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Top 5 Most Badass Nuns Of All Time

Jamie Frater . . . Comments

Nuns used to be pure virgin ladies that gave their lives up for God. With this responsibility came long robes, rosary beads, and straps (for smacking non-nuns). These women terrorized many a child with their rules and regulations and an amazing ability to tell whether you had sinned or not. Luckily most of them used their power wisely.

Nun Ruler

What you probably don’t know, is that five nuns in particular were total badasses. This list is dedicated to Sister Rosein… the bane of my childhood.

5. Sister Caterina de Erazu – Hitman in a Habit


Caterina de Erazu was a run-away Spanish nun turned hitwoman in the early 1600s. She ended her career as an almost respectable Mexican mule train driver, after being personally pardoned by the Pope (Clerics and religious were tried by clerical courts, and no one could figure out what to do with a badass nun, so they just kept kicking the case to a higher court. The Pope just found the whole thing fascinating and pardoned her). Being a hitman in a habit is sufficiently badass to put Sister Caterina on this list, but wait… there’s more…

Caterina died following a duel with the husband of a lady she was hot for! It appears that Sister Caterina was America’s first bulldyke independent teamster. Apparently her life story was written in 1641 – unfortunately we can’t find the name of the book or its author!

4. Ani Pachen – Warrior Nun

Dolma Ling Older Ani Web Size

Ani Pachen was born in 1933 in Tibet. When she was 17 her parents decided to marry her off – but she had other plans! She ran away and moved in to a Buddhist Monastery (3 weeks journey away) and became a Buddhist nun. In 1958 when her father died, she became the leader of her family clan. She took up arms and became a warrior nun – fighting to keep the commies from China out of her homeland. She led her people in guerilla warfare for a year. The Chinese caught her and threw her in jail because she refused to renounce the Dalai Lama. She was beaten and hung by her wrists for a week, spent a year in leg irons and was flung for nine months into solitary confinement in an unlit cell. The last 11 years of her sentence were spent in the infamous Drapchi prison in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.

As soon as she was released from Prison 21 years later, she went right back to her warrior ways, leading protests and demonstrations. She found out she was going to be put in jail again so she ran away to the border of Tibet. She walked for 25 days in the deep snow to escape to Nepal. She died in 2002.

3. Hildegard of Bingen – Genius


Hildegard of Bingen was born in 1098 to a wealthy family and dedicated to the Church as a nun. When she was 8 she was sent to study with a famous abbess called Jutta (who was, herself, a badass: she lived in a tiny room with no doors and had to be fed through the window!) Hildegard became the abbess of the nunnery when Jutta died. Hildegard turned out to be a genius – she wrote music (the first opera in fact), she wrote letters to Popes giving them advice (when Popes were pretty much the bosses of the whole world), and she was the first woman to write about female sexuality:

When a woman is making love with a man, a sense of heat in her brain, which brings with it sensual delight, communicates the taste of that delight during the act and summons forth the emission of the man’s seed. And when the seed has fallen into its place, that vehement heat descending from her brain draws the seed to itself and holds it, and soon the woman’s sexual organs contract, and all the parts that are ready to open up during the time of menstruation now close, in the same way as a strong man can hold something enclosed in his fist.

She also invented her own version of Latin and a new alphabet and had visions throughout her whole life which she wrote about in her journals. She is considered a Saint and her feast day is on September 17th.

2. Sister Luc Gabriel – better than Elvis


Sister Luc Gabriel (Jeanine Deckers) was best known as the Singing Nun. This nun was so badass that her song Dominque became such a hit that it knocked Elvis Presley off the charts! Overnight, the Dominican nun was an international celebrity with the stage name of Soeur Sourire (Sister Smile). She gave concerts and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. Her fame went to her head and she eventually left the convent to spend more time on her musical career.

At the same time she shacked up with her lesbian lover and released a song “Glory Be to God for the Golden Pill” singing the praises of the contraceptive pill. After her first album none of her music was very successful. In 1982, she and her girlfriend committed suicide together by taking sleeping tablets with alcohol.

