The limping nuns. Two cases of hip dislocation in a medieval female monastery

From Firenze University Press Journal: Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology

University of Florence
2 min readJan 25, 2023

Paola Saccheri, Section of Human Anatomy and History of Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Udine

Luciana Travan, Section of Human Anatomy and History of Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Udine

Cividale del Friuli is a small and ancient town located near Udine, in the North-Eastern Italy, close to Slovenian border. According to tradition it was founded by Julio César and called Forum Julii, but Cividale dates back to before the Roman times, as documented by archaeological fi ndings remounting to Palaeo-lithic and Neolithic times. Occupied in 568 by the Lombards led by King Alboin, Forum Julii became the capital of the fi rst Lombard Duchy. In the 8th century, after the victory of the Franks, the city changed its name to Civitas Austriae, which today has become Cividale. From 737 to 1238 it was the residence of the patriarchs of Aquileia. It fell under Venice domain along with the rest of Friuli in 1419–20. In 2011, Cividale was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the “Italia Langobardorum” project.

Probably in the middle of the 7th century, the Lombards founded the Benedictine monastery called Santa Maria in Valle which, in the medieval period, became one of the two most important female monasteries in the region, achieving significant prestige and power thanks to numerous donations. Female monasteries often provided shelter and food for orphans, old people, poor and beggars as well as medical care. Santa Maria in Valle always remained a women’s convent, in which lived women of high social status (Tilatti, 2002). The number of the nuns was not particularly high, probably around twenty; the nuns lived in the monastery until the end of the 20thcentury (Quendolo and Villa, 2009).

In 2008, an archaeological excavation revealed the presence of tombs. Only part of the cemeterial area of the monastery was investigated. Few good graves were found, mostly parts of clothing (buttons, buckles), and a coin dating from the second half of the 10th century. The purpose of this article is to depict two cases of hip dislocation in developmental dysplasia in the skeletal remains of two females.


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