Station: [6] The escape of the nun Barbara 1523


Pst! You there! Have you seen George Reichardt, the soap maker? He promised to ride over from Torgau and help me escape.

Set me free, oh, yes. Free of this horribly scratchy robe and free of this dull and lonely life. Day in, day out, all I ever hear is the reverential murmur of my sisters at prayer.

I just can’t stand it any more! Since I was orphaned at the age of 12, I’ve been forced to live here, in the convent at Riesa. It’s part of the bishopric of Naumburg and was founded four hundred years ago. Although it belongs to Naumburg, it was the first ever convent in the district of Meissen. Something our Mother Superior is especially proud of. At first, there were men living here, monks, in other words. That didn’t work out, and the convent nearly closed. Then nuns were sent here as well, and since 1234, they’ve run the convent on their own.

Ever since then, it has operated more smoothly, the convent has expanded and grown richer.

But – forgive me! – only very few of us are here of their own free will. Most of my sisters came here as widows or spinsters, because they wouldn’t have had a livelihood otherwise. Here, in exchange for the dowry they hand over to the convent, they’re offered protection, accommodation, care and a community.


Oh, there’s the tower clock striking – already! And Trader Reichardt still hasn’t turned up! When he was at the convent recently, offering his soap for sale, I took him to one side. And begged him to get me out of here. And as soon as I get to Torgau – after a year and a day in a city you’re free! – then nobody can make me do anything I don’t want to!

It seems a lot has changed in recent times, or so Trader Reichardt told me. On the other side of the border, where the Ernestine branch of the Wettin dynasty are in charge, one monk has apparently issued a powerful protest and challenged the mighty sovereigns. He even wants to do away with all the convents and monasteries, they say.

But I shan’t rely on that. Who knows, perhaps it’s just gossip. Or perhaps that monk will fail in the end. Certainly he wouldn’t find it easy to ban our Mother Superior from her convent. She’d fight him tooth and nail. “Where would we be, if any random monk could expel me from my office? I shall never relinquish my habit and don worldly dress.”

Yes, indeed, he’d have a tough time with our Mother Superior…

There he is! Trader George has come!


Barbara? Are you there? As we arranged?


I’m here! In the hollow tree. And now into the saddle, and off we go at a gallop, leaving Riesa far behind. Torgau, here I come!