You can see her hit song Dominque on youtube.

1. Christina The Astonishing

Christina Fit2

Christina the Astonishing was born in 1150 in Belgium. When she was 21 she had a massive seizure and died. Half way through her funeral she jumped out of her coffin and flew to the ceiling! This caused everyone to run from the church screaming. When the priest ordered her down she said that she had seen Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. She also said she could smell the sin on people. Because the smell of sin made her sick, she would often fly (yes really – fly) away from people and sit on the top branches of tall trees. She also hid herself in ovens and on roofs. She lived in a way that was considered poverty even in the 13th century, sleeping on rocks, wearing rags, begging, and eating what came to hand. She would roll in fire or handle it without harm, stand in freezing water in the winter for hours, spend long periods in tombs, or allow herself to be dragged under water by a mill wheel, though she never sustained injury. Despite this incredibly odd (and yet badass) behavior, she was highly regarded in her time and many people asked her for advice. [Image courtesy of Cynthia Large – a brilliant artist who work I strongly recommend you see.]

Jamie Frater

Jamie is the owner and chief-editor of Listverse. He spends his time working on the site, doing research for new lists, and collecting oddities. He is fascinated with all things historic, creepy, and bizarre.

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  • MHR

    damn, i’m from Belgium and i never heard of this story or this nun. great list, very nice to read

  • MHR: Thanks :) I am glad you liked it! The singing nun was from Belgium too.

  • Me

    Abit of a wierd choice for a list but its great a warrior nun sounds so unscary

  • Csimmons

    i didn’t even know there were badass nuns!LOL~

  • Cyn

    Hildegard of Bingen

    remind me to celebrate her feast day Sept. 17th :)

  • Me

    WOW 17th sep thts my b’day

  • Brian

    wow nothing like the pope being OK with murder. And Mormons are strange?

  • drmos

    A nun writing about sexuality….interesting.

  • stevenh

    Always new and useful information – the Hildegard quote is great.

    Thank you Xanthius and jf!

  • warrrreagl

    Fantastic! I just finished playing Hildegard von Bingen’s music to my classes about a week ago, and they were totally intrigued. Although her music was sacred, it was never intended to be performed during Mass, and this enabled her to break free of the usual compositional restraints of the day.

  • GForce

    The first 4 sound real but whats the deal with that “Flying Nun” from beyond death. Whats your source on that? It sounds too far fetched even for religion.

  • drmos

    warrreagl….Auburn fan? By chance?

  • Mom424

    Great List!
    You’d have to talk to my mom about bad-ass nuns…she still holds a grudge for being beat by the nuns for a theft she did not commit, and for getting in shit for dirty legs (they were bruises from being whacked by her sister’s crutches).
    By the way my mom was born in 1935

  • This is a pretty cool list! I’m not too sure about the number one choice, it seems a bit odd, but the rest of the list is very fascinating!

    Just a little side note, thanks JFrater, your website helped me win the trivia game at the arcade last night. :)

  • Ben Heitzman

    I’m Sure by badass you mean Mother Angelica. She scares the piss out of me.

  • matt

    There’s a song about Christina the Astonishing, and it is god-awful. It’s so bad it’s funny. Our Theology teacher in high school had us listen to it, and even he thought it was hysterical. i’ll see if i can find a link.

  • skipps

    Honourable Mention: Sister Mary Clarence (Whoopi Goldberg) & gang from “Sister Act”! :)

  • sid

    I absolutely agree with GForce JF,however it was great fun reading the last one.

  • Digital Amish

    Oh come on! Compared to Sister Pancracius these are all pickers. S. Pancracius was about 4 ft. of holy terror. Put the everlasting fear of God into generations of 1st graders at Queen of Angels.

    I’d venture that anyone who spent any time at a Catholic school could come up with a more chilling list.

  • esa

    there’s no way that number 1 can be real.

  • Gravy


  • Matteo

    haha a flying nun

  • Andrea Carlena Beaum

    Oh no. There was a nun who used to come to my house when I was about 12 and preach that I was a "Masturbating, self loathing whore of a girl and You're going to hell!" I think her name was Sister Mary Alice. Scary stuff. P.S. No I didn't masturbate!

    -Andrea Carlena Beauman

    • The Cat

      Ever?! Or when you were 12 you didn’t which would make sense. This is just curiosity as you may have noticed my name.

  • TheDragon

    Are you sure #1 wasn’t about the lovable Gidget?

  • QDV

    My father could’ve told y’all lots of stories about the nun schoolteachers he had. From what he told me, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of them stood in front of sinks, removing their damaged skin and eyes so they could get back to work.

    Check out the Wiki entry on Pope Pius XII’s housekeeper for something a bit more on the modern side.

    And don’t forget:

  • Gives Sound of Music a whole new perspective…

  • Wow, I really like number 5. Needs to be made into a movie or something.

  • goof_ball


  • and i am trying to put my oldest in a catholic school. It specializes in learning disabilities and behavior problems. He has Asperger’s and adhd…..

    the nun that is the secritary of the school already seems a bit wikkid

  • Catriona

    Yep…have to admit, there’d be one or two from the schools I went to that could have featured here.

  • Catriona

    …in all honesty though, I also know some that are incredibly amazing women.

  • Schiesl

    The first true opera was actually Daphne written in 1597 by Peri (who was part of Count Corsi’s Camarata). Not Hildegard of Bingen.

  • Schiesl

    Though it is really all singing and a glourious work…it was never known to be staged. Its i more 12th century choral music then an opera. Great list overall though

  • deedee0323

    #1: Sister Mary Clarence (Whoopi Goldberg)

  • Can someone tell me how to upload lists? It’s hard as shit to find a simple button that says “Create List”. I love listverse, but how do I make some myself?

  • lightningclash

    Wow, that’s yet another awesome list. Without this website i would actually have to work while I was at work. Imagine that. Anyways, number 1 on the list sounds like she could go toe to toe with spiderman. Keep these list comin’!

  • sarahj

    it was Sister Roisin, jamie :) She actually was a good teacher in amongst the other stuff heh. Great list!!

  • sarahenity

    she… flew?!

  • Cyn

    35. Snowkid32 –

    from the navbar top of page
    this page leads to this page

    you’ll find info re: submitting lists. there are requirements re: coding so the lists have to posted be by J.

  • JwJwBean

    What an interesting list. I never went to catholic school and I am pretty glad I didn’t from the sounds of your experiences.

  • Cazz

    I’m writing my dissertation about Christina the Astonishing! (In fact that is what I should be doing right now but hey, at least now I can call this research.)
    GForce – the story is really quite strange and, as with all these things, is to be taken with a pinch of salt, but if you’re looking for a source I would recommend ‘The Life of Christina The Astonishing (Christina Mirabilis)’ by Thomas de Cantimpre.

  • satori

    I’m happy that you included a Buddhist nun! “Meiji’s” as their called. I have a friend that is in Thailand and is a Meiji. Good list! Really interesting!

  • thedragon23

    I was taught by nuns sent by the devil at the school from hell

  • thedragon23

    thought the list great and offbeat, it proves they aren’t all bad

  • Sherrie

    Long time reader, first time commenter. Love the site

    I never though I would see the words “bad-ass” and “nun” in the same sentence. Great list

  • Is it just me or does the story of Christina the Astonishing seem a wee bit far fetched!?

  • Google Christina the Astonishing, you’ll find 1,010,000 results that say “Wtf”?

  • Lucifer

    I love this website but when I read the selection for #1 it just diminishes the credibility of all other lists. Too bad. I will read everything with a HUGE grain of salt.

  • Cyn

    49. Lucifer

    WOW! a fan? and you took the time to comment too. thank you! and don’t think too badly of the contributor of this list, this list or #1 on this list. bear in mind who the list was dedicated to
    “This list is dedicated to Sister Rosein… the bane of my childhood.” so apparently the contributor was quite traumatized by the experience. and this list should not reflect badly on the site as a whole.
    and i must say..i am a fan of yours, Lucifer. *blushes*

  • Hi Lucifer, I am glad you like the site but am sorry you feel that way about item 1. Christina did exist and all of the reports of her life include the tails of her levitating – we are reporting historically recorded data – I think it would be arrogant of us, and foolish, if we were just to presume everything recorded in the old days is wrong and write our own version of history! As to how she was able to levitate – I do not know – but I am sure any scientific person interested would be able to come up with a theory rather than just saying she can’t have done it :)

  • manashiori

    ironically…”Lucifer” should know the reason behind it. “Demonic possession could be attributed to her actions”. But it is mind boggling. Great list jrafter. Astonishing indeed.

  • Jonobot


    SHE FLEW?!!…(Whew) Unbelievable stuff!

    Don’t know if you read all comments on ur lists, but i have a suggestion…any way you can put a button where we can see the newst lists you’ve added?
    This is the most interesting site i’ve ever been to and I go on-line JUST TO READ YOUR LISTS, but I only go on the weekends…so i miss out of some new lists you’ve might have added. So… about the button? :D

    Amazing site btw!

  • Jonobot: hiya – I do read all comments :) I have just added a “most recent 25 lists” to the lists page – it is right at the top and shows dates. Hopefully that helps :)

  • Denzell

    Nice list…interesting stuff. But isn’t no.1 far from reality? I mean, how can she… how can she do such stuff such as FLY beyond death and really perform those feats of endurance? Way impossible if you ask me. But still, this list is simply amazing.

  • Drogo

    How did Hildegard know about sex. She was a Nun for Christ sakes?!

    In the 5th grade we had Sr. Charlotte. She talked like a drill sergeant while in the classroom (“O.K. People, time to sit down, and be quiet.”) When I saw her in the schools office a few times she was talking in a sweet old lady voice. I thought, “One of these days she is going to forget to use her drill sergeant voice in the classroom. Sure enough, one day she came into the room, started talking in the little old lady voice, caught herself (oops!), then talked in her drill sergeant voice.

    I have to go to confession now, for saying, “….for Christ sakes!”

  • CC

    And here I thought nuns were boring ;).

  • Bigwig Rabbit

    Wasn’t Wing Chun a Nun? Didn’t she alter her Shaolin training for close combat? I could be wrong but that would place her somewhere on this list.

  • Tsitsi

    Two Belgians on thie list, yay!

    I attended a very progressive Catholic school, no evil nuns at all, except for the one relic who made me eat the disgusting cold soup at lunch one day.

    Christina the Astonishing was celebrated in song by Nick Cave.

    Soeur Sourire had a rather tragic life after she left the convent, actually, she was pursued for back taxes, although all the proceeds of “Dominique” had gone to the convent. She committed suicide out of despair.

    Good for you, jfrater, that you buy the flying about and such, but it is generally accepted by enlightened Catholics that the old hagiographies are to be taken with a pinch of salt, and not to be taken literally.

    By the way, although I was raised in Catholic schools and such, I never was a believer.

  • Tsitsi: I appreciate your comment – but I am not sure it is fair to say that “enlightened” Catholics don’t buy the old hagiographies – I would say that liberal Catholics reject them, but conservative and traditional Catholics still hold them in high esteem :)

  • Tsitsi

    OK, that’s what I meant anyway. English is not my first language, sorry about that.

  • AndyB123

    Yeah – about Wing Tsun; Ng Mui was a nun, fleeing from an attack on the temple, and perfecting her own brand of Kung Fu up in the hills, aiming at defeating proponents of Shaolin Kung Fu. She taught a local girl, Wing Tsun, how to defend herself against a bully. The most famous of all Martial artists, Bruce Lee, began his training with Wing Tsun Kung Fu. Ng Mui should have a place on the list.
    Anyway, I thought about this before, and was reminded when I read about Hildegard’s own brand of Latin, that it would be nice with a list of Con-langs, ie, Esperanto, etc.

