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April 23, 2024 43 mins

For plenty of young women in the early modern era, if their families couldn't afford their dowries, they simply shipped them off to a nunnery. That was the case for Marianna, a young girl who rose in the ranks of her monastery as an exemplary nun... until she crossed paths with the rakish nobleman who lived in the estate next door.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
Welcome to Noble Blood, a production of iHeartRadio and Grim
and Mild from Aaron Manky. Listener discretion advised, Hey, this
is Danish wartz. Just a bit of housekeeping before we begin.
If you want to support the show, we have merch
and we have a Patreon. Both of those are linked
in the episode description. The merch is amazing. I use

(00:22):
my mugs pretty much every morning and over on the
Patreon there is exclusive merch like stickers. There are episode scripts,
and there's also a weekly recap bonus podcast that I
do with a friend of mine recapping the television series
Rain about Mary, Queen of Scott's. So if that sounds interesting,
head there and thank you for listening. Having a daughter

(00:49):
was expensive business in early modern Europe. From the moment
of a girl's birth. One cost in particular would have
loomed over her family's head her dowry. The dowry was
the payment traditionally made upon marriage from the bride's family
to the grooms, meant as part of the formal transfer

(01:11):
of the bride to her new family and as a
starting fund for the couple's new life. In the modern day,
it's an outdated, misogynistic practice, but in the early modern
period it was an essential component of the right of
passage of marriage. If families could not afford it outright,

(01:31):
many young women worked on their own to save up
for a dowry. Marriage often meant, among many other things, security,
and that was worth every penny. Of course, as this
podcast can attest, marriage was rarely as simple as saving
up a few ducats and then finding some nice enough

(01:53):
boy to drag to the church. The dowry market, like
any economic market, fluctuated over time when there were more
young women than men in a given area. For example,
a larger dowry might be necessary to catch a suitor's
attention in a sea of options. During those times of inflation,

(02:14):
one can imagine the astronomical sums required to secure any match,
let alone an advantageous one. But difficult as arranging a
marriage might be, it was dangerous, not to mention expensive,
to let a young, unmarried daughter linger in her father's house.

(02:36):
In a society that prized the chastity of women above
pretty much everything else, an unmarried adult daughter was a
sharefire recipe for an illegitimate grandchild, or even just the
rumor of one, and all of the scandal and shame
that would come with it. When the population of unmarried

(02:56):
women was high, things became even more challenging. Women without
families to support them often put pressure on their cities
systems of charity, or they were drawn to the relative
freedom and potential income they could gain from sex work,
which threatened both public resources and, in early modern eyes,

(03:17):
public morality. For many Catholic families, the only affordable option
in an inflated dowry market to still protect the chastity
of their daughters was the convent. It was certainly not
entirely free to promise your daughter to Jesus Christ. Many
convents charged small dowries to help cover their new wards

(03:41):
as upkeep, but it was often substantially cheaper than marrying
your daughter to an earthly husband. Even some of the
more wealthy and influential families sent their daughters to convents,
be it as a temporary means of protecting their chastity
like Mary, Queen of Scot's, or as a more permanent

(04:01):
solution when marriage was unaffordable or otherwise unattainable. Scores of
women and girls ended up in convents that way, sent
away from their families, sometimes from a very young age
to a new life that, depending on the convent, could
either mean relative freedom and comfort, or harsh enclosure and

(04:24):
a penitent lifestyle. In any case, it was a much
more restricted life than likely any of the young girls
had imagined for themselves. Perhaps unsurprisingly than many of the
women and girls sent to the convents by their families
out of financial expediency did not share the religious devotion

(04:48):
we might expect from nuns today. Although those who were
sent to convents as children would not be nuns and
therefore not technically bound to the church, once they reached
marriageable age, many found they had few other options than
to take their vows. Some surely found that convent life

(05:09):
suited them, but many resented their families for placing them
there against their will. Some wished for marriage, others simply
to be let out of the walls of enclosure. Entering
a convent was a choice made for them by their families,
by the economic conditions of the time, and by the

(05:32):
world in which they lived that prized female chastity above
all else. Records from the period see some of these
women reclaiming their freedom in ways both big and small
in the convent that allowed it. Some sisters took up trades,
becoming skilled artisans and earning money for the convent, and,

(05:55):
if they were lucky, contact with the outside world. A
few were drawn to more scholarly or artistic pursuits, occasionally
earning fame from within the convent for their contributions, and
of course, some even went so far as to appeal
to the Pope, begging to have their vows to Jesus annulled.

