While you could often see Jesuit monks in the streets, it was quite unusual to meet Benedictine nuns in their black habits around Vilnius – they could leave the monastery, which is nestled beside the Church of St. Catherine, only for sound reasons. However, even today, when the old apple trees bloom, you can feel their spirit in the abandoned garden of the monastery near S. Neris’ High School.
In one of the richest convents in terms of corridor labyrinths and vaulted passages in Vilnius, around 40 nuns walked and lived surrounded by thick masonry walls: they were representatives of the noble families of Pacai, Radvilos, Tyzenhauzai and others. They brought big dowries to the monastery. Nevertheless, though very noble, the nuns had to follow very strict rules and fast. If they broke the rules, they were given only bread and water, which they had to eat and drink sitting on the cold floor of the dining hall.
You could become a Benedictine nun from the age of 15, but once you entered the convent, there was no way back to the secular world. Despite this, the nuns did not lose touch with the outside world – there was a school for noble girls within the premises of the convent, a dormitory, and a widows’ house where a parson and servants lived. The library established by the Benedictines has been preserved and is now stored in the Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania.