| Famous abbesses of the past include Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th-century visionary,
theologian, composer, artist, and healer.
An abbess is the female counterpart of an abbot. This title derives from abba, "father" in Aramaic and Syriac, which makes the abbess the mother of her community. Hers is an elected office over a group of twelve or more nuns in an abbey. (Abbey and monastery are interchangeable words.) The term abbess has been used since the sixth century within the Benedictine order,