Thanks to our Tapas and Taverns tour with James, we were tipped off about the Monasterio de Corpus Cristi in Madrid. These are cloistered nuns who have no contact with the outside world. One of the ways they support themselves is by selling various types of cookies…almond, lemon, etc.
In truth, there are probably hundreds of nuns in cloisters all over Spain, and most, I’m guessing, make sweets of some sort or other. We “discovered” another cloister in Seville that sold wonderful orange marmalades. But I digress. I’m sure you can find the Madrid cloister in guidebooks but i missed that page. Which was almost too bad because it was a really fun thing to do.
Different internet pages say the nuns have been cloistered since the 17th century, some give the date of since 1605. (Note: that is not fact checked, but i’m confident they have been cloistered for a long time). As I mentioned, in order to support themselves the nuns make sweets for locals and tourists.
Before i get into the sweets bit, it is worth noting that a cloistered nun has taken a vow to give her life to God. However, the decision to actually become a cloistered nun is one i don’t think most of us truly appreciate. Cloistered nuns live a life without television, radio, or their family. Their life is also organized strictly by bells and prayer. For different perspectives, i found this article and this blog post interesting.
Okay, back to the treats. To get to the cloistered nuns, head to Plaza Conde de Miranda in Old Madrid. You are looking for this large brown wooden door (which i believe is number three). Press the top bell and state your business: “galleta’s por favor/cookies please.”
You will be let in and trusted to follow the signs, but for the record it’s a short walk straight back, to a small open courtyard, turn left, down and around a corridor.
Less than a minute of walking and you will come to a small hallway with this lazy susan built into the wall. To the right is the day’s selection of treats.
After you’ve made your decision, announce yourself to the nun on the other side with a simple “hola/hello.”
She will acknowledge you and turn the lazy susan until cookies appear. Select the kind you want, leave your money and turn the lazy susan back.
Personally, i’ve never experienced anything like this. The entire transaction is entirely in Spanish and you will never see the nun. It’s awkward, frustrating and fun all at the same time.
When we were there, they were open from about 10:00 a.m. until 1:00, and then re-opened from about 4:00 until 8:00. Times may change, as many places seem to have summer/winter hours. The cookies, by the way, are not inexpensive. I think we paid 10 euro for a bag of cookies. But then again, we didn’t just buy cookies, we helped nuns, had a mini adventure, and I got a short blog out of it. Plus, those cookies tasted pretty heavenly.
(Note: if you’d like more specific directions to Plaza Conde, message me.)