(06:16):
But others found more transgressive ways to escape the confines
of the cloister. One in particular, a woman first named
Marianna de Lavia Imrino and then Sister Virginia Maria, later
known simply as the Nun of Manza, found her freedom

(06:38):
in the arms of a lover, or so she thought.
This is a story that travels through plague into a convent,
passed love, and brutal murder into one of the creepiest
scandals we've ever covered on this podcast. I'm Danish Schwartz
and this is Noble Blood. Mariana de Lvia Imrino was

(07:07):
just a few months past her thirteenth birthday when her
father decided to place her in the convent of Santa
Margarita a big change, to be sure, but that was
far from the first time in young Marianna's life that
her world had been turned upside down. She was born
in Milan, now in Italy but then a Spanish duchy,

(07:29):
in fifteen seventy five, the first and only child of
Martin de Lvia and his wife, Virginia Maria Marino. Virginia
Maria was the daughter and heir of one of the
wealthiest men in Milan. She had also been married once before,
and she was the widow of Ercolepio, Count of Sassuolo,

(07:49):
with whom she had had a son, Marco and four daughters.
Martin de Levia, for his part, also boasted an illustrious lineage.
He was the great grand son of the great Antonio Delivia,
who had led the army of the Spanish Empire under
King Charles the fifth. As a reward for his valor,

(08:10):
Charles had granted Antonio the duchy of Milan upon the
death of Duke Francesco the second Sforza. Delivia was rewarded
also with the fiefdom of Monza, a small city about
nine miles northeast of Milan that, despite its small size,
offered considerable revenue. By the time Mariana was born, her father, Martin,

(08:35):
had had a significant military career of his own, and
he had inherited his great grandfather's county of Monza as
a fiefdom, although he alternated sovereignty with his brother. With
all of Mariana's family's wealth and influence, the little girl
seemed slated for a charmed life. Then all at once,

(08:59):
disaster strung. When Mariana was barely a year old, in
fifteen seventy six, the plague came to Milan. As plagues do,
it tore through the city, causing not only mass death,
but also economic devastation as workers and consumers alike died
or left, crops went unattended, and trade all but disappeared.

(09:24):
Virginia Maria, Marianna's mother, died that year. We don't know
if plague was the cause, although it seems a likely possibility.
What we do know is that her death and the
events that followed would irrevocably change the course of her
youngest daughter's life. In the midst of her sickness, Virginia

(09:47):
Maria had made her last will and testament. She chose
to name as her heirs the infant Mariana and her
son from her first marriage, Marco, with the vast majority
of her state to be divided equally between the two
of them. It certainly seems an odd choice, given that

(10:07):
Virginia Maria had four other daughters from her earlier first marriage.
Maybe she assumed they would be taken care of. Perhaps
she thought her daughters might forgive her for choosing to
ensure the livelihoods of her son, who would have to
start his own household, and her infant daughter, who was
further away from the protection that marriage could offer. It was,

(10:31):
as you might have guessed, a grave miscalculation. Within just
days of their mother's death, Marco's sisters, Marianna's half sisters,
represented by their uncle, went to court to contest the will,
arguing that they should have also received fair shares of
the estate. The legal battle that ensued defined the early

(10:55):
years of Marianna's life, and she would spend her early
years with no sense of stability or certainty. Mere months
after Virginia Maria died, Martin de Laviat left his infant
daughter in the care of an aunt, and he went
off to Flanders on a long military campaign. Despite her
father's absence, the dispute over the will continued, and Marianna

(11:19):
spent the next three years in limbo as the adults
in her life argued over assets or just abandon her
altogether as an afterthought. Finally, in fifteen eighty, Martin briefly
returned home to Milan to put an end to the
inheritance suit. It was clear, however, that his goal was

(11:40):
not to protect the interests of his only child. In fact,
the so called compromise he reached with his stepdaughters practically
amount to theft from Mariana. He gave the po children
more than half of their mother's estate, and the remaining
portion was set aside vaguely for Martin and Marianna, meaning

(12:04):
in effect just for Martin. Since Marianna was a toddler.
Allowing the case to continue to linger would certainly not
have benefited Mariana, but Martin was almost certainly more concerned
with just closing the case so that he could return
to his military campaigns. Over the years, his family's prestige

(12:26):
had begun to wane, and he wagered that he could
better restore it by serving the Spanish king, who was
now Philip the second. Mary Tudor's husband, as opposed to
squabbling over his dead wife's affairs or well providing for
the future of his lineage. His baby was a girl,

(12:46):
after all, not an heir that in any way would
have mattered to him. The inheritance debacle feels definitive, and
it is certainly very telling about all parties involved. But
this was not the moment that Martin Delivia consigned his
daughter to the cloister. For a while, it seemed like
he was indeed planning to arrange a marriage for Mariana.

