 until 1414. During his career, Otto made concerted efforts to better the lives of the Petersfrauen, personally donating to their endowment and attempting to improve their meager food selection. He also made sure that the convent facilites were renovated and decorated with paintings.
Prioress Agnes Grienaeuglein (1375-1418) led the sisters for an impressive 43 years.
Abbot Wolfgang (1502-1519) had new cells built for the sisters, as well as the St. Anne’s Chapel and a wall separating the men’s and women’s living quarters to protect enclosure.

Notable Members/Residents/Guests

Petersfrauen who became Abbesses at Nonnberg: Margaretha von Gebing (1307-21); Ursula von Trauner (1514-1539); Cordula von Mundtenheim (1600-1614) – made her profession at age fourteen
Barbara Ekkerin – became abbess of Bergen in the Eichstaett diocese in 1458
Scribes identified by name included: Katharina Pschachlin (professed 21 March 1442, also served as prioress, died August 1494); see Walz-Frey, p. 477); Anna Amannin (professed 28.5.1449, spent 1455-59 reforming St. Nikolaus in Augsburg, d. 11.1.1487); Margarethe Hohenwarterin (fl. 1448); Magdalena Halbergerin; Regina Mundtenhaimerin; Eufemia Reitterin (professed August 1462); Erentrudis Schöttlin (fl. 1488); Barbara (Katharina) Püchlerin (professed 27.4.1496, d. 1530); Dorothea Meixner (professed 30.9.1518; d. 25.6.1553);

Population Counts

From evidence remaining from the convent’s four centuries of existence, the names of about 230 sisters can be determined. Due to the gaps in historical documentation, it is safe to assume that the population total was much higher in reality. Dopsch () estimates that an average of sixteen novices, nuns and laysisters lived at St. Peter’s at any one time.


Visitations to the Petersfrauen convent were conducted either by the abbot of St. Peter or by another commission. Research has yet to discover recorded evidence of visitations prior to 1431. The documents detailing these inspections and the accompanying instructions were known as Rezessen or Chartas. These were usually kept in the abbots possession and read regularly to the sisters as a reminder of their rules.
• In 1431, Abbot Georg Waller made a request to Archbishop Johann II. for a visitation of both the monastery and the convent. This examination was conducted by Abbot Leonhard Straubinger von Melk and intensified the discipline and enclosure typical of the Benedictine order, dictating that in times of need, the sisters could not seek out the abbot and must hope that he would come to them. All unnecessary chatter at the Sprachfenster should not be tolerated; the vow of silence was to be taken seriously. With this visitation came the ban on all private possessions – a ban that the nuns seemed to have trouble heeding, as frequent reminders in later visitations illustrate. The sisters were also prohibited from using linen for their bed sheets and underclothes, enforcing a ban that dated back to the 1275 Generalkapitel. Abbot Georg’s written Charta put a strong emphasis on sisterly love, suggesting that perhaps this trait was lacking prior to the visitation.
• An extensive visitation conducted by Abbot Petrus Klughaimer from October 1440 until March 1441 involved intense instruction in singing and the liturgy.
• Thanks to the fervor with which Abbot Klughaimer led the previous inspection, the visitation of 1451 lauded the sisters’ diligence and obedience. Begun by papal legate Nicolaus Cusanus in November, this examination forbid the collecting of dowries from young oblates, but the sisters’ demand for this basic income was too strong for the ban to be permanent. It also reinforced the enclosure, requiring processions to occur in the Kreuzgang and not outside the convent. In continued concern for the quality of liturgical music, two choral instructors – Gesangmeisterinnen – should be appointed. Additionally, it reminded the Petersfrauen that they shouldn’t discriminate based on social standing in accepting novices, and recommended that the Schuldkapitel, or “punishment chapter,” need only happen once a month. On a less appetizing note, this visitation addressed the medieval practice of Aderlass, or bloodletting. On the day of the month set aside for this health-preserving measure, the sisters were to receive a special meal (often of fish and sweet wine) and be permitted a stroll in an abbey garden.
• According to extent records, the visitation of 1518 occurred as a result of disputes between the sisters and Abbot Wolfgang Walcher. The inspection was conducted by Archbishop Leonhard von Keutschach. Documentation of disciplinary instruction and action introduces nothing new and simply reinforces mandates from earlier visitations.
• It seems that that in the 1520s, violations of enclosure at St. Peter got out of hand; the 1521 visitation tried to remedy the situation. The abbot and other monks had begun a practice of paying frequent, unnecessary visits to the Petersfrauen, often claiming their confessor duties as reason. Both the intrusive calls and the use of this weak excuse were to cease. The sisters themselves were not blameless in these matters of disobedience: they had become accustomed to meeting secular women in the Kreuzgang for snacks and small talk. These infringements were likewise forbidden.
• The visitation of 1554 shows that any small attempts of smuggling Reformation ideas into the convents of St. Peter were promptly suppressed. Again, ideals of previous visitations were reviewed. Enclosure violation remained a recurrent issue, as made evident by the convent’s Chartula. The document also reinforces the solemnity of Chorgebet and keeping an upstanding public profile. The sisters are specifically reproached regarding their conduct in the choir during weddings or other events – they are warned to stay in their seats and not to kneel at the grate for a glimpse of “the vanity and pomp of the world” (Schellhorn, Die Petersfrauen, 175). Secular songs, dances, and carnival games were also banned.
• The next visitation was requested by the sisters themselves. Records of the 1573 visitation mention the sisters’ crafts, particularly sewing, spinning and knitting, in addition to the practice of distributing a sister’s clothing among the convent following her passing.
• Records in the state archive of Vienna indicate a 1576 St. Peter visitation. Only brief mention is made of the Petersfrauen, including an allusion to confessor Brother Ambrosius’ misuse of his convent and monastery keys. He was subsequently replaced by Brother Elias.
• The last visitation occurred in 1581, led by papal legate Felician Ninguarda. Violation of enclosure became an incredibly serious offense, with a penalty of excommunication. Orders were given to block of the entrance and exit of the subterranean Almkanal to ensure the integrity of the enclosure. This last inspection also demanded strict adherence to the vows of poverty, as well as the abolition of “sorores conversae,” or servant lay sisters.


