How Do Nuns Make Money?

Nuns are people who have dedicated their lives to following the life of Jesus Christ. They typically live within a monastery or convent and follow set rules for daily activities, prayer, and self-discipline, often including very little contact with the outside world. Living without earthly possessions can be difficult for some nuns as they rely on donations to support their day-to-day lives. So how do nuns make money?

Nuns make money in three ways: alms, their church, and crafted goods. Many abbeys accept donations, and nuns use these to provide for their living expenses. Churches also provide some funding for their monks and nuns. Furthermore, most monastic communities produce and sell goods for a profit.

Nuns can make money in a variety of ways. The first and most common way is through donations from other people, including other nuns within their order. Some orders may have specific rules about the types of possessions they are allowed to keep or require sisters to give away all personal property upon joining their order. This means that the only money sisters will receive during their lifetime is what others give them for living expenses. To ensure that no sister falls into poverty while living this lifestyle, there are typically communal properties and goods available so that no sister goes without necessities such as food or shelter.

In addition to taking donations from within their order, nuns may often take on outside jobs or enter into agreements with local businesses to make money for themselves and their missions. Depending on the type of work they do and how it is paid for, this can sometimes result in a taxable income that would require them to pay taxes just like any other citizen in their country. This is not always required, however, and nuns may live completely tax-free if their work is considered part of their spiritual service. A perfect example of this type of work would be a nun who runs a bakery or restaurant which feeds and employs only other nuns and provides all profits to the convent.

The final way nuns can make money comes from outside sources such as private businesses or organizations needing assistance with certain tasks or projects requiring specialized skills or knowledge. In these cases, nuns may provide guidance, education, or some other type of expertise for a contracted fee. This can be particularly helpful to nuns whose order has many sisters skilled in certain business areas such as bookkeeping, cooking, sewing, farming, social work, etc.

Do you have to be a virgin to be a nun?

It is an old question that still crops up in the schools of girls preparing to enter religious life. The answer can be found in canon law (No. 487), and the consequences for those religious communities which ignore it should certainly give them pause for thought.

A little background first. Canon 1066 requires that candidates for holy orders ‘adequately prepare’ by prayer and a suitable period before entering into sacred ordination, taking an oath, or making a vow related to the order received. “Adequate” preparation is defined as including both spiritual and human elements; there has to be the right intention, freedom from impediment (in other words, bound by any other vows, etc.), and a genuine vocation to life.

It is the last point that causes difficulty for some would-be entrants because it means, among other things, that they must have had time to experience what it is like living in a community with others under vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity. One of the most frequently asked questions is whether being a virgin at entry into religious life fulfills this requirement of having lived celibately for a reasonable time before entering.

The answer given by canon law (canon 1068) is quite clear: “A woman who has never married or has established her perpetual virginity according to the prudent judgment of her competent spiritual director may be accepted.” This judgment should take into account both canonical issues (i.e., is the woman bound by any other vows?) and potential psychological considerations that might make it unwise for her to take such a step at this time (generally speaking, such issues would be of greater concern than they would for a man). This must be taken as meaning that virginity alone does not fulfill the requirement of having led a celibate life before taking holy orders or entering into a religious order.

How much do nuns make?

Nuns get their salary from Mother Superior. Salaries vary depending on the order of sisterhood and the location where they serve. Most nuns make between $25,000 and $45,000 per year while also receiving room and board or a small stipend for housing and food. Their income may be supplemented by donations made by church members, which typically include an envelope with cash (additional cash gifts are often given on special occasions such as Christmas).

Her religious order determines a nun’s salary; some orders do not pay their sisters but expect them to live frugally on what they receive from outside sources such as an inheritance or family assistance. The average income for a nun is $26,393.

How did nuns make money?

A nun’s life presented its own unique set of material needs to be met by the community around them. Nuns contributed nothing but their prayers but needed food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and other basics, just like everyone else. How did they meet these needs?

As it turns out, nuns had several different sources for this money:

  • Donations provided by pious laypeople
  • Income earned by nuns working hand-crafts in the convent
  • Revenue gained from playing a role in medieval society

Money From Pious Laypeople

An important source of money for many convents was gifts provided by pious laypeople. Convents were often located in isolated areas, where they would attract little attention and few residents; nuns could not grow their food or make their clothes. Instead, they relied on donations to provide food and other necessities. 

Money From Hand-Crafts

The second source of income for convents was revenues gained through hand-crafts done by the nuns themselves. These crafts could be sold to community members or outside markets. 

Money From Farming

The third source of income for convents was money gained through farming activities. Many convents had large plots of land attached to them, where the nuns would grow various crops. These included common vegetables like peas and carrots and more expensive goods like figs, grapes, and almonds. Some women’s communities even kept bees to make honey, which fetched a high price on the market at this time.

Convents also had access to larger plots of land than many laypeople; some convents controlled more acreage than small towns. These lands could be used for growing any number of crops, including wheat and rye (for bread), vineyards (for wine), and orchards (for produce).

While nuns did not usually handle the actual farming themselves, monks at nearby male monasteries often ran their farms; they still had a hand in this business. Caretakers would work the land with hired labor, while most other duties were handled by servants under the supervision of a prioress. When harvests were brought in from these fields, they were either consumed by the community or sold on local markets for money that could be spent on other supplies.

Money Gained From Medieval Society

A final source of income for convents was money gained through their participation in medieval society. Many of these convents had priories (homes for the sister’s families) outside their walls, which allowed them to interact with townspeople daily. Convents also took part in the judicial proceedings of the area; they were responsible for bringing criminals to justice and punishing any who had committed crimes within convent walls. Convents could even be used as prisons until more permanent facilities could be built. Convents were also responsible for maintaining bridges leading into town, another source of revenue that few male monasteries performed. 

Convents could also gain money from their children, who were encouraged to join convents or monasteries to ensure a better life for them than if they had remained with their families. The downside was that children joining convents rarely brought fortunes for their new homes; instead, parents paid fees and gave gifts to the priories to take care of their daughters. To pay these costs, prioresses often required dowries from those women entering the nunneries as well.

While nuns earned money through all of these means, it may not have been enough to sustain all community expenses without additional funds coming in. Nuns also relied upon donations from the families of women who had become nuns, inheritances, and gifts made by pious laypeople to keep their communities afloat financially.

Do nuns have bank accounts?

Nuns don’t have bank accounts because they are not allowed to own any money. This is one of the requirements for becoming a nun. Since nuns do not get paid by the church, they must save whatever income they make. This will enable them to take care of themselves in the future when they cannot work anymore due to disability or old age. Nuns may request donations from people who contact them; however, this is completely different from owning money.

As long as nuns abide by this requirement, their funds will be kept safe until they die and return to the church like most Christian denominations do when their members pass away.


As you can see, there are many ways that nuns make money to support their lifestyles and communities. Whether through receiving donations from within their order or taking on outside jobs requiring specialized knowledge or skills, they earn money is not always clear cut but is directly related to how they choose to live their daily lives. Although some nuns prefer to live as a recluse and rely on donations alone, an increasing number of orders engage with the outside world to bring the message of God’s love to those who need it most.

Gene Botkin

Gene is the director of the Theosis Christian Project. He studied physics and military science before founding the Project. Gene is currently pursuing his doctorate in systems engineering at an engineering college in the Ozarks. The Theosis Christian Project is his attempt to expand Holy Orthodoxy in America.

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