(13:09):
A letter from fifteen eighty six sees him discussing her
prospects and floating a potential dowry of seven thousand lira,
which was nothing to sneeze at, but I should note
it paled in comparison to the fifty thousand that he
had been promised from his late wife's family when they

(13:30):
had gotten married. The final blow to Mariana's future came
a few years later, in fifteen eighty eight, when her father,
Martin remarried. His new wife lived in Valencia, nearly eight
hundred miles from Milan and from Mariana. By now, it

(13:50):
had been over a decade since the wandering military man
had shared a roof with his daughter, and the prospect
of paying a dowry would have loomed large as Mariana
got older. His new marriage, on the other hand, brought
with it the promise of career promotion, more income, more
influent and of course, male heirs. Here, he must have thought,

(14:14):
was a perfect opportunity to start fresh and save a
little money in the process. Martin brought his only child
to the Monastery of Santa Margharita, a small Benedictine convent
in his own county, Mansa, in late fifteen eighty eight.
A few months later, in early fifteen eighty nine, he

(14:35):
briefly returned to settle the matter of Marianna's inheritance once
and for all. He promised her a six thousand lira
deposit to be delivered to the convent through an intermediary
that would accrue an annual income of three hundred lira.
We don't know if Martin actually saw his daughter on

(14:55):
that fifteen eighty nine visit, but we do know that
Marianna never saw her father again after that, and that
she never received her inheritance, although records show she did
receive some income from the convent's revenues. The scholar Luigi
Serbi estimates that out of an approximate forty thousand lira,

(15:19):
Marianna was owed in total, her father stole nearly twenty
eight thousand. On August twenty sixth, fifteen ninety one, Gaspare Visconti,
the Archbishop of Milan, made the short journey to Mansa

(15:40):
to witness the consecration of four nuns who had completed
their noviciots and were preparing to take the profession. These
girls each had spent several years deep in prayer, reflection
and manual labor, and were getting ready to make a
lifelong commitment to the convent. Among these novices was one sister,

(16:03):
Virginia Maria, a young girl of about sixteen whose late
mother's given name had just happened to make for a
perfect religious name. Despite these circumstances of her arrival at
Santa Margarita, Marianna, whose given name we will continue to
use for clarity's sake, made an excellent nun. She took

(16:26):
her vows in September fifteen ninety one and soon garnered
a reputation in Manza for her admirable conduct. The famed
priest and historian Giuseppe Ripamonti, who lived in Manza around
this time and who would later write a good deal
about Marianna's life, described her character during these early years

(16:47):
as quote modest, circumspect, most affable, suffused, with an enviable candor,
a friend to everyone, as educated in literary disciplines, as
a well mannered, obedient, not at all spiteful young girl
could be at the time an example of perfect social behavior.

(17:09):
In addition to praise, Marianna also garnered power from the convent.
Although she had taken the profession, her wayward father soon
delegated his duties to her as sovereign of Mansa. She
took over in fifteen ninety six at twenty years old.
Records show her issuing edicts, ordering arrests, and offering pardons,

(17:32):
among other official duties. In December fifteen ninety six, for example,
she prohibited fishing in a stretch of river that ran
next to the Franciscan convent of Santa Maria, granting the
convent's friar's exclusive use of the area. By all accounts,
she was as beloved as a feudal lady as she

(17:53):
was a well behaved nun. She was also working her
way up within the convent, earning the roles of sacristan,
which meant that she was responsible for the convent sacristy,
where vestiments and other sacred objects were kept, and she
also got the job as supervisor of the secular girls
housed in the convent. It was through that role as

(18:16):
supervisor that Marianna first met Jean Paulo Osio. The illustrious
Osio family had been a staple in Lombardy, the region
in which both Milan and Manta are situated, for centuries,
but by this time the branch of the family living
in Mamsa had begun to develop a less than illustrious reputation.

