was the female counterpart of the abbot
; she governed a monastic community of nuns, and sometimes a double monastery (both monks and nuns, living separate lives in contiguous establishments, using the same church). A monastic had to be at least 40 years old and a nun for ten years to be eligible to become an abbess, and was elected to the office by the nuns in her abbey
, or convent. The abbess exercised considerable power over the sisters in her care and held her office for life, unless it was taken from her for misconduct.
Common Misspellings: abess
at the Paraclete.