Abbot Otto II

Social Characteristics

During the 12th and 13th centuries, it was common for widows to join the convent at St. Peter. This acceptance of older women soon fell out of practice, so that only Jungfrauen were accepted. Beginning in the 13th century, daughters of Buerger families were accepted into the convent at St. Peter’s, although young ladies of the nobility continued to be preferred, due to their accompanying status and desirable dowries.

Relative Wealth

The Petersfrauen led a humble existence in comparison to their neighbors at Nonnberg. This life was enriched under the rule of Abbot Otto II., the great benefactor of the women’s convent (”der grosse Wohltaeter des Nonnenklosters” – Dopsch (Die Petersfrauen)), who pledged generous financial support to the nuns.


A portion of the Petersfrauen property was guarded by the brothers at the abbey. This part mainly consisted of the dowries given by young women for their admission. Dowries could be any combination of money and land plots (Gueter). The convent also possessed a respectable Klosterschatz, or “convent treasure,” comprised sacramental objects containing precious metals and stones, as well as statues and jewelery.
Abbot Otto II. purchased an Arnsdorf vineyard in 1380 to ensure a daily wine ration for his sisters comparable with that of the neighboring Domfrauen


As was true for many contemporary women’s convents, the basis of the Petersfrauen’s income consisted of the dowries of their novices. As of the 1431 Melk Reform, the Petersfrauen were forbidden from owning private property. Despite this ban, some sisters continued to receive monthly allowances from their relatives. The nuns also maintained their rights to parental inheritances, which were overseen by the abbot.

Other Economic Activities

While knitting and needlework were also important activities, the Petersfrauen were especially known for their writing and illustration of Psalters and other liturgical manuscripts. The sisters also ran a school for young women, according to 15th century documentation (Schellhorn, Die Petersfrauen, 147).


- Circa 1365, the town’s pastor (Stadtpfarrer) Berthold von Losenstein wished to build a house on the grounds of St. Peter, in the area of the sisters’ choir. To better make his desires known, the reverend disturbed the women’s worship through the brazen playing of an organ and clangor of church bells. Fortunately for the Petersfrauen, the archbishop quickly quelled von Losenstein’s behavior.
- The construction of the new choir in the Stadtpfarrkirche caused disagreements among the St. Peter’s population. Many of the nuns, quite stubborn in their ways, continued to use the old choir for Betchor until Abbot Petrus received permission in 1458 from the archbishop to demolish it.