  • SocialButterfly

    Honourable Mention: Sister Mary Elephant!!

  • No one has said it!!!!!! But, How do you solve a problem like Maria???

  • davo

    number 1 obviously didn’t happen

  • Drogo

    In the 7th grade there was Sr. Antonino (“DON’T call me Sr. Antonio”). If you misbehaved, she believed in the old fashion punishment of smacking your knuckles with a ruler. We were too old for that. One time when she was smacking my hand with the ruler, I was laughing, she said, “So you think this is funny?” and started smacking harder and faster. I had to pretend it hurt so she would stop.

  • SocialButterfly

    Crimanon: hahaha, I think she would qualify… she broke up an engagement, left the nunnery and outsmarted the nazi’s … I think that qualifies as bad ass!!

  • Revolution

    That list was awesome! Can I toss out a crazy theory about number one: I know this sounds kind of far fetched, but many scientists believe that people only use about 10% of our brains; I wonder if the whole ‘flying thing’ resides in a part of the human brain we nolonger use, and maybe she somehow tapped into it? Just a thought.

  • Joss

    #1 is crazy!

  • Drogo

    Then there was Sr. Mary Grace, also known as Sr. Mary Motormouth.

  • Adia

    Christina the Astonishing is my hero. Even though, I probably won’t be hiding in ovens or chimneys, even if you can withstand fire, that sounds really uncomfortable.

  • adrian

    #1 is the best!! really astonishing!!

  • jrjb

    I thought Sally Field was the flying nun!

  • Fruckert

    that ones…wierd…

  • bonzodog65

    What about the nun in the blues Brothers?

  • Guillaume

    Is Caterina de Erazu real ? I googled her and can’t find anything at all besides this page !

  • DaveS

    By the way, the lady in the top photo is actress Maripat Donovan in her role as “Sister” in the one woman show “Late Night Catechism”.

    After co-writing, performing, and producing the show successfully for years, she’s now campaigning for retirement benefits for retired nuns.

  • Cynthia

    You have my painting of St. Christina the Astonishing…without attribution? For shame! Don’t make me send Christina after you. Now, I know you’ll fix this. I just finished a new one, called “Saint Christina the Astonishing — a Pelican in the Wilderness (Psalm 102)”.

    Come visit! If that address doesn’t come through, just go to and look for the first painting. I don’t think Christina could be considered a nun, though. A holy fool, mad for God, all of those, but I don’t think she ever joined holy orders. The nuns did look after her towards the end of her life.

  • Cynthia: Many thanks for identifying yourself as the author of the illustration used – I have now added an attribution and I hope it brings many people to your site. You have a great talent and I hope you have no objections to the image being shown here. Your Saint Christina – a Pelican in the Wilderness is stunning! Thanks for pasting the link!

  • kiwiboi

    Cynthia – truly excellent work !! You are very talented.

  • Cynthia

    Many, many thanks for adding the link and for your kind words. I really appreciate it. I’m always happy to share the image. :)

  • rgrant

    Yeah right flying NUNS!!!!.

  • Lizzy xo

    So I didn’t read all comments, sorry.
    Back in the old days… Many people were buried and prepared to be buried with out and really knowledge of how to tell if someone was dead. If you called someones name more than once, and shook em… they didn’t wake up, they were dead, put em in a casket and burry them, the end. There are many cases of people “waking from the dead” because they weren’t really dead. If she had a seizure, she would have been passed out. I have researched Christina the Astonishing before, she was real, and those are real reports, even if they are far fetched.
    Thanks for the List!

  • Vera Lynn

    #38 Andrea Carlena Beauman You didn’t masturbate? Why not?

    This was a fascinating read. Thank you.