(18:42):
Born in fifteen seventy two, John Paolo Osio was no
exception charismatic, libertine, and prone to violence. He was every
bit whatever you're thinking if I say sixteenth century rake.
Despite all that, he had a good relationship with the
Convent of Santa Margarita, frequently hiring servants from the convent

(19:05):
to run errands for his household. This relationship was born
mostly out of proximity. His property abutted the convent so
closely that someone standing in the convent garden could see
into his home quite easily, and vice versa. Although she
almost certainly would have met her neighbor earlier, or at

(19:27):
least known of him. Marianna's first documented encounter with John
Powlow was in the fall of fifteen ninety seven, and
it was less of a meet cute and more of
a bad omen for things to come. One day, as
she was walking through the convent garden, she came upon
John Polo alone with one of her pupils flirting. He had,

(19:51):
it turned out, been taking advantage of the closeness of
his property to the convent by climbing a tree so
that he could spy on the secular girls, and he
was attempting, in this case to start an affair with
one of them. The actual extent of his success in
the matter isn't clear from the record, although in this

(20:12):
period the circumstances there being alone unsupervised in a convent
were damning enough. The girl was quickly dealt with. As
she was a secular who had not yet made any vows.
She was able to be removed from the convent by
her horrified mother, and she was married off within weeks.

(20:34):
For her part, Marianna gave John Paolo such a scolding
that he reportedly left the convent that day, hanging his
head in shame. News of Marianna's quote great rebuff of
John Paolo traveled quickly through Monsa, the sixteenth century equivalent
of the juiciest celebrity gossip, and a few days later

(20:57):
the story developed a new and significantly darker twist when
John Paolo murdered Giuseppe Moltena, a man who had worked
in the service of the Delevia family as a tax agent.
Some believed that he had committed that murder out of

(21:17):
anger at Mariana, an act of revenge for her rebuke.
Others whispered that it was actually jealousy, that Marianna had
been having an affair with Molteno and John Poolo had
wanted her all to himself. These are not impossible motives,
although Mariana would later deny any impropriety with the deceased,

(21:39):
but the actual reason for the killing likely had little
to do with Marianna herself. I mean, it was sort
of a tangential connection in the first place. It seems
that John Paolo had been conspiring with another of the
Deleva financial advisers to skim off the top of the
family's books, hoping that it wouldn't be noticed by the

(22:02):
absent Martin or the enclosed Mariana, and he and his
inside man had plotted the murder together, either to prevent
being found out or to maximize their own profits. This
theory is supported by the fact that only a few
weeks after the murder, that second financial adviser was fired

(22:24):
by the de Leva family and promptly replaced. John Paulo
reportedly tried to appeal to Marianna, who was not only
a member of the family that he may have been
trying to defraud, but who also held his fate in
her hands as the sovereign of Mansa. The story goes

(22:44):
that shortly after the murder, Marianna happened to be passing
through the room of one of her fellow sisters that
had a view into the Osio garden. John Paulo, seeing
Marianna in the window, caught her attention and shouted up,
asking to send her a letter, presumably to explain himself,

(23:05):
to proclaim his innocence, or maybe to beg for her favor. Marianna,
scrupulous as ever, was enraged. Not only had this man
once seduced her student and then gone on to commit
a heinous murder, but here he was not even in hiding,
but strolling about his garden and asking her to abuse justice.

(23:26):
She immediately ordered his arrest. John Paolo fled Manza and
was sentenced in absentia to exile. John Paolo remained in
exile for about a year while his friends and family,
as well as the mother superior of the convent and
even members of Marianna's own family, pressured her to give

(23:47):
him grace. She relented in fifteen ninety eight, and Joan
Paolo was officially granted pardon and allowed to return to
his residence in Monza. When he returned, Marianna's anger head
seemingly cooled. Perhaps she took the concept of giving grace
to heart. But that wasn't all. And here's the biggest

(24:10):
plot twist so far. Apparently, the scrupulous, modest nun looked
out her window one day at her murderous playboy neighbor,
and all of a sudden fell in love. Could you

(24:31):
ever see anything more beautiful? Years later, one of Marianna's
fellow nuns would recount having heard Marianna make that remark,
presumably while resting her cheek on her hand and between
dramatic lovelorn sighs while sitting at her window after catching
a glimpse of John Pawlow in his garden. Somehow, and