Literary Works

- Ursula Satzenhofer, in the second half of the 15th century; translated the treatise “De passione Christi” of Silvester von Rebdorf (now found as Salzburg, St Peter, cod. B VIII 27). She came from the Regensburg convent of Niedermünster to join the Petersfrauen and professed on 9 August 1469. (2VL 8 col. 587).
- Wolfgang Walcher, the Petersfrauen confessor, translated a number of texts for the women in his care. Born in 1460 in Kösching bei Ingolstadt, Walcher had entered St Peter in Salzburg in 1479; became confessor to the Petersfrauen ca. 1490; and died 18 June 1518. (2VL 10, cols. 603-606 and Wolfgang Walchers Magdalenenlobgesang, here p. 245.)
- In winter 1511/1512 and again in 1523, Johann von Staupitz preached to the Petersfrauen. Modern editions of these sermons are available: Johann von Staupitz, Salzburger Predigten 1512 : eine textkritische Edition : philosophische Dissertation angenommen von der Neuphilologischen Fakultät der Universität Tübingen am 12. Juli 1984; Johann von Staupitz, Salzburger Predigten 1520, A mystic’s passion : the spirituality of Johannes von Staupitz in his 1520 Lenten sermons.
- Hans Wildsgeferd, a canon of Augsburg Cathedral (d. 1470) had arranged for books to be copied as a gift for "the religious sisters, prioress, and convent of the church of Saint Peter at Salzburg, so that they would pray to God for him." See The Life and Work of Clara Hätzlerin p. 4.

Architecture & Archaeology

- Because the Franciscan convent was built on the Petersfrauen site, nothing remains of their convent.
- A wing of the convent was dedicated to the sick, and was known as the Siechhaus or Infirmerie. This was the main area of the house where the Benedictine rule was not strictly enforced. The ailing were permitted to eat meat, had no obligation to fast, and were usually exempt from the vow of silence. Sisters were also allowed to break the enclosure if it seemed in the interests of their health: during the 15th century, Dorothea von Schmiehen was allowed to stay at Kloster Niedernburg in Passau for several years for her wellbeing.
- When a sister passed away, she was buried in an allocated section of the Petersfriedhof.
- The abbey church, known as the (Stadt)Pfarrkirche or Liebfrauenkirche, reached its current outward appearance with the completion of towers in 1498. The Petersfrauen shared this building with the Domfrauen. It was used for their Betchor, which was held in a rear portion of the church (the alte Chor) until the new choir was build in the mid-15th century.
- The newly built “Körlein” of the Petersfrauen in 1457 had an organ.

Manuscript Sources

The Petersfrauen Gradual, Salzburg, Stift St. Peter, a IX.11 (ca. 1190-1200), available">">available in facsimile edition.

Miscellaneous Information

- The Petersfrauen followed a strict vow of silence. Only in the parlor (Sprechzimmer) and infirmary were exemptions from this rule permitted.
- The Petersfrauen subsisted on a mainly vegetarian diet; only the sick in the infirmary were permitted to eat meat. Additionally, fish was limited to meals on Sundays and special occasions, and milk and egg dishes were forbidden on certain days in Lent and Advent. It seems that the sisters were rather inventive with their limited dietary selection and were known especially for their Peterer kaseln, a type of cheese dish. According to the letters of Abbot Kilian, this dish was quite prized and often sent to high-ranking friends of the abbey as an “honorantia.” (Schellhorn, Die Petersfrauen, 157)
- The buildings housing the Petersfrauen and their brothers were separated by a single Trennwand in the St. Anna chapel, leading to the interesting practice of the grossen Ausgang, or “Great Exit.” Every year or every few years on a designated day, a certain part of this wall would be opened for an afternoon while the monks were away from the premises, allowing the nuns to explore their brethrens’ housing. At the end of the day, the men and women would share a Jause, a simple meal of bread, meat, and cheese, before returning to their respective quarters. Although this was technically a double breach of the St. Peter’s enclosure, Archbishop Eberhard II. gave his permission for this practice in 1240.
- Celebratory meals, known as “solatia” or Jausen, were held not only after the grossen Ausgang but also for other special occasions, such as feast days, for special guests, or for the induction of a new Kellnerin. Festive food might include pretzels, rolls, and pies.
- The adoption of an Ordensname, or religious name, was not as common among the Petersfrauen as among their brethren. Alteration of given names occurred every once in a while with common names to avoid confusion.
- Although St. Peter tried its best to be self-sufficient in order to protect the enclosure, the abbot often hired laypeople to help with certain chores. For example, a tailor and his wife came to live on the monastery grounds in 1457. The couple exchanged their sewing and shopping services for room and board.
- The Petersfrauen performed “besingnussen,” a sort of sung remembrance ceremony, for the deceased of their double monastery, as well as for the passing of Nonnberg abbesses.

