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Odette de Pougy (fl. 1266)

Odette de Pougy (fl. 1266)

Abbess of France at the convent of Notre-Dame-aux-Nonnains. Flourished around 1266 in France; never married; no children.

Odette de Pougy, whose origins are obscure, became a bold and ambitious French abbess. She entered the convent of Notre-Dame-aux-Nonnains as a young woman, and her force of character and leadership abilities led to her being chosen abbess there. In 1266, Odette became involved in a conflict with Pope Urban IV which would last until her death. The abbey was built on extensive grounds of which Odette, as abbess and thus principal manager of the abbey's property, was fiercely protective. The pope planned to build a church on a part of the abbey lands which had been the site of his father's shoe shop. He even went so far as to send a work crew to the site to begin construction.

Odette was strongly opposed to any infringement of the abbey's rights, and took decisive action. She led an armed party down to the construction site, frightened off Urban's crew, and tore down all they had erected. The pope did not give up on his plans to honor his father, and some time later another crew was set to work. Again Odette led a group against the workmen. This time Urban retaliated against the disobedient abbess by excommunicating her and every nun under her authority. But even this was not enough to frighten Odette into submission; she remained at the abbey, continuing her duties in blatant disregard of the excommunication, until her death about 15 years later. Urban had to wait until Odette had been buried before he could finally build his church.


Gies, Frances, and Joseph Gies. Women in the Middle Ages. NY: Harper and Row, 1978.

Laura York , Riverside, California

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