The Hieronymite convent in Mexico City was one of the wealthier of such institutions in New Spain, intended only for high status Spanish and Creole women. Founded in 1585, it ran until Mexico’s laws of desamortización of 1856 disbanded many religious institutions.

During its heyday, in the late 17th through the 18th centuries, it housed about eighty nuns. Since the nuns had servants and slaves of their own, as well as adopted girls who they raised, or sisters and nieces they might educate, the actual number of residents of the convent may have been as high as 240 women. Its most famous resident was the poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, who took her vows there in 1669, at the age of 20, and remained there until her death in 1695.

Visual Culture
This document was written after the archbishop's visita (inspection) of the convent. While the Hieronymite convent was known for the luxury of life within, nuns were nonetheless supposed to dress austerely, in a white tunic and coif, and black scapular and veil. The archbishop clearly found some cause for concern, leading to his prohibitions on excessive ornament in clothing.

Here, he carefully defines forbidden decoration: cutwork, scalloped edges, and embroidery in silk and silver thread. Nuns did this kind of work all the time, and in fact, the Hieronymite nuns were obliged to sew daily by the rules of their order. They would make the vestments that priests would wear, the altar cloths used in the church, and the clothing for statues. But their skills of adornment were supposed to be used for others, not for themselves.

See a textile created by nuns in the Vistas Gallery.

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