I grew up in Kansas and call Seattle my home, so nun sightings aren’t something I’m very much accustomed to. A couple days ago, Kevin and I were standing in line to visit the Alcazar here in Sevilla, and a van full of nuns came driving across the plaza! Nuns! Driving a van! I’ve seen nuns driving minivans in movies (I didn’t grow up in a barn… I clearly saw Sister Act and its sequel), but something about seeing nuns driving a minivan in real life struck me as so surprising that I couldn’t help but laugh. The next day, we saw a minivan with eight nuns (eight!) driving down our street. Chuckles ensued. And my affection for nuns was born.
So you can imagine that I was delighted when I learned that it’s possible to buy cookies and sweets from nuns at a few different convents around Sevilla. We visited the one nearest our apartment, Real Monasterio de San Clemente, to get our goods.
So, How Does One Buy Cookies from Said Nuns?
It was trickier than I thought it’d be to get convent cookies. We stopped by San Clemente twice to try, and the outer gate was closed both times. I was afraid that my dream of buying cookies from nuns in Sevilla was dead. So I did what any person trying to buy convent cookies in the 21st century would do – I emailed the convent using my stellar new Spanish skills (assisted by Google Translate, of course).
I was surprised to receive an extremely prompt, very friendly email response from Sister Claudia. She informed me that you have to buzz the outermost intercom to get in, and ended our correspondence by sending me God’s Blessings. I exchanged email with a nun, in Spanish. I can check that off of my bucket list.
So we headed back over to San Clemente, buzzed the outside buzzer, and I used my best Spanish to tell the Sister on the speaker that I wanted to buy some sweets. She gave us a bunch of instructions in Spanish that flew WAY over our heads. We walked into the courtyard and there were like eight doors to choose from! Somehow we managed to find our way.
We happened to pick Door #3, which was the correct one leading to the Torno! What’s a Torno? I’m glad you asked. It’s basically a giant lazy susan mounted in a wall, through which the nuns sell their cookies and sweets.
A Torno enables nuns to sell things while protecting their cloistered privacy – in many cases, you’ll never even see the nun helping you! I’ve read that lots of convents have stopped selling cookies; it seems like it’s a dying tradition. So if you’re in Spain and see a convent selling sweets through a Torno, be sure to stop by for some cookies while you still can!
Next to the Torno is a list of prices. Tell the Sister what you’d like, and the lazy susan will whip around with the things you’ve asked for. Grab the sweets, lay down your money, and send it back around. If you need change, it’ll come back to you in a moment. And voila! Magic! Cookies from the nuns.
Why Buy Cookies from Nuns?
If you scrutinized that list, you’ll notice the prices (in euros) are a little bit steep. It’s far more than the 1 Euro we’ve gotten use to paying at our neighborhood bakery for a cookie the size of my face. Just remember, this is a way that the community can support the local convents. It’s sort of like buying cookies/popcorn/wrapping paper from kids to support Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts/Church Groups in the USA. It’s also a fun adventure!
What did we buy?
We snagged a box of Pastas de Almendra (almond cookies) and a box of Piñonadas (pine nut cookies).
We liked the almond cookies the most.
While they definitely weren’t the best cookies in the entire world, I’ve been telling myself that I’m really just paying for the experience, especially as a tourist. Plus, where else can you buy cookies with a cartoon of a nun on them?
The verdict? I’m glad we went!