Manuscripts Produced

The women of the Petersfrauen were renowned scribes, creating documents for St. Peter’s use and accepting commissions from neighboring religious communities. The Psalters, breviaries, meditation books, prayer books and other manuscripts that they produced were often decorated with miniatures. The Petersfrauen Gradual (Salzburg, Stift St. Peter, a IX.11) from ca. 1190-1200 is available in facsimile. The lost psalter, prepared for Abbot Otto II Chalchosperger, was cited in the Registrum Ottonis f. 22v; he received the psalter from the Petersfrauen in 1404.

Fifteenth-century manuscripts copied by convent scribes include:
• Salzburg, Erzabtei St. Peter, cod. a II 7, a copy of the Passionstraktat of Johannes von Indersdorf and of Grunde aller Bosheit of Tauler, copied by Anna Ammanin and Erentrudis Schöttlin.
• Salzburg, Erzabtei St Peter, cod. a II 17, Johannes dem Taufer, copied by Erentrudis Schöttlin.
• Salzburg, Erzabtei St Peter, cod. a III 7, copied by Regina Mundtenheimerin.
• Salzburg, Erzabtei St Peter, cod. a III 21, a 1448 copy of Petrus de Alliaco’s Geistliche Lieder, copied by Margarethe Hohenwarterin.
• Salzburg, Erzabtei St Peter, cod. a III 28, texts of Hieronymus Posser copied by Katharina Pschachlin.
• Salzburg, Erzabtei St Peter, cod. a IV 22, containing a copy of Thomas Peuntner’s Messerklarungen copied by Erentrudis Schöttlin and a meditation on the mass in prayer form copied by Katharina Pscachlin.
• Salzburg, Erzabtei St Peter, cod. a VI 13, a copy of the Vocabularius ex quo and of Donatus copied by Katharina Pschachlin.
• Salzburg, Erzabtei St. Peter, cod. a VII 35, a miscellany containing Thomas a Kempis, Spruch from Vitas Patrum Albertus Magnus, sermons, and so on, dated 1455 and copied by Anna Ammanin.
• Salzburg, Erzabtei St Peter, cod. b I 1, copied by Barbara (Katharina) Püchlerin.
• Salzburg, Erzabtei St Peter, cod. b I 15, copied by Magdalena Halbergerin.
• Salzburg, Erzabtei St. Peter, cod. b I 24, a Lectionary which includes a prayer copied by Anna Ammanin.
• Salzburg, Erzabtei St Peter, cod. b II 10, a volume of mystic/ascetic texts copied by Eufemia Reitterin.
• Salzburg, Erzabtei St Peter, cod. b II 11, copied in 1523 by Dorothea Meixner.
• Salzburg, Erzabtei St Peter, cod. b III 8 a second volume of mystic/ascetic texts copied by Eufemia Reitterin.
• Salzburg, Erzabtei St Peter, cod. b V 8, copied in 1520 by Dorothea Meixner.
• Salzburg, Erzabtei St. Peter, cod. b V 40, a volume dated 1471 containing works by Tauler, Eckhart, Indersdorf, and Seuse, copied by Anna Ammanin.
• Salzburg, Erzabtei St. Peter, cod. b VI 12, works of Heinrich von Langenstein, copied by Anna Ammanin.
• Salzburg, Erzabtei St Peter, cod. b VIII 27, Silvester von Rebdorf’s Passionsbetrachtungen, etc., copied by Erentrudis Schöttlin.
• Salzburg Nonnberg cod. 23 D +29, Ps.-Augustinus, including the Manuale de verbo dei of Wolfgang Walcher, copied by Barbara (Katharina) Püchlerin and Dorothea Meixner.

Christine Smith, Cynthia J Cyrus