  • Mark

    2 seems like a poor excuse for a nun. Anyway, you forgot that nun that taught me in preschool. She was scary, and I NEVER GOT A STAR EVER!!! All the other kids got stars, but I didn’t, no, I always got black dots. *grumble*

  • ligeia

    Pretty cool list, you don’t usually associate nuns with being badass. I went to a vocational secondary school just so I could AVOID being taught by nuns. My aunt used to tell me all sorts of horror stories about the nuns who taught her, including one who swung a young girl around by her pigtails!

  • Panic!

    The most bad ass is a tough choice between the suicidal lesbian and the one that flies…

  • Artemis

    Yeah, what’s with flying undead nun?

  • Jessiee

    Wooooo…. Bad ass nuns :P
    thats wht im liking baby!

  • pyrothraxe

    nuns arent sposed to be suicidal lol
    or fly
    or do anything thats not unchristian

  • Jay

    jfrater : I am not sure if you will check this and be able to reply but I think that your list are fascinating. You have so much knowledge and bring to light interesting topics and viewpoints. Thank you.

    I am posting a comment as I was wondering where you found out that Hildegard von Bingen wrote a opera? Or it that in reference to Ordo Virtutum the liturgical drama she wrote? Either way…I had no idea about her and her music, thank you for introducing me to her.

    Happy 2009.

  • Angry onliner

    number 89. Not unchristain would be unchristain considering it’s a double negitive

  • spike

    i never expected to see a list like this- i’m liking this site more every day. thanks, jfrater!

  • Foamy

    Christina the Astonishing has got to be the most badass person I’ve ever, ever heard of. Holy hell.

  • Wilberforce

    Is No.1 fake? It just sounds incredibly hard to believe..

  • saber25

    I am on the badass nuns list. Where is sistah Mary Clarence from Sister Act? she was a badass turned nun

  • thelittledrummergirl

    when i was a younger girl…hmmmm, about eight or so, my dad told me the story of the nun-Sister Whitney- who in the 70’s, beat my dad with a ruler. the poor baby!

    i have honest respect and admiration for nuns, they usually have strong dedication and honest love…but not if they’re going to frighten and beat children, or generally fuck up their teachings…i think they need to step away from the profession…if you can call nunnery a profession.

    i think Sister Whitney is the one who turned my dad onto Christianity instead of it’s harsher cousin, Catholicism.

  • MamaBear2Cubs

    I’ve never heard of #1 but my mom has (she’s a better Catholic than I?) Anyways as far fetched as the story sounds it obviously has basis in fact which is fascinating to me. Apparently enough people witnessed this extraordinary behavior that we have a record of it. The “seizure” and her strange actions after I think are imporant clues in theroies about this, religiously based or not. I wonder what would happen if something like this occured publically in modern times? I imagine the poor woman would be skirted off to Area 51 for “research”. Very cool.(The flying nun not the human guinea pig part)

  • MamaBear2Cubs

    *When I said “strange actions after the seizure” I wasn’t referring to the flying which was of course, strange I meant the living as a beggar and hiding in ovens “smelling” sin etc etc (FYI)

  • crumpet

    I'm waiting for the list of the bottom 5 most bad ass nuns.

  • lalala
  • JC

    i call BS on #1

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  • FDV

    What about Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, she was way badass she learned to read and write at age 3 which was impossible at the time in Mexico because the whole country was man controlled. She dressed up as a man to take classes and when they discovered it they whipped her so much that one of her legs fell off, then she went and became nun, she wrote things desecrating the church and the governement when they found out they raped her and cut off her other leg, but continued doing that secretly until Viruela killed her (Its a sickness kind of like chickenpox)

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  • primary lotus

    Christina The Astonishing is total nonsense

  • floux


  • Marek

    “The life of Christine Mirabilis” – Thomas de Cantimpre.

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  • Jumpy

    Nuns are scarey.

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  • animation nantes

    Malgré de long fouilles, impossible de découvrir mieux que Top 5 Most Badass Nuns Of All Time.

  • Kevin

    Really cool
    Stories any more links?!?

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