Christianity / Organization / Monasticism /
For the Ancient Egyptian god, see "Nun"
Nuns are found in many other religions too, but due to this encyclopaedia's geographical scope, those are beyond Contents.
A nun is the female equivalent to a male monk, there are no principal differences between the two. Theoretically, a nun can be called a "monk".
St. Benedict defined early in the 6th century 3 guiding principles for a monk or nun: obedience, poverty and chastity.
Vows follow two main patterns which are quite close to one another. The one vow is of fidelity to a single community, obedience, poverty and chastity; the other vow is of poverty, chastity and obedience.
In the Roman Catholic Church there are several orders, all with their own unique identity. In Eastern Orthodox Church there are no technical differences between monks and nuns, their regulations are about similar. They have less contact with the outside world, than what is the case with Roman Catholic nuns.
A woman or a girl entering a convent first passes through a testing period, which lasts from 6 to 12 months. After this it is possible to become a novice. Being a novice involves living like a nun, but without taking the vows.
An Orthodox nun can through her life pass through 4 levels. Each level involve certain regulations and a special robe. Demands on the nun increases the higher she rises. She begins as a novice, and it takes up to 5 years before she can pass through the service making her a nun. The highest level is reached after 25 years or more; many nuns reach it first on their death bed.
A monastery or convent is headed by the abbess, the prioress or the Mother Superior, all have absolute power within the confines of the monastery. Nun monasteries are usually self sufficient, involved in producing products that can be sold.
A term close to "nun" is "religious sister", and there is a difference between the two. Regulations for a nun are stricter than that for a sister. Nuns have restrictions on leaving the monastery, and cannot freely communicate with visitors to the convent. Still, some may engage in limited teaching or other vocational work depending on the strictness of enforcement. Also, visitors are not allowed into the monastery to freely associate with nuns. In essence, the work of a nun is within the confines of her monastery, while the work of a sister is in the greater world. Both sisters and nuns can be addressed as "Sister".