(24:55):
I wish I knew more so I could tell you more.
The debaucherous no no woman had managed to charm Marianna.
She had even been willing to give him another chance,
after he had started off by throwing a letter over
the wall separating his garden from the convents, a first
attempt at flirting that must have seemed cute until she

(25:17):
opened the letter to reveal a note so sexually explicit
that she recoiled in disgust. Undeterred, John Paolo had been
enlisted the help of a local priest and friend of his,
Paolo Aragone. Father Paulo reminded John Powlo that he was
trying to start an affair with a nun. He was

(25:38):
not perhaps ethical enough to advise John Powlo to pursue
someone else, but he was certainly wise enough to advise
a change in tactic. The priest wrote a new letter
for Joan Paulo to throw over the wall. This one
contrite and chaste and romantic, and that letter sealed the deal.

(26:00):
Once they got over the first few minor hurdles. You
know the fact that she had caught him in the
garden with another girl. The murder, the exile, and then
the sexually explicit letter in the convent garden. The affair
must have felt like a chivalric romance. There was Marianna
enclosed in her tower, and here was her prince calling

(26:23):
up to her with promises of not only romance but freedom.
Furtive glances and gifts passed through intermediaries, accompanied by secret
letters thrown over the garden wall. Although Marianna was surely
smitten by John Powlow and by Father Paulo's continued ghostwriting,

(26:44):
at first, Marianna declined to take their relationship further. She
was a nun, after all, and she had made vows
of chastity as an enclosed nun. In particular, she maintained
that neither of them could violate the boundaries of enclosure.
She couldn't leave and he couldn't enter, a stalemate that

(27:05):
likely fueled Marianna's romantic fantasy and made John Powlo all
the more determined to break her resolve, He continued to
press the issue, and Marianna finally gave in in August
fifteen ninety nine. Coincidentally, not long after her father died,
she agreed to a secret nighttime meeting in the Confessor's parlor.

(27:30):
A local blacksmith forged a copy of a key to
the parlor which had been given to him by Sister Otavia,
a friend of Mariana's. Sister. Otavia then threw the new
key over the garden wall into the Oussio property so
that John Powlo could enter Unseen. The moment Marianna laid

(27:50):
eyes on John Poulo in the parlor through the grill
separating them, she was overcome by emotion, a desire perhaps
unlike an anything else she had ever felt in her
young life, muddled by the sinking, guilty feelings of realizing
she had gone past a point of no return. Her

(28:10):
emotions were so strong, in fact, that she immediately took ill.
She remained indisposed for several months and told John Powlo
she could not see him anymore. He meanwhile continued to
bombard her with gifts and letters. By Christmas, Marianna both
recovered and relented, and the affair began in earnest when

(28:34):
she allowed John Powlo to sneak into her room. Soon
they were meeting two or three times a week for secret,
forbidden trysts in the convent. As the affair progressed, the
web of people who became complicit in it also grew
larger and more complicated, between the blacksmith making keys, father

(28:56):
Paolo writing letters, and a handful of Marianna's fellow nuns
helping to sneak John Powlo in and out of the convent.
Soon those fellow nuns would have another job, helping Marianna
conceal a pregnancy. Marianna gave birth to a stillborn boy

(29:17):
in sixteen o two. She was devastated not only by
the loss of her child, but also by an overwhelming
sense of guilt that hit her all at once. By now,
she and John Poolo had been brazenly carrying on their
affair for over a year. She had violated her vows
again and again, and now she had to rely on

(29:39):
her fellow nuns to sneak her baby's body out of
the convent. She had to end the affair, despite her
feelings of guilt, however, and despite her resolve to and
the affair for good, she still felt herself drawn to
John Paolo. Later, Marianna would claim that she had tried
to rid herself of her feelings using the magical practice

(30:03):
of coorophagia, believing that she had been struck with a
love sickness that was the result of a curse. She
somehow got her hands on Pardon Me Jean Paulo's dried
feces and consumed it as a medicinal in a series
of broths and teas in a desperate attempt to break

(30:24):
the spell. When that didn't work, she contemplated throwing herself
into the well on the convent grounds. Reportedly, she hesitated
upon seeing an image of the Virgin nearby, and Sister
Otavia then found her and talked her off the ledge.
Throughout this time, Jean Paolo never ceased his campaign of

(30:46):
what we might now call love bombing, continuing to send
letters and gifts with entreaties to resume the affair, even
as Marianna entered a period of intense prayer and penance.
She continued to reject him for months, even sending him
away at one point on a pilgrimage to Rome and Loretto,

