Katerina's Windows


"Wiewoll ich ein frauenpild pin, so wolt ich mir denoch mit der warheit nachlassen sagen, das ich unrechs sagt oder schrib je ein gotwell mit meim wissen oder willen. Aber sy mein lecht, es sey ir nein mer den mein ja. Das mus ich also gescheen lossen. Es gefelt lecht unsserm lieben Hern also, das es mir ein wenig saur wer."

“I know I am just a woman, but I cannot allow anyone to take these liberties with the truth, asserting that I would say or write something that is knowingly and willingly not right, by the will of God. But they seem to assume that their no is worth more than my yes. I have to accept that. It pleases our dear Lord that I am a little embittered.”
Katerina Lemmel, 1517--
from a letter to her cousin Hans V Imhoff concerning business commitments that were not honored


Corine Schleif and Volker Schier wish to announce a publication project. Their study "Katerina's Windows: Donation and Devotion, Art and Music, as Heard and Seen in the Writings of a Birgittine Nun" has been supported by an International Collaborative Research Grant from the Getty Grant Program. The research centers on their 1998 (re-) discovery of sixty-two letters written by Katerina Lemmel, a Nuremberg widow who entered the abbey of Maria Mai in 1516 and rebuilt it using her own resources and the donations of her friends and relatives. Katerina's letters provide glimpses into the material culture of monastic life, views of a woman's struggles on behalf of other women, and a close-up look at the interconnected workings of art, music, liturgy, and literature. As micro history, the letters provide an insider's insights into the spiritual economies and donation practices that were later scorned by Protestant reformers. The writings also offer an eye witness account of the social challenges that erupted in violent clashes during the Revolution of 1525. A first publication consisting of an English translation with extensive analysis and narrative commentary is being published by Penn State University Press. A critical German text edition together with essays by experts from various fields is also planned.



Katerina Lemmel wearing the habit of a Birgittine as she appears in the Imhoff Holzschuher Epitaph, St. Sebald Church, Nuremberg (mouse over for an infrared reflectogram)





Corine Schleif and Volker Schier, Katerina's Windows: Donation and Devotion, Art and Music, as Heard and Seen in the Writing of a Birgittine Nun, in press, Penn State University Press


“Puzzles On and Under the Surface: Changed Subjectivity in the Imhoff Epitaph,” in: Invention. Northern Renaissance Studies in Honor of Molly Faries, edited by Julien Chapuis, Turnhout 2008, together with Volker Schier, 152-161

Corine Schleif and Volker Schier, “Learning from the Voice of Sister Katerina Lemmel, or: Looking, Listening, Tasting, Sniffing, and Feeling our Way through the Archives,” in press, Penn State University Press

Volker Schier, “The Cantus Sororum: Nuns Singing for their Supper, Singing for Saffron, Singing for Salvation,” in: Papers Read at the 12th Meeting of the IMS Study Group Cantus Planus, Lillafüred /Hungary 2004, Aug. 23-28, edited by László Dobszay, Budapest 2006, 857-870

Corine Schleif and Volker Schier, “Views and Voices From Within: Sister Katerina Lemmel On the Glazing of the Cloister at Maria Mai, in: Glasmalerei im Kontext -- Bildprogramme und Raumfunktionen, Akten des XXII. internationalen Colloquiums des Corpus Vitrearum, Nürnberg, 29. August - 1. September 2004 (Anzeiger des Germanischen Nationalmuseums, wissenschaftlicher Beiband 25), edited by Rüdiger Becksmann, Nürnberg 2005, 211-228

Corine Schleif, “Forgotten Roles of Women as Donors: Sister Katerina Lemmel’s Negotiated Exchanges in the Care for the Here and the Hereafter,” in: Care for the Here and the Hereafter: Memoria, Art and Ritual in the Middle Ages, edited by Truus van Bueren, Turnhout 2005, 137-154

Corine Schleif, “Katerina Lemmels Briefe als Spiegel Nürnberger Privatfrömmigkeit” <Katerina Lemmels Letters as Mirror of Private Devotion in Nuremberg >, in: Im Zeichen des Christkinds: Privates Bild und Frömmigkeit im Spätmittelalter. Ergebnise der Ausstellung Spiegel der Seligkeit, Nuremberg 2003, edited by F.M. Kammel, 109-112

For information about our Project Opening the Geese Book, please click here.

©2004 by Corine Schleif and Volker Schier