(31:07):
hoping he might come to his senses about the affair too.
After months of endless pushing, Marianna gave in again. Whether
because she genuinely missed John Paulo or because he truly
just broke down her resolve, we'll never know who among
us hasn't gone back to an ex who's bad for us,

(31:30):
But in any case, the affair started back up, and
within months Marianna was pregnant again. After nine months of
pretending to have a spleen disease to explain the swelling,
she gave birth to a daughter on August eighth, sixteen
o four, whom she named Alma Francesca Margarita, before giving

(31:51):
her to her trusted fellow nuns to deliver to John
Poolo under cover of night. Somewhat contrary to character, John
Paulo actually turned out to be quite a loving father.
He brought little Alma to Milan to have her baptized

(32:12):
openly with a noble godfather, befitting her station, and he
chose to keep her close in Mansa, despite the rumors
that were beginning to swirl. He formally recognized her as
his daughter in sixteen o six, giving her all the
inheritance rights and public status of a legitimate child. He
never named Marianna as the mother, instead naming a woman

(32:36):
named Isabella de Metta. By that time, however, few believed him,
especially given the unusual frequency of little Alma's visits to
the Santa Margarita monastery. In fact, by this time, the
truth was obvious to just about everyone in Mansa. In
addition to Almah's suspiciously frequent visits, as many as three

(32:58):
or four times a week, according to some sources, several
nuns would later testify that many times they saw Marianna
sneak out of the monastery, violating her sacred vow of seclusion,
over to the Osio estate to spend the night with
her daughter and her lover. It was really only Marianna's

(33:18):
noble status, coupled with John Powlo's trademark violent streak, that
kept people from saying anything at the time or from
reporting them to the ecclesiastical authorities. But by the summer
of sixteen o six, the delicate balance Marianna and John
Paolo had managed to maintain over the years finally began

(33:41):
to crumble, all thanks to a young girl named Katerina
del Cassini. Katerina was a teenager and a secular in
the convent who had not taken any vows as of yet.
In fact, word around the convent was that she wouldn't
be allowed to because of her rebellious obst and character

(34:01):
and alleged thefts from the monastery's pantry, both behavior unfitting
of a nun. She, like Mariana and many others before her,
had been placed at Santa Margarita against her will. But
unlike Mariana, Katerina seemed completely uninterested in assimilating into convent
life or even pretending to, often threatening to escape and

(34:24):
disrespecting just about everyone she could. Recently, her behavior had
begun too great on Marianna, who still held authority over
the seculars and was therefore responsible for Katerina. In late
July sixteen oh six, Marianna hit her breaking point when
Katerina soiled the bed of Sister Dania Merita, the organist

(34:49):
of the monastery whose talents had always delighted Mariana. Unfortunately,
I have no details about what it meant that Katerina
soiled that poor woman's bed, but whatever it was, as punishment.
Marianna convinced the Mother Superior and the monastery's confessor to
have Katerina imprisoned in the woodshed in the convent garden

(35:11):
while they figured out what to do about her out
of control behavior. Katerina, in true teenage fashion, was incensed
at what she considered unfair treatment by Marianna and her allies.
She had just been disrespectful, and she was locked in
a woodshed. Meanwhile, after everything Marianna herself had been doing

(35:31):
for years, she not only was walking free but continued
to enjoy high status. Then Katerina remembered that in just
a few days time, the vicar Monseigneur Pietro Barka would
be coming to the convent for the monastery's elections, and
she saw an opportunity. Katerina threatened Mariana, saying that if

(35:54):
she didn't release her when the Monseigneur arrived, she was
going to tell him everything about the affair, about Little Alma,
about every sinful detail of the ways Marianna had broken
her sacred vows. Even if he had already known about
it vaguely, as did many people in Monts at the time,
he wouldn't be able to ignore a report made to

(36:17):
him directly. The punishment for such brazen, repeated crimes would
be much more severe than simply being stuck in a
woodshed for a few nights. Where the affair had at
first felt like freedom to Mariana, now it was as
though the walls were closing in on her. If Katerina

(36:37):
followed through on her threat, Mariana would lose everything. In
a panic, she gathered her four closest confidants from the convent,
sisters Otavia, Benedetta, Candida Colombo, and Sylvia, and had them
send a message to Jean Paulo. The night before the election,

(37:00):
the six of them snuck into the woodshed to try
to talk some sense into Katerina. As the nuns would
later tell it, they tried first to reason with her,
but the stubborn girl stuck to her guns. According to
Mariana's later testimony, the girl rebuffed any attempt at negotiating,
even crying out, I don't want to hear your chatter anymore,

(37:22):
but I want to be your ruin and that of
your lover, and tomorrow morning you all will come here
to this place where I am. The threat of imprisonment
hung in the dark, dank air of the makeshift cell
where they all stood at that It was Jean Paolo
who had heard enough. He grabbed a wooden board that

(37:44):
had an iron rod running through it, which he had
taken from the monastery's workshop, and struck with one blow
to the head, then another, and another. Jean Paolo killed
Katerina as Marianna and the other nuns looked on in horror.
The nuns and the nobleman stood over the body of

(38:06):
the young girl as the reality of what they had
done settled in. Perhaps in between suggestions for how to
hide the body, they attempted to justify their crime. Katerina
was unruly and indignant, and she was going to reveal
Marianna and John Powlo's many, many indiscretions to the Monseigneur,

(38:28):
destroying not only their individual reputations, but likely the reputation
of the convent as well. She would have ruined everything well,
as it would turn out, she still could. That's the
first part of the salacious and tragic story of the

(38:50):
Nun of Mansa. But stick around after a brief sponsor
break to hear about the novel that would make her
one of the most famous nuns UN's gone bad. In history,
the story of Marianna de Laivier Marino and her affair

(39:13):
with John Paolo Ossio might have been relegated to the
annals of Curious local history if not for the nineteenth
century author Alessandro Manzoni, who read the proceedings of Mariana's
later trial and was captivated by her complex and at
times contradictory character. His eighteen twenty seven novel, translated in

(39:38):
English as The Betrothed, is often named as the most
famous and widely read work in the Italian language other
than Dante's Divine Comedy, and the one character in the
story is based on Marianna. The Betrothed tells the story
of the young lovers Renzo and Luccia, who, after having

(39:59):
their weddings forwarded by an evil baron who has his
own eyes set on Lucia, go on a series of
adventures and run into a series of obstacles as they
try to outsmart the baron and have their love legally recognized.
Their travels take them to Monza, where they come upon
a nun named Gertrude, who, over the course of several

(40:21):
chapters and through a series of flashbacks reveals the story
of her toward affair with a nobleman, an evil man
who had made her an accomplice in his murder of
another nun, and who would later in the novel force
Gertrude to aid in the kidnapping of the young Lucia,
and who would later in the novel force Gertrude to

(40:43):
aid in the kidnapping of the young Lucia, who throughout
the book never seems to be able to catch a break.
Manzoni's novel allowed Marianna's story to take on new life,
and The Nun of Monza became a staple of Italian
literature into the twentieth century. It has been adapted to

(41:03):
film with varying levels of faithfulness to the historical facts
at least seven times since nineteen sixty two, inspiring comedies,
several historical dramas, an erotic drama, and most recently, a
modern thriller complete with a gun toting nun detective. Unfortunately,

(41:24):
if that sounds incredibly interesting to you, most of these
adaptations are in Italian. It's the earlier films, however, namely
the Italian historical dramas that came out of the nineteen sixties,
where we see one of Mariana's more interesting modern influences.
As it turned out, Mariana's story, that of a young

(41:46):
girl placed in a convent against her will who fell
prey to temptation, offered a perfect opportunity to explore the
tension between sexuality and romance and religious enclosure, and the
violence that might ensue when that tension came to boil.
That plot structure gained popularity, especially in Italy through the

(42:09):
nineteen seventies and became one of the standard templates for
a popular genre of film still popular today, especially in
American horror movies, that has come to be known as nonsploitation.
Noble Blood is a production of iHeartRadio and Grimm and

(42:33):
Mild from Aaron Mank. Noble Blood is created and hosted
by me Dana Schwartz, with additional writing and researching by
Hannah Johnston, Hanna Zwick, Mira Hayward, Courtney Sender, and Lori Goodman.
The show is edited and produced by Noemi Griffin and
rima il Kaali, with supervising producer Josh Thain and executive

(42:58):
producers Aaron Manke, Alec Williams and Matt Frederick. For more
podcasts from iHeartRadio, visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or
wherever you listen to your favorite shows.
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